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Home > Culture and Society

The Plain Truth

24 February 2006

This week the Washington Post reported on rather a sad survey. Two academics analysed data from 15,000 high school students from their teens into adulthood, and found that the uglier they were (as determined by objective observers), the more likely they were to get a criminal record. 'We find that unattractive individuals commit more crime in comparison to average-looking ones, and very attractive individuals commit less crime in comparison to those who are average-looking,' they concluded, tactfully.

It's a bit like a study finding that the vast majority of the crotchety old women who would never give your football back were in fact witches - there's something oddly, shamefully satisfying about it. Something in us requires our crims to ming. We love a fugly mug shot. It satisfies some basic, dumb sense of how the world works - bad people *look* bad. Look at poor old internet sensation and 'gross sexual imposer' Brian Peppers.

Peppers was an instant web celeb when his sex offender profile was winkled out last year, and forums erupted with barely-decipherable glee as people speculated as to his crimes and whether they were inevitable given his frightening countenance, or just really really really likely. Someone gave him his own blog. His own Friendster profile. Google him now and gasp at the freakshow of sites about him. For example, there's the inevitable 'search for the new Brian Peppers'. (Endearingly, the blogger commences 'So my wife and I are kinda a couple of assholes...'.) Somehow, when people see evidence that the aesthetically-deficient do wrong things, they feel that the world is turning as it ought. Plus, if you know they're morally as well as facially corrupt, you're free to point and laugh with impunity. Your lurking medieval sense of how the world works tells you that a loathsome visage is Godly punishment for being a horrid sinner. Just like you get spots from masturbating. Oh yes you do. Put it down.

The rotten thing is that it is a genuine disadvantage, as surely as having an unstable family background or an inadequate education, to be unlovely of visage. People react to you differently, less favourably (not that we'd know, *obviously*). It's harder to get sex and love and friendship, and the weight of rejection and indifference and frustration drags you down; you're less likely, according to other studies, to get the job you want, and more likely to earn less. Your genetic inferiority is rudely rammed home to you on a daily basis, and thus your personality will be stunted, your self-esteem will slump and your bile will rise. Before you know it, you're ramming off-licences in a stolen Escort. And the jury will look at your snaggle teeth and pock-marked skin and exchange *glances*.

But obviously you don't need to be good-looking to be successful, nor do you need to be ugly to be a successful criminal. Serial killer Ted Bundy did a very nice line in charming his female victims into helping him with his car - handsome and personable, with a 'broken' arm in a sling, he made himself that bit vulnerable to offset his attractiveness. (And he was a lawyer. See? They're *evil.*) He is unusual as a killer, though - the logic goes that if you're a fox, you just don't need to do bad things because of the abundance of good things that will fall into your foxy lap. This assumption is partly how the devastatingly yummy get away with doing bad things for so long, often blaming it on the nearest shifty-looking munter. As to overcoming your bodily shortcomings to achieve greatness, you need only look - if you can bear it - at Mick Hucknall, Gerard Depardieu and almost anyone in Parliament. (Yes, David Cameron is *relatively* good-looking, but he doesn't have a lot of competition. Or a chin to speak of. Or a face that doesn't cry out to be sprayed green and touted around 'Star Trek' conventions.)

The question is what we can do to nip ugly-crime in the bud. Schools strive to engender religious and racial tolerance, but could do more to encourage the pretty popular girls to ask out the shambling pizza-faces. If they slip through that net, the poor souls could take advantage of a special offer enabling them to get plastic surgery on the NHS once they come out of prison. Alternatively we could cut our losses and put everyone who isn't Thandie Newton on the Isle of Wight. Sadly the sudden paucity of ugmos would mean The Friday Night Project would be unable to continue, but we must make sacrifices for the greater good.


Bucking the trend.

More Foxy Felons.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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