If a character is beautiful, then that character is a good person, either publicly or secretly. If a character is good, then that character will either be beautiful or be treated as beautiful.
Or to put it another way, every hero worth his salt must be physically attractive, or at the very least, better-looking than half of other people his or her age. This standard is more relaxed for side characters who can be truly ordinary-looking or even literal aliens, but expect the lead character to be pleasing to look at, even if he is the alien.
It almost goes without saying that this is very old; an attempt was even made in the 19th Century to quantify this attitude into the "science" of physiognomy, which posited a direct correlation between appearance and moral character.
This trope's influence is felt on many others:
In older works, may be a factor in Make Up Is Evil: only an evil character would have no natural beauty and so have to resort to paint.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife both subverts this and plays it painfully straight—unattractive men are shown to be good husband material, yet it still works on the assumption that because the wife is hot, that he was lucky in love even if nothing else is known about her.
Gundam examples (basic fact: since about Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam nearly all major characters were relatively beautiful unrelated to their alignment. Even the franchises' morally ambiguous masked men hardly ever were them to hide ugly scars and the like.
The most obvious subversion would be Dozle Zabi. While the ugliest of the Zabi family by far, he's also probably the nicest aside from Garma. His final act in the One Year War is to Hold the Line to buy time for his wife and daughter to get to safety.
Discussed in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: When OZ goes to apprehend Duo's space shuttle, Lady Une muses that they should kill the pilot if he's attractive but let him live if he's ugly. Her reason: they can use an ugly pilot as a scapegoat when they do bad stuff; but if the pilot is handsome, the people would be more likely to sympathize and follow him. Her orders, however, are just to kill him. In the actual series, everyone is attractive, so it's the same difference.
Bishōnen Rokudo Mukuro from Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, shown before to be a horrible, Manipulative Bastard with no regard for human life, is later given a few humanizing traits and is depicted as not being completely evil, with hints that he's just being stubborn with hiding that he doesn't really hate Tsuna anymore (most notably stated by Tsuna, who is convinced that he is, deep down, not such a bad person). He's still pretty darn evil, though.
In Bio-Meat: Nectar, the older and uglier you are, the more likely you will be a completely nasty person who gets eaten alive.
When the Rogue Titan makes its debut in Attack on Titan the audience immediately knows it to be different from the other titans as it not only saved Mikasa from being eaten, but possesses a far more toned and better proportioned body than the average titan.
Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z: When they first encounter each other, Blossom and Mojo Jojo get along just fine, and Blossom instructs Mojo on a good way to eat a sandwich cookie. However, when they both realize that one of them is beautiful and the other is ugly, they realize that they must be enemies, and they start fighting.
Played straight in Noblesse. Are you ugly? Get yourself a life insurance. Are you hot? Redemption road is right over there. Curiously, this does not apply to female characters who die anyway.
Played straight in Dance in the Vampire Bund. All the vampires can turn into a true form. Guess who's true form looks like a center fold with some strategically placed armor.
In the ballad "Zu Bacharach am Rheine" by the Romantic poet Clemens Brentano, the world is first introduced to Brentano's creation, the magic-wielding Loreley, who brought doom on whomever fell in love with her. The local bishop has her arraigned before his ecclesiastical court, but he cannot condemn her because she is so beautiful:
Der Bischof ließ sie laden
Vor geistliche Gewalt -
Und mußte sie begnaden,
So schön war ihr Gestalt.
Jack Kirby's Eternals are physical specimens of godlike perfection, while the Deviants are hideously mutated.
Subverted, as about half of the Eternals are jerks, while the Deviants aren't that evil. Played straight with Thanos of Titan, who is an eternal but had the latent Deviant gene. His brother is handsome and the demigod of love, while Thanos is monstrous, with purple skin, black eyes and a wrinkled chin and completely evil.
And Karkas, whom everyone acknowledges to be the most hideous Deviant, is a Defector from Decadence and one of the good guys.
X-Men is often pretty good about averting this by having heroes like the Beast who have really freakish mutations, or Wolverine (arguably the most famous of the X-Men) being depicted, both in the art and by the other characters, as a "short, square-built, hairy and smelly man". However, note that almost all of the "grotesque but benevolent" mutants in the X-canon are male. There's a definite double standard there. And they're still frequently drawn as being generically attractive.
Perhaps the biggest X-Men example is Marrow, a Morlock with the Lovecraftian Superpower of pulling her own bones out to use as weapons. She first appeared as a terrorist; she was distinctly unattractive, with random bones sticking out of her body and skin like a prune. When the decision was later made to revive the character as an X-Man, she inexplicably becomes a pouty-lipped babe with flawless skin. She did still have the bones sticking out, but later those went away too.
When Rogue originally appeared, she was A) a villain, and B) drawn to be very butch and homely. Nowadays...
In ElfQuest, the distinction between in-group (elves) and out-group (humans and trolls) has been striking from the get-go. Elves are the embodiment of otherworldly beauty, while Humans Are Ugly and idiosyncratic and trolls are bulbous and warty. While a few humans and the occasional troll are easy on the eyes, they are nothing compared to the elves — even evil elves, even genocidal elves, they're never ugly. See, humans are the enemy and trolls are untrustworthy, but "All elves are one". You can kill humans and trolls in self-defense, but Elves Don't Kill Elves no matter the provocation. Recent years have seen these principles change. More and more humans have been joining the list of allies, so the in-group/out-group distinction is weakening significantly. The "Elves Don't Kill Elves" prohibition has been broken on a few occasions and no longer elicits the agonizing guilt that Strongbow felt over Kureel (the first such killing). Now that Wendy Pini isn't [always] doing the art herself, certain artists draw humans all but indistinguishable from elves (which means as beautiful as elves). They look so similar that a human wearing ceremonial elf ears leaves you wondering, not about the ears, but if his thumb and four fingers are a mistake — a confusion that would never have been possible in the early books. The whole thing is at least mildly justified, anyway: elves are a different species from both humans and trolls, usually have access to healing magic that the latter don't, and their ancestors deliberately took forms that would appeal to humans in preparation for making contact (they just didn't count on getting thrown thousands of years backwards in time and losing most of their magic in the process). Word of God has it that the Wolfriders, the tribe who had to fight humans most often, even went out of their way to deliberately prevent or eliminate scars whenever possible in order to present a more formidable face to their enemies, who'd just have been encouraged by the notion that their weapons could actually leave marks on the 'forest spirits'.
Many Batmanvillains are deformed in some way - The Joker's skin is bleached white and he has a permanent smile, Two-Face is scarred down half of his body, Mr Freeze's skin is an unearthly white, Clayface is a giant goop monster, Killer Croc is reptilian in appearance, and the Penguin resembles his namesake animal. In fairness, though, most of the time these deformities are part of what caused them to become villainous in the first place, and there are a few better looking villains like Poison Ivy. (Oddly, those characters all seem to be female. Funny how that works.)
Tintin ("Tintin The Calculus Affair"). Tintin and Captain Haddock witness their friend Professor Calculus being carried off by mysterious figures, when another group ambushes them. When Haddock asks which side they should help, Tintin evokes this trope by telling him to hit the ugliest ones. Haddock is then confronted by two brawling mooks, each as ugly as the other. So he bangs their heads together. (As it turns out, the "rescuers" are trying to kidnap Calculus as well).
Dick Tracy villains are almost universally malformed and ugly. Prune Face is the most extreme example. The hero, by contrast, is a handsome square-jawed detective.
Played oh so straight for years on end with the family of Captain Marvel villain Dr. Sivana. Sivana himself could be kindly described as a stunted little troll with no hair and a face only a mother could love: evil. He has four kids. Georgia is her father, only female and with hair: evil. Thaddeus is his dad mark 2: evil. Magnificus apparently comes from a completely different family, with golden hair and absolutely no deformities: good. Beautia, winner of the All-Time Prize for Least Subtle Name, is absolutely stunning: good. Captain Marvel himself: physically Superman in red, and the hero.
Nancy Callahan in Sin City is the most noble and innocent character in the series and is described as the most beautiful.
One Doctor Who annual strip from the 1970s, "The Traitor", displayed a really literal example. The Human Alien civilisation in the story has 'a psyche that is their form' and anyone significantly hideous is invariably murderous, stupid and evil. The planet the Doctor has landed on is their form of an 'asylum', a planet where the suns give out a special radiation that allows these people to live normal lives. The Doctor cluelessly helps them off the planet, and when they're away in the spaceship they transform into horrible monsters - the Doctor then tricks them back into returning to the planet for their own good and cries about it in the final panel. It's pretty grim for a strip aimed at eight-year-olds.
In "The Blue Parrot", this is tweaked but ultimately played straight. The daughter of the swan fairy is shocked that the handsome portrait she had fallen in love with belongs to such a rude man — but they soon discover that he's an imposter. Rescuing the true king finds him both courteous and handsome.
Similarly in "The Colony of Cats" — the older cats rebuke the kittens, saying that all the servants can't be pretty, but Peppina proves to be as bad as she is ugly, where Lizina was pretty and good.
Knowledge is Power: Many words are spent on how ugly the antagonists are (as well as how beautiful the male protagonists' wives and girlfriends are). Notably, Millicent's shift from rapist to love interest (in a "Humour/Romance" fic!) is accompanied by her working out and losing weight.
Pokeumans: Asula the Milotic, regarded as the most beautiful Pokemon species, serves as the Big Good of the story.
In Epic the Boggans are ugly, and the animals they use as mounts (bats, crows and a star-nosed mole) are ones that are generally disliked by humans. Whereas the Leafmen are all good-looking, and ride hummingbirds.
Cars 2 actually both plays this straight and inverts this: The good guys are a shiny American racecar, a pair of shiny British spy cars, and a rusty American tow truck, while the bad guys are all mean, beaten-up Lemons, led by a malfunctioning British SUV posing as an electric car.
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride features a rare, justified version of this trope. The Outsider lions are scraggly and have duller, scruffier coats. But that's because they were living in a barren wasteland and likely had poor diets, so naturally they were going to be leaner and their coats would be less bright. By the end, the outsider lions come to live in the pridelands and they have the same body build as the rest of the prideland lions.
Cinderella 3D The titular and good Cinderella is the most beautiful of all the characters, whereas the step mother and her daughters are as ugly inside as they look.
Films — Live-Action
Made explicit in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Clint Eastwood's character is, at best, a cold-blooded antihero and con artist, but because he is the most handsome he is "The Good." The other characters fuss over his good looks, particularly his beautiful blond hair. Lee Van Cleef's trademark was his crooked, hawkish nose. Early in his career many suggested that without plastic surgery he would be typecast as a villain (which he was). In the film he plays a ruthless hitman and is "The Bad." (despite in the other Sergio Leone film For a Few Dollars More, Van Cleef played the hero who bests Eastwood and the villain). Eli Wallach had the misfortune of being Hollywood Pudgy and so was cast as "The Ugly." The movie went so far as to actually show us their labels with on-screen text, just so there would be no confusion. There was at least one subversion, though, in the villain being called "Angel Eyes".
The Star Wars franchise has Luke Skywalker as this trope. Besides being handsome, his blond hair and blue eyes certainly helps.
In The Wizard of Oz, the Good Witches are pretty, and the Wicked Witches are ugly. Glinda says straight up that "Only bad witches are ugly". (This sentiment is deconstructed and subverted by Wicked.)
In Glinda's defense Dorothy is pretty young, so she may have been under the impression that Dorothy was a kind of witch in training of sorts.
Also, she never said that all bad witches are ugly; only that only bad witches are ugly.
The Witch of the West was originally going to be played by the beautiful Gale Sondergaard. She was replaced with the considerably less attractive Margaret Hamilton. Though many consider Hamilton's version Evil Is Sexy.
Conversed and played completely straight in the sequel to Zenon. When the aliens finally show up at the end, they are Energy Beings who travel in a butterfly/manta ray style space ship that shifts between pastel, Easter egg colors of pink, blue, yellow, etc. When a character asks if these aliens might be hostile, Zenon replies, with no irony and a completely straight face, "Nobody could have a ship that beautiful and be evil." She was right, they were good aliens who saved their lives and repaired the space station.
At the start of Unbreakable, Samuel L. Jackson describes a comic cover in art-critic detail, commenting on the villain's inhumanely big head. At the end of the movie, he reveals to the hero that he was always meant to be the villain because of his brittle bones. "They called me 'Mr. Glass'"
This trope is always so much fun to observe whenever Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots pop up. If the story is focusing on Mary, she will be rather pretty, whilst Elizabeth will look like an ugly old hag. But if it's Elizabeth in the spotlight, she's always portrayed as having far more grace and beauty, whilst Mary is transformed into a woman whose bitterness is shown quite clearly on her plain (if she's lucky) face. Expect the ugly one to have crows' feet, and any ugly Elizabeth will have hair exactly the wrong shade of red and far too much white makeup on. The irony of this is that both Elizabeth and Mary would have been seen as absolutely freaking gorgeous in our time at age twenty-five - they both resembled Nicole Kidman in face and in body. Neither of them aged as well, but what can you expect in the 16th century?
This comes in three layers in The Tale of Despereaux. The cute mouse and porcelain-skinned princess are good, the plain but not hideous Mig and Rascuro are susceptible to evil urges, and the ugly other rats are Always Chaotic Evil. Although the movie does state that the princess was partly at fault, for being rude to Mig and flat-out screaming at Rascuro when he tries to apologize.
Kind of an interesting play on this in Inglourious Basterds; the more sympathetic Germans (especially Bridget, who's a spy for the British) are also more attractive, while the more evil Germans are decidedly unattractive.
In I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, anyone who disagrees with gay marriage (or homosexuality in general) is noticeably unattractive. Watch again and you'll see. Characters who are borderline attractive are also on the fence regarding gay rights, and invariably back up the titular couple in the end. Obviously, this isn't so much "good and evil" as it is "backing up our message with visual cues," but still.
Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland plays this trope straight. Alice is gorgeous and the White Queen is pretty as well, whereas the Red Queen is very strange-looking. But it also seriously subverts it with the Mad Hatter and the Bandersnatch. And also Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle-Dum, and the March Hare. It's also worth pointing out that the Red Queen herself is aware of this trope, telling her sister at one point that she can't get her way for once just by blinking her "pretty eyes".
Played straight in the film version of Matilda. All the evil characters are either unattractive or just average, whereas Matilda's heaven-sent teacher Miss Honey is probably the only good looking person in the movie. Not counting the cute little innocent kids, that is. This gets a bit silly when the tackily-made-up, unattractively-voiced Mrs. Wormwood starts lecturing Miss Honey about the merits of books versus looks. That's how it was in the book as well. If anything, the drawings of Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood were uglier than their live action counterparts (Mr. Wormwood looked a bit like a rodent and Mrs. Wormwood is described as being plump, with obviously-dyed hair and a "suet-pudding" face).
Played very straight in Solomon Kane, where Kane in the start is ragged and crazy-looking with his messy beard and hair, and his crazy Large Ham expressions, but after doing Heel-Face Turn he smoothes out his facial hair and becomes ruggedly handsome. Likewise, when The Dragon recruits warriors, he does some kind of demonic possession-thing where the recruits receive horrible scars, black eyes and bad teeth, all which go away when they die. Oh, and The Dragon himself is horribly scarred under his mask, and the Big Bad invokes Two-Faced appearance with his tattoos.
In Oz: The Great and Powerful, all three witches appear beautiful at first. Her stunning appearance is what convinces Oz that Glinda is good, though given his The Casanova character, it's not perhaps astounding that a pretty face turns his head.
In Jaqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy, we are sympathetic (politically) towards the D'Angeline people, who are all beautiful. That is not to say that there aren't D'Angeline villains, and non-D'Angeline heroes, but for the most part, this fits into the trope. More often than not, Non-D'Angeline characters of importance are either attractive or 'skilled' enough for their heritage to not matter.
In all this ancient and mysterious history, the most mysterious figures of all were without a doubt the Great Circling poets of Arium. These Circling Poets used to live in remote mountain passes where they would lie in wait for small bands of unwary travelers, circle around them, and throw rocks at them.
And when the travelers cried out, saying why didn't they go away and get on with writing some poems instead of pestering people with all this rock-throwing business, they would suddenly stop, and then break into one of the seven hundred and ninety-four great Song Cycles of Vassillian. These songs were all of extraordinary beauty, and more extraordinary length, and all fell into exactly the same pattern.
The first part of each song would tell how there once went forth from the City of Vassillian a party of five sage princes with four horses. The princes, who are of course brave, noble and wise, travel widely in distant lands, fight giant ogres, pursue exotic philosophies, take tea with weird gods and rescue beautiful monsters from ravening princesses before finally announcing that they have achieved enlightenment and that their wanderings are therefore accomplished.
The second, and much longer, part of each song would then tell of all their bickerings about which one of them is going to have to walk back.
In the Earth's Children series by Jean Auel, Ayla is considered hideous by her Neanderthal foster family. She is described as being tall, muscular, blond, and blue-eyed - stereotypically lovely - but she suffers from her adoptive Neanderthal family treating her as ugly throughout Clan of the Cave Bear. It isn't until the second book, after she is exiled from her clan, that she runs into someone who looks like her and treats her as if she's beautiful.
Played almost laughably straight with Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter, whose beauty the narrator goes into ridiculous amounts of detail describing. On the opposite side, her neglectful and vengeful husband has mildly deformed shoulders and becomes more malevolent-looking as the book goes on. A bit of a subversion exists, though, in that the main narrative thrust of the book centers around the fact that Hester is a sinner and an adulteress, and how she suffers for her actions; it's somewhat debatable as to just how much sympathy Nathaniel Hawthorne has for his character. This applies even more straightly to Hester's daughter (who is even named Pearl), though, as among other things Hawthorne drives home the fact (with a piledriver) that the sins of the parents do not apply to the innocent children. And in the mid-19th century, some people really needed to be told that, to be honest.
In J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth world, this trope shows up most prominently with the Elves and the Orcs. The Elves are especially fair while the Orcs are especially ugly. In their case, Elves are created to be especially fair among the children of Ilúvatar - "elven-fair" is a descriptor indicating great beauty. The Orcs are ugly due to the malicious corruption of the first Dark Lord Morgoth - they came into being through his twisting and corrupting of Elves. For Men, heroes like Aragorn and Túrin follow this trope, their looks even being compared to those of Elves. Hobbits and Dwarves tend to be plain looking, if not ugly - but Frodo is fairer than most other hobbits.
On the other hand, the trope is also subverted through elements like the Druédain or Wild Men, who are ugly compared to other Men but firmly aligned with good. They remain so for thousands of years while most of the Númenoreans, the most Elf-like of Men (specifically blessed by Ilúvatar to be so) are corrupted by Sauron - who himself had a fair physical form before the events of The Lord of the Rings. While Frodo may follow this trope, Sam is not especially handsome. Hobbits generally look "good-natured rather than beautiful".
An example who was once a subversion: To the vast surprise of most people, Lancelot in Le Morte d'Arthur and other early Arthurian works is not the handsome "Prince Charming" figure he tends to be portrayed as in modern media, but a stocky, barrel-chested walking meat wall who is notably plain in appearance. (He's also a mentally unstable berserker given to complete psychotic breakdowns at the drop of a hat. Naturally, since John Cleese is an Arthurian scholar, Monty Python and the Holy Grail got him completely right.)
T.H. White takes this even further in The Ill-Made Knight, the third volume of The Once and Future King, and makes his version of Lancelot extraordinarily ugly, so much so that he is said to resemble an ape.
Further subverted The Once and Future King series with Elaine. She starts off as being young and beautiful, but becomes plump and reclusive from society when Lancelot abandons her. The narrator even mentions that she did the "wrong thing", and ought to have turned "thin and interesting" as Guenevere would have done in that situation. Elaine is still portrayed very sympathetically (even if she does trick Lancelot into sleeping with heragain)
Bernard Cornwell's The Warlord Chronicles retained the good-looking "Prince Charming" Lancelot and then thoroughly subverted it, turning him into a cowardly, snivelling, petulant bastard with no redeeming features whatsoever. He didn't even have the good grace to be magnificent about it. One could argue in fact that Lancelot is the major villain of the series- he's certainly one of the least likable characters.
The series Twilight is especially notorious for this trope, seeing as Bella's narration does nothing but describe other characters' physical appearances and how wonderful or horrible it makes them as a being, depending on how they look. She primarily judges people based on their looks, so you can tell how important and "nice" a character's going to be based on how Bella finds them attractive. The only exception to this rule is Rosalie, who's depicted as shallow and vain, but that's just Meyer expressing her blonde-female hate.
As an even more subtle example, James (the Big Bad of the first book) is described more than once as extremely plain, as compared to the Cullens' inhuman beauty. The reason? Meyer has said that he was a total gonk as a human, and only the powerful beautifying nature of vampirism turned him barely average. On the flipside, all the Cullens (the good guys) were already gorgeous before they were turned, and just got hotter as vamps.
Bella never gets over her prejudice for looks. In Breaking Dawn, an Amazonian vampire vows to protect the Cullens against an invasion and offers to train Bella to fight and use her superpowers. Bella's response is to never feel comfortable around the woman because her "wild" looks "scared me to death". The Amazonians ultimately prove loyal, but Bella never apologizes or admits that she was wrong.
Bella's prejudice towards those she doesn't think are good-looking goes to such an extent that she treats those she doesn't find attractive with utter contempt, even if they're being friendly to her, but if a good-looking person does questionable things to her, she doesn't mind at all. She actually thinks that a person's physical beauty makes up for any of their flaws, and shows far more respect to the beautiful Cullens than to her own father. When Edward admits to watching her sleep every night, Bella thinks it's very sweet of him. If he was any less attractive, she would have had him arrested.
The only human person she considers "helpful" instead of "annoying" in the first book is Mike, who acts exactly like everyone else except he's the cute jock versus the eccentric and the nerd. Even when dismissively comparing him to a dog, Bella still thinks that Mike is "easy to like" and attractive, while Eric is "oily" and "overly-helpful" and Tyler merits no special attention at all, except to say that he's irritating (he nearly killed Bella once, when he lost control of his truck, and desperately wants to make amends to her; but Bella dismisses him as a nuisance).
Also Lauren, who is nasty to Bella out of pure jealousy and described as having "fishy" eyes and a "nasal" voice. Or when Bella first sees Bree the newborn vampire and her first thought is to determine if Bree is attractive or not. It's not limited to Bella either - the final chapter of Eclipse that is told from Jacob's point of view has him reflecting that he once thought Leah was attractive but now he finds her repulsive ever since she got all upset over Sam dumping her for Emily.
Tellingly, Lauren is only described unflatteringly after she makes it clear she dislikes Bella - the description of her voice as "nasal" takes place while she's mocking Bella, and most of the negative comments about her appearance are during a passive-aggressive verbal spar the two are having.
It is made clear that Edward is gorgeous-looking very early in the book. It is also made clear that he's perfect: irresistible voice, super senses, many supernatural abilities, etc. Stephenie Meyer describes his dazzling beauty and perfection to the reader over and over again until it feels like listening to Kaepora Gaebora.
In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice the first thing characters note about one another is how physically attractive a person is. Considering the original title of the book was First Impressions...
Jane Bennet, who is considered to be the most beautiful women in the neighborhood, has a 'good' personality, such as being sweet, kind, patient, and understanding and always sees the best in people.
This turns out to be the case with Astrid in Eight Days of Luke, who's described as "quite pretty" from the outset even while she's being lumped in with protagonist David's other uncaring relatives. As the plot unfolds, Astrid comes to realize how poorly she's treated David, and she eventually becomes his loving guardian and friend, while their unattractive relatives are revealed to be outright evil.
The Phantom of the Opera. The adaptations have various takes on Erik's deformity. He still is evil, though. Though it's made explicitly clear that he became evil and insane because people shunned him for his appearance, instead of appreciating him for his considerable genius. Erik originally became evil because, with his deformity, people assumed this trope, and...well, it's very hard to turn out good if everybody insists you're evil from the moment you're born.
This trope is believed by the fairies in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and the person he's specifically applying it to is indeed good. But otherwise the trope isn't particularly in play.
Partly lampshaded, partly averted in The Man Of Feeling by Henry Mackenzie, where many times, instead of giving the reader a physical description of characters, Mackenzie simply has the main character Harley employ his knowledge of "physiognomy" (the science of determining personality by someone's appearance), and goes straight for the moral judgement.
Very common in The House of Night. When Stevie Rae died and then un-died she was repulsive and smelt really bad. When the ritual to give her and the other Red Fledglings back their humanity was complete, they were all pretty again. Also the Bull of Light, which is black is described as "deep, mysterious and beautiful to behold". Compared to the Bull of Darkness, which is white and is described as "a nightmare come alive."
It gets worse. For example, Elliot is probably the only fledgling in the entire series who is not super gorgeous, being described as fat, pasty, freckled with nappy carrot red hair. Of course, being Ho N, this means he's also supposedly annoying, lazy, and stupid, and in his first appearance a teacher berates him for not being special and unique like every other male vampire, and this is never shown as a problem. And just when you think the book can't be any more horrible to Elliot, when he starts coughing in class, a sign that everyone including the MC Zoey knows to mean death is imminent for a fledgling, all she can think of is how he's being annoying and should ugh, just get a cough drop already! When he finally does die, all Zoey can say about him is that it's not sad that he died, it's sad that no one liked him. In his subsequent appearances as a Red Fledgling, Zoey doesn't even refer to him as a person like she does the others, instead referring to him as "That horrid Elliot creature."
Any old person of significance that is on the side of good, like Grandma Redbird or Mary Angela, are strangely bereft of wrinkles for people their age.
Kalona is stated to be a serial rapist demon god who will supposedly destroy the world, but Zoey thinks he can change. Why? Because he's the most beautiful guy EVAR. In Destined, Kalona pulls a Heel-Face Turn.
The Raven Mockers are half human, half raven monstrosities, but Rephaim, when he falls in love with Stevie Rae and becomes good, its revealed he can become an extremely hot human if he wants.
The cats aren't even immune. Of course Zoey's cat Nala is cute and Likable, while Aphrodite's cat is horrible and mean, and the only cat described as being ugly in the books. She's named Maleficent if it isn't obvious already that she's horrible.
Zoey's stepdad, a Straw Fundamentalist religious fanatic is described as having thinning hair, Chicken legs and horrible fashion sense. He's portrayed as a cartoonishly closed minded bigot who berates anyone for the smallest of differences, cheats on his wife, and drinks beer even though he says he doesn't. Other women in the Peopls of Faith, the stereotypical religious fanatic group he's an elder for, are described as fat, balding and beady eyed with pedophile husbands.
Subverted in The Pale King with Meredith, who becomes a vain, neurotic mess if you let her talk about her problems long enough.
Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Played straight as an arrow! Check this out for proof. The bad guys are mostly ugly as sin to start with or beautiful in a fake way but become ugly by the end. Of course, Lizzie Fox's marriage with Cosmo Cricket cheerfully goes into Ugly Guy, Hot Wife territory.
A short story by Dick King-Smith might count as an inversion where the protagonist is a male fairy and is ridiculed by all the others except one who is described as "not very pretty but had a kind face". At the end when said fairy is kind to him he realises how beautiful she actually is, suggesting that maybe goodness equals beauty.
Played with all over the damn place in the Sword of Truth. The list of hot evil chicks and handsome evil dudes is about as long as their good counterparts. In fact, its implied that their good looks helped them on the road to be big enough bads to seriously break things.
At first she wondered if he could be a fugitive from justice—the perpetrator of some horrid crime, who dared not divulge his true name even in the remote fastness of a Bornean wilderness; but a glance at his frank and noble countenance drove every vestige of the traitorous thought from her mind. Her woman's intuition was sufficient guarantee of the nobility of his character.
Played straight and inverted in Inheritance Cycle. On the one hand, a lot of the protagonists are described as attractive, especially the elves. On the other hand, said elves can and do use magic to shape their own bodies. One character says something to the effect of every elf looking exactly like they want, and some are described as terrifying and animalistic. Not to mention that some of the elves, like Vanir, may be on the protagonist's side, but hardly embody "good".
In keeping with the interested study of good versus bad, competent versus incompetent, and the hilarious world of deadly political machinations, The Wheel of Time has the important characters as beautiful more often than good or evil per se. Some of the more attractive characters are important in part because of how they use their looks to get ahead, such as Berelain using her sexuality to help play the neighboring rulers off of each other.
Every single one of Danielle Steel's protagonists is stunningly gorgeous or handsome, without any extra effort or help needed, and if they're over forty, it's frequently mentioned that they look much younger than they are. The closest she's come to an unattractive heroine is the Hollywood Pudgy title character of the novel "Big Girl". The beauty is just the tip of the iceberg, as most of them border on Purity Sue—intelligent, hard-working, etc. Any "flaws" only serve to make them more endearing and appealing.
In "Prince Charming", this seems to be true of Vasilisa, though Prince Dmitriv and the other courtiers can hardly believe it. Only because they are cynical, though.
All of the protagonists of The Last Dragon Chronicles are described as - at the very least - good-looking at some point. Then, most bad guys are ugly as road kill. AND THEN you have everyone who got infected by the Shadow - horribly deformed. But they're back to being pretty after it's gone.
Hilary: Heaven is this place where everyone is beautiful. And hell is, like, The Valley.
Perhaps surprisingly, given its self-awareness, Buffy the Vampire Slayer often falls victim to this trope. Apart from the Slayers themselves (who are all stunning), all the other major good guy characters are attractive, even Hollywood Homely Willow, while the demons are usually hideous. True, there are somegood looking villains, (Spike, Angelus, Faith, etc.), but most of these characters were either very minor or ended up performing a Heel-Face Turn, or ended up looking really, really monstrous. Glory is the only good-looking seasonal Big Bad who was presented entirely without sympathy. (Although The First, able to look like anyone it wants to as long as it's dead and given to appearing like Buffy, might count.) And, of course, Willow was recast from the pilot to be cuter. The original tends to be known on the Internet as "Fat Willow", with forum posters complaining about how the show would have been ruined...
While everyone on Supernatural is ridiculously pretty, this trope was directly referenced in the episode Folsom Prison Blues, in which Dean and Sam are thrown in jail. While their female lawyer keeps hearing that Dean's a monster, she changes her mind completely and helps them out when he uses his looks to convince her he's innocent.
May or may not have been intentional with Charmed. Piper, Phoebe, Paige, and Prue are all gorgeous women. Although their enemies in the first season were commonly monstrous looking, and when they began to look like ordinary humans, they were usually greasy and dirty looking, as if they'd been living in a cave.
Although quite subverted with the evil Zankou, who is implied to have had a relationship with the stunning Seer, Kyra.
Heroes is a pretty big offender. You can always tell the new character is a good guy if they look like a model. Sylar and Adan Monroe are the only exceptions.
Played uncomfortably straight with the Cylons—the good (or at least sympathetic) Cylons are played by attractive young actors and actresses (Six, Boomer/Athena, D'Anna, Anders, Chief Tyrol), the more morally doubtful (Leoben, Tigh) are older and less conventionally attractive, and the outright evil (Cavil) is the ugliest and oldest of the lot. Then again, Tory is both young and attractive and also morally doubtful, and her actions have resulted in her seeming far less sympathetic. And given D'Anna was willing even in her last (S4) appearance to wipe out humanity even after they helped resurrect her she probably deserves to be in the morally doubtful region along with Tory.
The (only) perfectly upstanding character, Karl Agathon, is named after this trope (see "Kalos kai Agathos" above).
None of the Doctors of Doctor Who were victims of savage beatings with the ugly stick (or at least not for long), but most of them are or were unconventionally handsome. Most subversive is Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor), who was not what you'd call the most traditionally handsome of men, yet was easily the most popular and well-recognised of the Doctors in the classic series (though that second is partly longevity). The companions, however, are almost invariably traditionally beautiful, with their beauty often being the main indication that the Doctor is going to pick them up.
The more conventionally handsome Doctors (Fifth, Eighth, Tenth and Eleventh) tend to be the more 'human' in outlook, with the odder-looking ones tending towards being either more prickly (First, Third, Ninth) or more psychologically alien (Second, Fourth, Seventh). The one glaring exception is Six, who starts out conventionally handsome and a very abrasive, alien Jerkass, and then becomes nicer but gains a lot of weight. Note also that being a more human Doctor does not mean that those Doctors are nicer at all - both the Fifth and Tenth seem sweet but are particularly judgemental and ruthless compared to the far more forgiving, but harder to handle socially, Second and Fourth. And note also that the odder-looking ones can still be charming and sexy, notably the Third (a not amazing-looking old man with a really large nose who nevertheless was played as a bit of a sex object).
Played with with the Eleventh Doctor, who has an unusual sort of face that looks extremely handsome from certain angles, and extremely ugly with other ones - Steven Moffat said he looks like "a caricature of a handsome man". The camera crew exploit this, making him look handsome when he's being noble and kind, and ugly when he's being frightening and weird.
Also played with by the Sixth Doctor, who (at the beginning of his tenure, anyway) is probably the most conventionally attractive of the classic Doctors, and is initially alarmed, then pleased by how good-looking he suddenly is, doing a lot of Showing Off the New Body. Unfortunately, he's also a tasteless Insufferable Genius egomaniac and one of the most bastardly of all the Doctors thus far, especially in contrast to his incredibly sweet and human previous self. As he gets nicer, he gains weight, ages and gets worse hair.
Though there is a subversion — The Master's not a bad-looking guy in most of his incarnations; Delgado and Ainley are both sort of suave older men and Simm is more conventionally attractive.
The "monsters" are generally unattractive by human standards, but it's often subverted with the revelation that they're not really that monstrous. Some of them are capital-E-Evil, but some have Blue and Orange Morality, some of them are Well Intentioned Extremists, and some of them are actually the good guys.
Played painfully straight in the first Dalek serial, "The Daleks". The two races on Skaro are the Daleks, a Little Green Man in a Can species with Robo Speak voices whose mutated form is never shown aside from the reactions of the people who see it, and the Thals, an Inhumanly Beautiful Race who are all blond-haired and tall. While the Thals initially attempt to give medicine to the crew and the Daleks imprison them out of paranoia, it's notable that the Daleks aren't really all that bad in their first story, as the viewer is assumed to want to side with the beautiful Thals over them on sight. The Daleks also soon got Flanderized into full-on space-racists with no sympathetic qualities at all. When Doctor Who's writing improved and the Thals-versus-Daleks dynamic became The Relic, "Genesis of the Daleks" showed the Daleks as the genetically brain-damaged followers of an evil mad scientist, and Deconstructed the Thals' supposed pacifism and their patriarchal, beauty-fetishising culture, showing them mistreating Sarah Jane because of her sex and putting anyone visibly deformed from chemical weapons as a subhuman slave caste.
Zigzagged in the William Hartnell-era story "The Rescue". The TARDIS lands, Barbara and Ian go out to investigate, and an insect-like, googly-eyed monster, named Coquillion, attacks Barbara. When Ian returns to the Doctor, the Doctor reveals he's been on this planet before, and the natives are a very nice species who live in isolated, egalitarian and cooperative social groups of about a hundred and have nothing to gain from becoming violent, and refuses to accept the terrifying appearance Ian claims Coquillion had as evidence he would ever kill anyone. However, the Doctor and Ian get trapped in a cave with a different, lizardlike monster while investigating, and assume it's going to eat them. Later, Barbara (who survived) shoots the monster from the cave because she thinks it was attacking an orphaned human girl, but it turns out that it was a herbivorous creature that she treated like a pet. At the end of the story, however, the Doctor corners Coquillion and reveals that what we assumed was his face was actually ceremonial dress used in his people's religious rituals, being worn by a human man who claims to have committed genocide against the natives of the planet. The man is then attacked by two natives who survived his genocide, and we see that they are actually beautiful blond men similar to Thals.
The First Doctor story "Galaxy Four" defies this with the Drahvins and the Rills. The Drahvins are a militaristic, nearly all female race of would-be conquerors who enforce a Fantastic Caste System and are also all blonde and beautiful. The Rills are Starfish Aliens who make it a point to hide their appearance because they're perfectly aware other races find them terrifying, but are perfectly willing to help the Drahvins leave the planet they are both stranded on once they get their repairs done. The Drahvin leader, Maaga, cannot help but suspect treachery and spends the serial plotting to steal their ship rather than share it.
Even so, "Galaxy 4" still partially plays it straight - the first indication that the Chumblies aren't as hostile as they appear is that they are super cute, with Vicki remarking on it.
Combined with a Spoiler Title, this rather ruins "The Robots of Death", a Locked Room Mystery where it becomes impossible for the viewer to not spend all their time waiting for the robots (which are quite beautiful thanks to good production values and an art-deco aesthetic, but are obviously non-human and invoke the Uncanny Valley in universe) to start killing people. Fortunately, the story is a lot more complicated than that.
Played straight in the American version of The Office: you can roughly approximate how much of a Butt Monkey each character is by how young and attractive they are, with Pam and Jim being the only characters who are not played up as buffoons, get tons of screen time, and end up being shipped together.
Averted and called out by one episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, where a creature so horribly ugly it drove you insane turned out to be the good guy. Played straight the rest of the time: Klingons are all rough and rugged, evil Spock has a beard, every girl Kirk falls in love with is horribly attractive, etc.
This is especially evident in the TNG Klingons. The evil or unpleasant ones, such as the Duras sisters, are hideous, while Worf is much more attractive. This might, however, have something to do with the fact that his adoptive parents introduced him to the wonderful human invention known as a comb.
Maybe a bit subverted with TNA Wrestling's Knockouts division; everyone is pretty (in some way), regardless of whether they are good or bad. Even Awesome Kong, the big bad black Japanese wrestler, became a babyface and fan favorite.
Kelly Kelly is one of the few WWE Divas to never undergo a Face-Heel Turn, or to have been a heel in the first place. This was probably because she was one of the prettiest Divas ever, and (it was assumed) no one would have ever believed her as a heel. Word Of God is Kelly was going to undergo a Face Heel Turn in 2011, as it would be revealed she was secretly working with Kharma. This would have led to Kelly becoming Divas Champion, with Kharma acting as her muscle (similar to when Sable had Nicole Bass in 1999). After Kharma got pregnant in real life, WWE kept Kelly face and went forward with her becoming Divas Champion, but the majority of fans never bought that she was really that good in the ring.
Myths & Religion
The assertion that 'beautiful is better' is very prominent in Greek/Roman Mythology. Most gods and goddesses are described as possessing a beauty so transcendently beautiful that they can't even be looked upon with mortal eyes. Hephaeustus — god of blacksmiths, craftsmen and artisans — was said to have been thrown from Mt. Olympus because his mother, Hera, was ashamed of having an ugly child. Most of Zeus’s and Apollo’s philandering was often caused by them falling head over heels at the first attractive person that they saw. In fact, the famous Trojan War was set off both because Paris thought that having the most beautiful woman from the goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, was a better option than being freakin' king of half of the world or genius of warfare offered by Hera and Athena. In the Classical view, beauty isn't just in the eye of the beholder, it's an objective reality that even divinity doesn't ignore.
The goddess Sune of the Forgotten Realms seems to wholeheartedly buy into this trope. Supposedly the goddess of love, she's also the goddess of beauty, and earlier editions had game mechanic rules stating that her clergy had to satisfy a minimum level of physical attractiveness (as measured by the charisma stat) in order to serve. Apparently Sune thinks that only beautiful people deserve love, even though Word of God is that she's Chaotic Good.
To the contrary — Sune's dogma is to promote beauty and love even among the ugly. The vanity and prejudice is chiefly the result of her clergy's collective vanity refusing to train clerics who were unattractive; a cleric could independently venerate Sune and receive clerical abilities even if he/she had low charisma. He/she just wouldn't find a welcome in the church.
The Hero System games, most notably Champions, postulate that the average man on the street has stats of 8 in all categories, including physical appearance. Player Character on the other hand get a 10 in each category, because they are the heroes. So your "average hero" is notably better looking than a regular schmoe. The stat that reflects your good looks is also by far the easiest one to buy up, so most heroes end up having supermodel good looks because there is very little downside to it.
Dungeons & Dragons' Fourth Edition removed or uglied up every attractive monster in the game. (Dryads? Now look like small Treants with breasts. Yes, trees with breasts. Nymphs? Added in Monster Manual 3.)
More Dungeons & Dragons: Orcs, goblins, trolls, ogres, and other "savage" humanoids are bestial in appearance and almost always portrayed as always evil in official game material and most campaigns. Of course, individual DMs may portray them however they want, and there's nothing stopping you from running a game with a tribe of noble, heroic orcs.
Taken Up to Eleven in Magic: The Gathering by the elves of Lorwyn. Beauty determines status in their society, with the most beautiful known as "perfects". They also hunt down and kill anyone they consider too ugly to live. And then there's her, an assassin whose goal is apparently to cut your face, because that's as bad as killing you.
In Rocketmen the good guys are the Rebels who are allied with Mercury, and Venus who both have a matriarchal society some pretty female characters, while the bad guys the Legion of Terra are allied with Mars who are a race of green skin space gorillas.
Older Than Steam: William Shakespeare's Richard III. While the real Richard may have had a slightly deformed spine and was noted for ruthlessness against political foes, everyone remembers Richard from Shakespeare's play, a hunchbacked, deformed villain who commits numerous brutal murders during the play, leading up to the time when the attractive and competent and morally pure Henry Tudor can finally deliver Karmic Justice to Richard at Bosworth Field. It is worth noting that not all of this was potentially Shakespeare's own idea — the regime in power at the time were the direct descendants (as in the granddaughter of) Henry Tudor, and wouldn't have been too chuffed at seeing anything that even remotely painted Richard III or the rest of the House of York in a good light.
Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell; Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace, Yet grace must still look so.
A lot of LEGO themes are like this, with Agents probably being the worst offender in that the vast majority of the villains are disfigured, cyborgs, or both. The Adventurers' Baron von Baron/Sam Sinister is a stereotypical Nazi officer with a monocle, handlebar mustache, Dueling Scar, and hookhand, while the only other Adventurers villain who could be considered attractive in the conventional sense is Alexis Sanister. Ogel, of Alpha Team, has some kind of red glass eye, and of course a hook, while his Mooks are skeletons. The Evil Wizard from the Castle sets has the same face as Ogel, so that's another one. The Bulls of Knight's Kingdom have are scarred, clad in rusted armour, and have silver eyes. Things get far worse, of course, if you consider the Pirates to be bad guys, what with the hooks, peglegs, eyepatches, and scars. To give LEGO some credit, they have had scarred or deformed heroes, like Rock Raider's Chief (prosthetic arm), Power Miner's Rex (facial scarring), Dino Attack's Viper (more facial scarring), and Lego Island's Captain Click (a pirate skeleton). Still, ugly villains greatly outnumber even unattractive (if they were real) heroes.
Fire Emblem does an almost facepalmingly straight adherence to this rule. Almost all the good guys will be bishonen, ruggedly handsome men, hot chicks, Cool Old Guys (sometimes good looking for their age, too) and most of the bosses will be old◊, plain◊ or gonks◊. They'll attempt to mix things by always adding one or two gonks◊ and a non hottie◊ to the good guys side, and typically the bad guys will have one or two good looking guys on their side, however they'll usually be either good at heart or wear an unflattering facial expression on their portrait◊. Sometimes a few of the ugly minor bosses will hint or be revealed to not have been bad at heart after their death. The simplest way to put it is ugly characters are the Token Minority for the good guys and attractive characters are the Token Minority for the bad guys. Ugly good guys far outnumber attractive bad guys, seems Evil Is Sexy is not one of Intelligent Systems' favorite tropes... for males. When it comes to females, evil◊ is◊ sexy◊ too◊. This can sometimes make sense (Most of the early foes are low class bandits, the latter ones are old nobles are in some games a separate species, while most player characters are nobility or young), but often doesn't.
If you're a sympathetic character in Fire Emblem, you're either at least quite attractive, or you're old. And if you fall into the latter category, you were likely quite a looker when you were younger. There are only a few major exceptions to this (i.e. most axe-users).
A major and famous exception is Oliver, from Fire Emblem Tellius. In Path of Radiance, he's a regular boss who has to be disposed of (and there's a good chance that an ally character kill him for you), and he's an insufferable narcissist, viewing himself as the epitome of beauty... Despite the fact that he looks like this◊. He makes his return in Radiant Dawn where, against all odds, despite being once again the boss of a chapter, he is recruitable. Except that, well, he hasn't changed much (if at all) between the two games: he's still the same vain, self-absorbed character, who only joins you as a protector of beauty (he's quite fond of herons). Though they decided to make him less evil-looking◊, he's still the Gonk. Heck, even Ike begs him to return on the enemy side.
Axe users are most apparent of this. While enemy characters of other classes are usually at least pleasant enough to look at, 90% of enemy axe users are Gonks, made even easier to do because there are no female enemy axe users in the entire series. Axe users on the player's side, however, are either ruggedly handsome or even straight up bishonen; at worse, they have a fairly large build, which is generally considered unattractive in Asian cultures.
Exceptions are major enemy characters who aren't old men, because you have to be attractive to be anyone of significance, naturally.
Reversed in Two Worlds II: at one point, the protagonist is begged by the helpful leader of a nearly-doomed colony to hunt down the reason of their misery - an evil witch, who not only lives deep in a swamp, but who is indeed hideous. However, instead of killing the witch, the protagonist can also listen to her unexpected pleas. Doing so opens an entire new subplot, which eventually reveals that the real Evil Force was actually the charismatic leader, while the witch was the true protector of the people. The reversal is then reversed in the end of that subplot, as the witch's beauty is magically restored upon the demise of the real villain.
In the Classic, the Alliance had all the pretty races while the Horde had the ugly ones. However, the Horde was not evil, merely Noble Savage in a morally gray fight over the land to live on. Burning Crusade'' further muddied the trope by giving them the pretty Blood Elves.
A little shade of it was in the Draenei and their changes over the years. Originally, they were an ugly race with More Teeth than the Osmond Family and raptorish feet, which nevertheless were allied with the Anti-Hero Illidan and opposed the demonic Eredar (who had typical Horny Devils appearance.) In the Burning Crusade they were retconned to being a fallen and mutated Draenei - and we were introduced to the proper, clean and pretty Draenei as a playable race, directly allied with the Naaru. The previous Draenei, now called Lost Ones, were portrayed almost exclusively as insane villains. The newly introduced Ugly Cute Broken were also made antagonists, but it was due to being enslaved by Illidan gone mad, not being inherently evil. Furthermore, the trope was averted with the Eredar, who were shown to be Draenei that fully embraced the demon powers - they look just like Draenei, only red instead of blue.
Mists Of Pandaria plays this straight due to applying Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome on practically the entire Horde, particularly the orcs, while getting downplaying all morally grey qualities of the Alliance. Additionally Garrosh was given a much uglier model before becoming a Raid Boss.
The only nice demon bound in Jerro's Haven in Neverwinter Nights 2 is also the one who goes around disguised as an Eladrin.
In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, if the player character goes to The Dark Side, s/he develops pale whitish skin and yellowed eyes. In the sequel, the player character can influence his or her allies to go Dark, causing a number of changes in their appearances (none of them good).
In Mass Effect 1, Saren, the apparent Big Bad of the game, is clearly weird-looking by Turian standards, sporting glowing blue eyes and cybernetic implants on top of the spikey Turian exoskeleton. On the other hand, Benezia is much more attractive but still acts as Saren's Dragon for much of the game. However, it's revealed that both of them have been brainwashed by Soverign, and both of them get a Dying as Yourself ending (optional in Saren's case). Soverign himself is a giant insectoid spaceship and makes use of Blue and Orange Morality behavior.
In the second game, quite a few of the villains are even more monstrous: the Collectors, for example, are Insectoid Aliens equipped with a lot of repulsive-looking organic technology, and serve the Reapers in abducting human colonists for use in their experiments. Once again, it's revealed that the Collectors are just brainwashed servants of the Reapers; before they were enslaved, the Collectors were the equally bizarre-looking Protheans, Benevolent Precursors to the current galactic civilization.
In Mass Effect 2, picking the Renegade choices will make Commander Shepard's post-resurrection scars appear wider and glow red (a rather disturbing picture here). It can be subverted, however, through a plastic surgery later in the game. On the other hand, Paragon choices will make the scars shrink so much, said surgery will hardly be worth the resources it costs.
Persona 4 - Hanako, Mitsuo, Morooka, and Kashiwagi (who isn't specifically ugly, but has a tendency toward drastic, overly-exaggerated and unattractive expressions, and a crap personality), have no particular positive qualities and the heroes have no sympathy for them. The exceptions are Adachi, who the player is supposed to trust, and Izanami, whose true form is legendarily hideous but appears as an attractive lady.
Played straight and averted in Yo-Jin-Bo. Just about everyone except Yahei (nice old man) and Nobumasa (big, dumb, and evil) could be considered at least above-average. Of course all six Love Interestsare extremelyattractive, but villains Kasumimaru and Harumoto aren't bad looking, either.
Played straight in Valkyria Chronicles. All the villains have exaggerated, ostentatious, or just plain ugly faces, unless the game presents a reason for the player to sympathize with their tragic plight, while everyone in Squad 7 ranges from plain to rugged to just plain gorgeous. (The bad guys do, however, wear some truly awesome-looking officers' uniforms).
Both Gabriel and Marie Belmont from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow fit this. Marie's natural pure heart is what makes Gabriel so attracted to her all his life even after her tragic death; her sweet laugh was often enough to soothe his chronic moodiness. As of Gabriel, in spite of his unshaven facial hair, is still dignified due to his natural sense of justice and kindness. Had Hideo Kojima allowed him to be a Barbarian Hero, this would be even more obvious.
In the Fable series of games, it goes beyond good characters being beautiful; if you do good things, your character becomes more beautiful, to the point of people on the street commenting on it constantly. (Doing bad things makes your character grow horns and become wrinkled.)
Demo Reel. The heroes are all conventionally gorgeous - Donnie is wanted by everyone, Tacoma consistently is told he looks good in a dress, Rebecca is played by a model, Quinn spends most of his time in a wifebeater and Karl has a foursome with con-girls - while the villains (the Psychopathic Manchild family and Tom Collins) are either weightier or just made to look awkward.
Korean webcomic Noblesse. For a "shounen" series, it certainly emphasizes a lot on androgynous male beauty. & you can bet every attractive bad guy you see will be working for the protagonist by the end of the arc.
For most of the first volume of Quantum Vibe, when Nicole and Seamus have an antagonistic relationship, and the audience is expected to be somewhat suspicious of him, a regeneration error has trapped him in a 250 kg body with a dumpy face and kinky red hair. It's about the time she begins to trust him implicitly that this is fixed, leaving him thin and beautiful with perfect face and hair.
On Justice League (and Justice League Unlimited), only two of the big seven are even remotely not conventionally attractive. J'onn, while green, is a shapeshifter who can look however he wants, and Hawkgirl's "weird" look is angelic wings. Now, let's take a look at the villains: Gorilla Grodd, Ultra-Humanite, Parasite, Shade, the White Martians... Except the female ones. And Luthor. Bodies are likewise ridiculously one-note exaggerations, with Top-Heavy Guy being the norm— and not just in body, but with chins that would make Jay Leno blush. Not surprising, given that they're based on comicbook characters (easily the worst offender anywhere). Ultra-Humanite happens to also be a subversion in the comics as his power is stealing bodies and he did once steal the body of a beautiful woman.
The eponymous heroes of Gargoyles are superficially ugly monsters (especially Brooklyn), which barely hides their heroic natures. Some fans of the show find them rather cute.
Goliath - if you can get past the wings, fangs, and talons - could be seen as downright handsome. And let's face it, any man with Keith David's voice is going to have less trouble with the ladies than he might otherwise.
Brooklyn - if drawn in the right way and angle - gets points for his exotic nature as a Petting Zooperson.
Played straight and inverted in Lady Lovely Locks: the hero, "Lady Lovely Locks" is good and has lovely blonde hair, while her enemy is Duchess Raven Waves, a beautiful princess and troublemaker. (This series was made to appeal to young girls.)
In a sort of Redemption Equals Beauty, Bramble, the villain of the Bitsy Bears pilot is relatively unattractive, with a dry bob haircut, but the instant she thinks about reforming, she suddenly becomes more attractive with long, wavy hair. (Seriously, it changes between frames. You can see it starting at 3:45)
Goof Troop uses this in an interesting way for just one family. Everyone's favorite Fat Bastard, Pete, has a son, PJ, who is physically his spitting image in terms of body composition, hair color and form, and ear shape. He's also significantly nicer. Pete's face is fairly ugly; PJ's is downright cute. At the very least, he's the male character on the show with the smallest protruding teeth, and often doesn't have protruding teeth at all.
The Halo effect is a documented psychological phenomenon wherein people's judgment on another person's traits spills over to other (unrelated) traits. So the perception is that beautiful = good/competent, ugly = bad/incompetent, further proof that life is indeed unfair.
To go even further, in social psychology there exists such a thing as "self fulfilling prophecies" that further cements the "halo effect". Those who are treated as good or bad people (even if only on the basis of their appearance) will be prone to behave accordingly. That is, those who are treated good, will behave good in return and vice versa.
The 1960 US presidential election debates were the first to be televised. Polls showed that those who watched the debate on television thought the handsome John F. Kennedy had won the debate, while those who listened on the radio thought the sweaty, uncomfortable looking Richard Nixon had won. Of course, TV being a relatively emergent technology that was only just starting to be adapted at the time could have resulted in differences in the demographics of television owners and non-television owners. And, of course, while it might be a poor reason to not vote for someone because they look like a slightly-crazed, paranoid, crook, the fact that Nixon in fact turned out to be a slightly-crazed, paranoid, crook is of no little relevance.
Even more interesting: While Kennedy was the president who brought the US military into The Vietnam War full-force (before then, we were supplying troops but it was not an official war), the less-attractive Lyndon Johnson has tended to receive the lion's share of the blame for the conflict. Nixon was the one who eventually pulled us out, but this is rarely mentioned, mainly due to A. His initial escalation of the fighting and B. He's friggin' Richard Nixon.
Although here a number of other factors are at least as important, if not more so. John F. Kennedy's image was retroactively enhanced by his assassination, which conveyed a kind of secular sainthood on him and made a lot of people forget how controversial he had been in life, and also by the fact that there weren't many news stories involving Vietnam during his administration. Johnson, in contrast, had to deal with bad news from Vietnam throughout his two terms. And while Nixon got the US Army out of Vietnam, the way that happened was perceived as a humiliating defeat, with e. g. the images of the hurried evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Saigon sticking in the public conscious for decades to come.
During the Victorian era, this concept was widely held to be true; a person's physical appearance was a reflection on their morality and social standing. The introduction discusses 19th Century quackery discourses of Phrenology and Physiognomy as an attempt to quantify and qualify these dubious claims. While the latter discipline was not unique to the 19th Century, its influence and popularity reached a zenith during the Georgian, Regency, and especially, Victorian eras. This wasn't surprising, since one's wealth typically coincided with the degree of their access to proper necessities which made beauty even possible; as a result, today's "average" was yesterday's "god-like."
In Spanish, "to be" can be translated as two different verbs (ser and estar) "ser buena" (to be good) means to be a good/nice person, and "estar buena" (literally translated also: "to be good") means being physically attractive (although usually "hot" more than "beautiful"). This might be because ser means "to be a certain way inherently" whereas estar draws its distinction in definition from meaning something more like "to be a certain way at a specific time." In other words, "ser buena" most means "to be good inherently," whereas the most literal translation for "estar buena" could be "to be good for the moment" and not necessarily as a regular thing. This suggests that Spanish-speaking cultures are probably at least somewhat aware of beauty's tendency to be fleeting and superficial, and have therefore linked it to temporary and superficial goodness in their language. The connection—however tenuous—between being physically attractive and being morally upright is still there, however.
That whole mess can technically be avoided with other adjectives (bonito/a, hermoso/a, guapo/a, etc.). In these cases one can say, for example, ser bonita (to be naturally pretty) or estar bonita (to be pretty at the moment, by dressing up for example).
The ancient Greeks took this very, very seriously. Kaloi k'agathoi ("the Beautiful and the Good") was what Greek aristocrats called themselves. To be beautiful was considered a gift from the gods and was a sign of their favor. This allowed good-looking Greeks to get away with things just because they were beautiful, and occasionally hurt ugly people when accused of a crime. For instance:
Socrates, on the other hand, was famously ugly (both Aristophanes and Plato make quite a few "ugly guy" jokes at Socrates' expense). This may have figured into the decision to convict Socrates at trial (the decision to execute him, on the other hand, was more or less because of what he said).
Public opinion in any trial by media scenario will often fall in line with this trope. Missing White Woman Syndrome (always pretty, young girls) is an obvious real-life relation, and people often have harsher reactions to unusual looking suspects (as opposed to attractive serial killers mentioned below, who often get fanmail or marriage proposals). Even non-criminal media scandals get this reaction. Take, for example, public perception of the British Royal Family. Princess Diana is lovingly remembered, despite having affairs as her former husband did, while Prince Charles is unpopular and Lady Camilla is largely hated, and both are mocked for their appearance.
According to an actual scientific subject on the topic, beautiful criminals usually get more lenient sentences then their ugly counterparts, regardless of the severity of their crime, but when the crime in question is fraud, the tables are turned: attractive frauds almost consistently get the longest convictions. Psychologists believe that this is due to the fact that people find themselves betrayed when this trope isn't played straight, and react far more severely. A beautiful thief or murderer can be explained as a victim of the circumstances, but a beautiful fraud explicitly uses their appearance to deceive and mislead people, and they just can't forgive that.
William Howard Taft was the last president elected before photographs became a standard feature of newspapers (somewhat obviously).
The opposite assumption—Ugliness Equals Evil—is exhibited in the various meanings of the Arabic word qabīḥ. Its most common meaning is simply "ugly," but it can also mean "disgusting" or "monstrous" or, well, "evil" (as an adjective). However, the more usual word for "evil" is shirrīr, and the other meanings of qabīḥ only occur to the educated, so it's not played entirely straight (except in the Maghreb, where it is the colloquial word for "bad"—not "evil," but "bad").
Recent pictures of Nancy Kerrigan◊ and Tonya Harding◊ seem to play this trait pretty straight. Kerrigan still looks youthful and gorgeous, while Harding (who, as anyone who was alive during the 1990s remembers, conspired with her ex-husband and bodyguard to break her rival Kerrigan's leg to render her incapable of competing in the Olympics), looks a bit like the mother from The Fighter after a few more years' hard living.
The cast of the Harry Potter films - at least with the kids - plays it somewhat straight. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron), Emma Watson (Hermione), and Tom Felton (Draco), who have never gotten into legal trouble and have good public images, are all thin and lauded for their looks. Jamie Waylett (Crabbe), who was arrested for drug possession and sentenced to a two-year prison sentence, looks like this◊. Quite a contrast, eh?
Many Christian denominations believe human souls will be reunited with their bodies on Judgment Day, and their bodies will be transformed. The righteous will receive beautiful, glorified bodies that resemble extremely idealized versions of themselves, while the wicked will be placed in twisted, pain wracked versions of their old bodies.
Unfortunately, it's for this reason that animals people consider cute or charismatic get better protection than creepier or menacing looking ones. It's the reason What Measure Is a Non-Cute? exists.
Fairytales and folklore are chock-full of this so much that in many cases 'ugly' is shorthand for 'completely deficient as a human being in every conceivable way possible.'
But be wary. The Shape Shifting Lover, if male, may be hideous before the change, and a hideous old woman may be enchanted and truly young and beautiful.
Other than the odd tchotchke made to cater to ethnic appeal, angels are always shown with flowing blonde hair, beatific bordering on vacant smiles, rosy to pure white skin and sparkling azure eyes. Never will you see one with pock marked skin, a big nose or even mouse brown hair. Made even more ridiculous since angels in The Biblelook like the stuff of nightmares.
Played around with quite a bit in Death Note, in just about every permutation:
Villain Protagonist Light Yagami is popular, impeccably groomed and dressed, has girls fawning over him everywhere. He seems good at first, but turns into the worst serial killer in history and a Magnificent Bastard who manipulates everyone around him with no consideration for their feelings.
However, this is played straight with Light when he loses his memories of the Death Note for a brief period of time. He is a really great guy, the complete opposite of Kira, and he is still gorgeous.
In contrast, L, the detective chasing Kira, is gangly, funny-looking, and has permanent bags under his eyes; most girls in-story won't even look at him twice, and he has no friends. But he's the world's greatest detective, with a strong determination to take down the murderer, albeit using somewhat questionable methods. He's often considered Ugly Cute, granted, but this was unintentional.
Misa Amane is a supermodel who turns into a serial killer, though she thinks she's doing it for a good reason; she's genuinely kind and friendly aside from her actions as the second Kira.
Ryuk, the Shinigami, plays this trope relatively straight: he looks like a monster, and he's a nut who doesn't care who lives or dies as long as he's entertained, and he uses humans as playthings. He'd be another Magnificent Bastard if he weren't so lazy.
Shinigami Rem still looks somewhat scary, but she's softer and more feminine than Ryuk, and she does what she does out of a sense of duty to a fallen friend, along with genuine compassion for Misa which leads to a Heroic Sacrifice.
Then there's Sidoh, who's ugly as normal for a Shinigami, but isn't so much evil as pathetic and pitifully stupid.
Virtually all of the common criminals are butt-ugly. I guess breaking the law only makes you ugly if you do it without the help of a Shinigami.
Then there's Mello and Near, where this trope is REALLY played around with. On the one hand, Near is like L in that he is an anti-heroic antagonist who uses questionable methods, yet he looks like a cute little boy. Meanwhile, Mello is an extreme Byronic Hero who commits some pretty appalling crimes just so he can beat Near in catching Kira, yet he is a pretty handsome guy to start with. His face gets scarred later on, but even then he is arguably still pretty attractive.
The psychopathic Johan is easily Monster's best-looking character.
Averted in Paprika. The obese Tokita appears to have no deep and dark issues with his weight, being a happy, brilliant, affable scientist, and it turns out the girl of his dreams, Chiba, is plenty enthralled with him as well, and they get married!
Commonly subverted or played with in One Piece. Ugly characters often turn out to be stalwart and good in their own right, and more conventionally attractive characters can be really, really awful or kind of ambiguous at best.
Unless they're women. Nine times out of ten, attractive women are good (Nami, Vivi, Robin, Hancock) while ugly women are evil (Alvida pre-transformation, Miss Merry Christmas, Big Mom). There is the occasional subversion, though, where an attractive woman can be evil (Miss Doublefinger, Kalifa, Monet) and an ugly woman is good (Kokoro, Lola).
Trinity Blood subverts this beautifully. Deitrich is described as having "the face of an angel and the heart of a devil". Despite his beautiful appearance he's evil. In addition, during the final battle in the anime Cain's ultimate form resembles a heavenly angel, while Abel's ultimate form resembles a demon from hell
Interesting case in Mobile Suit Victory Gundam. Katejima Loos is portrayed as a beautiful girl in her late teens. The series protagonist, Uso, certainly thinks so, since he has a crush on her. She starts out as one of the main heroic cast, but slowly shows her true colors of being a Manipulative Bitch. Even when it's clear that she's far from good, Uso refuses to believe that she's evil, even when she tries to kill him on multiple occasions. This changes near the end of the series, when he finally wakes up and fights her back. She even points this out, afterwards, acting shocked that her charms no longer work.
The main character's best friend in the light novel of Ghost Hunt gets hit hard with this trope. Shibuya Kazuya is stunningly beautiful, even after a rough night with next to no sleep at all. Naturally Mai and her two best friends form instant crushes ... until Mai realises that he's abrasive, cocky, sarcastic, narcissistic and flat-out insulting to just about everyone. What's Michiru's response when she's informed of this? "But ... he's really handsome." Because someone that pretty cannot possibly be a bad person ... Further subverted in that he genuinely does care for his colleagues and clients, and always acts only in the interest of their safety - he just doesn't like to show it.
In Anatolia Story, most of the noble characters are portrayed as very beautiful. They're generally divided between being Royals Who Actually Do Something (for example, Kail and his brothers) and those who are incompetent or outright harmful to the wellbeing of their countries (for example, Nakia and Nefertiti). The very hansome Ramses wants to gain power in Egypt so he can better care for its people which is a noble goal, but he also repeatedly tries to kidnap and rape Yuri, leading her to consider him a complete cad. Meanwhile, Nakia and Urhi are very beautiful, but also are incredibly and unbelievably evil. Even worse, their backstories show that their beauty caused the circumstances that lead to them becoming as horrible as they are. Yuri, meanwhile, is very cute by modern day standards, but is initially considered plain by most people in Hattusa, mainly because she's short and flat-chested. As people begin to love her for her kindness and the good things she does for them, they talk about features that they do consider beautiful about her (namely her pale skin and black hair) and her maids imply that her beauty comes from her happy, friendly demeanor.
In Byzantine Christian art, most Saints are drawn somewhat ugly to accentuate their Inner Beauty represented by their halo.
Many Renaissance portrayals of Saints or Biblical characters were intentionally drawn plain as to avoid inspiring lust for a holy character. However, angels, who were genderless...
Beta Ray Bill. He looks like an orange humanoid crocodile/horse hybrid, and is even considered hideous by his own peoples' standards (they normally just look like yellow humanoids with no hair or pupils), yet he is one of the noblest beings in the Marvel Universe. One of the most badass, too. After all, he was the first non-Asgardian to be deemed worthy enough to wield The Mighty Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, which was of course intended to be a shock to both Thor and readers.
The Anti-Hero mutant Wolverine—longstanding, undisputed favorite of the X-Men franchise—was originally supposed to be a subversion. Five-foot-nothing, slightly hunched, enough hair on his body to wonder why he didn't wind up with the "Beast" codename, and reportedly, poor personal hygiene (even though you know as well as I do he couldn't maintain hair like that without being half-metrosexual). However, because of Popularity Power, many writers sometimes forget the above description and turn him into a sexy funtastic lady-lovin' machine. Maybe it's animal magnetism, or his fan-favoritism (the current writers were fans in their youth), or they realize that one word has always defined Wolvie: stamina. Even at his ugliest, he looks pretty good for 113!
Spider-Girl, in her identity as May Parker, started out as a star basketball player with short hair, a major subversion from just about all the mainstream superheroines who've ever gotten their own series. Since that time, while May has grown her hair a little longer, what little Fanservice exists is rather mild, if not non-existent, compared to what many readers have come to expect.
Fables has the actual Prince Charming as a major character and also shallow, heartless, bastard. Goldilocks is very attractive and turns out to be murderously violent. Bluebeard is well Bluebeard. Beauty is beautiful but happens to be a total bitch. Bibgy's looks are up for debate but his actions support him being a subversion whether you thing he's good looking or not.
Of course, played with often in Watchmen, thanks to the series blurring the lines between ugliness and beauty, and heroism and villainy.
Rorschach, despite being one of the main heroes (and most certainly is the star of the book), is ugly as sin. Uneven haircut (and ginger at that), short, pug nose, spotty face, dead eyes, aged face, he's described as being "fascinatingly ugly" by his psychiatrist. Hasn't stopped a small portion of the female fanbase being into him...
Ozymandias. Tall, muscular, blonde, handsome, older than he looks, strong features. The "villain" of the series.
Of course, these two examples could either be considered an aversion or playing it straight, depending on your point of view.
Played the straightest with Nite Owl II, who is a little hefty and wears thick glasses but is considered very handsome by at least two characters.
Silk Spectre II is rather stunning, like her Mom, but she doesn't care for the hero thing at all.
Her Mom, Silk Spectre I, was a successful hero because she was a beauty. It was publicity to help her movie career.
Dr Manhattan rebuilt himself in the shape of the ideal man and the classical hero, standing well over six feet with statuesque features. He even walks around naked. However, he doesn't care at all for heroism.
The Comedian is tall, handsome and has "badboy appeal", which also plays the trope straight except... he's not much of a hero. It straightens out again when his scars and age reduce his good looks to a rather leathery looking ball of meat.
In Sin City, physical beauty in general is not a good barometer for morality in a setting like this, even though some of the heroes do play it very straight.
Marv is a massive, ugly monster of a man but is also a good man.
Junior was also fairly handsome and looked every bit the golden boy future President his father wanted him to become — too bad about the whole "raping and killing little girls" hobby. It's played straight with Junior after the experimental treatments that saved him from Hartigan's No-Holds-Barred Beatdown also disfigured him.
In The Three Spinners, three hideous women offer to help the heroine with her spinning. Unlike Rumpelstiltskin, all they want is to be invited to the wedding. When the heroine does, they assure her husband that their hideous looks stem from their endless spinning and thus get the heroine off the hook forever.
There are countless fairy tales where the protagonist is given vital aid on their quests by dwarves, crones, and sometimes even giant, disembodied heads.
In the story of "Tatterhood", the eponymous heroine is filthy and dresses in rags while wearing a goat. Her sister is traditionally beautiful, but is a Damsel in Distress and contributes virtually nothing to the story besides having her head stolen by trolls. The end of the fairy tale does prove that she can be beautiful if she wants, but she makes it clear that she prefers to be ugly.
There is a fairy tale where a girl is So Beautiful, It's a Curse and is harassed by many attractive, wealthy men... one of whom is Satan himself. When she refuses him, the Devil spitefully steals her beauty from her, leaving her ugly and misshapen. Years later, he decides to see what happened to the girl, and is shocked to find that her new ugliness drove away all her unwanted suitors, leaving her Happily Married to an ugly but goodhearted Dogged Nice Guy.
The Golden Branch subverts this trope and then plays it straight - the protagonists are a prince and a princess who are both very ugly and crippled, but are shown as being good-hearted. The princess is even given the choice between being beautiful and being good, and decides that being good is the better option. Their goodness wins them the favor of a fairy, who eventually rewards them both with beauty. Then, they get turned into animals by an evil witch, and have to get turned back after going on a quest.
Films — Animated
Subversion: The Shrek series has an ogre as the hero, and the love of his life becomes an ogress herself at the end of the first film. By contrast, the handsome Prince Charming (from the second and third films) is a bratty, immature, villainous twit.
Shrek the Third also has the other princesses, who are shown to be fairly shallow and useless at first, while the ugly stepsister Doris is a lot kinder and stronger. Rapunzel also ends up selling them out so she can marry Charming. She's later revealed to be bald which could be playing the trope straight, except that she's still an attractive woman, just with no hair.
Shrek Forever After has all of the ogres as perfectly decent people fighting to overthrow the evil Rumplestiltskin. In that universe, Fiona also identifies as an ogre and keeps her curse of turning into a human woman by day a secret.
Played with in Megamind. Metroman, the unambiguous hero who fakes his death because he's tired of the life is all Heroic Build and Lantern Jaw of Justice, but then you have Megamind the villain who becomes good and Titan who turns bad because he can't get the girl. Megamind is a blue alien with giant head, but has huge, puppy-like, instantly endearing Green Eyes complete with eyelashes, while Titan is human but looks and acts like a thug.
This was the moral to Disney's Beauty and the Beast - the attractive Gaston is actually a terrible person while the Beast is very kind and gentle. Of course, the Beast and the Prince he turns back into could be considered quite attractive themselves, depending on one's taste.
While Tiana and Naveen are plenty attractive in The Princess and the Frog, the animation crew also took great pains to make the sinister Doctor Facilier quite charismatic and attractive as well, to explain how he could lure in unsuspecting victims. And then Ray the Firefly is drawn to resemble an in-bred hillbilly, but is still one of the most insightful and helpful characters.
Both applied AND subverted in Tangled- the main leads are all handsome or cute (Disney even had its own female employees choose what Flynn should look like) and two of the villains (the Stabbington Brothers) are ugly- however the main villainess is pretty hot (while young) and the Snugly Duckling Pub Thugs, despite their looks turned out to be nice guys. They even lampshade it in one of the movie's best musical numbers. It's also lampshaded with Flynn's Wanted Poster, which portrays his criminal self as uglier than he actually is.
Subverted in both of Disney's Cinderella sequels, where Anastasia is an ugly stepsister but is a nicer person. She's a little better drawn arguably, but it's more of a result of her not scowling all of the time.
It's easier to list the times Disney averts or subverts this trope than the many, many times it plays it straight. Besides the aforementioned Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Frozen both have beautiful leads and antagonists who use their beauty to manipulate others — Vanessa for the former and Prince Hans for the latter.
Double Subversion in Bartok the Magnificent, where the ugly Russian witch Baba Yaga is actually portrayed as being a benign character, and she even makes a magic potion that can make people on the outside 10 times what they are on the inside. According to Yaga, the titular bat is supposed to drink the potion, which will turn him into a brave hero, but the potion is later stolen by the evil Ludmilla, who is portrayed as being beautiful. Ludmilla actually wants to use Jaga's potion to make her even more beautiful so she can take over Russia, but when she finally drinks it, said potion realizes that Ludmilla is evil once consumed, and as a result it turns her into a dragon.
The villain of Happily N'Ever After 2 starts out ugly and turns herself beautiful so she can marry the king.
Films — Live-Action
Subverted very cruelly in Audition when the lonely, widowed male lead discovers that his beautiful, demure bride-to-be is Ax-Crazy.
Inverted in the 1953 sci-fi movie It Came from Outer Space where the hideous one-eyed aliens are not launching a covert invasion of Earth; they only want to quietly repair their spaceship and leave without conflict.
ET The Extra Terrestrial. An alien that can at best be described as wrinkled and stubby, and also one of the most sympathetic and beloved characters in cinema history.
Averted, lampshaded and parodied in the Austin Powers movies where the hero doesn't look good at all and one of the first things said to him after he is unfrozen is that he should get a make over for his teeth. At the end of one of the movies when they watch a movie based on Austin Powers (yeah.) Austin is played by Tom Cruise.
In the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only, Aris Kristatos, a handsome Greek tycoon decorated by the British government for valor during World War II and devoted to his patronage of an aspiring Olympic figure skater Bibi Dahl, warns Bond that Milos Columbo, a swarthy, greasy-haired heroin smuggler, has the encryption device that Bond is attempting to retrieve. When Bond meets with Columbo, he declares that, yes, he is a smuggler, but he never smuggled heroin, and that Kristatos is the real drug smuggler, having warned Bond that he may have to kill Columbo to knock out the competition. By the end of the movie, Kristatos has attempted to kill Bond (and clearly had non-fatherly designs on Bibi), while Colombo aided Bond in taking him down.
Lampshaded and subverted throughout Passione d'Amore. The good-looking male has an affair with a good-looking married woman. (She gets away with stringing him along because she's pretty.) Then, he gets sent to some backwater area and starts to interact with the local colonel's daughter, whom everybody agrees is quite ugly. It also shaped her character: even her parents avoided contact with her. She never gets a 'beautiful all along' makeover, but he eventually falls in love with her anyway. Then she dies. And he goes to tell his pretty lover that he isn't taking her shit anymore. It's mainly notable for the 'pretty dude/ugly woman' pairing.
Played with in The Avengers. All the good guys are played by a very handsome/beautiful cast but Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, is very handsome as well. But the Chitauri and their leader Thanos is hardly what you would call good-looking.
The US Navy's sexual harassment training videos subvert this trope. In an example of quid pro quo sexual harassment, the protagonist is an unattractive girl who does a good job and only wants recognition for her hard work. The two antagonists are a male sailor who has the power to pick the Sailor of the Quarter and an attractive blonde sailor who is chosen for this position with heavy implications that she is chosen only because she slept with the guy who makes the decisions.
In Small Soldiers the owner of Globotech assumes the human Comando Elite are the heroes while the odd looking Gorgonites should be the villains due to this trope. The reverse is actually true.
All over the place in The Hobbit. All of the elves are impossibly beautiful, but while you have Elrond, Galadriel and Tauriel, you also have the unrepentantly Jerkass Thranduil, and Legolas is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. The orcs and goblins play this straight as well; they're just as cruel and wicked as they are hideous. The dwarves are very much the opposite of the elves, fittingly: all of them are good people, but while you have Bombur◊, you also have Thorin◊. Which itself is an inversion, as Bombur is portrayed as a pretty good guy in both book and film, but Thorin is a bit more complicated...
In English literature, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is a deconstruction. Wilde was critiquing the commonly held belief during the 19th Century that physical appearance both reflected and was influenced by morality, piety, and social status. The trope still applies to the portrait of the protagonist and would have applied to him had he not sold his soul.
A strange example - neither subversion nor aversion but not completely straight either - comes from the work of Rex Stout, the writer of the Nero Wolfe novels. Stout wrote a short story called "Murder is No Joke" in late 1957. One of the characters, Flora Gallant, is a fat, shrewish, bitter, ugly, crude middle-aged female social misfit - virtually a perfect example of the trope played straight. The next year, Stout was asked by the Saturday Evening Post to expand the story into a novella. In this version, Flora Gallant is a gorgeous, vivacious young woman who romances Archie to some success - the opposite of the trope. The rest of the plot, including the identity of the killer, is identical, except that in the first story, Archie has Flora tagged as the killer; in the second, he thinks she's the next victim. She's neither.
Charlotte Brontë stated that she deliberately created Jane Eyre to be "as poor and plain as myself," in contrast to the beautiful and elegant romance heroines of her time. Consequently, Jane Eyre herself is never seen as anything but plain and unassuming, except in the eyes of her beloved - who in turn is not particularly handsome, but is loved by Jane for his sharp-pricked devotion to her. And, of course, the novel's prettiest characters are all extremely problematic in one way or the other. Blanche Ingram is a self-involved Gold Digger; Rosamond Oliver, while sweet, is nevertheless represented as a fluttery socialite-type; and St. John Rivers, although not a villain, is extremely manipulative and egotistical.
Often subverted in Harry Potter.No matter how attractive the movie actors may be, characters are often described with more negative physical traits than positive—-for example Harry is introduced as having knobby knees, messy hair, and perpetually-broken glasses. Other evil characters, like Bellatrix Black and young Voldemort, are attractive.
Bellatrix is sort of in between subverting and playing straight this trope - while she was clearly quite attractive when she was younger, she was shown to be gaunt and worn from her time in Azkaban. On the other hand, the same was said for Sirius. And while Harry did think at one point that the Slytherins mostly appeared to be an unattractive lot, the Malfoy family and Regulus Black, all of whom were Slytherins, were considered to be quite attractive. Plus, seeing as Harry tended to be a bit biased against the Slytherins, there is a case of Unreliable Narrator to consider.
There are further aversions with Mad-eye Moody and the Weasleys. Played straight with a few villains like the Carrows. Interestingly, Pansy Parkinson is described as looking like "a pug", despite her being an Alpha Bitch.
It's also worth mentioning Gilderoy Lockheart. He's represented as very handsome and charming and has published several books about his various heroic deeds. It's then found out that he's been finding people who banish werewolves and such and modify their memory, then taking their credit. He claims that one reason he did this is that the people who did these things weren't very pretty.
The general rule is that ugliness will not make you become evil, but evilness will make you become ugly. Voldemort's looks began to deteriorate when he started using large amounts of dark magic resulting in his inhuman appearance, while Bellatrix lost her beauty through insanity and her stay in Azkaban. More morally ambiguous characters like the Malfoys are the middle ground; Lucius is never said to be particularly attractive in the books, and Draco is occasionally called ferret-like. Narcissa is beautiful because she's a Black, they're all described as good-looking, and later redeems the family through motherly love, however her beauty is marred by her snootiness.
Terry Pratchett's Discworld books take this entire concept, set it in the street, and kick it until it runs squealing. Consider how three of its major characters are usually drawn: Rincewind looks like an older Shaggy from Scooby-Doo; Sam Vimes resembles a cross between a craggier, unshaven Clint Eastwood and Pete Postlethwaite; and Granny Weatherwax, while blessed with excellent bone structure, is (by Word of God) a crabby old woman. Regardless of personal tastes, they're not exactly what you would call "universally attractive"... and they're also three of the main heroes of the Discworld (although Rincewind is not one by choice).
In Witches Abroad, the evil Lady Lilith (Granny Weatherwax's elder sister) is described as, essentially, looking like Granny would if she was a few years younger. This is partially an extension of Granny's subversion of the trope, and partly a straight-up Vain Sorceress.
On the other hand, a lot of younger female heroes are portrayed as quite attractive, especially love interests; look at Angua, Sacharissa, Susan, Adora Belle Dearheart, and Cohen the Barbarian's daughter Conina.
In the manner of middle ground, Moist von Lipwig, one of the more recent protagonists, is described as being utterly unmemorable, a trait he used to his advantage in his previous job... as a con man. Unmemorable to the extent that his own mother previously took the wrong child home from kindergarten, and he has to attract attention to himself while shaving.
Not that there aren't any good-looking heroes or unattractive villains on the Disc; for instance, Captain Carrot, The Cape, is as handsome as fits the character type (described by a female vampire as having godlike proportions—the better class of god, even), and Mr. Teatime, from Hogfather, is boyishly handsome but has one glass eye, and one "normal" eye that's even more disturbing. Sensibly, there's no easy way to tell alignment from appearance on the Disc. Not even if said appearance is standing on top of a massive pile of skulls... because said person might just happen to be Cohen the Barbarian.
Played straight and sarcastically lampshaded in Going Postal. A minor villain is described as being obese and looking like "a piglet having a bright idea", with a voice like "a small, breathless, neurotic but ridiculously expensive dog". He has exactly the personality one would stereotypically associate with these physical traits. In a footnote, the author notes that "it is wrong to judge by appearances" and that "snap judgements can be so unfair" but strongly suggests that such judgements are actually correct most of the time.
IN SHORT: Discworld averts (most of the time).
A Song of Ice and Fire both follows and subverts this trope with various characters. Many of The Beautiful Elite are admired for their regal or exotic appearance, such as Cersei Lannister or Joffrey Baratheon, but are actually quite incompetent and cruel. Others are mocked, belittled or hated for their ugly appearance, including Brienne of Tarth and Tyrion Lannister, but show far more compassion and integrity than many others. However, other characters follow this trope straight. Many heroic characters are described as being quite handsome or beautiful, such as Daenerys Targaryen (arguably) and Sansa Stark. Many villainous or anti-villainous characters are also quite hideous, such as Sandor Clegane. In general, a character's appearance is more likely to be an influence on their personality rather than a reflection of it.
A lot of the problems in the setting exist because the general populace believe this trope is true all of the time when it really isn't.
House Frey plays this straight — its darker members are obnoxious, scheming, backstabbers who are described as looking like weasels. There are, however, a few attractive Freys who are not as evil, most prominently Roslin Frey.
Sherlock Holmes was not described as terribly good-looking — and in fact his creator Conan Doyle criticized the stories' illustrators for their portrayals of the character, saying that he had always imagined Holmes as "uglier" than they had depicted him in their drawings (though he added that "perhaps from the point of view of my lady readers, it was as well"). Watson was supposed to be the attractive one (and quite a ladies' man to boot). Unsurprisingly, this is generally ignored in screen adaptations.
Both played straight and subverted in Wild Cards, where most of the characters have hideous mutations. Most of the human-looking leads are not spectacular, either: the Turtle is a plain, chubby nerd; Fatman is, well, fat; and private detective Jay Ackroyd is good at blending in because he looks entirely average and nondescript. Golden Boy is handsome and has eternal youth to boot, but he's almost universally despised as a traitor (he didn't know the youth was eternal when he did it). Doctor Tachyon is handsome, as are his (mostly backstabbing) relatives, because Takisians are bred for beauty; thus, he often has trouble dealing with the less attractive Jokers because he was raised to believe that this trope was gospel truth. His psychotic grandson Blaise is described as the most attractive and evil character in the series.
Subverted wonderfully in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, in which the main character, thanks to his mother being poisoned while pregnant with him, is a brittle-boned dwarf who is considered worse than unattractive by his mutation-horrified homeworld. Unsurprisingly, most of the women who look past that are 'galactics'; one of these is a genetically engineered prototype-soldier who's eight feet tall and as strong as two men. Eventually, even more subversive to this trope, Vorkosigan marries a woman from his own planet who loves him much more than her former, physically-attractive-but-a-total-jerk husband and thinks he's perfect the way he is.
In The Dresden Files, if a woman appears who is devastatingly beautiful, chances are, she's bad news. Most common with vampires of the White Court, succubi and incubi; for the most part, they are by nature impeccably beautiful and normally evil, cold, evil, manipulative, and evil. There are some notable exceptions, however: Thomas Raith, Harry Dresden's half-brother, is in a gray area. The Faeries, and especially the High Sidhe, are also perfectly formed but can be either nice or very not nice.
Subverted in Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun. Confronted with the Unfleshed — twisted, hideously malformed, with no skin on their bodies — Vaanes is horror-struck ("Look at them. They're evil"), but Uriel tells him he's not certain. He remembers the innocent children he saw herded to the process that transformed them, and sees that they have remembered the God-Emperor, erecting a huge statue of Him. Vaanes deserts him, but the Unfleshed are willing to support him in his quest. When most of them have died carrying it out, the handful of survivors need only be assured that the Emperor is pleased to be delighted.
Interestingly enough, this is in opposition to traditional Imperial dogma in the setting; creatures such as the Unfleshed would be seen as Chaos-tainted mutants and unworthy of acknowledgment as the Emperor's children- or indeed of basic human consideration as kindred.
In William King's Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf novel Wolfblade, Ragnar reflects on how his Wolf Lord is the very image of a great hero, and his opponent in dispute is rather less preposing. Then, the opponent also had to be a great warrior and leader, to reach the same post as Berek — and while the opponent is arguing against Ragnar partly out of rivalry, by the same token, Berek is defending Ragnar partly from the same motive.
In Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, they escape to the planet Ixchel where they encounter the faceless tentacled aliens, who look after and protect them. Indeed, one, in charge of Meg, is surprised by the terms she uses, such as "beast" to describe them, and Meg ends up referring to her as Aunt Beast.
Technically subverted in the Karavans series by Jennifer Roberson, as The Beautiful Elite are mostly evil. Everything ugly is evil too. Indeed, Always Chaotic Evil is rather a common species trait in these books...
The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis included as one of the heroes a villainous looking priest who is clearly presented as one of the finest people in the tale.
Voltaire famously penned a rather scathing poem, "Marquise", dedicated to a vain aristocrat who had spurned his advances because he was too old for her, despite being one of the smartest, wittiest guys of his time. The gist of the poem is "So I'm old and wrinkled. You will be too, sooner than you think". In a double subversion, Tristan Bernard later wrote a last stanza to the poem, his imagined answer from the Marquess : "But until then old man, I'm 26, and fuck you too". In those terms, because French poetry is hardcore.
Subverted, along with every other cliche of space opera, in Harry Harrison's Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers. Arriving on a new planet, our heroes see a war between the Garnishee (hideous tentacled monsters) and the humanoid Ormoloo (who don't look too bad if you overlook the four arms), so they wade in on the side of the more-or-less-humanoids. Of course, it's only after exterminating 99.9% of the Garnishee race that they discover that the octopoids are the wise, gentle and cultured good guys and the Ormoloo are the equivalent of cattle being mind-controlled by evil Puppeteer Parasite aliens out to conquer the galaxy.
In Meredith Anne Pierce's The Darkangel Trilogy, the titular angel (or vampire) is described as stunningly beautiful. He's also completely evil (securing his immortality by drinking the souls of young women), and the main character (who is described as average looking), falls in love with him, partly because of his beauty. The trope is played with however because the female protagonist knows that this is a terrible reason to love a person, and yet cannot bring herself to kill him. She eventually restores his humanity and in doing so he is said to lose some of his supernatural good-looks.
Another character in the story also claimed that the vampire is beautiful because he is not completely irredeemable; his soul was still there under all the evil, but when his soul was lost he would become hideously ugly.
Mostly averted in the How to Train Your Dragon series, where none of the characters are actually that pretty. The only exceptions to this would be Humungously Hotshot the Hero, and Alvin the Trecharous, who is steadily getting uglier with each book (most of it being consequences of his actions, mind).
In A. Merritt's classic novel The Moon Pool, The Big Bad is a beautiful being of light called the Shining One, who enslaves and vampirizes human souls. The lost race who worship it are classically handsome, but decadent and cruel. The forces of good, meanwhile, are represented by three decidedly weird-looking aliens and a race of frog-people.
In The Riftwar Cycle, beauty doesn't really equal anything. Villains are just as likely to be attractive as heroes (perhaps even more so), and most heroes are fairly unremarkable in their looks. Of the ones that stand apart, some are just ugly (Pradji with his squashed nose and pockmarks), others possibly attractive save for one or two off-putting qualities (Arutha's perpetual gloom, Erik's brutish face), and others are beautiful, but it doesn't do them any favors (Tomas's disturbing slightly-alien features, Sandreena's gorgeousness destroying her childhood). Similarly, all the elves of the series are beautiful, but you can't tell the good from the evil ones just at a glance.
On the other hand, the idea comes up: When Martin and Garrett run across a moredhel woman, the latter is surprised by her beauty, so the intrinsic expectation that evil enemies would look monstrous while good allied elves are the ones who are allowed to look beautiful is there.
The Gentleman With Thistle-Down Hair in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell explicitly considers handsomeness to be a sign of one's superiority and nobility over everyone else. A large factor in his decision to make Steven Black the King of England was his good looks. Since he's one of the worst of The Fair Folk this view is not particularly sensible, and it's not evident elsewhere in the books.
I might add that this was a man of great pride, that his calm, firm gaze seemed to reflect thinking on an elevated plane, and that the harmony of his facial expressions and bodily movements resulted in an overall effect of unquestionable candoraccording to the findings of physiognomists, those analysts of facial character.
Inverted in The Twits. Goodness equals beauty. Mrs. Twit was once a beautiful woman, until she started thinking ugly thoughts which led to the transformation into her hideous appearance. The narration states that people who are ugly can still have beauty shine through if they have pleasant thoughts and demeanor, accompanied by a drawing of such a person.
"You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."
Subverted in the school chapter of Buddenbrooks. In Hanno's class there's the student Wasservogel who's described as very ugly, but all the teachers treat him very generously to prove to themselves and the world that they don't fall victim to this trope.
Count and Countess seems especially fond of averting and subverting this. Vlad Tepes and Sultan Mehmed are given physical descriptions that sound very attractive, but the former is an utterly repulsive human being while the latter flip-flops between Magnificent Bastard and Chaotic Neutral. Elizabeth Bathory, the most sympathetic character in the book (though that's not saying much), sounds plain by her own description, or even ugly. Vlad is in love with her, though, so he only sees her as beautiful.
In Divine Blood you have HelLogesdottir, who is a cripple with her left arm and leg being withered and non-functional and the left side of her face likewise being paralyzed and withered. On the one hand, she's a bit caustic, and downright rude, referring to one of the other characters as "deep one" soon after meeting her. She's also a Demoness with a bit of an ego. However, she is decidedly not evil and ends up being the Damsel in Distress for part of the plot.
At the same time you also have Lady Tinia who is angelic appears through most of the story as a beautiful, stern blond woman wearing a pristine white trenchcoat. She's the bigoted Captain of the Tinia Royal Guard and is thus one of the two competing antagonists of the first novel.
In Enchanted Forest Chronicles, almost all of the princesses, princes, and knights are described as being very attractive, but most are oblivious, self-centered, and generally useless. Some are shown somewhat sympathetically (at one point, Cimorene points out that it wasn't their fault they were raised to be so idiotic), but Cimorene's thick-headed unwanted fiance, Prince Therandril, is still one of the obstacles she has to deal with in the first book (he just can't accept that she won't marry him). In Talking With Dragons, the princess and knight that Daystar and Shiara meet are shown to be ridiculously incompetent to the point of it being hilarious, though they still have the redeeming feature of truly loving each other. Meanwhile, the books have a variety of magical creatures of various degrees of beauty, none of whom are universally good or bad (the last book states that even some of the wizards were on the side of the Enchanted Forest). In particular, the dragons are shown as being terrifying, but they're all intelligent and mostly pretty helpful, if one gets their respect.
Played with in Which Witch?, where Belladona, the only white witch, is also the only one who's beautiful and all the dark witches are incredibly ugly. However Belladona desperately aspires to be dark and Arriman, the greatest dark wizard of England, is noted as being very handsome. Not to mention the three-headed Wizard-Finder is very polite and kind (at the story's end, the heads discuss in detail how to look after Terrance) and the baby Kraken, while described as a tiny squid-monster, acts like a regular baby.
Zig-zagged in the Lunar Chronicles. Our heroine Cinder is considered disfigured due to being a cyborg but her appearance is otherwise average. Her stepmother and stepsister are described as beautiful but cruel and abusive, while the kinder stepsister is also pretty. Queen Levana is beautiful but it's only a Lunar glamor she's projecting and is possibly average-looking or even ugly. Played straight with the handsome Prince Kai, Cress and Thorne.
In a Saturday Night Live skit, an angel comes to a woman in the hospital and asks her to take his hand so he can heal her, but she's extremely distrustful of him because he's dressed in all black, has black wings, and, well, he's played by Christopher Walken. He points out that if he was trying to deceive her and take her life, he'd be more subtle about it and come disguised as a beloved dead relative. Moments later, her late grandmother appears and kills her.
The staff on the upper floors of The IT Crowd are, as suggested, "a lot of sexy people not doing much work and having affairs". And they're all horrible, mean people. At least to Moss and Roy, anyway.
Lost in Space episode "The Golden Man''. Two aliens are in conflict: the handsome title character and his ugly frog-like opponent. The Golden Man turns out to be the bad guy.
One of the "conditions" in The Conditions of Great Detectives is that if a beautiful woman is involved in the case, they're more likely to be the murderer than an unattractive one. So it's the job of the "supporting characters" to never suspect or question these people. Of course, this is regularly double subverted.
Speaking of baldness, the Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager is bald, has Big Ol' Eyebrows (although neither of those are inherently unattractive) and generally will not win any beauty pageants. He's one of the show's most popular characters, and a good guy (albeit a pretty jerkish good guy). As a hologram, he could look like anyone who's on the ship's records, but generally doesn't.
There's actually plenty of instances in the original series of Star Trek where good-looking people are the villains (or most of the time, Affably Evil). Not sure if this would be a subversion, aversion, or some variation, but the women in "Mudd's Women" are actually very ugly unless they take a pill which makes them radiantly beautiful. It's later revealed to be a case of the Placebo Effect, and the women's beauty was merely a factor of their self confidence. They then become beautiful without the pill.
Spock himself quoted this trope in the episode "Is There In Truth No Beauty", commenting on the Greek ideal that "what is beautiful must therefore be good." The episode subverted: Kollos, a member of a race described as so ugly that no one can look at them without going mad, turns out to be friendly and helpful when he shares minds with Spock, but his human aide Miranda, while very attractive, is cold and aloof, and later jealous of Kollos' bond with Spock. Kirk himself admits, "Most of us are attracted by beauty and repelled by ugliness — one of the last of our prejudices."
An unsung aversion is The Muppet Show and to some extent Sesame Street as well. With muppets it doesn't matter what a muppet looks like as to how good or bad a person uh puppet will be. And at least on The Muppet Show it was even true with the guest stars you couldn't tell how nice or mean they would be purely based on looks. In fact the more you like a muppet, the more you like the way they look.
Oh so very averted with Julie Cooper in The O.C., widely acknowledged as beautiful, but also suffers from Chronic Villainy.
Subverted in the Doctor Who serial Galaxy Four, with the beautiful female Drahvins (who turn out to be the villains) and the hideous Rills (the good guys). Also somewhat subverted, a lot of the time, by the character of the Doctor himself.
In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Timewyrm: Revelations by Paul Cornell, Ace finds a pack of double-sided Tarot cards which symbolise the Doctor. One of the cards is called "We Are Friends To The Ugly/We War With The Beautiful", and shows the Doctor embracing a many-tentacled monster (possibly a Venusian, or Alpha Centuri from the Peladon stories) and confronting a calm humanoid.
The first story to intentionally and properly subvert the trope is "The Sensorites" - the Sensorites are hideous beings (similar to the Ood in the new series) who are introduced to us performing a constant campaign of psychic Mind Rape on the occupants of a human spaceship, its hideous face appearing to us from behind a plate of glass as a cliffhanger. As soon as the Doctor starts communicating with the Sensorites, he realises they are peace-loving beings prone to Sensory Overload, misguidedly attacking the humans under erroneous beliefs, and soon patches things up between the ship occupants and the Sensorites. He spends most of the story helping the Sensorites from a gang of evil colonialist humans and protecting the good Sensorites from the token evil Sensorite politician.
Averted in universe with Michael Scott of The Office, he truly believes that the more attractive a person is the more trustworthy, honorable etc. they are. Every attractive person Michael puts any trust in are arrogant Jerkasses.
In Merlin, any beautiful woman who turns up in Camelot is guaranteed to be evil. The two subversions (Princesses Elena and Mithian) had their beauty used as a deliberate Red Herring to make the audience believe they were evil, before the twist emerges that they were actually good all along.
At one point, The Bible describes Abram (later Abraham) worried someone might try to steal his wife Sarai (later Sarah) because he "realized she was beautiful." The Talmud interprets this to mean that she was physically attractive, but that Abram/Abraham connected to her on a spiritual level, so he would have found her beautiful no matter how she looked; he only realized other men might fancy her years after they had been married.
It's also been noted that the matriarchs are only described as beautiful when they're also being connected with positive traits; however, rather than playing this trope straight, the interpretations are either a.) beauty only matters when it accentuates goodness or b.) one should find goodness to be beautiful, not beauty to be good.
The Messiah, on the other hand, is explicitly described by Isaiah as being ugly, so that no one would be distracted by carnal desire.
In keeping with their belief as Christians that Jesus was the Messiah, early descriptions of Jesus were of a short, ugly, hairy man with dark skin and wooly hair. Even early icons of Jesus (before 800 CE) show a very scary, angry looking guy. Early Roman critics of Christianity, such as Celsus, bring up Jesus's ugliness to mock Christians without realizing it was probably they who spread the description in the first place.
Inverted hard with Jezebel, whose beauty is meant to emphasize her arrogance and corruption.
Also inverted with Satan, who was formerly the angel Lucifer ("light-bearer"). Tradition states that he is still able to take on a beautiful appearance, and if he did so any man who saw him would be overcome with awe and worship him. He's still, well, Satan, the Ultimate Evil in Christianity.
Subverted and muddied in Warhammer 40,000. Descriptions of most Space Marines fit the "ruggedly handsome" image, but they're the result of massive genetic engineering and are described by most normal humans as strikingly inhuman. Sisters of Battle and Eldar are often portrayed as beautiful in artwork but books, official content, and Word of God all agree that they're anything but. Physical beauty is also one of the most common gifts bestowed by Chaos God Slaanesh, Prince of Excess and Debauchery.
The reasons that the Sisters of Battle don't look as good as their tabletop models are scarring, tattoos, weight, missing body parts, and them not giving a damn about personal appearance.
"Though there was no disguising his inhumanity [...] there was the overgrown gigantism of the face, that particular characteristic of the Astartes, almost equine". That's Captain Loken, the definitive Good Guy of the first Horus Heresy book, Dan Abnett's Horus Rising. Also, the book gives us an idea how much Space Marines stink after some time in their powered armor. On the other hand, most Primarchs, who are even taller than Marines, are godlike beautiful.
Subversion in Warhammer: See that really hot, half-naked elf woman? She's the Dark Elf Hag Witch who kills children and bathes in their blood. That fat frog guarded by the huge, frightening lizards she's fighting? The frog's a Slann Mage-Priest, and those lizards are Temple Guards, among the noblest soldiers in the world.
Played straight to the point of absurdity however with the literal Always Chaotic Evil servants of Chaos, who have an explicit rule that the more they devote themselves to Chaos the more mind-warpingly horrific they become, with the final fate of any Chaos follower being either a gibbering Chaos Spawn with more limbs than IQ points or a massive Daemon Prince with dominion over their own slice of hell.
And subverted again with followers of Slaanesh, who are described as Disturbingly beautiful at worst. The ability of the artists and modelers to convey this, however, varies due to individual skill and decency laws.
Though played disturbingly straight with Slaanesh's two champions, Lucius and Fulgrim. Fulgrim was one of the most beautiful primarchs while on the side of the Emperor, but now he's a four armed snake thing. Likewise, Lucius was called a pretty boy by his allies because he had never taken an injury in battle. You only start seeing his ugly side after Loken breaks his nose, and when he truly turns, he starts cutting his face up whenever he kills someone. Hence how he looks in the 41st millennium.
And to perhaps complete the cycle, there is the case of the Chaos god Nurgle, horrifying and ugly in the most maximal senses of the word, and that’s without factoring in the virulent plagues and diseases has coursing through the very air he resides in, let alone his skin. Bloated, dead looking, maggots and worms writhing everywhere, and one of his attributes is kindness. His followers while all hideously ugly as well, and bloated/diseased, are nonetheless also jovial and welcoming. To make it even more insane, when the Eldar pantheon fell in the birth of Slaanesh, the goddess of fertility, healing, and presumably beauty, Isha, was captured by Slaanesh to be his/her/it's plaything forever. When she screamed and begged for help across the cosmos, none other than Nurgle and his followers wage war on Slaanesh to get Isha out. Nurgle kept her in his garden then and had her drink his plagues - she of course could heal herself, and so would then tell all mortals how to rid themselves of his plagues. While she could leave, canon seems to indicate she willingly stays with Nurgle. He absolutely adores her, and likewise, she loves him.
The Dark Eldar greatly value physical perfection and beauty and look the part, their telltale deathly pallor, a consequence of living in a realm with no real sun, notwithstanding. They also happen to be utterly repugnant hedonistic monsters. The black hollow soul of a Dark Eldar is one of the worst things a psyker can see with his/her witch-sight.
Completely averted with D&D Tieflings. 2e Tieflings are sexy, usually evil, and possess only a few 'subtle' signs of their heritage (small horns, glowing eyes, etc). 4e Tieflings are hideous and almost always good.
Swords and Scorcery Creature Collection - Subverted with False Lovers, paragons of charm and beauty, who can effortlessly win the hearts and souls of any who look upon them. They are able to inspire heroes and heroines to great deeds, give birth to new forms of art and literature, and transform cultures of entire kingdoms with their wit and grace. Yet, ultimately they will betray those dreams, leave a trail of broken lives in their wake, and crush the spirits of those who loved them simply for the evulz. They hide their true cursed nature behind powerful illusions that maintain the semblance of whom they once were before their looks began to wane in the passing of time.
The Nameless One is covered from head to toe with scars. So much so that he cannot even see his original, unscarred face underneath them. In any other game, he would serve as a brutish, monstrous villain. Of course, this trope isn't subverted if you choose to play as an evil character.
His sidekick, Morte, is a floating, talking skull with large, bulging eyeballs, and seems to be a generally good-natured and amiable character, if a Deadpan Snarker.
Dakkon is very old, his frame skinny and his face sagging and withered.
In Razes Hell, the cute and cuddly Kewletts are an evil army on a genocidal campaign to destroy those not cute enough by their standards.
The Ace Attorney series has twice used a Sibling Yin-Yang to play this straight while also subverting it: Dahlia and Iris in the third game, and Klavier and Kristoph in the fourth.
Besides that, there are quite a lot of witnesses who are guilty who subvert the trope. April May, Dee Vasquez, Alita Tiala, Matt Engarde, Cammy Meele, Calisto Yew, and Daryan Crescend all are attractive, but have done very amoral things (most of which are murder). The first game also has Miles Edgeworth, who is very pretty, but a complete Jerkass, but eventually becomes a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and then gets Character Development until he's a much better person.
Xenobia and Royce (the aforementioned sisters of Phacia) would probably fall under Evil Is Sexy rather than a subversion of this trope.
Subverted in Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX. Sephiroth and Kuja are both very attractive, although technically Cloud and Zidane aren't bad looking at all, just not as attractive as the baddies. Sephiroth for one has fangirls (and boys) lusting after him. Not to mention the Badass factor.
Also in Final Fantasy X with Seymour. Goofy hair aside, he's one good-looking man despite being an especially nasty piece of work.
The various games in the Warcraft series have both subverted this trope and played it straight. Of particular note is Warcraft III, in which the stereotypically ugly orc Thrall rises to become one of Azeroth's greatest heroes, while stereotypically handsome human Arthas falls to irredeemable evil (though he becomes less handsome when he becomes a Death Knight.
Many of Warcraft's protagonists aren't traditionally attractive and all but Turalyon and Thrall have been older men. Even Malfurion, an Elf, was a large elderly man with a long grizzly beard. The Antagonists are almost always pretty ugly however.
An inversion being the race of Succubi. However they play with this trope as well as they fall in love with their master relatively commonly - and it happens no matter how hideously ugly the summoner can be.
It's possible that to demonic senses, which include aura vision and some telepathy, anybody with the magical and mental attributes needed to summon and bind a succubus (and retain life and sanity) is beautiful by definition, one way or another.
In the first case, playable character Fir gets manipulated by an Obviously Evil, gonkish pirate into believing he's a good person, and the protagonists are invading pirates. When one of the protagonists points out the pirates thuggish appearance, Fir sarcastically says "Well thats what I get for listening to my mom, and not judging people for their appearance." Note, Fir's mom was Happily Married to a large, and thuggish looking man.
In the second, the large, and ugly Gonzales is made an outcast for his grotesque appearance, and forced into the service of the villains. One of the protagonists ends up treating him like a person, and he undergoes a Heel-Face Turn.
The Persona games subvert this with Igor, a diminutive hunched old man with bulging, bloodshot eyes, pointed ears, a fiendish grin, and a foot-long nose, who helps the good guys develop their powers while claiming he's just fulfilling his own obligations.
That rather depends on the game. A common thread in the Persona games is Igor's role as assistant, and many fans of the first game are still wondering what happened to Philemon, Igor's apparently former boss, and are waiting for that to be explained. As of 4, at least, he's the trope played straight— you're not supposed to trust him (see the Persona 4 entry above for details). And he does outright state he's doing all this for his own reasons— they just happen to align with the hero's this time.
Ghost Trick: Despite actually being named Beauty, the female agent of the blue people is probably the most cold-hearted, having kidnapped and threatened a little girl. Beauty was apparently willing to kill her if Sissel stuck around. Even her fawning admirer Dandy took offense to being cruel to Kamilla, though he was complicit in the kidnapping.
Yomiel isn't bad-looking (Anime Hair aside, possibly), but is also a depraved criminal. Played straight when he ends up redeeming himself, though not after going through quite a lot.
Almost subverted in StarCraft. One of the few attractive characters (most of them being alien or plain) does a Face-Heel Turn, and probably the closest thing to good guys in the game are aliens who are only somewhat humanoid... except for Jim Raynor, who is a classic rough-hewn hero and, with one exception, easily the most moral person in the entire series thus far.
From another viewpoint, StarCraft can be seen to be completely neutral in this respect, as every race and character is crafted to be both good and evil, in one way or another. The Protoss are noble, but are all but undone by their traditions and hubris; the Terran are very versatile but are almost constantly fighting amongst themselves for power and resources; the Zerg are the stereotypical 'evil' race, but are the only race that's striving to better themselves, and being a hivemind, they have the highest 'integrity' of the races (until a human enters the Swarm and the Overmind dies, which results in said human fighting with the Cerebrates for control over the Swarm...). As far as attractiveness is concerned - beauty is in the eye of the beholder... or in this case, the player. Take, for instance, the release of the Zerg models for StarCraft II by Blizzard - the entire fanbase was falling over themselves in adoration of their favourite spiny, scaled and virulent units.
Somewhat subverted in World of Warcraft: While five out of the six Horde races are ugly and monstrous, the Horde itself isn't particularly evil...and the attractive blood elves are one of the most unpleasant of the Horde races. As for the Alliance, the vaguely demonic-looking draenei are usually Lawful Good and probably the most honorable of the lot.
Then played straight when the draenei—particularly draenei women—became very obvious perpetual fanservice. Fanart has very quickly caught up to reflect this.
Played straight in a Horde quest in the latest expansion, where players help overthrow a cruel but incompetent Orc commander in favour of her more noble sister. The tyrant uses one of the "ugly" Orc female faces with red eyes and a perpetual snarl, while the sister has the most conventionally attractive face available to Orcs.
Rise of the Kasai features four playable characters, three of which subvert this trope. Baumusu and Grizz are both old men, Baumusu is bald, burly, heavyset, and is missing an eye. Grizz is wrinkly, thin as a rail, has a huge nose, and is also balding. Both are noble and honorable heroes. Tati is a very attractive female, but is the most morally questionable of the four, to the point that she can make a Face-Heel Turn at the end of the game. Her brother Rau arguably plays this straight as he's a fairly handsome man and arguably the most noble of all four of them. This is played straight with most of the villains, however. The big bad is especially hideous. The Twins are supposed to be very attractive to the point of being able to mind control men, but the game's graphics and the haziness of the scene makes it something of Informed Attractiveness.
In the Touhou Project series, hideous and otherwise monstrous entities, some of whom even state outright that they do/have done things we might otherwise consider repugnant in their lives, have been turned into Cute Monster Girls. They are also extremely well-loved by both their creator and the Fandom, even if "human" is their main delicacy.
Then there is Saigyou Ayakashi which uses it's beauty to lure people to it and then drain their souls.
Though it has many straight examples of this trope, Mass Effect also has numerous subversions in all three games of the series.
In the first game, Urdnot Wrex is just as ugly and ferocious-looking as most Krogan, and sports a number of old battlescars on his face; however, though he's admittedly an Anti-Hero, Wrex is surprisingly amiable for a Blood KnightWarlord-turned-Mercenary and goes on to become a leader and reformer among the Krogan populace in the sequels.
Turians aren't exactly handsome by human standards, sporting insectoid mandibles and spikey exoskeletons; however, the one that joins your team, Garrus Vakarian ends up becoming one of Shepard's closest friends. This is subverted even further in the second game, when Garrus gets shot in the face by a enemy gunship; though he survives, he's inflicted with permanent scarring and plastic surgery isn't brought out as an easy way to keep him "handsome." This doesn't affect his morality in the slightest.
In a far more alien example than most, Rachni Queen might be a terrifying insectoid Hive Queen that speaks through the bodies of the dead and dying and her species did engulf the galaxy in war several centuries ago, but she isn't inherently evil. In fact, she's just been imprisoned and enslaved as a means of creating shock-troops; if you release her, she joins forces with you out of gratitude, and honours her promise without any backstabbing.
Flying Fox Man in League of Super Redundant Heroes is thought to be one of the cities many young and handsome billionaires. While the real man behind the mask is indeed a billionaire he is ugly as sin and middle aged underneath his mask, and is getting tired of no one suspecting him.
Sergeant Schlock of Schlock Mercenary is an... interesting variation on this trope. While no one can deny that he is one of the protagonists, and that he does have his Jerk with a Heart of Gold moments, it is repeatedly noted that he is an alien that looks like a pile of fecal matter.
On the other hand, thanks to genetic engineering, any genes that can make a person "unattractive," have been weeded out. One character even mentions that all of humanity's females now have ample bosoms. Interestingly, this subverts the trope harshly, as it means that if you're a human, then you can be good or evil and still be pretty.
In Homestuck, multiple characters, including the Author Avatar, comment that Kankri is really cute and adorable-looking. However, this does not change the fact that he is a boring, self-important asshole, or make people respond to him in any more positive a way.
Calliope is an 'ugly little skull-monster', but nevertheless has a gracious, beautiful personality. However, she shares her body with her brother, who is every bit as ugly in character as he looks.
Edged by Karkat, who is (like Kankri) apparently cute-looking and is a good guy, albeit a Good Is Not Nice guy who (at least initially) is disliked by many of his peers for his extremely difficult personality.
Bob the Angry Flowermeets a very ugly mutant and outright tells it that something so ugly had better be evil. Turns out it's one of his victims.
My Little Pony had a few aversions, and at least one deliberate subversion: In the episode "Fugitive Flowers", the main characters help a group of sentient flowers escape from the "crabnasties"; they regret it later when it turns out the crabnasties are a police force, and the "flories" are escaped convicts. It becomes clear that their respective appearance made it hard for Posey to consider, but all in all, the ugly crabnasties end being the Big Damn Heroes of the episode.
In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the parasprites are utterly adorable. They also constantly eat any and all food they can find (and, after Twilight messes them up with magic, any non-food they can find) and reproduce in a revolting manner. The fourth gen is generally devoid of ugly mook villains - the changelings are bug-like but still fairly aesthetically pleasing, Sombra and Nightmare Moon were sinister but attractive, and Discord's mismatched appearance makes him look weird and strange rather than ugly. Discord ultimately becomes a straight-up inversion when he reforms: He looks his usual chaotic and borderline ugly self, but other than being kind of a jerk he is ultimately a good person... pony... thing.
Inverted in the episode "Stage Fright" of My Life as a Teenage Robot. Jenny, who was rejected from performing in the school's dramatic production of Romeo and Juliet, believes the school is playing the trope straight by accepting only human actors, but when aliens crash land and attempt to warn everyone of an alien invasion (simply by shouting "Alien invasion!"), Jenny is quick to face them on the grounds that they're hideous. When the actual invaders arrive, they're beautiful energy beings with slight feminine figures...who quickly attempt to conquer. In the end, both Jenny and the uglier aliens are cast in the school play as the leading roles.
Total Drama has three of the four main antagonists being shown as extremely attractive (two of them, Justin and Alejandro, even using their looks to get ahead).
An episode of Xiaolin Showdown had a Villain of the Week use this trope to her advantage. As long as she's in water, she looks like a beautiful mermaid, and gives the group a sob story about how she's the last mermaid in the world, being hunted by an evil Viking. She's pretty, the Viking is ugly...naturally, they believe her until the Viking sets them straight—he's the good guy here, and she's a monster. Then it turns out that, out of the water, the mermaid becomes a hideous giant monster.
The episode "Good and Ugly" did this, with the heroes having to choose which of two visiting aliens to help; the good guy turned out to be the ugly one. They even ended the episode with a "good and ugly" joke.
Of course the show usually plays the trope straight with the ThunderCats all being portrayed as attractive, while their enemies, Mumm-Ra, the Mutants, and Lunataks are ugly.
The Guardian Angel in Adventure Time uses this trope to get Finn to trust her immediately. Big mistake.
Finn does this a lot, although he doesn't appear to necessarily judge by "beautiful" so much as "cute and helpless".
The show itself mostly avoids this, with adorable characters such as Me-Mow and the Cutie King being evil and the comparatively hideous Cinnamon Bun and Tree Trunks being the sweetest of the characters.
However, when Princess Bubblegum becomes temporarily ugly, she immediately becomes more vicious.
Avatar: The Last Airbender plays with this a lot. When Zuko is first introduced the viewers' attention is immediately drawn to his huge facial scar, and he at first seems a fairly stereotypical arrogant, hot-tempered villain. However, once the initial shock of his disfigurement has passed, you start to notice that he would actually be a very Pretty Boy without it, and he soon starts getting a lot of Character Development and revealed Hidden Depths as the series progresses. Plus, once Zuko's hair gets a bit longer, it draws a bit less attention to his scar. Fire Lord Ozai is another case of playing with this trope, as his face is obscured with shadow for his first appearances, but his cruelty and menacing voice are very clear, making the eventual discovery that he is just as handsome as Zuko would have been without the scar that much more surprising.
Uncle Iroh is one of the few firebenders who is clearly good right from the start, and he is a fat, blunt-featured old man.
On the good guys side, Katara and Suki are the only ones who would be called conventionally beautiful. While none of the characters are really unattractive, their appearances tend to be somewhat goofy or unusual, and any attractiveness has more to do with their personalities than appearances.
The Powerpuff Girls have a "Substitute Creature" that covers for Ms. Keane. They think he is evil because he is a monster and fear the worse. It turns out he is a nice guy and sets the girls straight.
Blossom: I guess we shouldn't judge someone based on what they look like.
Bubbles: Even if they're as ugly as you.
All visual propaganda uses this. Showing how evil your opponents are would take up too much space on the poster — more or less subtle differences in beauty are used instead.
Nazi propaganda continuously portrayed the regime's enemies as shrunken, deformed subhumans, and eulogised the handsome, dashing, blond-haired blue-eyed Aryan hero. The regime itself was obsessed with its image. Even Adolf Hitler himself had adoring fangirls.
And, turnabout being fair play, the Japanese depicted the British and Americans as demonic (tricksy shapeshifters or brutish oni).
Newborn infants prefer to look at attractive faces (about 80%), than less attractive or plain ones. This is due to the aesthetic, symmetric appeal of a beautiful face, suggesting that inbuilt preferences are involved which help babies make sense of their environment.
Warren Harding, considered the most incompetent president in American history. It was his outward appearance rather than any outstanding internal qualities that contributed most strongly to his political success.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Abraham Lincoln, often considered to be America's best president, was thin-faced and wrinkly. His opponents mocked him for having the face of a horse-thief. Most pictures of him smooth out his face quite a bit. There's some evidence that he was actually medically deformed due to Marfan's Syndrome, also explaining his extremely unusual height.
Interestingly, people who actually met Lincoln described him as much more attractive in person than in pictures, because he had some quality about him that couldn't be captured by a camera or canvas. His personal secretary once said "there are many pictures of Lincoln, but no portrait of him."
Quite a few serial killers (such as Ted Bundy) subvert this trope nastily when it comes to using good looks to lure potential victims. They first invoke it by getting women to automatically trust them on their good looks alone ("He wouldn't hurt anyone, just look at how hot/cute/handsome he is!").
This trope came out to play regarding Susan Boyle. When she walked on stage, the judges of Britain's Got Talent looked at her awkward appearance and assumed she was going to be a total disaster. When she had an amazing voice come out of her mouth, the judges were visibly floored, and left commentators asking why we assume lack of physical beauty automatically means lack of talent.
In French, the term "vilain", from which the English word "villain" is derived, originally designated serfs or peasants but can now be used interchangeably to mean both "ugly" and "naughty".