IN the old days people used polite terms like "good face for radio", but it's a sign of our increasingly lookist times that we don't bother with euphemisms like that, but just go for the brutal slur "too ugly for telly" or, in acronym, TUFTY.
AA Gill started an epidemic of it last week when he attacked the wonderful, fascinating, and actually-quite-pretty-but-grey-haired classicist Mary Beard for being guilty of this sin. Just when we thought the fuss had died down this week, Samantha Brick, a columnist on a London-based tabloid weighs in with another attack on the fabulous Beard, basically reiterating Gill's point and saying this woman really should have been given a make-over before she was allowed to foul our screens.
What neither writer seems to have taken account of is that the vast bulk of our population like to see the odd "real" person – even, dare I say it, close-up on the small screen. Scanning the newspaper's comment board, it's not possible to find a single comment in support of Brick. One can't help wondering, given how she was trolled for her article on women being jealous of her beauty, if she had so much loved the hate generated that she had to go back for more of it.
What smooth-faced beauties like Brick and Gill often forget is that Tufties, often, are well-loved – and Mary Beard is likely to be all the more so following these attacks.
Beauty, after all, is not the only characteristic that makes a person watchable. Looking too blandly generic might, equally, be a barrier. As comedian Andrew Lawrence, who toured a show with the title Too Ugly For Television, pointed out: "Being physically unattractive has never been a bar to being on television.
A plethora of household celebrities leap into my mind at this point. To name names would be unpleasant, but you know who I mean."
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