troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Informed Deformity
Your face looks like somebody tried to put out a forest fire with a screwdriver!
The physical equivalent of an Informed Ability and often a subset of the Informed Flaw. A character who is not different in any discernible way from the rest of the cast is found by them to be freakish in some way that should normally be obvious to the audience.

Distinct from Take Our Word for It in that the sight the cast is reacting to is still actually shown. This can be done deliberately if you want to get all meta about it.

In animated series, eg. anime, it might be the result of Generic Cuteness. Hollywood Homely and Informed Attractiveness are subtropes. The inversion, where nobody notices a character's actual deformity, is an Unusually Uninteresting Sight.

A Sub-Trope of Show, Don't Tell. Also see Minor Injury Overreaction.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler characters often say that Hayate looks "poor" or "seedy" but to the viewers he look pretty similar to the other characters—in fact he IS thought of as attractive when dressed as a girl.
  • Slayers:
    • Lina Inverse is always teased for being flat. While she may have a smaller bust size than some of the other female characters, it would be a stretch to call her flat-chested by any normal standard.
    • There's also the chimera Zelgadis - as a result of a spell mixing his genes with a demon and a golem, his skin is blue and his body is covered with scale-like rocks. Sure, he'd probably be incredibly uncanny-looking to the cast and in Real Life, but compared to some monsters and the chimeras that appear in the novel series, he's outright handsome. The art style for the later novels and the anime certainly doesn't help matters.
  • In an early story arc of God Child, Viola wears a mask to hide her horrible deformity, which turns out to be a small acid burn marring an otherwise normal face. Justified in that she's completely insane.
  • Yura of Honey Hunt is mentioned by people around her, namely her teachers and peers, to be very plain. However, when she loses the glasses, fixes her hair and wears more flattering clothes she's actually quite attractive.
  • This trope and a case of Adaptational Attractiveness happens with Therru in Tales from Earthsea. In the book, Therru is hideously disfigured due to burns (in fact, on one hand her fingers have melted together, leaving her with something described as "a lobster claw"). Although the film still mentions how strange looking she is, her burns have been reduced to a faint pink splodge on her cheek that you have to squint to see properly.
  • In Naruto, Sakura is often said to have a very big forehead. However, when you compare it to the other characters, it's looks to be completely normal sized. This is mostly a case of changing art styles. Originally, she did have a big forehead. Her character design just changed, and the jokes didn't stop.
  • Sweden in Axis Powers Hetalia is said to be utterly terrifying. Prussia faints multiple times just looking at him, but he really doesn't look much different than most of the other characters.
  • L in Death Note. Word of God states that he's meant to be the "Anti Bishonen": scruffy and unkempt with messy hair, bags under his eyes, and the impression of having a permanent hangover. In reality L is as good-looking as many other male anime leads, with only the dark marks under his eyes alluding to any kind of "imperfection".
  • In Bleach, we are repeatedly told that Ichigo's face could most charitably be described as 'interesting'. To look at him, he's at worst average-looking, if not outright handsome.

    Comic Books 
  • If you’re a character in the French-Canadian comic book The Bellybuttons (Les Nombrils), and your name isn’t Jenny or Vicky, then you have been called ugly at some point. The main character, Karine is particularly often a victim of this.
  • Teddy "Red" Herring, the title character of Red Herring, is referred to by several characters as having an obviously false right eye; it's a running gag that whenever someone asks about it, he gives a different explanation. However, the artwork shows both of his eyes to be identical, and the false eye clearly moves in tandem with the real one.

    Fan Works 
  • In A Very Potter Musical and its sequel, Hermione gets this treatment. She's often called hideous, and is called a "night troll", though the actress is rather pretty in reality. Ginny gets the same treatment, and is often called a Butterface. It's Played for Laughs in both cases, however.

    Films — Animation 
  • In the original Jimmy Neutron movie, the characters mocked Jimmy for being short. Never mind the fact that anyone can see that he's taller than all of them, although it's mostly thanks to his huge head.
  • Quasimodo in the Golden Films version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. While he is still a hunchback, it's barely noticeable and his face is perfectly normal looking, but it's treated like it's hideous.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the 2004 version of The Phantom of the Opera, Erik (the Phantom) is described as having a face "so distorted, deformed, it was hardly a face". When the mask eventually comes off, however, his face is revealed to be little more than a bit lumpy.
  • Kyle in the movie adaptation of Beastly isn't quite deformed enough to justify his forced isolation. In the book, he seems closer to the Disney Beast with fangs and claws and fur. His movie version looks closer to Nero from the 2009 Star Trek movie. Kyle's enforced isolation made sense when he was transformed into something literally inhuman (especially given his father's high-profile job as a newscaster), but it's harder to swallow with his film appearance which, while somewhat intimidating, wouldn't keep him from walking through Times Square without causing a reaction greater than a few raised eyebrows.
  • Played for laughs in-universe in the film Spy Game: Brad Pitt constantly mocks Robert Redford for being hideously ugly, but he's obviously just kidding.
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: The narration informs us that Jesse James suffers from granulated eyelids, which make him blink more often than normal. This is accompanied by a lengthy shot of Jesse gazing unblinkingly into the horizon. Over the course of the film, he seems to blink less often than normal.
  • In Gangs of New York, Leonardo DiCaprio's character is captured by the Big Bad who claims he will disfigure him with a heated knife, even going so far as to describe which parts he will cut from his face. When we next see the character, he is shown from behind as he walks down the street with people stopping to gawk at him. When the camera pans around, the audience is treated to the image of... the still very handsome Leonardo Di Caprio with a face that is fully intact. The only difference is a slight scar on his cheek that is hard to notice in some scenes.
  • Due to Special Effects Failure, with her fake warts and twisted teeth, the mutant woman from Terror from the Year 5000 comes across as merely unattractive, even ugly, but still clearly human, and not the hideous, monstrous mutation the movie makes her out to be.
  • In The Last Airbender, Prince Zuko is implied to be hideously scarred like his cartoon equivalent. Instead all we get are some barely discernible discolorations, that at worst, might be lumps. Chalked up to terrible makeup artistry in this case.
  • In Penelope, it is said that she had the face of a pig, and every every eligible bachelor she meets throws himself out of a window to avoid marrying her. She doesn't have a pig's face, and while she does have a pig's nose, she is not ugly, let alone throw-yourself-out-of-a-window hideous.

    Literature 
  • The cosmic horror stores of H.P. Lovecraft often feature mind-bendingly horrifying creatures that are usually described in a very abstract fashion. We're told, however, that their appearance, otherworldliness and awesome power are so beyond human comprehension that they drive viewers insane.
  • In the original version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the whole point of people's reactions to Hyde is not of any deformity unto itself but the pure evil radiating from the man. Even a surgeon gets rattled by his appearance. He's actually rather unremarkable, other than being a bit on the small side — he's described as having the air of some unseen deformity rather than actually being deformed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Blackadder the Third, frequent jokes are made about Prince George being massively overweight. While the real Prince Regent certainly was, Hugh Laurie clearly isn't.
  • Drake & Josh: Josh's head isn't that big.
  • In I Claudius, Augustus's daughter Julia is described as being overweight, to the point where her husband Tiberius calls her a "fat drunken cow". Except that she is a fairly petite actress, and of a fairly similar build to Tiberius's first wife.
  • Perhaps a stretch to call this a deformity, but on CSI, there has been more than one reference to Wendy Simms being big-breasted (or "clumsy yet buxom"), even though she's one of the least busty women in the cast, and in at least one case, the reference was made by a woman who was considerably bustier than Wendy (goes here rather than Informed Attractiveness because Wendy perceives the references to her bust as unflattering — and because her attractiveness is quite genuine).
  • Sé Lo Que Hicisteis: The myriad "shorty" jokes on Ángel's expense fall flat when you realize he's actually above-average height (albeit only by a little) and the other men in the cast aren't all that tall, either, yet they still threat him as if he only lacked the beard to be a dwarf.
  • In Arrested Development, George Michael's girlfriend Ann's plainness is constantly commented on by almost every character, although the actress playing Ann was actually fairly cute. Exacerbated by the fact that George Michael is played by Michael Cera, not the most attractive guy himself.
  • Parodied on Will and Grace, with both Karen and her "freakishly tinier boob" and her surprise sister Ginny, who has one leg slightly shorter than the other, thanks to a prank inflicted by Karen.
  • Liz Lemon's appearance is endlessly made fun of on 30 Rock. Liz Lemon is portrayed by Tina Fey.
  • Peggy Olson of Mad Men is repeatedly criticized and bullied for her appearance in the earlier seasons. Elizabeth Moss, and the character of Peggy for that matter, are at worst in the high range of average in appearance. To add to the irony, one of her main tormentors eerily resembles Pee-wee Herman.
  • On Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson is frequently mentioned to have a bad hip (she herself refers to it as "atrocious.") However, she doesn't use any kind of walking aid, has no visible limp, and seems to get up and down the stairs of 221B Baker Street with relative ease.
  • In The Thick of It, Malcolm Tucker's insults to politicians are usually based somewhat in reality (Ben Swain's nervous blink, Julius Nicholson's obsession with food) but not Geoff Holhurst's tiny head.
    "My head is the right size!"
  • In Dollhouse, Doctor Sanders (Whiskey, not the original) is described as horrifically disfigured, even though her scars are barely visible. Note: this refers only to her appearance. She acts like a damaged person- she just doesn't look it.
  • Spoofed in an episode of Seinfeld, where one of Elaine's boyfriends called her Bighead. The rest of the episode then makes jokes about her oversized head, which has not changed size at all and is never mentioned before this episode or brought up again afterward.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Cody Rhodes' "UnDashing" gimmick was based on him believing himself horrifically deformed after having his nose broken by Rey Mysterio. He wore a protective mask and often came to the ring with a hood or towel over his head amidst dimmed lighting. In reality Rhodes looked exactly like he did before the accident, suggesting his narcissistic character had been so traumatized by the mere idea of losing his good looks, he had developed Body Dismorphic Disorder. The announcers were not sure how to treat it. Sometimes they acted like he was legitimately ugly, but other times they treated the deformity as being mostly in his head.
  • When his mask was ripped off, Hunico was subjected to this treatment by an overly-dramatic Booker T. Booker exclaimed, "He's hideous! No wonder he was wearing that mask!" Michael Cole called him out on over-reacting.

    Theater 
  • There's a stage version of The Elephant Man where the lead is a totally normal guy without any alterations, he displays the deformity entirely via acting. It ranges from better than it sounds to utter narm. The idea was to show it from his perspective, and he thinks of himself as normal.
  • Any given stage production of The Metamorphosis will combine this with Take Our Word for It. It's impossible to actually stage that book, but if a good enough actor plays Gregor, the audience will accept that okay, he's a giant bug.
  • Happens in some performances of The Producers where Bloom's cries of "Fat!" fall on their faces because the actor playing Bialystok has a regular build. One Bloom actor got around it by amending his rant to "once-fat".
  • In Romeo and Juliet, it seems that Mercutio actually has a bad self-image. When putting on a mask prior to the Masquerade Ball, his dialogue suggests he thinks he's so ugly he needs it:
    "Give me a case to put my visage in:
    A visor for a visor! what care I
    What curious eye doth quote deformities?
    Here are the beetle brows shall blush for me."
  • Happens frequently in productions of Richard III; although everyone in the play (including Richard himself) goes on a great deal about his deformity, it's often downplayed in terms of costuming and physical acting. This is partly because the play also emphasizes Richard's talent for (medieval) warfare, and partly because it's a long play and the part is notorious for crippling actors.
  • Similarly, in Henry V King Henry makes a speech to Katherine apologizing for his appearance, explaining that his father was thinking of civil wars when he was conceived, and so he was born with a face to frighten enemies. Yet of course Henry is typically very handsome-looking on stage (in the 2012 BBC version, he's played by Tom Hiddleston, yowza). This line is probably a reference to the actual Henry V who took an arrow to the face as a teenager.
  • In The Secret Garden, Archibald is supposedly a cripple and a hunchback, and it's referenced quite a few times, but it can be hard to see his deformity.
  • In Uncle Vanya, Sonya is described as "plain" (plain enough that the women at her church pity her and her step-mother can only say she has lovely eyes), but the actresses playing her range from average to gorgeous.
  • In Wicked, any character seeing Elphaba for the first time tends to recoil in shock at her uglyness, simply because she's green. Even her lover only calls her beautiful because he's "looking at things another way". In actual fact, Elphaba is a young and beautiful woman (with none of the uglyness of the Wicked Witch of the West from the movie, no crooked nose or warts) who only looks unattractive at the beginning of the musical because she wears her hair in a boring braid, glasses, and conservative clothes (But this is clearly not what people find ugly about her).

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy X:
    • Despite the fact that character models never change, characters are often described as "blushing," or "bed headed."
    • In the sequel, Lulu is pregnant enough for the majority of the game that Wakka thinks she might give birth any moment (though she does say it's not that far), but her model is exactly as it appeared in the original game, corset and all.
    • They also draw attention to Wakka's newly-acquired stomach pudge. Despite this, his abs (which his outfit clearly showcases) look as hard and devoid of fat as they always did.
  • Nubby Stevens in LEGO Island is frequently ridiculed for being short to the point of being nicknamed "Stubby" by Papa Brickolini, though every character in the game is the exact same height.
  • Saber from Fate/stay night bluntly says that her body must look ugly to men thanks to it being overly muscled. The problem is, she has the body of a (very) skinny fifteen-year-old girl, which can be clearly seen as the whole scene takes place in a bath. She also adds that Rin has a nice and young feminine body, unlike her — but Rin is actually physically older and taller, and if anything, has a more muscular build than Saber. Saber looks exactly the same in flashbacks to her previous life, too (according to FSN-mythos, she stopped aging when she first got her sword).
  • For some reason, Neku from The World Ends with You is apparently not as well-dressed as his peers. Never mind the fact that he looks just as stylized and cool as the rest of the cast. The clothes his sprite is depicted as wearing throughout the game are a matching set from Jupiter of the Monkey — but, it should be noted, the flavor text for the Dharma shirt says that Neku practically wears the same thing every day.
  • Viva Piñata has the Pigxie species, which everyone treats as a horribly deformed freak of nature. While "freak of nature" is technically correct (you get them by crossbreeding two different species that should not normally be able to romance), they are, appearance-wise, perfectly normal flying pigs.
  • Brigid Tenenbaum from the first BioShock game is stated to have greasy hair, wear grubby clothes and be unusually tall and thin. While she doesn't have a unique model in-game, you'd never guess from her radio portrait. However, in the second game she finally gets a unique model, and looks exactly as she is described in the first game.
  • A number of characters in the Jak and Daxter series comment on how ugly Daxter is (in both forms), some even going as far as calling him "the little annoying miserably ugly one". As a human, he's gangly and has buck teeth, but otherwise is not much different from the rest. As an ottsel, he simply looks like a Mix-and-Match Critter, which luckily Tess thinks is awfully cute.
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the characters comment on how old Lotus is. She's 40 and doesn't really "look" old. Though you could argue that the ones who comment on it the most (Junpei, Santa, and Seven) are simply doing with it to mess with her. Junpei actually seems a bit... overwhelmed by her presence when he first meets her, and at one point June laments that she knows guys would prefer someone who looks like Lotus over herself. It should be telling that she manages to pull off a Stripperiffic, Absolute Cleavage harem-girl outfit at 40.
  • Nina's black wings in Breath of Fire II are mostly a different trope, but their actual appearance is this. Since the SNES only has one shade of black, and grays would just make them look white, her sprites have her wings colored purple. They're consistently called black in-game, though.
  • Saki from Snow Sakura is teased as being flat-chested every now and then. However, when you're looking at her, there's not any angle that you can consider her chest flat.

    Web Animation 
  • Common in Teen Girl Squad, thanks to its stick-figure art. The Ugly One isn't that much uglier than the other girls. Of course, in her case, she compensates by being unhygienic and generally offputting as well. It's pretty clear that the unhygienic and offputting attitude are what causes it if you remember the episode in which it's revealed that She Cleans Up Nicely.
  • In Red vs. Blue, everyone's making comments on how Grif is fat. Justified, due to the limitations of the Halo game engine. Completely averted in the pilot for the animated cartoon, however, where Grif is actually chubby.

    Web Comics 
  • Something Positive:
    • Davan MacIntire has induced Meg-level horror (in some very shallow people, admittedly), but is not substantially uglier than the average cast member. And there are some truly horrific looking cast members. Of course, this is very likely to be intentional, considering how much of a Sadist Show S*P is. Notably, this happened less as he became less of an Author Avatar.
    • Mike and Tamara's son, Shazam Wil-Wheaton, is consistently described as hideous by anyone but his parents, but for years he was only shown from behind because the author doubted he could live up to the hype. This phenomenon is Discussed when Shaz's face is finally seen.
  • Luna of Dominic Deegan is convinced that her little tusks are a deformity — which they technically are — and that they make her look hideous. They really don't, though a whole lifetime of her family systematically convincing her that they are will do that to a person. Eventually, she starts to get over it.
  • Done in-universe in Waterworks. Slick states that his acquaintance Mist is hideous, then describes her as something that, as the protagonist points out, "isn't friggin' ugly at ALL. At least by media standards." Subverted, though, as Mist comes from a different civilization with different standards of beauty.
  • One complaint leveled at Alex Ze Pirate is the "Alex looks like a guy" Running Gag, which made sense in the beginning when she looked more androgynous, but far less so when she was eventually given a more feminine makeover, complete with a far more noticeable bust.

    Web Original 
  • On ''Atop the Fourth Wall", Linkara is frequently referred to as overweight. While he's certainly a little pudgy, he's not unhealthily overweight by any means.
  • On Flander's Company, Igor, the stereotypical Evil Genius' assistant, has a scar drawn over the face and a hunchback as sole visible deformities. Yet he's described in-universe as "having had a run-in with a Parkinsonian surgeon".

    Western Animation 
  • Blackarachnia does this (overlapping with Hollywood Homely) for the first two seasons of Transformers Animated. Several Autobots find her attractive and the rest seem to pay her appearance no mind, but she constantly harps on her status of being technoorganic and hideous. Then in season three that mask she's been wearing comes off and oh dear lord. Not to mention that we get Sentinel trying to kill her for what she is.
  • South Park
    • There was one character who was supposedly the "ugly child" in school, but actually looked like everyone else.
    • They also did this in the first Terence and Phillip episode ("Not Without My Anus") with Ugly Bob, a character who was treated as horrifyingly ugly despite the fact that he looked like every other Canadian on the show. He returned in the episode "Royal Pudding", and this time his supposed ugliness caused a monster to turn into stone.
    • Then there was the episode where Cartman went to jail. Most of the kids are drawn with exactly the same shape except for their facial features, clothes, and hair, with Cartman being the only one who is physically larger than any other kid. After Cartman goes away, the kids unanimously decide Clyde is the fattest one left and start calling him "fatass" and the like.
    • In one episode the girls make a list that ranks the boys from cutest to ugliest, and Kyle happens to be at the bottom, even though he looks just like any other kid (the list later turned out to be manipulated). When he talks to his parents about it they say he looks fine, and also mention that he has his mother's nose. This freaks Kyle out, because her nose is rather large and stereotypically Jewish, but due to the art style Kyle's nose isn't even visible.
    • In "The Ungroundable" someone refers to Pete (the half red-haired Goth) as having pockmarks, though there is no sign of them for the viewer.
    • Butters is grounded in one episode for supposedly making a funny face that ruined his school picture, even though he was only smiling. Butters is understandably confused, especially when his parents accuse him of making the same stupid face when he's doing absolutely nothing.
  • In Invader Zim, everyone says that Dib's head is freakishly huge, but it looks the same size as anyone else's head. Of course, the characters who claim that his head is big are usually the same ones who actually believe that Zim's green skin and lack of ears is a skin condition, so they're not exactly masters of perception.
  • This happens with Meg from Family Guy numerous times, as the other characters often treat her as horrifically ugly despite her being relatively normal looking. Some characters have even gone so far as to douse themselves with gasoline and light themselves on fire whenever she approaches. She's also mistaken for a boy several times, despite having a clearly female chest. Meg is a very blatant Butt Monkey, however, so this may just be a part of that.
    • In "Peter-assment", Peter's boss Angela is so ugly that Quagmire wouldn't do her, yet she looks completely normal, and in fact is better looking than Rene Russo, who's shown in a cutaway gag to be an ugly one-toothed pockmarked hick.
    • Meg's implied hideousness may actually be a covert joke on the fact that she is voiced by Mila Kunis, who is ridiculously attractive.
    • This is hilariously inverted when she suddenly becomes "hot" as a result of doing nothing more than bleaching her hair and wearing revealing clothing.
    • Meg is even repeatedly referred to as being flat-chested, which she obviously isn't.
    • More irony comes from the fact that Meg is about 90% identical to her mother Lois, who the series treats as some kind of sex goddess. If Meg lost a couple of pounds and dyed her hair red they'd look like twins.
    • In the alternate universe episode, Meg in another universe is shown to be smoking hot with long hair, a curvy frame, and her breasts being two cup sizes bigger than they usually are (unfortunately for her, every other woman in that universe got the same hotness boost, so she's still ugly by that universe's standards.)
  • Hayley from American Dad!! constantly says this sort of thing about her brother Steve, but there is nothing that would imply it. She doesn't like him that much, so she might be saying it just to annoy him.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer Simpson at times. He's obviously fat, bald and unshaven, but the show is inconsistent over characters calling attention to it. Marge is shown to find him attractive despite his flaws. It probably is because Homer would be attractive (for the show) if he took better care of himself. An early episode had Homer grow his hair and dress nicely, and Patty and Selma were stunned at his looks. Herb Powell is Homer with hair and no pot belly, and he's also pretty attractive in-universe.
    • While Moe Szyslak is quite odd-looking compared to other characters, people act like he's hideous and even inhuman. His Perpetual Frowner expression and Jerkass behavior only seem to amplify the problem. His appearance is downplayed in the few episodes where he's actually pleasant.
  • Jay Sherman from The Critic is constantly described as being very ugly and morbidly obese. However, overall he's fairly normal looking. He's just short, balding, and chubby.
  • In Archer, Lana's hands are often called huge and Yeti like, but they look pretty normal as everyone else's.
  • Scootaloo from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic says that her wings are undergrown compared to other pegasi her age, which keeps her from flying. Despite this, her general character model is no different from any other pegasus fillies.

     Real life 
  • The "eta" or "burakumin" race in Japan, which has NO difference from the other social castes.
  • The Cagots in France and northern Spain, who faced centuries of intense prejudice despite having no ethnic, culture, or religious differences from the other residents of the region. To make it more bizarre, no one even knows why they were hated, and moreover, there's no evidence that anyone ever knew why. A literal application of the trope was the claim that Cagots had a tail, sometimes also said of the Jews. This has lead to speculation that the Cagots descended from a religious minority such as Pagans, Arrian Goths, Muslims, Cathars or even early Christians that were hated by their Pagan neighbors and remained hated even after the others converted to Christianity themselves. Other claims were that Cagots were born with no ear lobes, that they had an ear bigger than the other or that they were all infected with leprosy.
  • In the 19th century, it was common in the US and Britain to find racist publication clutching at straws to "show" how black people looked like simians, and how Anglo-Saxons looked like Greek gods. Less known but nearly as common were other publications trying to show that the Irish also looked like shaved apes.


I Can't Feel My LegsDisability TropesInspirationally Disadvantaged
Informed AttractivenessShow, Don't TellInformed Flaw
Informed AttractivenessInformed AttributeInformed Equipment
Humiliation CongaImageSource/Western AnimationJerkass

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
58677
4