Cosmetic techniques can do some amazing stuff. There are ways to lengthen bones in legs, alter the shape and position of facial features, alter the length and shape of the vocal cords, seamlessly integrate an enormous bosom onto a tiny ribcage, strip away half of one's body fat in an afternoon.
In TV, however, such surgery is most often depicted as a magic wand for turning one actor into another. It's the standard Applied Phlebotinum
for The Nth Doctor
in non-genre shows, and it is at the center of the Old Friend New Gender
plot, amongst other things.
This happens in daytime soaps when a major character is recast. A more minor character will usually get the "Other Darrin"
treatment, but if the change in appearance is to be a plot point, it will be through Magic Plastic Surgery. Sometimes the character will keep his identity a secret. Sometimes the audience is in the know, but sometimes not. Often there is an element of doubt.
In videogames with custom-designed characters, this is often used as an excuse to let characters alter the appearance they selected when they started the game.
Magic Plastic Surgery rarely seems to take into account the character's height, or voice, or scent, and may make an Easy Sex Change
even easier. Compare with Latex Perfection
. Surgical Impersonation
is a subtrope for cases where the surgery is used to impersonate a specific person.
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Anime & Manga
- One chapter of Osamu Tezuka 's Black Jack involved a doctor blaming a deadly mistake on the nurse who was just following his orders, ruining her life. She attempts suicide, but the eponymous super surgeon offers her a chance at payback, which involves turning her into an exact likeness of the pop idol the doctor was obsessed with. It doesn't take much effort for her to get the evidence Black Jack needs to blackmail the villain out of his profession. In an extra twist, it's revealed at the end that the reason the nurse's transformation into the pop idol's double was so flawless (in addition to Black Jack's improbable skills) is because Black Jack himself gave the pop idol that face.
- This goes up a notch when the Black Jack's father comes back into the picture after his second wife Renka is disfigured. This is the new wife whom he left Black Jack and his mother for while they were hospitalized in an explosion. His father gets his help to repair the new wife's face, and 'make her more beautiful' while at it. Black Jack complies and gives Renka his mother's face: partially to punish his Jerk Ass father, partially because Black Jack genuinely thought his Hot Mom was the most beautiful woman ever.
- Another example: Black Jack uses plastic surgery to turn a deer into a human, complete with speech and sudden awareness.
- In another story, a rich guy wants Black Jack to save his jerkass son who's been severely injured in a car crash, and has a random bystander (who is a very nice guy) accused of trying to kill said son and sentenced to death so that his organs can be used for the operation. Black Jack instead gives the bystander plastic surgery to make him look exactly like the son. By grafting the son's skin on him (or if you prefer the ironic formulation, by grafting every organ into the son, brain included).
- Pet Shop of Horrors has a client for the shop, a famous romance novelist, turn out to used to be a simple homely country girl who after the boy she liked proposed to her identical twin sister, faked her death and had head to toe plastic surgery.
- Pretty Face plays the trope a little closer to reality than usual — while Rando-as-Yuna does stretch the bounds a little, the artist is careful to distinguish the two in subtle ways once the real Yuna shows up, making it clear the resemblance isn't perfect. And the last chapters hinge on how the human body can only take so much alteration, especially a major facelift and rearrange like Rando's - if the procedure's made one more time, his face will age very prematurely.
- Taken to insane extremes in One Piece. One of Sanji's attacks is the Parage Shot, which is essentially a series of repeated kicks to the face. Not only does it give the victims a new face, but the two Gonk characters subjected to it actually wound up better looking.
- Magic is used to transform a homely otaku into a handsome bishonen the manga Duck Prince, but the spell takes effect in such a way as to make it look like magic plastic surgery — Facial reconstruction surgery after a car accident and a growth spurt experienced during a year-long coma.
- Used in Durarara!!, when a girl named Mika Harima gets one of these after being disfigured by Seiji Yagiri, who smashes her face into a wall for sneaking into his apartment and taking a look at Celty's detached head.
- Franken Fran. Given that the main character is a living zombie, and her assistant is a man's head installed on a cat, looking for realism in the story is an exercise in futility. (Bizarrely enough, there IS some realism, mostly the title character talking about how extreme the surgeries will be... right before performing them, anyway). More often the grotesque variety as seen in the first school episode, where the students are outdoing each other in requesting the most outrageous mutilations they can think of. And imagine how many of their parents wouldn't even let them get their ears pierced.
- 20th Century Boys: plastic surgery is able to make the fake Friend look and sound identical to the original friend.
- Hanna Of The Z: The titular character has to impersonate her friend and club member Kuunyan in a fighting tournament (after accidently knocking her out with a flying fist) but lacks Kuunyan's large breasts. So other club member Mamia performs a very impromptu breast enhancement... using a saw and a kitchen knife, and recycled paper as filling. This only works because Hanna can heal anything and is practically immortal. Mamia says that she never could do the same thing on a normal person.
- Cowboy Bebop: Several bounties were captured using a device that could show how probable a target was the bounty with plastic surgery.
- Christopher Chance, The DCU's Human Target, has made a career of impersonating people with dangerous lives. He's had plastic surgery more times than should be possible in a single issue alone, and much more. He's used plastic surgery to become black before. He's had his face altered to look like a man for a short time, then returned to his normal face, then altered to resemble the same man again, then back to his regular face again, with no ill effect. Cosmetic surgery is used as a magic wand. At least some of Chance's transformations are done with latex masks, body suits, makeup and suchlike. The masks are as suspiciously convincing and easily removed as those in Scooby Doo.
- In one storyline of the Punisher, from Marvel Comics, the scarred villain Jigsaw decides to get revenge on Frank by carving up his mug to scar him. Frank escapes and uses his knowledge of the underworld to dig up a talented plastic surgeon. This one was forced to quit because of prescription drug abuse. And she is hot. But anyway, to make a somewhat believable story insanely goofy, the un-licensed surgeon not only un-scars Frank (why couldn't Jigsaw find her) but turns him BLACK.
- Examples from The Flash:
- Shortly before his death, Barry Allen was in a fight and had his face beaten to hamburger only to have his face reconstructed to a completely different appearance (by gorilla surgeons, no less!).note What's more, by the time he met his fate in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the surgeons of the 30th century had given him back his original face.
- Doctors had apparently had the above techniques for about five centuries, as Barry's arch-enemy Professor Zoom sometimes used 25th-century tech to make his face look exactly like Barry's.
- Though admittedly spread out over a few continuities, Two Face has had his face fixed and un-fixed more times than you would care to count.
- On the subject of Batman villains, Hush is a Magic Plastic Surgeon, capable of performing major facial reconstructive surgery on himself, which is now why he looks like Bruce Wayne. The heroes actually take advantage of this after defeating him and use Hush as a substitute to hide Bruce's "death" from the rest of the world.
- Mocked to the point of Deconstruction in one album of the Belgian comic Chaminou. This is a Funny Animal series, hence plastic surgery is used to change an apparent species. Thus we get a female stork turned into a pretty Cat Girl, a duck into a tiger, and a panther into a duck (although the surgeon couldn't take away the spots).
- "Plastic smurfery" is the explanation used in the original English translation of The Smurfs comic book story "The Smurfette" to change the title character from her original appearance into a real Smurf. The cartoon show version of the story eschews that and simply has Papa Smurf change her completely into a Smurf through magic.
- Dwight from Sin City has plastic surgery in order to hide from the authorities. That's not too farfetched. The crazy part comes form the fact that he got the plastic surgery from underground surgeons in Old Town, a neighborhood populated by hookers. This was after he got shot in the face by his ex-wife.
- In the Marvel G.I. Joe comics, the Fred series of COBRA's Crimson Guard all had plastic surgery to look completely identical to each other. As the Freds were highly placed infiltrators into government and corporations, the thinking was any Fred could take another's place if something happened. We're talking about four dozen men across the country who look exactly alike, without bone structure, height or body shape ever coming up.
- The family of the original Fred Broca (Fred I) knew something was up, though, when Fred II showed up at their house without explanation (Fred I had died in the High Sierras after fighting with Snake-Eyes and other Joes). It was enough to fool casual observers, though, as Snake-Eyes was taken aback to see "Fred Broca" alive and well.
- In an early Lucky Luke comic, the Dalton cousins (the ones who were competent but killed off fairly early) forced a town doc to give them new faces. Yes, the doctor of a frontier town in the wild west during the 19th century. After they heal up surprisingly fast, it turns out they now have the faces of four other wanted desperados, and return to the doctor to have their old faces restored, which succeeds without any real complications. (Although one of them complain that his chin is "a bit loose" - and it appears to be falling off! But it's fixed in later scenes.
- Judge Dredd has face change machines, which change a person's face instantly by Applied Phlebotinum. It is implied that this can still be botched, however, particularly if rushed.
Films — Animation
- Used to cover a new actress assuming the role of Penny in the show-within-a-show in Bolt after the original Penny quits. However, given the circumstances surrounding Penny's departure (she nearly died in a studio fire) the audience can't be certain the new girl really isn't the original Penny until the scene cuts to show her at home watching the show with her pets. Naturally, Ascended Fanboy Rhino promptly complains that the show has gone downhill.
Films — Live-Action
- This is used in the film Curse of the Pink Panther, where Roger Moore plays Inspector Clouseau after plastic surgery, to allow Clouseau to appear in a film after the death of Peter Sellers and give the character a sendoff.
- Examples from the James Bond films:
- A major plot point for two characters in Die Another Day:
- A villain thought to be dead disguises himself by using groundbreaking gene therapy to alter his entire ethnicity, to change from a Korean colonel to a snobby British playboy. The new identity supposedly hailed from Argentina, and moved to Iceland where he found diamonds and built a mine (a fake one, used to launder African conflict diamonds obtained as payment for illegal arms trading.) It's actually one of the more convincing examples, as if you look closely at the (current) page picture you can see that the two have quite similarly-shaped faces; it's almost within the bounds of plausibility that one could be made to look like the other with Real Life facial reconstruction surgery, albeit only after multiple surgeries with long recovery periods in between.
- The general's second-in-command is in the middle of such an operation, and is left with no hair, pale skin, ice-blue eyes, and a bunch of diamonds stuck in his face (they'd been put there by an explosion, but you'd think taking them out would have been the first thing the surgeon would do).
- Ernst Stavro Blofeld took advantage of this trope at least once:
- Speaking of You Only Live Twice, Bond himself undergoes plastic surgery so that he can appear to be Japanese. It isn't very convincing.
- This was going to be used to explain how Bond had changed from Sean Connery to George Lazenby; fortunately for the long-term survival of the Bond franchise, the producers dropped the idea.
- In Ed Wood's Jail Bait, a plastic surgeon's son is framed for the murder of a cop. The real killer then blackmails the surgeon into giving him a new face. The "unpredictable" twist ending is that the surgeon gives the killer his son's face so he'll hang for murder.
- There was a 1970s drama where a gang of criminals hold everyone in a plastic surgeon's office hostage while the boss gets a new face before leaving the country. Since he didn't care what the new face was, he let the surgeon pick it. The surgeon used a magazine article to give him the face of a wanted Nazi war criminal.
- This was the entire plot to Face/Off. John Travolta's character becomes Nicholas Cage's character in order to infiltrate the terrorist organization and prevent the shit hitting the fan. Awesomely enough, it happens vice-versa.
- In the Speed Racer movie, Racer X underwent this so that even if he takes his mask off, Speed won't recognize him as his older brother. Considering all the Wonderful Toys in Speed Racer, however, magic plastic surgery is fairly viable.
- At least Racer X's plastic surgery only made him unrecognizable to his brother. It wasn't so magical that it made him look like another specific person.
- In the Hitman movie, a double at least complains about how horrible the surgery was.
- In the 1973 TV movie The Girl Most Likely to..., an ugly woman is remade beautiful after a car accident. She then uses her new beauty to take revenge on all the men who were cruel to her. She also bumps off at least one Alpha Bitch by tricking her into doing a cartwheel out an open window.
- Subverted in part in that Stockard Channing played the title character before and after the surgery.
- Subverted in Once Upon a Time in Mexico when the bad guy attempts to fake his death during a botched plastic surgery, using someone else's body and his jewelry.
- The movie War used this heavily, leading up to the major twist ending.
- Kamen Rider THE NEXT has one of the main characters' little sister get horribly mutilated due to an accident with two Rich Bitches, a staircase, and a fuse box. As the sister was a massively popular idol singer, her production house scrambles to hide the evidence of this problem by randomly grabbing a girl her age and changing her into the idol, voice and all. Until the mutilated original, now a vengeful murderer, takes the new girl out, prompting the producers to just grab another.
- In The Stepfather III the killer has plastic surgery performed by a backalley surgeon to disguise himself from the authorities; Terry O'Quinn (yes, John Locke) who played the killer in the first two movies refused to participate in this one so they replaced him. Also, he undergoes the surgery without anesthesia.
- In Get Smart Agent 99 recently underwent some rather extreme plastic surgery that turned her from a pretty blonde into an equally beautiful Anne Hathaway.
- Done for laughs. Agent 99 shows Max a picture of her pre-surgery self during the flight to Russia. Some say that the photograph was of original 99, played by Barbara Feldon.
- The 1990 Captain America movie has the Red Skull receive the mother and father of all skin grafts over his namesake visage.
- Or he could just be using a lot of greasepaint or a latex mask to look a bit less monstrous.
- Averted in the movie Dark Passage. Humphrey Bogart plays a man wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. He escapes prison and has back-alley plastic surgery so the authorities won't recognize him while he tries to prove his innocence. We don't actually see his face until after the bandages come off because the whole "before" portion of the movie is shot from Bogart's point of view.
- The reason for this is that Bogart plays the same character both before and after the surgery, but he did not in fact undergo plastic surgery in real life; the character cannot be shown in his "before" appearance because the "after" appearance is that of a man who looks just like Bogart! Arguably a case of extended Actor Allusion.
- In point of fact, we do get to see the "before" version of the character via a newspaper photograph. In another trope aversion, he actually does look a little like Bogey, only heavier-set and with a moustache.
- In Problem Child 2, Junior tried to avert a wedding by having the woman get plastic surgery to get the world's biggest nose. The woman woke up and discovered her new nose. Then, just a few hours later, she reappeared with her original nose and she said that she had some emergency plastic surgery. So, she had two surgeries on the same body part in the same day with no scars.
- Not surgical, but Innerspace has Tuck (in a microscopic experimental craft in another guys bloodstream and needing to outsmart an international arms dealer so he can return to normal size) disguise his host as said arms dealer by applying electrical charges to his facial nerves. Apparently all you need to change Martin Short into Robert Picardo is tweak a few nerve endings. Justified by Rule of Funny.
- The entire plot twist of the Tom Berenger movie Shattered
- Subverted in Foxy Brown. The character receiving the plastic surgery has already had it when the movie begins, so the audience is not shown what he looked like before. Later, another character recognizes him despite the surgery.
- The 70's porno film The Resurrection Of Eve has a woman who is mangled in a car accident receive plastic surgery, only to transform into Marilyn Chambers.
- Played for laughs in Tropic Thunder: Robert Downey Jr.'s character undergoes magic plastic surgery as part of his Enforced Method Acting plan. Double magic: the surgery lasts exactly as long as it has to, surviving weeks in the jungle but yet is easily removed (as easily as a Latex Perfection mask, but with the backstory stating it was done surgically) during his Heroic BSOD.
- In GI Joe The Rise Of Cobra, nanomites are used to change Zartan's face into that of the president of the United States. It goes into detail about modifying eye color, hair color, and his bone structure is being rearranged. Presumably he just happened to be around the same height.
- In the new Sherlock Holmes films, while Robert Downey Jr. relies on makeup and disguises to fool people into at least not recognizing him as Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty's plan in the second film hinges on one of his underlings being made to look like an ambassador at a peace conference. It's a little more believable than the trope usually is because the man would only have to fool a guard's cursory inspection based on a black-and-white sketch or photograph. Moreover, the heroes also point out what flaws they expect to find with the disguise, and the resulting cosmetic tricks necessary to hide them (namely, a lot of facial hair). Ultimately, however, the disguise is just good enough that they have to create a distraction, noting that he's the only one too in control of himself to react at all.
- Averted in Gattaca, where Vincent is seen undergoing a long, painful leg-lengthening procedure with his lower legs bolted into a metal frame. (This type of surgery is called distraction osteogenesis, and it involves cutting the bone in half, driving screws into each half, and then slowly pulling them apart 1 mm per day).
- A feature of the Medbays on Elysium.
- The opening sequence features a young woman using the bays to completely change her appearance. Possibly to highlight the difference between the people on Earth who could use them to survive, and the people on Elysium who are using them primarily for cosmetic purposes.
- When Kruger gets his face reconstructed, the process ends up removing the distinct facial implants, and ends up de-aging Kruger significantly. He's no longer weathered and wrinkled, and it ends up removing a lot of the gray hairs out of his his beard and mustache.
- This is the prize the Yeerks gave to recurring villain Taylor from Animorphs in order to convince her to become The Quisling.
- In an early Mack Bolan: Executioner novel, the hero gets plastic surgery that makes him look Italian. More specifically, like an Italian-American buddy of his in the Vietnam War, making it even more unlikely (underlying bone structure?)
- In a popular spy series, the hero receives plastic surgery after every mission. He no longer remembers what he used to look like.
- Gore Vidal's book Myra Breckinridge involved a gay man (Myron Breckinridge) getting a sex change to become the title character. For the movie version, they hired Raquel Welch to play the female Myra... and Rex Reed to play Myron.
- In Honor Harrington there exists a type of plastic surgery called biosculpting, using nanotech to... do what modern-day plastic surgery does, with a shorter recovery period and less concern about scarring. Biosculpting is repeatedly mentioned in the series as something the rich indulge in, and something of a mark of vanity; the phrase "could have easily afforded it but didn't, saying interesting things about X's character" seems to appear in some variation frequently enough that you get the feeling David Weber has Views about it..
- In Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry series, this is also referred to as biosculpting. Flandry notes a couple of times that he got an excessively handsome biosculpt job when he was younger and is thinking about having it toned down a bit.
- There's a minor character in Witcher Saga who offers us an interesting take on this trope: she was disfigured really badly, so after deciding there's nothing they can do with it, the healers just hid it under an exceptionally strong illusion.
- During the Hand of Thrawn duology, while Lando Calrissian and Han Solo are freaking out about the possible return of Grand Admiral Thrawn, the possibility of the Grand Admiral being an impostor comes up, but Lando is quick to point out that facial surgery would leave marks that he would have seen when he met the man. Plus, no way could anyone have faked that aura of omniscience. It is an impostor, a Con Man subverting We Will Not Use Stage Makeup In The Future.
- In the X-Wing novel Mercy Kill, a version of this is mentioned that, together with fake records and a little judicious Hollywood Hacking, makes an absolutely unbreakable false identity — even such things as fingerprints, retinal scans, and DNA testing will support the fictional ID and, more importantly, "prove" that the user isn't their old self. However, it takes a prolonged period to carry out, during which the user generally wears temporary prosthetics to give the appearance of their original self.
- In William Goldman's Brothers, the lesser-known sequel to Marathon Man, it turns out Scylla's not dead after all: he just got really great plastic surgery and now comes back to warn Babe about ANDROID TWIN BOMBS THREATENING THE ENTIRE WORLD. He's also straight now.
- In the March Upcountry series, the hero has to (eventually) hide from his mother's enemies, so he gets plastic surgery turning him from a tall, thin, blond bishie into a short, stocky Asian. He even gets plastic surgery on his DNA.
- Averted in The City Of Silent Revolvers. The protagonist and his counterpart are similar enough that a simple nose job is enough to make one look exactly like the other.
- In the Vorkosigan Saga, Ellie has plastic surgery to give her a new face after hers is burned off by a plasma arc leaving a "face like a boiled onion." The end result of the work causes some problems for her, as the new face is pretty enough to make many dismiss her as a useless "pretty face" instead of an experienced mercenary soldier.
- In the Time Scout series.
- Skeeter goes under the knife to look like another person. Attempted justification: Identical Stranger. Skeeter already very strongly resembles him.
- Played straight earlier. Dr. Booker is her own model and has dozens of pictures of herself looking wildly different.
- Janet Green on All My Children, a convicted murderer and known psychopath, is given her release from prison in exchange for undergoing experimental plastic surgery. Her portrayer, Kate Collins, left and was replaced by Robin Mattson. However, when Janet returned in 2005, she was Kate Collins again, with no explanation. (Same happened when James DePaiva left One Life to Live but later returned.)
- Steven Carrington of Dynasty is another example of this. He was originally played by Al Corley. He was in an accident and had plastic surgery and was then played by Jack Coleman (Noah Bennett on Heroes) until the series ended. For the reunion movie, he was again played by Corley, with no explanation.
- Herr Flick from 'Allo 'Allo!! went through such a procedure in the final season of the series (so he could escape occupied France after the war), when Richard Gibson was replaced with David Janson.
- Another World had a set of identical twins, Vickie & Marley, who went through a couple of recasts over the years. Near the end of the show's run, they had Marley get plastic surgery an she ended up looking like the actress who originally played the roles. Vicky was still played by the actress who'd been doing it over the last few years. The new Marley was noticeably taller and had longer hair than the actress playing Vicky.
- A failed pilot called Fugly begins with a radical plastic surgery that turns one of a pair of identical twins that looks like 5-foot-nothing, 150 pound Marissa Jaret Winokur with ugly prosthetics]] into 5'7'' bombshell Nikki Cox. Yeah.
- Morgan Edge in his Smallville incarnation was originally played by Rutger Hauer, but when they wanted to bring the character back Hauer wasn't available so they said that Edge had gone into hiding and undergone plastic surgery. He was played by Patrick Bergin.
- At least Edge is rich enough to afford the very best. Not that it stopped Lex Luthor from figuring out who he was. "You can change your face, your hair, your voice... but not your DNA. You still sweat the same."
- In another episode Facade, plastic surgery is used to turn an ugly girl hot- but this being Smallville, Kryptonite is used in the procedure, giving her the ability to give people life-threatening illusions.
- In the live-action Superboy series, Superboy's nemesis Lex Luthor was played by Scott James Wells in the first season. In the 2nd season premiere "With This Ring I Thee Kill", Wells was replaced with Sherman Howard. The difference in appearance was explained by having Lex Luthor have plastic surgery to assume the appearance of Warren Eckworth, CEO of a company that created the "Superboy Gun", a weapon Luthor believes can kill Superboy. Luthor is even said to have used acid to burn off his fingerprints and alter his vocal cords.
- Averted in The X-Files, where an evil plastic surgeon uses human sacrifice to transform his looks beyond the limits of science.
- Jo (Red Striker Borg) from Big Bad Beetleborgs also had her appearance (and actor) changed by magic. Accidentally, when a spell backfired. A second spell makes the world see her old face, but it doesn't work on her teammates or the audience.
- Lives and Loves of a She-Devil. The title character spends most of the show as a fugly six foot minger, then has magic surgery to turn her into the exact double of the (now dead) much shorter and very beautiful woman her husband had an affair with, with the result that her husband goes mad.
- Used for comedic effect in Just Shoot Me!, Friends and other sitcoms. Long-lost male friend of cast member returns after plastic surgery, now looks like hot girl (played by an actress). Inverted in Two and a Half Men where Charlie's ex-girlfriend comes back after F>M sexual assignment surgery and is played by Chris O'Donnell...who then gets involved with Charlie's mother!
- Done comically in Get Smart when Max gets plastic surgery, and gets played first by Martin Landau, then Phyllis Diller — the third try has him looking like Don Adams with facial prosthetics.
- Star Trek has perfected the art of magic plastic surgery. It doesn't matter what species it is. If it has two legs, two arms, and one head, doctors can make any species look like any other, though this is usually done by adding pointed ears, weird forehead bumps, etc., to the same actors. Sometimes it can be implausibly perfect even allowing for futuristic technology. For instance, in one episode, Worf went undercover in a pre-contact civilization, requiring extensive surgery which removed his huge Klingon brow ridges. At one point, he returned to the ship and had his normal features restored perfectly, and then a few scenes later he had the extensive reconstruction surgery done again to go back down among the natives.
- Overlaps with Easy Sex Change in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Profit and Lace", in which Quark can undergo complete sex reassignment surgery to appear female within a few hours, then be changed back into a man the very next day.
- Star Trek: Enterprise plays with this. Naturally being less-advanced, they haven't perfected magic surgery yet, instead using stick-on prosthetic ridges and such. It backfires when one of them gets rifle-butted and the stuff peels off.
- In Dream On, the hero, Martin Tupper's Black Best Friend, Eddie Charles, is replaced by a different actor partway through the first series. This is explained away by having him get surgery to change his eyelids. So he gets a whole new face and several extra inches of height! Devillishly clever, these eyelid surgeons!
- Alexis Meade of Ugly Betty is a male-to-female transexual. Played by Rebecca Romijn. And an unnamed manly-looking actor in Flashbacks.
- In The Young and the Restless, Sheila gets plastic surgery to look like Phyllis, explaining her actor change to the same as Phyllis.
- And the evil Matt Carter gets plastic surgery so that he can return to Genoa City (where he was still wanted for rape charges) and ingratiate himself into the lives of his unknowing victim and her husband and start wreaking havoc.
- Soaps have often done when they've recast a character in order to explain the complete change in appearance, particularly for a "bad" character who would need to conceal his identity. Another example of this is Todd Manning on One Life to Live, who was played by Roger Howarth until 2003. When his character was severely beaten and left for dead, he returned to town several months under a new identity, now played by Trevor St. John.
- On The Bold And The Beautiful, Taylor was burned in a house fire, yet doesn't have a trace of scarring. Ironically, this might a subversion, as the burns she received were not particularly bad and therefore might not have caused extensive scarring anyway.
- In The New Adventures Of Beans Baxter episode "There's No Place Like Omsk," Beans hides a Russian defector, who via one plastic surgery session, looks exactly like Miss Universe Shawn Weatherly.
- In The Green Hornet Series, a criminal uses this to take the place of a reclusive millionare to avoid capture. Unlike most versions, the look of the person is similar enough to be believed. Also the Green Hornet points out that there are hairline scars that if a person was observant enough would notice.
- Used in the second season finale of Highlander to turn an escaped con woman into a Tessa lookalike to try and bring Duncan down.
- In the pilot episode of Knight Rider, Michael Long is played by an actor who looks nothing at all like David Hasselhoff. Then, left for dead, Michael is rescued by the Foundation for Law and Government, given a new identity as Michael Knight, and magically transformed into the Hoff.
- In one episode Knight infiltrates a facility where criminals are given plastic surgery by posing as a client. The surgeon does notice that Knight has had surgery done on his face before with just a preliminary examination.
- In The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries episode "Creatures Who Came On Sunday" (aired in 1978, mind), the whole plot revolves around a secret installation of the Federal Witness Protection Program, where protected folks get plastic surgery to totally change their looks. All the folks in said camp are swathed in bandages while playing baseball with no apparent pain or lack of agility.
- In a Tales from the Crypt episode that posthumously (via edited film clips and a voice impersonator) starred Humphrey Bogart, the protagonist is a fugitive whose plastic surgeon accomplice made him look like Bogart. Like Dark Passage (see Film - Live Action, above), it's nearly all shot from his POV.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade, this is but one of the many, many miraculous wonders the Tzimisce are capable of through their unique power of Vicissitude. Laughably, raising your Appearance score using the power is Difficulty 10 (in OWOD, Difficulty is what you have to roll to succeed; the game uses a ten-sided die, so...), and if you suffer Critical Failure you get uglier.
- There are some things that even Vicissitude can't do — trying to change a Nosferatu's appearance is impossible.
- Changes that make them prettier, anyway. Changes that make them uglier, or cosmetically status quo (don't move their appearance trait at all) stick, while improvements 'heal' painfully in minutes. Makes sense considering Clan weaknesses are a malevolent curse rather than a genetic quirk to be fixed.
- In the Cyberpunk 2020 game, improving your Attractiveness stat was as easy as throwing money at a plastic surgeon. In a setting where anyone can be biosculpted with animal features and have whole limbs and organs replaced, this is probably justified.
- Wanna get ugly? A straight razor is fifty-nine cents.
- Dario Fo's Trumpets and Raspberries centres around this. Gianni Agnelli, the head of the Fiat car company, is kidnapped by terrorists, then involved in a car crash which smashes his face. One of his own factory workers finds him, puts his coat around him, then flees the scene when the police mistake him for one of the terrorists and start shooting at him. Agnelli is recovered and his face is reconstructed to look like the picture in the documents found in the worker's jacket. Both main characters are played by the same actor, with frequent quick changes where the actor has seconds to exit one wing, change costumes, and emerge from the fridge. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Arsenic and Old Lace, it is mentioned that Jonathan Brewster had plastic surgery from his crazy doctor companion several times, and after the last time wound up with the exact likeness of Boris Karloff since his surgeon/accomplice had a drinking problem. This is because in the original stage production, the actor was Boris Karloff.
- A very interesting example of this trope can be found in Cael Cyndar from Dragon Rage since he looks distinctly different in the games box art, game play and cutscenes.
- In Saints Row 2 , You can instantly revamp your character as many times as you like at $500 per visit at Image As Designed.
- Saints Row The Third has you get plastic surgery to become completely identical to the military commander in charge of the ship you want to sneak aboard, voice and all. Yes, even if you're female.
- In the second Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game, one character has a traffic accident so devastating that her face is rendered completely unrecognizable, and uses plastic surgery to turn herself into a clone of her own sister. The likeness is perfect, and everybody — friends, family, doctors, teachers — believes her to be her sister, never noticing a change in voice, mannerisms, height, build, eye color, hair, or anything else. Strangely, the case relies on her face looking as it did before the accident.
- It is ridiculous, but both sisters were in the car accident, and one died. The sisters looked like each other anyway, and as you force the woman further towards admitting the truth, she makes facial expressions where you can see what she looks like better, and she very much resembles her previous self. It looks like facially, the sisters didn't look that much different anyway, so perhaps the damage wasn't as horrific as it seems. But really, nobody looks like that after any such injury.
- While plastic surgery is never specifically mentioned, it seems to be the only way that Calisto Yew could have become Shih-na. Even if she changed her hair and personality, you would think her co-thief or the man she'd shot at, or the Interpol agent set on finding the ring Yew was known to have joined would notice she looked rather familiar.
- You can buy tokens in Guild Wars online store (with real money, naturally...) that allow you to change a character's apearance (a more expensive version lets you change gender too), making it a literal example.
- City of Heroes: Thanks to the Super Science Super Booster, heroes and villains can now easily change the size and shape of their bodies, even switch genders. In a world where there is a black market for magical artifacts and super science is used daily, this is pretty well Justified.
- In Fallout 3 you can change your face as easily as getting a haircut. (Provided you find the right person) A certain advanced android also had this done to hide from his creators.
- This is the in-universe excuse for Shepard's appearance if you change it between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2; s/he died in the interim and had to be completely rebuilt. While the same reasoning can't carry over from 2 to Mass Effect 3 you can still completely change the appearance of the Shepard you import before starting the game. No mention is made of any changes you make.
- In Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Dr. Allard rules over the furries of Cesspool X due to his skills as a surgeon allowing him to transform them into the creatures of their desire.
- BioShock takes place in a world where a breakthrough in genetic engineering makes this possible somehow. Even within this explanation, it's suspiciously easy — it involves ADAM injections, yet doesn't seem to cause deformities and insanity in either of the named characters who undergo it. Patients are in more danger of becoming one of Dr. Steinman's... artistic experiments.
- Parodied in an episode of Cow and Chicken, where Chicken becomes a plastic surgeon and enters the interschool competition where he ultimately turns himself into a Photo-Realistic Beaver (depicted with real footage over the cartoon) as the final trial.
- In the Tex Avery cartoon Northwest Hounded Police, an escaped convict chased by Droopy goes to a plastic surgeon to get a new face. After a few seconds of surgery (which involved hammering and sawing) the convict had a new face — Droopy's. He asks the doctor to change it back and he does. He thanks the doctor — only to find that Droopy was the doctor all along!
- In an episode of Family Guy, Peter went out and got liposuction. Then, he went out one day and came back later with a new chin, abs, and several other things.
- Egregiously exaggerated on The Simpsons, when Sideshow Bob uses plastic surgery in a way that lets him switch faces with another man in such a seamless manner that everyone mistakes Sideshow Bob for the man whose face he stole and vice versa — and without causing any permanent damage to either of them. He does this even though he's a self-taught non-professional.
- In the episode of South Park named "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina", Kyle got plastic surgery and got much taller and became black for basketball. Kyle's father, Gerald, got plastic surgery to make him more into a dolphin. They got more surgery get back to normal.
- This was actually a subversion as the transformations were far from perfect. But the surgery to go back to normal was definitely magical.
- An earlier episode had Mr. Garrison going through plastic surgery, and ended up looking just like David Hasselhoff.
- Subverted in The Legend Of Korra. Yakone has plastic surgery in order to escape from prison and lead a more-or-less normal life, but he still looks somewhat similar to how he was pre-surgery. Still, it works - he's able to live out the rest of his life in peace. It helps that he's far away from the place where he gained his infamy.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: In "The Man in the Mirror", Brad and Judy have plastic surgery to turn themselves into doubles of Fred and an older version of Daphne.
- In the Pepper Ann episode "Old Best Friend", after P.A. fainst from seeing her old friend Brenda everywhere, she wakes up in a surgery room to find that her face has been turned into Brenda's. It was All Just a Dream however.