Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where Are All the Ugly People?

In a culture obsessed with body image we do a fair amount of criticizing the fashion, modeling and magazine industries. We rail at them for perpetuating the unrealistic characteristics of the “perfect body”. These are the most visible offenders but I’ve begun to notice culprits with a more subtle approach.

These transgressors are television shows with a main character surrounded by a few secondary characters. The subtle offense is the people in the background, the crowds that make up a scene. A good example is Burn Notice.

The location for the show Burn Notice is Miami, Florida. No big stretch that most of the background scenes have people in bathing suits but if this show is reality there is not an ugly person walking around Miami. There are no overweight people, no one who doesn’t look great in a bikini or Speedo. Girls and guys making up the ‘crowd’ fall into the perfect body image parameters. Where are all the ugly people?

Other shows that don’t need to support a continuously attractive back-crowd encourage the body image fallacy in their bar and party scenes. When the detectives, police or other principles walk into a nightclub or party the girls are all beautiful, the guys are all handsome and their bodies conform to the perfect body image parameters. If this is reality no ugly people go out to nightclubs or parties. Where are all the ugly people?

One show that has bucked this trend is Memphis Beat. While Dwight Hendricks (male lead) is no slouch he is definitely no; Sonny Crockett, Michael Westin or Derek Shepherd. I like that Dwight’s partner has some age and grizzle on him. The female lead, played by Alfre Woodard, is 57 years old. She looks like, and portrays, an average 57 year old woman, not a ‘cougar’ on the prowl. The requisite “sexy girl” is Dwight’s ex-wife who is a minor character. The back-crowd here leans much more toward reality.

I’m the first to admit that good-looking people are pleasing to the eye but I have no problem with ordinary looking people, everyday people, people who look like me.

Google Images:
Burn Notice
Dwight Hendricks
Sonny Crockett
New York crosswalk


  1. I smiled when I read this post because I had never ever thought about that when I watch shows! Now I will! But you are so right--the background on a beach scene never looks like the Daytona I go to!

  2. Once you notice it is hard not to. It is almost subliminal.