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The Case for Ugly Romantic Interests

 

Beauty and the Beast - original painting by Walter Crane. {{PD-US}}

Good-looking romantic interests can be fun (and too-good-looking-for-their-own-good romantic interests can be even more fun). But I’d like to suggest an ugly romantic interest for a change of pace.

This post was inspired when I recently read a book describing the romantic interest as having “mushroom-coloured skin.” The book didn’t turn out to be all that good, but I was intrigued how the author unflinchingly faced the fact that her romantic interest was ugly. Then I started thinking about how uncommon that was. The closest thing I could think of was Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre – “colourless, olive face, square, massive brow, broad and jetty eyebrows, deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth…” Of course, once Jane Eyre falls in love with him she doesn’t think he’s ugly, but that is something quite different. The conventional idea of being in love is that you don’t care if the one you love is ugly or not.

The other example I could think of was the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. The whole point of that fairy-tale is whether someone can fall in love with someone who is ugly. In fact, the villain in the Disney movie just happens to be conventionally good-looking! Unfortunately, this is rather ruined when the Beast transforms into a handsome prince at the end. Belle might love him as a beast, but the author(s) have no confidence the readers/viewers will, so they manage to turn him into the expected version of the romantic interest.

Disney tried this again in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, except it’s obvious from the start the girl’s going to end up with handsome Phoebus, and not the hunchback. It’s slightly different in the actual novel, but in both of them the poor hunchback loses out.

And beyond that, I can’t really think of any more… Edward Cullen is nauseatingly, gush-inducingly good-looking. Rhett Butler is a dashing black sheep. Everyone agrees Mr Darcy is handsome (even if Jane Austen doesn’t exactly describe him in detail). And as for Romeo… who knows what Romeo looks like?

Okay, I guess I don’t just mean ‘ugly,’ I mean different too. I’ve read far too many books about well-muscled guys with a cleft in their chin (unfortunately, their personalities tend to be about as interesting to read about as their looks – as if being good-looking makes up for it somehow for both the heroine and the reader). In real-life, being conventionally good-looking isn’t necessarily all that interesting either. You know, if he has a big scar down his face, you wonder why. If he looks like a young Brad Pitt, there’s not much to wonder about, except if he gets sick of having females hang all over him all the time.

 

Would you read a story with an ugly romantic interest, or do you demand good looks at all costs? Come to think of it, does it make a difference if it’s a book, or a movie? And can you think of any better examples than I can?

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