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Uncleanliness Is Next to Ungodliness

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As rotten on the inside as they smell on the outside.

Cody: Zack is selfish!
Mr. Moseby: Spencer's a bully!
Cody: He doesn't listen!
Mr. Moseby: He has no consideration for me!
Cody: And he stinks — personality-wise and, frankly, his body odor!
The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, "Moseby's Big Brother"

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 their 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, so washing became much easier and more convenient.

See also Evil Smells Bad (a more supernatural version of smelling bad that can apply to things and places, not just voluntarily unclean people), Jabba Table Manners. Compare Plague Master, a villain who isn't just unhygienic but who actively spreads diseases around, and The Pig-Pen, which is a filthy but not necessarily villainous character.

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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball Z, when Vegeta and Nappa first arrive on Earth, one of many insults that Krillin slings at Nappa is telling him he stinks. Not getting the point, Nappa protests that it isn't his fault, saying that he had been cooped up in his transport pod for months. (Causing Vegeta to tell him to shut up, not for the first — or last — time.)
  • Gabriel DropOut: One sign that Gabriel is a fallen angel is how her apartment is so dirty that Vignette jokes about sinners from hell turning it into their residence. It also reflects on her halo, which is entirely covered in thick, black fog. Also played straight (except from the other side) with Vignette herself, who regularly cleans her apartment and is a good person, even though she's a demon.
  • Inverted in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei with Chiri's older sister Tane, who's a slob of epic proportions, but otherwise an alright person, especially when compared to her Neat Freak Ax-Crazy sister (in fact, Tane even keeps up the uncleanliness to keep Chiri relatively in check.)

    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).
  • The obscure X-Men villains team "The Nasty Boys" are presented as living this way. Whilst it kind of fits because they are clearly not very bright or mature individuals — one member, Gorgeous George, is a Rubber Man-Blob Monster hybrid who has Creepily Long Arms because he's forgotten how long they should be, whilst another member is named "Hairbag", it makes them seem kind of silly. It makes more sense with Chris Claremont's intended origin for their boss, Mr. Sinister, as a mutant bully who never physically or mentally matured past the age of eight, and then became a kid's idea of a really, really bad dude; thus, he encourages his mooks to live what a kid would consider a life of "perfect freedom".

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Gaston in the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast was shown to have very stinky feet. Wearing those big hunting boots will do that to even the cleanest of men.
  • Everseer, one of the heroes from the DVD extra of The Incredibles, actually recites this quote. Being an extreme germaphobe, it should come as no surprise.
  • Froglip 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!"
  • Shrek:
    • Averted with the titular Shrek, who follows a number of disgusting habits, but is definitely a good guy. Said habits are portrayed as normal and healthy for his ogre species, though.
    • Downplayed with "Big" Jack Horner from Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. He's a Card-Carrying Villain who always has a stained thumb from sticking it into pies but otherwise dresses neatly.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Fly (1986), Seth Brundle is initially a rather tidy man in appearance and the upkeep of his apartment/lab, going so far as to wear a clean set of clothes (one of five identical sets, down to the shoes) every day. As his mutation progresses apace and his mind begins to go, he gives up on taking care of himself and his apartment entirely, the latter becoming a wreck of discarded garbage (especially empty food and soda containers). He even turns his medicine cabinet into a museum for his falling-off appendages. During the early stages of his mutation, before he realizes what's happening to him, his lover Veronica notes that he looks and smells bad compared to how he was before, but he brushes off her concerns with "I've never been much of a bather."
  • The title character of Spider (2002), 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.

  • The Belgariad:
    • Brill the farmhand is consistently filthy and foul-smelling, in stark contrast to everyone else at the idyllic farm where The Hero grows up. He turns out to be an enemy assassin.
    • Relg, an Ulgo zealot, 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.
    • Subverted with Beldin, who's filthy in the extreme (and his language even more so), but who's fundamentally a good guy. It's stated to be an expression of self-loathing for him; he hates his ugly, deformed body, and so refuses to take care of it.
  • 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.
  • The Elenium: The villains' Dumb Muscle Adus is an atavistic, sadistic thug with no understanding whatsoever of personal hygiene and a truly eye-watering odour.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Roald Dahl:
    • 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.)
    • The monstrous giants in The BFG.
    • The Twits: The vile Twits are nauseatingly filthy and unhygienic. In fact, the entire third chapter is dedicated to Mr. Twit's beard, explaining how he refuses to wash it and it's liberally filled with bits of old food that get stuck in there between meals, to the point that he can get a snack simply by licking his lips.
  • Several members of the dysfunctional tabletop-gaming crew in the Binder of Shame fall into this, if the narrator is to be believed, but most notably El Disgusto.
  • 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.
  • The villainous mutants in The Iron Dream are always described as being filthy and incontinent, while the heroes are almost ridiculously pristine. Subverted in that this is meant to show the fictional author's neurotic and anal-retentive mindset and complete intolerance for anything that doesn't meet his standards.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Criminal Minds: Sometimes this trope is played straight, sometimes averted (especially if the UnSub suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. One of the best examples was Billy Flynn, a serial killer and rapist known as "The Prince of Darkness". A trademark of his was his horribly rotten teeth. This was taken from one of the real-life criminals that he was based on: Richard Ramirez, the "Night Stalker" who also suffered from similar tooth decay albeit for different reasons (Flynn was a tobacco smoker, Ramirez had a sweet tooth and was a drug addict for much of his life).
  • With the exception of Crowley, whose centuries living on Earth have presumably introduced him to the concept of bathing, the demons in Good Omens (2019) are a decidedly grungy lot.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Zig-zagged with the people of Tirharad and Hordern. They look like filthy peasants who never took a shower once in their life, but most of them aren't evil as so much as wary of strangers and hating the Elves. Waldreg, who secretly worships Morgoth and Sauron, was introduced covered in filth and the blood from some sheep he was dismembering. He is conscious of his status and joins the Orcs because he hopes their master, Sauron will lift the Southlanders from filth and muck. In comparison with him, Bronwyn, a more heroic Southlander, always wears pristine and neat clothing.
  • 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.
  • In the first season of the Dutch educational series 'Ik Mik Loreland', the main antagonist Karbonkel (English: Carbuncle) is seen to wear a dirty, ragged tunic as clothing and live in a cave where paper is strewn all over. That last one is also meant to show how much trouble he has to write the history of his people, the carbuncles, seeing how he is actually illiterate. His browns are contrasted with the reading-loving village next door, that is very colourful and clean.
  • 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).
  • In Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego, Top Grunge is a biker who hates to wash. In the episode where he steals the Nazca Lines one of his shirts gets delivered to the studio (to the in-universe displeasure of Greg, the detectives, and the studio audience).


    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Demon lord Juiblex is the demon who holds dominance over slimes, oozes, and puddings, and is himself a giant, sentient mound of sludge.
    • Evil giants are like this; the 2nd Edition Monster Manual claims that all their belongings are old, worn, dirty, and smelly, and in the case of fire giants, often burnt.
    • Ettins are worse. The same source says an ettin "never bathes if it can help it" and that searching their foul-smelling lairs can "be a disgusting, if not dangerous" endeavor.
    • Otyughs are actually a subversion of this: while they may be tentacle monsters that live in filth and have a diet mainly composed of garbage and rotten meat, they are actually sapient and True Neutral in alignment, meaning that it's perfectly possible for players to peacefully interact with and even befriend them. Many editions of the game's monster manual even mention otyughs being used by some cities as a form of living garbage disposal.
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000:
    • Chaos God Nurgle, 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...
    • His followers play it straighter. Nurgle's "chief emotions" are a bizarre combination of utter despair and great love. As such they don't bother cleansing themselves even as they wallow in filth and rot, partly to help accommodate the aforementioned "gifts" and partly because they've broken down into empty depressed shells.
    • Ogres in Fantasy Battles are well known for two things: their insatiable appetites and their lack of any sense of hygiene. While certainly not as evil as Nurgle's minions, no one would mistake the ogres for "heroes" in the setting, as they are quite content to slaughter and eat anyone who crosses them (and if you're lucky, they'll even do it in that order).
  • Vampire: The Requiem: This is one possible sign that a vampire is low on the Karma Meter. As their Humanity score drops, they're prone to forget that people usually like to look after their bodies and prefer not to live in filth, among many other social mores.

    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 walls 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 Assassin's 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.
  • The Swine from Darkest Dungeon, as one might expect from a race of Always Chaotic Evil pig men. They're so filthy they have a resistance to blight.
  • Trevor from Grand Theft Auto V lives in a trailer so filthy that it's a wonder it hasn't been condemned and has a personality to match typical player behavior.
  • Elden Ring: The loathsome Dung Eater. As if his name wasn't disgusting enough, he's one of the most downright evil characters in the whole world. He's a notorious serial killer who defiles corpses by placing a curse so foul it leaves their souls permanently impure and unable to return to the Erdtree, leaving them Barred from the Afterlife and spreading the curse to their descendants for the rest of eternity. Should you choose to help him, you're rewarded one of the worst ending outcomes. His thoroughly defiled corpse spawns a mending rune that should you choose to place upon the Elden Ring, spreads the curse upon each and every soul upon the world.


    Web Original 
  • In the Legatum series, this trope is zig-zagged. The series is full of nasty and/or foul-smelling characters, especially when it comes to goblins. Some of them, like Dollik, are actually very kind and caring. Others, like Trellorv, are downright repulsive villains, and some even relish grossing out people with their bodily stench.
  • Luke, from Luke: The Plague Son Of Nurgle isn't evil, but definitely a Jerkass and The Pig-Pen of the highest sort. For example, he spent a lot of his rich parents' money to deny his roommates the biggest room in rented house by exploiting the contract with landowner, switched on music so loud that they couldn't sleep after they told Luke to clean himself up, etc. He also didn't clean out his room after moving out of the house and had the gall to call out his former roommates for being unclean.
  • The "Things Steve Bannon Looks Like" meme relies on this trope for its impact. Mocking a shlubby guy for his poor hygiene is mostly just cruel; mocking a political target for also being shlubby is a bit more palatable. (One of the kinder examples, by far, is "Steve Bannon looks like they brought Slimer back to life.")

    Western Animation 
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero:
    • Gnawgahyde from the Dreadnoks. 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.
    • Zanzibar, however, has no excuse to be a slob; he brushes his teeth with grape soda, never changes his socks, and tends to throw donuts back in the boxes they came in after taking a bite out of them. Coupled with the fact that he's rude, selfish, and known to steal from his comrades, the other Dreadnoks hate him.
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), Beast-Man's stench is so bad, Tri-Klops attempts to use alchemy to fix it, using a volatile substance called "necrosia" to make a deodorant that will fix it. (Even Mer-Man, one of Skeletor's henchmen who's usually Beast-Man's friend, has to use some Brutal Honesty when he's confronted about it.)
  • In Grossology, all of the villains are disgusting in one way or another. However, Sloppy Joe is the one with truly disgusting personal hygiene. He never touches soap, and a single whiff of his BO is enough to render bystanders unconscious.
  • 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!
  • Brad from Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil is a self-righteous Jerkass who bullies Kick on a regular basis and has extremely poor personal hygiene, even indulging in gross habits such as farting in Kick's face while he sleeps and tormenting him at the table with his smelly feet. His bedroom is also a filthy mess, which he's actually proud of.
  • Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart: Badgerclops starts wearing "purifying crystals" to suck the toxins out of his system. They obviously don't work and he's surrounded by a cloud of his own body odor. Mao Mao and Badgerclops then have to find a way to get him clean without hurting his feelings.
    • Pinky is the most abrasive and unruly of all the Sweetiepies. Fittingly, he doesn't mind horrible smells and will casually sleep in garbage given the opportunity.
  • In PJ Sparkles, the Cloak and Betty revel in spreading filth everywhere, complete with a literal bag of trash. Betty in particular has a way with stench, and the Cloak waxes poetic about how Twinkle Town smells like "a rotten egg sandwich made with moldy limburger cheese and rolled in used kitty litter" before he finds PJ's helped the town.
  • In an episode of Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko is berated by a genie for having spinach stuck between his teeth and shown a 1950s-era health-class film about hygiene and why it's important.
  • SheZow: Tara, one of the top contenders for SheZow's Arch-Enemy, has shooting weaponized snot and boogers as a superpower. Appropriately enough, the Legion of Doom she creates is called G.R.O.S.S..
  • 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.
  • Velma: Velma in this series is an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist who has bad personal hygiene, frequently engaging in gross habits like eating out of trash cans and vacuum cleaners, refusing to go to the dentist, and peeing in the shower.
  • X-Men: Evolution: The Brotherhood lives in conditions that make the back alleys of third-world countries look like palaces. Possibly justified in that they are a bunch of teenage boys living in a home with no supervision.

    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, et cetera, in order to show their disdain for the flesh and concentrate instead on the holiness of the spirit.