A very common trope is the Ugly Guy, Hot Wife pairing. This is mostly because society's standards for female beauty are far higher than that for men, and women are often thought of as loving people on the inside, while men love women for their bodies and sexual wiles. Or it can be for another very good reason.
However, as rare as it may be, the inversion does in fact exist; for example, there are many bird species where the male is brightly colored but the female is duller in its feathers. While it's nowhere near as common, sometimes a totally hot hunk will end up with a Gonk of a girl. This usually plays on previous misconceptions of men and women's stances on love. Maybe the man has some ulterior motive. Maybe the girl managed to force him into such a relationship. Or maybe, just maybe, they really are in love.
This is not a YMMV trope; this is when the woman is clearly ugly or very visually displeasing in some way, while the man is incredibly attractive. Don't put down an example where "the guy is kind of good looking and the girl is kinda ugly, I guess."
- Haré+Guu Deluxe has an example going in line with MayDecember Romance. The Muscular bank robber ends up with the elderly Dama in a case of Love at First Punch.
- Shiro's parents in Jubei-chan.
- Invoked in Spice and Wolf: Lawrence explains that Horo (who he introduces as "my wife") is hiding her face in a cloak because she's embarrassed by her horrific burn scars. In fact, Horo is hiding her Unusual Ears.
- Sumiyoshi's parents from the Excel Saga manga. His father is a "normal" attractive anime guy, while his mother looks like a girl Sumiyoshi (Gonk). Also hilarious is that the mother is the only one in that family that actually speaks, while Sumiyoshi, his father, and his adorable little sister Canal all "speak" the same way.
- In Inuyasha, Hiten and Manten's parents were both demons, but their father was a very human-like and extremely rather good looking demon while the mother was quite the Gonk, having a reptilian/toadish appearance with, in Manten's own words, "thinning hair". Manten inherited the mom's looks and Hiten looked like the Hot Dad, which gave Manten quite the inferiority complex.
- Change 123 gives us Kousukegawa's mom and dad. Dad is basically Kousukegawa aged up a few years, and given a good dose of Bishounen and glasses. His mom on the other hand is short, squat, and plain looking.
- In Yu Yu Hakusho, this MIGHT eventually be the case for Hiei and Mukuro. In a twist Mukuro used to be beautiful, but she willingly scarred half of her body to gain her freedom from sex slavery.
- Takeo's parents in My Love Story!!. His mother is more of a gonk than his father, though she's not portrayed in a negative manner (much like Takeo himself), while Takeo's father is handsome and produces Bishie Sparkles (though he's not bishonen).
- Konatsu, one of Ukyou's admirers in Ranma ½, had good-looking parents. After his mother died, his father probably lost his mind to marry an objectively and quite literally monstrously hideous woman who's got two equally butt-ugly daughters. His Cinderella life has gone downward even further since his father bit the dust, to the point that he can't give up his servitude demeanor due to being abused by these evil relatives for so long.
- Jack Kirby's Galactic Bounty Hunters, where Tyr looks like a Mr. Olympia contestant but his fiancée is fat, smelly, and very ugly. They're aliens and from the way he acts she seems to be attractive by the standards of his race.
- Red Ears: The punchline to a comic where a young woman sees a hunky guy standing in front of an expensive sports car and logically assuming him to be the owner, starts imagining an elaborate, whirlwind romance before approaching him. Then an old, unpleasant-looking Rich Bitch returns from her shopping spree and yells at her trophy husband to stop philandering.
- Archie Comics in the early to mid 1990s had a skater punk makeover for Jughead and gave him a paraplegic, African-American love interest named Anita and gave his Abhorrent Admirer Ethel a blind boyfriend named Jeffrey, who, while Ethel was deliberately drawn to look less attractive than most of the girls in Archie Comics with buck teeth, a scrawny flat body with no curves, and Jughead's needle nose and a square jaw. Jeffrey was attractive and fit in the way most of the boys in the series were◊. They were both dropped along with Jughead's makeover.
- In Monster House, at least when he was younger, Nebbercracker was admittedly more attractive than his obese late wife, whose spirit possesses the titular house.
- In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, both the King and the Evil Queen were attractive. However, after the King's death, the Queen continued to be beautiful and young until she used a potion to turn herself into an old and ugly woman.
- The loving relationship between Wilbur and Edna Turnblad in Hairspray falls into this - especially in the movie musical, with Christopher Walken and a cross-dressing John Travolta singing and dancing together in "You're Timeless to Me". A smaller example is Tracy (a short, dumpy girl) and Link (Zac Efron).
- High School High: Mr. Clark took after his mother (who looks exactly like Jon Lovitz).
- Downplayed yet somewhat Played for Laughs in Norbit. The eponymous character himself isn't exactly "handsome", but his evil, domineering, bitchy wife is a morbidly obese monstrosity.
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights: This becomes the Sheriff of Rottingham's fate, after cutting a deal with the Witch to save his life; he reluctantly agrees to marry her in exchange for a magic pill.
- She-Devil: The failure of such a relationship drives the plot. In it, a man played by Ed Begley, Jr. is married to - and later cheats on and abandons - his wife, played by Roseanne Barr, who then seeks revenge. It's stated that he was trapped into marrying her after getting her pregnant in high school.
- Rafael and Lourdes from the Spanish film Crimen Ferpecto.
- In The Hudsucker Proxy, Sidney Mussburger introduces his overweight, ugly wife to Barnes. Granted, the Mussburgers are an aging couple, but Sidney is played by Paul Newman.
- In Tyler Perry's movie Why Did I Get Married? and its sequel, the buff and handsome policeman Troy gets married to the overweight Sheila, who just divorced her first husband Mike because he cheated on her. Subverted as Sheila isn't ugly, but she's overweight.
- "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle" and several other "Loathly lady" folktales have a man, usually a handsome knight, marry a loathsome-looking woman to complete a quest. Much like with the gender-inverted "Beauty and the Beast" version, though, the ugly partner becomes beautiful after the other person breaks the curse which had been placed on them.
- One version has it happen to no less than King Arthur, with the hideous crone turning into a beautiful maiden at night. The woman asks Arthur if he wants her hideous by day and beautiful by night or vice-versa. Arthur leaves it up to her, passing the Secret Test of Character and Guinevere saying she'll stay beautiful night and day.
- In A Brother's Price, breathtakingly handsome Jerin acquires one wife who has scars all over her face and upper body, a sight which disgusted her ex-lover so much that she left her. As sororal polygyny is the norm, not all of his wives are ugly, but this one is. Would have been played even straighter if he had had to marry the Brindle sisters, all of whom he thinks "look like horses".
- In Dragon Bones, Garranon, the "favourite" (i.e. concubine) of the king, is a very handsome man who looks a lot younger than his thirty years. He is married to a woman who is "no beauty". To everyone's surprise, they really love each other - Garranon may or may not be bi, but he hates the king, and only prostitutes himself in that way to protect his loved ones.
- In Harry Potter, it is established (by Dumbledore, who was, frankly, being kind) that the late Merope Gaunt was "no beauty" and got her handsome Muggle husband Tom Riddle by feeding him love potions. When she stopped drugging him, he fled the relationship, she fell victim to Death by Childbirth, and their child Tom went to an orphanage where he grew up to become Voldemort.
- Used in The Obsidian Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey. Idalia, while certainly a beautiful human, has an elf pining for her. Then, at the end of the series, it's subverted, when she's reincarnated as an elf, though it's acceptable because this is the only way both would find long-term - by elven standards - happiness.
- Semi-used with Kellen and Vestakia—the fact that she looks like a Demon may repel others in-universe, but the reader is more likely to see her as a Cute Monster Girl.
- In Fairest, Aza, who receives rude stares and comments about her appearance and is implied to be descended from gnomes, has a handsome prince fall in love with her.
- Ron and Sarah in Russell Banks's short story "Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story". Although the ending implies that Sarah may not have been as ugly as Ron claimed she was.
- In A Long Way from Chicago, this seems to be the opinion of some of the townswomen in regards to FDR marrying Eleanor Roosevelt. One can't believe someone so handsome settled for a woman so plain, while another speculates that it was because she was a good cook, as "kissing don't last".
- In Deep Secret, Maree, despite being fat, smudgy, and whiny of voice, had a rather attractive boyfriend before the story proper began, and later ends up with Rupert, who's rather handsome (if not the most handsome fellow in the story; that'd be Andrew) and has a fondness for leather jackets.
- In Gone with the Wind, Melanie Hamilton is described as plain and homely by everyone who encounters her, and she marries Ashley Wilkes, whose good looks are expounded upon more than once by the narrative and the main character, Scarlett O'Hara.
- The Tamír Triad, sort-of sort-of-not prequel to the Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling features Prince Korin and his second wife Nalia - he is dashing, dark haired and tall (and a weak willed drunkard and beginning to show the family madness at that point) while she is described as plain looking at best (and by people who actually know her and see how kind, intelligent, gentle and utterly miserable the poor girl is) and outright ugly at worst, mostly due to her fleeting chin and the wine flaw on her face. Her life gets better. Tamír and her squire/childhood/friend/later husband Ki may or may not be an example. Ki is dashing. Tamír herself is not very much on the side of typical feminine beauty, shows very sharp features and she herself describes herself as rather plain. However, she has a lot of charisma, a keen mind, a strong will and is very compassionate, which is what draws people to her. And she's definitely far from ugly.
- Rizzoli & Isles: Detective Jane Rizzoli (a literal Plain Jane) snags the gorgeous FBI agent Gabriel Dean.
- The Belisarius Series has Rana Sanga and his wife. Rana Sanga is tall, handsome, broad-shouldered, widely considered the epitome of Rajput manhood and one of the half dozen best generals and personal combatants in the world. Lady Sanga is a short, pudgy, plain-looking woman whose hair was completely grey before her thirtieth birthday. Needless to say, Rana Sanga loves his wife more than anything in the world and turns into a tongue-tied teenager in her presence.
- The Conquerors Saga: Lada is ugly and has no illusions about it; Mehmed is described to be extremely handsome. In addition, being the sultan Mehmed has access to a harem full of incredibly beautiful women and a beautiful wife, whom he despises, but prefers Ladahe would love to sleep with and marry her, though she's having none of it.
- Protector of the Small: Kel is compared by her sisters-in-law to a cow, but she has many many other attributes, including being one of the first women in the kingdom to become a knight. She also gets with some handsome men as well.
- However, it's possibly subverted, as the 'cow' description was applied when she was about 10, her older sisters are mentioned to be good-looking, and she is implied to get prettier as well as she gets older - though she never really puts much focus on it, unlike Alanna, the first Lady Knight, who developed a taste for dressing up in a Pimped-Out Dress or two.
- Tanith Lee's short story "The Beast and Beauty" is a Gender Flipped retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" where the "Beauty" is an exceptionally handsome and successful male artist and the "Beast" is an exceptionally homely and self-conscious female author. No one in their town has any earthly idea why he'd marry her of all people, but they're genuinely happy together. Until the woman can no longer bear that her husband's effortless perfection serves as a constant reminder of what she'll never be, and she kills him in a sudden bout of spite.
- King Cayleb and Queen Sharleyan from the Safehold series are a mild example — Cayleb is absolutely gorgeous by anyone's standard (except his), but Sharleyan, though quite pretty, notes with some amusement that the many paeans to her supposed beauty are nothing more than bootlicking. The only person who truly thinks she is the most beautiful woman on the planet is her husband.
- Married... with Children with Jefferson and Marcy D'Arcy, the Bundys' neighbors. Amanda (Marcy) Bearse was hardly ugly, but the joke was that she was a "chicken", a scrawny woman with no feminine features, and Jefferson was her trophy husband. She especially counts if the viewers go by the same standards in Ugly Guy, Hot Wife, since like everyone else on the show, she had some glaring personality problems that did nothing to help her Hollywood Homely appearance.
- Boardwalk Empire has Giuseppe "Gyp" Rosetti, a tall and handsome Sicilian man, married to Giaconda, a pudgy, unattractive and shrewish battleaxe.
- Rae's (rather frumpy) mum in My Mad Fat Diary lives with Karim, who is younger and fitter than her.
- Miranda constantly makes jokes about Miranda Hart being masculine, overweight and very, very tall. Despite this, she gets attention from quite a few very handsome men, especially Gary, her main Love Interest. However, it should be noted that Miranda Hart writes it herself, and there are a few real-life men who consider her attractive.
- On the Hong Kong television drama Only You, one of the clients that employs the services of the Only You wedding agency is an extremely handsome and wealthy playboy, and his fiancee is a short, frumpy, and very homely microbiologist. She's insecure about the wedding because she feels that she's way out of his league since his model ex-girlfriend reappeared and attempted to break them up. The story ends on a heartwarming note when he makes it clear that he genuinely loves his fiancee, because when he became one of the many afflicted by the SARS epidemic, she was the only one who treated him like a normal person, while said ex-girlfriend and many people he thought were his friends abandoned him when he fell ill. He fell in love with her smart and kind personality, which made him reevaluate his perspective on people and not judging them by their looks, and a new life purpose in devoting his inheritance to philanthropy and supporting her scientific work.
- Days of Our Lives featured hunky doctor Craig and his considerably overweight wife Nancy, whom he absolutely adored.
- Crazy Courtney, a homely young woman with glasses, a crooked overbite with braces, and grandmotherly clothing, is seen scaring away Josh Peck's character from his seat at the movie theater. It's then revealed she did it for her handsome, blond boyfriend when they then say her catchphrase "Ma ha!"
- Two and a Half Men: Walden (Ashton Kutcher)'s ex-wife is less attractive than he is, with characters wondering what it is about her that draws attractive, successful men.
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys has Typhon and Echidna. Typhon, apart from being a giant who stands about two stories tall, is a handsome human man. Echidna, on the other hand, is a bald, fang-mouthed, scaly-skinned shrieking she-beast with octopus tentacles for arms and three serpentine tails in lieu of legs. About the only thing she has in common with her husband is height. They are still very much passionately in love with each other, and Typhon actually acts as something of Echidna's Morality Chain — in his introductory episode, Typhon even notes that Hera imprisoned him because without him around, Echidna's temper made her very dangerous.
- I Love Lucy has a mild version of this in-universe. Ricky Ricardo's career as a successful singer and actor implies that he has to be in the top tier of male attractiveness, while Lucy, although reasonably good-looking, and often times even stated to be quite lovely, doesn't live up to the entertainment industry's standards for female beauty, and this often causes problems for her.
- The White Queen: Applies to the marriage of Richard of Gloucester and Anne Neville. She's not ugly, but she's explicitly described as "a plain little thing" by Margaret of Anjou, and George of Clarence, Richard's own brother, doesn't believe he can be attracted to her. George is clearly wrong, though, because Richard has adored Anne since childhood, they Marry for Love, are Happily Married, and he remains faithful to his wife for the first dozen years of their marriage. However, when Richard's romantic feelings for Anne diminish in their final year together, he falls in love with his classically beautiful niece Elizabeth of York, and she reciprocates wholeheartedly despite how closely related they are. It reinforces Richard's depiction as a Raven Hair, Ivory Skin Pretty Boy (his gorgeousness, which is even a touch feminine, is essentially equal to his niece's), whereas Anne isn't appealing enough to have any other male admirers besides her husband.
- A horrific example CSI: Miami featured a mousy, dowdy-looking woman who was so jealous of the attention other women would pay her devoted and incredibly handsome husband, that she convinced him to seduce and lure women into their plot; she would go as far as to pretend to be one of the victims, and play up a rescue only to dash their hopes, by pulling back her hands while her husband would drag them to their deaths, all so she could see the look of terror in their eyes, while her husband would kill them with a loving gaze fixated on his wife.
- The Mindy Project subverts this; while Mindy is a fine-looking woman, it's her own self doubts and insecurities that make her believe she will end up like this given her string of handsome boyfriends, particularly Danny and Ben. While this is usually played for laughs, in some cases, such as when she begins gaining weight due to her pregnancy with Danny's baby, she has an emotional breakdown that is no laughing matter.
- Frasier: Niles Crane and his (unseen) first wife Maris are strongly implied to be this. Niles is fairly handsome, while Maris is so monstrous—both on the inside and outside—that she was turned into The Ghost because by the time they toyed with revealing her, the crew had determined that no actress was ugly enough to fit the outlandish descriptions of her appearance. (For instance, she has webbed hands and super pale skin, and is so thin that she's been mistaken for a hat rack.) She's also rich, and that's likely why Niles put up with her for so long.
- Several The Benny Hill Show sketches. The guy's head-turning hotness may be an Informed Ability, which is contrasted with exceptionally ugly wifes. The guys are usually played by Hill or McGee, the wives are often played by men too. In at least one sketch he married her for her parents' money. Another sketch had him say his wife isn't much to look at "but you can't help who you fall in love with."
- Jokingly recommended in Jimmy Soul's 1963 hit, "If You Wanna Be Happy":
"If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So from my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you"
- According to Warcraft, particularly Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game, the origin of the centaurs can be traced to the union of Zaetar (son of Cenarius, an attractive Night Elf/Stag centaur) and Princess Theradras, who would be pretty gonky even if she wasn't several times larger than him and built like the Venus of Willendorf with four arms and three faces.
- Fans!: Shanna is entirely aware of her stick-figure build, whereas Will is practically a body-builder. The relationship seems to have done wonders for Shanna's body-image issues.
- An example shows up with two background characters in Wurr—namely, the big fat hellhound and her leggy, elegant mate. Also a case of Tiny Guy, Huge Girl.
- Gravity Falls has a story where an ugly old witch tries to blackmail Stan into kissing her; instead, Mabel offers to give her a "Love Makeover" so she can get a guy of her own. She ends up... still ugly, but less terrifying, and in the end she is last seen with a handsome young rock climber who had been climbing by her cave.
- The Scotsman from Samurai Jack is married, and it's initially presented as Ugly Guy, Hot Wife; he's a hairy, burly warrior with British Teeth and a machine gun for a pegleg, and describes his wife as a paragon of beauty. Upon meeting her, it turns out the Scotsman's Wife is bigger, uglier, and meaner than he is by a fair margin, and he's nothing but a puddle of mush around her (unless she is trying to kill Jack).
- In one Treehouse of Horror episode of The Simpsons, the ugly evil witch who holds Bart and Lisa captive claims that she has a boyfriend named George Cauldron, but the kids don't believe her. After Homer defeats the witch by stuffing her in the oven, her handsome boyfriend George Cauldron comes to her house, wondering where she is for their date.
- Kyle's parents in South Park. His father looks like a Jewish version of Stan's dad, who is fairly handsome as far as cartoon fathers go. His mother is short, very fat, has a large hook-nose and an unflattering beehive hairdo. This trope even permeates their voices and personalities. Kyle's dad is fairly mellow with a mid-western accent. His mother is shrill with an obnoxiously thick Yiddish accent. The difference is even pointed out in the episode "Spontaneous Combustion."
- In the post-movie Spongebob Squarepants episode "Banned in Bikini Bottom," we're given a stuffy, uptight elderly lady whose husband turns out to be the young, muscular, ridiculously humanlike Chief of Police. It's implied he married her for her cooking, which is odd considering she literally hates anything "fun and delicious," leading a whole community against it.
- Wallflower Tango, a German animated short, is about a woman with baggy eyes, a pointy nose, sagging breasts and deep laugh lines finally finds her chance at love when she catches a tall dark male burglar with a barrel chest and square jaw trying to steal her diamond.