NY Times article: Move Over, My Pretty, Ugly is Here

Photo of the Wicked Witch of the West (with lovely green hands and face) from the Hollywood film “The Wizard of Oz.”  Everett Collection

 By SARAH KERSHAW

Published: October 29, 2008

IT would be close to impossible to tally all the magazine articles, scholarly treatises and philosophical works, reality shows and Internet sites, college courses, lectures and books devoted to the subject of beauty.

 

Bartolomeo Passerotti/Rizzoli New York, 2007
EYE OF THE BEHOLDER Depictions of ugliness:
“Caricature” by Bartolomeo Passerotti.

But what about ugliness?

It is an awkward topic, a wretched concept, really, and, of course, a terrible insult when flung in your direction.  When a woman once told Winston Churchill he was drunk, he is said to have replied: “And you, madam, are ugly. But I shall be sober tomorrow, whereas you will still be ugly.”

Ugliness is associated with evil and fear, with villains and monsters: the Wicked Witch of the West, Freddy Krueger and Harry Potter’s arch-meanie, Lord Voldemort, with his veiny skull, creepy slits in his nose for nostrils and rotten teeth.  There are the gentle souls, too, plagued through no fault of their own by their disturbing appearance: Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, the Elephant Man and Shrek, who is ugly and green but in a cute way.

Ugliness has recently emerged as a serious subject of study and academic interest unto itself, in some small part because of the success of television’s “Ugly Betty,” which ABC promoted with a “Be Ugly” campaign stressing self-esteem for girls and young women. Sociologists, writers, lawyers and economists have begun to examine ugliness, suggesting that the subject has been marginalized in history and that discrimination against the unattractive, while difficult to document or prevent, is a quiet but widespread injustice.

Researchers who have tried to measure appearance discrimination, or “uglyism” and “looksism,” and the impact of what they call the “beauty premium” and the “plainness penalty” on income, say that the time has come for ugly to peek out from beauty’s shadow. 

Read the entire article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/30/fashion/30ugly.html?th&emc=th

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