Philosophising about the 'S'-word: Watch… and learn
In the twenty-first episode of the second season of Community (NBC), the group remembers what an awful year they have just spent: Abed went through a mental breakdown, the school bus crashed killing 70 students, Pierce got hooked on painkillers… But surprisingly enough, Britta and Jeff only remember the best moments, Britta even says: “Well, I think this year was awesome, full of good times with great people”. Jeff tells Abed: “Abed, you’re a computer. Scan your mainframe for some juicy memories.” Abed (Danny Pudi) activates his memory and suddenly realizes that “Jeff and Britta are having secret sex”.
TROY(Donald Glover): Didn’t we decide at the beginning of the year that for the good of the group, we wouldn’t allow any intimacy between each other or ourselves?
JEFF: Troy, we never said ourselves.
TROY: Okay, now I’m really mad!
SHIRLEY(Yvette Nicole Brown): So am I. Now we know why our year’s been so horrible. It’s not God that hates us. It’s Jeff and Britta.
BRITTA: Oh, please. If we were ruining your year, why didn’t you even know about it?
ANNIE (Alison Brie): Maybe we were so distracted by all the other times you two put yourselves before the group.
JEFF: What? When have we ever put ourselves before the group?
PIERCE (Chevy Chase): You want examples?
TROY: I think they want some examples, Pierce.
PIERCE: Okay, let’s give ’em some examples. Troy, drop a beat.
TROY: Just give ’em some examples.
[One minute of hilarious flashback scenes later…]
SHIRLEY: You can’t ignore the facts. You two are ruining this group.
JEFF: Look, just because we’re good-looking doesn’t make us villains.
Why would Jeff and Britta’s looks lead to think that they are mean persons? We already tackled a similar subject in another post with Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so we will not go into any further here.
In that article, we learn that unlike what Jeff implies, we tend to trust good-looking people more, a phenomenon that economists (Daniel Hamermesh, Jeff Biddle, 1994) call “the beauty premium“. Their researches even show that good-looking people get higher salaries than less attractive people. But there is also a “beauty penalty“: good-looking people do not have the right to make mistakes. People expect so much more from them, that they are even more disappointed when they do not meet those expectations.
Montesquieu (1689-1755), French lawyer and political philosopher, raised an interesting point in his posthumous Essay on Taste (1757). In the chapter “Concerning the Je ne sais quoi”, he wrote:
“We find sometimes in certain persons and in certain objects an invisible charm, a natural gracefulness, which has not been hitherto defined, and which we have been obliged to express by the vague epithet Je ne sais quoi. It appears to me highly probable that this secret charm is principally the effect of surprise. We are sensibly touched, when we find certain persons more agreeable than at first sight we imagined them to be; and we are filled with a pleasing kind of surprise, when we see them triumph over those defects, which the eye still perceives, but which the heart no longer feels. Hence we find often, among the female sex, those inexpressible graces adorn the ugly, which are very seldom lavished upon the fair and beautiful. A beautiful nymph generally disappoints our expectations, and appears, after some little time, less amiable than at first sight; after having surprised us at first sight by her charms, she falls greatly off, and surprises us at lenghts by her defects; but the first surprise is a past pleasure, which is become faint and languid, and is almost effaced, whereas the second is a fresh and lively sensation of disgust.“
So sometimes, being good-looking can be a source of trouble. Like Sydney Roberts (Sarah Michelle Gellar) says in the eleventh episode of The Crazy Ones (see our article “S01E11: Are the most privileged people also the most undeserving?“): “You guys have no idea what it’s like. People writing off your accomplishments as luck. Lack of obstacles, making it almost impossible to prove yourself…“