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Hollywood Beauty Standards

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Helen Morehouse: What were you thinking?
Director: Well, you said you wanted "gritty". In other words, "ugly".
Helen Morehouse: I wanted Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island ugly, not Cornelius on Planet of the Apes ugly. TV ugly, not ugly ugly.

All right, so your new film is about a cowgirl, a reporter, a nurse, and a teacher. They all have different personalities, different views on life, and different socioeconomic backgrounds. In fact, they have almost nothing in common. Almost. The one thing they do have in common is that the casting director (or the artist in drawn works) made sure that they were all hot.

Hollywood Beauty Standards are a trope in aggregate. While there are occasionally "ugly" people cast, the vast majority of people in mainstream media are thin, toned, and perfectly groomed. An unfortunate side effect of this trope is that when everyone in the cast is hot, it's really hard to tell who is supposed to be hot In-Universe. The standards for appearance are so high that they can cause actresses of a healthy weight to be cast as fat.

This can become particularly noticeable when characters living below the poverty line sport five-hundred dollar haircuts, or when the nomad who has been living out in the wilderness for years has perfect skin and teeth.

The In-Universe justifications for this trope tend to be either the Sex Sells or the Hired for Their Looks varieties. Generic Cuteness could, but not necessarily, be used for the same reasons in animated works.

Hollywood Beauty Standards often leak out into Real Life, so people feel terrible that they are not buff and muscular or thin and pretty (as applicable) since everything that comes out of Hollywood tells viewers they're only valuable if they're attractive/beautiful.


Compare Gonk which is exaggerated ugliness, typically to make the character unlikable.

Examples should be limited to invocations, lampshade hangings, discussed or conversed entries

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  • The Changing Face Of Beauty is a documentary about the media's obsession with youth and its effect on women. It was produced by Sela Ward, who during casting for the James Bond movie GoldenEye was passed over for the Bond Girl role because she was "too old," which in this case meant "only three years younger than Pierce Brosnan."
  • Last Action Hero has a kid named Danny transport into the action movie world of Jack Slater, who is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and spends much of the time trying to convince him that they are really in a movie. One of the things he points out is that there are no unattractive women around; even the extras are tall, blonde bombshells. Slater, being a movie character himself, can't see the problem, brushing it off as "This is California."
  • J. K. Rowling said as much about the cast of Harry Potter being too good looking for their roles. She joked that it was lucky she talked to Emma Watson over the phone before meeting her in person (she knew Emma was perfect for Hermione when she spoke for a whole minute without drawing breath) and when she saw how pretty Emma was, she had to sigh "it's film, get over it."


    Live-Action TV 
  • Barry has an As Herself cameo by Sian Heder, whose indie family drama CODA (2021) won Best Picture. She mentions that she used to work with committed actors to tell personal stories, and now she's directing a mainstream blockbuster tentpole with a cast full of "models in Halloween costumes".
  • Regarding Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon mentions this trope in the DVD commentaries:
    Joss Whedon: Xander, I’ve always identified as the figure I most was like, because he did have that inability to talk to the girl and come through in the big moment. And he does make an idiot of himself a lot. Of course, he’s a lot prettier and more muscular than anybody who acts like that should be, but this is television so get over it.
  • Community:
    • In "Introduction to Film", Abed describes documentaries as "like real movies but with ugly people."
    • In "For a Fistful of Paintballs" Abed calls the Black Rider "network TV handsome".
  • On The Good Place, Eleanor explains that when someone tells her a story about her life, she automatically imagines everyone as conventionally sexy and attractive even if no appearances are described because she gets bored otherwise.
  • Hot in Cleveland: In-Universe - the entire premise of the show. The main women are seen this way in Los Angeles but are pretty in Cleveland.
  • Not just the USA: the French version might be sitcom Les Filles d'à côté. According to an insidernote , the casting director's brief was to "really raise the bar on this one" with regard to good looking actors and actresses.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: When Frank tells a story from his past, the show flashes back a few decades to situations and characters the rest of the gang has never seen. When these new people finally show up in real life, they are played by normal-looking, pudgier actors. Walking away, the gang all admit that they imagined everyone as much more attractive.
  • Lampshaded on Never Have I Ever when Kamala starts binge-watching Riverdale:
    Kamala: What's so interesting about this show is everyone has different backgrounds, but they're all hot.
  • Reboot (2022): Co-showrunner Hannah is dismayed when Timberly, a conventionally beautiful reality star, shows up at the table read supposedly playing Hannah's frumpy Author Avatar. Hannah assures the cast that she had hired a classically trained actress who looked like a real person, not "the TV version of [a real person]". It turns out that the the network had insisted that Timberly be stunt-cast in the role because reality stars like her get people talking even if they can't act.

    Video Games 
  • Dandelion: Discussed.
    Jiwoo: If she was ugly, it would have ended after 5 minutes of being aired.
    Heejung: ...true. Usually, the main female character isn't ugly. The film might describe the woman as being plain-looking, but they actually use a really pretty actress.

  • Roger Ebert on My Big Fat Greek Weddingnote :
    Roger Ebert: Five minutes into the film, I relaxed, knowing it was set in the real world, and not in the Hollywood alternative universe where Julia Roberts can't get a date.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • BoJack Horseman: In the season five premiere, the writer of BoJack's new show rejects a girl at a casting call. His reason is that she's "hot [enough] for Shakespeare in the Park", but he needs "TV hot".
  • Inside Job (2021): Parodied. Reagan and Gigi can easily sneak into a Hollywood movie premiere by showing up to the red carpet with frumpy hair, no makeup, and ugly outfits, because they're essentially invisible to the photographers and security.