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Curly Hair Is Ugly

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Where a series acts like having curls is negative, or a character gets mocked for their hair

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Pichu-kun on Nov 23rd 2014 at 2:20:48 PM
Last Edited By:
Pichu-kun on Apr 29th 2018 at 6:34:07 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

Curly hair has a history of being seen as "messy" or "unruly". According to stereotypes and media, "proper" or "attractive" people don't have curly hair.

Curly hair is often described as "messy looking", as it's harder to keep tied up and harder to shape into a completely symmetrical style than straight hair. A person's hair often is portrayed as a reflection on their mind or morals, as seen (less negatively) in other tropes: Quirky Curls for a free spirit, Einstein Hair for an absent-minded professor, Wild Hair for someone "uncivilized", etc.

Due to backlash against depicting characters with curly hair as unattractive, this is becoming a Dead Horse Trope when played seriously. Most examples will be of other characters judging people for their curly or kinky hair. However, the undesirability of curly hair is still unironically noticeable in Makeover Montage, where the geeky or unattractive characters straightens their hair and loses the glasses to reveal that they were Beautiful All Along. This trope also pops up unironically in countries where naturally curly hair is rare and is thus subject to Values Dissonance when people from countries where it isn't view the work.

Contrast with Quirky Curls and Unkempt Beauty, where curly hair is usually a more positive trait.


Examples

Anime and Manga

  • In One Piece, Luffy gets an afro wig for a boxing match, to very mixed reactions. The more conventionally fashion-aware characters found it horrendous.
  • Tomohiro from A Silent Voice has been mocked for years for having very curly hair. He takes pride in it though.
  • In early chapters of Gintama, Gintoki is often mocked for his naturally curly hair, and apparently he himself wants straight hair.
  • In one Yo-kai Watch episode a youkai called Furdinand causes everyone's hair to grow. Nate starts out with messy medium-length Anime Hair before it becomes a Funny Afro. Nate freaks out and his friends tease him for it and say it looks like a shrub, meatball, and helmet.

Comic Books

  • This is a big subplot for Princess Adrienne in Princeless, since the very first scene shows her mother attempting to tame her Funny Afro and as a young adult she keeps straightening it. This finally culminates in an issue where she faces this directly and shows a flashback to her getting her hair done and the hairdressers complaining about getting her while her sister Angelica is "the one with the good hair" (i.e naturally straight). At the end of that issue she gives herself an Important Haircut and cuts it short to symbolize her coming to terms with it.

Comic Strips

  • Played with in The Boondocks. Given the fact most characters are black, curly hair isn't shown negatively. In fact Huey has a big afro and Riley has a short but still curly cut (changed to cornrows in the cartoon). The half-white Jazmine however doesn't like her frizzy hair. She wishes she had straight hair like her mother.
  • Annie from Little Orphan Annie faces bullying due to her curly, red hair.

Film - Animation

  • In The Simpsons Movie, Ned Flanders dishes his younger son for his curly hair.
    Todd: I wish Homer was my father.
    Ned: And I wish you didn't have the devil's curly hair.

Film - Live Action

  • The Princess Diaries has Mia getting her frizzy, messy curls straightened to fit a more "princess-like" look, instead of simply making her hair neater or changing the style.
  • Malcolm X opens with a scene showing that black people in the mid-20th century used a very dangerous chemical to straighten their hair so they could look more like white people.
  • The documentary Good Hair by comedian Chris Rock is about this trope and how it affects African-American women.
  • A Wrinkle in Time: After years of being mocked about it, Meg, an multiracial character, is very self-conscious about her puffy, curly hair. When another character tells her he thinks her hair is awesome, she's clearly confused and taken aback, because it's a feature she dislikes about herself. In a scene where she is offered the chance to go back as a more popular, confident version of herself, the "perfect" version of Meg is shown to have long, straight hair and doesn't wear glasses like the current version of Meg.

Literature

  • In Harry Potter Hermoine isn't described as being pretty until she straightens her unruly curly hair and and dresses up for the first time. Before that a big deal was made over just how bushy her hair is.
  • The picture book Nappy Hair is about a little African-American girl who is ashamed of her tightly-curled hair, leading to the Aesop that she should accept and love it because it's exactly the hair God wanted her to have.

Live-Action TV

  • Sesame Street has a skit, "I Love My Hair", specifically to avert this view in Real Life (more specifically, towards young black girls).
  • Zoey 101:
    • Chase is constantly mocked for his "Jew Fro" (the actor had naturally curly black hair).
    • Averted by his roommate Logan however, who is supposed to be conventionally attractive and has hair with a curl.

Theater

  • The children's rock opera Princess Beans Messy World has the eponymous Princess Bean decide to enter a princess pageant, where she is told that she doesn't stand a chance of winning unless she changes her "free spirited" look. This includes straightening her hair... by tying rocks into it.

Web Original

  • Not Always Working: These workers apparently believe this, at least they justify trying to grab a woman's hair as she walks past by saying they're "just trying to help you get rid of those ugly curls!"

Western Animation

  • South Park: Kyle has very curly hair, in an exaggerated "jewfro", and he is somewhat ashamed by that. In one episode he is listed among the ugliest boys in school which may or may not be related to his hair, though his hat covers it up.
  • There's a controversial Winx Club scene where curly hair is used as the pun of a joke. An Ambiguously Brown girl's straight hair turns into an afro. She reacts in horror and begins tearing up, while the other characters clearly are disgruntled by the fact her hair is now kinky. It doesn't help the implications that the scene before it involved characters cooing over a blonde character's straight hair. 4kids noticed the scene wouldn't fly in America so they changed the context to it in their dub. The redone version is instead about how the girls voice magically changed instead of her hair.

Feedback: 62 replies

Nov 23rd 2014 at 3:16:12 PM

Quirky Curls is neither positive nor negative.

Nov 23rd 2014 at 3:40:50 PM

  • Malcolm X opens with a scene showing that black people in the mid-20-th century used a very dangerous chemical to straighten their hair so they could look more like white people.
  • In One Piece, Luffy gets an afro wig for a boxing match, to very mixed reactions. The more conventionally fashion-aware characters found it horrendous.

Nov 23rd 2014 at 3:51:08 PM

^^ Well Quirky Curls are usually fairly positive, or at minimum neutral.

Nov 28th 2014 at 12:18:04 PM

More Unfortunate Implications since a lot of poofy curly hair when treated as a negative is akin to the way African Americans' hair looks naturally when worn as an afro.

Nov 28th 2014 at 12:42:54 PM

  • [[South Park Kyle┬┤s]] hair is really curly and he is somewhat ashamed by that, in one episode he is listed among the ugliest boys in school.

Nov 28th 2014 at 4:07:22 PM

Israeli comedienne Adi Ashkenazi mentioned the common saying that 'the camera adds 5 kilos' and pointed out that it also curls your hair, saying that in Real Life, her hair is perfectly straight. She may or may not have implied her faith in this trope.

Nov 28th 2014 at 4:49:37 PM

Nov 28th 2014 at 5:04:37 PM

  • In the pilot episode of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash attempts to dry Twilight Sparkle's hair after accidentally pushing her into a mud puddle, only to make it extremely curly. Twilight is quite annoyed by this, and Rarity is actually horrified and demands to give Twilight a makeover.
    • Oddly, Pinkie Pie has curly hair 95% of the time note  and nobody in the cast seems the least bit bothered by it, and the fandom actually loves how it matches her "bouncy" personality.

Nov 28th 2014 at 5:43:07 PM

  • In Zoey101 Chase was constantly mocked for his "Jew Fro" (the actor had naturally curly black hair). Averted by his roommate Logan however, who was supposed to be conventionally attractive and had hair with a curl.

Nov 28th 2014 at 10:30:26 PM

Nov 29th 2014 at 3:02:18 PM

Please note that the use of the Unfortunate Implications trope requires a citation or a mod will remove it. See trope page for details.

Nov 29th 2014 at 3:57:44 PM

Real Life

  • Detractors of former Quebec Prime Minister Jean Charest oftenly insults him about his curly hair.

Nov 30th 2014 at 1:06:57 AM

Dec 1st 2014 at 2:16:33 PM

  • Jazmine from The Boondocks is really insecure about her kinky hair. She is bi-racial and inherited her african-american dad's hair and wishes to have straight hair as her white mother.

Dec 1st 2014 at 2:17:41 PM

  • The film Good Hair by comedian Chris Rock is about this trope and how it affects african-american women.

Dec 1st 2014 at 10:38:53 PM

"Jane Eyre: At the Boarding School of Horrors Lowood, its harsh director Mr. Brocklehurst punishes a little girl for having curly hair, even when informed that her hair is naturally that way. According to him, looking fancy is sinful, even though his own family turns out to be richly attired."

Is that really an example? This is about curly hair being treated as ugly. The girl's hair is seen as beautiful and therefore a negative thing because it supposedly makes her vain. I assumed that the director thought she curled her hair to make herself look beautiful.

Jan 15th 2015 at 12:18:48 PM

In Harry Potter Hermonie isn't described as being pretty until she straightens her unruly curly hair and and dresses up for the first time. Before that a big deal was made over just how bushy her hair is.

Jan 15th 2015 at 3:30:24 PM

Real Life — too many hair straightening products marketed to African-American women to count.

Jan 15th 2015 at 9:42:25 PM

No one is going to find frizzy or bushy hair attractive like from The Princess Diaries, My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic and Harry Potter and 'unattractive hair is unattractive' has no meaning.

Sep 10th 2015 at 10:40:02 PM

  • In early chapters of Gintama, Gintoki is often mocked for his naturally curly hair, and apparently he himself wants straight hair.

Sep 11th 2015 at 7:32:22 AM

^^^ Maybe that should be mentioned in the description? Since as far as I know, it's a specific subset of this trope that has serious Unfortunate Implications connotations.

Sep 12th 2015 at 11:59:44 AM

I honestly don't know any hair relaxers that outright basically market themselves as "Your natural hair is gross. Have straight hair instead and look presentable!" tbqh.

Sep 13th 2015 at 8:39:52 AM

  • Examples section
    • De-capitalized (Black, White).
    • Corrected spelling (mid-20-th, understandble).

Sep 14th 2015 at 9:03:07 AM

Real Life: On The Brady Bunch Greg starts out with straight hair but it becomes curly in later seasons because actor Barry Williams's hair curled once puberty kicked in. Williams disliked the curl and tried many things to straighten his hair before giving up and letting his hair be curly.

May 4th 2016 at 6:58:54 PM

The picture book Nappy Hair is about a little African-American girl who is ashamed of her tightly-curled hair, leading to the Aesop that she should accept and love it because it's exactly the hair God wanted her to have.

May 5th 2016 at 5:05:45 PM

I wonder what's the basis/reasoning of this though.

Jun 7th 2016 at 2:19:38 PM

Western Animation

  • In one scene of The Simpsons Movie, Ned Flanders says to his son, "And I wish you didn't have the Devil's curly hair".

Jun 9th 2016 at 8:58:53 AM

Inverted by Dave Barry, who mentioned that as in elementary school girls would always run after boys with curly hair (with every boy acting as though this was a horrible fate but secretly wishing it'd happen to them, if only they had curly hair).

Jun 9th 2016 at 9:30:22 PM

Can someone answer my question?

Jun 11th 2016 at 5:41:55 AM

^ I'm not sure why but straight hair has just been a standard in many cultures for centuries.

Jun 11th 2016 at 11:44:02 AM

Racism might figure into it, since curly hair is often associated with people of African and Southern European descent.

Also, as the current description notes, there's the idea that curly hair is "messy," since it's harder to keep tied up and harder to shape into a completely symmetrical style. And a person's hair often is portrayed as a reflection on their mind or morals, as seen (less negatively) in other tropes: Quirky Curls for a free spirit, Einstein Hair for an absent-minded professor, Wild Hair for someone "uncivilized."

Jun 11th 2016 at 1:59:35 PM

  • This is a big subplot for Princess Adrienne in Princeless, since the very first scene shows her mother attempting to tame her Funny Afro and as a young adult she keeps straightening it. This finally culminates in an issue where she faces this directly and shows a flashback to her getting her hair done and the hairdressers complaining about getting her while her sister Angelica is "the one with the good hair" (i.e naturally straight). At the end of that issue she gives herself an Important Haircut and cuts it short to symbolize her coming to terms with it.

Jul 17th 2016 at 10:18:08 AM

Film - Animated:

  • In The Simpsons Movie, Ned Flender dishes his younger son for his curly hair.
    Todd: I wish Homer was my father.
    Ned: And I wish you didn't have the devil's curly hair.

Jan 7th 2017 at 10:01:49 PM

Jan 3rd 2017 at 7:49:07 AM

The subset related to African-American hair may be related to But Not Too Black.

Jan 7th 2017 at 10:25:15 AM

I think the racial aspect should definitely be mentioned somewhere in the description.

Jan 7th 2017 at 12:13:54 PM

You might want to note that this is a Cyclic Trope as curly hair goes in and out of fashion.

Jan 7th 2017 at 12:19:51 PM

It's fine as is without racial connotations. Adding that to the description risks Flame Bait. There are examples which do not fall under Afro/euro/etc hair.

Also suggest adding No Real Life Examples Please for same reasons. We don't need a list of hair products, racism, or celeb opinions.

Jan 7th 2017 at 8:31:47 PM

  • Averted by Frieda in Peanuts, who is extremely vain about her "naturally curly hair". None of the other characters find her hair unattractive, although several wish she would stop talking about it.

Feb 7th 2017 at 6:28:00 AM

In Doki Doki Pretty Cure, Aguri's friend Eru was teased for having curly hair, and they became friends because Aguri defended her against the bullies.

Feb 7th 2017 at 6:47:43 AM

Teen Girl Squad: There's a character whose name is literally "The Ugly One", and she's the only one of the girls with curly hair.

Feb 7th 2017 at 8:37:09 AM

Theater

  • The children's rock opera Princess Bean's Messy World has the eponymous Princess Bean decide to enter a princess pageant, where she is told that she doesn't stand a chance of winning unless she changes her "free spirited" look. This includes straightening her hair... by tying rocks into it.

Jun 30th 2017 at 1:36:57 PM

There's a difference between curly and messy / knotted / frizzed, right?

Harry Potter's Hermione is spelt wrong.

Twilight Sparkle doesn't like her curled hair because its tangled and messy.

Pinkie Pie's example is not Odd.

Jun 30th 2017 at 3:07:02 PM

Pinkie Pie's example looks like natter.

Jul 5th 2017 at 2:03:12 PM

I'm not sure what we can call Pinkie Pie's hair. She was born straight-maned, but now her hair can't stay that way unless she's Pinkiemena or something.

Also, Twilight's hair isn't just curly, it's messy. See http://ak71.deviantart.com/art/Thanks-Rainbow-251510906, and here, for an actual screenshot of the episode.

Oct 19th 2017 at 12:58:21 PM

What'd you change, Pichu?

Also, this isn't ugly either? Or, at least it's not an invocation? ... Artist is spelt wrongly as "arist" at the end:

Fanfic:

Self-Fanservice fanarts often invoke this by depicting curly haired characters with lightly wavy or even straight hair. Part of this can be due to not liking curls. Alternatively, the arist might find it easier to draw straight hair.

Oct 19th 2017 at 12:39:18 PM

When a big, curly hair is used for comedic effect, that's Funny Afro.

Oct 19th 2017 at 12:59:28 PM

"Artist" is still mispelt as "arist" in Fanfic...

So, Dislike is Downplayed Ugly?

Nov 4th 2017 at 11:16:31 AM

  • [example here was mentioned above already]
  • Inverted in Bubble Guppies: Deema has a triangular/pyramid-like pile of curls, and she's treated as Fun Personified for the most part.

And the racial connotations are built into the trope from the days of Jolson and clowns.

Also, as for marketing saying "your natural hair is gross, straighten it to look presentable" https://photos.app.goo.gl/ljeFcPOuLC70QgKx2

Nov 9th 2017 at 3:11:25 PM

Isn't this just an appearance trope? I'm asking because we're practically under an embargo on appearance trops until the appearance trope clean-up thread finishes...

Nov 10th 2017 at 3:32:35 PM

^ Depends on what an "appearance trope"? Is it about appearances? No, it's not like Hair Of Gold Heart Of Gold or Icy Blue Eyes. Is it related to appearances? Yes, it's about how others react to someone's appearance.

Feb 15th 2018 at 9:53:05 AM

Bumping.

While this trope is related to appearances, Pichu-kun hit the nail on the head.

How can we make this ready for launching?

Feb 17th 2018 at 8:08:12 AM

Not Always Working: These workers apparently believe this, at least they justify trying to grab a woman's hair as she walks past by saying they're "just trying to help you get rid of those ugly curls!"

Mar 21st 2018 at 12:29:30 PM

Live Action Film

  • A Wrinkle In Time: After years of being mocked about it, Meg, an interracial character, is very self-conscious about her puffy, curly hair. When another character tells her he thinks her hair is awesome, she's clearly confused and taken aback, because it's a feature she dislikes about herself. In a scene where she is offered the chance to go back as a more popular, confident version of herself, the "perfect" version of Meg is shown to have long, straight hair and doesn't wear glasses like the current version of Meg.

Apr 29th 2018 at 3:59:32 PM

I guess so.

Indexes:

We don't actually have Ugly Tropes...

Apr 29th 2018 at 6:26:06 PM

This is a Cyclic Trope, as curly hair has been considered attractive/fashionable at various point in history in the Western World (e.g. 30's-50's US, late 18th century).

Apr 29th 2018 at 6:34:07 PM

^ - What, Regal Ringlets? Or do you actually mean Unkempt / Afro style??

If the latter, proof please?

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