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Producer: What were you thinking? Casting: Well, you said you wanted gritty. In other words, ugly. Producer: I wanted Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island ugly, not Cornelius on Planet of the Apes ugly. TV-ugly, not... ugly-ugly.
Some storylines require a character who is unappealing, unattractive, and has a hard time finding dates. However, unattractive or even average-looking women are often dissuaded from trying to get acting jobs in Hollywood, so the person cast in the role ends up being more gorgeous than anybody you'll ever meet in real life. Producers know that "beauty is money," and so they're disinclined to cast genuinely unattractive people even as villains or extras, but would rather imply homeliness in character via character-reactions — regardless of the irony presented in attributing such to the fairly good-looking person playing the role.
They make her "plain" by giving her some or all of the following: thick glasses, braces, freckles, unfashionable clothes, an unflattering hairstyle, and a better-looking sibling or friend. A more subtle method involves giving the actress clothes that clash with her natural skin color, making her look pale or blotchy — a method also used in "before-and-after" shots for diet-pill commercials. Bad lighting can help.
It's important to stress that being physically beautiful is only half the battle. In many cases it's no secret that she would be far more attractive if she were more fashionable and carried herself in a less off-putting manner. This may lead to her getting an Unnecessary Makeover and tips on how to act sexy by a more socially-adept friend but since Status Quo Is God, she'll almost certainly learn a An Aesop on just being yourself and go back to her old looks by the end.
Generic Cuteness is the animated equivalent of this trope, and the result is a very Informed Deformity. Naturally, this all leads to Unfortunate Implications. Adaptational Attractiveness is when this trope is applied to characters who were plain in a show's source material, but are played by someone smoking hot regardless. Beauty Inversion is the use of makeup or prosthetics to successfully avert this trope. Compare Beautiful All Along, Cool Loser, Hollywood Dateless, Hollywood Nerd, and Hollywood Pudgy (when women of average build are considered to be lumbering oxen by most Hollywood producers even if they're as fit as an Olympian). Contrast Informed Attractiveness and Gorgeous Gorgon.
Please keep in mind that this trope only applies if the character is actively stated to be or treated as unattractive. A handsome actor playing a geek doesn't count if nobody on the show has a problem with his looks. Similarly, a good-looking actor who is actually made less attractive is an aversion of this trope. See also Ugly Cute for more insight.
Disney Channel used to run a PSA that was all over this trope. A very attractive teenager is sitting in front of a poster of a pop star, lamenting how plain and unattractive she is. The pop star springs to life from the poster and tells the girl that she shouldn't worry, because it's all Hollywood magic. The pop star is then stripped of all the makeup, fancy clothes, etc, and reduced to ... really attractive.
This trope isn't limited to humans. Ugly Animal Preservation Society ran a campaign to choose its mascot. Eventually, the blobfish, which is indeed ugly, won the most votes, but second place went to the kakapo, a cute, fluffy parrot.
Whether the winner of the World's Ugliest Dog Contest is legitimately hideous (Mugly, Elwood, most infamously Sam), Ugly Cute (Gus, Yoda), or normal-looking with some unfortunate features (Walle's strange mish-mash of body parts, Pabst's underbite) varies from year to year
In a Dannon Oikos greek yoghurt ad, two ladies are discussing how eating it turns the next man you see into John Stamos. The man who comes in next is treated as if he's an unattractive slob but is actually an above average looking guy with a sunburn. The comments on the YouTube posting of the advert verify this with many girls saying they thought the first guy was hot and some preferring him over John Stamos.
Anime and manga
Ganju Shiba is a male example from Bleach. Despite being tall, very muscular, having a chiseled face, a deep voice, and a masculine attitude, Ganju unfortunately lives in a world where most of the male characters are Bishōnen, and is thus considered a Gonk, by the local dandy, Yumichka.
Genshiken plays with this trope. Ohno is called an "Ordinary person who is cute" and that Saki is "like a model", but Ohno is just as attractive as Saki. The main difference is the effort the two put into their appearances - Ohno doesn't outside of cosplay (where heads turn so fast you could hear bones snap); while Saki puts the effort in to maintain a model-like air and appearance.
Drew is supposedly so plain that other upper-class girls won't give her the time of day - something which the mangaka illustrates by giving her quite good-looking round glasses, freckles and a braid. (She also seems to have real curves compared to the waifish characters) The art style may be partly at fault, but the fact remains that she looks no less pretty than any other girl in the manga.
Viola wears a mask because she is disfigured, but when she takes it off it turns out that her face is perfectly fine apart from a finger-sized acid burn on one cheek. This one is justified in that she is insane and is probably exaggerating the extent of her scarring.
Sophie considers herself plain compared to her sister. Her sister looks like a garish parody plastered with makeup, while Sophie's features are more natural. However, the soldiers at the beginning of the movie and Howl himself seem to find Sophie quite attractive and The Witch of the Waste curses her with truly ugly old age because she feels threatened by her.
Given the nature of the curse, there's also the implication that a lot of Sophie's "homeliness" are self esteem issues on her part. In scenes where she shows confidence she becomes younger and prettier while insecurity or defensiveness lead to the older and wrinled curse form.
In Inuyasha, Kagome is stated several times to be "average" in looks and appearance (by Inuyasha). However, it is noted (even the characters state it), that she looks almost exactly like Kikyo, her previous incarnation, who is stated to be beautiful. In Inuyasha's case this may be justified; he recognizes Kagome by smell, not sight and he probably finds the scent of things like body wash and shampoo strange and off-putting.
Monster Lotte, who is no uglier than Eva or Nina, is deemed so unattractive that guys will dance with her on a dare only.
Ranma ½: Akane Tendo is considered a knock-out by every single boy in her school except one; her erstwhile fiance who calls her 'uncute'. It's implied this is because of her temper instead of her appearance; when she's sweet instead of violent he has a better opinon of her.
Wandering Son: Makoto is at least cute. She finds herself unattractive due to her Youthful Freckles and Nerd Glasses. She's chubbier and rounder than the other characters, as well. Justified since its most of the criticism is her own opinion, and at other character has gone out of their way to tell him se's cute; Mako doesn't have good self-esteem. Seya once thought she made an ugly girl when she met him in girl mode though.
Uozumi and Akagi of Slam Dunk who are described as "gorillas" because they are extremely built. This means they fit a different standard of beauty then the local bishonen. Yay for Values Dissonance!
Bara no Tame ni: Yuri is constantly referred to as fat and ugly despite looking only slightly pudgy and having the same "pretty girl" face as the supposedly more attractive girls in the story. The Taiwanese drama based off of this is even more egregious, as she's played by girl group member and actress Ella Chen.
Makoto of AKB0048 is supposed to be plain-looking but a portion of the fanbase considers her to be the cutest understudy.
Itazura Na Kiss: It's a major plot point that Kinnosuke is way out of his league with Chris, the girl he ends up with, and that Chris (and her mother) are genetically attracted to ugly guys. Except that Kinnosuke is certainly no worse than "Women fall at his feet" Naoki.
Watamote: The main character Tomoko Kuroki is supposed to be a creepy girl that no one wants to be around. While her personality fits this it is hard to take it seriously when the show tries to play her up as ugly. She is quite adorable, and not in an Ugly Cute kind of way either. The bags under her eyes are not fooling anyone. The show has to have her make really weird facial expressions for her to look even remotely ugly.
In Anatolia Story, Yuri is a Japanese teen who gets magically transported to the ancient Hittite Empire. Yuri is, naturally, drawn to look very cute, but most people in the ancient times comment on her being very scrawny and plain, and more than once she is mistaken for a young boy. This is Justified as a case of Deliberate Values Dissonance: back in such times, feminine beauty was defined by a full and voluptuous body, not the slim builds generally considered more attractive today. Early in the manga, Prince Kail is shown attempting to fatten her up, as he considers that to be more attractive.
The SandmanDepending on the Artist, several of the female characters either avert or play this straight. There is Nuala's true form with the glamor spell that made her look like a blonde princess removed, who looks genuinely scraggly and underfed, though subsequent artists usually make her more cute and childlike. The interesting thing is that despite this, she comes to prefer her true form (probably because Dream prefers it, and it's implied she's in love with him). Thessaly usually looks genuinely plain, as even without her Nerd Glasses she has a very odd-shaped face. Then there's Despair. Thessaly's spin-off comics make her look adorable.
The short-time member Marrow is a complicated example that has more to do with her self-confidence and backstory than anything else. In her original appearances as a Morlock terrorist and her initial Heel-Face Turn, she was quite ugly (to varying degrees Depending on the Artist). During an adventure on an alien planet, however, Marrow was wounded and placed in a regeneration chamber, which also smoothed her facial features. Despite her newfound beauty, she was still self-conscious about her appearance due to having a visible mutation and the fact that her mutation involves growing more bones out of her body.
Callisto, The Leader of the Morlocks, is a similar case. The Morlocks are a group of mutants that live in the sewer because their mutations make them look deformed and inhuman, and therefore easy to recognize and target among normal humans. While most of them are distinctively inhuman in appearance, Callisto herself is not, as she is "ugly" because of scars she got in a fight (which actually amounts to one lost eye) rather than because of her mutation but because of her solidarity with the Morlocks she has a similar view of herself. Although she did briefly have her arms replaced with Combat Tentacles, she lost those after M-Day and is now just as ugly as she ever was◊.
Dr. Ella Whitby, Deadpool's one-time prison psychiatrist. She's referred to by several characters as fat and/or ugly (including Deadpool, who at one point had a crush on Bea Arthur, but finds Dr. Whitby revolting). In actuality, she's fairly pretty and barely 20 lbs. heavier than anyone else. Also, another patient, the Foolkiller, is actually madly attracted to her but his feelings go unreciprocated. She may have been predetermined by the writers to be an Acceptable Hard Luck Target, since she turns out to be Ax-Crazy, Harley Quinn style.
In Sin City, Marv states that he's so intimidating that he can't hire a prostitute. While Marv is a hulking, scary looking guy, his features are traditionally masculine so he's referring to his Face of a Thug.
Empowered has Emp herself, who is extremely attractive, but is continually insulted by the other heroes for being "fat" (usually specifically referring to her butt), which she's particularly sensitive about because her powers come from her literally skintight costume that doesn't work if she wears anything over it. Not a truly straight example, because her inner circle (her boyfriend, her best friend, and the caged eldritch being from another dimension that lives on her coffee table) don't think she's fat (well, what Demonwolf says implies he does think she has a bigger-than-average butt, but he also seems to be kind of into that and phrases it in generally positive terms), and even most of the people who insult her seem to covertly find her attractive (the male ones, at least)... they're just insulting her because they're jerks.
In Be Kind Rewind, Melonie Diaz's character, Alma, is played up as ugly when the male filmmakers are forced to take her over her more attractive sister. They achieve this by... having her sniff and rub her nose a couple of times. It's quickly forgotten and she's the hot girl for the rest of the movie.
Lindy is supposed to be a Plain Jane-type, and the witch, Kendra, is supposed to be hideous and in the original book they were. The movie version casts Vanessa Hudgens as Lindy and Mary-Kate Olsen as Kendra. The former is "uglified' her by messing her hair up and giving her bangs while Kendra's "hideousness" is conveyed by black clothing, a slightly-plump body, heavy eye make-up, and white-blonde hair with black streaks.
Georgy Girl: The main character Georgy, meant to be a "brontosaurus" of a girl, is played by Lynn Redgrave. Because of this the character, despite being slightly overweight and frequently making grotesque faces, is still attractive. The trope is somewhat justified in that Georgy's insecurity and social awkwardness make her seem less attractive than she actually is.
Charlotte Gainsbourg has made a career out of this trope, playing specifically unattractive characters in some of her biggest roles:
She plays the title character in Jane Eyre, whose plainness is a major aspect of her character.
In The Science of Sleep she plays the plain woman whom the main character initially ignores in favor of her more attractive roommate.
In 21 Grams, she plays a cuckolded wife whose sick husband acquires a more attractive mistress.
Circle of Friends: Minnie Driver's character is supposed to be dowdy and heavyset (at one point she refers to herself as a "heifer"). Even playing her against the gorgeous Saffron Burrows doesn't make this work.
The Courtship of Andy Hardy (1942) has the title character mercy-dating the daughter of a divorcing couple on whose case his father, a judge, is working. She's depicted as such a "droop" that at one point Andy has to pay his chums to dance with her at a school prom. She's also played by Donna Reed.
Dogfight, starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, is about a crew of Marines who challenge each other to a 'dogfight' — finding the ugliest girl they can and bringing her to a party. Phoenix's character selects Taylor's character in order to win this 'dogfight'. By Hollywood standards, she's hideous. By any real world standards, she's reasonably attractive.
The Enchanted Cottage: The main woman is so "homely" that no guys will dance with her, young boys comment on her looks, and she generally limits her social life in despair. Later, a man breaks off with his fiancée and considers suicide over a barely visible war scar. As the two fall in love, they become beautiful in each other's eyes — represented on camera by a strange blur on their features.
Enigma: Kate Winslet’s character. Even anti-dolled to look ordinary, she's still prettier than the "hot chick".
Wanted: The producers considered James McAvoy the runt of the litter when it came to casting Wesley Gibson's character, but ultimately chose him because they felt he looked so regular that viewers would be able to relate to him more.
Little Children: Another Winslet role, where her supposed frumpiness is a plot point but many viewers don't buy it because it's still Kate Winslet. Roger Ebert found it pretty laughable.
Frankie and Johnny: In the stage original, the plain girl was played, to great acclaim, by Kathy Bates, who fits the casting requirement by being not particularly physically attractive. For the movie version, the part was recast to Michelle "Catwoman" Pfeiffer.
Carrie: Subverted in both film and book, her lack of popularity is depicted as mostly stemming from near-pathological shyness, her mother's religious weirdness poisoning her reputation and destroying her social skills, and an ongoing campaign against the "weirdo" by the head cheerleader. Her looks (overweight, poor complexion) are only a part of her problem, and not a large one. In both book and films it's shown that once she actually starts paying attention to her appearance she's quite attractive. Casting an attractive actress to play her may make this seem odd but attractiveness would not solve her problems.
Harry Potter: Hermione Granger is a source of debate amongst fans. She is described as plain in the books with bushy brown hair and large front teeth. The films have Emma Watson, who starts out cute and, as she ages, becomes positively stunning in the role. In-universe the books are in Harry's perspective, and he simply doesn't see Hermione like that; the only one who outright says she's ugly is Alpha Bitch Pansy Parkinson. (Parkinson herself is described as having a "face like a pug◊" in the book, but is played by a fairly cute actress, who simply has a turned-up nose.) Harry himself says otherwise in later books. It's worth noting that from age 14, Hermione started to attract admirers in Viktor Krum, Cormac McLaggen and of course Ron Weasley. The only time in the movies she was said to not be pretty was when she was referred to as a "homely but ambitious girl" in "The Goblet of Fire" film, and that was in an article published by Rita Skeeter.
Hollywood's Ten Best did a countdown of the 10 best "Beauty to Beast Transformations" in which beautiful actresses got ugly for parts. True the list included Hilary Swank for Boys Don't Cry and Charlize Theron for Monster but also on the list was Halle Berry for Monsters Ball. Even with frumpy hair Halle Berry is still stunning in that film. Also was Jennifer Aniston for The Good Girl where all she is doing is wearing baggy clothes (her character works as a cashier at a KmartExpy).
The Ipcress File: Michael Caine is playing a British spy who's supposed to be a inversion of the James Bond-style spy - instead of suave and gorgeous, he's supposed to be a funny-looking Cockney who seduces women by cooking for them. Unfortunately, he wasn't unattractive - he was Michael Caine, in glasses. He even loses his glasses for the second half of the movie.
Janeane Garofalo. Despite being cute, she was almost always cast as unattractive and caustic characters. For instance The Truth About Cats and Dogs, with Roger Ebert flat-out stating in his review, "The movie is based upon the presumption that Garofalo is not pretty, and of course she is." She was outspoken about her frustration with the typecasting and eventually lost a lot of weight so that she could get other roles.
Uma Thurman gets this treatment in the film Final Analysis, where a lack of makeup is enough to make her the mousy and plain younger sister to the glamorous Kim Basinger.
The character Jo March in Literature//Little Women, meant to be a plain tomboy, has been played by some of Hollywood's most attractive actresses, including Katharine Hepburn, Susan Dey and Winona Ryder.
Last Action Hero: Lampshaded, when Danny Maddigan tries to prove that they're in a film by pointing out that none of the women are ugly, to which Jack Slater responds:
Jack: No, this is California
Love Potion Number Nine: Even Hollywood isn't usually shameless enough to pass off Sandra Bullock as "ugly", but she is that town's go-to actress when they need an approachable, plain, Girl Next Door type. "Usually" is the key word there, as she is supposed to be the ugly type in this film.
Marty: Ernest Borgnine (no prize himself, although that's acknowledged in the film) goes on a date with a "dog" played by former model Betsy Blair, and former wife of Gene Kelly.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding: While Nia Vardolos is a very pretty woman she is anything but the typical Hollywood bombshell, which many people have stated helped make the film that much more appealing. Her homely look genuinely made her plain, and getting the makeover did wonders.
Now, Voyager: Bette Davis spends the first few scenes unconscionably unattractive by having... baggy clothes, unplucked eyebrows, bun hair and glasses. It's an early example of how to 'do an Ugly Betty'; the film came out in 1948.
In Only You, Andrew McCarthy's character has to make a choice between two potential girlfriends, one who is beautiful and one who is supposedly not beautiful but otherwise desirable. The supposedly plain-looking woman is played by Helen Hunt. McCarthy has to face the dilemma of whether he should settle for a woman whose worst flaw is she is only as attractive as Helen Hunt.
Penelope: Christina Ricci looks cute with a pig's snout, but some of her suitors are so horrified by the sight of her that they jump out of second-story windows to get away.
In Portrait of a Lady: Isabel and Henrietta go on about how ugly Caspar Goodwood is. That's Viggo Mortensen. Viggo Mortensen with slightly silly hair, but still...
In the 2005 movie, Lizzie Bennett, described by Mr. Darcy as 'tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me', is played by Keira Knightley. This is justified because Darcy is a jerk with BST. The Bennet sisters are all locally famous beauties, except Mary, who is exceptionally plain.◊ Once they get into their ballgowns, it becomes ridiculous to call her plain, or plainer than her sisters. She's one of the more attractive ones.◊
In the miniseries of 1995, the older sister (the pretty one, according to dialogue) is plain compared to Lizzie. This crosses over with Values Dissonance; Susannah Harker, who played Jane, fits the Regency ideal of beauty perfectly, but that ideal has shifted to the point where modern viewers consider Jennifer Ehle more attractive. Additionally, there was a fashion in the Regency period for dark-haired, pale-skinned women, so Jennifer Ehle might have attracted more attention in that era as well.
The Princess Diaries: Mia is supposed to be an ugly duckling before her princess makeover. However, wearing glasses and having a bad perm isn't enough to make Anne Hathaway◊ look ugly. Sure, she looks a lot better after her princess makeover, but she never looks that terrible.
Psycho features a joke where a man fawns over Marion at the bank, ignoring her supposedly plainer co-worker who says afterwards "He must have seen my wedding ring." The co-worker is played by Pat Hitchcock.
The Quiet Camilla Belle's character is described as being unattractive by several characters. One character goes as far to say that she is a hermaphrodite. The only thing that makes her "ugly" is the fact she has short hair, minimal make-up on and wears boys clothing. In real life, Camilla Belle◊ is as beautiful as Elisha Cuthbert.
She's All That: A teenage film take on the Pygmalion story involves a bet to get the "ugly" girl to win prom queen. After scanning the whole school, they settle on the obviously attractive Rachel Leigh Cook as the least likely to be named prom queen.
Not Another Teen Movie parodies She's All That by having the guys scan the crowd and decide that the conjoined twins, hippy albino, hunchback, and others are not ugly enough, but that the girl with glasses, a ponytail, and paint-covered overalls (played by the clearly attractive Chyler Leigh) is the ugliest by far.
In the film Sleepover, the lead female runs into a "ticket girl" who couldn't go into the prom because she has never been able to get a date. The actress playing the ticket girl? Summer Glau.
Tamara: The eponymous character is considered unattractive before she undergoes her Evil Makeover. Before that, it is just the very attractive Jenna Dewan with no make-up on and unflattering clothing. The first time we see her in the movie, she's having a dream about what she would be like if she were attractive, demonstrating the fact that Dewan is an absolute knockout. It makes the attempts to present her as "ugly" afterwards laughable. It's understandable that they had to cast a hot chick in order to make her transformation believable.
Thoroughly Modern Millie: Miss Dorothy is drop dead gorgeous while Millie pales in comparison. Miss Dorothy is believable enough as she's played by Mary Tyler Moore but Millie is played by Julie Andrews; young, cute Julie Andrews wearing flashy flapper dresses.
She's Out of My League: has characters assign attractiveness values to each other. Kirk (played by Jay Baruchel) is given a 5. Many of the other ratings could be disputed by viewers.
A Walk to Remember: The character of Jamie Sullivan. Although the character was never intended to be unattractive (merely unconcerned with her appearance) the audience has a hard time believing the shock of the other characters during her Beautiful All Along moment given actress Mandy Moore's natural beauty.
In Sorority Boys, most of the girls in Delta Omega Gamma, the "loser" sorority, really are plain in appearance... except for the president, a cute blonde with Meganekko glasses. Guess who the main love interest is?
Bessie Love's character in The Broadway Melody is supposed to be the "talented but plain" sister in a singing and dancing duo. This◊ is Bessie Love.
Parodied in The Other Guys. Will Ferrell is constantly apologizing for his wife, even calling her a "battle-axe," when she is played by the obviously stunning Eva Mendes and he is the only one who doesn't realize this.
Ashley Tisdale played a nerdy girl in Picture This. One of the earliest shown pieces of 'evidence' that she's a nerd is a scene that makes a big deal about her wearing 'granny panties' Except, it's not grannie panties, it's clearly a thong; you can see the leg holes of it. It's a cartoon print thong, but still a thong. The most the film does is give her tomboy looking clothes and big glasses.
Failure to Launch: Justin Bartha is the ugly one. Not the plain one and not played as a joke, repeatedly throughout the movie he is referred to as being ugly. So is Zooey Deschanel; they are hooked up by friends on the theory that since they are both so ugly neither would be able to find anyone else.
The Help: A plot point in both the book and the movie is the plainness of Skeeter. However, in the film version, Skeeter is played by the lovely Emma Stone. Most viewers find it difficult to believe that a character as beautiful as that would have trouble attracting men, even if the filmmakers tried to make her "ugly" by giving her "frizzy" hair.
Matilda in Zoolander. It's a deliberate joke because the movie itself is a joke and stars male models.
The Ten Commandments goes on (and on and on) about the noble choice Moses makes to marry the plain Sephora over the gorgeous Nefretiri. The filmmakers make Yvonne De Carlo to look "plain" by putting dirt on her face in most scenes, and not giving her the sparkly dresses that Anne Baxter wears but she's still Yvonne De Carlo◊.
Many critics got a lot of mileage out of mocking Tyler Perry's Temptation for presenting Lance Gross as the safe, bland alternative to sinister charmer Robbie Jones, even though both men are equally charming, equally handsome and have matching six-pack abs.
In Sin City, Marv states that he's so intimidating that he could never even hire a prostitute. Mickey Rourke wears prosthetics to exaggerate his facial features and match the comics, but the result does not say "ugly." With his lantern jaw and large nose, he looks more like an extremely weathered superhero.
In Corpse Bride, Victoria's parents say that she has "the face of an otter" and considered her a disgrace to the family. Seeing how they are Jerkasses and honestly ugly themselves, this could be because they needed someone to look down on. Ironically, Victoria is one of the most HUMAN-looking puppets for the production.
All the characters in The House Bunny Shelly meets at the sorority qualify, most notably Natalie who is explicitly said to be a virgin and undesirable even by the standards of the Betas and implied that no guy would ever be interested in her...despite the fact that she's played by Emma Stone, and her plainness is really nothing more than glasses, a ponytail and tending toward bland clothing.
Jennifer Coolidge's character, Paulette, from Legally Blonde, who considers herself a mess because of her "stretch marks and fat ass", but she is only a bit frumpy and lacks self-confidence. By the end of the film, she's able to snag the hot delivery man who always flirts with her, with a little help from Elle. Keep in mind, this is the same actress who helped coin the term "MILF" in American Pie.
In Total Recall (2012), a not-uglified-at-all Colin Farrell is presented as the in-universe Ugly Guy to Kate Beckinsale's Hot Wife.
In Outlaw, Rupert Friend's character is violently attacked and scarred in the face before the events of the film, and it's repeatedly stated that his good looks have been ruined, though in fact it really only served to make him more appealing, particularly with the long, flowing hair.
A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez parodies this:
I had yet to dare look in the mirror for fear of being driven mad by my own hideousness. Now I chanced a sidelong glance through the corner of my eye. It was not the sanity-twisting sight I had expected, but still a far cry from lovely.
"But what about these?" I cupped the large, fatty mounds on my chest.
"Those are breasts," Ghastly Edna said. "They're supposed to be there."
"But they're so...so..."
"Round. Firm." She sighed. "That's how they're supposed to be. Ideally."
Bella Swan is terribly self-deprecating, describing herself as skinny, big-eyed and clumsy. Mind-reader Edward lampshades this when he tells her that she should have heard what the entire male student body was thinking when she first came to school. Depending on your opinion, it's made either worse or better in the movie: Better because you don't hear as many of her thoughts and therefore don't have to hear about how "plain" she is as often, or worse because she's being played by Kristen Stewart. It's indicated that Bella is pretty and feels ugly because of a lack of self confidence.
James was described as being ugly as a vampire yet being played by Cam Gigandet makes you think that he's only ugly by Bella's standards. It does fix the "only bad vampires are ugly" thing...
Bella's friends were also more attractive in the movie, while their book descriptions tended to be...less than flattering ("fishy eyes", "hair like oil slick", etc) although again this may be due to Bella being an Unreliable Narrator.
Every now and then, tabloids will run a "shocking" cover story on how starlets look without makeup. Since it wouldn't be enough to show that they just look like average women, such tabloids will choose the absolute worst candid photo possible, where the celeb in question is visibly tired, upset, and/or shot from an unflattering angle. And if that weren't enough, the pic is then compared to her best glamour shot, with the rather hypocritical implication that nothing in Hollywood is real.
Nerdanel in The Silmarillion is described as homely, but this is also an Elf. This most likely means she is still very attractive when compared to an attractive human female - just not nearly as beautiful as Galadriel, Lúthien, or Arwen.
They might be due to the In-Universe standards of actual ducklings.
Live Action TV
Absolutely Fabulous: There was a constant stream of fat jokes at the expense of Jennifer Saunders, even though she didn't even look fat.
The Andy Griffith Show: Andy and his girlfriend help out a farmer's daughter by giving her dresses and makeup in order to make her look good. Her "non-beautiful" state consisted of the (beautiful) actress with a few dirt smudges instead of rouge.
An obnoxious commercial director declared Cordelia looking like this◊ to be unattractive.
To be fair, that hairstyle IS hideous.
Doyle refers to himself as "homely"
Another early episode had a monster that switched hosts through sex. It transferred from a male host who looked like an underwear model to a girl described as "Sarah plain and tall" that Cordy declared must be loaded to have such an attractive paramour. She's a gorgeous blonde girl who is no less attractive than anyone else on the show.
Ann's not really played as "ugly," as much as that she's boring/unmemorable.
Played for comedy with Kitty Sanchez, who is played by the attractive Judy Greer. While George Bluth Sr. keeps her as a mistress, Lovable Sex Maniac Gob finds her repulsive. Her "ugliness" is achieved by crossing her eyes when she's not wearing her glasses and having frizzy hair when she lets it down. To play the ugliness up further, she also gets a pair of unfortunate breast implants.
Lindsey's inability to attract attention from men is a recurring theme throughout the show, despite being played by the gorgeous Portia De Rossi.
The Big Bang Theory: While the characters vary considerably in their stated levels of attractiveness, the actors playing them are never ugly.
The third Blackadder series has the Prince frequently referred to as fat (as historically he was) and having trouble with women, in spite of being played by the very thin (and popular with women) Hugh Laurie.
Bones: In the episode "The Witch In the Wardrobe" Booth and Brennan spy on a group of Wiccans who perform their ceremony naked and Booth asked, "Why doesn't this ever happen with people you'd want to see naked?" Yet when we see coven members in the full light of day (and clothed alas) none of them register as less than slightly above average in looks.
The fact that Peter and Jan tend to be more socially awkward than Greg and Marcia is the only way that episodes like "The Not So Ugly Duckling" or "Cyrano de Brady" are plausible; the general consensus amongst viewers is that the middle children were actually the best-looking of the Brady kids. Over the course of the series they went through visible pubescent awkward stages and in the last season they were so clearly attractive that the writers gave in and reversed course. These episodes focused on Peter juggling a date with two girls on the same night and Jan ran for "Most Popular Girl" at school, and won.
Greg and Marcia also deal with this trope (indirectly). In the late third-season episode "My Fair Opponent," Marcia plays the sympathetic friend when an awkward and butt-ugly classmate named Molly is nominated (as a cruel joke) for hostess of Filmore Junior High's Banquet Night ... only for the makeover to work out too well and Molly becomes an insufferable snob. Greg's instance (in Season 5's "Peter and the Wolf") is averted: He merely is led to believe, based on old photographs and memories of his girlfriend, that his girlfriend's cousin still wears pigtails and braces and is horribly undesirable; the cousin turns out to be a total hottie.
Xander, despite actor Nicholas Brendon being an incredibly attractive guy, and the character rather witty, he is the bottom of the social barrel at Sunnydale High, and numerous cracks are made at his inability to get girls. He dates the cheerleader Cordelia from Season 2 onwards. Joss mentions this trope in the DVD commentaries:
Joss Whedon: Of course, Nicholas Brendon is way too good-looking, but this is Hollywood, so get over it.
Willow Rosenberg, played by the very attractive Alyson Hannigan, is in the same boat. In the original, never aired pilot, Willow was played by Riff Regan, who is more plain.
Farrah Fawcett, the beauty who swept the hearts of many boys in the 1970s with her gorgeous visage, plays Jill, who goes undercover with a hair bun and eyeglasses, at which point another character says, "Jill, you look terrible."
Chuck himself, who is supposed to be average and dorky-looking. Even Big Mike, who habitually points out that Chuck is the only reason the store functions, is in disbelief he managed to get a woman like Sarah. Realistically, Zachary Levi is pretty much textbook tall, dark, and handsome; so he's dressed in ill-fitting clothes and given a very silly haircut.
This has been acknowledged by the creators, who admit that the only reason that Chuck can pass as an ordinary guy is because his love interest is so good-looking that she makes him appear normal by comparison. Like standing a 6'4" guy in the middle of a 7' basketball team and calling him short.
Community: Annie Edison (Alison Brie) ended up as this for the first couple of episodes. The original conception of her character was much different prior to her being cast, and there were still artifacts of that in the early scripts.
Criminal Minds: In the episode "Legacy", a Serial Killer is preying on impoverished streetwalkers and homeless people. But his victim du joir in the episode is played by an actress with the most perfect, straight, gleaming-white teeth — the very personification of a million-dollar smile.
Desperate Housewives: Eva Longoria is supposedly over the hill and has to play The Mom when she tries to return to modeling. Eva Longoria is considered a "Hag". Sadly, this is a reflection of the modeling industry. High-Fashion models obviously have a short shelf life, and 26 is considered old and many retire (if they're lucky) or never find work again (if they're not).
Look around for the Mitchel Musso music video 'The In Crowd' for a textbook version of this. Katelyn Tarver, who plays 'the plain girl' is obviously beautiful - and to 'make her plain', they give her glasses, put her in jeans and a flannel shirt, tie her hair into a messy ponytail and have her act 'goofy'.
Doctor Who: The scientist Osgood in "Day of the Doctor" is told by the Zygon taking her form that she's the ugly one, unlike her pretty sister. Osgood is played by an extremely attractive actress with an unflattering hairstyle, nerd glasses and a Doctor Who-fangirl scarfnote Although considering the audience this was meant for, that might have been the intention all along. Possibly Justified in that the Zygon was going off her own opinion of herself rather than objective reality. (The justification was later confirmed in "Dark Water", where another character says that Osgood is 'so pretty' that and really should have a higher opinion of herself.)
Dollhouse: Mellie, played by the actress Miracle Laurie, complains that she's pudgy and can't get dates because she lives in LA and has to compete with all the girls that aren't. Her love interest doesn't care, and neither does the audience, because despite being a few pounds overweight, she's still kinda cute. Later exploited when it is revealed that she is a planted agent with a timid personality specifically designed to ensnare her target.
Downton Abbey: Edith Crawley may be outshone by her sisters (her less outgoing personality and slightly dowdy outfits have something to do with it),but she certainly isn't ugly. Yet her sister Mary and even their parents constantly harp on how Edith is homely and destined to be a lonely spinster. Word of God: “The casting of Edith was a challenge. Just as you would never cast a boring actor to play a bore, so, when you are casting a plain character, the last thing you want is a plain actress. It’s a trick, really. You need someone who is attractive, but in a different way, allowing the others to act as if she were plain. This will give the audience the sensation that they can see her inner beauty. But of course they’re not looking at her inner beauty, they’re looking at her outer beauty. Laura Carmichael is just as pretty as Michelle Dockery and Jessica Brown Findlay, but she’s got that slightly more reserved English face. The characters act that she’s the least fetching of the sisters, but she isn’t. They are, all three, very beguiling.” —Julian Fellowes, The Complete Scripts, Season 1, page 322.
The character of Amy Mc Dougall in Everybody Loves Raymond: introduced as a romantic interest for Robert Barone and later his on-show wife. Not by any means hideous, but plain and unassuming next to Debra and definitely so next to Robert's ex-wife Joanne and holiday romance Stefania.
Dialogue in episode 2 of Faking It suggests that Amy is supposed to be plain and unconcerned with her appearance.
Steve Urkel in Family Matters. As proven by the 'Stefan' persona, Jaleel White is by no means unattractive, but give him thick glasses,a funny voice and suspenders and everyone treats him as a repellent geek.
Frasier's agent and one-off romance Bebe is definitely Hollywood Homely, especially by contrast to Frasier's usual sort of date. She makes up for it with personality and being a very good example of the BBW.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: One episode involved the Girl of the Week bribing Will into going on dates with her, despite him being unattracted to her. At one point, Judge Carl Robertson makes fun of her appearance. However, it's pretty obvious that the girl in question is a pretty actress who just happens to have unflattering hair and clothes, and glasses. Hilariously, said girl eventually reveals that she views Will as the Hollywood Homely with his stupid haircut and his big ears, and only bribed him to go out with her to raise her own popularity. This is Will Smith.
Friends: Ross and Chandler are definitely this. Especially Chandler in the first few seasons where all women seem to treat him like he's repulsive when actually he's quite cute and very funny. It gets better when the writing focuses on how he's socially awkward rather than unattractive. On a more notable level, Fat!Monica.
Several characters in the books are either hideous to start with, undergo lengthy imprisonment/disfigurement to deteriorate their looks, or even both. Tyrion and Theon are the most blatant examples of this. Yet on the show, these aspects are all downplayed significantly to maintain the actor's good looks.
As an example, Tyrion is described as follows after the Battle of the Blackwater: "Three quarters of his nose was gone, and a chunk of his lip. Yet on the show he has only a minor scar under his eye with no other damage.
Even before that, though, Tyrion in the books is not only a "half-man" but grotesquely misshapen as well (hunchbacked with asymmetrical limbs, heterochromic eyes, and a hugely disproportionate head); Peter Dinklage has achondroplasia and is a Little Person, but he's far from the deformed monstrosity that Tyrion is described as.
Rachel Berry is supposedly less attractive than Quinn Fabray. Now, Quinn's actress, Dianna Agron, is a cute girl, but Rachel's played by Lea Michele◊. In one episode, Finn describes Rachel has having "a smoking hot body... if you don't like boobs." Rachel is noticeably much, much curvier than Quinn. In an interview with the actress she mentions how the character is not supposed to be seen as attractive in the show. Once she got bangs, started wearing more flattering clothing, and became more friendly with the glee club, the show stopped being shy about the fact that she's beautiful.
In "The Rocky Horror Glee Show," Finn is feeling insecure about having to strip down to his underwear for the role of Brad. He decides to overcome it by walking through the school hallway in his boxers, causing people to pass out in horror. When Finn is suspended, the principal says that 9 students requested after school counseling, and they had bring to in a grief counselor. One may argue that Finn isn't the hottest guy on the show, but his body is far from traumatizing◊
In the season 2 finale the coach of their rivals, Vocal Adrenaline, describes the whole club as "hideous". Admittedly Lauren is the Brawn Hilda, but the rest? Even the resident Hollywood Nerd Artie (or at least◊ his actor) is pretty damn attractive, chair and all. The only way this makes any is sense is as Trash Talk.
The Golden Girls: frequent sport was made about Dorothy being physically unattractive. Now, Bea Arthur was in her sixties when they made that show, so she wasn't a supermodel, but it's hard to argue that she was less physically attractive than Rue McClanahan, whose character was generally portrayed as being catnip on legs for every man over the age 45.
The Honeymooners: When Audrey Meadows first auditioned for the part of Alice Kramden, Jackie Gleason rejected her for being "too pretty". So she had a photographer come to her house early in the morning and photograph her just after waking up, morning hair, no makeup, etc. Jackie took one look at the pictures (without knowing it was Audrey) and hired her on the spot.
Hot In Cleveland: The premise is a Lampshade Hanging of this trope, wherein a bunch of aging Hollywood actresses have a flight layover in the title city and decide to stay after discovering that they're considered attractive there in a way they wouldn't be back in LA. One of them is Valerie Bertinelli, who was one of the most beautiful women on TV in the early 80's, and is still prettier and better-built than women years youngernote She did get somewhat pudgy in the 2000s, but not grotesquely so, and she had lost the weight again over a year before the series started.
I Love Lucy: Ethel was the source of constant fat jokes, despite being about the same build as Lucy. To compensate for this, the producers had her wear clothes that were several sizes too small. This was intentional on the part of Vivian Vance. She reasoned that if Fred threw fat jokes at Ethel, and she were actually fat, people would feel bad for her; if she was called fat while actually slender, the hypocrisy and dissonance would make it funny. The Urban Legend that she was contractually obligated to gain 20 pounds is untrue.
iCarlyThe Chew Toy Lewbert is played by this guy◊. In the show itself they mention that Lewbert used to be a male model, until a psycho ex-girlfriend caused him enough grief to make a giant wart◊ grow on his face, and at that point, he seemed to throw in the towel on hygiene.
Inspector Lynley: (BBC Homely?) A mild case in the televised version of the mysteries; in the books, DS Barbara Havers is committedly unattractive — middle-aged, plain, overweight, and badly dressed. Sharon Small may not fit the supermodel aesthetic, but she is stunningly pretty, and no bad haircut or baggy clothes can completely hide this, with the result that Barbara Havers is adorable for the first four series, and then genuinely pretty (they let Sharon grow her hair out for series 5 and 6). Elizabeth George, who wrote the novels, was quite upset by this until she saw Small's performance in the pilot.
Averts this trope with Margaret McPoyle who is hideous. As it turns out Margaret McPoyle is played by the very attractive Thesy Surface under a lot of makeup. Don't believe it? Margaret McPoyle vs. Thesy Surface
All the male members of the gang use hyperbolic criticism to describe Sweet Dee's appearance. She's said to have a "five-head," compared to a giant bird with "stork-like" legs, and even said to have eyes so far apart that she looks like a fish. However, she doesn't have much of a problem getting boyfriends, suggesting that her friends and family are just being mean. It's interesting to note that actress Kaitlin Olson says she prefers playing "the ugly Dee" over a standard closer-to-Earth female character.
Maya conducts an experiment to prove beautiful people get social perks by sending both an illiterate male model and a well-qualified "ugly" guy to a job interview. She ends up proving herself as shallow as everyone else by rejecting the charming "ugly" guy and dating the clueless himbo—much to her own self-loathing. However, the actor cast as the "ugly" guy wouldn't have been out of place in GQ.
Maya herself was treated like this in the show's first season. While this was possibly justified by the show's setting (a high-fashion magazine), by season two they stopped trying to make anyone believe that Laura San Giacomo was in any way "homely".
Kamen Rider OOO: episodes #23-24. Sakura is tempted by a Yummy because she doesn't want to be "ugly", which is shown by wearing a lab coat, thick-rimmed glasses, and covering her hair. It was obvious that she was attractive under all that and it was just covered up. Date agrees.
Mad Men: Peggy Olson is supposed to be deliberately keeping herself dowdy in order to be taken seriously at work but she's played by the gorgeous Elisabeth Moss. The character was also shown gaining weight throughout Season One, presumably for the same reason. As we learn in Season Two, she was actually pregnant with Pete Campbell's child. Once Peggy has her "date" with Kurt in season 2 and starts dressing herself more fashionably and wearing her hair differently, the presents this as her harnessing the power of "being a woman" as Bobbie advised.
Bud Bundy is depicted as unattractive and someone that only a woman with no standards would date or have sex with despite being played by the not-remotely-ugly David Faustino. For all the women turned off by his looks, far more are repulsed by his personality. As he matures both physically and emotionally (and stops trying far, far too hard) he starts having more success.
Marcy also came in for a lot of jokes about her looks even though Amanda Bearse was average looking at worst. For example, in the episode "The Egg and I", she shows off her body in lingerie; Al screams "I'm blind! My eyes, my eyes!" but the studio audience Wolf Whistles.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Playing with a Trope with Rhoda. Because she's not the star she can't outstine the star but in the Season 3 episode "Rhoda the Beautiful" Rhoda got her own show. She was given a supposedly less attractive sister to make sure everyone knew that now that she was the star she was now officially pretty.
One thing that makes this even funnier in reruns is that putting Julie Kavner in "old lady clothes" while dressing Valerie Harper more stylishly was a large part of it, but unless your own personal fashion sense is stuck in the 1970s the main thing you'll notice is that both of them are wearing clothing that's laughably out of date.
The Mentalist: In episode "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" this◊ woman has trouble getting a date, so she has to resort do a dating service.
The titular character of Miranda. She is frequently called "sir", and she cannot for the life of her find a man; while perhaps not conventionally attractive, she is nevertheless average at worst and distinctly feminine-looking.
Modern Family has Alex, who explicitly states in the first few episodes that she's not as pretty as her sister Haley. In reality, she was definitely as pretty as Haley. Then she hit puberty...
NCIS: In a 6th season episode, a young and hot woman's attraction to Gibbs is portrayed as odd. Gibbs is played by Mark Harmon who is one of the few people named EW's Sexiest Man of the Year twice. Perhaps their confusion stems from his irascible personality, though he can be charming when needed.
Mark Harmon could probably turn straight men temporarily gay.
New Girl: Nick is constantly called fat. For the most part, this was considered mostly a joke by Schmidt who is Formerly Fat and obsessed with body image. However, other characters have gone onto refer to Nick as chubby despite the fact he really isn't.
Andy and Michael flirt with a couple of waitresses at a restaurant and attempt to get them to come to a party. They show up at the party with two different waitresses, the joke being that the first two refused and they had to settle for supposedly less attractive ones. Unfortunately, as co-creator Greg Daniels admitted, poor casting meant the actresses hired were too good looking and the joke fell flat.
Sometimes there are true inversions. In the early seasons, the makeup/hair team would spend hours making the very gorgeous Jenna Fischer◊, look quite realistic and average for Pam Beasley◊, an office receptionist in her 20's. Despite that, all of the male characters treat her as if she's gorgeous, and refer to her as "the hot one" in the office. In later seasons, she has gained more confidence and dresses up more.
Also averted. On any other show, Kelly would be considered Hollywood Pudgy. This is played with when Ryan refers to Kelly as having a little junk in the trunk and Kevin's line.
Andy: Ladies, if it were up to us, you all would be the fashion models.
One episode turns into an intense argument about whether Hilary Swank is attractive.
One Tree Hill: Millie appears completely and utterly gorgeous, except for a thick pair of glasses. (She later becomes a hit as a model)
A Pocketful of Rye, an ITV adaptation of the Miss Marple story had the supposedly-plain Elaine Fortescue played by the decidedly beautiful Hattie Morahan, looking her best in fashionable clothes and an elaborate hairdo. Despite this, the other characters were at pains to point out how unattractive she was.
Popular: Of the two lead characters, one is supposed to be an extremely beautiful Alpha Bitch who leads a posse of popular blondes, and the other is supposed to be a frumpy, unattractive, unpopular nerdy girl. As far as the audience can tell, they're both very attractive, and viewers can't agree on which one is hotter.
Queer as Folk: Ted's status as this is meant to lampshade the impossibly high standards of appearance that many gay men place on themselves (and each other). Women check him out all the time, much to his annoyance. And also Michael Novotny's self-depreciation, despite that Hal Sparks is unendingly adorable no matter what Sears-type button up shirts they put him in.
Reaper: In episode "Business Casualty", Sock is set up with a friend of Nina's. His reaction to her is that she is hideous beyond all imagining; he tries to get away from her as quickly as possible. In fact, the character is played by a beautiful woman wearing a minimal amount of make-up and wearing average clothes with her hair in a pony-tail. There isn't even any of the usual Hollywood Homely attempts to disguise this: she doesn't wear glasses, have braces, wear hideous clothes, have bad hair, or prosthetic makeup. She looks like someone going out to run errands.
Rules of Engagement has Liz. Descriptions of the character indicate that she's overweight and highly unattractive. Visual inspection begs to differ.
Scrubs: Ted the lawyer is a aversion created with makeup and an ill-fitting suit. The actor has been quoted as saying that after seeing him in the pilot episode, his mother called him up and asked if he was ill.
The character Miranda (played by Cynthia Nixon) is supposed to be the ugly one of the four lead characters.
Charlotte's second husband Harry. While played up as Ugly Guy, Hot Wife due to his baldness and slight weight, his actor Evan Handler, has a cute face, and is hardly less attractive than many of the character's guys of the week over the years In the last season, they dropped the Ugly Guy, Hot Wife angle.
Charlotte was this for exactly one episode, when she turns 36 and is freaking out about being an "old maid". She may be the most prudish of the bunch, but it is highly unlikely she would really wear a frumpy button up blouse on a trip to Atlantic City!
Strangers with Candy: Averted with Amy Sedaris, who in real life is far from bad looking, took extensive pains to look as ugly as possible as Jerri Blank. This includes fat suits, yellowed teeth, hilariously awful wigs, and a wardrobe that would make anyone with a modicum of taste gouge their eyes out. The result is appropriately hideous. In an interview, she stated she was deliberately trying to avoid this trope.
Big Rhonda was made up to look homely, but the actress (Cynthia Lamontagne) who played her wasn't. This is seen in the episode "It's a Wonderful Life", where in an alternate timeline she was dumped by Eric and appears at the gang's ten-year reunion without the whole Big Rhonda look. She also played a fembot in Austin Powers.
Inverted with Donna (Laura Prepon), who's frequently mocked as a "giant" and a "lumberjack" by Jackie, while alternately depicted as a "hot redhead" whom Eric could never hope to date otherwise. He even considered her his equivalent of the actual Brooke Shields dating Donna's father.
30 Rock: Liz Lemon (Tina Fey). This is lampshaded in the episode "Cleveland". Liz goes to Ohio and is offered a modeling contract and is complimented by people on the street.
Jenna: We're all models west of the Allegheny.
Liz Lemon subverts this trope a lot. She's not as much portrayed as unattractive as she as a woman whose life is out of order, she wears inappropriate clothing, eats horribly and doesn't get enough sleep. The people who call her ugly are Jenna (who is crazy and jealous), Jack (who usually just points out her horrible choices) and Jack's associates (who have extremely high standards and are rich person mean). And in those later situations she's usually competing with models.
In Season 3, Joss Stone appears as Anne of Cleves. Henry VIII claims he cannot tell her from his horse (which speaks either very poorly of his eyesight or very well of his horse) and is unable to consummate his marriage to her because she is so ugly. This is based on something Henry historically said, but contemporary reports suggest that she was quite pretty. An alternative explanation suggested by other characters is that he's turned off because Anne is a virgin who doesn't know what to do. We also know that Henry was almost 50 years old and as heavy as 400 pounds, so he may have had performance anxiety of his own. Either way, it's most likely all in his head.
This is used in Philippa Gregory's novel, The Boleyn Inheritance, where Anne of Cleves seems very frumpy at first because she is wearing modest (read: baggy) and unflattering clothing that she brought with her from Germany. After Henry VIII divorced her, she was free to wear English clothing and hold her own court in her own household. The next time she showed up at court, everyone thought that she looked very pretty. There are several historical accounts that support this theory. Henry slept with her in Season Four.
A case can also be made for Henry himself in his later age. King Henry was a fit and athletic man in his youth, and even still is given an Historical Beauty Update with the casting of Jonathan Rhys Meyers. In his later years, Henry is plagued by age, injury, illness and obesity, but he's still played by the same actor with only minor cosmetic changes.
Ugly Betty plays with the trope by casting the obviously cute America Ferrera underneath a battery of accessories to hide her appearance. The idea is that she's working at a fashion magazine, which has a very high and conventional standard of beauty. It's not that Betty is ugly, she's just not made up like a model. Indeed, season four has a Dream Sequence in which Betty is "beautiful," but the beautiful version is just America Ferrera without her "ugly" accessories.
Vieja yo?: The Venezuelan soap played with this. Margot, is a House Wife just turned 50 who has tried to be an actress for years, and thanks to her skills she ends fronting for an old man to discover who are the really truthful people in his company. Everybody keeps calling "old hag" (even her very unfaithful husband and her three kids), and everybody around treats her like she was truly an hideous old prune. Of course, she is interpreted by Mimi Lazo◊, who is the Venezuelan poster lady for Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have, and all the calling out is put in the mouth of people who are either envious of her luck and/or looks, or far older and uglier — people who has other reasons to dislike her and just use the "old hag" card to hurt her. Unluckily, her younger Love Interest fell into the Informed Attractiveness, as he gained weight during the soap and put in clothing too formal for the poor man in an intent to become more visually suitable for the heroine, but still referred as the second hottest men in the setting.
Justin. In one episode his family couldn't believe that a pretty girl would consider dating him. At one point, Alex said that Justin was not cute all. How are we supposed to believe this when he's played by the hot David Henrie?
While it's never stated that Harper is unattractive, her personality quirks and bizarre dress sense probably shouldn't have been as effective as they were at repelling boys. While Jennifer Stone struggled with her weight for part of the series, she is definitely not ugly - many would say far from it. Harper was eventually paired up with Justin's socially awkward but somewhat handsome friend Zeke.
WKRP in Cincinnati: Many male fans insist this one was (unintentionally) inverted wherein Jan Smithers as shy and nerdy Bailey came off as a hotter than 'blonde bombshell' Loni Anderson. Loni Anderson stated that the trope was being intentionally averted and that she enjoyed playing on a show where the two attractive women were loyal co-workers and good friends.
Wonder Woman: Give Diana glasses and her hair in a bun and suddenly she's nowhere near as attractive as her superhero counterpart. As with the Maya/Just Shoot Me example, the second season (which fast-forwarded 30 years) stopped trying to convince audiences that even a bespectacled, ponytailed Lynda Carter was homely. Her supposed homeliness is highlighted in an exchange between Steve and Diana in the season 1 episode called "Beauty on Parade", where Nazis have infiltrated a beauty pageant.
Diana: Perhaps if we could get one of our own agents into that beauty contest...
Steve: ... it might flush them out. It would take a really beautiful girl, though. Someone with all the right qualifications.
Diana:Well, I'd be willing to try.
Steve': Thanks, Diana. I know you'd do a wonderful job. But I'm afraid this calls for a really gorgeous girl. Someone who looks great in a bathing suit. Say, I won't be needing you for awhile, is there anything you'd like to do?
Coco Wexler. She is neither so fat nor so horrible as they say in the series. The fact that his supposed ugliness is accompanied by a series of romantic failures ultimately has Unfortunate Implications, even though her role is the buttmonkey.
One episode where the kids have to give two male nerds a makeover. The ugly nerds in question were two hunky twenty-somethings with glasses and bad clothes.
Chase is supposed to be seen as a plain dork with bushy hair.
Picket Fences: Kenny can't seem to appreciate Maxine's physical beauty because she's a fat tomboy with a weird face, so he has to learn to love her personality◊.
The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis: Zelda Gilroy said there's nothing to love about her appearance. Really, the only problem was she wasn't as super-model hot as the other gals Dobie would chase.
Smallville: Lampshaded when Clark thinks of himself as plain but as the high school reunion and even his friends (such as Pete) have mentioned, he is quite handsome. He's played by a former underwear model.
Skins: The cast constantly say Sketch is ugly. She doesn't get all dolled up like most of the other girls on the show, but she is definitely pretty.
When Trina offers to kiss a kid who previously came on to the other three main female characterrs he's grossed out. She's played by the far from unattractive Daniella Monet.
in the episode "Wifi In The Sky" Beck and Andre are horrified at getting a close-up shot of her behind as she leaves her seat. Several male viewers would be gratified if they were in their place.
Horrible Histories: Inverted with their portrayal of Elizabeth I, where they use make-up to make the actress look quite ugly.
Revenge keeps trying to pass Nolan off as someone who has trouble getting laid. Even if he wasn't played by a model, he would still be rich. Having trouble forming relationships, that's understandable, but getting laid?
The Ugly Stepsisters in the Cinderella-inspired episode of Grimm. The older one would be prettier if she smiled, true, but the younger one is very pretty indeed.
BBC adaptation of Gormenghast: Steerpike was described by Fuchsia as "so ugly", despite the fact that he is played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is mostly famous for playing Mr. Fanservice roles. They would've been better off not mentioning the character's looks at all, as it only drew attention to this fact.
Faking It: Rita Volk plays Amy, who's faking a lesbian relationship with her best friend Karma, played by Katie Stevens. Everyone in the show (including Amy herself!) immediately pegs her as "the butch one". Characters call her the Ellen to Karma's Portia, and the principal automatically assumes she'd wear the homecoming crown rather than the tiara. This from an actress who convincingly played a parody of a Jennifer Lawrence character in a previous movie.
Inverted in The Mindy Project. Mindy is a bit on the heavy side, but she makes a point of dressing well. She is viewed by other characters (and herself) as being fairly attractive.
On Rome, both Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) repeatedly refer to themselves as "ugly brutes," despite both being quite hunky (and even having some beauty qualities unlikely for the period, like good teeth). Semi-subverted in that they both grapple with feelings of guilt and self-loathing over their violent and immoral actions over the course of the series, at least proving the "brute" part accurate.
Saving Jane. The whole point of the song "Girl Next Door" is that the singer feels inadaquete compared to this other girl who is described as "perfect skin, perfect hair, perfumed hearts everywhere...."
Luann is typically assumed in her world to be plain, at best (at least as compared to the local high school Alpha Bitch, Tiffany), even though she is drawn attractive. In one arc boys lined up around the block to throw baseballs at a dunking machine so as to get Tiffany wet; when it was Luann's turn, all the boys mysteriously vanished. (This was the Punch Line). It's not like her boob size (again, as drawn) is any less ample than her rival's, either.
WWE spoofed this when they had LayCool mock Mickie James by claiming that the extremely fit Diva was fat and calling her Piggy James. Even though they were doing it for some cheap heat, and the announcers pointed out how ridiculous it was, some people thought the WWE was seriously calling her fat.
He adopted a vain pretty boy gimmick and came out to cut a promo on how "dashing" he is. He then referred to Todd Grisham as "overweight" and "plain". Yeah◊, not getting oxygen to the brain there Cody.
Cody then suffered a blow to the face from Rey Mysterio and supposedly required reconstructive surgery. He went from considering himself as 'dashing' to 'hideous' and 'deformed' as a result. He wore a see-through plastic mask to 'protect' his face, but it was clear that his face looked exactly the way that it always did, especially as he liked removing the mask to hit people with it. After a few months he dropped the gimmick and mask and all without his looks changing in the slightest.
AJ Lee on NXT was a form of a Hollywood Nerd and people were constantly remarking on how she'd have a hard time getting dates. The aforementioned Cody Rhodes remarked that she'd probably never kissed a boy before. She got into the act herself and called out the other Divas in saying she couldn't get into the WWE just by being cute like the rest of them. She's a hot girl who loves cars and playing video games - she's had boys lining up down the street for the chance to kiss her hand for a while now. Need anything else said?◊
Cabin Pressure has Martin, described as being 'a strange little red-faced man' and said to have so little charisma that even in his sharp pilot's uniform he looks like a little boy dressing up. He is played by Benedict Cumberbatch - a striking-looking man who during his tenure on the show got cast in Sherlock and soon became as famous for his unbelievably zealous Estrogen Brigade as for any of his roles. Cumberbatch reflects this by playing Martin with a rather high-pitched and neutral voice that's quite surprising to anyone used to the very deep voice he uses as Sherlock and Khan. Explained by the fact that Cumberbatch is not attractive in the stereotypicalway and at the career point he was cast no-one was expecting him to be seen as sexy.
Passion When the Stephen Sondheim musical was in previews, the director James Lapine had great trouble settling on a make-up look for the character Fosca. Fosca is supposed to be ugly — that's the entire point of her character — but whenever they used prosthetics to make the actress Donna Murphy look genuinely ugly, the audience lost all sympathy for the character. They ended up making Murphy up in pale "no make-up" make-up, giving her a mole, and dressing her in unflattering clothes; that was as much ugliness as the audience could take. Lest tropers unfamiliar with the work think poorly of those audiences, the character of Fosca isn't beautiful on the inside, either—she has deep psychological scars from a disastrous first marriage, and spends most of the show pursuing a man who has clearly and calmly indicated that 1. He's not interested and 2. He's already in a relationship (with a married woman but still...). When he finally reciprocates at the end, it's not clear if he has learned to love her or if she has simply broken him.
Wicked: Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, is supposed to be so hideous that her father cannot look at her upon her birth. She even describes herself as "ugly". Still, she is played by actresses such as Shoshanna Bean, Eden Espinosa and the incredibly attractive Idina Menzel, with no further pains taken in making her look unattractive than painting her green.
Neil La Bute’s “reasons to be pretty” features the main character of Steph, described by her boyfriend as “just normal looking” and another character as “a dog”. On Broadway the character was played by Marin Ireland◊ and in London by Sian Brooke◊.
Given Japanese media's issues with Generic Cuteness, it's noteworthy that the first game avoids this. Will Powers, the defendant in the third case, is genuinely rough-looking and unattractive. Maya, who has never seen him out of his Steel Samurai costume, is more than a little stunned. There are many who find Will's cragginess rather appealing, and the constant hullabaloo about how "frightening" he looks a straight invocation of this trope.
The sequel has some more good times on this subject: Will, who lacks the skills or training for anything but television, has been reduced to hosting a children's exercise program in a rabbit costume that hides his face, Will's successor, Matt Engarde, usually looks about as attractively sixteen as you can get (until he pushes back his hair and reveals the extreme scar across his eye, which also signals his switch into his real personality as an inhuman, manipulative monster), and Matt's supposed rival, Juan Corrida, is frequently mocked for being ugly and looking so much older than Matt (ie he looks to be in his early-to-mid twenties, which he is, and he looks pretty good for it too).
Condemned: Criminal Origins Ethan Thomas is an aversion as he looks believable as an average police detective. In Condemned 2: Bloodshot, he's built like a football player despite the fact that he's been spending the year between the two games living as an alcoholic vagabond. The only signifier of his degenerate status is his scruffy facial hair. He also became much paler than his originally bronzed skin tone.
In the 2012 Twisted Metal remake, plays this trope for drama with Dollface. In the new version, she is a former supermodel who gets a (minor) scar on her face, decides that her beauty is ruined (even though everybody, including her doctor, can plainly see that she's wrong), and starts wearing a mask to hide her "imperfection." David Jaffe said that her story is a satire of the extreme standards of beauty that are presented to women by pop culture.
Freedom Force: Invoked. Shadow is a masked villaness who is obsessed with creating an underground civilization filled with ugly, disfigured people and destroying the attractive surface dwellers. Then her mask comes off, and she s revealed to be a gorgeous former supermodel... with a tiny scar on her cheek. She screams about her hideousness but everyone else agrees she's beautiful...including her deformed minions, who promptly attack her.
In Metal Gear Solid 4, Solid Snake is supposed to be so ugly as a result of his accelerated ageing disease that at one point, when he takes his shirt off, he actually makes a grown woman cry. (His younger self was supposed to be a World Class Beauty, and women immediately show interest in him when he's wearing makeup to look like his younger self.) In practice, he still has a great body and finding him more attractive than his younger self is not a niche opinion amongst Solid Snake's generous Estrogen Brigade; people frequently remark that his younger self as it was rendered in Metal Gear Solid 4 looks awkward-looking or even outright ugly, but as an old man he is extremely charismatic. The bottom line is that he looks like a very fit an 80-year-old when he's 42.
In Dragon Age II, Aveline asks Isabela how she's able to attract men, given that she's not especially good looking. The tone of both Aveline's question and Isabela's response indicates that this was a serious question, despite Isabela's character model being a Ms. Fanservice and Aveline herself is quite attractive.
Dynasty Warriors: Yue Ying, the wife of Zhuge Liang, is described as "ugly" in her historical records character profile and some games make passing mention of her supposed unattractiveness. The viewer will likely find her to be anything but...though, given that she doesn't meet the conventional Chinese standards of beauty and on top of that acts nothing like the Confucian ideal of a perfect wife (i.e. Extreme Doormat), maybe it's not a stretch that she's considered to be some sort of horrible hag.
Huang Yueying in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms used this as a Secret Test of Character - the rumors of her ugliness were her own invention and used to ensure any man who pursued her was interested in her vast intellect and writings. Her "ugliness" was said to be red-hair and dark skin.
The survivors in the Left 4 Dead series are supposed to fall into the trope since they are the "every man" caught up in a Zombie Apocalypse and are not military trained or anything that you would see in Hollywood films. The survivors look a little ragged, but their faces for the most part still look pretty/handsome. This is mostly due to Valve using the faces of professional models to create the look of the survivor characters.
In Persona 4, a lot of people casually dismiss Chie, especially since she spends so much time around Yamato Nadeshiko-in-training Yukiko. In the animated adaptation, even Yu nearly chokes in surprise when he finds out Kou has a crush on Chie. At worst Chie suffers Generic Cuteness with a perhaps-unfortunate haircut and a casual disregard for her appearance.
Played for laughs in both Portal games. Gla DOSand Wheatley, amidst taunting her about being an orphan, repeatedly point out that Chell◊ is fat, pale, and ugly to try and demoralize her. Itdoesn'twork.
Dorothy of ''Fire Emblem: Binding Blade is supposed to be homely. Her sprite portrait is better at this than the artwork, but the problem is still mostly with her drab brown outfit and haircut (and lack of confidence).
in Better Days, both Marvin◊ and Marissa◊ are treated as being pretty unattractive. Fisk is shocked the instant he sees Marissa, having assumed she got some of the "hereditary hottability" that her cheerleader sister had, and Lucy reacts with pity the instant she sees Elizabeth with Marvin. The trouble is, both of them are drawn in the standard cute animal style, so it's really impossible to tell that they're supposed to be that undesirable. In the case of Marissa it has more to do with her Che Guevara t-shirt and the implications of her political leanings than what she looks like. Fisk is an Author Avatar of Jay Naylor, who is opposed to communism and hates Che Guevara.
Gaia Online': Timmy he came down with Megapuberty and turned into a grown man... Where Gaia users had been expecting another Bishounen, they instead got a lanky man with a Porn Stache and messy hair and clothes that fit him better when he was twelve. Based on Nicholas Cage. The fans were screaming "change him back". note Just as many users were complaining about the stupidity that began when he grew up, or had simply gotten tired of Timmy altogether.
The Chick sees herself this way. In fact, it was once revealed that she hired Nella to hang around her specifically so she could feel better about herself.
Troll Douchey Mcnitpick is still just Doug Walker in a wig, bad glasses, unflattering shirt and a constant scowl. If he smiled, cut his hair and wore nicer clothes he would be pretty cute. (Then he starts talking.)
Chester A. Bum is depicted as a dirty, crazy homeless man with old clothes and unkempt hair. But it's still Doug Walker. This is (probably unintentionally) lampshaded by a YouTube user that uploads Bum Reviews whose handle is "hotbumfan".
A Very Potter Musical Intentionally used for humor, when Harry, Dumbledore, and especially Ron, will deliver entire monologues about the horrid ugliness of Hermione, who is played by a very pretty actress. Draco tries this as well, but the most scathing thing he can come up with is that she's an 8 out of 10 (Maybe an 8.5...No more than a 9.8!)
Ron: It was inevitable that one day Hermione would realize that no guy would ever like her, because of her obnoxious personality, and her ugly face, and her misshapen body, but I figured she'd get in at least one night of happiness before she realized she was going to be growing old alone, you know?
A few minutes after that she enters Ron and Draco break into a Counterpoint Duet about how they're falling in love (falling in love, falling in love) with Hermione Granger (Danger...)
Happens to Ginny as well. Harry calls her a "butterface" (in the sequel) and Harry makes it clear that he doesn't find her attractive, though she's played by a pretty actress.
Sally in Me and My Dick, played by the same actress as Ginny in A Very Potter Musical. It's lampshaded when after Joey realizes that she's the one for him, and he says "You know, I don't know why I ever thought she was that ugly, she's really not that bad".
The Whateley Universe. A majority of the characters are exemplars (that is to say, idealised humans, superhero-beautiful), and there are those who use auras and glamours to make themselves even more attractive. Non-examplars, even when they're on a level with otherwise gorgeous baselines like hollywood actors/actresses, don't stand a chance.
Example: Aquerna. She's hardly worth a second glance on campus, but the devisers think she's hot, and when she goes home for the holidays with her pal Rhiannon, lots of guys are hitting on her.
The Gungan Council:Feena's avatar could be viewed as pretty, yet her character in narrative is described as being borderline ugly.
Batman: The Animated Series/The New Batman Adventures lampshades it ( anvilicious but Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped): One Villain of the Week, Calendar Girl, was once a renowned model who was fired for getting old, unable to compete with younger models. She tried to make the transition to acting, and even managed to get the role as a mother on a sitcom, but was subsequently fired from that job when the network decided they wanted a to go in a "younger direction". Eventually, she decides to wreak bloody vengeance on the network and modeling executives who ruined her career, but she had so much plastic surgery done before turning evil that she wears a full-face mask. At the end of the episode Batman defeats her and the police unmask her, whereupon she begins to scream and sob upon the ground. She is in her mid 30s and still quite attractive, even in comparison to other models, but she is absolutely horrified the police can see her "old, ugly" face.
"Quinn the Brain"; while Daria is generally described as plain or even ugly (by people who believe that All Guys Want Cheerleaders), and usually shows disdain for makeup and clothing, but proves that she can match her fashion-crazed sister Quinn to make a point to her. Note that Daria and her pal Jane are the only girls in the school who are drawn with no bust at all.
The Fairly Oddparents Timmy frequently describes Tootie as "creepy" (yeah, she follows him around, but in one episode, he had a hard time calling her "lovely" without throwing up), but her "ugliness" only seems to be a matter of unflattering glasses, braces, and a bland outfit; plus the stalking.
Meg Griffin, who was originally supposed to be plain but has been flanderized into being monstrously hideous based on the reactions of those around her. Characters have committed suicide by fire upon sight and have (claimed to) kill family members to generate excuses to avoid her. In the episode, "Don't Make Me Over" all that was easily fixed with a new hairstyle and color, fashionable clothes and make up. The main difference between how Lois (considered in-universe to be smoking hot) is drawn and how Meg is drawn is: Meg has brown (instead of red) hair, is shorter (to be expected considering she's supposed to be about 16), and wears glasses and a hat. Meg is also slightly chubbier than Lois, but you have to specifically be looking for it to notice, since she's a twig compared to Peter or Chris.
The trope is parodied in one episode in which the Griffins star in a reality TV show. Meg is recast and her part played by a gorgeous starlet, but her character is otherwise unchanged. The starlet complains that she'll "never have full beautiful breasts like these," as she gestures toward her generous assets.
Peter's boss, Angela, is also supposedly ugly to the point where Quagmire couldn't stand having to sleep with her and Peter had to disguise himself as another man that was attracted to her to make her feel attractive seeing as no one else thought she was attractive. Truthfully, though, compared to the other characters, she's more average looking than actually ugly.
Sidekick Ron Stoppable was supposed to appear as a buffon type of character, but he ended up appearing cute to the viewers.
DNAmy is supposed to be desperately unattractive but in her case it's her creepy stalker-like personality that puts off most men.
Scooby-Doo: Velma Dinkley used to be decidedly plain; her hairstyle was unflattering at best, her face was nothing to get excited over, the sweater she always wore was shapeless, and her figure could generously be described as resembling a barrel on legs. No-one in the series ever explicitly states that she is unattractive but In an episode of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, a landlady wouldn't let Velma sleep in the same room as Daphne because she [the landlady] thought Velma was a boynote either a Scot or a cross-dresser, apparently, since Velma nearly always wears a pleated skirt. Her Hollywood Homely became a Running Gag in the second season.
Shrek: Fiona's ogre form and Shrek himself. Apparently, she's supposed to be hideous, but she merely looks slightly chubbier and green. Of course, this qualifies as ugly to the Fairy Godmother, who originally placed the curse, and the only other person who comments on her supposed unattractiveness is Lord Farquad. Shrek even thinks her ogre form is beautiful.
Shrek himself is pretty hideous in the original book; in the movie he's at least bordering Ugly Cute with his hideousness being an Informed Attribute.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Irma. Glasses? Ponytail? Baggy clothes? Check check and check - now everyone will know she's supposed to be the ugly one. Okay, always being around April is hard but was she deserving of this piece:
Leonardo (suffering from amnesia): Fear not, beautiful maiden; I'll save you!
Donatello: Irma? Beautiful?
Raphael: The poor guy got konked harder than we thought.
In one episode of The Simpsons, Moe auditions for a role on a soap opera:
In the same episode, Moe gets plastic surgery and becomes much more attractive. Given the art style isn't not always easy to judge subtle differences in attractiveness, but Moe goes from outright Gonk to looking like one of the in-universe movie stars, at which point he's immediately hired for the part he auditioned for years ago. He does have to wear an eyepatch for the role, though, which apparently qualifies him as "TV ugly" enough.