Across the globe, ugly people stand quietly in the corners at parties, alone, unwanted, irrelevant. The guests glom into constellations of 4-5 people, and the uglies drift in the space between like gloomy asteroids. They wonder if this is how life will always be, a melancholy shadow of standard human experience, or if it’s just a passing phase like puberty or baby teeth. They fear others are making friends, achieving professional success, and being loved at a vertiginously higher rate based on Facebook newsfeed impressions and film/television portrayals of people their age. And do they deserve their exile from the mainstream sexy demographic?
Of course they do!
Their first violation of the social contract was in emerging from the womb, thereby increasing cumulative global repulsiveness, a new wart on the face of humanity, one more unwanted animal. How dare they inflict this aesthetic discomfort on fellow citizens? They could’ve not existed indefinitely, but no, they demanded manifestation, and thus, a hideous sperm merged with an equally hideous egg. And they cohabitate with us, the handsomes, as if they are equal, but they are not. God framed their fearful asymmetry and so condemned them to a life of reduced Human Value.
Even our own neurology, evolved over millions of years, recognizes their diminished value as people. In study after study, uglies are more likely to be perceived as dumb, submissive, antisocial, mean, psychologically unstable, and basically every other negative trait you can think of (less delicious?). They’re more likely to be found guilty of a crime and receive harsher sentences from juries. They’re perceived as more dangerous than attractive people. They’re less likely to be hired, and on average, they’re offered lower salaries by employers (10-20% lower!). Even newborn babies, innocent little babies, prefer sexy faces to their lopsided monster faces. The whole universe, every atom, looks upon the ugly person and cringes.
Some might equate this appearance bias with discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and class—all forms of bigotry with long, horrendous histories. A 19th century Chicago ordinance against ugliness reads: “”Any person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed, so as to be an unsightly or disgusting subject…shall not…expose himself to public view, under the penalty of a fine of $1 for each offense.” This attitude lives on today in the L’Oreal executive who allegedly ordered a store manager to fire a salesperson who was not “hot” enough. Or Abercrombie and Fitch’s controversial practice of only hiring people who fit their conception of youthful physical perfection.
But it’s not just perception; science is confirming all our prejudices against irregular faced people, and best of all, no one can argue with science. One recent study in particular found that attractive people actually are statistically smarter than ugly people, while another study found that most criminals are ugly (i.e., a direct correlation between moral fortitude and sexiness). Is it possible attractive people’s higher IQs and lower rates of criminality might be due to years of validation from society, special attention/encouragement from teachers, and greater access to love/support? Could their lifelong struggle against a hostile cosmos in which every creature they encounter discharges billowing black plumes of apathy at them have taken a toll? The answer is no. Science.
If we look at media representations, we see ugly* people often cast as villains to provide visual shorthand for their ugly personalities (see: Walder Frey, Voldemort, Ursula, etc.). Or other times, they’re cast as pitiable supporting characters (see: Gollum, Hurley, Paul Giamatti, etc.). Regardless, they’re rarely the protagonist in mainstream media, and since the protagonist is who viewers typically identify with, the message is clear: ugly people do not matter. Their ontological experiences, stories, their very lives are as disposable as snapchats (another thing no one wants to look at).
We even refuse to listen to ugly people’s music despite it being unnecessary to see their misshapen faces to enjoy it. Somehow, knowing the melody originates in the vocal cords of an ugly person ruins it. No kidding, there are actually studies to confirm that listeners’ ratings of a song are significantly affected by the singer’s appearance, even when rated by highly trained musical evaluators. And even if you’re the rare successful “ugly” musician, the ugliness must be commented on ad nauseam (see: Steven Tyler, Brittney Howard, Lady Gaga, etc.), as if ugliness is your defining characteristic.
Every day, I’m grateful I don’t have prosopagnosia, so I can differentiate the noteworthy people from the organic detritus, the genetic affronts to God’s perfect world. If we couldn’t see each others’ skin suits, if we were just souls floating around, we wouldn’t know who mattered. We would have to find new reasons to hire people and make friends. We would have to give equal attention and encouragement to children, never knowing which child is secretly gross as hell. We would have to acknowledge the abominations because there would be no visual indication of their grotesqueness. What would be beautiful then? A world where I can’t organize people by hot/not is a world without meaning.
*lacking conventionally attractive physical traits.