The World Thinks You’re Ugly, Philadelphia | Philly Views
March 20, 2017

The World Thinks You’re Ugly, Philadelphia

Written by Matt Schickling


Philadelphia, everyone thinks you’re unhappy, angry, and among the ugliest people in the world. 

Our city has been featured on list after list ranking America’s (something negative) city, and we always end up near the top.

Perhaps our reputation as ruthless sports fans precedes us, or our strange accents turn people off, or everyone still recalls that time in 2012 when we got straight up exposed by the national media for loving sweatpants.

We were just ahead of the curve on athleisure. That’s all.

I don’t know what the criteria are for these lists. They’re usually based on reader surveys, but the results are never transparent. I just want to know who keeps calling us names, so we can call them all jabronis.

Maybe it’s a problem with the sample. Travel and Leisure pumps these “least and most attractive people” lists annually, and perhaps the same people fill out the surveys year after year. There’s a possibility that Philadelphians just self-identify as ugly at this point, too.  

But sometimes it goes too far. This one from 2012 actually called us fat.

“We can’t blame folks in Philly for overindulging, since their street food—as well as their pizza—ranked in the top five.”

We don’t even rank as one of the fattest cities in America. We’re not even close. Travel and Leisure’s writers just felt like throwing that in there.

We also made the ugly lists in 2016, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and probably before that, when listicles were less of a thing.

But it’s not just that we’re ugly. We’re also miserable.

In 2016, we were dubbed the angriest city in America by Thrillist.

“Has there ever been a more ironic nickname for a city than Philly’s Brotherly Love moniker? Or perhaps that is fitting, as brothers tend to show their love by beating the shit out of each other repeatedly.”

It’s not hard to get behind this logic. Philly has had its fair share of violent moments.

Ironically, three months before we became the angriest city, The Lonely Planet dubbed Philly the best city to visit in the United States. The site mentioned the transformation of the urban core of the city, along with its storied history and “gritty flavour.”

Then, over this past week, a new study found that we are all also very unhappy. There were 150 cities included in the study, and Philadelphia fell between Akron, Ohio and Jackson, Mississippi in the 139th slot.

By the time these articles made their rounds on the internet, outsiders thought Philadelphians were ugly as sin, angry all the time, and generally unhappy.

At least we’re diverse in our negative attributes.

All of this had me wondering whether it’s possible to accurately rank these characteristics — especially the ugly thing, since that’s probably the most consistent, and frankly, hurtful descriptor.

Can you measure looks & determine who are the ugliest people in the world? 

People have tried. There’s psychological studies that account for people being attracted to one another because of proximity, or similarity, or various other definable attributes.

There’s been data showing that people believe symmetrical faces to be generally more beautiful, too.

Then there’s research linking attractiveness to body shape, smell, voice, and an endless list of other physical features.

There’s very little that links attractiveness to city of residence, though.

There was no study that went around and measured people’s faces or bodies in Philadelphia. There was no sample of people who reviewed photos of 1.5 million Philadelphians, judged their attractiveness, and compared it with, say, photos of 400,000 people from Minneapolis.

That would probably waste a lot of time and energy.

Have we attempted to measure attractiveness?

Kind of.

The city government possesses probably the most comprehensive studies related to its citizen’s attractiveness, and that’s the annual community health assessment. The most recent report came out in December.

Health = beauty? I don’t know, probably.

Smoking, generally considered to be an unattractive habit, has decreased by 18 percent since 2008. The smoking rate now sits at 22.4 percent, still way above the national rate, which is 16 percent.

Obesity rates have declined for children and continue to rise for adults. For a lot of people, body type is a major factor in attractiveness, though research has shown that it has more to do with facial appearance.

Still, neither of those things indicate attractiveness directly, nor do they really support Philadelphia’s case for being an attractive or unattractive city.

What makes a city of people attractive?

It’s kind of subjective, isn’t it?

But since 2007, Philadelphia has seen about a 32-percent increase in its population of people who are between 18 and 34 years old.

That number has since flattened, but an increase in the youngest adult demographic probably doesn’t hurt us in the looks department. But that’s just a guess.

The environment may also be reflective of the people. Philadelphia is a decently pretty city, but not a particularly clean one. Perhaps that weighs on how outsiders perceive our looks.

Again, just a guess.

It’s more likely that these lists are based in nothing empirical, and mean nothing in terms of our attractiveness or unattractiveness, or any other qualities.

This is the explanation I prefer to go with.

It’s not hard to imagine Philadelphians embracing that “unattractive” label, though. We view “tough” as positive, and most of us can hardly tell the difference between scolding somebody and saying hello to friends on the street.

In the end, I don’t think any Philadelphians really care what a bunch of people who read Travel and Leisure, or Thrillist, or The Lonely Planet think about us.

They’re all jabronis anyway.

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