In 1980, when I was in secondary school, Roald Dahl wrote:
"If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."
Let's just reflect on this message for children...
"A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly."
On the face of it this is a nice, positive whimsy ... but sadly it isn't true and is therefore corrosive, harmful bullshit.
Consider the implication. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. So ... if you see someone and think they are ugly you have full license to assume that they do not have good thoughts.
"If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face."
In fact that person with the ugly face most likely has ugly thoughts and therefore deserves to be ugly. It's their fault.
I would call this medieval thinking except for the fact that it goes back much further than this.
"ancient Greek society was obsessed with purity; those who deviated from institutionalized norms were viewed as a threat. Physical imperfections were seen as corresponding to moral flaws so therefore, disabled children were exposed and abandoned outside the city walls, and the ugly and deformed were suspiciously regarded as tainted beings." Altas Obscura
It's a great comfort to think that evil people look ugly, carrying both a handy identifier and a simultaneous punishment for their crimes ... but it's hardly a sophisticated world view, and handed to children it is a toxic piece of thinking.
Of course we see the same device used in advertising, film making, storytelling ... In George RR Martin's books Brienne of Tarth is described as having coarse features, a flat face, prominent and crooked teeth, a mouth too wide, swollen lips, a battered nose, an abundance of freckles.
Here's the actress.
Tyrion Lannister was described as "Tyrion Lannister, the youngest of Lord Tywin's brood and by far the ugliest. All that the gods had given to Cersei and Jaime, they had denied Tyrion. He was a dwarf, half his brother's height, struggling to keep pace on stunted legs. His head was too large for his body, with a brute's squashed-in face beneath a swollen shelf of brow. One green eye and one black one peered out from under a lank of hair so blonde it seemed white."
Here he is... the horror...
TV only does "TV ugly" for good guys.
Melisandre the Red Woman is shown as attractive, but this is illusion and her "true nature" turns out to be less appealing...
In the multitude of vampire shows we have handsome young men and women playing the bloodsuckers with their true ugliness revealed from time to time in full CGI glory.
This is not a uniform and unbreakable code of course. TV standards couldn't suck all the nuance out of GRRM's characterisation. Cersei Lannister is good looking and reprehensible. Some of the good guys aren't great lookers. But it is definitely still a trend.
I'm sure examples of it can be found in my own work and in many other fantasy books and film, sometimes aided and abetted by the conceit that working with evil magics twists the user leaving them ugly whilst working with good magics merely gives the user that inner glow ... like they just stepped out of a salon!
In conclusion: we still seem as a society to still to harbour at the core of us the idea that heroism and good really do reflect themselves on the face of the individual, and to perhaps carry within us that moment's hesitation when it comes to someone not blessed by the gods of chance with even features, good skin, and an easy smile.
Which is why I object to this being coined into a philosophy and fed to children as it is in The Twits.
Thanks for some incredible and well thought out entries. Sadly I can't hand out 71 prizes. So, after much consultation and soul searching:
Grey Sister goes to #15, stiff competition but this really caught the eye.
Red Sisters randomly to #4, #5, & #44
I have a couple of Advance Review Copies (ARCs) of Grey Sister left.
And I've recently received some UK paperbacks for Red Sister.
So, I'm giving away a signed Grey Sister ARC to the best entry to this contest, and signed Red Sister paperbacks to 3 randomly selected entries.
To enter the contest send me a photo of any of my books and have the photo contain something relevant to the book.
For example, here is a photo of Red Sister with an apple, because Sister Apple is an important character in the story. And one with a candle - important in the story, and this one is even personalised. Or just include something creative that in some way 'fits' the story.
Or, you can send in a photo of any quote from my books written physically in some interesting location. I.e no text added to the photo, but a photo of a quote on a piece of paper stuck or held somewhere, or a quote painted on a wall, or written on your leg in lipstick, or whatever.
#65 Khaled - a more modern memory box
#44 Daniel K
#38 Richard, the tale is in the titles
#29 Patrik (whose wife says he looks like me! Seen here imitating a recent photo of yours truly)
#27 Di Acordi - "Whatever monster might be in me, it was always mine, my choice, my responsibility, my evil if you will". (from the start of Di's book in Brazilian Portuguese).
#25 Chane, If Jorg had access to social media.
#22 Cin (maille-ing it in!)
#18 Steve (with the book taking his customary reading spot: on the edge of his seat)
#17 Harry (playing off Jorg's affection for mountains)
#13 Tristan (expand if you don't mind BIG SPOILERS for King of Thorns)