Inner beauty, an interesting concept. And one that I can certainly understand; in theory anyway. The idea being that we should look beyond appearances and try to see what's inside an individual. And what's "inside" does matter. Intelligence, skill, knowledge, sensitivity, insight, emotional strength, force of will and just good old fashioned common sense. These kinds of qualities are obscenely important for an individual to have and any one with half a brain will recognize this.
The problem I have with the concept of "inner beauty" is the way in which it is normally used. The implication behind it, if you will. As we discussed in the last rant "Evil Standards and Philosophical Flaws", spirituality and abstract philosophy can have a very negative impact on the importance which we place on earthly and material things. Similarly, the concept of inner beauty often seems to act as a device designed to devalue the physical, thus throwing out all quantifiable and earthly standards in an attempt to promote equality, among decidedly unequal organisms. I think it's fairly obvious that, for us humans, appearances do matter. And I shouldn't have to explain that this is indeed a reality; like it or not. However, I'm not going to sit here and harp about all of the reasons why aesthetics are important. This shouldn't be news to anyone who's lived on the planet for very long. And no, in case you didn't gather it from the first paragraph, I don't believe that looks are everything (you ever notice that, when writing anything that will be going up on the Internet, you can never be too clear and specific about what you're saying; because some idiot will inevitably misinterpret it and then try to insult or question you based on that misinterpretation?). But, what I am suggesting is that appearances can be a good indication of what you will find underneath.
Of course, this idea goes completely against the way in which the concept of "inner beauty" is typically used. But that's really the point, now isn't it? Basically, I'm suggesting that external ugliness can, and often does indicate the presence of internal ugliness. Now, this is not to say that physically attractive people cannot be ugly on the inside. But, I do believe that it's usually only a matter of time before the wrapping begins to resemble the contents. Even fairly high levels of natural beauty can be consumed by internal rottenness. It's like what Oscar Wilde's classic novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray" seems to suggest. Though, unlike the novel, my idea of "inner ugliness" has more to do with factors like stupidity, hypocrisy, self induced frustration and general self denial, as well as pent up stress and hatred (as opposed to properly recognized and released hatred); and less to do with more common standards of morality and ethics. As I've said before, some of the most wretched people on earth are the ones who claim to be capable of nothing but goodness, and are self delusional enough to actually believe it!
I think we've all known people who will claim to be "good" or caring, and who, in reality, can be very petty, hypocritical, insensitive and downright rotten (unfortunately, this seems to be the rule and not the exception with many "good" people, which is why no one seems to notice or be appalled by it). They're like the most vile soap opera characters, with their constant need for drama and their sick jealousies. But unlike most soap opera actors, these individuals are very often physically unattractive as well. And even the ones that start out pretty or handsome don't tend to age very well and will begin to appear physically unappealing before they probably need to. But is this really evidence that a person's appearance can, in some cases, indicate some basic and general truths about what they're like "inside"? And if so, how can we begin to explain this?
We all lose some of our physical attractiveness as we age. This is just a reality of the human condition. However, have you ever noticed that some men can still remain extremely handsome at the same age when others begin to deteriorate? And how, some elderly women are able to retain a pleasantness and glow about them as others only seem to get uglier? No doubt part of this is due to genetics, but there are other factors at work here as well. It has been observed that individuals who have had to endure great hardships throughout their lives often wear it on their faces. They appear to age faster as a result. Another great example of this type of physical/psychological interaction is stress. Unfortunately, I know from my own past experience how powerful and destructive stress can be. Some of the more common physical symptoms of stress are headaches and stomach problems. Stress has been known to cause a variety of general illnesses in people, or it least, symptoms of illnesses. And depression has been known to cause people physical pain and fatigue. I believe this same principle can apply to internal rottenness (by my definition) and physical ugliness.
Another point I'd like to make is that, when it comes to judging a person's appearance, we tend to respond well to people who appear to be genuinely happy. We are biologically program to respond this way, the logic being that, if someone else appears miserable then they must have a reason to, and (unless you're a sadist) this probably means you don't have anything to be happy about either. We instinctually react worse to people who look angry, irritated or stressed and, as a result, they appear uglier to us. And, if a person feels these things for long enough, the features of the face will begin to reflect this more dramatically; thus ensuring a more consistent negative reaction from others which will feed on itself. Remember, the most unhappy people often show it, even when smiling and saying kind words, their faces are stained with misery.
It should also be noted that, although they'll never admit it, on some level truly rotten people realize what they are. And this realization and its impact on a person's self image can also have dire consequences for a person's physical appearance. If a person is very petty, jealous, hypocritical or engaging in some type of mandatory moral behavior, which is leading to a denial of self and their natural human impulses; then there's probably a good reason why their doing this. In a sense, the individual who is engaging in these types of behaviors and tendencies is already pretty worthless. How this worthlessness relates to jealous and petty behavior should be obvious (and we've discussed how it relates to self deprecating moral behavior in many other rants). On top of that, if this individual realizes that they are not as intelligent or talented as many others and that their chances of any notable success are fairly slim, this will also lead to a very unappealing self image, as well as undesirable behaviors.
Of course, the most obvious way in which the external appearance of an individual can relate to what's going on inside of them is to judge just how well the individual appears to be taking care of themselves. People, who take very little pride in their image, often don't have much self respect, and by extension are less likely to have much respect for anything or anyone else. It will be argued that different people have different standards for what looks good. In this world of blue collar chic, where it seems that everyone (with the exception of yours truly) insist on donning the "tee shirt and jeans look" whenever possible, you might think that respectability could be hard to gauge (incidentally, this is the very point behind that look, yet another vile social mechanism designed to promote equality; everyone looks the same regardless of social or economic status). However, even if an individual does give into the current social standards for dress, you can still tell something about that person by just how well kept and groomed they are. Even a person wearing a tee shirt and jeans can take some pride in their appearance.
As villains we understand the importance of self respect, and we're not afraid to take that respect to the unusual level of self worship. It has been noted that, in fiction, villains often dress better than most of the other characters. There's a fiendish glory to being a villain. And we know that, despite what others may claim about "inner beauty", appearances can give us a good deal of information about what's inside; for those who know how to look.