July 1, 2007

"Why doesn't evolution get rid of ugly people?"

asks Sharon Begley in Newsweek:

Why isn’t everyone beautiful, smart and healthy? Or, in a less-polite formulation, why haven’t ugly, stupid, unhealthy people been bred out of the population—ugly people because no one will have them as mates, meaning they don’t get the chance to pass their ugliness to the next generation;

Evolutionary geneticists try to explain this paradox by positing that mutations for disadvantageous traits keep popping up no matter how hard natural selection attempts to wipe them out, but in their more honest moments the scientists admit that in real life undesirable traits are way more common than this mechanism would account for; “ugly” mutations just don’t occur that often. In a groundbreaking study, biologists at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland have figured out why, at least in one species: genes that are good for males are bad for females and, perhaps, vice versa.

The scientists studied red deer, 3,559 of them from eight generations, living on Scotland’s Isle of Rum. They carefully noted each animal’s fitness, who mated with whom, how many offspring survived, which offspring mated and with what results. Bottom line: “male red deer with relatively high fitness fathered, on average, daughters with relatively low fitness,” Edinburgh’s Katharina Foerster and her colleagues conclude in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Nature. “Male red deer with a relatively high lifetime [fitness, which includes their reproductive success, the only thing evolution cares about] sired, on average, daughters with a relatively low [fitness].” The reverse also holds. Males that were relatively less successful in their reproductive success and fitness had daughters that were extra successful.

The reason is that any particular gene-based trait may have very different effects on males than in females. Extrapolating to humans (and oversimplifying, sorry) you might imagine that a particular shape of the nose or turn of the chin would look drop-dead hunky on a male, but horsey on a woman; dad got to mate because his looks attracted a female, but the result of their togetherness produced daughters whose pulchritude was less than obvious.


Do we see this in humans or not? It would seem like the kind of thing there would be some folk wisdom about, but I've never heard any.

A lot of good looks is just non-sex specific all-around healthiness. Mark Harmon, who remains a popular TV actor in his mid-50s ("NCIS") due to his handsomeness, is a good example of all-aroundness. Before going into acting, he was a fine Wishbone running quarterback despite being not particularly big. In his first game for UCLA in 1972, he led a famous upset of mighty Nebraska, which hadn't lost in 32 games. He's the son of Tom Harmon, perhaps the second most famous college football player (after Red Grange) of the pre-war era and starlet Elyse Knox. (Elyce's father was Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy in WWII and Alf Landon's running mate in 1936. Old Man Knox wasn't so hot looking himself, but clearly Harmon is from a good blood, good bone kind of family.) A Sports Illustrated story in 1972 reported that when his teammates visited the family mansion, they all thought his mother was his sister and asked Mark for her phone number.

On the other hand, there may be some sex-specific good looks. I know a family with a handsome, strong-jawed manly son and a handsome strong-jawed manly daughter, so perhaps so.

On the other other hand, Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine are full siblings. In their younger days, they were both very good looking exemplars of their sexes, with Shirley tending toward the very girly pixieish side. On the other other other hand, Jane Fonda inherited a little too much of her father's All-American good looks. She's a very healthy woman, but nobody would confuse her with Audrey Hepburn for exquisiteness. John Cusack, with his unfortunate Cupid's bow lips, might be prettier than his sister Joan. Jon Voight had big lips for a leading man, which his daughter Angelina Jolie inherited to her advantage.

The three generations of Hustons who won Oscars started with the the conventionally handsome Walter, followed by director/actor John Huston, who was ultra-masculine but not particularly good looking (he had kind of the John Kerry-Herman Munster thing going -- here are the two together), followed by Angelica Huston, who took a little too much after her father in looks, but even though she wasn't conventionally pretty was woman enough to keep Jack Nicholson around for years.

Perhaps one way to test this is to see if pairs of sibling movie stars or parent-child pairs are less likely to be opposite sex than would be randomly expected. I suspect that may be true, although that may stem more from same-sex siblings (e.g., Luke and Owen Wilson) hanging out together more than opposite sex siblings spend time together.

Anyway, there are various genetic mechanism that could theoretically be at work. For example, consider the jaw. Having a big square jaw helps make, say, Christopher Reeve of Superman fame looking like a really handsome guy and having a petite jaw helps make Audrey Hepburn look like a really pretty girl.

- Now you could have a big square jaw because you inherited some big square jaw genes regardless of sex, so the men in your family would tend to be handsome and the women horse-faced.

- Or you could inherit some genes that set the average level of sex hormones relative to your sex above or below average. Once again, you'd see the same effect.

- Or you could inherit some genes that say, "Have more than the average level of male hormones if you are male and more than the average level of female hormones if you are female." You could call this the Beatty-MacLaine syndrome.

- Or, there could be lots other combinations, including more of both sexes' hormones than is typical for your sex (which might be more common than average in celebrities, such as David Bowie or Marelene Dietrich.).


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

66 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is a fascinating issue.

The best way to determine whether looks are based on hormonal and or gene influences would be to analyze genes from attractive people that have similar physical characteristics and see which genes they have in common.

For instance, a scientist could test curvy brunettes to see what genes they have in common.

Finding out what role hormones play in all this will be more difficult to ascertain.

I am surprised that more research hasn't been done in this field because there is big money to be made for scientists who can figure out a way for parents to choose what features their children have.

In the future, it is possible that women could have 20 of their own eggs and/or sperm analyzed to see which ovum would be most likely to produce a child with green eyes, or blonde hair, and so on.

Old Right

tommy said...

Or you could inherit some genes that say, "Have more than the average level of male hormones if you are male and more than the average level of female hormones if you are female." You could call this the Beatty-MacLaine syndrome.

Or, conversely, you could have some genes that enhance the beauty of women by increasing estrogen or sensitivity to estrogen. Those same genes might also have the same effects in men, leading to effeminate behavior and homosexuality.

I don't really have any hard evidence for it, but that is the pet theory I've been floating around about why homosexuality hasn't disappeared: certain genes increase the attractiveness and fertility of women but also make those women's brothers more effeminate.

We will call this the Madonna-Madonna's-Unknown-Brother effect, though Steve has argued that Madonna is a data point against my theory. He is probably right. :-D

Anonymous said...

Kate Bosworth, http://www.askmen.com/specials/2005_top_99/celebs/98_kate_bosworth.jpg
is probably a pretty good working example of what is described above. Fine-very blonde hair, delicate bones, feminine chin all looks fine and dandy on a girl, but she will probably make a son who goes prematurely bald, have a delicate face (which wont endear him to the guys in middle school), and have a tendency to be skinny.


Maybe this is a large reason why alot of WHITE women are attracted to BLACK men, but not that many white men seem attracted to black women. As a group, they are more "masculine" and ethnic-bunch than are whites on average.


On an unrelated note, ever notice how "pretty boys", http://fredgraver.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/john_stamos006.jpg

dont age well, http://z.about.com/d/tvdramas/1/0/N/B/johnstamoser.jpg
and aren't nearly as attractive when they are older than in those years between 15-25 or so?

Anonymous said...

Brady Quinn and Laura Quinn would be 2 more examples in terms of your jaw theory.

However, she's now married to A.J. Hawk of the Packers, so the athlete genes are doing juuuust fine.

Peewee said...

At first, I wanted to say that maybe physical attractiveness isn't as important as people tend to assume ... ugly people get married too ... but with time even a tiny difference in reproduction ratios can magnify itself to infinity, and human evolution is pretty deep. So I don't know what to think, but this theory, especially the part about the deer, sounds interesting to explain the ugly people. But even if it turns out that most congenital ugliness is explainable as simply a manifestation of too many opposite-gender characteristics, certainly not all of it is. It has occurred to me that at least some ugly conditions, particularly those that are unique to humans, might have hidden genetic correlations with genetically beneficial attributes whose evolutionary advantage has become suddenly important in the most recent 20,000 years or so of human evolution.

Perhaps because I'm short, I've often wondered similarly about height. If most men prefer tall women and most women prefer tall men, why aren't we all giants by now? I suspect there are other factors at work, and I know human height can change drastically over time ... judging by fossils, just 20,000 years ago the average adult Mediterranean man was around 6'5", and who knows what that would be with a modern diet. Meanwhile at this same time most of Africa was near Pygmy-sized. And I've heard that Amerindian tribes in America from homelands a few hundred miles from each other can have nearly a foot of difference in average height between them (with the Cheyenne being the tallest on record at least back in the 1870s).

Mark Seecof said...

I don't think the selection pressure for prettiness (in humans) is very stiff. Also, I don't think we've seen enough evidence to quantify either the influence of prettiness in evolution or the historical rate of change in mean prettiness (which needn't be constant).

Although cultures vary, in many the expected number of offspring is similar for both very pretty and plain-looking people. Pretty people may end up concentrated at the top of the social pyramid, as rich (men or families) cream off the prettiest poor people for mates, but plain people continue to reproduce. They may even rise in status (and displace the pretty offspring of earlier elites in the social hierarchy) for reasons other than their looks.

To discuss this we must agree to draw some distinction between prettiness and the (sufficient) appearance of good health or what-have-you, but please permit me to skip an extended discussion of that point in order to get to the juicier stuff. While the stigmata of disease or developmental problems generally read as "ugly," there's clearly some distribution of handsomeness/prettiness that doesn't indicate anything so crude.

Consider men first: handsome men probably get extra matings as well as improved choices of long-term pairings. However, in regions/cultures (e.g., Northern climes) where men act as providers, their access to economic resources is a big component of mating attractiveness-- and depends only slightly on their handsomeness. It's possible to be a mighty hunter and a snaggletooth at the same time. Also consider variations in handsomeness. Some men look "friendly," and some others look "tough." Either may be thought handsome but the first might be more successful in a hunting party or as a trader and and the second might do better as a warrior. Either might attract mates.

(I suspect women prefer tall men largely because their heights stand proxy for their access to economic resources (their own, or their families')--people grow taller when they eat better in their youth. Height is expensive (and tops out around 7' everywhere) so I don't think ever-increasing height confers extra reproductive advantage--it's relative height which counts.)

You have remarked, Steve, on the possibility that men from some regions (e.g., tropical African matriarchies) are more heavily selected for handsomeness (and warfare as a mating display) because the women don't depend on them to bring home the bacon.

Also, we know empirically that women don't have a single yardstick for visual attractiveness. They weigh a partly-idiosyncratic basket of factors. Beyond height and healthy appearance, women evidence preferences for all sorts of features. I suspect this is adaptive, because humans are ecological generalists rather than niche players. It makes sense for mate preferences to vary--it keeps our genome from getting too specialized. (I'm not really a Lamarckian--I mean "in the past, members of our species who weren't too picky when it came to mating left more descendants on the average, so currently our species routinely produces a variety of phenotypes from the viewpoint of mate-selection preferences.)

(I don't think men have a single yardstick either, although they greatly favor youth (above the threshold of sexual maturity) for obvious reasons. I don't think men need much of a yardstick because they will accept almost any mating opportunity!)

Now consider women: a woman has to be pretty ugly before she can't get any mating opportunities. Women reproduce slowly so prettier women can't have many more offspring than plain ones, and their advantage in mate-selection may be small. In a polygynous culture a plain woman can be third choice in some handsome man's harem. In a monogamous culture a plain woman will pair up with some man who couldn't claim a very-pretty wife--but he may be a perfectly adequate mate.

Many cultures have mechanisms which reduce the impact of prettiness on mating opportunities. In strong-family cultures elders often arrange marriages for youngsters, with prettiness just a minor portion of the consideration on either side (this makes evo-psych sense--I want to arrange mating opportunities for my close kin whether or not they're pretty. I'll bargain in any currency I can. Plain kids with successful kin will tend to end up mated, and their offspring (as nephews and nieces) will get helped along in turn). Ironically, while love-match cultures allow prettiness a lot of influence, they usually do so in the context of economies which drive many to select mates for productive prowess rather than prettiness anyway. (Extreme example: those broad-shoulders thick-armed milkmaids of Northern Europe--always in demand before home churning was abolished.)

In all cultures rich kids get better (and sometimes prettier) mate choices, but the apex of the pyramid doesn't outbreed the base numerically. Given human "social (economic) mobility" the differential reproduction rate of the pretty probably isn't very high. Indeed, it may sometimes be depressed. In some modern human cultures less attractive women mate more often (as they trade mating opportunities for companionship). They out-reproduce their prettier, more-choosy, cousins.

Now, "choosier" mate pairings might engender higher-quality offspring, and if a greater proportion of those survived to mate the pretty could outcompete the plain over time even without breeding more frequently. However, cultural/economic conditions or other strong (and varying, most likely) selection pressures for traits other than prettiness could swamp the prettiness factor over time.

Steve, you have remarked on the blondness of the Mexican elite and the (mate-selection) means by which it is maintained. Still and all, that elite doesn't outnumber the peasanty, and doesn't seem likely to.

Finally, let me remark that humans may well be getting prettier over time! We don't have good visual records of people from thousands of generations in the past. If we did, we might judge (although our judgement could not be very objective!) that modern humans are prettier on average than their ancestors. That would be consistent with modest selection pressure for prettiness operating over time.

It's difficult to look around, compare the overall human prettiness mean to the right tail of the prettiness curve (as we see it), and pronounce that evolution is or isn't selecting for prettiness. Even comparing partly inbred extended families of humans, by the criteria of prettiness they seem to share instead of those on which they differ, is a questionable proceeding. Sure, we do learn which groups are "prettier" (back to those African men and Chinese women, eh?) but we're still short of quantifying the influence of prettiness in evolution. Perhaps mean prettiness is climbing through the generations, but the SD is large because so many factors influence fitness.

My best guess is that prettiness is more of a factor in arranging matings in cultures where everyone gets food easily, but that other aspects of rich cultures (which reduce the rate of reproduction of the most economically successful) counterbalance the prettiness factors. I don't know where things will end up.

Mark Seecof said...

Steve, the "preview" feature of this comment system isn't working. It just keeps asking for another CAPTCHA.

Anonymous said...

I'm worried about what kind of strange looking kids will be born in the future due to extreme plastic surgery in both the mom and the dad. Unteil they are old enough to go under the knife themselves, there might be some real ugly kids out there with beautiful parents...

Nanani said...

My first thought was that evolution -had- gotten rid of them; the ugly people of today would not have been so relative to the average of 3000 years ago. The logic here is that as the pretty people are in higher demand for mating and have more children, the avereage beauty goes up. Uglyness is relative over time.
Does that make sense to you?

Mark said...

...or there's the other possibility: that even we ugly people have to find someone to mate with, so we mate with other uggos. Face it: society has use even for ugly people. That annoying redneck in the pickup who just cut you off is alot more likely to have served in the Marines than the handsome punk-rocker in the Prius. And eventually the more attractive (non-physical) qualities of uggos (like Bill Gates) may help us rise above inter-uggo mating.

I also suspect that, generally, it isn't one particular gene acting in isolation that makes a person ugly or attractive but multiple genes acting in concert. Alter the shape of the skull or width of the shoulders just a little and a lean, attractive person like Jimmy Stewart can turn into an awkward-looking beanpole. Stretch Elijah Wood out an extra foot and sudddenly he wouldn't be so cute.

I recall hearing a theory that gay men may inherit a suite of genes that make women more reproductive (and perhaps even better looking) but that make gay men gay. The tiny handful of gay men whose mother's I happen to know seem to verify this, but then that's purely anecdotal. Did that one ever go anywhere?

Either way, I suspect that once we get past the initial fascination with "what does this gene do?" we will be spending decades or even centuries trying to figure out how particular genes work in tandem to affect looks, strength, personality, intelligence, and all the rest.

Anonymous said...

There's another aspect few people seem to notice: the "congenital" or "disease" reasons.

I have (had?) a very handsome father, and a very pretty mother. I, however, look... err, tragic. And I now (after years of thinking and Internet search) know the reason.

I was born with a C-section (large head and body, born 12 lbs; mom petite, was 98 lbs before pregnancy, couldn't have delivered me.) And I had a very severe case of "rickets."

Rickets, as is commonly know, is primarily vitamin-D deficiency, and gives bones all sorts of funny shapes. Yes, even facial bones.

And C-section, if handled by a doctor who wouldn't give a rat's ass about medical conditions like "craniosyntosis," results in..., well, fellows like me. Google the word craniosyntosis, you'll immediately see what I mean.

As evolutionary psychologists have discovered, beauty -- far from being skin deep -- is primarily truth in advertising about your health condition. Which is why we are so attuned to it. (Nothing to do with that silly feminist notion that it's been "invented" by men to keep women in line, etc.) Due that reason, we easily perceive slightest deviations from the "norm". (Note Steve's qualification of Cusack's mouth.)

If your head been totally mis-shapen in the hands of a doctor pulling you out of your mother's C-section-split belly, and if rickets doesn't help your bones much to shape up, you end up with many little deviations which, in aggregate, gives an unsightly view.

But, this doesn't mean your genes have been eliminated. My father has 2 daughters from a first ex, and they are both gorgeous -- even though their mother is hardly so. If I hadn't suffered from the two conditions I've stated above, I would have looked exactly like father. But his daughters had 2 offspring each, so his genes have been passed on to the "grand-children" generation, already.

This whole issue of "genes at play" is much, much more chaotic -- and, therefore, mathematically intricate -- than most of us tend to assume. It would take probably another 10,000 years for the "ugly" ones among us to be sorted out, and in 50,000 I'm sure Mark Harmond would be among the ugly ones. But in slo-mo, things are very very messy.



JD

Dennis Mangan said...

Maybe evolution doesn't get rid of ugly people because, like height and IQ, there are too many genes that contribute to ugliness/handsomeness. So it's the same reason why evolution doesn't get rid of stupid people: all the requisite genes are floating around the gene pool, and the stupid or ugly people just got unlucky, with a perfect combination of the wrong genes. Another reason might be that virtually everyone mates, so that ugliness confers no reproductive disadvantage. Finally, also like IQ and height, the sheer number of genes that go into these qualities cause reversion to the mean, so that the offspring of the stupid, short, and ugly are less so than the parents, and the genes survive in the population.

Anonymous said...

Uglyness has very little to do with the chance of a man or woman procreating. Wealth and class are far more important than looks in most societies. Worst case scenario, an ugly man marries an ugly woman.

Anonymous said...

Or, in a less-polite formulation, why haven’t ugly, stupid, unhealthy people been bred out of the population—ugly people because no one will have them as mates,...

Perhaps 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' covers some ground here. And modern medical science is certainly allowing some people to live to reproductive age who otherwise would not.

eh

Anonymous said...

Here's another observation on the pschology of perception of beauty.

I'm sure everyone knows that one of the most effective ways of using torture to extract information is not to apply the torture to the person interrogated but to a loved one -- such as a wife or a son. This means, we are more attuned to the impact of things commonly known to be negative on our loved ones than ourselves -- a by-product of "altruistic" concern with kin. When I was writing my above comment, I almost used a description of myself as "trust me, you wouldn't want to see me with your daughter" but refrained because of the strong emotional content. The thing is heck, I myself wouldn't want *my* daughter to be with a guy like me.

We seem to raise the stakes for our loved ones on things we think is critical. We want more of the good things for them, and less of the bad things.

What I'm saying is, a woman that may not be a candidate for a beauty pageant may be perfectly acceptable to me, but I'm sure my parents would be more distressed by that than I.

The closer we are with a person -- and the more emotionally-bonded with her/him -- the less stringent of our application of selection criteria. Conversely, the less emotionally-involved we are with someone, the more critical we become of them.

Why mention this? Well, do you know what exactly "researchers" have in mind when they say "desirable traits"? Maybe they think along the "would I want him with my daughter/her with my son" line, while their offspring might not entirely agree with them?

Another aspect of how messy sorting out the business of "genes sorting out each other."


JD

Udolpho said...

Seems like the obvious answer is that ugly people still manage to have kids because when left with no other option human beings lower their standards.

Also, diet and behavioral changes that make people fatter and lumpier detract from attractiveness but have more to do with high fructose corn syrup and sedentary lifestyles than with genetics.

I know a woman who has a model's stature and natural good looks but she is in dire need of orthodontic work and tends to dress on the prole side, putting herself at great disadvantage despite some winning genes compared to plainer women who make the most of cosmetics and fashion.

And of course it's a bit subjective.

Anonymous said...

Ssshhhhh - don't tell TPTB in Hollywood, but Mark Harmon's maternal grandfather was...


...drum roll please...


...William Franklin Knox, Alf Landon's running mate on the 1936 GOP ticket.

And subsequently FDR's Secretary of the Navy during WWII.

Odd how all those GOP guys - Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt Jr - were ready and willing to pull FDR's chestnuts out of the fire when the going got tough.

Shame that, in our era, the Left has long since abandoned any pretense of honorable behavior in these affairs.

PS: Harmon's been married to the same woman since 1987 [more than 20 years now]. Kinduva rarity in Hollywood these days.

PPS: I'm in love with the Mossad agent on NCIS [played, oddly enough, by an actress who was born in Chile, of all places].

Hope she gets her man next season [I can't stand the doctor that Michael Weatherly's character's thinking about marrying].

PPPS: In real life, the actress who plays that doctor chick has a degree from Harvard [and is a rather recent graduate, at that].

PPPPS: Six degrees [well, one, really] of Kevin Bacon between Michael Weatherly & Whit Stillman? [No cheating.]

Anonymous said...

Even if everyone carries absolutely perfect genes, developmental issues mean that some are more equal (beautiful) than others.

Martin said...

One possible reason - "ugly" is in the eye of the beholder. Or rather "pretty" is in the eye of the beholder.

Most men would probably agree on which women are truly ugly - Bella Abzug, Alice B. Toklas, etc.

But what about plain? The kind of man who finds Cindy Crawford gorgeous, probably finds, say...Janeane Garofalo, rather plain. I would say however, that Ms. Garofalo is quite dishy (or at least was, before she got tatooed and skanky), and Ms. Crawford is rather plain.

That whole lithe, super-model look is not actually attractive to men who like women that have womanly curves on them - women like Kate Winslet or Nicole Sullivan, for example.

The fact is that the ideal of beauty used to be more matronly (think of Marilyn Monroe or Kim Novak). For some reason, beginning sometime in the 80's, men started to have thier ideal of beauty dictated to them by gay fashion designers.

Anonymous said...

Steve -- you are ignoring the elephant in the room.

Status trumps attractiveness for women.

See, your problem Steve was you thought like a man because you are one. Most men make that assumption error "because I judge attractiveness on beauty" that women also make that assumption.

Consider say, "the Surreal Life" with that Peter Brady guy, Marcus Schenk (male underwear model), and Adrienne Curry here.

Now Marcus Schenk is possibly the best looking guy I've seen on TV, makes tons of money, and seemed genuinely nice and decent (he befriended "Mini Me" Vern Troyer on the show, who had a lot of problems). But who did Curry hook up with and marry?

Well obviously the higher status guy even though he was considerably older and not as good looking.

Because humans are complex social animals, probably the most complex, choices for women are probably dominated by social factors. Most important by far, status. Looks are probably far down the list. Wealth, power, social importance, fame, "doing something dangerous" like MotoCross, or possible future probabilities of same factor far more than looks.

Steve Tyler, Mick Jagger, and Tommie Lee are hardly "great looking guys" but each one of them probably beat Wilt Chamberlain's record. Even a scruffy, currently not famous rocker who has the possibility of breaking it big will win over a better looking bond trader. Cause if the guy breaks it big he'll be far bigger than the bond trader.

That's why ugly people still exist. Cause women mostly care about status. Not looks. [The advantages of status in mating for women are so obvious that they need not be stated.]

Moped said...

Steve, as a fan of your blog, I'm grateful that evolution permitted your less than perfect visage to exist.

tommy said...

But what about plain? The kind of man who finds Cindy Crawford gorgeous, probably finds, say...Janeane Garofalo, rather plain. I would say however, that Ms. Garofalo is quite dishy (or at least was, before she got tatooed and skanky), and Ms. Crawford is rather plain.

I want what you're smoking, Martin.

No, seriously, I understand what you are saying, though Garofalo certainly wouldn't be on my list. Unlike most guys I know, I'm more attracted to good-looking women in their thirties than women who don't look a day over seventeen, even though I'm a college student. I'd certainly prefer that mature brunette in those Ditech commercials to a Britney Speers lookalike. But then, maybe I was just overjoyed to see the last of those awful "Lost Another Loan to Ditech" commercials featuring the scheming bank employee.

And yes, Abzug, Toklas, Gertrude Stein, and a horde of other unattractive Jewish women from the pre-rhinoplasty days could be regarded as universal symbols of ugliness. On the bright side, Jews can always claim the lovely Sarah Michelle Gellar. They also get half-credit for Alicia Silverstone.

I think it is the same with Mediterranean women. Things are always more extreme. Italian women are usually either pretty attractive or pretty damn ugly. There seems to be a lot less middle ground than with northern European women.

I have a relative who works for the FBI. He travels abroad on counterterrorism-related matters all the time and has been all over the world. He's been all over Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South America, and East and South Asia. He reported back from the Olympic Games in Athens that Greece had the best looking women he had ever encountered.

Mark said...

The fact is that the ideal of beauty used to be more matronly (think of Marilyn Monroe or Kim Novak). For some reason, beginning sometime in the 80's, men started to have their ideal of beauty dictated to them by gay fashion designers.

I remember reading a decade or so ago that while Miss Americas have gotten skinnier over the years, the hip to waist ratio has remained the same. Now admittedly, as probably with most guys, I can't even tell you who any of the last 10 Miss Americas were. But it wouldn't shock me if the same remained true of modern celebs and perhaps even supermodels - skinnier, but same hip to waist ratio, which has some bearing on fertility. The last two supermodels I can remember thinking of as pretty were Elle MacPherson and Laetitia Casta. They were very successful and were pretty curvy, too - and that doesn't even get into the Anna Nicole phenomenon (arguably Anna was more attractive when she didn't talk).

The truth is that women who want children, who are biologically capable of having them, will have them. They will have them one way or another. Women, much more so than men, are excellent judges of their own attractiveness. If a woman wants children and knows she isn't highly desirable, she'll sleep around or settle for an unreliable male, even though common sense would dictate that he might be gone in, oh, say 9 months. "Easy women" aren't usually the pretty ones.

One thing that I think may start having an effect on this is modern government's ability to find delinquent fathers and force them to pay up. That makes even unreliable, faithless men unwilling to sleep around and procreate with just anyone. The other alternative, which I think we're already witnessing, is that less attractive women will start sleeping with even dumber men who don't even care about those consequences, or have nothing for the government to take.

Result? Whereas ugly white women used to sleep with white rednecks, now they sleep with blacks or Mexican illegals, because even white rednecks have a better grasp of actions and conseqences than most blacks or Hispanics.

(BTW, isn't it fascinating how quickly this topic generated comments? We know what interests people.)

Mark said...

Odd how all those GOP guys - Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt Jr - were ready and willing to pull FDR's chestnuts out of the fire when the going got tough.

What do you mean by that? Saving Western Civilization from total and complete annihilation? Somehow I think that if our nation were in danger that I'd rise to the occasion even if Al Sharpton were president (though I'd probably have committed suicide long before).

Comatose said...

In every non-European society, light skin appears to be a favoured trait, especially amongst women. So why haven't brown people disappeared?

Or stupid people? Or short people? In fact, why are there any people to the left of any such Normally distributed trait?

Acsediri said...

I believe that, in the larger scheme of things, we are becoming what would objectively be considered by most humans as "prettier," but as others have noted, the mix of genes necessary to display beauty or homeliness are likely many and complex and that sexual attractivness can be very subjective. However, if you want to see fast-track examples of selection for the most desirable male and female traits, just look at male professional atheletes, particularly in baseball and football. They display extreme sexual attractiveness with their physiques (I've always believed people are more attracted to body type than to facial features), graceful athleticism, and displays of quick-thinking intelligence as they execute plays. These attributes, combined with wealth/economic security and social prestige, allow most of them to select from and mate with some of the most beautiful women in our society. While there is still much regression toward the mean, I suspect that, as a group, they are representative of what is going ocurring on a larger scale throughout the human population but at a much lower, perhaps unperceptable, rate.

Anonymous said...

Comatose, your questions reminded me of Woody Allen's response to "do yo believe in God?" He said "if there's a God, why is there war? Why is there hunger? Poverty? Taxes? Why are there short, balding man with hook noses, wearing glasses?"

(Ok, I know you're making a different point, but I'm just joking.)

You seem to have replaced God with evolution. Perhaps it's an issue of time. If you check out sub-Saharan Africa, you'll notice that the criteria for attractiveness is not exactly the same as in super-Dinaric Europe. In 25,000 years, things may have changed.

Maybe then you (and Woody), too, will begin to believe in, God, no? LOL :-D


JD

P.S. There's always the possibility that God, with His barely comprehensible sense of humor, would just like to keep us on our toes. It's like that anecdote about LBJ: He wanted to blame certain Southern political figures with having sex with animals; when asked if he had any evidence, he said "no, but I'd like to see 'em denying it." Maybe God is thinking, "heck, I just want to see how they deal with Woody Allen."

Peter said...

However, if you want to see fast-track examples of selection for the most desirable male and female traits, just look at male professional atheletes, particularly in baseball and football. They display extreme sexual attractiveness with their physiques (I've always believed people are more attracted to body type than to facial features), graceful athleticism, and displays of quick-thinking intelligence as they execute plays.

I rather doubt that many women would consider NFL linemen to have sexually attractive physiques. Players in the skills positions are a different story, of course.

Speaking of male appearance, I noticed over the weekend that the company has changed the man on the Brawny paper towels package. He used to be ultra-macho and strong-looking. While it would be an exaggeration to say that the new man is metrosexual, he is distinctly less macho-looking than his predecessor. The hair color also has changed, from blond to a medium brown.

Josh said...

One word:The Kennedy's! :D The boys in the JFK generation seemed to come out very well,looks wise. Even the now-grotesque Teddy was,as a younger man,athletic and very good-looking. He could have been one of those character actors in the 30's and 40's,the all-around husky good guy best friend.As for the women...they seem to be a bit,I dont know,frightening? Obviously,the John Jr. and Caroline dichotomy was recognized in the family,sotto voce. He was idolized maninly for his looks,she looked like she could run a respectable Kentucky Derby.

Mark said...

That's why ugly people still exist. Cause women mostly care about status. Not looks. [The advantages of status in mating for women are so obvious that they need not be stated.] - anon.

Your reason is only half a reason. Even if men select for attractiveness while women do not, then the gene pool would be getting more attractive, albeit somewhat more slowly.

Fascinating that folks here have already come up with 20 or more reasons for why humans aren't getting more attractive, or are only doing so slowly. I suspect all of them are substantially true.

One more reason not mentioned, as seen on bumper sticker: "Beer: Helping ugly men [and women] have sex since 1875."

Anonymous said...

Mark: What do you mean by that? Saving Western Civilization from total and complete annihilation?

Uhh, yeah, I think that would be the idea.

Very nice blueprint for it [the annihilation part] in this thing called "The Koran".

Fred said...

"On the bright side, Jews can always claim the lovely Sarah Michelle Gellar."

Don't forget Winona Ryder, Brooke Burke, Sharon Genish, Caprice Bourret, Bar Refaeli, etc., and old school babes such as Jane Seymour, Tanya Roberts, and Ellen Barkin.

Anonymous said...

Comatose: In fact, why are there any people to the left of any such Normally distributed trait?

A little off topic, but the pseudonymous author who calls himself La Griffe du Lion has written numerous articles, the gists of which are, essentially, that the knowledge of the mean of a random variable [where the random variable is typically governed by a bell curve, aka a "Gaussian"] is almost worthless without any accompanying knowledge of the random variable's variance.

And the really weird thing is that on a whole host of phenomena, ranging from mathematical ability, to verbal ability, to an underlying sense of "criminality", the people we think of as "minorities" [be they Africans and Central Americans, at the one extreme, or Asians/Orientals at the other extreme] - these "minorities" have much tighter variances in their bell curves than do Caucasians.

For whatever reason, Caucasians [and especially Caucasian men] tend to have very broad, flat, loose bell curves, with lots and lots of outliers living at a very great distance from the mean.

In the case of, say, measures of intelligence, this means that while Caucasians are [relatively] more likely to be severely retarded, it also means that they are vastly more likely to be geniuses.

And on measures of criminality, while Caucasians are more likely to be choir boys [at the one extreme], they are also vastly more likely to be serial killers [at the other extreme].

I guess it would be interesting if you could somehow quantify "beauty" sufficiently to see what the "beauty" bell curves look like - and then see whether Caucasians also have broad, flat bell curves in that arena [with the attendant consequences in terms of both glamour and hideousness].

PS: Aren't we supposed to be the people who believe that it's the person on the inside that counts?

Anonymous said...

anonymous: On an unrelated note, ever notice how "pretty boys" dont age well

We haven't had any serious male actors since the Velvet Mafia took over Hollywood about thirty or forty years ago.

One of the reasons I watch so much of Turner Movie Classics these days is because the acting is so much better in the old movies [just watched Gary Cooper in The Fountainhead the other day - wow! - that's what I'd call a towering performance], and it seems to be a forgotten fact that almost all the great leading men of the days of yore were Republicans:

Gary Cooper, GOP
Jimmy Stewart, GOP
John Wayne, GOP
Cary Grant, GOP
William Holden, GOP
Ronald Reagan, GOP
Fess Parker, GOP
Chuck Connors, GOP
James Arness, GOP
etc etc etc

Anonymous said...

Mark Seecof: the "preview" feature of this comment system isn't working. It just keeps asking for another CAPTCHA

My experience has been that if you pause and think for too long about what you're typing, then your "CAPTCHA" times out, and you have to be served a new captcha.

I guess maybe some of the automated captcha-reading software still isn't quite as fast as the human eye.

Anonymous said...

Mark - if Al Sharpton were president Western Civilization would already have suffered from total and complete annihilation. Probably.

Does anyone remember the woman in the Sgt Bilko series, she was an occasional character who Bilko lusted after. She was in the army. A Sgt? She was a lovely blonde woman, these days I suspect she would be regarded as far too matronly and big. Nonsense of course.

ANS - thought she was awesome when I first saw her Guess posters, wasnt aware of her before that.

Anonymous said...

Fred: Don't forget Winona Ryder, Brooke Burke, Sharon Genish, Caprice Bourret, Bar Refaeli, etc., and old school babes such as Jane Seymour, Tanya Roberts, and Ellen Barkin.

Or Rachel Weisz.

Saw her last night, on the SciFi channel, in "The Mummy Returns".

Can you say, "Smokin' "?

PS: Personally, I don't entirely understand the Natalie Portman phenomenon.

I think she peaked at the grand old age of 13, in "The Professional", opposite Jean Reno.

PPS: The subject of smoking hot Jewish chicks bearing deadly firearms arose again recently with the new Maxim spread:

Israeli Defense Forces

See also here:

Hot Israeli women in the IDF

Mark said...

Even the now-grotesque Teddy was,as a younger man,athletic and very good-looking.

I don't know about Teddy, who has suffered from at least alcoholism, but JFK was not a healthy guy, in spite of his looks. He had all sorts of medical conditions. Which is only to raise the point that physical appearance isn't always a reliable indicator of overall health.

Mark - if Al Sharpton were president Western Civilization would already have suffered from total and complete annihilation. Probably.

Oh believe me: we're a whole lot closer to electing an Al Sharpton type than any of us would like to admit.

Dennis Mangan said...

Another way of looking at the question: evolution has gotten rid of the ugly people. Everyone we see is good looking compared to what used to be around.

Anonymous said...

Among Jewish women, don't forget the lovely Michelle Trachtenberg and Natalie Portman. Also Alona Tai.

And yes pretty boys don't age well. Others have noted that Hollywood makes male characters into "boyish" ones even at age 40 (Hugh Grant) and ditzyish girls (Meg Ryan, Drew Barrymore). Good call on the Velvet Mafia.

Mark -- the "ugliness" could be dominant if fitness (i.e. status for men) overrides everything else.

Anonymous said...

Judging from the reconstructions of prehistoric people that I've seen (such as this one:
http://dienekes.blogspot.com/search/label/Faces
)
... the uglies are seriously reduced.

Humans have been getting less robust since we started farming. I don't know why that is, but my guess is that it has to do with good looks.

c23

Ricercar said...

This makes sense and i can see how t could be extended to non physical traits too (example leadership in man, but bossiness in female). but do you think this would extend to the question of why genetically passed on psychological problems like schizophrenia and autism are not filtered out?

Donutburger said...


The fact is that the ideal of beauty used to be more matronly (think of Marilyn Monroe or Kim Novak). For some reason, beginning sometime in the 80's, men started to have thier ideal of beauty dictated to them by gay fashion designers.


The ideal of beauty, IOW, was beauty.


We haven't had any serious male actors since the Velvet Mafia took over Hollywood about thirty or forty years ago.

One of the reasons I watch so much of Turner Movie Classics these days is because the acting is so much better in the old movies [just watched Gary Cooper in The Fountainhead the other day - wow! - that's what I'd call a towering performance],


Standards have changed, and for the worse. Even a "B-movie actor" like Ronald Reagan-who turned in a magnificent performance portraying a principled, virile President in his final theatrical role-had in his salad days more talent than almost any A-list actor working today. Certainly far above, say, Sean Penn.

James said...

Maybe this is obvious to everyone except those commenters who think that the ugly people of today would have been considered pretty a thousand years ago but ...

Beautiful people can't be made more beautiful. There's a checklist of what's considered beautiful and the more a person can 'check off', the closer they are to beautiful, but they can't go above 100% of the checks. Other people will have their unique preferences (ordering of the checklist), other races might have their own standards (different items on the list), but unless we become a different species, Jessica Alba will never be considered average, because she's already got 99% of the checks.

In a way it's like color, people have their favorites, but no one will ever invent a color that's more red than red.

Peter said...

I guess it would be interesting if you could somehow quantify "beauty" sufficiently to see what the "beauty" bell curves look like - and then see whether Caucasians also have broad, flat bell curves in that arena [with the attendant consequences in terms of both glamour and hideousness].

I've noticed that there are few truly ugly Asian women, except for those who are really fat.

On a somewhat related note, while it might just be my impression it seems as if Asian and black women "age" much better than white women. It could just be because their hair doesn't go gray or white quite so quickly.

Mark said...

Humans have been getting less robust since we started farming. I don't know why that is, but my guess is that it has to do with good looks.

Good point. Are you the first person to mention that attractiveness in the modern sense may be more of a luxury than a necessity?

Another way of looking at the question: evolution has gotten rid of the ugly people. Everyone we see is good looking compared to what used to be around.

Keep in mind that it's not all genetic. Modernity comes with improved sanitation, improved hygiene, and at least the potential for improved diets, as well as improved living and working conditions - Nordic blonde babe looks much better after spending 9 hours at a desk in an air-conditioned, artifically lit office than she would if she had to spend all day in the sun hunched over cleaning up pig poop.

And yes pretty boys don't age well.

I don't really know if that's true, but it seems likely that if your attractiveness is based on your babyface rather than good proportions and a strong jawbone then your beauty is likely to flame out more quickly.

PS: Personally, I don't entirely understand the Natalie Portman phenomenon. I think she peaked at the grand old age of 13, in "The Professional", opposite Jean Reno.

Yeah, Portman mostly seems to get good PR. I watched hers and Ewan McGregor's movies when I found out they were starring in the prequels. She was phenomenal in "The Professional" and cute in "Beautiful Girls" (though Rosie O'Donnell got the best lines.) Since then - not so much. "Garden State" was good, but not a stretch, acting-wise. Her best scene "recently" was her appearance at "The Concert for New York" shortly after 9/11, where she hugged a fireman for what seemed like 10 minutes. I wanted to be that fireman.

But maybe I've just never forgiven her for taking part in the ruination of the whole "Star Wars" franchise.

Ken Scharf said...


Standards have changed, and for the worse. Even a "B-movie actor" like Ronald Reagan-who turned in a magnificent performance portraying a principled, virile President in his final theatrical role-had in his salad days more talent than almost any A-list actor working today. Certainly far above, say, Sean Penn.


The major difference is the ending of the studio system and the vertical integration of the movie industry. When that system was in full swing, it produced a lot of well-trained all around entertainers from a much larger pool of wannabe's. The studios had schools and the young starlets, a 'starlet' being not a young female star, but a supporting (female) player who was on salary and who had classes, tutoring, and practice each day when not shooting. If she became a star, an actress with star billing who had considerable notoriety and some control over her assignments. There was no male equivalent word for the starlet, but they were almost as regimentally drilled and shaped.

Two things brought this world down: an antitrust action requiring studios to divest assets, and, the growing economic leverage major stars developed. Lew Wasserman made Jimmy Stewart an enormous amount of money in his successful power grab, and when the major stars started getting that substantial piece of the film profits, the studio system fell of its own weight.

A similar phenomenon has happened to pop music, with Internet distribution and the rise of DIY home studio recording. Of course, in both cases quality has suffered mightily and for the same reasons. For one, there's no development mechanism for new performers. For another, the level of technical skills involved has been lessened, much faster and more severely in music than films.

Anonymous said...

donutburger -- I would argue that if anything, actors have gotten a lot more skilled than Reagan's day (or John Wayne's). A guy like say Matt Damon or pal Ben Affleck has probably more acting skills than Reagan ever had. Certainly they've got a legacy of coaching and performances to look upon.

But what they lack is charisma. Ed Driscoll had a link on his weblog to an article bemoaning the fact that Hollywood's best can't play adults. It's also true for actresses as well. Certainly not charismatic ones.

As far as beauty goes, you'd be hard pressed to match either Portman or Jessica Biel. But both gave their best performances at around age 13, since then they both seem to have regressed and had less open emotional performances. Expressiveness seems to suffer from lack of adult confidence.

Could a Reagan, or a John Wayne, or a Cary Grant, or a Steve McQueen have given Damon's good performance in Bourne Identity? Probably not the fear and self-loathing part. On the other hand any of those guys would have been better in say the Ocean's rat-pack remakes, or Pirates, or Kingdom of Heaven. Anything that really required a man instead of a man-boy (another "gift" of the Velvet Mafia) would have done better.

Which brings to the point ... how much of "beauty" is behavioral based? I.E. instead of just how a person looks, how they move and act?

Fred said...

Anonymous 1:07:

"Anything that really required a man instead of a man-boy (another "gift" of the Velvet Mafia) would have done better."

One current actor who capably portrayed a "man" versus a "man-boy" was Eric Bana as Hector in "Troy". The beard helped, as did the contrast with Orlando Bloom, who was cast as his "man-boy" brother Paris.

Taylor said...

I had a black female explain the relative attractiveness of females from different races. She said that while Asians and Mexicans tend to have pretty faces, they don't have good bodies (like black women do). So if you focus on the face, which I don't think men really do, you might be confused about why a guy would be attracted to anyone who doesn't have blonde hair, wide-set eyes, a petite nose and plump but not too thick lips. Looking at the person as a physical whole tends to make a "pretty face" less of a determining factor in who is considered beautiful.

Also, there are other traits that can influence how attractive someone is, traits that can't be captured in a photograph. The timbre of someone's voice can be a factor especially for a female. How graceful a woman is, how agile a man is can determine how appealing they are to the opposite sex.

Some of these differences seem to be cultural. I've talked to Middle Eastern men who said they like women who are graceful. And it's probably no suprise that black men tend to prefer women with full figures. White guys probably focus on the face.

Anonymous said...

But what they lack is charisma.

What they lack is masculinity.

There isn't an actor working in Hollywood today who could have played the role of Howard Roark, in The Fountainhead, the way that Gary Cooper played him.

Or who could have played Ransom Stoddard [Jimmy Stewart] or Tom Doniphon [John Wayne] in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. For that matter, I can't think of anyone who could play Liberty Valence the way that Lee Marvin played him.

Or any of Cary Grant's roles [To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest, Charade - not even Father Goose], persistent rumors about Grant's underlying sexuality notwithstanding.

Heck, I can't think of anybody nowadays who could pull off Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone the way that Fess Parker did.

And I haven't even mentioned Charlton Heston yet.

All the Velvet Mafia serves up to us is whining, effete, metrosexual girly-boys, and not a damned one of them could act his way out of a paper bag if his life depended on it.

G Mac said...

Monroe, and the rest of the 50s sex bombs, had female-specific figures: they had a wider upper torso, a narrow abdmen, but a wide pelvis with a large birth passage, which defines how they walk, and the curve of their bottom. Such women are not as likely to get very far today because they tend to get a little heavy and because the boyish figure is simply what the arbiters of talent look for.

They can't run as fast, which puts them in the back of the girls' gym class too, and does nothing for their self-esteem.

MM was a once-in-a millennium find, but there were lots of voluptuous, curvy women in films, some of whom were no less attractive in body shape and some of whom could act better. (Ava Gardner was no less womanly and definitely a better actress than Monroe. And Kim Novak could act as well: indeed, Jayne Mansfield might have been as good an actress (or at least much better than she was) had she been encouraged properly-and not had five kids as a distraction. (Monroe's voice was far more flexible, though.)

If the industry wanted voluptuous women rather than boy-chiks, they'd have them.

G Mac said...

Does anyone remember the woman in the Sgt Bilko series, she was an occasional character who Bilko lusted after. She was in the army. A Sgt? She was a lovely blonde woman, these days I suspect she would be regarded as far too matronly and big. Nonsense of course.

Elisabeth Fraser (January 8, 1920 – May 5, 2005), was a television, film and stage actress, best known for playing brassy blondes.

Elisabeth Fraser ... Sgt. Joan Hogan / ... (4 episodes, 1955-1958)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisabeth_Fraser

Fred said...

Anonymous 3:07pm:

"What they lack is masculinity."

Is there really a shortage of "masculinity" today when the roles call for it? Was Tom Berenger in Platoon not masculine enough for you? Michael Madsen in any of his roles? Tom Sizemore in Saving Private Ryan? Eric Bana in Troy?

"There isn't an actor working in Hollywood today who could have played the role of Howard Roark, in The Fountainhead..."

Thankfully, there isn't an producer working in Hollywood who would touch that script. What an unwatchable, didactic movie (and that's coming from someone who actually liked Atlas Shrugged).

"Heck, I can't think of anybody nowadays who could pull off Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone the way that Fess Parker did."

Billy Bob Thornton knocked the cover off the ball with his portrayal of Davy Crockett in The Alamo. His version of Crockett, as a man who overcomes his fear of death to grow into his legend, was great compared to portrayals from the hokey age of acting.

Mark said...

If the industry wanted voluptuous women rather than boy-chiks, they'd have them.

We've taken to liking smart, assertive chicks - and boyish ones pull it off better than the Marilyn Monroe types, since assertiveness is a male trait.

Was Tom Berenger in Platoon not masculine enough for you? Michael Madsen in any of his roles? Tom Sizemore in Saving Private Ryan? Eric Bana in Troy?

What's missing is not the men but the roles. You also allude to a key part of manly roles - not the heroic loner (like Bruce Willis in Die Hard) but the man who takes responsibility and leads others.

My favorite modern manly man role was - please don't laugh - Powers Boothe in "Red Dawn." Stanley Tucci as Lucky Luciano in "Billy Bathgate" is another.

Anonymous said...

Fred: Thankfully, there isn't an producer working in Hollywood who would touch that script. What an unwatchable, didactic movie (and that's coming from someone who actually liked Atlas Shrugged).

Then you would have loved it last night, on TMC, watching two hours and fifteen minutes of Jimmy Stewart, jammed into a tiny 3 foot by 4 foot box, eating whitebread sandwiches out of a paper bag, and struggling to stay awake for three straight days - just one lone man, battling the mighty Atlantic Ocean, in The Spirit of St. Louis.

Utterly engrossing.

And there's not a star alive today who could have pulled off that role.

Or a director who'd have the self-discipline to shoot it the way it was shot.

Anonymous said...

G Mac: MM was a once-in-a millennium find, but there were lots of voluptuous, curvy women in films, some of whom were no less attractive in body shape and some of whom could act better. (Ava Gardner was no less womanly and definitely a better actress than Monroe. And Kim Novak could act as well: indeed, Jayne Mansfield might have been as good an actress (or at least much better than she was) had she been encouraged properly-and not had five kids as a distraction. (Monroe's voice was far more flexible, though.)

Ava Gardner: 0 children [and one known abortion]
Kim Novak: 0 children
Marilyn Monroe: 0 children
Jayne Mansfield: 5 children

Mansfield, widely rumored to have had a genius-level IQ [and to have been an aficionado of Immanuel Kant], managed to find time in her busy career to make five babies [and not murder them in abortuaries].

So who did her part to combat the great demographic spiral of death now gripping the entire civilized world?

[If you're counting, those 4 women should have had 8 children, just to tread water demographically, but instead, they had only 5, all due to Mansfield.]

And no: There can never be another MM, if for no other reason than that SHE LEFT BEHIND NO PROGENY!!!

Riot Nrrd said...

G Mac: MM was a once-in-a millennium find, but there were lots of voluptuous, curvy women in films, some of whom were no less attractive in body shape and some of whom could act better. (Ava Gardner was no less womanly and definitely a better actress than Monroe. And Kim Novak could act as well: indeed, Jayne Mansfield might have been as good an actress (or at least much better than she was) had she been encouraged properly-and not had five kids as a distraction. (Monroe's voice was far more flexible, though.)

Ava Gardner: 0 children [and one known abortion]
Kim Novak: 0 children
Marilyn Monroe: 0 children
Jayne Mansfield: 5 children

Mansfield, widely rumored to have had a genius-level IQ [and to have been an aficionado of Immanuel Kant], managed to find time in her busy career to make five babies [and not murder them in abortuaries].

So who did her part to combat the great demographic spiral of death now gripping the entire civilized world?

[If you're counting, those 4 women should have had 8 children, just to tread water demographically, but instead, they had only 5, all due to Mansfield.]

And no: There can never be another MM, if for no other reason than that SHE LEFT BEHIND NO PROGENY!!!


In absence of parthogenesis, neither Monroe nor any other woman could birth herself. Her children would have had half her genes.

MM was unsuccessful at birthing despite three pregnancies, two miscarriages and one ectopic pregnancy resulted. SHe had endometriosis and menstrual problems her whole life. There is no evidence she had an abortion.

As to Kim Novak, I can't and won't speak, but she's still alive-ask her.

Ava Gardner did have a fetus snuffed. Regrets, she had a few, but not that one; she knew mothering wasn't her thing and fathering not Frank's.

Mansfield's brood has yielded one success-Mariska Hargitay-and a couple of kids with serious problems, which I have inside info on and won't comment personally, except to say she overdid the baby thing. And I disagree that she could have been much better an actress than she was, kids or no kids: and further that as good as Monroe was she never came close to what could have been. She was playing a character-"Marilyn"-playing another character, two roles deep, much of the time, and to top it off she made the transition from a very naturalistic, instinctive, ad hoc style to being a canonical Method Actress (TM), which in and of itself is usually a surefire career killer. She made the transition as well as anyone, and it was complete as of "The Misfits". Had she lived she would have been one of the truly great film actresses, per se, though I don't think she would have done well on stage.

Riot Nrrd said...


Then you would have loved it last night, on TMC, watching two hours and fifteen minutes of Jimmy Stewart, jammed into a tiny 3 foot by 4 foot box, eating whitebread sandwiches out of a paper bag, and struggling to stay awake for three straight days - just one lone man, battling the mighty Atlantic Ocean, in The Spirit of St. Louis.


What an accomplishment the Lindbergh flight was is scarcely realized today. The film is a superb one, and Stewart did a great job.

But it wasn't three straight days. It was 33 hours and roughly 25 minutes, "wheels up"-actually the Ryan had fixed gear, so there was no "wheels up" time (retract-to-extension time is used as a metric sometimes.)

Artanis said...

To get back to the ugly people debate, consider this: Repulsive men have a very difficult time finding sex partners, except prostitutes.

Repulsive women can ALWAYS find some man to knock boots with. Men have a compulsion to do the job and deterrents like disease, or the threat of child support payments, just won't stop some men.

Anonymous said...

Reading here the multiplicity of knowledgeable, fascinating, and unorthodox comments over a wide range of touchy subjects, I am moved to ask:

Have you cleared any of this with Hillary?

She, after all, is one of the many advocates of government control of internet discussion - i.e., the "gatekeeper" idea.

Just as her health care plan would have jailed private paying patients and their doctors, so perhaps this "boys' club" of offensive smarties should be jailed, too, in order to promote socially responsible goals such as diversity and support for the aims of the government?

The writer of the original Newsweek article is nowhere near as good as many of the posters here, but what does that matter? She's for real - part of the system. Legitimate. We're not legitimate. We're a--holes in pajamas and should all be in prison for daring to speak and think.

Anonymous said...

Riot Nrrd: But it wasn't three straight days. It was 33 hours and roughly 25 minutes, "wheels up"-actually the Ryan had fixed gear, so there was no "wheels up" time (retract-to-extension time is used as a metric sometimes.)

I thought that the idea was that Lindbergh was so busy that he didn't get any sleep for about a day before he left.

Anonymous said...

Artanis: To get back to the ugly people debate, consider this... Repulsive women can ALWAYS find some man to knock boots with.

Or, at the other extreme, when beautiful, statuesque women, like Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, and Kim Novak, are sufficiently wealthy and pampered, they become elitist princesses who turn up their noses at the very idea of childbearing and childrearing - as occupations beneath their dignity, suitable only for the lower classes.

After all, you can't participate in "evolution" if you aren't making any babies [or if you head straight to the abortuary each time you do make a baby].

Mark said...

Or, at the other extreme, when beautiful, statuesque women, like Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, and Kim Novak, are sufficiently wealthy and pampered, they become elitist princesses who turn up their noses at the very idea of childbearing and childrearing - as occupations beneath their dignity, suitable only for the lower classes.

Well it appears that Norma Jean at least tried to have children.

Actresses in general don't seem to want children (or many of them): it hampers their lifestyle, their careers, and their figures. Assuming that, therefore, their genes are lost to eternity seems unlikely, however. Ava Gardner's bio list 6 siblings - don't know how many kids they had, but I doubt her looks or talent had anything to do with any new mutant gene unique to her, so her genes are still floating around. Her siblings may have had equal talent and beauty (or potential for such) but for whatever reason had different priorities.

Anonymous said...

What Ever Happened to Gary Cooper?
Steve Chapman
July 9, 2007
reason.com

Two words, Mr. Chapman: "Velvet Mafia".

Anonymous said...

A similar phenomenon has happened to pop music, with Internet distribution and the rise of DIY home studio recording. Of course, in both cases quality has suffered mightily and for the same reasons. For one, there's no development mechanism for new performers. For another, the level of technical skills involved has been lessened, much faster and more severely in music than films.

Technical skills in (pop) music have suffered? With all the conservatories, music academies and instructional dvds available nowadays, there are now many more technically skillful players than ever before. Stuff that was technically exceptional in the 1960s-1970s is commonplace today. Artistically, I would agree that the average level has gone down, there was much more original stuff being made in the old days and the top players often had a more distinctive, personal sound/style.