Ugly truth about Big Ears and Mr Nosey

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The Independent Online
Big Ears, Mr Nosey and the Ugly Sisters reinforce children's prejudices against people whose physical appearance does not conform, says one of Britain's leading plastic surgeons.

Intolerance of people who have some form of disfigurement, such as birthmarks, burns and scars, is a last bastion of discrimination, according to Professor Gus McGrouther.

He wants to see new fictional characters with facial problems who can be seen as heroes and clever folk.

He said yesterday: "We have goodies and baddies and the baddies are always the ugly ones. So when someone has a deformity like a birthmark or a burn they can get treated very harshly in our society. The more we tend to worship idealised images of supermodels and beautiful people, the more we discriminate against people furthest down the ladder of beauty.

"Were film makers to tackle race or sex in the same way they tackle beauty or ugliness they would be subject to prosecution. The Ugly Bloke on the Chris Evans TFI Friday TV show is a gross example."

Professor McGrouther, who criticises attitudes to facial disfigurement in the British Medical Journal, went on: "We have long since got rid of golliwog toys but we have lots of children's characters like Big Ears. I think where characters are presented with visual features they should be presented in a sympathetic way. For example, Big Ears is presented as a bit of a thicko, but rather than banning these characters we should be designing child characters who have physical characteristics that people can sympathise with.

"Why not have characters with birthmarks which would allow a dialogue to open up? At present, the first a child may see of a birthmark is when they see their big brother's video of Nightmare on Elm Street."

He says the effects of growing intolerance are that victims are becoming more reclusive, tending to hide away.