In February 2002 during their 11th season, The Simpsons skillfully summarized the idea of „ugly” people in major motion pictures: What is considered homely in Hollywood is “Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island (…) TV ugly. Not ugly-ugly.”
No one is holding it against movies for being escapist; God knows we have more than enough stuff to escape from (jobs, families, neighborhood drug dealers who still haven’t been paid). So, it’s not that surprising that “normal people” are portrayed on screen by folks who in real life could be acquitted of murder based on nothing more than their looks. But occasionally you come across a production where an intensely attractive person gets stuck with the role of the movie’s Susan Boyle for reasons which are never made clear but probably include copious amounts of drugs on the producer’s part.
Due to many technical and legal limitations I cannot outright support the ingestion of powerful narcotics to get you into the mind of the people behind the idea of Hollywood Ugly, but I can do the next best thing and analyze just what idiotic tricks are used to achieve this effect.
Imperfect = Monstrously Ugly
Let’s talk about the opera… It’s boring. Unless you have homicidal maniacs living in the sewers beneath, ready to strike at any given moment with a catchy organ tune in the background. “The Phantom of the Opera” is a classic story which has been filmed more than a dozen times now, but interestingly enough with each new incarnation of the story, the main character has been getting less ugly and less ugly.
The Phantom living under the opera house is supposed to be hideous, a real monster (think the bastard love child of John C. Reilly and Rhea Perlman). When Lon Chaney played the character in the 1925 movie, they couldn’t have gotten it more right. Chaney’s character was so deformed he basically was one of the great horror monsters of his time, a less hairy, more musically gifted King Kong really, given their tastes in kidnapping young women.
But in 2004 when Gerard Butler took the role in Joel Schumacher’s version, you knew something was about to go spectacularly tits up, only without any actual breasts, given Schumacher’s opinion about such things. Butler is one of the few males in recorded human history whose stare has been scientifically proven to dissolve women’s undergarments. Millions of folks out there are in love with his face. There wasn’t a chance they would hide that money maker beneath a ton of disfiguring make up:
This was Schumacher’s “monster”: Gerald Butler with a skin rash. How horrible, let’s throw rotten tomatoes at the creature! Some might try to excuse this by claiming the obsession with the tiny scar simply proves the Phantom was a vain character, but in this movie it is actually revealed that the character of the Phantom spent his childhood years as a circus freak show attraction, due to his “deformed” face. Circuses were really boring back then, apparently.
A world where Gerard Butler would be considered a revolting sideshow attraction is a strange and confusing place, existing only in the minds of Hollywood executives, who furthermore believe that:
Brunette + Glasses = Hideous
Take a look at the above picture of Anna Faris and Emma Stone – two drop dead gorgeous women, so attractive most men would hold caged death matches to see who gets to stutter a pathetic date invitation in front of any of them. It doesn’t matter which one is more attractive (Emma obviously) – they are both very enchanting.
Will that change so much if we flatten Stone’s hair and give her a pair of glasses? The producers of “House Bunny” apparently believed so, when they cast Stone as the leader of the plain/ugly girls (almost exclusively brunettes), whose “honor” it was to be taught by Faris’ character about being pretty and slutty and shallow.
Didn’t anyone tell them that by putting Stone in that getup they have just transformed her into a shy librarian, one of the most universal male fantasies on the planet? Do they really expect to fool our libidos with such cheap parlor tricks? Please. This is the sort of play you would expect from more primitive times, like 1999 when the beautiful Rachael Leigh Cook played “one of the ugliest girls in school” in the movie “She’s All That”.
But the “House Bunny” came out in 2008, when they should have known better that geekifying a traditionally sexy actress won’t make her less attractive. If anything, it will double your potential demographic, but with the added “bonus” of insulting their intelligence by claiming anything not blonde simply cannot be a certified head turner.
The glasses are also a big part of this Hollywood Ugly image. They seem to work just like Clark Kent’s magical specs – no matter how the character looks like, stick a set of frames on him/her and they transform into a totally new person. Hell, stick a pair of glasses on Miss freaking Universe and she can play the “ugly” girl in most Hollywood flicks. It happened with Stone in “House Bunny”, but bafflingly enough was also applied to Sandra Bullock in “Love Potion Number 9”.
Bullock has long been more than eager to play the “regular” characters in a few movies but with “Love Potion (…)” the implication seems to be she is an unapproachable hag who has to resort to a magical aphrodisiac to get men to fall in love with her. That is just… really stupid.
Unconventional Beauty = Conventional Homeliness
Now beauty is a strictly subjective thing, the ideas of which change from place to place, person to person, drink to drink etc. Right now in the deepest corners of Africa there might be thousands of people whose idea of beauty involves roughly 100 pounds of surplus weight while American women stop very short of having their intestines removed just to see smaller digits on their bathroom scale. Different strokes and all of that, so it should be obvious that some people might be beautiful in less conventional, though still quite apparent, ways.
Hollywood executives do not understand that and if you try to explain it to them (with slides and sock puppets no less) it will trigger a massive Confusion Rage on their part which will end with broken furniture and at least one dead hobo.
The queen of unconventional beauty who got stuck with the ugly tag is undoubtedly Janeane Garofalo, who for many years played the unattractive girl to the sound of confused head scratching from all sane male audience members. The worst offenders would include “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” and “The Truth About Cats and Dogs” where she is reduced to helping Uma Thurman get together with the man SHE has the hots for. No offense to Ms Thurman, you have lovely eyes and I will subscribe to your Twitter page etc, but Garofalo is just… well, she is just so darn cute. Not really runway material, but that’s actually better. I don’t have that much interest in walking anthropomorphic coat hangers.
The very same but more aggregating story happened with Azure Skye whose somewhat unique cuteness and beauty got cast in the titular role in the movie “Confessions of the Ugly Stepsister”. In the movie, her mother calls her “painfully plain” and Iris, Skye’s character, often refers to herself as a hound.
One thing to say about that… they must have some pretty good looking dogs in wherever the movie’s producers hail from.