True Beauty Is on the Inside
"That's just something ugly people say."One of the most common Stock Aesops out there: We shouldn't judge people based on how they look on the outside but rather how they look on the inside. Looks are a shallow motivator and are almost always wrong. Many a Betty wins in a Betty and Veronica Love Triangle once the guy realizes this Aesop. Compare Beauty Equals Goodness and Beauty Is Bad. Related to Evil Is Sexy. Contrast with I Just Want to Be Beautiful.
— Fletcher, Liar Liar
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Bleach: Spoofed/Played With by the flamboyant fraccion Charlotte Cuuhlhourne. He's a Large Ham who accuses his opponent Yumichika (a more reserved Narcissist) of being mean and lacking "inner beauty" when he refuses to look at him for thinking he's ugly. Despite that, Charlotte's obsession actually lies with external beauty and at the end of the fight gracefully acknowledges the beauty his opponent had been hiding.
- Done in the Pokémon episode "Pokemon Fashion Flash", though somewhat poorly — Vulpix is not a particularly unattractive Pokemon, and yet it's used to prove this point. (Specifically, her trainer cultivating its natural beauty is contrasted with the tacky makeovers Jesse, James, and Meowth are giving other Pokemon.)
- In Smile Pretty Cure!, this is the Meaningful Name of Cure Beauty. When confronted with her Bad End form, who boasts that the world is only for the beautiful, she gets back up and retort that this trope is what matters, and true to her name, she will be protecting the beautiful hearts which is inside. Cue ass kicking.
- A mutual version shows up in the backstory of Space Pirate Mito: Fierce space pirate Mito initially dismissed gentle human gardener Kagero as a wussy doormat but came to love him for his caring decency. Kagero continued to love Mito even after she revealed her true alien form. Protagonist Aoi is the Half-Human Hybrid result of their Interspecies Romance.
- A variant in Anatolia Story, where Japanese teen Yuri is transported to the late Hittite Empire and becomes Prince Kail's concubine. While Yuri is fairly attractive by modern standards, by ancient Hittite standards she is very scrawny and plain; indeed she is often mistaken for a young boy at first, leading many characters to wonder what is wrong with Prince Kail that he has fallen in love with someone like her. Invariably, they find themselves smitten with her as well, not because of her looks, but because of her spirit, intelligence, and personality.
- This appears as An Aesop at the beginning of the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. A beautiful enchantress changes her form to look like an old woman and is not allowed to stay the night at the castle by the prince. She punishes him for judging her by her appearance (and not providing hospitality) by turning him into the Beast. This trope is supposed to be the overall message of the film, as Belle falls in love with him despite his monstrous appearance — once he cuts out the actual monstrous behavior. As well, the Beast becoming a good person is contrasted with Gaston, the handsome hero of the village, becoming more and more repulsive and ruthless as the story progresses simply because Belle rejects his advances.
- Shrek did slightly better in that Fiona decided to become an ogre at the end, keeping the trope intact. Of course, she was a rather cute ogre, and was voiced by the even cuter (at the time) Cameron Diaz, which tended to deflate that, especially since Shrek was an ogre and one assumes he finds ogres attractive. Not that it's particularly easy to tell.
- Taking both to their logical conclusion makes this a sort of a reverse "Beauty and the Beast" as it would mean that Shrek first fell in love with Fiona despite her human appearance once he discovered he and she actually shared a lot of things in common. It just so happens that her human form was one most audiences would consider beautiful.
- Quasimodo of The Hunchback of Notre Dame fits this trope as well. It probably helps that it's from the same directors of Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise).
- Ludmilla, the Big Bad of Bartok the Magnificent, thinks this is true about herself. Then she takes a potion designed to make its user "10 times what they are inside", expecting to be extremely beautiful as a result. She was WAY off!
- Strange Magic: Both Marianne and the Bog King are burned by past relationships where they fell in love with somebody because they were good looking. The two fall in love with each other even though the two are nothing like what they each consider attractive note because they are able to look past their different appearances and see similar personalities.
Film (Live Action)
- Shallow Hal has a character cursed with a very literal example of this trope: He is only capable of seeing a person's "true beauty" which, for most of the movie, seems to be personified by Gwyneth Paltrow.
- Oddly not mentioned in The Graduate, although the beautiful Mrs. Robinson is a depressed alcoholic who cheats on her husband and tries to force her daughter into an unhappy marriage, and Ben (who rescues the daughter) is played by Dustin Hoffman. Then again, Dustin Hoffman was cast at the last minute.
- In Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter, we find out that Peggy Carter has a photo of Steve in her desk drawer. Not post-serum Captain America, but pre-serum, skinny runt from Brooklyn Steve Rogers. Just goes to show that she fell in love with him long before he became a Super Soldier, unlike the secretary who kisses Captain America just because he's just that - a Super Soldier - in Captain America: The First Avenger.
- Appears in all the "Beauty and the Beast" adaptations as it is the crucial linchpin of the story: Beauty must come to understand that just because beast is a hideous monster doesn't mean he's a bad person. Which is weird considering the fact that in many cases he's been made into a hideous monster specifically because he's a bad person.
- But he's gotten better.
- Jennifer Murdley's Toad by Bruce Coville (part of the Magic Shop series) is about an ugly girl with a nice personality. At the climax of the story she encounters a witch who offers to turn her "inside out," metaphorically speaking, so that her inner beauty will be on the outside, but upon thinking about this, Jennifer realizes that this would make her ugly on the inside, which she realizes would be worse. So she stays outwardly ugly (but a good person).
- Dragon Queen: Trava's father believes this. Then again, he's blind.
- This trope was deconstructed in one of the Spellsinger books. One of the characters is despondent that a beautiful woman he loves won't even give him the time of day. When the protagonist gives the, "She should see you for what you are on the inside", the despondent character points out that in Real Life, looks do count. They are part of who you are. It might not be the most important, but they still are something. Not to mention that one of the reasons he wants her in the first place is for her looks, so it would be a Double Standard if he wanted her to ignore his ugliness.
- Horrifically subverted in a children's book, in which a young monster who accidentally made a "pretty face" (which was considered horrifyingly ugly by the family) and got stuck with it took her mother's advice "true beauty is on the inside" to the literal extreme and flipped her face inside out.
- Parodied in Jingo — Nobby Nobbs, who is so ugly that he has to carry around a paper from the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork stating he is human, complains that women won't date him. Angua points out to him that maybe he should lower his standards, as he shouldn't expect to be able to date the more sought-after women. Nobby eventually settles on a Verity "Hammerhead" Pushpram, an ill-tempered fish seller whose eyes don't face the same direction and who usually reacts to seeing Nobby by telling him to bugger off and throwing fish at him (because hey, free seafood). When Nobby does land himself a gorgeous girlfriend in a later book, Angua is horrified for her, though fortunately by the end of the book Nobby is back with Verity (largely because she's a better cook), while Tawneee is cured of "jerk syndrome".
- Also parodied in Maskerade, where the plump and plain Agnes Nitt is sick of condescending comments like this, and thinks to herself that boys don't normally fall for an attractive pair of kidneys.
- The end of the book actually suberts the trope, by the end of it Agnes is still looked over for the much more outwardly appealing Chritine, despite the fact that Agnes is clearly the better singer and Christine has a voice like a violin if they'd just tied a cat to it instead of strings.
- For the most part, though, this is played straight, albeit silently. Most of the people who can be termed "heroes" in this world tend not to be the best lookers.
- Older Than Print with The Canterbury Tales: in the Wife of Bath's tale, the Designated Hero knight of the story finds himself wedded to a smart woman with a great personality — who's also a terribly ugly crone. She catches on to his distress and delivers this Aesop to him (along with a few others regarding wealth and noble birth), and then offers him a choice: as an enchantress, she could make herself young and beautiful, but then he'd always have to risk her sleeping around with his friends — or she could remain old and ugly, but be the best wife he could possibly ask for. His choice. He humbly says that the choice is up to her, and she, delighted that he's learned how to respect her, announces that she will be both beautiful and faithful. And they all life Happily Ever After.
- This enchantress has appeared in many legends and is known as the Loathly Lady.
- Discussed in Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey.
- In Harry Potter, Fleur Delacour says that Bill's scars just show how heroic he is. She still wants to marry him, no matters how he looks.
- There's a short story by Dick King Smith about a male fairy who is mocked for being bald. He mentions there is one red-haired fairy who isn't beautiful but has a kind face. After he learns his Aesop about vanity the red-haired fairy sits down next to him and tells him she finds him perfect the way he is. He is then said to see that she doesn't just have a kind face, she is beautiful, providing a suggestion that people often seem more beautiful when they are good-hearted.
- Ruth Mallory of Someone Else's War is very ugly and treated poorly by the army for it. Matteo likes her so much that he literally can't see her ugliness.
- Played with a horrific twist in Duckling Ugly. Cara is a nice enough person on the inside, but she is so ugly that she is tormented by everyone around her, even being nicknamed "the Flock's Rest Monster". Then she goes to a magical place called De Leon and while there, becomes beautiful via the Fountain of Youth. It would have ended right there with her happily ever after if she hadn't decided to go back to Flock's Rest and take sadistic delight in punishing the Alpha Bitch by stealing her boyfriend and then using magic to make her ugly. This activated a curse on Cara that made everyone and everything around her ugly while she remained beautiful.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Master Mind of Mars, Valla Dia reconciles herself with her ugly new form with this thought; she was beautiful before only if she had a beautiful soul, and if so, she can go on.
Live Action TV
- Game of Thrones: King Renly Baratheon and Lady Catelyn Stark are among the very few individuals in this Crapsack World who can look past Brienne of Tarth's unappealing physique and see her inner beauty.
- Ugly Betty is about this trope. At least, that's what the critics said when it debuted, as well as what America Ferrera said at an awards ceremony not long after the show debuted. But not very many actual episodes of the show mention this trope, and the eponymous character (Betty Suarez, played by America Ferrera) is usually treated as if nothing is wrong with her. Hooray for Character Development!
- Amanda and Mark continue to throw in snide comments about Betty's weight/glasses/braces/clothes throughout the series, even after she bonds with them as they have to maintain their mean and beautiful status. What really undermines the trope is America Ferrara's Hollywood Homely-ness. She was never obese in the first place (despite all the "plus-sized girl" comments Amanda & Co like to make) and lost weight over the course of the show, finally getting to the point where Betty's "ugliness" really is an Informed Flaw.
- This is the premise behind the Reality Show True Beauty. Specifically, contestants believe they are competing in a show where they are being judged on their "outer" beauty, but are in fact being evaluated on their "inner" beauty and how they interact with other people.
- In Doctor Who, during the episode, "The Girl Who Waited," Amy Pond had an absolutely beautiful speech about this regarding her husband Rory,◊ whose Cleopatra Nose and general adorable awkwardness made a few people think that Amy might be a step or two out of his league (This was before he took his multiple levels in badass.) Then she says this:
Amy: You know when sometimes you meet someone so beautiful and then you actually talk to them and five minutes later they're as dull as a brick? Then there's other people, when you meet them you think, "Not bad. They're okay." And then you get to know them and... and their face just sort of becomes them. Like their personality's written all over it. And they just turn into something so beautiful. Rory's the most beautiful man I've ever met.
- Michael Jackson's Ghosts short film tried to impart this moral as well as disprove Loners Are Freaks. Jackson played two characters at odds with each other — a Mayor and the mysterious Maestro (really, Jackson himself) — and stated in the making-of documentary that the Mayor's problem was his inability to see a person's inner beauty; just because a person looks and acts strange doesn't mean they're bad. But it's a Broken Aesop — Maestro is a Jerk Sue and the Mayor himself is presented as an Acceptable Target: a fat, middle-aged white guy whose concern over young boys secretly meeting up with Maestro for ghost stories is seen as merely bigotry against anyone who's different.
- It's a well-treaded Aesop, but it still bears repeating and "More Beautiful You" by Johnny Diaz does it in a rather heartwarming way, telling young women that they were put here for a special purpose, and as such, nothing they change on the outside could make them more beautiful than they already are. note And as a bonus, the video even shows the two young ladies' "flaws" being photoshopped away to help make the point that the standard of beauty promoted by popular media doesn't actually exist.
- "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep" by The Temptations.
- The Phantom of the Opera inverts this. The Phantom believes that it's his deformity that prevents Christine from loving him and when he abducts her at the end of the play, taunts her about how she's doomed to spend an eternity with a deformed freak like him. She coolly and calmly tells him that she's not longer repulsed by his mangled face, for, "it's in your soul that the true distortion lies". As in, she could have loved him, malformation and all, had he not been such a murderous psychopath. In the sequel Love Never Dies, however, this trope is played straight with songs like "Look With Your Heart" and "The Beauty Underneath" and the revelation that she realized the murderous psychopath was the man she truly loved too late; when offered the chance to choose him again, she does so.
- Cyrano de Bergerac, the Warrior Poet with the big nose, is too cynical to believe people actually believe this, despite what everyone else in the play tells him. Nevertheless, he invokes this trope at Act I Scene IV when Viscount De Valvert mocks his poor clothes:
Cyrano: True; all my elegances are within.
- The ending of Zombie & Mummy episode "...Go to Beauty Salon".
- In Sinfest, Slick assures Monique she will still have her inner figure in her old age -- like inner beauty, but sexier.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: The alien Nemesites believe this. Because their natural lifespan is about two thousand years, their sex drive doesn't amount to much, otherwise "our numbers would flood the sky." But they can still feel loneliness and may fall in love with members of other species, based purely on their personalities.
This YouTube video depicts a cartoon duck turning himself inside out so that he could be appreciated more.
- The Simpsons jokes about this when Bart and Milhouse become Myth Crackers.
Bart: Legend has it that if you go all the way around the swingset, you turn inside-out.Milhouse: Finally, my beauty will be on the outside!
- Done beautifully in an episode of Johnny Bravo where Johnny orders what is essentially a mail-order bride. Of course what he gets is hideous and all he wants is to get rid of her. He drags her to places like the monster truck rally and pro-wrestling trying to drive her away, but it turns out she's into all that stuff as well and falls for him harder. After everything is said and done, he has an epiphany about how "she isn't pretty, and she doesn't smell too good", but comes to the realization that she's the perfect woman for him and decides her looks don't mean anything. Unfortunately this leads to him trying to woo her with his typical Bravo charm, which very promptly disgusts her and makes her dump him. Poor guy.