Comment: In Defence of Superficiality
Words: Lilly O’Donnell
If you’re ugly, you’re probably a bad person.
In medieval times, it was widely believed that the good or evil in someone’s soul was reflected in their physical appearance. It was taken for granted that beautiful people were good, and ugly people were evil.
If you ask anyone today if they believe this, they will almost definitely deny it. They will be lying. People still treat beauty as if it were, as Emerson called it, “the mark God puts on virtue.”
It’s not the ugly people’s fault, of course – as easy as it is to blame them – it’s social conditioning that made them the nasty, spiteful creatures they are. Emerson got it backward. It’s not that virtue is labeled with beauty, but that beauty allows virtue to grow — and ugliness breeds evil like mold in a basement.
Pretty people and ugly people live in two different worlds, you see; pretty people live in a world where praise and congratulations are handed out like candy. People hold doors for pretty girls, give them free drinks, invite them to parties and always address them with a smile, so they learn that people are kind-hearted and generous.
Ugly people, on the other hand, live in a world where praise is given unfairly, and accomplishments are never recognized. If ugly people are not actively mistreated (which they often are, especially as children and teenagers) they are at least over-looked, not only for dates and party invitations, but in the professional world. Since supervisors, for fear of law suits and impropriety, will not want to come out and tell an applicant he’s not right for the job because he’s ugly, they will fabricate other forms of inadequacy. They might not even be consciously lying, because the ugliness of the applicant will translate in their minds into untrustworthiness or laziness.
So ugly people learn that the world is cruel and unfair – the exact opposite lesson pretty people learn.
As products of our environments, people tend to give back to the world what they receive from it – like crystals refracting light, whether that light be the pleasant sunshine of beauty and kindness or the harsh glare of bitter cruelty.
In most cases this reflection just proves the perceptions right: a happy pretty person is, in fact, as optimistic and pleasant as her sweet face suggests, while ugliness is not only a product of nastiness, but a reaction to it, and a product of the reactions to that reaction, on and on forever in an unending cycle of unattractiveness.
Some uggos refuse to let a lifetime of mistreatment discourage them; they will be persistent, insisting on being liked. When this determination takes the form of neediness and pandering, it can backfire, making an ugly person even uglier. In some cases though, when it’s not transparent cloying but a genuine optimism, it can make an ugly person seem pretty – or at least less ugly. Just like society doesn’t like ugly people, it despises the depressed, so, if an ugly person seems nice and happy enough, the pleasant expression may hide the ugly face on which it sits.
Ugly people can’t afford to be mean. The license to be mean is one of the most valuable and exclusive advantages of beauty. If an ugly person is anything other than particularly nice, he or she they will be scorned and hated, whereas a cruel, manipulative pretty person is hailed as strong willed and in control.
It usually doesn’t take long for the pretty little girls to grow into pretty young women and realize that people will be sweet to them even when they are not sweet back. This is a dangerous realization, because it’s true. People are so superficial that they might not even notice that a girl is a complete bitch if she’s pretty enough.
This opposite perception of identical character traits is one of the greatest injustices suffered by the ugly, with two types of exceptions: the aforementioned ugly people who are so persistently happy and kind that they appear beautiful and pretty people who are so concerned with their own prettiness that they poison it, turning it ugly.
These reversals complicate the issue slightly, but only momentarily. A person’s “character” is irrelevant to how they are perceived at first glance, unless it is strong enough to alter their outward appearance, like in the two types of exceptions noted above. But of course, if character is strong enough to be seen, it too becomes part of someone’s superficial appearance. So that “internal beauty” that people tell ugly children about to get them to stop crying is only worth anything if it’s strong enough to be seen externally, thereby nullifying the point.