"To be honest, you and Rupert and Emma are all too good-looking!"
— J. K. Rowling, A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe
You've just learned that your favorite book, The Life and Times of Alice and Bob, is being made into a movie. In the book, Alice is average-looking and slightly overweight, and Bob is a balding middle-aged guy. So why does it star Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt?
An adaptation and biopic trope, Adaptational Attractiveness is when a someone who was originally fat, plain, or even downright ugly is played by a much more conventionally attractive actor. This also applies to clothing: characters whose attire is described as grotesque will become fashionably dressed.
Although sometimes it's who can play the part best, while finding actors who look like the way the characters are described can be problematic. Because let's face it, how many ugly actors - and still less actresses - are there? note Regardless of gender there is a lot of pressure to look good on camera; as such, there is something of a market for mildly overweight or otherwise not "optimal" actors, but it can be difficult to find someone genuinely grotesque without using any number of Hollywood tricks.
Related to Hollywood Homely. See also Race Lift, which normally doesn't have the same effect, and Progressively Prettier, when something similar happens without an adaptation. When this is done to a real life person, it's Historical Beauty Update. Frequently occurs when a character is Promoted to Love Interest. See also Big Bra to Fill and Beauty Inversion. If the casting directors wanted the character to be ugly but an attractive actor gave the best audition, it's Ability over Appearance.
The fandom version of this is Self-Fanservice.
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Anime and Manga
The anime and novel designs don't transition much between attractiveness levels in Slayers, but Zelgadis' design in the original novels, while not ugly, can be a bit unsettling to look at, even devilish. In the anime, on the other hand, he's ridiculously pretty, even though, as a chimera, he technically shouldn't be. Also, Amelia looks younger and more round-faced in the anime than in the novels.
The anime adaptation of Fatal Fury 2 turned Wolfgang Krauser from a mustachioed middle-age man to a clean-shaven young man who is only a few years older than Terry.
According to Word of God, this was done deliberately to show just how much more of a threat Krauser was than Geese in the first OVA. Whereas Geese aged naturally (and gained quite a few scars to boot), Krauser retained his youthful beauty as a visual representation of his power.
Much like the examples with the video games below, the characters in the original series were subject to this when flashbacks to their saga were reanimated to match the new Art Style in Best Wishes in "The Fires of a Red-Hot Reunion" and "Ash and Butterfree: Until We Meet Again."
The live-action adaptation of Nana to Kaoru. The short and ugly Kaoru was transformed into an average-height, moderately attractive young man; moreover, the actress playing Nana is shorter.
Ed, while not ugly at all in the manga, doesn't quite have the same sort of facial structure as his manga counterpart originally did; it's less square. While Ed in the manga and second anime hits a growth spurt eventually, towering over Winry, in the anime he becomes taller by The Movie but is barely taller than his biologically thirteen year old brother despite the fact that he's 18-19 (the movie takes place 2 years after the series). He also seems to only be about Winry's height.
Envy gets a subtle hit of this in Brotherhood, where he's drawn notably more muscular than the 2003 anime version.
In Oniisama e..., Mariko's mother Hisako is very homely-looking (lampshaded by Mariko in the manga, as she says she wasn't the prettiest girl ever but still stayed by her father's side before he ditched her). But in the anime version, Hisako is an outright hot mom.
In the film versions of Death Note, the character of L, originally designed to be dishevelled and unattractive (but still gained a number of fangirls) is played by the rather handsome Kenichi Matsuyama.
Kariya Matou from Fate/Zero has a hideously disfigured left side of his face as a result of the crest worms in his body. The anime adaptation toned it down a bit, however; he now looks like he's just somewhat scarred but not half as much as he's supposed to be.
Happens to Ruiko Saten from A Certain Scientific Railgun. In the manga she's short, rather plain, and flat-chested. In the anime she is taller, has a figure, and is overall much prettier.
Also much more jarringly to Shinobu Nunotaba who was very creepy looking in the manga, but was changed into an attractive woman in the second season of the anime.
Played with in the Hellsing adaptations: few, if any, appearances were outright changed in the initial TV run (before the plot took a sharp left turn from the manga), but they got rid of the chibi and other off-model moments, as well as far fewer disturbing expressions and evil grins from most everyone except for Alucard himself; even he had some of his inherent horror toned down. Then along comes Hellsing Ultimate that takes all those factors and puts them right back in, with a vengeance.
One of the students in Gokusen is described as Gonk in the manga, but he is a player in the live action series.
In the original Cyborg009 manga and early media, it can be jarring for new viewers to learn that 008 was depicted in an exaggerated manner reminiscent of the blackface caricatures seen in old cartoons (with Ishinomori's color artwork even having his skin inked pitch black). He received a more realistic design in the 1980 film "Legend of the Super Galaxy", and by the time of the 2001 series and 009 RE: Cyborg, any black face implications were long removed. The 2013 American comic book adaptation by Archaia even utilizes his 2001 design for their continuity.
006 was generally depicted as a short, rotund guy with an exaggerated nose and a case of Eyes Always Shut, looking more cartoonishly stylized as well. This carried over to most adaptations, although 009 RE: Cyborg and the Archaia comic depict him somewhat more realistic in proportion and design.
Logen is described in the books as hideous, with a face that's covered with scars and is lopsided and disfigured in the manner of a boxer whose been in too many fights. Logen in the comic has a neat scar across his nose and depending on the panel, goes between rough and fairly good looking.
Glokta was once a good looking man who underwent Being Tortured Makes You Evil and like Logen, is described as someone whose appearance causes strangers to look away in horror. In particular, his torturers chipped away at his teeth, and he has a withered face with fevered eyes (one of which waters uncontrollably). Glotka in the comic generally looks pretty normal, albeit gap-toothed.
One Discworld fanfic has the canonically overweight Agnes and her Split Personality Perdita separate into two slim, beautiful women.
Which actually makes a crazy amount of sense since Perdita is the "thin girl" accompanying Agnes's "a lot of chocolate" and she's gotta get the mass from someplace.
Film - Animated
While not attractive, Quasimodo from Disney's version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is upgraded from hideous to Ugly Cute. Presumably, if they added the little details of how ugly he is, it would be a pain on the animators, and would have scared the children in a movie that's already pretty dark to begin with.
The Lorax has the Once-ler, who is a pair of green arms in both the book and the cartoon adaptation; in the latter, he can be assumed to be middle-aged going by his deep voice. In the 2012 film, he's a tall, cute 20-something man with big blue eyes (in contrast to the creepy yellow ones he had in the book), voiced by Ed Helms.
Superman vs. the Elite's Manchester Black, while still retaining the thuggish look of the character from the comics, makes him a little bit thinner and gives him a much less gaunt face, as well as animesque hair.
In the Rainbow Magic movie, King Oberon looks younger and slimmer than in the books. His beard's less bushy, too. Jack Frost also has this to a lesser degree.
In the original Casino Royale novel, Le Chiffre is described as an overweight, unattractive man. Averted in the original television adaptation, where he was played by overweight, unattractive Peter Lorre. Subverted in the first movie adaptation, where he was played by overweight but dapper and stylish Orson Welles. Played straight in the 2006 film, in which he's played by trim and handsome Mads Mikkelsen.
In a filmed play of Death of a Salesman, Dustin Hoffman plays the character of Willy Loman, who in the play's original script was described as fat and unattractive. The film edits out references to Loman's weight and replaces them with jabs at his intellect and height. Apparently Arthur Miller told Dustin Hoffman his original vision of Willy Loman was a small man, despite how casting for the first play turned out.
Every single film adaptation of one of Roald Dahl's works can come across as this almost automatically, because of the books' art style for the illustrations, which makes everyone seem a notch or two less attractive than they presumably are supposed to be. If you're beautiful or cute, you look average. If you're average, you look ugly, and if you're ugly, you look like a troll.
The most extreme example of this would be Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, even with the Uncanny Valley aspects of his makeup. But Wonka has always been prone to having his look toned down in adaptations — in the novel he's a Rummage Sale Reject who appears middle-aged (he still has black hair and a goatee) but is really older than he looks; prior to Quentin Blake, illustrators gave the character a rather leprechaun-esque appearance inspired, perhaps, by the phrase "extraordinary little man". In the public imagination, however, people think of either Depp or, even more often, Gene Wilder (who's also more conventionally attractive than the book description) when you bring the character up.
Gerard Butler as the Phantom in the musical The Phantom of the Opera is an extreme example of this. The nature of the Phantom's deformity is already different from the source novel's in the stage version (in the novel his face resembles a skull, and the stage version it's only half of his face affected), but still, he's alarming to look at unmasked. Butler's deformity in the film is commonly described as resembling third-degree sunburn at worst. On top of this, while the Phantom is usually played by middle-aged actors on stage - in part because a key plot thread is Christine seeing him as a father figure - Butler was 34 when the film was shot. Hotter and Sexier, sure, but this is supposed to be one character whose entire point is that he is not at all hot or sexy!
Julian Sands played the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera with his regular face (though then again, that adaptation did include him having sex with rats, a condition many people would find more repulsive than a disfigured face, so this one may even out).
Similarly, Toad◊ is a short, ugly little hunchback in the comics. In X-Men, he's played by Ray Park◊ with some very half-hearted attempts at uglying him up. However, in X-Men: Days of Future Past, the younger Toad has many more noticeable bumps and wrinkles on his face.
In the comics, Beast's original (human) form included oversized hands and feet. In X-Men: First Class, while his feet are different than normal, they are still the right size and he has no problem passing for an ordinary human.
Comics Leech resembles a pseudo-amphibious humanoid creature (not like that's a bad thing). See here◊ for comparison.
In the Annie Proulx short story Brokeback Mountain, the two protagonists are described to be ordinary-looking, even unattractive. In the movie adaptation they're played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger.
In Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, the protagonist is described as overweight, sloppy, red-headed (as are his daughters) and with a face wrinkled like a crenshaw melon. In the film adaptation, he is portrayed by Kevin Spacey.
In The Thin Man movies, the main character was changed from an overweight man to handsome Hollywood actor William Powell, although at least in the first film, he is still not the title character.
In Louis Sachar's Holes, Stanley is explicitly described as fat on repeated occasions. Shia LaBeouf, the actor playing him in the movie, is quite lanky. A part of the original story was that Stanley would gradually get more fit by all the work at Camp Green Lake, however this had to be dropped for continuity reasons.
Ralph Fiennes playing Dolarhyde in Red Dragon. According to the book, Dolarhyde, though plain, is nowhere near as hideous as he thinks he is (certainly not ugly enough for every woman to automatically reject him based on looks), but he still doesn't look like Fiennes. Dolarhyde's insecurity about his looks is (at least according to the movie) rooted in him having a cleft palate, which he corrected later with surgery. Manhunter's Dolarhyde clearly showed the scar from the operation but Ralph Fiennes playing Dolaryhde just looks like--Ralph Fiennes. Not that cleft palate surgery hasn't come a long way since then but Red Dragon is supposed to be a remake, not a reboot.
In the book Psycho (yes, there was a book), Norman Bates was fat, bespectacled, and middle-aged, unlike Anthony Perkins in the movie. In fact, he resembles his real-life inspiration, Ed Gein. The change in the film was intentional, because Hitchcock thought that an attractive Norman would be easier to sympathize with.
In Jane Eyre, Rochester is downright unattractive and well into middle age. Jane Eyre herself is young, but extremely plain. These are actually important character traits, as they love each other for their inner character and each pass up on a more attractive prospective mate. In adaptations, however, Rochester is usually a rather handsome, if gruff, older gentleman, while Jane Eyre is at worst Hollywood Homely. In the 1983 miniseries, Rochester was played by Timothy Dalton! In the BBC miniseries adaptation (2006), Mr. Rochester is played by Toby Stephens◊ and by Michael Fassbender◊ in the 2011 film. All decidedly good-looking.
In the Philip K. Dick short story Minority Report, the first three things we learn about the protagonist are that he's fat, bald and old. The fact that he's reaching retirement age is a plot point in the ending. The movie cast Tom Cruise, though amazingly they allow him to be bald at the end. Also, the mutants in the story were explicitly stated to be hideous. You know, kind of like how you'd expect mutants to look. On screen they're buzzed and pale, but otherwise normal.
In the novel of Little Children, the character Ronnie bears very little physical resemblance to Jackie Earle Haley, being an overweight, balding chain-smoker who wears glasses. While Haley is no George Clooney, he brought a far more sympathetic interpretation to the character than what was probably intended. Sarah Peirce was also described as being not very pretty in the book. In the movie they worked over time to make Kate Winslet seem frumpy but their best efforts made her look Hollywood Homely.
In The Princess Bride, Prince Humperdink is ridiculously over-muscled, and Vizzini is a hunchback.
Some people thought that the overall cast was too young and attractive to portray some of the middle-aged and beaten-down characters. (Although the age issue was out of necessity, to allow the actors to portray their younger selves in flashbacks.) Walter Kovacs in particular, AKA Rorschach, is supposed to be "fascinatingly ugly". Compare comics◊ and movie◊ versions.
In the comic, a deconstruction of the superhero genre, the characters' costumes were intended to look somewhat silly to highlight the inherent absurdity of classic superhero costumes. In the movie, however, the costumes are played straight, and look much more stylish. Nite Owl II's was changed from a full body and head robe to a form fitting armor suit with pointier ears.
And possibly inverted with Ozymandias. 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.
In From Hell, in which Inspector Frederick Abberline is a overweight, middle-aged man typical of the Victorian middle-class. The film casts Johnny Depp as the Inspector. Similarly, the Ripper's victims generally appear more attractive in the film than they did in the comic or in real-life, as late Victorian streetwalkers in their early-to-mid forties, though most of the actresses were close in age to the women they portrayed.
In The Neverending Story, Bastian is fat, and it's one of the key problems he experiences in life with teasing by bullies. In the movies, not only is he thin, but in The Neverending Story 2, he's a lithe athletic swimmer. One of the Aesops of the book was Bastian using his Fantastican powers to wish for an athletic body, which was a symptom of him losing his identity.
The Wind and the Lion changed the Moroccan bandit, Raisuli, into Sean Connery, and his Greco-American captive, Ion Perdicaris, into Candice Bergen.
Even without going into the inevitabilities of puberty striking the three, at age 11, Harry is supposed to have a skinny face and knobby knees, with his green eyes being his only good feature. It's a similar story for Ron and Hermione. Hermione in particular is rather average until she gets an opportunity to clean up nicely (and she has buck teeth, which are later fixed). In the film series, all the lead child characters were played by cute kids. As the characters mature, however, their appearances shape up a bit and the actors correspond a bit better.
In the book series, Severus Snape is supposed to have greasy hair, a sallow face, yellowish teeth and a body rather too thin to be healthy. In the film series, he is played by Alan Rickman, whose mature sexiness cannot be obscured by an unflattering wig. This helped the character graduate into his current Draco in Leather Pants role in the fandom. In fact, when asked if she still saw in her own mind, her own characters or the actors, Rowling stated that she always sees her own vision of the characters, with one exception, that being Alan Rickman.
Dolores Umbridge looked somewhat like a toad in the novel. In the movie, she was played by Imelda Staunton, who is at worst cute and at best downright adorable. However, this might actually have worked out, since if anything the contrast between her 'adorable granny' shell and 'evil sadist' personality made her more hateful. Not to mention that giggle...
The Bellatrix Lestrange of the books is supposed to have lost her beauty along with whatever sanity she had in the first place during her stay in Azkaban. In the film...helloHelena Bonham-Carter, though she keeps the rather off-putting teeth in the film.
Pansy Parkinson, is perhaps not beautiful in The Half-Blood Prince film, but far from ugly. According to the book, she has a "pug-like face".
Luna Lovegood is a lesser example, in that she isn't ugly in the books, but usually seen as fairly plain and "dotty", whereas Evanna Lynch is highly attractive (though her physical traits do actually match Luna's quite well, and there couldn't have been a better casting character wise).
J. K. Rowling says that she always wondered why fangirlsloved Draco Malfoy so much, since she never imagined him as particularly attractive. The answer is Tom Felton's suave, stylish portrayal of the character in the last three-four films, especially in Half-Blood Prince.
Viktor Krum is described in the books as gangly and hook-nosed, with a habit of slouching. He was played by Stanislav Ianevski.◊
Neville Longbottom and Harry's cousin Dudley are both overweight in the books. And in the first couple films the actors were the same, but both actors eventually lost weight and resembled their book counterparts very loosely. With Neville they simply let him lose the weight without much comment, since it was never a key part of his character. For Dudley they just had the actor wear oversized clothing. The other side of this, however, is that the actor playing Neville is "uglied up" a bit by making his ears stick out and messing up his hair. Likewise, many of the Slytherin actors are given false teeth and other odd physical features.
There may actually be an inversion in, of all people, Vernon Dursly. In the books he's described as "beefy" and having no neck, but not necessarily as fat. Come the later films the actor portraying him is bordering on obese.
James is described in the book as very average and unremarkable in appearance, the producers still cast Cam Gigandet◊ in the role.
Bella Swan thinks of herself as rather plain and unfashionable, while Kristen Stewart◊ plays her in the movies. However, some readers infer that Bella is overly hard on her appearance.
Alice is never described as ugly but is described as very short, compared to Ashley Green who's 5'6". Transversely Rosalie is described as very tall, but is played by Nikki Reed who is actually the same height.
Eric is described as having terrible skin, but Justin Chon is completely blemish free.
21, a movie based on the book about several MIT students gaming casinos in Blackjack. The (actual, still living) MIT students are replaced with vastly more attractive (and all white) actors for the movie.
In the Spider-Man comics, Harry Osborn is drawn with the same hairdo as his father, and never drawn particularly attractively. Somehow that translated to both film series casting attractive actors - James Franco in the Sam Raimi trilogy and Dane deHaan in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
In The Lord of the Rings, hobbits are generally portly, but with the exception of Sean Astin, who is already stocky and gained some weight for the role of Sam, the producers hired slender actors for the Fellowship hobbits. Director Peter Jackson didn't want the characters to look like midgets by being overly stocky. Frodo in the books is described as "stout," and, while he's supposed to look younger than his actual age (fifty), teenage Elijah Wood is definitely stretching it. Then again, hobbits do age more slowly than humans. Hobbits in the books are also said to look friendly, not handsome or beautiful, which cannot be said for the Fellowship hobbits.
A minor, strange case in V for Vendetta: in the comic, V's mask has a round face and an upturned nose, making him look sort of like a doll with a mustache and a goatee, making some of his panels look more inappropriately cute than usual in especially serious scenes. In the film, he has a longer face and a long, straight nose, making him look more masculine.
To quote Miles Kreuger on the film adaptations of Showboat: "Cap'n Andy's three tarts in the 1936 version are gaudily dressed and made up for their profession: in this (1951) film they are three wholesome extra girls who might be expected at Lady Astor's in their chic finery." Kreuger made similar observations about Helen Morgan (who appeared in the 1936 film) vs. Ava Gardner (of the 1951 film) as Julie in the scene where she sings "Bill".
In the novel of Children of Men, the descriptions of Theo do not exactly call to mind a Clive Owen. Then again, about the only thing the two of them have in common is their name and a few backstory elements, the film being a very loose adaptation.
In the film adaptation of Let the Right One In, Oskar is played by a reasonably cute and thin child. In the book, however, he is overweight and has major problems with food. Despite being a generally lauded film, the film rather confusingly still has the bullies call Oskar "piggy". The American remake includes his obsession with candy, but also keeps him as a skinny, scrawny kid.
In Camp Nowhere, Melody Kay plays Gaby, a girl who is sent to fat camp and whose extra weight is mentioned by love interest, Mud ... except that the girl is average-to-thin. She's the same size as the movie's hot girl.
In Jane Campion's Bright Star, incredibly gorgeous Ben Whishaw plays John Keats, who really wasn't as gorgeous as Whishaw. He was also only five feet tall, while Wishaw is 5'9".
Ben Whishaw plays Grenouille in the film adaptation of Patrick Süskind's Perfume. While in both the novel and the film, he's filthy, malnourished and disfigured by scars from the tannery, in the novel he's described as ugly even before receiving these maladies.
Leslie Burke in the book Bridge to Terabithia was described as looking more like a boy than a girl and wearing plain clothing. In the film, she was played by AnnaSophia Robb, who wore bright, colourful clothes at every opportunity. According the filmmakers, this was because the book's standards of an un-normal girl had changed by the present.
The play Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune originally starred Kathy Bates and Kenneth Welsh, and was revived with Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco. The 1991 film version, Frankie and Johnny, starred Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. Yes, that's right, a young Michelle Pfeiffer in a role originated by Kathy Bates.
In the bookJurassic Park, protagonist Alan Grant is described as short, pot bellied, and bearded. A tall, thin, and clean shaven Sam Neill dashingly plays him in the movie. Similarly, Ian Malcolm is described as a "thin, balding man". Who plays him in the movie? A studly, and very not-bald Jeff Goldblum.
In the book The Little White Horse, Sir Benjamin Merriweather is described as fat, bowlegged, and past his prime. In its film adaptation, The Secret Of Moonacre, he's played by the lean, sinewy Ioan Gruffudd, who's also considerably younger than the character.
The novel The Hotel New Hampshire makes it clear that Susie the Bear really is ugly; she has major acne scars. In the movie she is played by Nastassja Kinski (with no fake scars or anything) who only thinks she is ugly. This ruins a major plot point, changes the character (instead of being ugly and knowing it, she is beautiful and thinks she is ugly), and ruins An Aesop about beauty.
In the Master and Commander adaptation of the Aubrey-Maturin series, both Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are far more attractive than their book counterparts. Something of a Pragmatic Adaptation, however, because in the books Stephen is 5'6" and "indefinably odd-looking" or "pitifully small and distorted", and Jack more than 6 feet tall, but Paul Bettany is, at 6'3", four inches taller than Russell Crowe. Jack in the books is usually more than 16 stone, but Crowe only gained a little for the role.
Sleepy Hollow. The original description of Ichabod Crane is nothing like Johnny Depp. However, virtually nothing about Crane is the same as his original character in the short story. Originally, they did a few test runs with Depp wearing facial prosthetics, but Tim Burton ended up changing his mind, saying that in this case, it was Crane's personality quirks that made him unattractive.
In the Tom Ripley novels, Tom's housekeeper/Morality Pet Madame Antoinette is a middle aged-elderly Frenchwoman of friendly but average appearance. In the film Ripley Under Ground, which is a somewhat Lighter and SofterPragmatic Adaptation, Antoinette is a pretty young woman who is the maid (not a French Maid though except in a literal sense) of Tom's future wife, but is also friendly with her/likes Tom as in the novels.
In The Dark Knight Saga, typically scrawny, geeky Scarecrow is played by Cillian Murphy. He goes from this◊ to this◊. Inverted with Detective Flass, who went from a tall, well-built blond jock ex Green-Beret to a fat, ugly, unkempt slob.
In War and Peace, Pierre Bezukhov is overweight and in the beginning, a socially awkward delinquent. In the 1956 version of the movie, he's played by Henry Fonda and is anything but overweight and socially awkward.
In The Gormenghast Trilogy, both the text and the original sketches by Peake himself, depict Steerpike as a short, thin, bowed, unattractive youth with tow-coloured hair and blood-red eyes. In the BBC adaptation, he is played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is considered to be handsome.
In Ooku, the shogun's best friend and right-hand woman is plain and pudgy with a sort of rectangular face. The live-action movie cast Wakui Emi, who bears little resemblance◊.
While the original Clash of the Titans ups Medusa's hideousness by making her a Snake Woman, the remake has a snakelike Cute Monster Girl - she even illustrates the Gorgeous Gorgon page! Until she gets her Game Face on that is. However, the original Medusa was a very beautiful temple maiden, before being turned into a monster. This is probably a compromise of the conflicting myths about her appearance (see below).
An odd example happened in the film version of Sin City where the fat, balding, middle-aged serial killer named Kevin was played by Elijah Wood. The fanbase was still very pleased with the result.
In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon is described as being not nearly as handsome as Willoughby. He's described as the 18th century version of "okay looking," and someone that Marianne became attached to because he was kind to her when she was ill. In the 1995 film, he's played by Alan Rickman. Willoughby who? Plenty of women would have snapped up the movie version of Colonel Brandon without a second glance at Willoughby. Kind, honorable and Alan Rickman sexy? Sign us up!
It's difficult to claim this trope for adaptations of theatre productions, because the characters are played by so many different actors it's hard to claim which actor is the "right" amount of attractive. However, comparing the original castings of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett◊ in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street with the versions shown in movie, and it's hard to claim Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter are accurate, especially given Todd's backstory, and while Benjamin Barker was supposedly attractive before he was exiled at least to Mrs. Lovett, after his ordeal he'd probably look a little more messed up than Johnny Depp with a skunk stripe.
In the novel Taffin, the title character is overweight and unattractive. In the movie, he's played by PIERCE BROSNAN.
Partially lampshaded in American Splendor, when Joyce talks about how Harvey is depicted in his comic:
Joyce: You know, I don't really know what to expect. Sometimes you look like a younger Brando... but then the way Crumb draws you, you look... like a hairy ape, with all these wavy, stinky lines undulating off your body. I don't really know what to expect.
In the novel Running with Scissors, Natalie is described as being plain and significantly overweight. In the movie, she's played by Evan Rachel Wood.
Dracula. In the book Dracula was old and ugly, with hairy palms, whilst most of the films make him younger, suave, and Tall, Dark and Handsome. The most extreme example must be the 1979 version, which makes Dracula look like this◊ and have a voice that could melt butter. same often goes for his personality; in the book he was an old man, tired with immortality, who wanted to take over the world, whose bite seems to be a metaphor for rape and sexually transmitted disease. In the movies, he seduces Mina and/or Lucy, with plenty of angst over the loneliness of living forever and being a vampire.
Also applicable to Renfield in one known adaptation of the novel. While he's normally interpreted by older-looking men, more similar in appearance to the character in the books; he was played by the handsome Dwight Frye◊ in the 1931 version.
In Stephen King's Carrie, the title character is overweight, has thinning dark hair, acne in her face and chest and back, and possibly hirsutism (she seems to have all the signs of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome- hence explaining her late puberty). In the movie, she is played by Sissy Spacek, who is slender, has thick shiny blonde hair, and clear skin- and thus her late puberty is likely due to something else! Though the filmmakers did at least acknowledge this by having the gym teacher tell Carrie that she is a pretty girl but just needs to work on her appearance. In the 2013 re-adaptation, Carrie is portrayed by Chloe Moretz, filmed in 2012 when this was how she looked on an average day◊. The 2002 film cast Angela Bettis who went down the Beauty Inversion route but at the same time was still much thinner than the book counterpart.
Inverted with the character Helen Shyres. Although a background character in the book, she's nominated for Prom Queen - implying she's attractive. The 1976 film cast Edie McClurg who is chubby and the character is presented as a Butt Monkey for the popular girls - also not appearing to have a date at the prom. Though in the 2002 film Helen is played by the very pretty Chelan Simmons.
Something of an inversion in the 2013 film with Portia Doubleday as Alpha Bitch Chris. Previous adaptations had the character as attractive but this one presented Chris as a ratchet spray-tanned Snooki/J-Woww wannabe, compared to Carrie and Sue's more natural beauty.
The novel of True Grit describes Mattie as ugly on multiple occasions, as well as describing Rooster as old and fat. Neither film adaptation really held to this. The 2010 adaptation made it even more jarring by keeping all the dialogue about ugliness and fatness. Hailee Steinfeld wasn't made up like a beauty pageant entry or anything, but has flawless skin and shiny hair; she's at worst Hollywood Homely. Jeff Bridges had something like a visible gut, but was hardly fat.
Iron Man, not in terms of physical appearance but in personality. Before the first film came out if you asked fanboys to list the funniest Marvel Comics characters they would say Spider-Man, The Thing, Hawkeye, or Deadpool. Tony Stark was definitely not one of them. In the movie, however, Tony's quips, wisecracks and timing, whether improvised by Robert Downey, Jr. or written by a writer like Joss Whedon make Tony the funniest film superhero ever and one of the most appealing ones.
This◊ is◊ Loki in the Thor comics. This◊ is◊ Tom Hiddleston as Loki in the movie. Good grief. There's a reason why he has so many fangirls. Coincidentally, the Norse god of mischief was described as "pleasing and handsome" in the original myths.
In the Gyakuten Saiban film, Gumshoe is played by Shunsuke Daito. That's right, Dick Gumshoe is played by Ohtori Kyoya from the live action Ouran High School Host Club.
In the Agent Pendergast novel The Relic, the character of police lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta was portrayed as overweight and near middle age. In the film adaptation, he was played by Tom Sizemore.
Sherlock Holmes is described as being tall and thin, with thin lips and hawk-like nose. Contemporary illustrations made the character Progressively Prettier, causing author Doyle to object. In films, Holmes is often played by handsome leading men such as Christopher Lee, Rupert Everett, and Robert Downey, Jr.. Interestingly, the reverse is usually true of Watson, who in the books is contrasted against Holmes for his skill with the ladies, but is often portrayed in adaptations as a rotund little man (except the one with Downey Jr., where he's Jude Law). Mocked nicely by Kate Beatonhere◊.
In the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, Stephanie is supposed to be a fairly average Jersey girl with Italian and Hungarian heritage. In One For The Money, the film adaptation of the first book in the series, she's played by Katherine Heigl, who, despite whatever else one may think of her, is generally agreed to be physically gorgeous.
In the novel, Mme. Thenardier is a massive, muscular woman with highly masculine features, and is frequently compared to an ogress, and the stage version, while upgrading her appearance slightly, generally goes out of its way to make her relatively unattractive. In the film of the musical, however, she's played by Helena Bonham-Carter, who is made-up to look blowsy looking but otherwise has no change in her appearance.
M. Thenardier is described as a sickly-looking "runt" who is not at all good looking. Performances of the musical tend to cast actors whose physical appearance along with make-up more or less fit that description. However, in the film he's played by Sacha Baron Cohen, who, while showing a bit of Thenardier's creepy vibe, is probably the best looking and most stylishly dressed incarnation of the character.
Not to mention that, at 6'3", Sasha Baron Cohen is the furthest thing from a 'runt'.
In the book and to a lesser extent in adaptations, Valjean looks like an old man by time he rescues Cosette (and in the book has stark white hair after being Locked into Strangeness). In the film, he's Hugh Jackman.
The younger actors fall into this too. Eponine in the book is scrawny, dirty, and not attractive at all, but in the film she is portrayed by the lovely Samantha Barks. Same goes for several of the barricade boys, who are invariably attractive onscreen.
Ok, one of those 'barricade boys' deserves a special mention. Hugo describes Grantaire by saying "He was frightfully ugly; the prettiest shoe-binder of that period, Irma Boissy, revolting at his ugliness, had uttered this sentence: "Grantaire is impossible."" George Blagden◊ is far from ugly.
Misery is a partial example. While Kathy Bates is no supermodel, she's still leaps and bounds above the way Annie Wilkes was described in the book. In the movie, Wilkes was at least clean and well-groomed. However, in the book, Annie was described as a shapeless blob of a woman who was always dressed dumpily and reeked of dirt and cheap makeup.
Mary Poppins looks prettier in the movie than her counterpart◊ from the books did, at least by the author's standards. However, Mary in the books had a worse habit of admiring her own reflection.
Cha-Cha DiGregorio is a tall, shapely, attractive dancer and said to be Danny's ex-girlfriend. This is a far cry from the original musical, where she's meant to be slovenly, plain-faced, and was usually played by a much heavier actress (who'd be made up to look far from attractive). She also has no past connection to Danny, and is played off as an aggressive Brawn Hilda type.
Jan is meant to be visibly overweight and not seen as particularly attractive. While the film tries to assert that Jan is "fat" and she's shown dressed in frumpy clothing compared to the other girls, she's actually on the thinner side and her final appearance shows that she has no problem with fitting into a tight dress (although her actress claims the intent was for the character to lose weight over the course of the story).
In Lord of the Flies, Jack Merridew is described as having an ugly face and bad teeth and his mere presence frightened the younger children. In both movie adaptations, the child actor is more attractive than the book's description.
Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice are a borderline example. While Elizabeth IS beautiful, her older sister Jane is supposed to be the prettiest. Precious few adaptations acknowledge this however, likely because Elizabeth is the main character. This crosses over with Values Dissonance in the 1995 miniseries; Susannah Harker fits the ideal of Regency beauty perfectly, while Jennifer Ehle doesn't, but most modern viewers find Ehle more attractive. The 2005 film comes the closest to the original book; Jane is played by the classically, traditionally beautiful Rosamund Pike, while the much more ethereally striking (but still gorgeous) Keira Knightley plays Elizabeth.
Averted and played straight in What's Love Got to Do with It: Tina Turner is played by Angela Bassett, who is made to look just like Tina in the Ike and Tina days. This makes it all the more jarring to see the thin and scrawny Ike Turner being portrayed by the broad-shouldered, wide-jawed Laurence Fishburne.
In Seventh Son, Mother Malkin, an ugly old witch in the book, is played by Julianne Moore with little change on her appearance.
Catherine Hubscher◊ (1753-1835), better known as Madame Sans-Gêne, was famous for being ugly but with a heart of gold. So of course, in the 1961 movie made after a play centred around her life, she's played by Sofia Loren◊.
In the comic Astérix and Cleopatra, Cleopatra is extremely attractive but has a Gag Nose which other characters constantly make backhanded compliments on, and her ostentatiousness is expressed through what she surrounds herself with. In the film adaptation she is played by Monica Belluci in just the most impossibly Gorgeous Period Dresses ever.
Blade: Deacon Frost is made into a Generation X hipster played by Stephen Dorff. In the comics, he was an old white haired guy with a German accent from the 1860s.
Blade: Trinity: Hannibal King also gets a similar treatment. In the comics, he's a reserved, mature man of average build who appears to be in his early forties. Not unattractive, but he has the shifty, seedy look that was appropriate for the Hard Boiled Private Eye that he was. Ryan Reynolds played King in Trinity and they made a point of showing off the muscles that he put on for the role. Reynolds essentially injected his Van Wilder character onto King.
Nick Prugo, real-life member of the Hollywood Hills Burglar Bunch, had this to say about the casting of The Bling Ring:
Nick Prugo: The character that Claire Julien plays, based on Courtney I believe — Claire did an amazing job and she's way hotter than [Courtney is] in real life.
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The movie makes them appear much more "pretty" then they appear in illustrations (excepting Violet, who was described as being pretty in the books), making Klaus look much older than he probably should, and making him no longer need glasses, which would be a vital plot point in the fourth book.
For Chinese literature, this tends to happen to the main characters in modern Asian adaptations of Jin Yong's work. One rather noticeable example can be found in a 2008 adaptation of Legend of the Condor Heroes, where the protagonist Guo Jing is played by teen idol and heart throb Hu Ge. Guo Jing is normally described as being a rather stout, muscular man who is not exactly known for being incredibly handsome or refined. Hu Ge, on the other hand, is a Real Life equivalent of a Bishōnen. Needless to say, it can be rather unnerving for certain fans to see other characters mention how "manly" and "plain" Guo Jing is, when he◊ looks◊ prettier◊ than some of the female cast.
Bridge of Birds has an in-universe example: Lotus Cloud is described as not being conventionally beautiful, having "thick legs" and a "flat face" and her only exceptional feature being her bewitching grin, but the ancient myth about her true goddess identity describes her as "the most beautiful girl in the world". When this discrepancy is pointed out to Master Li, he dismisses it as a "mere literary convention" and says that physical beauty has always been a highly overvalued trait.
The books tend to describe the Fourth Doctor as thin as well. Tom Baker was quite thin when he was first cast for real life reasons, but took on a more solid build soon after.
The First Doctor is commonly described as imposingly tall, when he's 174cm tall, the same height as Paul McGann and about an inch taller than the Second Doctor, considered to be short and weird-looking. The fact that the Second Doctor wore baggy versions of the First Doctor's clothes in the show and has a symbolic scene of him losing his ring from his now small fingers may make this a case of Informed Attractiveness as well.
The book version of "Shada" has Chris describe Romana as 'the most beautiful woman he had ever seen' as part of his initial description of her, which is a description hard for anyone to live up to, even the gorgeous Lalla Ward. However, he notes that he doesn't find her sexually attractive, but awesome. The Animated Adaptation of "Shada" makes Chronotis rather more handsome and makes Clare into a punk with pink hair, leather and studs. And the Big Finish version runs up against it accidentally - replacing the very weird-looking Fourth Doctor with the conventionally handsome Eighth Doctor.
The 1979 Annual described the Fourth Doctor as 'handsome' in one story. He's far from unattractive, but 'handsome' is a major stretch.
Mortal Engines: Has an In-Universe example when Pennyrole writes a book about his travels with the protagonist, Hester finds an illustration of her counterpart in the story. Hester has a large disfiguring facial scar that's destroyed her nose and cost her an eye, the scar tissue has further twisted her face. Her counterpart is a beautiful air pirate with an eye patch and light cheek scar.
Inverted with Lancelot in The Once and Future King. He's 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.
The miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand most notably suffered from this with the character Harold Lauder. In the book Harold was primarily defined by how overweight, pock-marked, and hideously unattractive he was at the start, and a major part of his arc centered upon how he began to lose weight and take care of himself later in the story. In the film he was played by the quite handsome actor Corin Nemec, who wore a slightly nerdy hairdo and outfit for the first episode or two before a subtle attack of The Glasses Gotta Go. (Though, if you saw Thinner, you might call this a Pragmatic Adaptation.)
Funnily enough, this may have led to the American version of the Australian comedy Kath and Kim being a flop. The title characters were played by Hollywood Homely actressesnote And that's if you consider Molly Shannon and Selma Blairhomely at all rather than properly translating the premise. It should have been about a trailer trash mother and daughter. The mom won't admit how old she is and the daughter is in denial about her weight.
In the Inspector Lynley novel series by Elizabeth George, Barbara Havers is clearly described as short, ugly, overweight and poorly dressed. Sharon Small, who played her in The BBC series The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, is trim, pretty and better dressed (but still short). Elizabeth George openly disliked the casting choice, until she was ultimately won over by Sharon Small's performance.
In the Gossip Girl books, Jenny Humphrey is a sweet, artistic girl whose main appearance anxiety is that she is short, brunet and busty, unlike her tall, slender blond idol, Serena VanDerWoodsen. Who do they cast to play her in the TV series? Tall, slender blond Taylor Momsen. The producers didn't know that fourteen-year-old Taylor Momsen would grow so tall, but they sure knew she was blond and skinny, and looked nothing like the character in the books. They also changed her character so she really idolised Blair Waldorf... who is short, brunette and beautiful.
The TV adaptation of Sharpe cast Sean Bean (a blond northerner) as Richard Sharpe (in the books, a dark-haired Londoner). Although book-Sharpe is fairly handsome, he also has a wicked scar, which the TV version lacks. As above, author Bernard Cornwell was initially strongly opposed before being won over by Bean's performance, which led to Adaptation Displacement going so far as a book Retcon.
His looks do disintegrate somewhat towards the end, what with the scarring and everything but admittedly, he still doesn't look nearly as ugly as he should.
In the TNT series Rizzoli & Isles, Jane Rizzoli is played by the gorgeous Angie Harmon, despite the fact that in nearly every book that the TV series is based on, Rizzoli is consistently described as plain or average looking and so hung up on this that she frequently displays an irrational hatred of women who ARE beautiful. Similarly, while Isles is described in the books as being attractive, as played by Sasha Alexander, she's now a knockout.
In the Discworld series "Nobby" Nobbs is described as so incredibly ugly that he has to carry a certificate (a letter from the Patrician) to prove he's human. In the Hogfather mini-series, he's played by a slightly overweight, slightly bucktoothed man. He strangely looks more like the description of the series' Fred Colon.
There is an element of Pragmatic Adaptation here, in that a Nobbs fitting the books' description would require (to quote the Hogfather page) "heavy-duty CGI, enough makeup to cover the actor, a full-body suit, or hiring a chimpanzee and dubbing in his lines".
The BBC's Adaptation of Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet cast Rachel Stirling (daughter of Dame Diana Rigg) as Nan, who was so plain in the book that she passed successfully as a boy for years on the street.
The Girls in Love series by Jacqueline Wilson describes heroine Ellie as a chubby, awkward girl worried about her weight, glasses and frizzy hair, who feels self-conscious next to her pretty friends Magda and Nadine. This is an important part of her characterization, with a whole book focusing on her almost developing an eating disorder. So what happened in the TV adaptation? Ellie was played by Olivia Hallinan, a thin, pretty girl (more conventionally "pretty" than the actresses playing Magda and Nadine), with the character having hang-ups about her red hair rather than her weight.
Jacqueline Wilson's best known heroine, Tracy Beaker, is a tomboyish, untidy pre-teen girl who doesn't care about her looks and is described by adults as plain and awkward-looking. In the long-running TV adaptation, she's played by the cute and well-groomed Dani Harmer.
One of the many problems with the AmericanRed Dwarf pilot. Lister has all his negative qualities removed, like his slobbishness and his laziness. The actor is the Adonis-like Craig Bierko, as opposed to the average looking Craig Charles.
In the Agatha Christie novels that feature her, Poirot's secretary Miss Lemon was frequently described as "ugly" or "hideous". In the Poirot series she was portrayed by Pauline Moran, who was well past her hey-day, but certainly not unattractive.
In Brideshead Revisited, Charles' narration describes the adult Cordelia as very unattractive, even ugly. In the mini-series, the actress has bad skin and an unflattering haircut, but is still quite attractive.
Tyrion Lannister, in the books, is not only a dwarf but The Grotesque as well, with a misshapen head and mis-matched eyes. In the television adaption where he is played by Peter Dinklage, he's still a dwarf, but◊ quite◊ attractive◊ and far◊ from ugly◊. Furthermore, in the books, Tyrion loses most of his nose in the Battle of the Blackwater; in the TV series, he only gets a scar across his face.
Arya, who is supposed to have a long, slightly horsey face inherited from the Stark side of her family, but the actress Maisie Williams is instead conventionally cute◊. However, even book!Arya is strongly noted to resemble her Aunt Lyanna one of the most famous beauties of her age and everyone notes she will get prettier with age.
Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) and Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), described as plain and "not handsome" respectively, are both played by handsome actors in the series. Here are the TV versions of Eddard◊ and Jorah◊.
Jon Snow is also never particularly described as being handsome in the books, but is played by Kit Harington in the series.
Sandor Clegane's half burned face is also less severe in the series◊, now only covering the side of his head and upper left face, but this was for practical reasons, as the actor was unable to see out of more extensive prosthetics, which was impractical for swordfights featuring the character.
In the books, Yoren of the Night's Watch is described as having an extremely disreputable appearance, with soiled clothing, a twisted shoulder verging on a hunchback, greasy hair and lice, besides a total lack of social graces. In the series, he's a lot more put together◊.
Magister Illyrio is morbidly obese in the books, but he's a pretty normal looking overweight man in the show.
Brienne of Tarth is described as almost tragically ugly in the books and given the mocking nickname Brienne the Beauty. In the show she's played by Gwendoline Christie, who is made up to look plain and mannish, but not really ugly.
Roose Bolton's Bastard Bastard son Ramsay is described as "an ugly man", complete with blotchy skin, small eyes and a fleshy build. In the series he's played by Iwan Rheon.
Daario Naharis, although attractive, dyes his hair sky-blue in Tyroshi tradition and has a triple-forked, blue beard, a blue mustache with the tips dyed gold, and a golden tooth. In the series, he is clean-shaven, his hair is not dyed blue, and no golden tooth.
Averted with Lady Catelyn Stark. Not to say that Michelle Fairley is ugly, but as all the characters were aged up, she arguably showed it the most. Book Catelyn is generally regarded as a strikingly beautiful woman and looks like this◊.
The actor playing Lord Mace Tyrell is far less aesthetically pleasing than his book counterpart, who is described as being fat, but still good-looking enough that one can easily see that he used to be a Hunk in his youth. When the casting of Roger Ashton-Griffiths was announced, some fans had a hard time believing that this unattractive Mace could be the father of the TV versions of Margaery and Loras. HBO's Mace is also balding, while book!Mace has a head full of hair.
Averted with Joffrey. In the books, he's tall and handsome like his uncle/father Jaime (albeit Joffrey is more of a Pretty Boy), which is huge part of why Sansa is so head over heels over him during the beginning of the series.
In the CBC miniseries of Anne of Green Gables, in which Anne is supposedly unattractive, she's played by Megan Follows.
Sugar, the subversion of the Hooker with a Heart of Gold trope in the novel The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber is gaunt, long-faced and plain with a terrible skin condition. Sugar in the BBC miniseries adaptation is played by Romola Garai, because Viewers Are Morons who will clearly not be able to comprehend that Sugar's sexual charisma comes from her personality rather than her physical appearance.
In Kate Mosse's book Labyrinth, the character of Alais is described as "plain". In the adaptation she's played by Jessica Brown-Findlay, who by anyone's standards is simply beautiful. (She's on the left◊.)
In Sherlock, Holmes is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who, while people's opinions on whether he is attractive or not tend to be very polarized, nevertheless receives plenty of fangirl attention and is called out by other characters for being very photogenic with his cheekbones and flipped collar.
In the 1980s CBS series Beauty and the Beast, Vincent was made to look beastly with heavy makeup and a long mane of hair. In the 2012 CW reboot, Vincent is made to look beastly by...giving him a thin scar on one cheek. That's it. Seriously. No extra hair, no claws, nothing to indicate that he's anything other than a hot human man with a scar even less defacing than Gerard Butler's Phantom sunburn. He's supposed to have a more monstrous alternate form a la the Incredible Hulk, but even his alternate form isn't that beastly and it doesn't do much to change the fact that he looks like a male model 90% of the time, which makes the show come across as less like "Beauty and the Beast" and more like "Beauty and the Really Really Ridiculously Good Looking◊".
In Wives and Daughters, Roger Hamley was not attractive at all and was repeatedly described as awkward. In the 1999 miniseries, it's downplayed, but he's still regarded as less handsome than his older brother Osborne and characters sometimes hint to that. He's played by Anthony Howell, though, a very good-looking actor. Some fans even think that the casting swapped the roles and consider him more handsome than Tom Hollander who played Osborne in this production.
In the Phryne Fisher novels, Inspector Jack Robinson is a middle-aged man whose major physical trait is that he is instantly forgettable. In Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, he is ruggedly handsome. And Dot, who is described as plain, is quite cute.
While in all continuities of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina's two aunts are Really 700 Years Old, in the original comics they actually looked old and Hilda was lanky and mannish-looking while Zelda was overweight. They also dressed like stereotypical Halloween witches. The TV series made them both into slender, attractive women who look no older than early middle-age and wear fashionable modern clothes, a change that carried over to later comics. The animated series takes it even further by making them physically teenagers.note In the animated series they were cursed to remain teenagers for abusing magic. Their desire was to go back to being old and warty
From Dusk Till Dawn does this to the character of Richie Gecko, who was played by Quentin Tarantino in the original movie, but in the series he’s played by a former male model Zane Holtz.
Once Upon a Time does this with the Witches of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West in the book is a wrinkled hag with one eye - and her more famous film counterpart is hook-nosed and green-skinned. Here she's played by an attractive actress and the green skin is only a side effect of her jealousy. The character gets a Fan Service Pack and plenty of outfits with Absolute Cleavage. The Witch of the East's appearance is never described but she's usually portrayed as a hag, while the Witch of the North is an elderly woman - Glinda is the only witch described as agelessly beautiful. All are played by young pretty actresses.
Ursula too. Although in this continuity it's simply Regina impersonating her, her appearance is inspired by the movie. That Ursula is overweight, purple skinned and unpleasant. When Ursula is revealed to be real, both of them are much slimmer than the original character, with no purple skin either.
The Seven Dwarfs as well. In the Disney film, they're all short elderly men with long grey beards. Here they're all much younger and human-sized.
Maleficent is a green-skinned fairy with horns coming out of her head. Here she's an attractive human woman and the horns are just part of the headdress.
In Greek mythology, the Gorgons - Medusa and her two immortal sisters - are described as so ugly that people turned to stone from just looking at them. None of their depictions from Greek vase paintings to modern movies lives up to that image; however, in some cases Medusa actually looks classically beautiful apart from her snake-hair. There's normally conflicting myths about Medusa's appearance, some sources describing her as a hideous monster, others saying Aphrodite ironically made Medusa retain her mortal beauty and others offering a compromise where Medusa was both beautiful and terrible at the same time.
Sirens in their earliest incarnations were bird women. Most stories that feature them have them as beautiful mermaids.
Practically the poster-girl for this in comics, DC Comics character Amanda Waller is noticeably overweight, and tends to have her hair rather short, making her look rather...well...mannish. In Smallville, she is played by Pam Grier, and in the Green Lantern film, she's played by Angela Bassett. The comics revamped her in New 52 to be much younger and slimmer.
Lindsey Stirling uses this to an extent. In "Star Wars Medley" Lindsey is dressed as Leia, with the traditional long white dress and hair coils. However, her dress is fitted and she wears heels, unlike the original, making her much more attractive.
When the English language Vocaloids (Most using Stock Photos as box art) were released in Taiwan, their box arts were changed to be younger and anime style, and in the case of Sweet Ann, more attractive. This move was quite baffling in the case of Big Al, who was already an attractive anime style man to begin with.
In Lynn Rigg's play Green Grow the Lilacs, Ado Annie is described as "an unattractive, stupid-looking farm girl" wearing a "very unbecoming" dress. This description was not carried over into the script of Oklahoma!, the musical adaptation of Green Grow the Lilacs; it certainly didn't apply to Celeste Holm of the original cast, who practically qualified as Ms. Fanservice by the production's modest standards.
In Wicked, Elphaba is described as having a large nose and otherwise being, appearance-wise, sort of an acquired taste. In the musical version she's Hollywood Homely. Then again, not even green skin can make most of her actresses unattractive. Of course this is the point. People focus on the fact that she has green skin and miss the fact that she actually is beautiful.
In Phantom of the Opera, the original book has the Phantom (Erik) wearing a full mask, and his face behind the mask extremely grotesque. He is described as deformed. In the stage musical, the deformities are limited to half his face, and the portion of his face not covered by the half-mask is handsome. This was done because full face prosthetics inhibited the actor's singing. It also often makes the deformed side actually look worse in comparison- from a skull in the book to a handsome man who appears to be rotting on one side. The fact that his hair turns out to be a wig, and that he's bald except for a few ratty, diseased-looking wisps of gray hair even on the good side, also makes the deformity makeup pretty effective in the final scene.
In the Original Cast of Notre Dame De Paris, Quasimodo was played by the wonderfully babyfaced Garou.
A male example: in the Famicom version of the first Fire Emblem, Abel (the green-clad half of the Cain and Abel duo) was drawn with a buck tooth and shifty eyes, a huge contrast from Cain (who has a more typical bishonen look). When Abel returned in the Super Famicom remake/sequelFire Emblem: Mystery of the Crest, he became just as handsome as Cain.
Vincent's Limit Breaks underwent this treatment. Originally, they were supposed to be parodies of classic horror movie monsters: Vincent◊ himself resembles a vampire, Galian Beast◊ resembles a hideous, purple beast, Death Gigas◊ resembles Frankenstein's monster, Hellmasker◊ resembles various slasher-movie killers, and Chaos◊ resembles a winged demon. However, in Dirge of Cerberus, Galian Beast was changed to look much more like an oversized, humanoid dog. And Chaos was changed to look like a winged Vincent in bondage gear◊. Presumably, the other two limits were too absurd or ugly to be included in the game.
Not exactly this trope, but strongly related: In the western version of Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven, the female enemies with the horned samurai masks, manly chins, and messy hair are replaced by white-haired, gray-kimono'd versions of the cuter kunoichi enemies.
Pauline originally was a blonde girl with '80s Hair, and while she was pretty she looked quite (and understandably) distressed. By the Game Boy remake of Donkey Kong, she had been completely revamped.
Outright mocked in this video where The Wire is adapted into a musical. In the video Snoop, a female Blood Knight and ruthless enforcer who was accused of being a Butch Lesbian in the show and who generally acted and dressed like One of the Boys comes out dolled up and in a dress. She looks at herself and declares in disgust "Man, this some Cinderella bullshit man!"
Jane is a downplayed example and done pretty well, considering the source material. She's supposed to look rather plain. Her actress is attractive, but her appearance is not enhanced by make-up or beautiful clothes. She looks like a normal girl who can be good-looking if she tries. When Jane shoots her vlog, she can be goofy, dorky, happy, scared, exhausted, tearful, visibly upset, dishevelled or with a prim and proper bun; wrapped up in an unflattering jumper, wearing her pyjamas or an elegant black dress or really sexy outfits like skinny jeans.
Mr Rochester of the book is often described as downright ugly, though he's intelligent and has mysterious and brooding aura about him which makes him attractive. Mr Rochester in this version is quite handsome if slightly weird. He's not gorgeous as most Mr Rochesters in various adaptations, but other tropes like Troubled, but Cute successfully pump up his charms.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Everybody on this show is insanely attractive. Most characters were good-looking, beautiful or handsome in Pride and Prejudice as well, but Mary Bennet and Charlotte Lucas who are plain. They both look gorgeous in this web-series.
This occurs in Vaguely Recalling JoJo because the fan can't remember all of the details, and has to fill some in.
Enya gets transformed into a tall, beautiful woman after Polnareff massages her.
Terra◊ from Teen Titans. In the source comics she has buck teeth, short fluffy hair, and is otherwise a rather (while exaggerated) "normal" teenage girl. In the cartoon she's petite and has long hair. It's a bit hilarious though, since the cartoon's version of Terra is everything the original hates. Starfire is quite attractive in the comics, but suffered from a case of Uncanny Valley due to lacking pupils and had a major case of '80s Hair. In the cartoon she was updated, and she's since been updated in the comics themselves.
In the early BIONICLE movies, the animators took a number of liberties with the characters' appearances, making them look quite different to the toys. In Mask of Light, Gali's figure is less bulky and she now looks more like a Fem Bot. Pohatu is also considerably more handsome there than in his toy form.
In Legends of Metru Nui, they even went as far as giving Nokama what can only be described as a robo-cleavage. Seems unnecessary, after they had already turned her ugly toy-mug into a quite nice-looking, feminine face.
In Voltron, Hunk is fat and unremarkable and Pidge is a bit of a Gonk. In Voltron Force, they're both, well, much, MUCH more attractive.
Sally Acorn from the Sonic Sat AM television series is a slightly complicated case. See, the first game featured many cute animal critters rescued from defeated enemies, their names almost all ending in -cky. One of these characters was Ricky the Squirrel, who was given the moniker Sally Acorn (and a corresponding Gender Flip) in western promotional materials. Ricky/Sally looked mostly like a generic normal squirrel; some early promotional comics gave the latter a red or pink bow to offset this slightly, but that was about it. However, when it came time to make the TV series, Sally's design was completely redone, no longer bearing any resemblance to Ricky but instead being a relatively attractive Funny Animal. The comic book then arguably took it Up to Eleven; Depending on the Artist, she could either be fairly similar to her TV appearance, or have certain aspects exaggerated to make her an even more attractive, half dressedPetting Zoo Person.
While not particularly handsome, Professor Ivo lacks his traditional facial disfigurement in Young Justice. So while he still isn't much to look at, he certainly doesn't resemble some weird, mutated lizard creature like his comic counterpart.
Inverted in-universe 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.
Also 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.
In the Mega Man cartoon, Roll had a body of a fairly curvy young woman rather than the little girl she normally is in the franchise.
There's also Mega Man himself, and Proto Man.
In "The Real Ghostbusters'', Dr. Peter Venkman went from short, balding, middle-aged Bill Murray to...a thin, 20-something, lanky Hunk with a full head of hair. Janine, on the other hand, while quite pretty as portrayed by Annie Potts in the films, became a tall, curvy bombshell with a taste for short skirts, big jewelry, and brightly colored clothing. The "Realistic" versions of the 2009 video game decided to split the difference with Janine, by physically basing her on Annie Potts, while giving her clothing the same color scheme as the cartoon.
In Ewoks, a lot of characters were made cuter than in their appearances in Return of the Jedi and the female co-leads were introduced as new characters.
In the film, Wicket was notably shorter than all other young Ewoks (due to having been portrayed by a 11-year-old little person). In the animated series, they're all of the same height. He was also changed from being quite clumsy to being a skilled youngster.
In the film, Teebo was somewhat aggressive taller than all the other present Ewoks, wearing an animal skull on his head and a chain of teeth around his neck, his fur black with grey stripes. In the animated series, he sports brown and tan tuxedo patterned fur with blonde fringe and a goatee-like-thing and wears a baggy hat with a feather on his head. He has some magic powers by nature and appears to be shy. And then there was Character Exaggeration in the second season, making him completely different once again.
In the film, Paploo was a smart young Ewok who stole an Imperial speeder bike. In the animated series, he's larger and a couple of years older than his friends and, while he has some badass moments, his bravery is often played for laughs and getting him in trouble.
The Red Queen from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. 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).
The massively overweight and balding Cluemaster from The Batman is a far cry from the fit, head of hair Arthur Brown from the comics.
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 2004 animated series of Dragon Hunters, Gwidzo is presented as charismatic and moderately attractive. The 2008 film adaption portrays him as grimy and unpleasant, even having him describe himself as "mean and ugly" during a break down.
It should be noted that her look in SAC was based moreso off her original appearance in the manga, thus making the movie Motoko an inversion.
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 desperateness.
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 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).
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.
In the Super Mario Bros. Dic cartoons. Peach is still pretty, but not to the length of the games.
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 schlubby Bob Hoskins. The comic adaptation of the film returned him to a strikingly handsome young man.
Magneto from the X-Men films is not ugly by any means, he's considerably older than the character in the comics and much less physically imposing. While Magneto was a buff, chiselled, Pretty Boy in the comics, in the movie 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 and had to make him the realistic age of a Holocaust survivor.
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.
In the Fletch books, Fletch was a handsome, young, blond, extremely muscular man who could bed any woman he wanted. In the movies, he was played by a forty-something Chevy Chase. This may be an example of why Tropes Are Not Bad, since the novel was a fairly straightforward and uninspired noir potboiler, while the film was a comedy, and frankly much cleverer. Chevy Chase's appearance was probably much better suited to a comedic hero.
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 for some reason, and he's played by the rather schlubby-looking Saul Rubinek. Played appallingly straight, however, with the character of Caroline Heftshank: in the book, she's short, obese, and all-around unattractive. In the movie, she was played by Beth Broderick and looked like this◊.