Vanity, like fashion,
is a harsh mistress
. Beauty fades with time after all, but then there are times that it's taken away before time even has a chance to. Whether because of an accident
or illness this character loses their extreme good looks and becomes ugly as sin.
Which is rather appropriate, considering that since Beauty Equals Goodness
most characters who suffer this will do a Face-Heel Turn
, or if already a villain constitutes a Freudian Excuse
for even worse
villainy to "get back at the world" that did this to them/mocks them. Of course if this happens to a Jerk Jock
or a Alpha Bitch
- or simply a physically attractive Butt Monkey
- it may all be played for comedy and be undone by episode's end
This is named for the fable of "Beauty and the Beast
", and since then this trope is closely associated with the Aesop
of the vain
losing their beauty for boasting of it, and only getting it back if they become humble.
Often leads to a "My face! My beautiful face!" moment, should the villain be a large enough ham
. Expect them to go and break every mirror they come across
Compare the more extensive and Laser-Guided Karma
related Karmic Transformation
. See also Broken Angel
, What Have I Become?
and Emergency Transformation
. Contrast Gorgeous Gorgon
Also related to I Just Want to Be Beautiful
as the most likely reaction to losing beauty. See also Power-Upgrading Deformation
for a silver lining to this fall from grace.
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Anime & Manga
- In Berserk, Griffith's good looks are absolutely ruined by torture.
- Glass No Kamen. The reclusive actress Tsukikage Chigusa was forced into early retirement when a lamp lighter fell during a stage accident and burned half of her face off. When she's shown in the series as an old woman after her accident, her face is always half-covered by her hair, thus ensuring that the audience never actually sees her scars every episode.
- In an episode of the rather obscure anime Saban's Adventures of the Little Mermaid, the sea witch Hedwig got ahold of a bottle of the potion that Prince Justin regularly used to allow him to breathe underwater, adding a drop of another potion that also changed him into a monster after he drank it. Appropriately, the episode was entitled "Beauty and the Beast". His true love, Marina (the "little mermaid" of the title) later kissed him to change him back.
- In Claymore, the Claymore warriors definetly seem pretty, but let's not forget the whole Awakening thing.
- Nor the fact that the incisions necessary to infuse Youma flesh into human bodies to make Claymores leave scars bad enough (not shown for quite a while in the manga, never in the anime) that, in her back story, Teresa used them to eliminate any ideas a gang of bandits had about raping her.
- Batman: Harvey Dent's transformation into Two-Face.
- Fantastic Four has both Ben Grimm and Doctor Doom.
- Some versions play this trope straight with Doom, others have him as only suffering a small scar (which he considers horrible because he's such a narcissist). Yet other versions expand on the small scar by having Doom make it worse in an attempt to cover the scar. Still other versions suggest that the physical aspects of the small scar didn't bother him in the least, and that he was instead tormented by the fact that the scar was received at the hands of Satan analogue Mephisto, who filled Doom's head with the sound of his tortured mother's screams at night via said scar, and making him actually horribly burn his face on purpose later (see below), just so he didn't have to hear it anymore. A completely ruined face was a fair exchange for peace of mind. When Doom's mask was created for him, he pressed it to his face while it was still scorching hot from the forge fire. Needless to say, if Doom's face hadn't been badly scarred before, it certainly was after that.
- Iron Man: Tony Stark, after being badly injured by his own land mine in Vietghanistan. His chest was torn open by the shrapnel badly enough that some of it lodged in his heart — obviously, damage that severe scarred his chest badly. He gained another scar (though a far less noticeable one) after his open-heart surgery later in the comics. Whether or not Marvel's artists would actually acknowledge the scars that would come from such physical trauma seemed to change depending on who was drawing the run at the time.
- Watchmen: Although already pretty much a Psycho for Hire, when the Comedian's face is slashed open in a bar during the war in Vietnam by a pregnant Vietnamese woman, he reacts by pulling out a gun and shooting her in her very visibly-swollen belly. And the child she was carrying? Was his. The gash on his face, made with a broken glass bottle, scarred horribly.
- One of the Punisher's Rogues Gallery is a prime example. Billy Russo was originally nicknamed "The Beaut", but after the Punisher introduced him face-first to a glass pane, he now goes by the name Jigsaw. Granted Russo was already a murderous mobster when the Punisher met him, but as Jigsaw he's gone completely Ax-Crazy.
- In the Elseworlds story Justice, Wonder Woman is scratched by claws laced with a poison which scars her face. In short time, the scar begins to grow and disfigure her as it returns her back to the mound of clay she was made from. By the end of the story, she has little to no hair left on her head, and her entire skin looks like charcoal and burning embers.
- Erik (Claude Rains) in Phantom of the Opera (1943) had him starting out looking normal and then disfigured afterward, in that case by a vitriol-throwing — probably that plot-device came by way of Mystery of the Wax Museum (1935 — remade in The Fifties as House of Wax (1953) (which is probably another example)). Other adaptations of the novel that disfigure their Erik-equivalents include Phantom of the Paradise, a 1983 TV movie, and the 1989 film, but in the book and other adaptations he's deformed from birth.
- This is the fate of Bridget and Heather in The Final.
- "Baby" Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. She freaks out when she happens to glance in the mirror when she's reliving her child star career and sees her ravaged, sagging, horribly made-up face staring back at her.
- In Oz: The Great and Powerful:
- The beautiful Theodora is manipulated by Evanora into eating a cursed apple, crushing her love and compassion and turning her into the future Wicked Witch of the West.
- The equally beautiful Evanora becomes a hideous hag after Glinda destroys her magical necklace.
- Cleopatra in Freaks. It's very much a Karmic Transformation.
- In The Hunger (and the novel it was based on), a human who is turned by vampire Miriam will maintain their good looks for several centuries, so long as he/she feeds once a week. What happens when those centuries are up? Rapid Aging, as her current lover John learns. John is played by David Bowie, and the scenes that document his aging, aging, aging into decrepit hideousness are regarded as a triumph of special effects makeup work even today.
Live Action Television
- Cassandra of Doctor Who is a camp comical character, but she is also a bit of a tragic example of this. In her extravagant efforts to preserve her beauty and also to remain a "pure human" (while other humans had long since mingled with aliens, producing hybrids), she has turned herself into quite a freak. By the time she's introduced, she's literally a stretched out sheet of skin with a face on it, requiring frequent moisturization to survive. The Doctor, to punish her, lets her dry out at the end of her first appearance.
Myth and Folklore
- Older Than Feudalism: Very common in Classical Mythology. If a parent's boasting about their daughter's good looks didn't get them sacrificed to the nearest sea-god, then the girl herself, saying she was lovelier than the goddesses, would find herself transformed into a horrible monster of some sort. Meet Medusa.
- Of course, this is the backstory of the fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast".
- A number of The Search for the Lost Husband fairy tales all involve a prince cursed into some animal form and forced to live like that for a set period of time. Circumstances lead to the protagonist, a young girl or princess, marrying him as a beast. Inevitably, the girl (or sometimes her mother) learns of his actual form and breaks a prohibition that forces him to stay cursed and/or leave her forever, but the girl undertakes a long and difficult journey to fetch him and restore his true form.
- There's an old legend of a beautiful young lady who, instead of helping her family with the daily chores, spent all of her time by a pool of water, brushing her hair and admiring her beautiful reflection. One day, a single hair from her head disturbs the serene surface of the pool, releasing a water nymph. The nymph, angry at the woman for her vain and shallow ways (and possibly jealous of the woman's beauty), cursed her, changing her into an enormous, man-eating dragon, cursed to devour anyone who came near, until a knight appeared who was brave enough to remain unafraid of her, and pure enough to find her beautiful. The story ends on a downer note, as it's never said whether or not such a knight ever finds her.
- Cu Chulainn of Celtic Mythology is described as being an extremely and supernaturally beautiful man... as long as he's not in a Warp Spasm. What does he look like during one of those? Well...
The first warp-spasm seized Cúchulainn, and made him into a monstrous thing, hideous and shapeless, unheard of. His shanks and his joints, every knuckle and angle and organ from head to foot, shook like a tree in the flood or a reed in the stream. His body made a furious twist inside his skin, so that his feet and shins switched to the rear and his heels and calves switched to the front... On his head the temple-sinews stretched to the nape of his neck, each mighty, immense, measureless knob as big as the head of a month-old child... he sucked one eye so deep into his head that a wild crane couldn't probe it onto his cheek out of the depths of his skull; the other eye fell out along his cheek. His mouth weirdly distorted: his cheek peeled back from his jaws until the gullet appeared, his lungs and his liver flapped in his mouth and throat, his lower jaw struck the upper a lion-killing blow, and fiery flakes large as a ram's fleece reached his mouth from his throat... The hair of his head twisted like the tange of a red thornbush stuck in a gap; if a royal apple tree with all its kingly fruit were shaken above him, scarce an apple would reach the ground but each would be spiked on a bristle of his hair as it stood up on his scalp with rage.
- In Damn Yankees, Lola was once the ugliest woman in Providence, Rhode Island, before Applegate turned her into a vamp. He punishes her for rebelling against him by changing her back temporarily.
- In BIONICLE, the narcissistic Toa Matau considers himself to be this trope after his transformation into a Toa Hordika.
- Cassiopeia in League of Legends was once a beautiful noble's daughter who seduced other men in order to gather secrets for her father. This proves her undoing when one of these lovers makes her take a vow of secrecy upon a serpentine blade...turning her into a monstrous lamia after she betrays his secrets.
- Soraka's original lore had her acquire her present half-unicorn form as a cosmic punishment for using her celestial magic for revenge against the chemist Warwick. Her Celestial Soraka skin depicts her glamorous form before she was cursed. This later got retconned to her always being half horse when her lore was completely rewritten.
- One of the Vahzilok arcs in City of Heroes deals with an Eidolon, which in this game are the most humanoid of the reanimated corpses Dr. Vahzilok creates, who tries to regain her former human beauty.
- In one of the Devoured Earth arcs, a woman named Tanya Tyler is transformed into a hideous monstrousity named "Terra".
- Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has Imalia, a Nosferatu vampire who used to be a supermodel. It's said that the Nosferatu clan like to do this to vain, beautiful people in order to Break the Haughty. The tabletop game calls them "Cleopatras" (after the villain from the movie Freaks, due to her Fate Worse Than Death).
- JumpStart Adventures 4th Grade: Haunted Island anyone? Look at Tiffany, the princess girl. She now looks like a warthog!
- The BB ("Beauty and Beast") Corps in Metal Gear Solid 4 are beautiful women cursed to become "Beasts" in Power Armor, due to getting mixed up in wars and forced into Heroic BSOD.
- In The Game Of The Ages, you rescue a group that's under a curse that mutates their looks and leaves them mentally retarded. Just asking about them earns you some indignation from townsfolk, who turn out to be relatives.
- Quelaag and her Sister in Dark Souls went from being beautiful women to being beautiful women with horrible demonic lava-spider lower bodies.
- Played for comedy on an episode of The Simpsons where Krusty the Clown temporarily loses Sideshow Mel as the co-host of his children's TV show and hires actor Luke Perry, who is his half-brother (don't think about it too much), as a replacement. In a big all-star special edition of the show intended to boost ratings, Krusty fires Luke out of a cannon that sends him shooting all the way across town. He crashes into the Kwik-E-Mart and smashes right through several dozen jars of battery acid; we don't see what happens to him immediately afterward, but we hear him screaming, "AAAH! MY FACE! MY VALUABLE FACE!" Interestingly, the next time we see him, the acid scarring has completely healed.
- Also in The Simpsons, Moe gets plastic surgery to look attractive, but then later a wall falls on him and he goes back to normal.
- Similarly, Peter in Family Guy gets addicted to becoming more beautiful through plastic surgery. Eventually, he crashes his car and after suffering numerous scarring injuries, lands in a lard vat and drinks all the lard. This ends with him looking exactly as he always does.
- Rocko's Modern Life: Ed Bighead was once known as "The Handsomest Man in O-Town" before an accident involving a giant blender.
- In a late episode of Batman: The Animated Series, we get "Calender Girl," a woman who was a former model who turned 30 and is alleged to have had a nasty facial scarring beneath her mask. However, she's still quite beautiful, but her obsession has rendered her unable to see anything but the flaws. Crosses over with Gorgeous Gorgon, since she's actually not ugly under the mask.
- In one episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles April O'Neil gets mutated into a fish woman. Both the turtles and April are horrified about how hideous she now looks. Of course by the end of the episode she is transformed back.
- Willo The Wisp: The Prince is turned from a handsome prince into a shaggy Cousin It like form in the first episode. While there are some attempts to change him back, Status Quo Is God from there on in.