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Beauty Inversion
From this...
...to this.

An actress known to be good-looking who plays a role which calls for her to indulge in a makeup that makes her look homely usually gets flattering notices from the reviewers, even if her performance isn't worth a nickel[.]
George Jean Nathan

An actor or actress known for their physical beauty being altered by makeup and prosthetics to play an unattractive or even ugly character, usually as Oscar Bait. This doesn't cover really deformed or monstrous characters like Freddy Krueger or Quasimodo; that would be The Grotesque.

Note: This is different from Hollywood Homely, where, an actor or actress will be "plained down" with unflattering clothing or hairstyle, glasses, a better-looking sibling, crippling shyness hiding their looks or so on, but the result is only (maybe) average-looking by non-Hollywood standards. A Hollywood Homely character can quite easily be changed in-story to the actor's normal appearance for a Beautiful All Along reveal. This trope, instead, is when the actor uses makeup or prosthetics to change the look of their face to match the expectations and image of the character.

This trope usually happens in biopics and serious dramas, and covers attractive actors playing below average-looking characters (or real people), and there is a definite effort to not only play down but deliberately counteract the actor's usual good looks. Since most Hollywood actors tend to be very attractive, it's an interesting challenge for them to portray a Gonk.

If they're playing outright monsters who are usually portrayed as ugly, this may result in a Gorgeous Gorgon.

See also Dyeing for Your Art, which generally covers actors who change their appearance for their roles. Contrast with Adaptational Attractiveness.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • In-universe, unusually justified example: In Passionella by Jules Feiffer, Passionella, having achieved success as a movie star, decides to make a more realistic movie where she plays a non-beautiful, unglamorous, chimney sweep. All of her scenes in the movie are shot during the day, where all her previous glamorous roles could only be filmed at night, because she only transforms into a beautiful, glamorous movie star in the evening. She wins the Best Actress Oscar, of course.

Film
  • Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster. The actress gained between 25 and 30 pounds, shaved her eyebrows, and wore prosthetic teeth. As such, she looked completely unrecognizable in character and got the Best Actress Oscar in a walk.
  • Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo in Frida. To play Kahlo, Hayek either used make-up or grew out her own mustache and unibrow.
  • Nicole Kidman wore a prosthetic nose to play Virginia Woolf in The Hours.
  • Emma Thompson in Nanny McPhee. In an interview with Disney Adventures, she jokingly lamented that it took less time for them to make her look ugly than to make her look pretty.
  • Tom Cruise wears a baldcap and a fatsuit in Tropic Thunder.
  • Being John Malkovich:
    • Cameron Diaz wears frumpy clothes and frizzy hair.
    • John Cusack in that same movie also does not look too attractive with his greasy hair and unclean skin, descending into seediness at the midpoint of the film.
  • Brad Pitt at his homeliest (with the exception of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where he was aged up considerably) was in Twelve Monkeys — didn't use prosthetics, but gave the character a lazy eye and unflattering hairstyle.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow, the actress who played her mother, and Brooke Burns in Shallow Hal. When the movie got flak for casting such a thin woman as a heavy character, the director defended himself by noting that the concept called for her to be attractively thin through most of the movie — Paltrow could fat up while a heavy actress could not thin down. The result is a movie littered with bad fat jokes... about the smoking hot Paltrow.
  • Almost all the women in the movie version of Push. Mariah Carey (Precious' social worker, pictured above) is the most obvious example, but the lead actress Gabourey Sidibe was also made to look larger using unflattering clothes.
  • Sharon Stone in Alpha Dog, where she uses a fatsuit in an interview held years after her only son was killed.
  • Johnny Depp had his head shaved (by Hunter S. Thompson) and wore huge glasses in Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Benicio Del Toro just put up a lot of weight and a leatherman's moustache. They both looked quite unspectacular in result. But it was the brilliant acting that made them truly offputting.
  • Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight.
    • Played with by Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises. While Bane's mask, bald head, wrecked skin, and grotesquely musclar body make him anything but attractive, Hardy's naturally handsome face still allows us to immediately identify him in a flashback as the prisoner who helps Talia escape.
  • Jude Law played a slimy, gaunt, brown-toothed, heavily balding photographer/assassin in Road to Perdition with disfiguring facial scars in the end. Like in Anna Karenina he made himself balding, grew a big beard, and gave hims spectacles and wrinkles to make himself look older and unattractive. And in Contagion he has snaggle-teeth to point out that he's the bad guy.
  • Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard had to look more aged as Norma Desmond than she did in Real Life.
  • The handsome, elegant Dame Judi Dench playing the haggard spinster Barbara Covett in Notes on a Scandal.
  • This is Elizabeth Banks. This is Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games, under ten tons of makeup to bring out her wrinkles and make her look more like Joan Rivers than a 37-year-old woman has any business looking.
  • AnnaLynne McCord in Excision not only wears no makeup, but has acne scars and badly damaged hair, and looks far less attractive than the blonde bombshell that McCord is in real life.
  • The normally very beautiful Lena Headey sports some very nasty looking facial scars, cracked lips and bad teeth in Dredd while playing former prostitute turned drug baron Mama.
  • Missi Pyle as Fran Stalinovskovichdavidovitchsky in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. Of course, this doesn't stop Owen from falling in love with her. In the epilogue, she is shown to be substantially more attractive, though.

Live-Action TV
  • Big Rhonda on That '70s Show. The actress who plays her appeared out of costume in a flash forward once, and looked nothing like Big Rhonda.
  • Ana Maria Orozco, the original Betty in Yo soy Betty, la fea, especially when compared with her Anglo counterpart who was Hollywood Homely at worst. The Colombian producers went the whole nine yards on transforming Orozco: no makeup, bad haircut, the ugliest glasses possible, orthodontics... they even hired an expert to choose specifically the most unflattering colors and styles to dress her, then the writers incorporated that knowledge on the script to justify and explain her eventual makeover and her business plan.
  • Amy Sedaris is another comedian who is attractive in real life, yet prefers playing unattractive characters. The David Sedaris essay "Shiner Like A Diamond" noted how she is easily the most attractive member of the family, yet all her life she enjoyed hiding it under wigs and prosthetics. She has said in interviews as well that she's never comfortable doing straight-up sexy, she can't help but add some sort of goofy element to it.
    • Don't forget her "fatty suit".
  • Helena Bonham-Carter as Morgan in Merlin. In the first act she is a homely girl with a lazy eye and pigtails, but uses magic to make herself beautiful in order to trip up Arthur. At the end her magic slips away and she is homely again.
  • Angela Bettis as the title character in the TV remake of Carrie. Drab clothes, messy hair and something about not washing her face or anything definitely hid any beauty that she had, making it that much more special when she went to the prom.
  • Some well-applied zombie makeup was enough to make the incredibly handsome Jamie Bamber look utterly horrible during a guest stint on Ghost Whisperer. There's also his appearance on House, where he starts out looking like his usual gorgeous self, but his looks worsen as his condition does—yellowing skin, bulging eyes, etc—until finally, the site of him laying on a bed wearing nothing but boxer shorts is completely undercut by the fact his skin is peeling off. Quite jarring considering that he's usually Mr. Fanservice in whatever he's starring in.
  • Most of the women on Orange Is The New Black are made to look a lot uglier than they actually are using a combination of unflattering hairstyles, minimal makeup (with the exception of a few characters) and the ill-fitting prison uniforms.

Theater
  • Any actress who plays the Witch in Into the Woods until the end of the first act. The ultimate example may be Bernadette Peters from the original Broadway production.
  • As well as the actors who play the title character in The Phantom of the Opera, most of whom are quite handsome in Real Life.

WesternAnimation
  • In the Ember Island Play in "Avatar: The Last Airbender", this is taken to the max, since every single actor playing one of the show's main characters is less attractive than the real person.


What Measure Is a Non-Cute?Personal Appearance TropesBelly Mouth
PushImageSource/Live-Action FilmsPredator
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