Adaptational Attractiveness

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Gee whillikers! They're Sleeping Single, too!

"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 — or, in non-live action media, is drawn/animated in a similar manner. 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?

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.

Contrast Adaptational Ugliness.

Examples:

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    Art 
  • The painting Ulysses and the Sirens by Herbert James Draper, which shows a dramatic depiction of that event, portrays the Sirens as lovely temptresses, rather than the hideous bird-women they are in mythology. (The painting also shows them more aggressively trying to seduce the sailors; the ones in myth were never stated to leave the safety of their island while singing.)

    Fan Works 
  • One Discworld fanfic has the canonically overweight Agnes and her Split Personality Perdita separate into two slim, beautiful women.
  • A fanfic of Fire Emblem Fates titled A Brighter Dark did this for Corrin. While the canon appearance of Corrin wasn't exactly ugly, Corrin in the fanfic is much more sexually appealing to match her habits. Her stronger and more muscular build probably helped as well.
  • In the The Legend of Zelda franchise, in general:
    • Ganondorf goes from a scary-looking walking tank of a man to being much more handsome, if still imposing.
    • Dark/Shadow Link goes from a shadowy featureless thing with glowing red eyes to basically Link's normal appearance but with a black tunic.
    • The Gerudo lose the big pointy noses.
    • Fairies go from balls of light with wings or cartoonish sprites to beautiful tiny women.
      • The Great Fairies are a partial example: In Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask they were supposed to be beautiful women clad only in vines, but the limitations of the graphics and high-pitched voices put them squarely into the Uncanny Valley. No such limitations with fanart, though.
    • Even Epona frequently gets softened, going from a mighty horse to something more My Little Pony-esque.
    • Wolf Link from Twilight Princess similarly becomes significantly cuter than the game's beast of war who defeats Poes by ripping the souls out of them.

    Music 
  • Depictions of the late Ritchie Valens have a tendency to portray him as quite a bit more conventionally handsome than he was in real life. The real Valens certainly wasn't unattractive, but he had a noticeably broad face, and his plump cheeks gave him a rather babyish appearance. But if he appears on film, television or theatre, he's invariably played by a Tall, Dark and Handsome Latino actor with a much slimmer face (see La Bamba, the film and stage versions of The Buddy Holly Story, etc.). Valens' young age may be a factor in this: since he died at the age of 17, some people seem to picture him as a classic teenage heartthrob. In actuality, of course, he had a successful career because he was a gifted musician, not because of his looks.
  • 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 (Mmost 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.

    Myths & Religion 
  • 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.

    Pinballs 

    Theater 
  • 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 baby faced Garou.
  • In the movie The Fearless Vampire Killers, Count von Krolock was a sharp-dressed but otherwise plain aristocrat. In Tanz der Vampire, the musical adaptation, he became Mr. Fanservice extraordinaire. Getting played by a variety of handsome musical actors certainly helps.
  • In Big Fish, the Witch is depicted as a wizened old crone (played by a very heavily made-up Helena Bonham-Carter) who sees the future through her glass eye. Her counterpart in the Screen-to-Stage Adaptation is a much younger Perky Goth who uses a normal crystal ball that doesn't replace any part of her body. This Age Lift was likely done to enable her to outlive the protagonist and as such show up as one of the cameos at his funeral at the end.

    Visual Novels 
  • The main cast of love interests in Astoria: Fate's Kiss, excepting Hades, is made up of monsters from Classical Mythology such as Hydra, Cerberus, and Medusa. Here, however, they are depicted as attractive men and women who look fully human, with their traditional monstrous appearances relegated to the supernatural Auras that give them their powers as godly monsters.

    Webcomics 

Alternative Title(s): Added Adaptational Attractiveness

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