I understand the premium that's placed on perfectly straight pearly white teeth in American society (or at least I think I do) but one thing that really irks me is the dental perfection on display in post-apocalyptic/dystopian films and television series and other instances where it's not realistic.

I'm thinking of such films as the Terminator series and series like The Walking Dead, where let's face it, there are much more pressing things to worry about than veneers and braces. We're now into season 5 of The Walking Dead and still the teeth are perfect there! You could reasonably expect a little bit of decay and yellowing to have taken place.

Let's even forget about the future and look to Downton Abbey - not a crooked canine to be seen there either, even among the downstairs crew.

Why don't the show runners choose to abandon this fiction and inject a dose of realism into things?

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    Related: movies.stackexchange.com/q/26218/49.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Nov 6, 2014 at 10:45
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    Thanks for the edits, those tags make much more sense. From the linked question you posted as well, a nice link to TV Tropes: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EternallyPearlyWhiteTeeth
    – noonand
    Nov 6, 2014 at 11:15
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    I'd even be inclined to close the other one as a duplicate of this one, since your question seems to be much more general and the answer is probably the same anyway (i.e. "because noone in the production cares enough and those guys are supposed to look at least remotely beautiful").
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Nov 6, 2014 at 11:39
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    I'm not sure why you decided to bash America in your first sentence. America's supposed need for straight white teeth has not-so-much to do with the English actors working on Downtown Abbey. So, it's less America's premium on... than it is the film industry as a whole. After all, looking at images of many well known Bollywood actors shows me they have that same premium, and your average Indian actor isn't doing it to land a role on an American production, they are quite the mega-stars in India
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 6, 2014 at 16:40
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    No offense taken, honestly. My extended point was that, for example, look at so called Bollywood productions. There are many movies made each year, intended primarily for a local, national (Indian) audience. Most in America will never see them. Most of the actors that appear in them will never have an audience in 'greater' America, beyond those countrymen who have moved here. Yet, looking at images of the big stars, they have done the same beautification that American actors have. It's not America's fault. It's an industry effect.
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 6, 2014 at 19:27

1 Answer 1


Because it is fiction; entertainment, first and foremost. It's not intended to be a scientifically accurate treatise on exactly how it would be like in a post apocalyptic world short on people. Folks would be milling around all day gathering roots, scratching themselves, and wondering where to walk to next. Not exactly great entertainment.

How the various characters look and act is all about the elements of story-telling. People who are supposed to be likable in a story are generally made to be, um… likeable. That means the visuals are generally pleasant to look at so you can have that fully-immersive experience of being right there with them and completely empathizing with them as the main protagonists. You don't want your main characters to elicit a reaction like "gross, why do I care what happens to them at all?"

So they DO get squalid and unhygenic if the scene calls for it… but only enough to tell the story without becoming unpleasantly repulsive — unless that's what the storyline happens to call for at the time — but we generally leave that for the bad guys.

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    +1. Same reasoning explains why almost all of the actors on these shows are much more good-looking than average (and the only ones who aren't have specifically non-sexual roles, like "grandmother" or "wise old man"): because audience members generally prefer to watch attractive characters (whether the audience members are aware of it or not) and tooth decay is not attractive.
    – Shiz Z.
    Nov 6, 2014 at 19:43
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    We all know it's fiction, you don't need to condescendingly point that out. "Folks would be milling around all day gathering roots, scratching themselves, and wondering where to walk to next." That has nothing to do with the question asked. This is a question of appearances, not story progression. If they didn't care about being accurate, the actors would all be walking around in brand new designer clothes.
    – arkon
    Oct 18, 2015 at 23:35
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    Please feel free to provide a better answer. May 9, 2016 at 21:42

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