Uncleanliness Is Next to Ungodliness

Appears mostly in works of fiction designed for children (and some for adults). But whenever the habits/daily life of the bad guys (either the Big Bad or his/her mooks) are shown, they tend to be absolutely disgusting, to the point where anyone living like that should contract several diseases, including leprosy and the plague, unless they die from food poisoning first. Usually these are Informed Attributes, but occasionally shown to make the bad guys really seem all the more disgusting (although sometimes they may come off as cool, especially if they're pandering to the preteen boy crowd.)

The trope showed up first (at least in the West) in Regency times, or about the time that the urban middle classes first had access to safe, clean running water. This is not a coincidence in the least. Before safe water was available, taking a bath really was more dangerous than remaining dirty. People who bathed were quite literally risking their lives to be clean - a sign of wicked vanity at the time. Compare that to women using Botox (a byproduct of a deadly bacterium, and one of the most lethal toxins on earth when uncontrolled) to remain "young"-looking today.

Compare with The Dung Ages, where everyone who wasn't a king lived like this (yes, even the lower rungs of the nobility). Contrast Creepy Cleanliness and Straight Edge Evil.


Anime And Manga

Comic Books
  • Done pretty realistically in Watchmen: Rorschach lives in absolute filth, with little or no concept of personal hygiene; it's noted by several characters that the guy stinks. It's not because he's evil, though - it's because he's really, seriously mentally ill and would rather maim criminals than take a bath (there are only so many hours in the day, you know).

Fan Fic

Film (Animated)
  • Subverted in Shrek, who tends to have these disgusting habits, but is definitely a good guy. This is portrayed as normal and healthy for his species though.
  • Gaston in the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast was shown to have very stinky feet. Of course, wearing those big hunting boots will do that to even the cleanest of men, and Gaston probably enjoys the smell of his own sweat.
  • Froglet in the film of The Princess and the Goblin picks his nose in a truly grotesque manner, sprays it whenever he says it, and declares, with regard to the humans he's plotting against, "I WANT TO HAVE THEM EATING THE DIRT FROM UNDER MY FINGERNAAAAAAIIIILLLLSSS!"

Film (Live Action)
  • The title character of the David Cronenberg movie Spider, an institutionalized paranoid schizophrenic, has very poor personal hygiene. He also constantly wears at least five layers of clothing which he never seems to change.
  • Star Wars: Jabba the Hutt, a fat, slug-like alien who sends food spewing everywhere whenever he eats and keeps an unkempt crime den. The rest of the Hutt race are apparently like this.

  • Many of the villains in A Series of Unfortunate Events are like this. In The Penultimate Peril this is lampshaded when Kit tells the orphans that evil people can be recognized by unclean habits such as placing glasses of water on tables instead of coasters.
    • And not being well-read. However, it should be noted that there are villains in the books who are not unhygienic (such as Esme Squalor, who despite her name is impeccable to the point of obnoxiousness), and are very well-read, the latter of which makes them all the more formidable.
  • Profoundly averted in Discworld. Nobby Nobbs and Gaspode in particular are firmly on the side of the heroes but are revolting. Then again, Gaspode is a talking dog, and the dogs and werewolves of Discworld are terrified of baths. At at least one point there is a minor character who claims she is not one to think that cleanliness is next to godliness (and so following this trope) and the narration notes that, in fact, very few people do, not least reams of so called prophets etc, whose renunciation of mortal, ungodly matters often starts with soap.
  • Most of the vermin in Redwall; at one point Badredd is openly mocked by his comrades for having to bathe after getting trash dumped on his head because "he only took a bath last spring". It's not impossible that this is because the vermin of Mossflower tend to be slightly closer to their non-anthropomorphic counterparts in behaviour than the woodlanders.
  • Relg, an Ulgo zealot in The Belgariad is explicitly mentioned to be covered in dirt. He is also misogynistic, abrasive, believes himself to be favored above others by his god, obstructs the hero's journey with frequent prayer breaks, shuns physical contact and fears the open sky. Since he's one of the good guys, he eventually grows out of those things (finding his True Love helps) although the books never mention him taking up bathing.
  • Invoked in Diana Wynne Jones's The Magicians Of Caprona, which features a long-lived feud between the Montana and Petrocchi families; the older children in each family tell their younger siblings stories about all the terrible, filthy habits of the other family, not a one of which is true.
  • According to the narration in Fantastic Mr. Fox, Farmer Bean never bathes ("he never even washed"), and he's hard of hearing because his ears are clogged with residue. (The other two villains are probably unhygienic too; Mr. Fox says in an early chapter that he can smell them so easily because they stunk.)
  • Pretty much every time the Obviously Evil trolls are mentioned in the book Gnomes, the reader is reminded about how filthy they are, and how much they stink.
  • Subverted in Harry Potter with Snape. He has greasy hair. This is mentioned almost every time he shows up. But he's on the good guys' side. That doesn't mean he's a nice person at all.
  • Subverted by two of J. F. Cooper's heroes. In the first edition of The Spy, Harvey Birch has the disgusting habit of spitting tobacco juice. Leatherstocking in a defining scene of his first appearance in The Pioneers is shown wiping his nose with his sleeve.

Live-Action TV
  • Ecoloco in the Mexican TV show Odisea Burbujas: He loves noise and smog; water and soap, he hates.
  • Monsters in Supernatural tend to have unclean lairs (the sewer lair of the season 1 shape-shifter, for example).
  • Averted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the Mayor, who is the Big Bad of season 3 and also the biggest Neat Freak of the series.
  • Criminal Minds: Sometimes this trope is played straight, sometimes averted (especially if the UnSub suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, bad BO is just one of the unpleasant things about Rita's brother Rito Revolto; he even was able to shock Bulk and Skull awake with it in one episode. Exactly how a skeletal warrior like him with no skin and thus no sweat glands can attain such a stink is best left unexplained.

  • Murdoc of Gorillaz is notorious for this.

Newspaper Comics
  • Subverted in Peanuts by Pig Pen, who is continuously grimy to the point of being surrounded by a cloud of dust. At one point, Schultz reveals that this isn't because of poor grooming habits: he's just a dirt magnet. In one strip, he gets a make-over from Lucy, and over a sequence of panels, metamorphoses to his usual dirt-enclouded state just by standing there.
    • This happens another time when he exits the bathroom after a shower, and every particle of dust in the room flies towards him.

Tabletop Games
  • Demon lord Juiblex from Dungeons & Dragons setting.
  • Chaos God Nurgle from Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, who is the embodiment of decay. Oddly though, he is also the nicest Chaos God, think Santa Claus if he gifted you with disease and pestilence. After all, Nurgle loves all things, even bacteria and plague vectors...

Video Games
  • Gruntilda from Banjo-Kazooie tends to have disgusting habits, according to her nice sister, Brentilda (such as bursting boils in her free time, or washing her hair in baked beans). Oddly, her cauldron says she's the second most beautiful character in the game. He might be brownnosing. But if he is, why would he bother bringing up Tooty at all?
  • In Ōkami, you get to explore the moon cave and help a chef mook with his appetizer for Orochi. The appetizer turns out to be called "Dungheap Goulash".
    • Not to mention that it includes 'wonderful' ingredients such as ogre liver.
  • The environments in the Silent Hill series get much of their evil vibe due to this trope. The rooms and halls are filthy and cluttered, the wall are grime-crusted, rusted metal everywhere, fire damage. This is most evident in the hospital scenes. Nothing living, sane or good can be expected to be encountered while walking through this environment.
    • At the same time, the developers note they wanted to give the environments a certain charm. While the areas are filthy and disgusting, it was also clearly, once, very pretty. This only serves to make it worse.
    • Also, pretty justified, in that the environments of Silent Hill are supernatural in origin.
  • The Mushroom Samba sequence in Mother 3 forces the protagonist to rummage through dustbins and bathe in a pool of sludge. Many of the mailboxes contain festering foods, or dead animals.
  • Charles Lee in Assassins Creed III was mentioned in his database entry to have incredibly poor hygiene habits. After the time skip from between Connor meeting him as a child, and later as an adult, he gets even filthier, both in appearance and in villainy. Truth in Television, too.

Western Animation
  • The villains of Biker Mice from Mars.
  • An episode of Stargate Infinity has The Lancer catching the eye of one of the indigenous mud-creatures, who he finds absolutely repugnant. This becomes an Aesop at the end of the episode, where the mud-woman (as part of a grieving ritual or something) washes the mud off to reveal that she was a beautiful, blue-skinned humanoid.
  • In X-Men: Evolution, the Brotherhood lives in conditions that make the back alleys of third world countries look like palaces. The comicverse has the Nasty Boys, whose name says it all, though they make more sense when you consider the intended origin of their master/creator, Mr. Sinister: He was to have been an eight-year-old boy who was living an eight-year-old's idea of a really, really bad dude.
  • Averted in Beast Wars, where the heroes tend to be closer to their "animal natures" than the villains. Rattrap in particular is repeatedly pointed out as having an odor problem.
  • Also averted in Ed, Edd n Eddy, Ed, a relatively well-meaning childish Ditz has notoriously horrific hygiene habits.
  • In an episode of Rockos Modern Life, Rocko is berated by a genie for having spinach stuck between his teeth and shown a 1950's-era health-class film about hygiene and why it's important.
  • Hilariously parodied in Justice League Unlimited, where The Flash thinks this is the case when he's trapped in Lex Luthor's body.
    Dr. Polaris: You gonna wash your hands?
    Flash in Lex: No... 'cause I'm evil!
  • Gnawgahyde from the Dreadnoks in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. He believes in living off the land, and regards the falseness of civilization as a sign of weakness. Therefore, he refuses to use deodorants or cosmetics of any kind, and will not eat processed food, or wear synthetic fibers. Gnawgahyde was chased out of Africa by his fellow poachers for cheating at cards, smelling bad, and being generally obnoxious.

Real Life
  • Robert Pattinson, star of the Twilight films. There are theories this may be an intentional attempt at scaring away the fangirls.
  • This stereotype of the Geek is unfortunately very prevalent.
  • The word and idea of "unclean" has a connotation of "god-forsaken" and "sinful", with similar connotations for "dirty", "foul", and even "fishy".
  • In Shinto belief, disaster and sin are seen as just another kind of dirtiness. That is, regular washing (topped up by occasional ritual washing) can directly make people happier and less prone to evil.
  • As noted by Discworld above, Real Life inversions of this are far from uncommon. Christianity and Hinduism, in particular, have a long tradition of ascetic sects who shun mortal "vanities" such as cutting their hair, washing, etcetera, in order to show their disdain for the flesh and concentrate instead on the holiness of the spirit.