Created By: NightShade96 on May 12, 2017 Last Edited By: NightShade96 on May 18, 2017

Adaptational Ugliness

A character is made less attractive in an adaptation.

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The opposite of Adaptational Attractiveness, this trope is when a character who is attractive (or described as such) in the source material is made less attractive in the adaptation.

This may be done in the case of villainous characters to make them more Obviously Evil, or in general it may be a case of Ability over Appearance, if it's decided that an actor uglier than the character in question can play the part well. Another reasoning for this is that they didn't get it right in previous adaptations, especially for live action ones.

Compare Big Bra to Fill, where a large-breasted fictional character has a more realistic breast size in a Live-Action Adaptation.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • In the original Ghost in the Shell manga, Motoko Kusanagi is slender, coquettish, and quite well endowed. Compare her to her appearance in the blockbuster 1995 film, where she has a significantly more masculine build and androgynous face. Her later appearance in Stand Alone Complex is a compromise between the two, leaning towards the manga.
  • In Pokémon, quite a few characters have had more simplistic designs than their game counterparts, their designs tweaked to a point where it's more unappealing, or simple design changes which give them a different look (different colorings, eyes not being fully colored in, etc.). Cilan for example is still very handsome but isn't quite as cute as in his game official art. Most commonly a lot of trainers are given younger, shorter looks to better fit against ten-year Ash as well, especially females such as Serena and Lillie.
  • Samurai 7:
    • As mentioned in the Anime section above, this is inverted. Whereas Kikuchiyo from the original 1954 film was a tall, strapping, nimble, athletic young man played by the ruggedly handsome Toshiro Mifune, here he's an enormous mechanized suit of armour with not even a visible face.
    • Shino's father Manzo was no oil painting, but the anime made him even uglier.

     Audio Drama 

     Comic Books 
  • Teen Titans Year One is a modern retelling of how the original team formed. Speedy is not unattractive at all but the comic makes him a gangly looking teenager instead of the more mature-looking and muscular mainstream version.

     Films — Animation 
  • In the 2004 animated series of Dragon Hunters, Gwidzo is presented as charismatic and moderately attractive. The 2008 film adaptation portrays him as grimy and unpleasant, even having him describe himself as "mean and ugly" during a breakdown.
  • The original illustrations for 101 Dalmatians show Cruella De Vil as an elegant yet cold-hearted beauty. The Disney version turns her into a wild-haired harridan with a corpse-like face.
  • The Swan Princess: In the original ballet, Rothbart has a beautiful daughter whom he transforms to look like the princess Odette; in the movie, he has an older, ugly Mook who plays this role instead.

     Films — Live-Action 
  • The Red Queen from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010). While she may not have been attractive in the original illustrations, the film version is a literal freak with a grotesquely over-sized head (though played by perfectly lovely actress Helena Bonham-Carter). However, as with many other adaptations, the movie conflates the characters of the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts, and the Queen of Hearts is depicted with an oversized head in Tenniel's original illustrations.
  • In Being There, Chance, the gardener, is described as looking like a cross between Ted Kennedy (in the early 1970s) and Cary Grant. Peter Sellers played the character in the film, and is not generally considered to have a dashing appearance. In addition, Sellers intentionally gained weight for the role because he decided that Chance's "sedentary and solitary" life would have left him overweight.
  • In the novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, Assistant District Attorney Larry Kramer is described as a vain bodybuilder obsessed with his physique. In the film, his name is changed to Jed Kramer, and he's played by the rather schlubby-looking Saul Rubinek.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • Batman Begins has Detective Flass as a sloppy, unkempt, physically unpleasant slob of a corrupt cop. His original comics self from Batman: Year One was just as corrupted if not more, but he also was much taller and muscular, blue-eyed with a blonde well kept haircut.
    • Two-Face was more cartoony-looking in the comics. In The Dark Knight, the scarred side of his face is given much more detail.
    • The Joker has a clean, cartoonish appearance in the comics and some of the other adaptations, but also in The Dark Knight, he gets a dirtier, creepier appearance that gets worse over the course of the film.
  • The titular character of Dracula is not quite as attractive adaptations make him out to be, but he looks like an average enough older man. In Nosferatu, Orlok is a creepy, monstrous looking man with Pointy Ears and long fingers.
  • In the Fletch books, Fletch is a handsome, young, blond, extremely muscular man who can bed any woman he wants. In the movies, he is played by a forty-something Chevy Chase. This may be an example of why Tropes Are Not Bad, since the novel is a fairly straightforward and uninspired noir potboiler, while the film is a comedy, and frankly much cleverer. Chevy Chase's appearance is probably much better suited to a comedic hero.
  • The real Tommy was 6"2", had long hair and a moustache, was built like a boxer and was described as very good looking. In Goodfellas, he is played by Joe Pesci.
  • In the original novel that inspired The Graduate, the protagonist Ben is described as a handsome, "All American Athlete" WASP type, but is played by Dustin Hoffman in the film — probably to increase Ben's awkwardness and Mrs. Robinson's desperation.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Fleur Delacour is described as being more beautiful than any human woman due to her part-Veela ancestry. In the film version, she is played by Clemence Poesy, who is by no means ugly, but not supernaturally beautiful, and her Veela ancestry never gets mentioned.
  • In the original book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, all of the Whos are small creatures with antennae who look rather cute. In the live-action adaptation, all of the background Whos are regular people with prosthetic noses and buck teeth that make them look rather strange and creepy. They're also given ugly and gaudy outfits to match them being portrayed as more greedy and materialistic.
  • There was a lot of complaining by fans of The Hunger Games that both Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) and Sam Claflin (Finnick) are too unattractive for their roles.
  • Greek mythology describes the huntress Atalanta as a gorgeous blonde with Amazonian Beauty and endless suitors. However in Hallmark's Jason and the Argonauts she is portrayed as a plain Tomboy — so much so that Jason refers to their relationship as a brotherly one (he clearly thinks of her as a man rather than a woman). Though despite this, Atalanta does attract one man in the course of the film.
  • In the original Sherlock Holmes stories, Watson is described as a rather handsome and athletic man and something of a womanizer. After one of the first films had him played by the somewhat pudgy Nigel Bruce, most followed suit, assuming that's how he's supposed to look. It really wasn't until the one-two punch of Jude Law and Martin Freeman, with Lucy Liu delivering a knockout blow, that depiction of him started getting back on track. Note that this tradition pretty much never got established behind the Iron Curtain, and in the seminal Eighties Soviet adaptation Watson was played by boyishly handsome Vitaly Solomin.
  • The Shining:
    • Wendy is described as being conventionally attractive in the book, whereas in the film she's portrayed by Shelley Duvall, who is more waif-like and fragile-looking than her novel counterpart. This was a deliberate choice on Stanley Kubrick's part, as Wendy was supposed to be progressively beaten down over the course of the story, and he felt that casting a more plain-looking actress in the role made it easier to sell that part of the character as the story went on. The Stephen King-overseen TV miniseries cast Rebecca DeMornay, who's somewhat closer to Wendy in the book.
    • Jack, is at least reasonably handsome in the books, but played by Jack Nicholson. Needless to say, he wasn't chosen for being the typical Hollywood stud.
  • Suicide Squad features a version of the Enchantress who looks messier and creepier than her comic counterpart — despite wearing a more revealing outfit than her comic counterpart.
  • True Story: Based on a True Story about the Odd Friendship between a disgraced, globe-trotting New York Times journalist and The Sociopath who pretended to be him while he was hiding out in Mexico after killing his wife and three young children. The real-life pair are both fit white guys in their thirties who do look rather alike; in the film the sociopath is played by James Franco while the journalist is played by Jonah Hill.
  • Ozymandias from Watchmen. He's supposed to be the model of western perfection: blonde, square-jawed and athletic. In the film, he's lanky and has a thin face — not that this affects his physical prowess.
  • Eddie Valiant in Who Censored Roger Rabbit? has his attractiveness remarked on by several characters, but in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, he's played by the schlubby Bob Hoskins. The comic adaptation of the film returned him to a strikingly handsome young man.
  • Downplayed with Ian McKellen's Magneto in the X-Men Film Series. While not ugly by any means, he's considerably older than the character in the comics and much less physically imposing. While Magneto was buff and chiseled in the comics, in the original trilogy, his white hair is the result of him being seventy-something years old. Justified, since the movies don't have the comics' sliding timescale or the multiple instances of him being de-aged and re-aged, so he had to be a realistic age for a Holocaust survivor. This gets rectified when you see Michael Fassbender's Erik Lehnsherr in X-Men: First Class, where his younger self is conventionally handsome.

  • Doctor Who Novelisations: The book adaptation of "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" gives Butler (played by an unblemished Martin Jarvis on TV) a disfiguring facial scar for the purpose of a scene which called for the Doctor to observe him setting a bomb—the audience had to know the character was Butler, but the Doctor hadn't met him yet and didn't know who he was. Giving him a scar gave him something striking that the Doctor could describe him by.
  • The Once and Future King: Lancelot is generally depicted as handsome in Arthurian legends and almost all adaptations, including the author's source material, but in the book he's emphatically described as having an ugly, "ape-like" face.

     Live-Action TV 
  • In The Flash (2014), Savitar's comics counterpart was a Walking Shirtless Scene covered in muscles. This Savitar spends most of his time wrapped in armor, and he's later shown to have chemical burns on his face and a discolored eye. This trope also applies once "Savitar" is revealed to actually be the Future Flash, who in the comics had an ethereal and noble appearance due to the blue light radiating from his body. Here, he's a grimy, slight figure with the aforementioned facial damage.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Theon Greyjoy (before his torture by Ramsay and becoming "Reek"). In the books, Theon is tall, dark-haired and attractive, and a famed ladykiller. In the show, he's a ratty guy who has to pay for sex.
    • The White Walkers are eerily beautiful ice-themed versions of The Fair Folk in the books but Humanoid Abominations that resemble frozen corpses in the show.
    • Renly is a good-looking guy, but is not the Adonis described in the book.
    • Mace Tyrell is shorter, balder, and generally less aesthetic than the "once powerful man gone to fat, yet still handsome" described in the novels.
    • Joffrey is described as being beautiful with flowing blond locks and sparkling green eyes in the books, but is played by the fairly average Jack Gleeson.
      • However, like Arya, some Unreliable Narrator is at play in the books, since less flattering appraisals describe his eyes as being "vain and cruel", and also compare his lips to "fat red worms".
    • Cersei is described word-for-word as being the World's Most Beautiful Woman in the books. Lena Headey is attractive, mind you, but not to that degree, though the show does give her the Adaptational Curves of a 27-year-old body double during her public shaming, whereas the books describe her figure as declining from age and pregnancy, and also imply bloating from alcoholism.
    • The Faith Militant undergo this with their Obviously Evil facial scars, which are an exaggeration of the Poor Fellows (in the books, a single member has a Carved Mark on his chest, the rest are only This Means Warpaint) with none of the appeal of the rainbow cloaks, silvery armour, and crystal-pommelled swords of the Warrior's Sons.

     Video Games 
  • Age of Mythology: A few of the gods (notably Ares and Dionysus) who were traditionally youthful and handsome in the myths inexplicably appear old and grey in the game.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The incarnation of Prompto that was set to appear in Final Fantasy XIII Versus was taller, more muscular, and had longer hair and a more conventionally beautiful face. He was also depicted with cocky, smouldery poses and facial expressions, leading to Fanon to imagine him as an arrogant Deadpan Snarker and Yandere. The version of Prompto that appears in Final Fantasy XV has been redesigned to have a somewhat awkward look, with crooked teeth and a distinctive face shape, suiting his actual characterisation as an excitable young man with bags of enthusiasm and no attention span. He's certainly still attractive, but as a cute, boyish type rather than as a classic Pretty Boy.
    • Final Fantasy VII Remake makes the characters less attractive than in the extremely pretty Compilation designs, but to bring them more in line with what the characters were originally conceived to be like. Cloud, who is described in the original game as attractive but intimidating, is still pretty, but his face is more striking and bony, his often-described Creepy Blue Eyes actually do have a creepy glow, and he has an overall sleepless, scarred, skinny look that the original game's director Yoshinori Kitase praised for fitting his original concept. Barret, compared to his hunky Advent Children look, has more prominent and disfiguring facial scars, harder facial features and veinier musculature.
  • Most characters in FusionFall received a design upgrade but several had a downgrade:
    • Finn from Adventure Time (who has actually become a teen version of Mr. Fanservice even with the art style of the series) isn't depicted as animesque like most of the others, and thus he looks at minimum plain and at maximum creepy.
    • Eddy from Ed, Edd n Eddy is a straight up gonk instead of just being a short, chubby boy with a tan.
  • Jumpstart Adventures3rd Grade Mystery Mountain. In-game, Botley looks cute and friendly. On the box art and the disc art for the 2001-and-later re-releases of this game, his appearance is thicker, more angular, and downright scary-looking.
  • In the Shin Megami Tensei games, the Hindu goddess Kali is portrayed as a wizened old woman, albeit one with six arms each wielding a vicious scimitar. Most real-life iconography depicts her as quite shapely, albeit terrifying.

     Western Animation 
  • An in-universe example with the Ember Island Players in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Actor Sokka is scrawnier than the real Sokka and has buckteeth, Actress Katara is much curvier and less attractive than the real Katara, Aang's actor is a woman, and so on and so forth. This also happens with Toph's actor, a huge burly man who uses a roaring shout to find his way around, but she loves this all the more.
  • The massively overweight and balding Cluemaster from The Batman is a far cry from the fit, head of hair Arthur Brown from the comics.
  • While the Penguin in the comics never was an attractive man, he never was anywhere as grotesque as the Penguin seen in Batman Returns or even The Batman. Batman: The Animated Series at first gave him a somewhat less ugly version of the Tim Burton look, before returning to a more human looking comics-inspired appearance for The New Batman Adventures.
  • Most of the characters in Ben 10: Omniverse thanks to the simplified art style. The worst offenders are Gwen, who becomes an ugly nerd girl, and Kevin, who looks like a cross between a Caveman and a Hobo.
  • In the Darkstalkers cartoon, Morrigan is much uglier.
  • The Shade is much older and uglier in the DC Animated Universe than he is in the comics.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Super Show:
    • Peach is still pretty, but not to the length of the games.
    • Bowser is an Ugly Cute in the games; however, he isn't remotely attractive in the cartoon.

Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • May 13, 2017
    • Two-Face in Batman comics was more cartoony looking. In The Dark Knight, the scarred side of his face is given much more detail.
  • May 13, 2017
    Unattractiveness is quite a mouthful. What about Adaptational Ugliness?
  • May 13, 2017
    ^ Yeah, that sounds good.
  • May 13, 2017
    The other reasoning for this is that they didn't get it right in the adaptation, especially for live action ones.
  • May 13, 2017
    ^ You mean previous adaptations?
  • May 13, 2017
    Compare Big Bra To Fill, where a large-breasted fictional character has more realistic breast size in a Live Action Adaptation.
  • May 13, 2017
    • In Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, Fleur Delacour is described as more beautiful than any human woman due to her part-Veela ancestry. In the film version she is played by Clemence Poesy, who is by no means ugly, but not supernaturally beautiful, and her Veela ancestry never gets mentioned.
  • May 13, 2017
    The original illustrations for One Hundred And One Dalmatians show Cruella De Vil as an elegant yet cold-hearted beauty. The Disney version turns her into a wild-haired harridan with a corpse-like face.
  • May 13, 2017
    • In the original book How The Grinch Stole Christmas all of the Whos are small creatures with antennae who look rather cute. In the live-action adaptation, all of the background Whos are regular people with prosthetic noses and buck teeth that make them look rather strange and creepy. They're also given ugly and gaudy outfits to match them being portrayed as more greedy and materialistic.
  • May 14, 2017
  • May 15, 2017
    One more hat and it's ready for launch.
  • May 15, 2017
    Since this is a visual trope, wouldn't an image be warranted? All you need is to pick a good example and then put the original and adapted appearances side by side.
  • May 15, 2017
    ^ If you have any suggestions, could you try posting them?
  • May 16, 2017
  • May 17, 2017
    Suggestion for image: Cruella de Vil: book version vs film version.
  • May 17, 2017
    ^ Yeah, that looks good.

    Edit: Any suggestions for a suitable quote? If not, then I'll launch this.
  • May 17, 2017
    ^ Maybe the picture on the right could be slightly cropped on the sides, to make it more narrow? At the moment it's much wider than the one on the left.
  • May 17, 2017
    ^ It probably won't make much difference.
  • May 17, 2017
    On Pokemon, does Lillie count? She's 11 in the games and 10 in the anime. That's not a big difference. I can't notice any design differences either.
  • May 17, 2017
    ^ Most of the examples (including the Pokemon one) were taken from the inversions sections of Adaptational Attractiveness, so I guess it counts.

    Maybe you could send some more details? Like image links?
  • May 17, 2017
    If there are no issues, I'll launch in a few hours.