The Addams Family has Gomez. In the original illustrations, he's a pretty gross-looking dude: short, pudgy, crooked teeth, stringy hair, pencil mustache, and a face permanently in a half-lidded sneer. In the TV show, he's played by John Astin, who's at worst average-looking and definitely a lot more lively and approachable than Gomez's illustration. The movies continued the trend with Raúl Juliá, who outright complained in his heyday about being typecast as a Latin Lover.
Alex Rider: Eva Stellenbosch in the book was a champion weightlifter described as extremely ugly and borderline monstrous in appearance. The most flattering description is "like a man in drag" and she's explicitly compared to King Kong. In the series, she's played by Ana Ularu. invokedWord of God says this is because it was considered more interesting if she was intimidating for psychological rather than physical reasons.
Mr. Mxyzptlk is generally depicted as a 3' tall imp with a massive head and a bowler hat. His show version does that away and has him played by a British hunk instead. Justified as he assumed a more handsome form in order to woo Supergirl. It's downplayed when he returns in Season 5, since he is portrayed by an average looking actor, but even then he is still more attractive than his comic-book appearance.
In the comics, Reign the Worldkiller is an alien warrior who resembles a female version of Doomsday. Here, she's the Super-Powered Evil Side of Samantha Arias and is still played by Odette Annable.
Black Lightning: Tobias Whale is far slimmer his comic counterpart, who is morbidly obese and resembles an albino version of The Kingpin.
In the 1980s CBS series Beauty and the Beast, Vincent was made to look beastly with heavy makeup and a long mane of hair. In the 2012 CW reboot, Vincent is made to look beastly by...giving him a thin scar on one cheek. That's it. Seriously. No extra hair, no claws, nothing to indicate that he's anything other than a hot human man with a scar even less defacing than Gerard Butler's Phantom sunburn. He's supposed to have a more monstrous alternate form a la the Incredible Hulk, but even his alternate form isn't that beastly and it doesn't do much to change the fact that he looks like a male model 90% of the time, which makes the show come across as less like "Beauty and the Beast" and more like "Beauty and the Really Really Ridiculously Good Looking◊". To top all this off, he loses the scar after season 1 because apparently even that tiny concession to the original Beast's ugliness was just too much for the show's producers to maintain.
Brave New World: Bernard, Lenina and Linda are quite a bit more good-looking than their book counterparts are described as.
In Brideshead Revisited, Charles' narration describes the adult Cordelia as very unattractive, even ugly. In the mini-series, the actress has bad skin and an unflattering haircut, but is still quite attractive.
The Casual Vacancy, the BBC miniseries adaptation of the book, Howard Mollison is not as overweight, Obbo is a muscular thug instead of looking like he's homeless, and Maureen's appearance is improved as well.
Sugar, the subversion of the Hooker with a Heart of Gold trope in the novel The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber is gaunt, long-faced and plain with a terrible skin condition. Sugar in the BBC miniseries adaptation is played by Romola Garai, because viewers will clearly not be able to comprehend that Sugar's sexual charisma comes from her personality rather than her physical appearance.
The BBC America adaptation makes the BBC4 adaptation look restrained. Dirk is now a male model in a yellow jacket, and Richard is the gorgeously blue-eyed Elijah Wood.
In the Discworld series "Nobby" Nobbs is described as so incredibly ugly that he has to carry a certificate (a letter from the Patrician) to prove he's human. In the Hogfather mini-series, he's played by a slightly overweight, slightly bucktoothed man. He strangely looks more like the description of the series' Fred Colon.
There is an element of Pragmatic Adaptation here, in that a Nobbs fitting the books' description would require (to quote the Hogfather page) "heavy-duty CGI, enough makeup to cover the actor, a full-body suit, or hiring a chimpanzee and dubbing in his lines". This might also have viewers unfamiliar with the books actually wondering what species he's meant to be - not without a certificate.
The Girls in Love series by Jacqueline Wilson describes heroine Ellie as a chubby, awkward girl worried about her weight, glasses and frizzy hair, who feels self-conscious next to her pretty friends Magda and Nadine. This is an important part of her characterization, with a whole book focusing on her almost developing an eating disorder. So what happened in the TV adaptation? Ellie was played by Olivia Hallinan, a thin, pretty girl (more conventionally "pretty" than the actresses playing Magda and Nadine), with the character having hang-ups about her red hair rather than her weight.
His looks do disintegrate somewhat towards the end, what with the scarring and everything but admittedly, he still doesn't look nearly as ugly as he should.
In the Gossip Girl books, Jenny Humphrey is a sweet, artistic girl whose main source of anxiety is that she is short, brunette and busty — unlike her tall, slender blond idol, Serena VanDerWoodsen. Who do they cast to play her in the TV series? Tall, slender blond Taylor Momsen. The producers didn't know that fourteen-year-old Taylor Momsen would grow so tall, but they sure knew she was blond, skinny, and looked nothing like the character in the books. They also changed her character so she really idolised Blair Waldorf... who is short, brunette and beautiful.
Harvey Bullock in the comics is an overweight slob who constantly appeared at work in disheveled clothes. This is all toned down considerably for the show, where he's played by a bearded and pudgy Donal Logue, who does not dress fashionably but does sport a snazzy hat.
In the comics, the Mad Hatter is very short, with an overlarge head, straw-like hair, and buckteeth. Benedict Samuels, while retaining a penchant for top hats and mind control, is tall and not at all bad-looking.
Jane Doe takes after her debut in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell is that she still has her skin, as opposed to her later skinless look.
The Handmaid's Tale: The Commander is balding, grey-haired and not at all attractive in the novel. Here he's played by Joseph Fiennes. The same goes for Serena Joy, who is not described as attractive, but worn out and having to use a cane. Here Yvonne Strahovski plays her. This is partially due to an Age Lift, since in the novel both the Commander and Serena Joy were older than Offred, with Serena, an adult, working as a Christian television star when Offred was a child (although this may be a case of Offred being an Unreliable Narrator).
Horatio Hornblower has a possible case with the main character. In the books Hornblower reacts to his wife's pregnancy by feeling pity for the child if it has his "accursed unhappy temperament", which is reasonable, or his looks, which may not be given all of the women who fall for him over the course of his life. Ioan Gruffudd is less skinny and awkward that young Hornblower is always described as being, but otherwise matches the physical description given in the books. His friend William Bush, however, is always described as being hardbitten and weatherbeaten and is played by Paul McGann (who is no Pretty Boy but not craggy either).
In the Inspector Lynley novel series by Elizabeth George, Barbara Havers is clearly described as short, ugly, overweight and poorly dressed. Sharon Small, who played her in The BBC series The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, is trim, pretty and better dressed (but still short). Elizabeth George openly disliked the casting choice, until she was ultimately won over by Sharon Small's performance.
Harold Meachum in the comics was a crippled old man who lost his legs. Here, he is much younger and able-bodied as a result of becoming immortal by making a deal with the Hand.
The Bride of Nine Spiders was extremely creepy looking, with blank eyes, pale skin and her body hosting several spiders. In the TV show, she lacks any obviously inhuman traits and is generally a pretty goth with a spider motif.
Funnily enough, this may have led to the American version of the Australian comedy Kath and Kim being a flop. The title characters were played by Hollywood Homely actressesnote And that's if you consider Molly Shannon and Selma Blairhomely at all rather than properly translating the premise. It should have been about a trailer trash mother and daughter. The mom won't admit how old she is and the daughter is in denial about her weight.
The 2014 Italo/Spanish miniseries La Bella e La Bestia isn't any better than the Beauty and the Beast (2012) series at making its "Beast" character look remotely beastly. Instead of being cursed to look monstrous, Leon got scarred in a fire but his scar is only marginally more unsightly than 2012 Vincent's and the rest of his face is ruggedly handsome. It doesn't even stop him from being able to bed any woman he wants before he meets Bella or his cousin from lusting after him, which really makes one wonder why the introduction even bothered to try convincing us that he lost his attractiveness at all.
Legend of the Seeker: In the books, Darken Rahl is heavily scarred on half of his body (due to Zedd's Wizard's Fire), and killed more than a few lovers for failing to hide their distaste upon seeing him naked. Here he's unblemished, making for more tasteful shirtless scenes.
In the original Marvel Comics, Black Mariah is a comically obese woman hag who weighs around 400 pounds. In the Luke Cage TV series, she's played by the decidedly lovelier (and thinner) Alfre Woodard.
The show does this with the Witches of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West in the book is a wrinkled hag with one eye — and her more famous film counterpart is hook-nosed and green-skinned. Here, she's played by an attractive actress and the green skin is only a side effect of her jealousy. The character gets a Fanservice Pack and plenty of outfits with Absolute Cleavage. The Witch of the East's appearance is never described but she's usually portrayed as a hag, while the Witch of the North is an elderly woman — Glinda, the Witch of the South, is the only witch described to be agelessly beautiful. All witches here are played by young pretty actresses.
Ursula too. Although in this continuity, it's simply Regina impersonating her but her appearance is inspired by the movie's depiction of her — that Ursula is overweight, purple skinned and unpleasant. When Ursula is revealed to be real, both of them are much slimmer than the original character with no purple skin. Likewise, another Ursula appears in Season 4, now as a slim attractive Dark-Skinned Blond.
The Seven Dwarfs as well. In the Disney film, all of them except Dopey are short, elderly men with long grey beards. Here - at least in the World Without Magic - they're all much younger and human-sized. Played for Laughs in one episode where they return to the Enchanted Forest and are delighted they look "normal" again (ie short with bulbous noses).
Maleficent is a green-skinned fairy. Here, she's an attractive human woman (in the eyes of some). The horns in this version are just a headdress and she has a full head of blonde hair underneath.
This is Captain Hook. The picture really says it all. An interesting example; in the original story, he's described as being the most handsome man who ever lived. It was other adaptations that made him a fop. Of course, what J.M. Barrie would have called handsome is probably different from modern conventions.
Peter Pan becomes a teenage Pretty Boy as opposed to a mischievous child or preteen.
Rumplestiltskin, unlike many Once Upon a Time characters, never had a Disney adaptation, but is still Adaptational Attractiveness. In most other versions of the story, he's at least a dwarf and possibly The Grotesque as well, but in Once Upon a Time, he's the size of an average human and at least "normal looking" (except in his Dark One form, where he's decidedly goblin-like).
Merlin is commonly an elderly man with long white hair and beard. General fan reaction to his appearance on the show was "wow, he's pretty".
Nimue becomes an inversion. Most artwork depicts her as an attractive sorceress. When she first appears in flashback, she is very pretty. However, when she becomes the first Dark One, she noticeably loses some of her beauty. Most depictions have Nimue retaining her beauty along with her powers.
Although she was only on screen briefly, Cinderella's Fairy Godmother is played by a young pretty black woman as opposed to her animated film counterpart, in which she is an elderly woman.
In the Agatha Christie novels that feature her, Poirot's secretary Miss Lemon was frequently described as "ugly" or "hideous". In the Poirot series she was portrayed by Pauline Moran, who was well past her hey-day, but certainly not unattractive.
Poirot himself is not described in flattening terms in the books as apart from his weight, the books makes note of his egg-shaped head and even Christie herself (having gotten sick of him) once described him as a "creep". In the series Poirot is played by the very dapper and pleasantly stockyDavid Suchet, he's also less egotistical than his book counterpart which helps..
Odin Quincannon in the comics looks almost like a bald troll doll. The TV version doesn't augment Jackie Earle Haley's appearance with any prosthetics.
One of the many problems with the AmericanRed Dwarf pilot. Lister has all his negative qualities removed, like his slobbishness and his laziness. The actor is the Adonis-like Craig Bierko, as opposed to the average-looking Craig Charles.
Jughead is a lanky teenage boy who wears a silly hat and has a Gag Nose, though Archie Comics (2015) did make him more attractive (while keeping his general look). In the show, he is played by Cole Sprouse and summaries refer to him as an "emo heartthrob".
Archie himself has abs and is described in-universe as a heartbreaker, with his newfound looks frequently lampshaded.
His father Fred is tubby and bald in almost all appearances but is played by the trim Luke Perry, who has a full head of hair.
Miss Grundy goes from being a crone to... this. It's actually a subversion - she's not really Miss Grundy.
In the TNT series Rizzoli & Isles, Jane Rizzoli is played by the gorgeous Angie Harmon, despite the fact that in nearly every book that the TV series is based on, Rizzoli is consistently described as plain or average looking and so hung up on this that she frequently displays an irrational hatred of women who ARE beautiful. Similarly, while Isles is described in the books as being attractive, as played by Sasha Alexander, she's now a knockout. There's also Detective Korsak, who while hardly looking like a male model in his TV incarnation, is also better-looking than he's described in the books.
While in all continuities of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina's two aunts are Really 700 Years Old, in the original comics they actually looked old and Hilda was lanky and mannish-looking while Zelda was overweight. They also dressed like stereotypical Halloween witches. The TV series made them both into slender, attractive women who look no older than early middle-age and wear fashionable modern clothes, a change that carried over to later comics. The animated series takes it even further by making them physically teenagers.note In the animated series they were cursed to remain teenagers for abusing magic. Their desire was to go back to being old and warty
In The Mortal Instruments Hodge is described as having a long beaky nose and looking much older than his real age of 36. The show casts John Cor to play him - as a chiselled Hunk. There was even some Memetic Mutation about 'Hot Hodge'.
Clary describes herself in unflattering terms, drawing attention to unruly red hair. In the show she is aged up from an awkward teenager to a confident young adult, and played by the gorgeous Katherine McNamara. The show retains a line where Isabelle says she wishes she was as flat-chested as Clary - but Kat is just as well-endowed as Emeraude Toubia.
Sharpe cast Sean Bean (a blond northerner) as Richard Sharpe (in the books, a dark-haired Londoner). Although book-Sharpe is fairly handsome, he also has a wicked scar, which the TV version lacks. As above, author Bernard Cornwell was initially strongly opposed before being won over by Bean's performance, which led to Adaptation Displacement going so far as a book Retcon.
The 1984 miniseries adaptation most notably suffered from this trope with the character of Harold Lauder. In the book, Harold was primarily defined by how overweight, pock-marked, and hideously unattractive he was at the beginning of the book and a major part of his arc centered upon how he began to lose weight and take care of himself later in the story. In the film, he was played by the quite handsome actor Corin Nemec, who wore a slightly nerdy hairdo and outfit for the first episode or two before a subtle attack of The Glasses Gotta Go. (Though, if you saw Thinner, you might call this a Pragmatic Adaptation). In The Stand (2020), Harold is played the handsome Own Teague, whom in a hilarious coincidence also played a more attractive Patrick Hockstetter in It (2017).
Humanoid AbominationRandall Flagg has a face that instills absolute terror even in hardened criminals like Lloyd Henreid, the Marvel's Comic adaptation follows this giving Flagg a shadowed horrifying face with permanent Slasher Smile and black hellish eyes. In the miniseries Randall Flagg is played by Jamey Sheridan whose certainly not scary to look at, and is only really frightening when he puts on his Game Face, whilst in the book Flagg is just as horrifying with his "normal" face. Likewise in the 2020 series of The Stand has Randall Flagg played by Alexander Skarsgård (whose brother fittingly plays another iconic Stephen King monster) who again is much more handsome than how Flagg is described in the book.
Stargirl (2020): In the Golden Age comics, Icicle was an unattractive middle-aged man. In the live-action show, he instead has typical network TV good looks.
In the original book forNOS4A2, Charlie Manx is described as having weasel-like features and an overbite. For the television adaptation he's being played by Zachary Quinto.
The Terror both plays this straight and subverts it:
In the book, Cornelius Hickey is described as rat-faced, with very few remaining teeth, and so short that he's literally mistaken for a leprechaun at one point (It Makes Sense in Context). In the series, he's played by Adam Nagaitis, who is indeed somewhat short (5'7"½, or 151 cm) and has somewhat prominent front teeth but is otherwise more or less a Pretty Boy.
The real life Sir John Franklin's surviving portraits show him to have been squat, nearly neckless in his uniform, and bald. He is played by Ciarán Hinds, who looks slim and weathered at worst and has a full head of dark hair. In fact, he looks almost exactly like simply an older version of his earlier portrayal of Captain Wentworth in Persuasion.
Played with in the case of James Fitzjames, who was considered "the handsomest man in the Royal Navy" in his lifetime and was not ugly even by modern standards, but was very much a heartthrob by specifically Victorian standards (having curly blond hair in a style that was very fashionable for the period but looks rather childish now, and being a little on the heavy side, with a plump face). In the show, he is a Tall, Dark, and HandsomeLong-Haired Pretty Boy (and played by Tobias Menzies), which has a similar effect from a modern audience's perspective in order to keep the idea that he's good-looking fully intact.
The BBC's Adaptation of Sarah Waters' Tipping the Velvet cast Rachel Stirling (daughter of Dame Diana Rigg) as Nan, who was so plain in the book that she passed successfully as a boy for years on the street.
Jacqueline Wilson's best-known heroine, Tracy Beaker, is a tomboyish, untidy preteen girl who doesn't care about her looks and is described by adults as plain and awkward-looking. In the long-running TV adaptation, she's played by the cute and well-groomed Dani Harmer. At some point, the show's cartoon-Tracy based on the book covers were redesigned to better fit the teenaged Harmer's appearance.
The Twilight Zone (1959): In "To Serve Man", the Kanamits are much less ugly than in the short story by Damon Knight. The story describes them as looking "something like pigs and something like people." They are short with snoutlike noses, small eyes and thick, bristly brown-grey hair all over their bodies and have three fingers on each hand. In the television adaptation, they are nine feet tall and have bulbous foreheads but resemble humans facially.
Klaus is the most prominent example◊. In the comic he's got pale skin, a hook nose and is described as looking like a extra in a Ingmar Berman film. In the show Klaus is played by Robert Sheehan whose got a normal skin, normal nose and often walks around in little clothing as a Mr. Fanservice.
Diego in the comic is disheveled, badly stubbled with messy and greasy looking hair. In the show he's played by David Castaneda whose decidedly healthier looking◊. Especially in Season 2 where his long hair and groomed beard, makes Diego look like Antonio Banderas according to Klaus.
Overlaps with Pragmatic Adaptation but Luther is much more monstrous in the comic as while he has a normal head, he's got the body of an actual gorilla◊ thanks to a experimental transplant to save his life. In the show Luther instead got injected with a formula that saved his life but gave him a massive hairy ape-like torso and arms◊. While Luther is ashamed of his body, it doesn't actually prevent him from having a normal life or finding love like the comic version as one party girl finds his hairiness attractive and sleeps Luther when he's drunk. Also the comic version would have required extensive and costly CGI.
Ciri while not ugly in the books is still described as boyish to point where she is envious of other female characters' looks. In the show shes played by the gorgeous Freya Allan and is unmistakably feminine. To be fair to the show, Ciri is also more attractive in the games than the books description of her.
Queen Calanthe, in the book shes an older woman with ashen grey hair. In the show shes played by the younger and beautiful Johdi May who has dark hair. Then again Calanthe despite her age is described as beautiful in the The Last Wish and it's only the video game that depicts her as old, meaning the show was accurate.
In Wives and Daughters, Roger Hamley was not attractive at all and was repeatedly described as awkward. In the 1999 miniseries, it's downplayed, but he's still regarded as less handsome than his older brother Osborne and characters sometimes hint to that. He's played by Anthony Howell, though, a very good-looking actor. Some fans even think that the casting swapped the roles and consider him more handsome than Tom Hollander who played Osborne in this production.
Wolf Hall casts Mark Rylance◊ as Thomas Cromwell. The extensive worry Cromwell had in the book about having a Face of a Thug is left out, as is his stoutness from the Holbein portrait◊ (although the series does have a scene in which Cromwell is sitting for the painting).
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers has a strange example with Rita Repulsa in its second season. In the original Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger Bandora, Rita's original counterpart, is played by the middle-aged Machiko Soga, whose footage was also used for Rita in the first season of Mighty Morphin. This trope is played up when the character returned during the second half of the second season, where she was played by a much younger actress, making her look more attractive. In-universe, this is handwaved by saying Rita used magic to make herself appear younger.