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October 04 2013

"A Reflection of Ugliness" - a Buffy essay. This originally appeared in the 'Seven Seasons of Buffy' anthology.

Wow. Attractive is good and ugly is bad. This is a rule of social psychology. It's how people think. We see someone beautiful and it feels good to look at them. We assume them to possess other likable qualities and are more inclined to trust and admire them, simply due to objective attractiveness. This is a fairly universal principle in Hollywood because it aids storytelling.

Vampires are attractive (with their human faces) because young and attractive humans are most commonly sired - it gives them an advantage in trapping prey. But could you tell me that the Whirlwind were "good" characters? No. Hot as hell but indisputably evil. And vampires must be hideous when they fang out because monsters are ugly. That helps us fear them.

[ edited by WhatsAStevedore on 2013-10-04 17:02 ]
I don't remember Glory ever being ugly. Am I forgetting something? Didn't she always look like Clare Kramer, who is anything but ugly?

And the Mayor wasn't ugly, either (at least not until he transformed into a very unconvincing CGI snake). He came across as very ordinary--which is what made him so creepy.

Also, Buffy's friend in "Lie to Me" was human, was not ugly, and was still capable of betraying Buffy. And if we're talking about villains who are not ugly, I think Caleb merits a mention, as well.

Granted, these are exceptions. But the Mayor and Glory were big bads for entire seasons. So was Warren/the Trio, who's also on her "not ugly" list. That's the big bads from 3 out of 7 seasons .... which seems like a pretty significant exception, to me.

If you look at *all* the bad guys (one-offs, as well as big bads), then yes: the vast majority of the monsters are ugly. But I'm not really sure how that's a bad thing. This is, after all, a show based on horror tropes. It kind of goes with the territory.
There is a element in the fandom who think the show is anti-demonistic*, so this essay does sort of fit into this line of thinking.

*I think that's the phrase
And if we're talking about villains who are not ugly, I think Caleb merits a mention, as well.

Yeah, I would say so. Horrible guy. Gorgeous face.

Also, there are some ugly nice guys. (Clem! Nah... he's kinda cute.)
Okay, monsters are ugly, goes with the territory, always has. Even a tiger loses its beauty when it attacks.

Yes, Glory's "true face" was never shown, and also the Hyena People never changed physically, so where is she getting this stuff?

As for no fat people, no really plain people, well, it's TV- that's how it is done.

Not that she doesn't have some usable points, but they don't really nature in this essay.

I'd like to go into the race thing, but she really doesn't so I won't. (And yes, I'm a bit guilty myself in my fics - when I wanted to have Xander's cousin engaged to a demon, I made her race be attractive in natural form (well, assuming you find metallic tones attractive) as well as in human disguise.
My favorite thing about the mayor was the juxtaposition of the utterly ruthless evil, and the mentoring father figure. Sheer genius and creepy and endearing all at the same time.
Well generally if you want people to be scared of something you make it look scary. Which usually is ugly.
So there are some mistakes in the essay as some have mentioned above, but in general the theory might be good.
The case that proves the point is Jasmine.
Everyone talks about her beauty, everyone is stunned by it. The only way that we find out that she is evil is because her true face is hideous. That always struck me as not quite right. She could still be evil and beautiful right? I never got the point of making her maggot faced. I would like an explanation for that if anyone has forumlated one.
Xane: Jasmine's maggot face always bothered me, too. I chose to believe that they were metaphorical maggots, if you catch my drift. Like, when the truth is revealed to those who've touched her blood, it is revolting, horrifying, and anything but the pretty face she presents. I should clarify: the truth was revolting, but not necessarily her face.

I think, TV being a visual medium, it was a shortcut to showing the audience what Fred (and later others) were experiencing.

Re: the essay. Yeah, there were pretty enormous logical flaws in that argument that bring out my inner English teacher. Can't say I would endorse Charlaine Harris's point of view.
I must disagree, the face of evil isn't always ugly nor does the face of good always pretty. Where did you get this?
Doyle's true face was like a green puffer fish, so he wasn't exactly "pretty," and Lorne took some getting used to. However, we didn't see a lot of ugly humans, good or bad. The social worker Buffy tormented in "Gone" was kind of heavyset and average-looking and actually just someone doing her job to the best of her ability, certainly not evil - but not a main character. But since evil on "Buffy" normally equated to inhuman supernatural evil, and inhuman supernatural evil is presented in most horror as "ugly," "ugly" kind of goes with the territory. As for Jasmine's true face, they hung a lantern on that one with Lilah saying something to the effect of, "Oh, unattractive? Well, then she must have been evil."
I find it a little odd that Charlaine Harris is the author of this essay. She writes the Sookie Stackhouse books, which True Blood is based on. I guess she decided to avoid the "pretty is good, ugly evil" sand trap by just making everyone in her books hot. Because that's better...?
Yes to NYPinTA's comment. But I don't find it a little odd, but extremely disappointing that a disjointed essay like that was chosen to be in a Buffy anthology when its whole premise, "The monsters are all ugly. The good guys are all pretty" is refuted afterwards, with examples, by her, and then proceeds to criticize Joss Whedon's work because his show is not "her" perception of high school is hell and there's too many pretty people confusing the issue for her. I could say something very un-disjointed about writing, concepts and characters in her vampire world, but I'm supposed to play the ball.

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