Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain
"So here is a riddle to guess if you can
Sing the bells of Notre Dame.
What makes a monster and what makes a man?
Whatever their pitch, you
Can feel them bewitch you
The rich and the ritual knells
Of the Bells of Notre Dame."
When an unsightly hero is juxtaposed with a handsome villain. Differs from a subversion of Beauty Equals Goodness
in having this specific pairing. Expect the villain to play upon Genre Blind
characters to make them turn against the hero and for An Aesop
about the villain "being the real monster". This is fairly common in Beast and Beauty
Often seen in series where Beauty Is Bad
and where Hot Guys Are Bastards
Sometimes, the hero will be Ugly Cute
, even if by accident.
Compare Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon
and Face of a Thug
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Anime And Manga
- Kitano and Suda of Angel Densetsu. Suda is meant to be a parallel or antithesis to Kitano. While Kitano is frightening in appearance and often called a monster, while actually being kind and gentle, Suda is quite attractive and charismatic, whom people often adore and proclaim to be awesome or hot (If by people, you mean Ikuko). However, he is more like a monster in his behavior, often lying to people and manipulating them to achieve his ends. He even goes so far as to try to turn Koiso against Kitano in order to emotionally devastate him and win the war going on between them at the time.
- Berserk: on the Hero side you have Guts, a huge man with an even huger sword who looks like he's killing people all the time (he is killing all the time and it shows, it's just not people he's killing); on the Villain side you have Griffith, an unbelievably beautiful man heralded as the Messianic Archetype, who is selling the world to the God of Evil.
- Guts is hardly ugly though. In fact, he can be considered to be drop dead gorgeous depending on if you prefer a light build or a medium build. Yes, Guts would be considered a medium build, especially by fiction standards.
- Death Note has handsome and charming Villain Protagonist Light facing unsocial and somewhat wild-looking Hero Antagonist L. Interestingly, though, whenever Light is being particularly evil, his face tends to twist into asymmetrical grins and other bizarre expressions that utterly break his boyish handsomeness.
- Similarly, L's features tend to soften and get closer to Ugly Cute when he's doing something particularly good. It comes to feel something like Light, who is heroic at heart (albeit in something of a Well-Intentioned Extremist way), and L, who would under normal circumstances be something of an Unscrupulous Hero at best, are both being pushed in directions they wouldn't normally go - Light is being warped into villainy by his ever-growing madness, and L is being warped into a Messianic Archetype to counteract it.
- Monster: While not really ugly, Tenma is somewhat old and plain, and occasionally sports the unshaven hobo look, in stark contrast to Johan.
- In Sin City, Marv has a face that looks like a worn out slab of concrete and fights mostly normal looking people (and Elijah Wood). He's (sort of) the good guy, mainly by comparison though.
- Rorschach of Watchmen is quite homely and short, both of which are mentioned in-story at least once. Also, he smells bad, dresses scruffily and has terrible table manners. He's a Noble Bigot, a rape apologist, a Nietzsche Wannabe ... but, then again, Rorschach only kills dangerous criminals. Ozymandias, is attractive in a sort of fey, Bishounen way and Wicked Cultured. While Rorschach and Ozymandias are both Well Intentioned Extremists, Rorschach never hurt an innocent person throughout the whole story, whereas Ozymandias killed two million innocent people with the intention of saving billions from nuclear war. This kind of pushes Rorschach into an Anti-Hero while Ozymandias is more of an Anti-Villain, so this mostly plays the trope straight.
- Possibly zig-zagged at the end. While Ozymandias may have saved the world, it may only be temporary and thus unnecessary (making Rorschach's exposure of Ozymandias' plan more of a deserved justice). If it was a true success, then maybe Rorschach's actions will instead lead to nuclear war all over again.
- In the X-Men graphic novel God Loves Man Kills, Cyclops is concerned that, in a televised debate, Professor Xavier looks "severe, almost scary" compared to his opponent, the handsome, charismatic anti-mutant zealot Rev. William Stryker. Stryker figures in another example later in the book, as he tries to rouse sentiment against the demonic-looking but heroic X-Man Nightcrawler.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Hellboy is more frightening than ugly, but at least two of his enemies (Grigori Rasputin and his Nazi henchwoman, Ilsa Haupstein) are definitely sexy-type villains. Also note Prince Nuada, a very handsome elf prince, is the main antagonist of the second movie.
- The original Star Wars trilogy often had location-example of this trope. The Rebel bases and ships were rusty, dirty, and falling apart. The Empire basis and ships were often clean and shiny. This emphasized the Rebels as underdogs that were scraping to get by while the Empire was very sterile and totalitarian.
- While not so much good-looking as they are human-looking, Small Soldiers has the peaceful yet monstrous-looking Gorgonites against the G.I. Joe-like yet psychotic Commando Elites.
- In Blade Runner, Roy Batty (the leader of the escaped replicants) is spoken of like he's a blond Aryan superman (which he was deliberately intended to be). The protagonist Deckard, on the other hand, is not nearly as physically fit and gets beaten up pretty badly during their climactic fight. Of course, the film also plays with the idea of which of the two is truly the villain, hinting that Deckard might be more deserving of that description.
- There are many examples of this in Discworld:
- Granny Weatherwax was never particularly attractive (although ugly would be an exaggeration), her sister Lilith is a Knight Templar fairy godmother (did the writers of Shrek read Witches Abroad?) who looks like a younger and prettier version of Granny, and ironically was supposed to be the good one of the family.
- In Night Watch, the villainous Captain Swing believes in something like phrenology and thinks that rough heroic cop Sam Vimes has the face of a murderer, while Serial Killer Carcer has an honest face. Although it's been noted (and explored particularly in that book) that Vimes does have the capacity to be a murderer, but doesn't let himself.
- Hogfather uses the monster Aesop noted above. The heroine, Susan, is a nanny and uses a fireplace poker to kill monsters. At the end of the book, the psychopathic assassin Teatime (whose boyish good looks are marred only by his creepy eyes) is at their home, along with Susan's grandfather, Death (long story). Teatime tries to convince the children that he is good and that Death is the one they should be afraid of and ends up with the poker being run through him, with one of the kids pointing out that the poker "only kills monsters".
- Not to mention Lords and Ladies, the Pratchett version of Can't Argue with Elves. Elves are beautiful, or at least appear to be.
- Played with in Harry Potter. Harry starts off as a scrawny ten year old with "knobbly knees" and Nerd Glasses, but is definitely implied to get more attractive as the series progresses. Lord Voldemort, on the other hand, is stated to have been very good-looking when he was younger, but as he gets older this diminishes somewhat (although it was his own fault).
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Outside social shunning in general, the good-hearted but grotesque Quasimodo has his counterpart in handsome Phoebus, who is an utter bastard (and who, typically of Victor Hugo, gets a Karma Houdini). The film's opening song plays with this, asking cryptically "Who is the monster and who is the man?"
- In Jane Eyre, Jane often describes herself as "plain" and is described similarly by others, whereas Blanche Ingram is very beautiful, but a Rich Bitch.
- Similarly, while not exactly a villain, St. John Rivers is domineering, self-righteous and classically handsome. On the other hand, Rochester is not handsome (and is by the end of the book actually disfigured), but for all his flaws, he is at heart a good person.
- Abner Marsh in Fevre Dream is frequently described in unflattering physical terms, as opposed to Damon Julian's dark handsome looks.
- Pretty much all the good guys in Chronicles of Prydain are of a less-than-flattering nature (a swineherd, a red-haired tomboy, a shaggy-haired idiot, a dwarf, a grungy adventurer, and Gollum's hairy cousin). The big villains, meanwhile are all immaculate, posh and beautiful/handsome devils (except for Morda, he's just creepy).
- In The Elenium attractiveness has no real correlation with morality, with heroes and villains veering all over the place looks-wise, but this trope does come into play with Sparhawk and Martel. Both are somewhere approaching middle age, but only Sparhawk looks it: he was no looker at the best of times, but his oft-commented on broken nose gave a twisted, ugly and cruel cast to his face. Martel on the other hand is described as youthfully handsome, with a mane of white hair.
- The 1980s retro-cop show Crime Story had pockmarked, scary police detective Mike Torello (Dennis Farina) pitted against sharp-dressing, impeccably coiffed, good-looking mobster Ray Luca (Anthony Dennison).
- El Chavo del ocho: Don Ramon invoked the trope while selecting a cast for a play held at the neighborhood when Dona Florinda complained about her son playing a villain instead of a hero. She bought the excuse.
- Played with in the episode "The Golden Man" from the TV series Lost in Space, where the titular Golden Man appears to be a benevolent god and his frog-faced opponent the villain, but "frog-face" turns out to be the hero while the Golden Man is actually the villain and the trope is played with because the Golden Man turns out to be a monster who deliberately disguised himself as something pleasing to the human eye.
- Interestingly enough, The Bible may qualify for this, depending on how it's interpreted. Ezekiel 28:12-19 is often understood to be referring to Satan; it describes him as beautiful, even going so far as to say he was "perfect in beauty". Jesus, on the other hand, is described as plain-looking, if not downright ugly; Isaiah 53, which is believed by Christians to be a Messianic prophecy, says He "had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him."
- Mick Foley vs The Rock, Randy Orton, Edge or anyone not missing teeth and an ear for that matter.
- The well groomed, super manly, chiseled athlete Nigel McGuiness vs the hairy, beer bellied, acne riddled fat boy Kevin Steen.
- In the Professional Wrestling Syndicate Vinny Fenucci set up referee Kevin Keenan and La Rosa Negra to screw Missy Sampson out of the PWS Bombshells title, saying he thought she was too ugly to be on the roster, much less the face of it.
- Warhammer and Warhammer 40K: anytime a champion of Slaanesh fights someone is almost always guaranteed to be this, as unearthly beauty is a common gift of the Chaos god of excess (especially in 40k, where anyone who can fight a champion alone is likely a scarred and grizzled veteran whose face is as much bionics as it is flesh). The notable exception is Lucius the Eternal, who started as a bishonen but whose face is now a network of self-inflicted scars.
- Inverted with certain armies like the Blood Angels, who are basically all Bishōnen Renaissance Italians.
- Hairspray: The whole plot revolves around Tracy, a fat girl, going up against the Alpha Bitch Amber and her mother, Velma. Velma and Amber are both beautiful beauty pageant winning blondes but are horrible bigots to everyone. Tracy and her mother Edna (who is always played by a man to prove the point), meanwhile, are kind, genuine people (though Tracy is usually quite cute, even pretty, herself, pudge and all. She's just simultaneously fat).
- The "Exhibition Match" game of Rhythm Heaven Fever has you playing as a fat, ugly baseball batter, going up against an adorable female pitcher. Thing is, the pitcher's cheating (when she throws the ball, a monkey catches it behind a curtain and waits for a moment before throwing it, trying to catch you off-guard), making the batter the better man.
- The Aesop that just won't die in Gargoyles: First, there's David Xanatos. Then comes Macbeth. Then the creators decided to finally make it explicit with the Hunter family, especially the youngest Canmore brother.
- In the second episode of Ruby-Spears Superman, Superman has a problem with an alien monster from a space police officer's spaceship. He had a choice between a ugly male and a beautiful female as either cop or crook. It turns out the ugly male cop was the cop and the female was the crook. Bonus point for revealing that her stage was cocoon stage of the alien monster race had a battle with.
- The original version of ThunderCats did a very similar episode, except the two visitors to Third Earth were both male.
- Connie D'Mico and Meg Griffin from Family Guy, albeit Connie really isn't evil, but just an Alpha Bitch who teases and torments Meg, who is considered ugly by a lot of people, while Connie is slender and beautiful.
- Played with in the finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Aang, while not exactly ugly, is a small, slender, bald 12-year-old child, fighting against Fire Lord Ozai, who sports a Heroic Build and Bishonen good looks. Aang is undoubtedly the good guy, and Ozai is unabashedly evil.