“Ugliness” is only skin deep

A few weeks ago, I came across a clip on YouTube that made me pause and reconsider everything I’d ever thought about “beauty.”

Up until then, I found good looks quite admirable. I reveled in the relief of watching TV shows where people morphed into creatures that more closely fit society’s definition of “pretty”. I reveled in the surprise of seeing friends of mine foray into the world of makeup and fashion. I reveled in the excitement of dipping my own toes in the deep pool of societal beauty ideals.

But after watching the YouTube video, “On Being Ugly,” by user karakamos, I find myself not as inclined to revel.

Kara reminds me of fat positive hero Jes Baker, but instead of saying, “I’m fat. Get over it.”, she says “I’m ‘ugly’. Get over it.”

[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2js063a1Suk”]

Honestly, I’m not sure what to think now. This kind of rocked my world.

I know as consumers — willing or not — of media, we’ve been conditioned all our lives to view certain qualities as ugly. Just think of the villains in animated films — not only do they share certain physical attributes, but their moral attributes are similar, too.

The fact that antagonists’ moral and physical qualities contrast with protagonists’ moral and physical qualities in films makes it seem like certain physical features always go with certain moral features. Yet, when one tries to pinpoint the certain physical features that society finds ugly, it’s much harder than describing what society finds beautiful.

So, I searched “ugly” on Google Images. The search results were jarring at first. Something within me rebelled at looking at them. I felt biologically inclined to resist looking at the pictures.

Wondering why, I continued my raid of everything “ugly” on Google. And I came upon an interesting tidbit: Humans like average. Averages of several faces tend to be easier for the brain to process than the individual faces themselves. They also tend to indicate normalcy and health. When someone has features that differ from the norm, it is natural for humans to — at least on some level — resist them.

Perhaps the villains in animated films have slightly abnormal features because we are meant to resist them. You have to admit, this is pretty clever. But maybe it reinforces the idea that non-average faces and bodies are undesirable. Maybe it is what the concept of “ugly” feeds off of.

At this point, I’m still not sure how I feel. But I want to keep Kara’s words in my mind: “Being beautiful is not an accomplishment, and being ugly doesn’t have to stop you from making accomplishments. I can be things, and I can do things, and I don’t have to let my body or my insecurities about it get in the way of what I want.”

Any thoughts?

Elizabeth Frankel is a Minnesotan who loves psychology, theatre, and anything related to horses. She seeks to understand why the world is the way it is through critical thinking, and when that fails, she just employs sarcasm.

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