A very common trope, particularly in animation and sitcoms, is for a woman to be far more attractive than her significant other, even when the husband does not have a prestigious, high-paying job. This is largely a result of Hollywood-style casting for women's roles in which average-looking women are virtually unknown, leaving a large number of hotties needing work. Therefore even Hollywood Homely women who aren't supposed to be gorgeous are portrayed by supermodel-class women. Similar cases are almost unheard of for men. Since "average joes" and "funny fat guys" can still get work (especially when they're the producer as well as the lead), this pervades almost all forms of media, making this one of the most wide-spread cases of a Double Standard around.
This is very common in Dom Com situations, and in cartoons and comic strips, it pervades due to Tertiary Sexual Characteristics; the men can look round and dopey, or simplistic given the artists' art styles, but the women have to be differentiated. This requires round hips, big bosoms, full lips, and exquisitely-designed hair, (and often an abstract shape) resulting in a beautiful woman and a cartoonish husband.
A popular use of the trope is to have the hot wife be beautiful on the outside only, and on the inside she's a manipulative, materialistic, spiteful bitch who doesn't deserve her Henpecked Husband's kindness, especially if he is just a Meal Ticket for her. This could lead to An Aesop that looks aren't everything and that appearances are often deceptive.
See also Beast and Beauty, Give Geeks a Chance, Nerd Nanny, No Accounting for Taste, Hot Consort, Attractiveness Isolation, What Does She See in Him? and Kavorka Man; and don't forget that Most Writers Are Male. May overlap with May-December Romance, if the man is old on top of being ugly (or is ugly simply as a result of being old). This trope often gives birth to the The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter. Contrast Model Couple and Hot Guy, Ugly Wife, as well as Huge Guy, Tiny Girl.
Note that it's Ugly Guy, not Average Guynote As attractiveness is subjective, the general rule of thumb should go that the guy is either overweight, dorky looking, dorky acting or has personality issues (like rude table manners) that wouldn't compensate for a mediocre appearance.
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Lampshaded and celebrated in an ad campaign for fast-food chain Del Taco: "Here's to every 4 who married a 10."
In a line of beer commercials featuring football referees, one poor guy was penalized for "Disproportionately hot girlfriend!"
An ad for Kohler depicts a beautiful young woman grappling with the attention of several handsome young men, but unable to chose between them. She comes home one even to find that her schlubby, balding plumber has installed an exquisite Kohler faucet in her kitchen. The next scene is of them getting married, with the man absolutely ecstatic and the three young men she had shunned looking completely flabbergasted. Apparently Red Green was right - "If the women don't find ya handsome, they should at least find ya handy."
An ad for Evian is narrated by a a rich old tough, with an Italian-American accent, who describes how drinking Evian his whole life had kept him virile enough for his young, beautiful wife, but then ends with the suggestion that his wife has been swapping his Evian with water from the fishtank.
Anime and Manga
Mazinger Z: In episode 89 we meet an impersonator of Kouji and Shiro's mother. In episode 92 we meet Kouji and Shiro's supposedly late father that would be one of the Great Mazinger main characters. His wife was definitely beautiful. He... not so much. Although maybe he was more handsome when he was younger and not a cyborg.
In Itazura Na Kiss, Chris, a beautiful English lady of noble blood, marries Kinnosuke, a not-so pretty Osakan chef. Most people wonder how a guy like Kinnosuke could have gotten a girl like Chris - likely because he's a decent guy despite his looks... and because Chris herself seems to have a thing for weird-looking dudes.
Given the looks of Gracia aka Naga and Amelia of Slayers (the former is a Statuesque Stunner, the latter is rather cute, and both are well-endowed) one would have to ponder how the bulky and ogre-looking Phillionel won over whoever their mother was.
In the manga of Air Gear, the incredibly ugly Onigiri proves a huge hit with the ladies in an air trek aerobics program, and has an incredibly attractive and borderline obsessive girlfriend. Then she dumped him... for the gigantically fat Buccha. And then she dumped him for a guy who was somehow even fatter. Little parts of Onigiri and Buccha died after the experiences.
This example illustrates yet another potential problem with this setup. If you're a big fat guy who manages to land a hot girl with a fat fetish, you're in serious trouble when somebody bigger comes along.
Azumanga Daioh plays this trope on the personality axis — the creepy Ephebophile teacher Kimura-sensei is revealed, to his students' amazement, to be married... and his waifu is lovely, to boot. As the students theorize that she must be a real harpy, Yukari-sensei instead predicts — correctly, as it later turns out — that she must be a saint in order to put up with him. It also helps that she is a Cloudcuckoolander.
While not married, worth noting is Danjuro Eiga & Miyako Miyazaki of Bamboo Blade. Miyako is a bombshell, while Danjuro has a head shaped like an acorn. To top it off, "Miya-Miya" (as Danjuro calls her) is very loyal to her man, having joined the kendo club solely to be with him, and also deathly afraid of letting the darker side of her nature become known to him.
Kojiro stated that an ugly man should have a hot girl here
In Eyeshield 21, Hatsujo, who is sort of unattractive, has a very beautiful girlfriend, just like every member of his team. Whenever the Cupids lose, we all know they're the real winners there.
Fairy Tail: Jude and Layla Heartfilia (Lucy's parents).
In Dragon Ball, Bulma's mom and dad embody this trope — he's old and wrinkled (looking like Albert Einstein), and she's ridiculously cute. Ditto for Krillin and Android 18 in Dragon Ball Z — she's an attractive blonde, and he's five-feet-tall and has no nose (at best he's Ugly Cute). Kami only knows what Mr. Satan's wife looked like to have a daughter like Videl — he's muscular, but exceptionally hairy and weird-looking. Mr. Satan and Bulma's dad were both rich and famous note Well, Dr. Briefs was, anyway. Mr. Satan didn't become famous until years after Videl was born.. Krillin however, was apparently a very persistent Dogged Nice Guy, although his sparing her life out of "she's cute" probably helped.
Hilariously subverted in Hajime No Ippo, where Ippo's sempai Masaru Aoki has a penchant for ugly women. At first it's just a consequence of his beautiful ex-girlfriend Miyuki having cheated on him when in highschool, but once he does settle down with female Gonk Tomiko (Kumi Mashiba's workmate), he does get to like her for the very supportive Genki Girl she is.
To mark on the point even more, when Aoki finally got to challenge the champion of his boxing class, it turned out that Katsukata Imae had exactly the same penchant for ugly-looking girls. Just look at his girlfriend Sachiko.
In Legendz, this is not only explicitly spelled out, but the ugly guy in question is himself concerned about the obvious disparity. "What the Hell does she see in me?" In fact, Meiko's Yandere-style obsession with the extremely fat and GonkyJerk Ass Hosuke is all around extremely questionable; NOBODY has a clue what she likes about him.
Taken to a ludicrous extreme in Naru Taru. Not only is Sato's fiancé ugly & slow-witted, he is apparently afflicted with Downs Syndrome.
Some would say that Shinji and Misono, Shiina's parents, counted in their youth.
It's revealed late in Ranma ½ that Genma somehow has ended up married to mom Nodoka Saotome. Lampshaded when Ranma, upon hearing this, punches his father in the face for having the gall to even suggest the possibility.
Even the other characters find it unbelievable. When they learn that Nodoka is visiting, the Tendos greet and welcome a portly, round-faced matron... who was there to pick up the take-out trays from her restaurant. When the real Nodoka appears, everyone is awestruck by her beauty and grace.
Also, Genma Saotome isn't quite as unattractive as fanon makes him out to be. He is bald and bulky, but his features are plain and there are plenty of topless shots of Genma that reveal the majority of his bulk, at least, is actually muscle. Genma's ugliness primarily comes from his panda form (which is porky) and his Jerkass tendencies.
By the same author, Urusei Yatsura has Mr. Invader, of the Oni. While a pleasant enough fellow, he's got the build of an American Football player going to seed, a set of tusks, and is about two or three times the height of a human. It's possible he actually might be the Oni equivalent of a Gonk, as, with the exception of the "Heian Era Oni" from the New Year's Special episode (who are stated as being a different species), none of the other male Oni look like him. Admittedly, with the exception of Rei, none of them are exactly handsome, either. Rei, meanwhile, is such a Chick Magnet that he has dozens of women going gaga over him... despite the fact he's a dimwitted Big Eater who can barely say more than one word at once and turns into an ushitora (a monster that resembles a hybrid of a cow and a tiger). Lum, Rei's former fiance used to be just as head-over-heels for him as every other woman before she realized that he was completely brainless.
It's revealed in flashbacks to his youth, while Lum's dad was never a pretty boy like Rei, being a plain-looking guy at best, he was always tall like a professional basketball athlete and indeed had the body of one. He only grew so obese because he allowed his wife to constantly feed him all of her cooking, as she enjoyed watching him eat her homemade handcooked dishes.
Greg and Mischa from Eureka Seven. They were divorced prior to Greg's initial appearance, apparently.
As a Take That to the massive amounts of Mr. Fanservice in most Boys Love manga, a particular one-shot features a gay man who has had a penchant for ugly men since his youth, seemingly oblivious to society's take on beauty throughout. When the story begins he is fondly reminiscing (Shoujo Sparkles and all) his first love (a towering, awkward, acne-faced sports freak of a teenager)... Not a few pages later, he runs into his said first love. Who has, amusingly, turned into a rather attractive beautician (not heartstoppingly gorgeous; he seems to have gotten over his teenage awkwardness, instead choosing to be cheerful, and as a beautician, has certainly learned about style). Soon after, the main character has a Freak Out! over how gross-looking his first love has become, and Hilarity Ensues.
Big Bad Shishio and his (consort?) Yumi from Rurouni Kenshin. His entire body is burned and charred, and he goes around almost completely covered in bandages. She's really beautiful and devoted to him. (Though before' he was burned and charred, he wasn't exactly ugly.)
Pretty Wanda and her Gonk boyfriend eventually end up Married at Sea in Pokémon Special. At the very least, we know that the boyfriend is a sweet guy since he made sure not to disrupt the easily scared Whismur when digging at Rustboro cave.
Kaoru of Nana to Kaoruknows he's not much of a catch (short, plain, introverted and bad-tempered), which is why he takes every effort to prevent Nana, his gorgeous childhood friend, from discovering his attraction. Yet she's falling for him regardless. The frequent bondage/S&M sessions between them are, oddly, how she discovered he's a good person.
Wapol from One Piece is a short, fat and generally absurdly looking guy (and that's only his appearance, not speaking of his personality) who marries with the One Piece world's equivalent of freakin' Miss Universe (might just be her name, though, as Boa Hancock later proves to be the One Piece world's true Miss Universe) after becoming a rich corporate business executive.
Adding to the fishmen and merfolk concept; Keimi and Hachi. They aren't technically a couple, but Keimi - a cute mermaid - does seem to have a crush on Hachi, who is a six armed octopus fishman and far older than her. This is one of the few canon crushes, by the way.
Every fishman/mermaid and so far merman/mermaid couple falls under this. Also considering the almost random nature of seafolk genetics, and the fact that Queen Otohime was somehow able to give birth to Shirahoshi, this might also fall under Bizarre Alien Reproduction and Bizarre Alien Biology.
It should also be noted that the Fishmen probably have different views of beauty than humans.
In every single work by Adachi Mitsuru, the heroine's parents are this. The heroine gets all of her looks from her mom since it just wouldn't make sense for anything male to want to get in your pants when you get your looks from "that." Sometimes it would only make sense if the mom had cheated somewhere in their marriage. This would make the heroine The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter.
Antonio and Margarita in El Cazador de la Bruja. Antonio is average looking and a bit portly, though he does have blond hair and blue eyes. Margarita is drop dead gorgeous, sexy, exotic, and always dressed stylishly and made-up impeccably.
Detective Conan: Juzo and Midori Megure. While Juzo isn't exactly Gonkish, Midori is quite attractive. They are also a May-December Romance deal, as they met when Midori was in high school and Juzo was in his early to mid 20's.
A darker version of this trope is Daisuke Torakura and his wife Etsuko from the Dracula's Villa case. Daisuke isn't that ugly, and doesn't look very old (he's very much in his 50's), Etsuko is really hot-looking. This is due to Etsuko being 20 years younger than her husband. Torakura actually married Etsuko through a rather cruel Scarpia Ultimatum, in which he threatened to destroy Etsuko's father's business and put her family into destitution.
Also Kazumi and Shouhei Tatsumi, where Shouhei is a somber-looking man in his early 50's and Kazumi is an Aloof Dark-Haired Girl who's only 30. To make things worse, Kazumi cheated on Shouhei with her very handsome co-worker and planned to make their divorce as scandalous and humiliating as possible for Shouhei, so he snapped and killed her.
And another one: Kozaburo Hijikata and his wife Isami Nagakura. Kozaburo is a man who's in his fifties and Isami is in her late 30's and looks quite attractive for a woman her age. Turns out that Isami cheated on Kozaburo with a younger stunt actor and he killed her for cheating on him and to collect her life insurance to pay for his bankruptcy.
In the Astérix comic books, the 93-year old Geriatrix has a young and beautiful wife.
It's subverted, however in that Geriatrix is completely whipped, with him constantly doing all of her household chores, spoiling her, and following her every command, in spite of his advanced age. Since Asterix is a cartoon for adults, it's also implied that his wife is freed from the usual "wifely obligations." So it's something of a trade-off.
Or probably not, given how the comic shows Geriatrix being perfectly able to fight Romans, party, drink and chase skirts as soon he gets out of his wife's eyesight.
Snake-Eyes and Scarlett, in the G.I. Joe comics. Though he possesses near-superhuman athletic potential and muscles like a fitness model, he's horribly scarred, at least on his face. (In one example, most of his face was cut off, and he deliberately stopped the bleeding by igniting gunpowder on his face.) Meanwhile, she's a smokin' hot redhead who arguably puts up with way too much of his weird shit than can be justified by ninja sex.
It's a little more complicated than that. When they first met, Snake Eyes was a fairly normal, if quiet and rather introverted soldier (albeit one with even more extensive unarmed combat training than Scarlett herself, whose family runs a dojo). He first endeared himself to her when the Joe team was initially assembled, and Scarlett had been introduced as the hand-to-hand combat instructor, much to the disbelief of some of the recruits. She handily defeated everyone else on the mat, but when Snake Eyes' turn came, he let her win, despite being her superior in skill, to allow her to maintain her standing with the other Joes, and Scarlett was experienced enough to know that he had done so. Then, on the team's first real mission, Scarlett was stuck in her seat during a helicopter crash by a jammed safety belt. Snake Eyes stayed behind to cut her out, despite her telling him to save himself, and brought her out of the wreck alive, at the cost of his head being lit on fire. The "weird shit" only began well after the incident, when they had already become inextricably joined together through mutual love, guilt and emotional dependency.
Mad Scientist Doctor Thaddeus Sivana, nemesis of Captain Marvel, could be charitably described as a hideous little troll of a man who makes Dennis Kucinich look like Fabio. His wife Venus Sivana, on the other hand, lives up to her name.
Wolverine from the X-Men. In the comic book, he's a short, hairy, gruff mountain man with poor hygiene who smokes. (It's implied his healing factor takes care of the health problems from his poor hygiene.) And it seems about half the beautiful powerful women in the Marvel Universe have slept with him or wanted to. Not even his former girlfriends' high mortality rates keep the ladies away.
Averted(?) when he makes a cameo in Runaways. Molly, who had previously been repeatedly stating that she would grow up to join the X-Men and marry Wolverine, meets him. She promptly flings him out of a church in disgust after spending all of three minutes with him.
The term "animal magnetism" is usually used whenever this is brought up, both in canon and among fans.
One of the worst cases of Depending on the Artist. Not many artists remember that Wolverine is about 5' 3" and is covered from neck to ankles in hair, leading to him being drawn more like Hugh Jackman with a full body wax.
The Kingpin — fat-looking and monstrous in size, has his gorgeous wife Vanessa and is devoted to her. (She isn't blindly loyal to him, however. She has threatened to leave him frequently, and actually has on more than one occasion.)
Also, once when he was separated from Vanessa, the Kingpin had a brief relationship with Typhoid Mary, a supervillain who might be considered sexy - though she was clearly insane.
In Love And Rockets, Fritzi's two-time husband and "one true love" is Scott the Hog. He's fat, snaggle-toothed, and apparently has a short penis that barely works. She's beautiful, has huge breasts, a slim waist and curvy hips.
Obadiah Horn and Sahara from Elephantmen. She's a tall, slim, curvy African goddess, and he's a rhino-human hybrid.
The protagonists of Charles Perrault's Riquet of the Tuft . Prince Riquet is an incredibly ugly guy with a tuft, quite the wit and a kind heart; the Princess he's interested in is a Dumb Blonde with a big inferiority complextowards her ugly but much smarter and more popular sister. Then it's averted: the Princess has a gift that will make the man she falls in true love with very handsome, and when she has her Love Epiphany regarding Riquet, the "gift" kicks in and makes him much better looking. Since Riquet had previously used a "gift" of his own to make the Princess smarter and help her with her troubles, it all works fine in the end.
Pictured above, King Fergus and Queen Elinor from Brave. She has preserved her looks quite well for a greying mother of four, he... remains strong and in excellent condition. Justified as theirs was an arranged marriage, but it seemed to work out okay (and, considering how young Merida is expected to marry, it isn't impossible that Elinor is only in her thirties).
Four children, two pregnancies. She has an amazing figure for someone who's carried triplets.
WALL•E and EVE, being a rusted trash compactor and a sleek, top-of-the-line scout droid, respectively.
Hold on, there. Wall-E may be rusted, but you gotta admit that he's pretty adorable!
Felix and Calhoun from Wreck-It Ralph are an Ugly Guy, Hot Girlfriend example. Though Felix isn't ugly (he's actually widely considered to be very cute), he's rather goofy-looking, especially compared to Calhoun. This is played straight when Felix and Calhoun get married in the epilogue of the movie.
In Robot Boy Doctor Moshimo was a very old and ugly man who had a hot fiancé named Miumiu. She's also a Cute Mute and to date has only spoken in one or two episodes.
This device goes all the way back to the early days of silent movies, where Fatty Arbuckle's love interest was the lovely Mabel Normand.
Charlie Chaplin was also paired up with several beautiful actresses. The trope is sometimes subverted, however. The final scene of "City Lights," features the beautiful blind girl, who regains her sight thanks to Chaplin, looking shocked and disappointed when she finally sees her benefactor.
The MST3K-featured Attack of the Giant Leeches has Dave and Liz Walker. Between this trope and Liz' complete lack of affection for Dave, it comes as no surprise when she's caught cheating.
The Bollywood movie Partner takes this to a ridiculous extent with the beautiful heiress Priya and the doofy dork Bhaskar getting together in the end.
2012. Russian oligarch Yuri and his girlfriend Tamara. She acknowledges that Yuri will likely never make her his wife.
The movie Johnson Family Vacation. Mr Johnson? Overweight and average looking Cedric The Entertainer. Mrs. Johnson? Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams.
Before The Devil Knows You're Dead paired the overweight Philip Seymour Hoffman with the shapely Marisa Tomei. Ironically, it's she who is extremely insecure and in constant need of his assurance that he loves her.
Roger Rabbit of Who Framed Roger Rabbit is married to the sex kitten Jessica Rabbit (and are Happily Married too, even Sickeningly Sweethearts at times). Apparently toons see these things differently, since Betty Boop insinuates that it's Jessica who married up. When asked why she married Roger, she responds, "He makes me laugh." (This has a bit of Fridge Brilliance, actually. Most toons do seem to think that humor is the most important trait to have, so from their point of view, a clown like Roger would indeed be considered more attractive than someone like Jessica.)
Played for laughs in Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle; the title characters are picked up by a disfigured man called "Freakshow" who is married to a rather beautiful girl. When Harold and Kumar ask her about this, she explains that they met in a church choir, and he has a lovely singing voice.
In Knocked Up, the premise is that Seth Rogen's character knocks up a girl who is way out of his league and manages to turn it into a real relationship.
The John Wayne western movie War Wagon. The youngest member of the gang gets snarled at when he smiles at what he thinks is the grizzled old codger's pretty daughter. It turns out she's his wife, whom he bought off her parents in exchange for a horse. But the old codger gets killed and the kid forgoes his share of the gold to ride off with her instead.
Lampshaded all the time in the case of Austin Powers. Austin has dorky glasses, bad teeth and an excessive Carpet of Virility, but women treat him like a sex god. Mrs. Kenisington notes that physical perfection wasn't as important in the sixties, and it's Austin's personality that makes him so irresistible.
Magnolia has the elderly and rather withered movie executive dying of cancer played by Jason Robards married to a gorgeous trophy wife several decades younger than him played by Julianne Moore. The twist is that it started as a typical 'marrying him for his money' arrangement, but then she genuinely fell in love with him to the extent that out of guilt she even tried to have his will changed so that she would no longer be his heir.
Subverted with Shallow Hal, in which the schlubby Jack Black *thinks* he's the "Ugly Guy" because he sees his girlfriend Rosemary as the lovely and svelte Gywneth Paltrow, when in reality, she's considerably overweight. Played straight by Hal's disabled friend who has a sickly thin old woman for a girlfriend. She's actually pretty but rotten on the inside. Disabled isn't ugly, though, at least not the way the trope uses "ugly." Walt, the disabled character has spina bifida, but he actually isn't bad looking. He's very athletic, and while he's older than the woman he's dating, and probably than Hal, he's not bad-looking at all. He's stinking rich, too, which is why the woman is dating him. It's not the fantasy mismatch of the truly ordinary-in-every-way guy with the beautiful woman.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High. the ugly, creepy science teacher played by Vincent Schiavelli turns out to have an astonishingly hot wife (played by Lana Clarkson).
Laurel and Hardy have various wives throughout their films. They are disproportionately attractive, but compensate by being either extremely bitchy or outright evil.
Parodied in The Other Guys, where Will Ferrell's character is married to the smoking-hot Eva Mendes but doesn't seem to notice how gorgeous she is ("You'll have to excuse my wife, she's a battle-axe"). His partner played by Mark Wahlberg, on the other hand, does notice, and is baffled at how Ferrell's character snagged such a hot wife. Apparently Ferrell's guy is just a natural chick magnet (as pointed out by Wahlberg). Specifically, the hotter the woman, the more attracted to Ferrell's character she is.
Wahlberg: "WHY ARE YOU WITH HIM?! (beat) I mean… How did you two meet?"
Of course, it's eventually revealed that Farrel's character is aware of how attractive his wife is, but had been so insecure over it that he was trying to make her insecure, thus keeping her eye from wandering to better prospects.
In Gothika, Halle Berry finds herself in a mental asylum accused of murdering her husband. Her husband Charles S. Dutton.
The Dilemma. Vince Vaughn and Kevin James are average-looking at best and are both overweight, but their ladies are played by the lovely Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder, respectively.
In Death Becomes Her, Madeline Ashton (played by Meryl Streep) takes a potion that makes her permanently young and beautiful, while her husband Ernest (played by Bruce Willis) ages worse than normally, being an alcoholic. Madeline makes up for it, however, by being pure evil.
Ernest's ex, Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn), has also taken the potion, and uses it to seduce him back. The rest of the plot has Madeline and Helen, two drop dead gorgeous women, fighting over poor over-the-hill Ernest.
Hawn and Streep were both in their mid-forties when they played these eternally young parts. In an uncommon example, both women are older than Willis; Streep by six years, and Hawn by ten. The film earned an Oscar for visual effects.
At the conclusion of Rear Window, the pretty and nubile ballet dancer who has spent the film fending off the advances of numerous male model types is seen joyfully welcoming home her short and stocky lover.
In Time Bandits, the group encounters an old, broken down and hideous ogre whose wife is, inexplicably, Katherine Helmond. Helmond's character was originally supposed to be a female ogre until Helmond suggested that she be a normal woman, with no explanation.
In Stand and Deliver the craggy-faced, potbellied and bald math teacher played by Edward James Olmos has a beautiful wife. This shows that his intelligence and self confidence have allowed him to get what he wants out of life, just as he wishes for his students.
Couples Retreat featured an extreme version of the trope with an enormous, morbidly obese man and his hot twenty-year old floozy of a girl (he wasn't even rich — but he acted like he had money, buying her a motorcycle). Lesser examples include the pudgy, slobby, older Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn being hooked up with the gorgeous Kristin Davis and Malin Akerman, respectively. Only one couple in the four featured in the movie could be described as a pair of attractive people — Kirsten Bell and Jason Bateman.
Deck The Halls featured a tremendous example with the famously portly, ugly and bald Danny Devito being married to Kristin Chenoweth, who, while short like Danny, is very beautiful, and portrayed as such.
The Postman Always Rings Twice in both the original and the 1981 remake. Beautiful Cora, the main female character, was married to an ugly, old, boring husband. She was played by Lana Turner (1946) and Jessica Lange (1981) respectively, two of the most sexy women of their time.
Not quite the same since they're not married, but Riff-Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show has the smoking hot Magenta as his lover, though by conventional standards he's unattractive himself (very thin, balding, hunchbacked etc).
The entire plot of Hitch centers around a pick-up artist who coaches unattractive men on how to win the hearts of their dream women.
Oh Dae-su and Mi-Do in Oldboy. It turns out that they've been hypnotized into falling in love with each other. And that's not nearly the worst revelation... turns out they fulfill The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter, too.
In Zombieland, Columbus was a geeky shut-in with no friends, while Wichita was a beautiful popular girl. They hook up, aided considerably by their lack of options.
The National Lampoons Vacation films pair Chevy Chase with Beverly D'Angelo as Clark and Ellen Griswold. While Clark is no worse than average looking he definitely falls under both the 'dorky acting' and 'personality issues' elements being not only a Bumbling Dad but also Mr. Serious Business when it comes to family events. Ellen on the other is not only very beautiful but a total sweetheart with a ton of patience.
Arthur and Ben in, well, Ben and Arthur. Somewhat subverted in that the marriage between the two eponymous men is not recognized by the State of California.
The drunk couple in the beginning of the horror movie The Refrigerator. One is a fat hairy guy who looks to be in his 40s, while the other looks like she is in her 20s. It almost turns to Fan Disservice when they (almost) have sex, before the guy dies of a heart attack.
In The Jerk, Steve Martin's boss (Jackie Mason) introduces his hot wife, carefully explaining how vital his business is to him. Without its profits she'd leave him in a second. She nods.
Vince Vaughn and Kevin James are average-looking at best, and both are quite overweight (the latter more so) — but in The Dilemma snagged women who look like Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder.
An in-universe example appears in The Brass Teapot, where several characters are baffled by how John Macy ended up married to someone as hot as Alice (Juno Temple), acting as if this trope was in play. Even though John is played by Michael Angarano, who is not exactly ugly.
In 1984, Winston Smith, a 39 year old man, somewhat over the hill by Oceanic standards, physically bent out of shape, and sporting what is apparently a highly unsightly varicose ulcer, manages to have a 4 month affair with Julia, almost ten years younger, described as being in much better physical condition, notably possessing stunning hair and breasts. Considering that both suffer crushing sexual repression and have borderline nymphomaniac traits as well, they seem suited for each other. Julia's a member of a harsh chastity brigade, and sees sex as her best way of sticking it to The Man. So she's not terribly picky.
Fiancé example: Zephaniah Cromwell and Emily Gibson in Cloud of Sparrows. Emily is strikingly beautiful (at least by American standards), while everybody in the novel considers Cromwell incredibly ugly.
Good Magician Humphrey of Xanth and all five and a half wives (long story)note Such a long story, it got it's own book; Question Quest. Humphrey, even as a young man, has always been short, gnome-like, and grumpy, while his wives have ranged from "merely" pretty (Sofia Socksorter) to inhumanly beautiful (Dana Demoness)
Xanth has a few examples, as some attractive women (and they're all attractive in those books) have married actual monsters. Tandy and Smash the Ogre for instance. He's half human, but still looks mostly like an ogre (who are ugly enough to curdle milk by looking at it).
From the same author, in Incarnations of Immortality, Thanatos (aka Zane), the incarnation of death is described as a fairly ugly man, the woman he dates, Luna, is described as one of the most beautiful women of her generation (this is stated as fact and recognized by immortal powers such as Satan, not a subjective opinion). It helps when the Incarnations of Faith & Time team up to do some match making.
Drugs and Dominoes reveals that Keith Gandor (who, while not exactly ugly, is a very sinister-lookingmafioso) is married to a gorgeous and talented pianist named Kate — who loves him despite his less-than-legal activities, no less.
In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, both Count Aral Vorkosigan (stocky, thick featured, scarred... the author once described him as Mussolini with hair) and his son Miles (under five feet, hunchbacked, and having a disproportionately large head) both managed to marry women who are quite attractive in addition to their other positive attributes.
It should be pointed out: though each man is or will be a count, just heartbeats from the throne (or serving as Regent), they each marry their considerably-more-attractive wives for love. This is especially clear in Cordelia and Aral's case, since the reader learns his best and worst traits along with his future wife.
The first woman Lord Byron's 16-year-old Don Juan sleeps with is the 23-year-old frustrated hot wife of a 50-year-old ugly guy.
Derk and Mara in Diana Wynne Jones' Dark Lord of Derkholm. She's the 'glamourous enchantress', he's... middle-aged, overweight and balding. In fact, his concerns that she's going to leave him are one of his primary character drives. In truth, she loves him immensely, and they go back to being Happily Married in the end. The sequel, Year of the Griffin, even shows (by the presence of two new children) that they're still busy.
The Malloreon, by David Eddings, ends, among other things, with Beldin, a deformed, short hunchback with a bad temper who is always described as incredibly dirty, finally going off with Vella, a Nadrak dancer. True, they both changed into hawks, but she was still in love with the guy from day one.
A subversion of the trope may be Poledra and Belgarath. Though she appears little, she's described quite favourably. On the other hand her husband is an old wrinkly man whose grooming habits only seem respectable in comparison to his aforementioned associate Beldin. Then, near the very end of the series, he appears in a loincloth and every woman in the party who isn't his daughter notices just how well the 7000-year-old man has taken care of himself.
Also by Eddings, The Elenium features grizzled old knight Sparhawk marrying beautiful princess Ehlana. Also, short bandy-legged nomad Kring ends up with Ehlana's bodyguard, the Amazonian Beauty Mirtai.
Though Birgitte and Gaidal Cain of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time aren't actually married, they have a generations-spanning relationship together (they usually reincarnate at the same time). Cain is, to put it lightly, not as handsome as the legends about him say, while Birgitte is described as fairly attractive. It helps that she's attracted, as Mat figures out, to dog-ugly men (whether this is a cause or an effect is unstated).
Mr. and Mrs. Delacour in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The latter is descended from a humanoid species that take the form of the most beautiful women to walk the earth, whereas former is a plump, black-bearded, but pleasant.
Initially averted completely with Fleur, their daughter who inherited her mother's looks, and her fiance Bill Weasley, who is actually pretty handsome. Later downplayed when he's slashed in the face in battle by a werewolf, and its curse means the scars will never fade. However, Fleur doesn't reject Bill because the scars mean nothing except "that [her] husband is brave", which is proof enough for the formerly wary-of-her Weasley family to accept her.
In the chapter of The Faerie Queene dealing with pure and unpure sex, Edmund Spenser attacked this trope, mercilessly showing all the problems it would, in the medieval viewpoint, lead to (paranoid jealousy from the guy and cheating by the wife).
Nobby Nobbs is a very simple man, who might have been putting on a brave face for his friend Colon, but Tawneee simply couldn't cook.
In Stardust, the protagonist blindly chases after a fallen shooting star for the girl he likes, who had become pregnant with an ugly old rich man's child not long before (with even her friends being aware of it).
In "The Pillars of the Earth" the lovely Ellen had Jack Shareburg,who was described as being 'unsightly' with carrot colored hair and pale skin. Although they never really stated if they were married or not and later their son Jack who looks like the father is described as being handsome and while in france, he runs into his grandmother, who mistakes him for his father.
Played tragically in Eva Luna, where Nice Guy with cleft palate Riad Halabi marries a pretty Old Maid named Zulema. Their marriage is very unhappy.
In the Charlotte Brontë novel Villette, Lucy Snow meets a group of three men and three women while traveling. She is absolutely flabbergasted to realize that most unattractive man in the group (in terms of looks AND personality) is married to the prettiest young woman (proving that even back then, people found such a pairing highly unrealistic), and further stunned to realize that the woman is quite happy and content.
In Death series: Belle and Douglas Skinner from Interlude In Death. It seems averted at first because while Belle is definitely attractive, Douglas is not so hard on the eyes himself considering that he is a lot older than her. Then it gets played straight when a life-threatening illness he's been struggling with finally proves to be too much for him.
Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Played straight with Elizabeth "Lizzie" Fox and Cosmo Cricket. Lizzie is stunningly beautiful. Cosmo...well, he has feet as big as canoes (maybe even shaped like them), he has a big nose on a flat face, he has ears as round as pancakes, and he is apparently so fat or bulky that he needs to have his clothes tailored for him.
Though the goblins in the Hollow Kingdom Trilogy see their ugliness and deformity as a sign of strength, they always choose beautiful wives whether they are elves or humans.
Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar books presents petite, sweet faced, and generally harmless-looking Queen's Own Herald Talia; and the love of her life Herald Dirk who is big, strong, has a lovely voice and (at least in Talia's opinion) beautiful eyes... but beyond that is explicitly described as homely at best. A major complication during Arrow's Fall was his inability to realize that she would prefer him over his far more handsome highborn friend Herald Kris.
Ludovico in Palimpsest isn't exactly ugly, but he's certainly nobody anyone would look twice at with his bad posture and thinning hair. Lucia on the other hand is a very attractive, very sensual woman.
This is the case with James Joyce's major protagonists: Gabriel Conroy, a "portly", plain and middle-aged English teacher, is paired with Greta, who is described as a classically Gaelic beauty; Leopold Bloom with the Mediterranean and exotic Molly; and HCE, an aged publican, with Anna Livia Plurabelle, the beautiful personification of the river Liffey.
Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark. Although it was an Arranged Marriage, the contrast is given much emphasis, especially as Tyrion is a deformed dwarf and Sansa is lauded as one of the greatest beauties of her age. It only serves to make the both of them even more miserable.
This is one of several relationships between characters for which the song "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" is used as a motif, along with Sandor Clegane/Sansa, Jorah Mormont/Daenerys Targaryen, and Brienne of Tarth/Jaime Lannister.
Robert Baratheon and Cersei Lannister didn't start out like this, but years of drinking, whoring, and laziness have taken their toll on Robert while Cersei retains her famed beauty despite their awful marriage. When Ned and Catelyn meet them for the first time in years, the contrast is not lost on them.
Romain Gary's The Dance of Genghis Cohn has an utterly ugly gardener who's actually the personification of Death and his hot nymphomaniac wife who happens to be the personification of Life.
Once upon a time in The Kingdom of Little Wounds, this was King Christian and Queen Isabel. Isabel has lost her looks since then, but Christian always looked a bit like a sheep.
Live Action TV
Everybody Loves Raymond paved the way for its many sitcom imitators, who copied this trope almost exactly; this trope could almost be called, "The Ray and Debra." The uncharming, pasty, flabby, big-nosed Ray Romano is paired with decidedly better-looking Patricia Heaton (especially notable in later seasons, when Ray wasn't aging so gracefully, and Patricia had used a bit of surgical help to maintain her appearance). This was directly addressed in one episode, which had Debra accidentally implying that she was more attracted to the tall, dark, handsome, and well-groomed Robert, much to Ray's consternation. It also got Flanderized in later seasons, as the characters shifted and Ray became stupid in addition to unattractive, and Debra became cruel and shrill in addition to beautiful.
According to Heaton, she helped her cause in her audition by being one of the few actresses who was willing to kiss Ray Romano during the test reads.
Their best friends, Bernie and Linda, who were perhaps an even more extreme example of the trope. Bernie was played by homely overweight Tom McGowan while Linda was played by thin insanely gorgeous Maggie Wheeler.
Almost every single male character from The Sopranos is married or in a relationship with insanely hot women, while usually also cheating on them with other even hotter women. Subverted with Johnny Sack: due to his high rank in the New York crew it's assumed that like all the others he has a hot wife with affairs on the side. In season 4 we see however that his wife is a rather large woman who he loves deeply and does not cheat on.
Implied in the Dollhouse episodes "Man in the Street" and "A Love Supreme" in the Internet tycoon Joel Mynor's relationship with his late wife, Rebecca, who Joel recalls "was beautiful and she knew it."
The Drew Carey Show features an endless parade of incredibly beautiful, intelligent women throwing themselves at Drew, who is perhaps the biggest "fat loser-dork" in TV history (despite the fact that the real Drew Carey used to be a Marine. Eventually he marries, and has a child with, perhaps the most beautiful one of all— accomplishing both at the same time no less).
Curiously, there was an equal number of unattractive or plain-looking women (Wanda Sykes, and elderly Shirley Jones) that he hooked up with. One love interest and near-wife, who was hot when they met because she had recovered from a food addiction, winds up slipping off the wagon because she's dating a guy who eats a lot, she gets very fat, and they end up breaking up specifically because it shows her she can't date someone like him who shamelessly overeats.
Drew loved her throughout, and up until the very moment she walked out of his life was sincerely pleading that he found her beautiful and didn't care how heavy she was. While Drew never claimed that he didn't like typically attractive women, the series repeatedly showed that he didn't really care about that once he was attracted to someone. Drew also placed a very high priority on personality as well as looks, as one time he dated a cop played by Jenny McCarthy and was thoroughly miserable with her but only stuck around because she scared him.
Not technically this, since his actual wife isn't that attractive, but 'Allo 'Allo! has the mundane Rene having an affair with the beautiful Yvette and Maria (amoung a few others)...and it's even implied that they like him more than he's attracted to them.
Most of the women seem to find Rene exciting more than physically attractive. Which makes sense, since being the main character he's at the center of everything that goes on.
Bewitched - Successful advertising career or no, Darrin (regardless of who played him) never really had any business being married to Elizabeth Montgomery's Samantha.
This is somewhat justified in that Dick York's terrible health problems, which is what ending up causing him to leave the show, took its toll on his appearance.
For that matter, before he met Samantha, Darrin was engaged to an heiress played by Nancy Kovack. (In real life, winner of eight beauty titles.)
Agent 86 Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 of Get Smart fame.
The George Lopez Show features the plumper Lopez with a wife that's slightly out of his league. He seems entirely aware of how lucky he is, and it's lampshaded often. George's best friend Ernie has had a crush on her since high school, and she knows it.
"I married her (points at Angie). I got nothing left to prove."
Angie: "I used to be head cheerleader and very popular and well liked." George: "Yeah. But you married the weird kid with a big head. Face it honey. You peaked."
Ralph and Alice Kramden on The Honeymooners. Upstairs neighbors Ed and Trixie Norton probably qualify as well, especially since Trixie's backstory says she was a burlesque dancer before falling for the sewer worker.
The original sketches in Gleason's variety show were an aversion, with Alice being played by a much older actress (Pert Kelton). After Kelton was forced to leave the show due to Cold War blacklisting, Mr. Gleason changed it to a hot wife in the series for 1955 made-for-TV Fanservice.
Audrey Meadows wrote in her autobiography that she wanted the part of Alice but Gleason, seeing her stills, decided she was "too attractive." So she arranged for a friend to bust in with a camera very early in the morning to take her picture, no makeup, bleary eyes and all. Gleason liked the photos and Meadows' willingness to go the extra mile to get the part.
The movie version plays this trope straight also. Ralph Kramden is played by Cedric The Entertainer. Alice? The insanely gorgeous Gabrielle Union.
What Raymond started was wrought in its purest form in copycat The King of Queens. Star Kevin James? Average in looks department and overweight. Hot wife? Leah Remini, who despite fluctuating weights in some seasons, is overall a Maxim cover-girl worthy model◊.
One episode accentuates this into absurdity—Kevin James loses a noticeable but not extreme amount of weight, and one of Carrie's friends seriously suggests that he's now as physically attractive as she is, and Carrie doesn't seem too happy to hear this.
One episode featured Leah's character bringing out an "old" picture with his face photoshopped onto a ripped body. So apparently he got fat after they got married.
Another episode contradicts that in that if features the first time he came to her house for dinner and in it, he was still overweight.
My Name Is Earl features Randy and Catalina. Originally he chased her, until a green card marriage led to them sleeping together. Using advice from Joy, Catalina makes herself extremely unattractive to him, while Randy proceeds to be the best lover she ever had. Afterwards she fails to keep him interested because he is turned off by how bad she was.
Another one: when Earl is working in a fast-food restaurant, his Jerk Ass boss keeps abusing him. Earl then visits his house and discovers he has a hot wife who even has a mug labeled "World's Best Lover". But as luck would have it, Earl discovers he has two hot wives. By punching the boss in the face, he puts him in hospital, where both hot wives go to join him at bedside, see each other and dump him in disgust. Hilarity Ensues!
NYPD Blue's Andy Sipowicz. Twice. Wife #2 - Sylvia Costas (Sharon Lawrence). Two decades his junior. Wife #3: Connie McDowell (Charlotte Ross) - so out of his league they might as well be different species. Andy Sipowicz has dozens of beautiful women throwing themselves at him, it seems.
In between he briefly dated Gibson's niece, Cynthia. She is described as "plain" and seems fairly desperate. Her actress, Juliana Donald, was in her mid-thirties, so it's not impossible for her to have a little Christmas Cake anxiety — but she was certainly not bad looking, so to act like an overweight bald guy fifteen years her senior was the only person willing to date her (and that mostly as a favor to Gibson) was a bit ridiculous. If anything she was out of his league.
Sex and the City: Charlotte (played by the ridiculously beautiful Kristin Davis) finds the love of her life (and the best sex of her life) the second she stops going for handsome boy's club types and lowers her standards for her divorce attorney, the chubby and bald Harry. This being Sex and the City, he's still rich.
Kristin Davis also played Jerry's girlfriend on Seinfeld — until, that is, George caused her toilet to turn into a geyser while she's using it— causing the germophobic Jerry to say "have a nice life."
Still Standing, with Mark Addy and Jami Gertz. It's particularly egregious in the High School Class Reunion episode, when the wife is worried about not measuring up to the Alpha Bitch. She inexplicably abandons her usual tight shirts and jeans to wear unflattering, baggy clothing and a bad hairstyle. The Alpha Bitch, played by the already-pretty Beth Littleford, wears the wife's usual clothes. The next episode has the wife right back to her usual clothes and hair.
If it's the right episode, most of that took place at a charity-event pancake breakfast, that took place the morning after their reunion party. The baggy clothes and hairstyle might have came from simply waking up and finding something comfortable.
3rd Rock from the Sun features Don & Sally. Played with in that Sally, being an alien, has no idea Don is supposed to be ugly (despite the fact that he's played by Wayne Knight), and finds his power as a police officer sexy.
In fact, Sally thinks everyone in society is just as smitten with Don's "good looks" as she. One episode has Sally thinking she is too unattractive to believably be with someone like Don.
Although, Don was shown dating at least one very attractive female after he and Sally broke up.
And in one episode it turns out that her attraction is entirely thanks to Don being a cop, which they both realize after several dates with him out of uniform severely lower Sally's interest.
That '70s Show has Bob Pinciotti... who, not only started the series with a hot wife (played by Tanya Roberts), but also had a romance with Jackie's mother (played by Brooke Shields). At some point he even was seeing both of them at the same time. It's even lamp-shaded when he hooks up with Shields. The boys realize Bob's track record with smoking hotties that should be way out of his league and gain a newfound respect for him.
A Gender Flip in the British sitcom The Vicar of Dibley, which sees plump Dawn French paired with tall, dark and brooding Richard Armitage—granted, she's the protagonist, and it was only in the season finale, but still. In Real Life, Dawn French was married to Lenny Henry. The show played a little with the issue. Her significant weight gain and eventual loss was even made part of the storyline. So this can depend on which episode you watch.
Will and Grace poke fun at this, with Jack and Karen searching for a new sitcom after the finale of Sex and the City. Whilst they are channel hopping, they spin through several "Fat guy, skinny wife" shows before hitting upon a "Ugly guy, skinny wife" show.
Karen: "Ugly guy, skinny wife? * shakes head* No, America is not ready for that just yet."
For that matter, Karen and Stanley. Yeah, we never actually see Stanley on camera, but everyone on the show says he's a whale.
Justified that Stanley is basically Karen's (married) sugar daddy.
A show about women's sex lives and the toys they used to enhance it featured one couple that seemed to be a middle-aged British woman who was probably rather pretty ten years ago and a Spanish or Italian male underwear model in his early to mid twenties.
This trope gets lampshaded quite heavily in an episode of Rescue Me, when Billy (one of the firefighters) dies. At his funeral, they find out that he'd had 2 ex-wives, both of supermodel quality. The episode had a sub-plot of a measurement contest, which Billy had declined to take part in. After having talked with the ex-wives, the chief declared Billy the posthumous winner, stating "Our friend Billy... was packing 10."
Curb Your Enthusiasm has both Larry and Cheryl, and Jeff and Susie. Larry is bald, lanky, and the little hair he has left is long since gray. Cheryl is much younger than Larry and very beautiful. As for Jeff and Susie, Jeff is very overweight, and his wife, while not attractive personality wise, is quite pretty. This is a natural reflection upon their success and wealth.
When Cheryl leaves Larry in season 6, he dates several attractive women, including Lucy Lawless.
More justified than most here in that he actually plays a rich, successful comedian and writer.
Troll-like George Costanza dated models and other hot, thin women, but eventually got engaged to someone more in his league in the looks department- Susan Ross. Subverted in that George was always painfully aware that these women were out of his league (how he managed to hook up with them is still a mystery) and always ruined the relationship with his crippling insecurity and generally idiotic behavior. One example (which seemed to be lampshading this trend) has him being approached by a gorgeous woman who had initially mistaken him for her boyfriend. Already stunned at the idea that a man like him could end up with a woman like this, George is further gobsmacked when the woman indicates that he's BETTER looking than her boyfriend, saying that George appears to be both taller and in better shape than the man in question.
The man himself, Jerry, likewise dates a bevvy of beautiful women, including supermodels, despite being a supposedly-average comedian; and Jerry's not much more of a catch than George in terms of looks and personality. Granted, Jerry is more average looking than ugly and he's got a pretty lean build.
This list shows just how extreme an example this is. The list of notably gorgeous women who were his girlfriend at some point is truly remarkable. Jane Leeves, Courteney Cox, Teri Hatcher, Lori Loughlin, Christine Taylor, Kristin Davis, Debra Messing, Amanda Peete, Marcia Cross... it's good to be the Seinfeld.
Kramer didn't do too badly either, although this was explained by his Kavorka Man appeal.
Jerry's nemesis Newman (played by Wayne Knight of the 3rd Rock from the Sun example cited above) was also occasionally seen dating very attractive women as well. In fact, in one episode, Jerry was stunned to discover that his girlfriend of the week used to date him—and that it was HE who dumped HER, because HE didn't feel that SHE was pretty enough to suit HIM. Utterly discombobulated by this, Jerry dumps her.
Friends: Throughout the course of both relationships, we are consistently given the impression that Rachel and Monica are way out of Ross and Chandler's, respectively, leagues. In fact, Ross and Rachel's relationship has been described as the epitome of "every geek's dream that he can land a babe like her." This, despite the fact that David Schwimmer is reasonably attractive and Matthew Perry is quite handsome.
It's mostly due to their personalities. Chandler never had trouble attracting the attention of women but he always made horrible first impressions and ruined it. Similarly, Ross' relationships were often doomed by his inexperience and lingering feelings for his ex Carol, and later, Rachel.
David Schwimmer has the head of a science geek on the torso of a Playgirl model. Pay attention the next time "The One with the Tiny T-shirt" airs. Ross must have had a Bow-flex in his office at the museum. Or he was carting around dinosaur femurs without a dolly.
When Chandler first met a woman he could shmooze her with the same kind of skills that got him promotions at work. As soon as the relationship got serious, he panicked.
Seen in Homicide: Life on the Street, even though interestingly enough, we never see the man in question. When a beautiful woman reports her husband's disappearance and presumed murder, suspects include his equally gorgeous mistress (who's innocent). One of the detectives expresses complete shock and confusion as to how a "2", as he describes the victim, was able to not only snag two "10's", as he describes the women, but was also able to string them both along when they both could have easily dumped the cheating lout.
Used in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. "Uncle Phil" is played by the portly James Avery, while "Aunt Viv" is played by the gorgeous and svelte Janet-Hubert Whitten (and later Daphne Maxwell-Reid), although an episode that flashed back to over a decade previous showed that Avery's character was slimmer and more conventionally attractive before he got into the wealthy world of high-powered law—and Vivian makes it abundantly clear to Will that Phillip's weight does not affect her feelings for him. It's also worth noting that while Phillip is a large man, it's because he is a large man who could snap other guys in half over his knee if he wanted. This is also true of his actor, 6'4" former Navy man James Avery.
Seen in the short-lived sitcom Daddio, which had the schlubby Michael Chiklis playing househusband to a pretty attorney.
Short, chubby Gibby on iCarly has a tall, pretty and thin girlfriend named Tasha.
Inverted quite sharply, then played with on 30 Rock. Played with after the one-night stand between Frank and Jenna in "Retreat to Move Forward", where the slovenly Frank is embarrassed to have slept with the attractive Jenna. He had his reasons...
Jay and Gloria on Modern Family. Constantly lampshaded in the show, and many of the other characters (particularly Claire) assume she is a Gold Digger until they get to know her better.
The early-'70s sitcom Arnie paired balding, middle-aged Herschel Bernardi with blonde stunner Sue Anne Langdon.
Played Straight with Eleanor, played by reasonably attractive Margaret Colin, gets married to a guy played by Wallace Shawn. Blair is outraged at having such an ugly stepfather, until she discovers his conniving personality makes them a good match.
Arnie Ross (Wally Shawn, again) and Elaine Nardo (Marilu Henner, ex-model) in the last season of Taxi.
I Love Lucy has this in the Fred (William Frawley) & Ethel (Vivan Vance) pairing. Vance may not have been strict supermodel material, but she was twenty years younger than Frawley - and it shows even with Vance playing down her own attractiveness to avoid ticking off Lucille Ball. Incidentally, before she took the part of Ethel, Vivian Vance often played the role of Femme Fatale in her movie career and was seen as quite beautiful.
It's also implied with the Veals, but since Mr. Veal is played by AlanTudyk...
Scrubs discusses the trope with the Patient of the Week being a smoking hot woman married to a rather large guy. What does she see in him? He was the only guy there was, after she dated the attractive jerky guys. J.D. often gets accused of this by watchers of the show, but he's not actually ugly — it's just Hollywood casting for hot girls that makes everyone a model.
Another episode had J.D. play a classic TV trivia game with his friends and girlfriend Kylie, the topic being being fat sitcom husbands and the crazy hot women that marry them.
While The Munsters looked like people from a halloween party, Herman was a frankenstein monster and Lily is a hot vampiress. Lily sees Herman as gorgeous and worries about other women stealing him away due to this. And considering how they all consider their pretty niece as 'odd-looking', their view of beauty is skewed from the cultural norm.
Mr. Belvedere has George Owens, played by Bob Uecker, who frequently jokes about his homely appearance in real life, paired with gorgeous Marsha played by Ilene Graff. She is beautiful and appears to be a generation his junior.
Merlin introduced Tristan and Isolde at the end of the fourth series. Isolde was young and hot. Tristan looked at least ten years her senior and was rather small and shaggy looking.
Another 60s example: Hazel. The title character works as a maid for the Baxters, played by doughy Don DeFore and mom Whitney Blake (almost 13 years his junior in real life).
On Parks and Recreation, the overweight and kind of goofy-looking Jerry is married to the extremely hot Gayle (played by Christie Brinkley) and has a stable of hot daughters who all adore him. This all goes along with the Running Gag that Jerry's life outside of the office is exactly as wonderful as his professional life is miserable.
In a recent episode Ben plans a anniversary celebration for him and Leslie that backfires when her work gets the better of her and is forced to spend the day with Jerry instead. In the process he may have learned why Gayle is so happily married to Jerry: Because he is an incredibly nice, sweet, pleasant man who is tons of fun to be with.
On Law & Order: SVU, an episode featuring the murder of a Romanian immigrant had her model-like twin sister (actually her, but that's a whole other posting) married to a very average-looking and overweight guy. It's never a plot point, but the disparity in looks is noticeable.
Spoofed in Red Dwarf when Lister takes part in a virtual-reality medieval tourney, and demands a night and a day in the Queen's bed if he wins. The King is played by Brian Cox; the Queen is a young and beautiful French woman (played by Sarah Alexander) who instantly accepts the conditions.
King: My lady, I think we should discuss this matter in private...
Queen: Do you not 'ave faith in your good knight, to cut this dog down where 'e stands?
King: I do! Sort of...
In Boardwalk Empire, Van Alden has "a mug you don't forget," while his second wife is an attractive, young Scandinavian woman he'd initially hired as a nurse.
Plot point in an episode of House when the title character can't understand why a smoking hot woman is married to his overweight patient of the week. Turns out the wife was part of a hallucination House suffered after being shot by a former patient.
On ABC's sitcom The Goldbergs, portly, rumpled comedian Jeff Garlin's character is married to the blonde and gorgeous Wendi McClendon-Covey.
Almost on Doc Martin. Ellingham and Louisa had a difficult on-again-off-again relationship, conceived a baby, almost married, and reconciled in the final episode of season 4.
The Big Bang Theory: Let's face it. Bernadette is way out of Howard's league, who is also a perverted creepy loser in addition to being far less attractive than sweet, beautiful Bernadette. Often lampshaded by Penny that wonders What Does She See in Him?. On the other hand, they are equally intelligent and Howard also becomes a much better person once he starts dating her.
In Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?", the singer marvels at the "pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street".
Sparks' "Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls" is all about this trope.
Tripod's "Ugly Men" is also all about this.
The Ur-Example might be Hephaestus of Greek mythology, the ugliest god — even outright deformed or crippled — who married Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Beauty herself. The Greeks weren't exactly shy about exploring the consequences, either — Aphrodite was constantly cuckolding her husband, who, like most immortals (except Hera), just mostly put up with it (he did ask for her) and spent as little time around her as possible. He did play several relatively harmless pranks on Aphrodite in revenge for illicit affairs, such as trapping her and Ares (her lover) in an indestructible net that he constructed. One story claims that he puts up with it because she can become a virgin again by bathing in the ocean. There are multiple versions, however:
In Homer's account Hephaestus demands his bride-price back after catching them, which means they divorced. Homer also has him remarry one of the Graces, Aglaea.
In another, Hephaestus demanded Aphrodite's hand in marriage in return for releasing Hera from a magic throne he stuck her on in revenge for throwing him off of Olympus for being an ugly baby, and yet another is that Zeus ordered her to marry because she was causing trouble amongst the gods and she picked Hephaestus because he's the god of jewellery (another legend has Zeus choose Hephaestus because he was the most stable of the male Olympians... which says something about the rest of the immortals, since at a later point he tried to rape his half-sister Athena when she showed him some attention).
The whole Hephaestus-Aphrodite relationship gets complicated. Depending on which versions of what stories you pick, Hephaestus could be anything from a bitter old pervert to a loving husband who was stuck with, well, Aphrodite for a wife (Goddess of Love, both constructive and destructive.) But hey, he was an engineer...
At least one version says that despite being married to Aphrodite, the woman Hephaestus is truly in love with is Athena (who will have nothing to do with him or any other man) and in the most extreme version, tried to force himself upon her (but wasn't successful).
Even going back to their flapper days, Dagwood has no business with a beauty like Blondie.
This was an Enforced Trope - prior to their marriage, Blondie was portrayed as a fun-loving single woman with a few suitors lined up... then the stock market crashed, and Real Life Writes the Plot, at which point she picked Dagwood because he was the most stable (or rather, most relatable) of her beaus.
In Garfield, Jon and Liz are also a good example of this; although at the moment, they're just dating. Jon is not particularly ugly, but he's incredibly dorky and has a horrible taste in clothes.
Many readers were dismayed when the unsturdly Anthony married the lovely Elizabeth when For Better or for Worse ended.
Not to mention part of the surprise came because the strip (unlike the rest of examples) was drawn by a woman.
One of the earliest examples (in the modern sense of the word) are the main characters of The Newlyweds, a turn-of-the-century comic by George Mac Manus, more famous for creating Bringing Up Father. In the 1940's, The Newlyweds were revived as a complementary Sunday comic to Jiggs and Maggie.
Done with Frankenstein's Monster and the Bride of Frankenstein in Monster Bash. She is horrified to find that she's been paired up with a (literal) monster, and proceeds to vent her displeasure with a Frying Pan of Doom.
Kane had this as a face while with Tori, as he was a giant masked monster.
Christian, who was nicknamed the Creepy Little Bastard, due to his ratlike apperance, once dated Trish Stratus onscreen...
May have been played up for that storyline though◊: Trish DID turn heel for him...
The Missing Link had this with Sunshine in World Class and with Dark Journey in Mid-South. They were beautiful valets, he was a face-painted monster.
In Warhammer 40,000, Isha, the Eldar goddess of life is stuck in a Hades & Persephone-type relationship with Nurgle, the Chaos god of disease, who is best described as one big pustule. The other examples on here don't even come close. She isn't happy about it, but Nurgle seems to genuinely love her (in his own sick way), and Emperor knows the other alternatives were worse - Slaanesh (whom Nurgle rescued her from), for instance. Plus, Isha uses his-ah- way of showing affection to help the rest of the Galaxy(or at least the Eldar) with cures.
Her equivalent in Warhammer is either the same... or Nurgle's daughter, who cures people so daddy can make them sick again. No one's sure.
Erm... it seems rather a stretch to consider Isha as anything more than Nurgle's abused prisoner here (she is kept in a rusty cage after all...). Surely this trope is about couples, rather than captors and unwilling captives?
Scion gives us Surtr and Sinmora. Sinmora is an eight-foot-tall fire giant. Her husband Surtr is a mile-tall humanoid form made of lava. Scion: God sums it up with "The less said about [their sex life], the better."
In Dungeons & Dragons cosmology, Glasya, the daughter of Asmodeus, was once the consort of Mammon, the ruler of the Third Layer of Hell. She was a gorgeous temptress devil, while he was a hideous monster, very much resembling a pit fiend. Eventually, they were forced to annul their marriage as part of Mammon's punishment for his part of the Reckoning, a political struggle that spanned all of Hell; however, after Glasya became far more powerful and became the ruler of the Sixth Layer, one rumor claims they might have rekindled their romance. (Although, another rumor claims she despises him for not defending their relationship in the first place.)
Easily possible in any game including romantic subplots that allows you to design your own character's appearance.
Inverted in a way, but only if you read the character info. Zhuge Liang was never described as anything noteworthy in regards to his looks, but his wife Yue Ying, despite being given a very stately and beautiful character model in the game, was supposedly a very NOT attractive woman.note This is primarily Values Dissonance: she apparently had light hair and tan skin, and in that age the exact opposite was considered the epitome of beauty. Zhuge Liang isn't exactly Mr. Fanservice, but he's certainly not as ugly and offputting as Meng Huo.
Seen in Grand Theft Auto IV, with the short, fat, unsuccessful Roman Bellic and his attractive longtime girlfriend (later wife), Mallorie.
To say nothing of anyone Ardan ends up with in Genealogy of the Holy War.
Whenever you pair a guy who is of the warrior, pirate, or armor knight class (though there are exceptions, espacially among the warriors). Most of the characters of these classes can't even pair up with the, almost exclusively hot, girls anyways.
Save for Dart, that is. He looks fairly handsome if a bit rugged, and he can score with the vey lovely-looking Farina.
Gen-An Shiranui of Samurai Shodown is one of the ugliest Fighting Game characters in history. His wife Asami is a Jungle Princess. One of his win quotes is even "No one calls me a freak and lives! ...except my wife, that is."
And inferred from Haomaru's ending in the first game, the Shiranui (hint, hint) pairing will inevitably bring to the world the foremost name in StripperificFanservice.
Adell's parents in Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories. Even with the extra eye and tail, Mom is hot enough to attract the attention of far younger men. Dad, on the other hand, is a zombie "but without the stench."
The Seeq is also quite friendly and supportive of the party's quest to save the Aegyl. OTOH, his wife is as cold and aloof as most of her race and just wishes her husband would leave the ship already. Which just raises more questions about how they hooked up in the first place.
You talk to them on an airship and Virea are native to the forest. It's possible she just doesn't fly well.
Torneko Taloon and his hot wife in Dragon Quest IV. One NPC even complains about how unfair it is.
Two examples in Dragon Quest IX. In both, the male is the usual "old man" sprite. In the couple that appears in Coffinwell, the wife is a bunny girl. In the Dourbridge couple, she's a dancer. They're treated differently, though: in Coffinwell, they seem to genuinely care for each other. In Dourbridge, the wife is an obvious Gold Digger, and her husband overcharges outrageously in his store to keep her happy.
Ryu (the main character) and Patty's parents in Breath of Fire II. Their mom is a hot young winged women who can turn into a gigantic dragon while their dad, while not necessarily ugly, is a normal old human.
Hades and Persephone in the God of War series. Even though Hades isn't portrayed as an evil god, he's pretty dumpy, covered in spikes and hides his disfigured face with an intimidating helmet. Persephone, meanwhile, is a beautiful queen who tries to destroy the world in revenge for being stuck as Hades' wife.
Assassin's Creed II: BartolomeoD'Alviano has seen many battles in his lifetime, and his heavily scarred face - and scratchy voice that sounds like he's been gargling sand - reflect that. Ezio is understandably surprised when he sees that his wife Pantasilea; A) is a woman and not a sword and B) is very attractive.
Despite providing a good quote for it, the couple mentioned from Fallout: New Vegas are not an example. We never get to see Carla for various reasons, and Boone likely has the most fangirls of any New Vegas character.
Luk River and Hala from "Irregular Elis", a lucky man married with a hot mom alien.
Jason and Aubrey from Something Positive. Before they got together, Jason was also quite the lady's man, apparently due to some mathematical formula that lets him seduce anyone he wants. Also, he's implied to have a Biggus Dickus.
Pip in Sequential Art — and if the penguin looked dorky in glasses, he looks plain ludicrous without them — and... Hilary "have become good friends". Quoth Kat when she saw a kiss, "Oh, God... For the love of all that's good and holy, don't do that again..."
It later turned out that she was using him, and she dumped him as soon as she had what she wanted.
Aphrodite and Hephaestus of O-Cast, based on the aforementioned Ur-example in Greek myth.
In Thalia's Musings, how Aphrodite sees her Arranged Marriage to Hephaestus. Hephaestus is considered the least attractive of the Olympians, especially compared to his brother Ares. However, it's implied that this designation is highly relative.
In the Whateley Universe, supervillain Gizmatic is a short, nerdy, ugly dork with a 'shy chin' who has a still-hot wife. His son Jobe Wilkins looked so much like Gizmatic that some people speculated cloning could be involved.
Then there's Techwolf's parents: Red Wolfe looks like a werewolf 24-7, while his wife is an attractive woman.
Richard "Dick" Marion Daring and Karen Jane "K" Mildred Daring from The Replacements, as Dick is a big, pudgy, hairy idiot (though not nearly as bad as many other cartoon examples), and his wife's a hot spy.
Shelton's mom and dad from the same show is a more obvious example.
Luanne Platter from King of the Hill is an attractive but mostly dumb blonde eventually married an ugly bucktoothed middle aged hillbilly known as Lucky.
Also elderly Cotton Hill and his wife Didi. Dale and Nancy fit as well. Dale is scrawny (but "flexible" as Nancy puts it), with a gut, beady eyes, and bald ("and not in that attractive way, like Sean Connery"), and Nancy's a frequent Ms. Fanservice target with her string bikinis. But it's his staggering idiocy, devotion to absurd conspiracy theories, and all around giblet-headedness that make you wonder how the two ever got together. Nancy spent over a decade cheating on Dale with the very hunky and charming John Redcorn....
Bill and his ex-wife Lenore fits this...nowadays. In her sole appearance, Lenore was shown to be very attractive, while Bill is fat, bald, has poor hygene, zero self-confidence, and a stalker-like crush on his best friend's wife. However, flashbacks show that in high school Bill was handsome, fit, confident, and popular, and it's all but outright stated that being crushed by the woman he loved made him stop caring and enter a downwards spiral into suicidal depression.
Marge and Homer from The Simpsons fit this description, although Marge's attractiveness has been played up over time.
The episode, The Italian Bob, even seems to reference it, when the end of the episode shows Marge and Homer taking a romantic gondola ride, the gondolier providing his services for the evening puts his own spin on the song "That's Amore", much to Homer's annoyance.
Gondolier: *singing* When a wife looks like that and her husband's so fat, that's immoral!
Homer's ugliness also varies according to the plot. Homer's often been shown to be rather good-looking if he took better care of himself (lose some weight gain some hair). Take his near-identical older brother for example. The only characters who consistently describe Homer as ugly are Patty & Selma, both of whom are biased and one of them is a man-hating lesbian (and that's putting it nicely), and in an earlier episode, even they got dumbfounded by Homer's looks when he got hair and dressed respectfully. Similarly, many of the women in the Simpsons family, including Homer's mom, are described as good-looking. Even Bart is apparently not too bad-looking, being able to seduce Ranier Wolfcastle's daughter Greta.
Homer has usually been shown as more attractive in his younger years when he started dating Marge.
Homer and Marge's difference in appearance is played up a lot more in fan art, especially the photorealistic variety, where Marge is drawn like a knockout MILF while Homer is still fat and balding.
Milhouse grows up to be balding with a gut and Lisa grows up beautifully in "Holidays of Future Passed."
Some people would argue Marge isn't as attractive as the shows says she is. She can be attractive, but more when she loses the hive.
Tripping the Rift has Chode, a disgusting purple alien with incredibly hot Six. Then again, Six is a sex robot that he owns, and we have no definition of Chode's relative attractiveness by the standards of his own species (as opposed to us humans, who aren't really qualified to judge). Also, an episode claimed that men and women are both held up to unreasonable standards for attracting the opposite sex, it's just that with women it's looks and men it's money.
Six's interest in Chode is also explained in that he had her upgraded beyond beign merely a sex bot allowing her to become the ships science officer and treats her with the closest he can manage to respect. Apparently, he's treated her better than anyone else has and she's perfectly capable of walking away if she wants to.
The Venture Bros.. subverts this, as while she may be hot, most men seem put off by Dr. Mrs. The Monarch's (or just plain old Dr. Girlfriend) 6-packs-a-day voice. As for the men who aren't put off by her voice, The Monarch doesn't treat her like a trophy.
Another example would be the scrawny balding Dr. Thaddeus Venture and the rather attractive blond Myra Brandish. While the latter had a strong Bodyguard Crush on the former, Rusty ultimately was creeped out by Myra's Stalker with a Crush tendencies and had her sent away, driving her insane.
Rusty also manage to seduce Dr. Quymn, possibly the hottest superscientist ever.
That may be due to UST from their childhood.
Angela and Broadway from Gargoyles fall under this trope. Since gargoyles aren't into the whole money and power business, it had to be his sweet and charming personality that won her over. There are possibly different standards of attractiveness at work, though the show makes it pretty clear that she fell for him because of his deep love of classical literature, and simply for the fact that he can read, a rare trait among gargoyles from their time.
In Superman: The Animated Series, Mr. Mxyzptlk (who is a tiny, bald, beady eyed imp) has Gsptlsnz, a hot wife; a really hot wife; a really hot wife who would (and probably could) do anything to get a little attention from him. Oh, yes. (They are both natives of a five-dimensional universe, so they may have differnt views of what is considered attractive than humans do.)
In the comic books, pretty much all the men from the Fifth Dimension are big-headed little imps, and all the women are dropdead gorgeous redhead bombshells. Apparently it's so common for them that it's lost the appeal it would have in our dimension.
Betty Boop, an iconic cartoon sex symbol, was, in many of her original appearances, the girlfriend of Bimbo, a short, round, goofy-looking dog. This changed when her character design was changed to make her not only more beautiful, but human, and her relationship with Bimbo was downgraded.
Greatly subverted in an episode of Timon & Pumbaa, "Beauty and the Wildebeest", where Rafiki helps an ugly wildebeest improve his looks and manners so that he can romance a beautiful gazelle that he has a crush for. In the end the gazelle, touched when the wildebeest is willing to reveal his hideous visage to scare of a rival at her birthday party, removes her makeup and reveals herself to be just as ugly as he is and they both share a kiss before the end credits. In this case it's Ugly Guy, Ugly Wife.
Hermes and LaBarbara Conrad of Futurama fame. It's mentioned that Hermes used to be a competitive limboist - and, if LaBarbara's ex-husband Barbados Slim (with Olympic medals in both limbo and sex) is anything to judge by, the sport keeps a body in shape.
In a flashback episode, it's revealed that Zoidberg once had a hot, human girlfriend!
Subverted with Donna in The Cleveland Show. Cleveland is very overweight and has a child-like demeanor while Donna appears to be pretty with a very pronounced butt. However, on several occasions, it was shown that Donna does a lot to make herself look pretty. Donna wears a wig to cover her short and gray hair, wears make up, wears a push up bra that keeps her breasts from sagging, and wears certain clothing to smooth her figure, to which she would look very overweight without it.
In one episode Cleveland and family were stupified that Junior, a short fat nerdy boy was able to get Cecilia, a gorgeous Mexican girl to be his girlfriend. It turned it was because that he was the spitting image of her father
In Teen Titans, Blackfire attempted to marry her sister Starfire off to Glgrdsklechhh, an alien that can only be described as a cross between Shrek, Jabba the Hutt, and an elephant. More recently, this short depicts him married to Blackfire.
Not a married couple, but there's also Kitten and her boyfriend Fang. Despite being a Spoiled Brat, she's attractive, while he clearly isn't even human, having a spider for a head. (After she breaks up with him and tries to use Robin to make him jealous, it actually works; he comes back and offers to make up... Unfortunately, what would normally be a romantic reconciliation scene becomes rather unpleasant due to his appearance.)
Phineas and Ferb's parents: Ferb's dad is quite nerdy in addition to his looks (and he's well aware of it) whereas Phineas' mom practically looks the same as she did during her years as a "teen queen". It's also implied that she has a thing for unattractive guys, as one of the suitors she dated during her youth was no one else but Heinz Doofenshmirtz.
Dr.Doof himself and his ex-wife (who is rather good-looking in spite of the glasses) also fit this trope.
Moral Orel has Principal Fakey and his wife Millie. This also applies to him and hismistress, Nurse Bendy.
In the Samurai Jack episode "The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful", there was the Outlaw Couple Zeke and Josephine Clench. Although they were actually divorced, and while Zeke was clearly ugly and Josephine was a knockout (and a Femme Fatale, using her skills as a temptress to lure victims close) this Trope was clearly not the reason their marriage failed. He had a restraining order against her, clearly suggesting the falling out was her fault.
In Disney's Hercules, Hephaestus is only engaged to Aphrodite (far from the only difference in the adaptation) but is fiercely protective of her, in one episode beating the crap out of Hades for making a pass at her.