Why do I feel revulsion when I see Ted Cruz’s face?

What puzzles (and bothers) me is why I have such an intense visceral dislike for Ted Cruz, even to just seeing his face. Judging people by their looks is a terrible thing, and although it is true that we do judge people almost instantaneously upon meeting them, it is not usually based on whether they are good looking or not, but by more subtle cues as to their likability, trustworthiness, and so on, that are hard to pin down.

It is true that Cruz advocates for the most awful policies, but he is not alone in that regard. All the Republican candidates do so to varying degrees but while I dislike them for those reasons, I do not feel revulsion when I see their faces the way I do with Cruz.

And it seems like I am not alone in my reaction. I have written before about this phenomenon and how a neurologist Richard Cytowic said that a German word that describes Cruz is ‘backpfeifengesicht’ that means something like “a face in need of a good punch”. But why does his face in particular give rise to that urge?

Bill Maher gives us advance notice about what a regular feature in Us Weekly magazine on 25 things you don’t know about celebrities will reveal about Cruz.


  1. Jockaira says

    The first time I saw Cruz’ face, my impression was that he was untrustworthy. Throughout my life every person I’ve encountered (m/f) who bore even a superficial facial resemblance to Cruz has been an asshole. After getting to know him better these last few months, I feel my first impression is entirely justified.

  2. Lofty says

    “Backpfeifengesicht” in my limited German translates literally to “the face that whistles at the rear”, ie a windy arse. The punchable bit for me relates to the permanent sneer he seems to have, which he may not actually be able to change. It doesn’t take much for the human mind to latch onto a simple visual clue when it’s simply that he’s a horrible person and that colours your view.

  3. wereatheist says

    “Backpfeifengesicht” in my limited German translates literally to “the face that whistles at the rear”

    ‘Backe’ means ‘buttock’ in modern German, but is/was used for ‘cheek’ as well.
    ‘Backpfeife’ used to mean a (heavy) slap onto the cheek. Nowadays, we say ‘Ohrfeige’ for this.

  4. phhht says

    I am also repelled by Ted Cruz’s appearance. Unfortunately, there are other people who affect me in the same way, including George W. Bush and the late Prince. It’s a visceral reaction.

  5. says

    I have a visceral dislike of Cruz as well. The first time I ever saw Richard Nixon (on television), around 9/10 years old, I had an instantaneous reaction to his face, which was apparently reflected in mine, because an adult asked me what I thought about him. I said something to the effect of “I don’t like him, he looks like a cat.” Cruz evokes the same response. It turns out that the ‘cat’ thing translates to smarm.

  6. John Morales says

    fwtbc: you mean that it does, not that it would.

    Pet peeve of mine, this pompous use of the subjunctive mood.


  7. Menyambal says

    I’ve seen P. G. Wodehouse (and a few others) use words like “kickworthy” and “whipworthy”. I suggest “punchworthy” and “slapworthy”.

  8. Mobius says

    Those squinty little eyes and that smirk? Yeah, I get the same feeling looking a naked mole rats.

  9. grendelsfather says

    I agree with the punchability of Cruz’s face. The only other person who I have had this response to was Tom Delay, another smarmy Texas politician (but I repeat myself.) I ended up on the same flight from DC to Texas as Delay about 10 years ago, and I as I boarded the plane, I was horrified to see him sitting in an aisle seat in first class. The revulsion and fear was instantaneous, as if I had suddenly seen a snake. I am not a violent man, but I had to actively resist the urge to punch him. I knew that would be a bad career move, but I also realized how rewarding it would feel, if only for a little while. I just kept telling myself to ‘keep walking, keep walking,’ as I made my way to my seat in steerage.
    I would like to think that I could show the same remarkable restraint if faced with a similar situation with Cruz, but I can’t count on it.

  10. Marshall says

    I really hate Maher’s smugness and selective skepticism, and I find his face extremely punchable as well.

  11. lorn says

    For me it it the juxtaposition of those sad, begging, ‘pity me ‘ eyes, and the mouth that always seems to show some mix of disappointment, rage and contempt.

  12. sonofrojblake says

    Judging people by their looks is a terrible thing…

    But let’s crack on and do it anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *