"So here is a riddle to guess if you canWhen 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 plots. Often seen in series where Beauty is Bad. 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. Polite Villains, Rude Heroes is this applied to personalities.
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."
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."
— Clopin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
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Anime & 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 has Guts and Griffith.◊ Griffith is a extraordinarily beautiful man with glistening white hair, garbed in shining armor who is adored and worshiped by women and men alike. Guts is a scruffy black-armored bad-tempered lug and a near-Perpetual Frowner, disliked and hated by almost everyone he comes across. But Guts's compassionate side is brought out by Casca and he quickly begins to love her and his comrades. Griffith also begins to love Guts and thus is shattered when Guts leaves him to find his own path, leading Griffith spiraling down a destructive path that culminates in summoning the God Hand, sacrificing all his men to become a demon god and raping Casca in front of a helpless Guts causing him to slice his own arm off to try and stop Griffith... showing who is truly the man and monster. It is downplayed somewhat as Guts is only ugly in comparison to Griffith and usually quite the Chick Magnet when Griffith's not around.
- 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.
- Dragon Ball Z, it unintentionally happens once during the Namek saga when Vegeta fights Zarbon over a Dragonball Krillin has. Bulma is terrified of Vegeta and thinks the handsome Zarbon will save them, and so is utterly surprised when Zarbon shows his true colors (and monster form), getting her more scared. But Vegeta blows a hole though Zarbon, unintentionally saving her. Bonus points for Bulma marrying Vegeta later.
- Majin Devil Dekoppa is geeky looking compared to handsome and literally angel-winged Naohisa and Ashihara is quick to note it, but changes her mind when Naohisa turns out to be a terrifying Spider-monster who impregnates girls with his spider seed.
- Titular character Naruto was considered far less handsome the mysterious Sasuke Uchiha by the girls of his village, but while Naruto's personality can radiates goodness... Sasuke's personality often doesn't◊.
- Rock Lee and Gaara aren't pretty like Kimimaro but are super models compared to his bone-form◊
- One Piece: Most of the villains aren't nearly as good looking as heroes but there are a few times when this trope gets played. Enel and Domflamingo are tall handsome blonde men while Luffy is scrawny little pirate teenager. But personality-wise Luffy is million times more decent human being than Enel and Doffy who borderline on the whole "human" part.
- 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 (though to be fair he knew the real deal with Silk Spectre and the Comedian), a Nietzsche Wannabe ... but, then again, Rorschach only kills dangerous criminals. Ozymandias, is attractive (though how varies by medium- he is tall, blond, athletic, and square-jawed in the original comic book, but slender, youthful, a bit fey and with noticeably wide green eyes in the film) 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.
- Played straightest in the The Dark Knight Returns (with Superman of all people!) as Batman has aged to his 50s while eternally youthful Superman still looks like he's from the Golden Age, but as the story goes on it's clear Superman is on the wrong side while Batman still knows what's right.
- Spider-Man Peter Parker and Flash Tompson is classic example, with Petey being shy and sallow and Flash being athletic and proud, though where Peter is brave and compassionate, Flash was crude and shallow. But after high school Peter became a successful photographer and swift Chick Magnet, while Flash's attitude lost him a lot work and women. When becoming grudging friends, Flash acknowledges Peter became a better man than him and goes off to war to get of his shadow.
Cyclops [Jean] never loved you, you know. You always frightened her.
- In the 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.
- Wolverine and Cyclops are also ploy to this as well, with Wolverine being scruffy and animal-like while Cyclops is clean-shaved and has attractive boy-scout demeanor. Which quickly drops when Cyclops becomes villainous, one notable exchange in Schism points this out when Logan and Scott argue over their shared love Jean Grey.
Wolverine And if she was here now... who do you think she'd be more frightened of?
[cue Cyclops looking furious]
- Prince Charming and Prince Brandish are faar more dashing than the wolfish Bigby, but it becomes clear that both of them aren't half the man Bigby is. And could never be the hero in Snow White's eyes.
- Flycatcher is also less striking than most princes, but is far more pure and even wins the heart of Red Riding Hood.
Films — Animation
- Beauty and the Beast uses this with ugly hero The Beast and handsome villain Gaston. This is "borrowed" from Jean Cocteau's film La Belle et la Bête. Interestingly, in Cocteau's version, the same actor played both the Beast and the Gaston-equivalent, and when the latter is killed, he takes on the Beast's appearance and the Beast's human form is that of the handsome villain. This situation leads the Belle character to muse whether she preferred this old form; this line was actually suggested to end Disney's movie as well.
- This trope is used in the Shrek movies: While Lord Farquaad isn't exactly good looking, he does play upon Shrek's ugliness to try to incite villagers against him. The later two films go further by setting Shrek up against the Fairy Godmother and her son Prince Charming.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame has a little of this, though it's more like Deformed Hero, Normal Villain; Frollo isn't very good-looking, but his looks don't have the stigma attached to them that Quasimodo's do. Frollo teaches Quasimodo that he's "a monster", but in the end Quasi realizes that Frollo was the monster all along.
- Strange Magic has this once the true villain and hero dynamics are revealed. While Marianne is your typical good looking fairy princess, Roland is the handsome blonde villain and the Bog King, who looks like a humanoid moth-cockroach monster turns out to be a pretty decent guy.
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.
- Inverted with Luke, Han Solo, Darth Vader and Palpatine.
- 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.
- Wayne and Garth vs. Benjamin in Wayne's World .
- Nerds vs. jocks in the Revenge of the Nerds series.
- Pretty much all the good guys in The 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).
- There are many examples of this in Discworld:
- Granny Weatherwax was never particularly attractive (although ugly would be an exaggeration much to her disappointment), 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.
- In Dragon Bones, there is Tisala, with whom Ward is smitten, even though she's not classically pretty (she has a rather majestic nose) and there is the more conventionally beautiful Bastilla, who turns out to be a traitor. Of Ward's (potential) love interests, Tisala is by far the more heroic one.
- 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.
- Abner Marsh in Fevre Dream is frequently described in unflattering physical terms, as opposed to Damon Julian's dark handsome looks.
- 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).
- 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.
- In Masques, the hero, Aralorn, is rather plain, her friend Wolf is so ugly he has to wear a mask when in human form, while their enemy, Geoffrey ae'Magi, is supernaturally handsome. Partly it's lucky genetics, but he also prevents his aging with magic. In the end, Wolf/Cain decides to get rid of his scars, which freaks Aralorn out because he now looks like his father, the ae'Magi. She tries to get over it.
- The 1980s retro-cop show Crime Story has pockmarked, scary police detective Mike Torello (Dennis Farina) pitted against sharp-dressing, impeccably coiffed, good-looking mobster Ray Luca (Anthony Dennison).
- The original idea behind the Master in Doctor Who was that he'd be played by a conventionally handsome, charming individual, to contrast with the Doctor's more funny-looking appearance. As a result, this dynamic is very apparent in the first Doctor/Master matchup — the Third Doctor and Roger Delgado. Later the trope finds itself ignored as much as it's played straight, with there not being a significant gulf in looks between John Simm and David Tennant, and with the odd-looking-but-healthy-and-attractive Tom Baker being pitted against a rotting, hissing undead corpse version of the Master.
- 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.
Myths & Religion
- 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."note
- 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 McGuinness 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 40,000:
- 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 Thunder Cats did a very similar episode, except the two visitors to Third Earth were both male.
- The Crab Nasties and the Flores in the My Little Pony episode "The Fugitive Flowers". As the title implies, the pretty flower people are the criminals and the crab monsters are the police trying to stop them from causing more damage.