Created By: KilgoreTrout on September 18, 2011 Last Edited By: AmourMitts on July 2, 2017

Villains Are Born Ugly

The bad guys are bad-looking, and always have been.

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Often you can tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys just by looking at them. Elves are beautiful, for instance, and usually on the side of good. Orcs, by comparison, are butt-ugly and frequently written as Always Chaotic Evil. They are not considered sexy, and the king of the orcs did not turn ugly over time or used to be good-looking before he got disfigured in an accident; no, these orcs have always had faces that only their mothers could love. Perhaps even their mothers took a look at them and thought "Blech, how could such an eyesore have come out of me?!"

It also happens with individuals rather than races. The wicked witch in a fairy tale is not likely to be anybody's first choice for a prom date, for example. And the Big Bad in a non-fantasy setting may not be such a looker.

This could perhaps be said to carry Unfortunate Implications about ugly people in Real Life.


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    Comic Books 
  • Many Batman villains were hit to varying degrees with the ugly stick, and some of them were never lookers to begin with. The Mad Hatter was always homely, Killer Croc was born with a disease that made him look reptilian, and The Penguin was short and had a beak-like nose even as a child.

  • You've got Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi, and he has a whole palace full of ugly henchmen!
  • In Star Trek Klingons had a sinister appearance right from the beginning, but were turned truly ugly once they began making the movies. It would be quite a while before Worf came along, after which we began to see good (or good-ish) Klingons on a regular basis.

  • Name the fantasy setting and this will be true more often than not. Orcs, trolls, goblins, ogres, etc. They're monsters that need to be killed by the much-better-looking heroes! But to name just one race in one setting: draconians in Dragonlance. They're repulsive lizard-men, and they serve Takhisis, Goddess of Evil.
  • The Cthulhu Mythos has this guy. Sexy, ain't he?

    Live Action TV 

  • Medusa, who was born that way in one of the legends of her origin.

    Western Animation 
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has had numerous villains who are not at all easy on the eyes. Poggle The Lesser, Riff Tamson, and Osi Sobeck to name a few. Maybe they look attractive to others of their respective races, but not to human viewers. And in the first few episodes of Season Four, the cute Mon Calamari are on the side of the heroes while the tentacle-faced Quarren are on the side of the villains.
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • September 18, 2011
    • Elphaba in Wicked was born with green skin, sharp teeth, and an allergy to water. She grows up to be the Wicked Witch of the West.

    I don't think that the whole races should be on this trope. That's Always Chaotic Evil. The individuals are the trope.
  • September 18, 2011
  • September 18, 2011
    @shimaspawn: I was under the impression that Always Chaotic Evil referred to a race being evil, but not necessarily ugly. The Laconic for that trope says "An entire race of beings who are always evil."

    Now, while the drow in Forgotten Realms are attractive by human standards, as a race they are just as evil as orcs and ogres. So Always Chaotic Evil applies to them (with the odd exception, *cough*Drizzt*cough*, of course), which it coudn't if Always Chaotic Evil was about being a race that was evil and ugly.

    The Evil Is Sexy trope applies to the drow as well. I thought that we ought to have a trope that was the opposite of Evil Is Sexy, since there are so many monstrous-looking antagonists in fiction. And I specified that they had to have been monstrous-looking (or at least unattractive) their whole lives, since we already have a number of tropes for people or races who turn ugly after they turn evil listed on the Evil Makeover page.
  • September 18, 2011
    Still, I think there's a big difference between an Always Chaotic Evil race being ugly, and characters from a race that normally look normal being born ugly.
  • September 18, 2011
    • Averted in Harry Potter, where the main villain Voldemort has been explicitly evil since his childhood, but was born highly attractive, and only ruined his phenomenal looks as an adult as a side produt of all that dark magic. And boy, did he ruin them!
  • September 18, 2011
    Averted means that the example shouldn't be listed because the work didn't use it.
  • September 18, 2011
    ^unless the aversion is notable. In HP's case, readers only learnt of Voldemort's earlier looks in the last two or so books. Up until that he was just described as repulsive. It was close to a subversion, but Rowling never really played into the "always looked like the lovechild of a snake and an egg" box so it really depends how eager a given reader was to expect this trope.
  • September 18, 2011
    The fact that a guy that was brought back from the dead plays Evil Makes You Ugly straight is not enough to list him as an aversion of this trope. Otherwise everyone is just going to duplicate the trope lists with any straight examples of that trope being listed as aversions of this one. One would assume he hasn't always been a creepy undead snake monster, and if he had been, someone would have commented on it when they talked about him at school. Besides, young Voldemort was mentioned as early as book 2. Not a shocker for anyone.
  • September 19, 2011
    Since we're getting into what an aversion would be here, I guess it's not too early to discuss how Playing With should go. I'm thinking something like this:

    • Played straight: Evil Elliott wants to conquer the universe and subjugate everybody in it, and he looks horrible.
    • Exaggerated: ???
    • Justified: Evil Elliott used to be an innocent child who never thought of hurting a fly, but he was bullied relentlessly because of his looks. He became increasingly bitter and hate-filled, and eventually turned to evil.
    • Inverted: ???
    • Subverted: The heroes barge into Evil Elliott's lair and are repulsed when they see his face. Elliott then laughs and explains that it's really just a mask he wears and that there's nothing wrong with his face at all. He explains that he wears the mask in order to appear more fearsome to everybody.
    • Double Subverted: Then he takes the mask off and shows the heroes his real face, which is even more horrifying than the mask!
    • Parodied: Bob, the hero, lets out a horrified scream when he runs into a hideous monster on the road. He hurriedly composes himself and begins attacking the monster, vowing that its days of terrorizing decent people are over. And then the monster says "What are you talking about?! I don't terrorize people! As a matter of fact, I went to high school with the king and we're best friends. He's right over here, as a matter of fact." Then the king walks up and says "Bob, what the hell are you doing?! Stop trying to kill the godfather of my son here! You're supposed to be going after evil people! I apologize for this, buddy, Bob's always panicking and attacking 'monsters'. I don't know why I keep giving him quests."
    • Deconstructed: ???
    • Reconstructed: ???
    • Zig Zagged: ???
    • Averted: Evil Elliott is incredibly handsome.
      • Evil Elliott is the ugliest man on the planet, but is actually also the kindest man on the planet (despite his misleading name) and is eager to help Bob in his fight to save the world.
      • Bob encounters a city populated by a race of beautiful creatures. He soon discovers that they are cruel, bloodthirsty, and determined to capture him and flay him alive just so they can listen to the sweet sound of his screams.
      • Bob encounters a city populated by a race of disgusting creatures. He soon discovers that they have no desire to hurt him and only wish to live in peace with the rest of the world.
    • Enforced: The writer wanted to make the villain handsome or the hero ugly, but was told not to because it would confuse the audience.
    • Lampshaded: "Hey guys, we've been fighting evil for years now, and I want to ask you something. In all that time, do you remember even one of our enemies being remotely attractive?"
    • Invoked: ???
    • Defied: Bob sees a group of ugly orcs up ahead. He decides to attempt conversation instead of just assuming that they're evil because they're ugly.
    • Discussed: "In my long life, I've learned that you can judge a book by its cover. Don't trust anything ugly, Bob; it's bound to be evil."

  • September 19, 2011
    ^shimaspawn, Kilgore Trout The other problem with categorizing whole races this way is that they very likely wouldn't be ugly by their own standards.
  • September 19, 2011
    Mole Man, the first supervillain faced by the Fantastic Four is a sympathetic example, in that others' reactions to his ugliness drove him out of society and ultimately turned him evil.
  • September 19, 2011
    ^ This is also true, and it's hard to judge all individuals of a race in one stroke. It's just headache inducing.

    ^^ Seriously, playing with pages are bad. They confuse people about the trope and they tend to blur the lines between other tropes rather than keep them clear.
  • September 19, 2011
    What about Born Ugly Born Evil as a title?
  • September 20, 2011
  • September 20, 2011
    shimaspawn, Dumbledore explicitly said it was the dark magic that ruined Voldemort's looks, it wasn't the resurrection.

    Exaggerated: Evil Elliot, as well as all his evil henchmen, were born ugly. Those of the henchmen that are secretly good at heart are goodlooking, whereas Shady Sharon, one of Bob's party of adventurers, is not, and surprise, ends up betraying Bob to Elliot.
  • September 20, 2011
    It doesn't matter. He's still not this trope. He's still not related to this trope. He should still be on another page and not this one.
  • September 20, 2011
  • September 20, 2011
  • September 20, 2011
    The Phantom Of The the book, at least.
  • September 20, 2011
    ^ Also in the musical, which depicts Erik in Madame Giry's memory flashback as a deformed boy escaping a gypsy circus freakshow. The Claude Raines version has Erik getting acid in the face as an adult (motivating his subsequent evil).
  • September 20, 2011
    • Dick Tracy in all its incarnations relies on this trope; that said, there are a few somewhat grotesque bystanders and even a few good guys as well.
  • September 20, 2011
    This is implied to be one of Megamind's motivators to do evil.
  • September 22, 2011
    I think this is Beauty Equals Goodness.
  • September 23, 2011
    You know, I think you might be right. While the description on that trope's page doesn't say a whole lot about ugly villains, the Playing With page says the following:

    "Straight: Alice, Bob, and Charlie, the three heroes, are very attractive, while all the villains are somewhat unattractive."

    So maybe this trope isn't needed after all. Then again, it could perhaps still be contrasted with Evil Makes You Ugly. I don't know, and I'll wait to see whether this gets some hats or not.

    As for "Born Ugly, Born Evil", it sounds very good as a title, and if it weren't for one thing I'd be all for changing the name to that. The one thing is that it would exclude examples like the Penguin, who probably weren't born evil but became that way. He was, however, not a particularly cute baby.