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Pygmalion Plot

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Pygmalion and Galatea

Pygmalion, his offering given, prayed
Before the altar, half afraid, "Vouchsafe,
O Gods, if all things you can grant, my bride
Shall be"—he dared not say my ivory girl—
"The living likeness of my ivory girl."
Ovid, Metamorphosesnote 

A character has made someone — literally, such as by sculpting a statue, or figuratively, through giving lessons in speech, behavior, or etiquette — and has fallen in love with the creation.

Originally the Greek myth of the sculptor Pygmalion, and his statue brought to life by the gods. Ovid never gave the statue-girl a name, but the name Galatea was given in Apollodorus's Bibliotheca, which predates Ovid. It's Older Than Feudalism, dating to Ovid at least, but most modern versions will probably claim to be more directly descended from My Fair Lady, where the "creation" is figurative — manners, polish, and a new wardrobe. Keep an ear out for references such as "by Jove, I think she's got it!" or "The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain." However, with the advent of modern Science Fiction, possibilities for Mad Scientists to patch up their own sentient Robot Girls are prominent, and this trope seems to have come full circle.


This is related to Wife Husbandry, but differs because it's not (as) intrinsically creepy. Kiss Me, I'm Virtual is also related, as the creation will rarely have a mind of their own; if they do, expect What Measure Is a Non-Human? to ensue.

Common twists include Pygmalion having his own lower-class past, Galatea not knowing of the bet with Colonel Pickering and reacting badly, and a Beautiful All Along addition.

See also In with the In Crowd, Pygmalion Snap Back, and Teach Him Anger. If the situation is inverted (i.e. the new creation intentionally resembles a long-lost love), then the result is a Replacement Goldfish. Compare also Muse Abuse. Stories featuring The Svengali will usually have a warped version of this plot. The Pygmalion may be the spear counterpart to the manic pixie dream girl in that they both are usually there to help the main character somehow transform their lives. Someone so desperate to be loved that they'd do this might be Love Hungry or Loving a Shadow.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens: Jin sculpts Kannagi out of a sacred tree, the goddess possesses the statue and thus the romantic comedy begins.
  • A.I. Love You - Pygmalion is a programmer, Galatea is his Ridiculously Human AI.
  • The OVA My Dear Marie does it in reverse. Pygmalion (Hiroshi) creates Galatea (Marie) as a robot girlfriend, but ends up treating her as a sibling.
  • Princess Jellyfish. Fashion-savvy crossdresser Kuranosuke easily makes the insecure jellyfish-obsessive Tsukimi beautiful, but it is her shy, nerdy side he ends up falling for.
  • In Texhnolyze, Mad Scientist Doc gives cybertronic limbs to Ichise, the show's main Anti-Hero, to replace the ones he lost in a fight. She later admits to loving him because of how well he took to the technology.
  • A tragic inversion sets off the plot of Chobits. The Persocoms' inventor created two special Persocoms so they could be the children he and his wife could never have. He also gave them the ability to fall in love with someone. Sadly, one of them fell in love with him.
  • Battle Angel Alita had shades of this very early on, though it was not a straight example in that Dr Ido saw Alita more as a daughter than a would-be bride. The protagonist's name in the original Japanese, Gally, is actually a refference to this.
  • In Inuyasha, an artist gets a hold of a tainted shard of the Shikon Jewel; with it immersed in his ink, his paintings come to life. However, he is obsessed with a beautiful princess. If he can't have her, then maybe a picture will do... it doesn't end well.
  • In Ah! My Goddess, the robot Banpei becomes infatuated with a greeting automaton, though he becomes unsatisfied with her lack of response. He asks his creator, Skuld, to give her sentience. This backfires on him, as the automaton, now named Sigel, is actually disgusted at his constant leering, though it gets better.
  • Played with in The Wallflower. It has the same basic premise as My Fair Lady (some territories even use that as a localized title) in that four young handsome men must socialize the niece of their landlord. The subversion comes when said niece, Sunako, not only proves to be more than they (initially) can handle as a horror maniac with nigh superhuman strength but also proves to be a kind-hearted young woman who helps *them* with their problems.

    Comic Books 
  • Obscure Batman villain Professor Pyg is styled after this trope. He mutilates his victims both physically and mentally into living dolls based on his warped sense of belief of what a perfect human being should look like.
  • The original legend is referenced but not really followed by the origin of Wonder Woman, who was sculpted from clay and had life breathed into her by her mother.
    • The New 52 changed this into a cover story to her being having an affair with Zeus. Rebirth changed it back, but then James Robinson ignored this making current continuity a bit iffy on the subject.
  • Metal Men has gone over this at least twice, both between the sole female of the initial group and the scientist who built them all, and between Tin and his own creation, Nameless.
  • In The Smurfs, Papa Smurf fell in love with the recreated version of Smurfette (she was originally created by the evil wizard Gargamel as The Vamp), but since "Romeo And Smurfette" this has never really been followed up on, in either the comics or the Animated Adaptation. This is notably absent in Sony Pictures' film series, where Papa Smurf simply treats her like a daughter.
  • A species-wide version in Preacher: It turns out God created man so he'd have creatures that would love him unconditionally no matter what kind of misery he inflicts on them.
  • In The Darkness, both the Darkness and Angelus users had the power to create living beings to serve them, and some of these were created with for romantic or sexual purposes - the Angelus introduced at the start of the series had a female concubine whom she loved very dearly. This was frequently used by many Darkness users since having sex with mortal women would lead to their deaths, as their powers would then pass on to their offspring at cost of their own lives. Female Darklings are safe enough, but apparently they are very hard to create: Jackie tries to make one and botches many attempts, and he ends up needing outside help to successfully create the perfect woman. Though it turns out that the Darkness entity deliberately designed them so their users could breed with them and create an Eldritch Abomination free of any humanity. Oops.

    Fairy Tales 
  • A rare case in which the genders are reversed occurs in Pintosmalto. Betta molded Pintasmalto from marzipan and gemstones, then prayed him to life by addressing the Goddess of Love just as Pygmalion has done centuries earlier. They marry and live happily ever after.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Grouchy And The Love Doll", Grouchy creates for himself a love doll to be his companion, which somehow comes to life and loves him back — only to be revealed that it is a Cubus spirit inhabiting the doll to suck the life out of Grouchy through sex.
  • What mainly fuels Miranda Lawson's obsession for Commander Shepard in Miranda's Obsession is the fact that she was in charge of bringing him back to life, and thus she views him as her property.
  • This DeviantArt fancomic re-enacts the myth with Saint Seiya characters.
  • As a result of her precognitive abilities, the Sweetie Bell of the Oversaturated World has developed a serious crush on the man Button Mash could grow into, and is using those powers to guide his development into that man.

    Films — Animation 
  • Anastasia: Two con-men, Dimitri and Vlad, style an orphan to pass for the Empress's long-lost granddaughter, and the younger, Dimitri, is smitten when he sees his creation succeed. Unbeknownst to all of them, she really is Anastasia. Though, of course, he loved her all along.
  • Igor has the eponymous character falling in love with the female Frankenstein's Monster he creates.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Meet John Doe, cynical reporter Ann Mitchell fakes a letter from a "John Doe" who says he's going to commit suicide to protest the state of the world. After it becomes a media sensation, the newspaper hires a hobo named John Willoughby to play the part. Ann writes him a Rousing Speech. She later admits that she's fallen in love with the John Doe she created.
  • Deconstructing Harry has author Harry and aspiring writer Fay's romantic relationship; he considered her "a fan, then an admirer, then a pupil...", but in the end he truly fell in love with her as a person. The feeling wasn't mutual.
  • In the film Rhinestone, Sylvester Stallone plays the part of an irate cab driver that Jake (played by Dolly Parton) must transform into a country-western singer capable of wooing the crowd at an unfriendly bar. In the process, the two fall in love. Jake's transformation of Nick (Stallone) into a country-western performer is successful (sort of).
  • She's All That: Pygmalion is the school's top jock; Galatea is the ur-Hollywood Nerd.
  • Vertigo puts a dark twist on this. Scottie Ferguson forcibly molds a working middle class shopgirl into the image of an upper class dead woman with whom he is obsessed. Tragedy ensues, of course. "It can't matter to you" indeed.
  • Mannequin. A struggling artist works odd jobs, one of which is in a mannequin factory. He spends a lot of time over one mannequin (female, of course). Later she comes to life. There's a variation in why the mannequin comes to life.
  • The Opening of Misty Beethoven is a 70s pornographic film (back when they tried to at least have a pretense of plot) that gave this a dark edge, showing Misty having a near-nervous breakdown from the stress of trying to be the "Goddess of Love" that her Pygmalion is making her to be. Unlike most versions, it ends with the roles reversed with Misty becoming the controlling Master and Dr. Love her submissive toy.
  • Ruby Sparks plays it literally as thinking about Pygmalion is what inspired writer Zoe Kazan's story.
  • The Judy Garland films Summer Stock and Easter Parade qualify. In each, the hero, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire respectively, trains the heroine to become a great dancer so they can perform together onstage.
  • The Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire film Funny Face in which a seasoned photographer teaches a much younger bookish woman to become a model.
  • The Makeover, a Hallmark TV movie starring Julia Stiles, gender flips the premise: Hannah Higgins gives Elliott Doolittle speech lessons and polishes up his image so that he can run for Congress in order to win a bet with her friend, Colleen Pickering.
  • My Fair Lady: (which, incidentally, was based on the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion): Professor Henry Higgins teaches the poor, lower-class Eliza Doolittle to act and — especially — talk like an upper-class lady, on a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering. He succeeds, but Eliza, tired of being treated as an experiment, rebels against him and leaves. Higgins eventually realizes that he has "grown accustomed to her face," just in time for her to return. In the original play, Eliza ends up stranded between two worlds, fitting into neither.
  • In Pixel Perfect, Roscoe programs the artificial intelligence Loretta (though she's a hologram, not a robot). He develops feelings for her, but only because he used the personality and looks of his best friend Sam as one of the templates for Loretta, and the latter realizes that Sam is the girl for Roscoe.
  • Victor Frankenstein features a figurative and non-romantic variation. After Victor rescues Igor from the circus, he essentially "transforms" the latter into a younger version of himself. Victor fixes the hunchback's deformity so that Igor is no longer a cripple, he gives Igor fashionable clothing which is very similar (if a little less ostentatious) to his own, and encourages Igor's scientific talent by having him work as his lab assistant. Victor gradually grows to care for Igor, and ends up needing Igor more than Igor needs him.
  • Bicentennial Man:
  • In Just One of the Guys, Terry decides that she can turn Rick into a popular student. She falls in love with him.

  • The story Galatea Galante, by Alfred Bester. It gets very weird, to say the least.
  • The novel Galatea 2.2, by Richard Powers, features this plot with an engineer and a linguist as Pygmalion and an artificial intelligence network as Galatea (as the title implies, although the AI's actually named Helen).
  • In Lester del Rey's short story "Helen O'Loy", a robot first falls in love with one of her creators and, while initially against the idea, her love interest falls for her as well. It was only in their death that the narrator (the other creator) reveals to the reader his hidden love for Helen as well.
  • In C. J. Cherryh's The Paladin, Master Swordsman Shoka falls for his revenge-bound peasant girl student Taizu.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Galatea" is a Gender Flip.
  • In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, Roger thinks this at first, since the nymph was drawn as his ideal of an ideal woman.
  • Cherryl Taggart of Atlas Shrugged is Wrong Genre Savvy and thinks that her story is a Pygmalion Plot; after all, she does start out wishing to improve on her background growing up in a slum by marrying a great railroad executive and joining his superior clique. Problem is, she picked the wrong group to join: Every friend of her husband Jim Taggart is a huge phony, and Jim himself has a belief system that comes close to Bad is Good and Good is Bad—thus, Jim wants Cherryl to remain uncultured and resents all her efforts to improve herself.
  • The Great Lakeside High Experiment was filmed for TV as The Great Love Experiment. A plain girl was given a makeover and the most popular kids in school pretended to be her friends as a psychological experiment.
  • The Fall of the Sea People provides a completely literal example. The Mentor challenged Aclaí to create someone who was best at something, so he created Éirime. Then, when he fell victim to this trope, he hardly spoke to her again.
  • Shaman Blues has a golem animator who tries to invoke this - she creates golem after golem, hoping that one of them will prove to be her perfect love.
  • In the alternate Regency set Mairelon the Magician, the titular character picks up a street thief to be his assistant, giving her both lessons in stage magic and grammar. By the second book, The Magacian's Ward, he has formally taken her on as an apprentice of real magic, while teaching her (with his family's help) how to be a proper lady in Society. Of course, he falls in love with her in the process.
  • In The Story of Valentine and His Brother, Richard tries this with the beautiful vagabond Myra, but she finds life as a Proper Lady unbearable and ends up running away with their twin sons.
  • Let Me Call You Sweetheart has a super creepy example with plastic surgeon Dr Smith and Suzanne, given she's his biological daughter. The term "Pygmalion fantasy" is even used to refer to his relationship with her. He gave her plastic surgery to make her strikingly beautiful, and also coached her on how to behave and speak, bought her an apartment and hired a personal shopper for her. Smith was completely obsessed with Suzanne, to the point she found him overbearing. Even after her death, he continues to be obsessed with her, making other patients physically resemble her and becoming fixated on one woman, Barbara Tompkins, who particularly reminds him of Suzanne.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Averted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Warren's attempt to create a robotic girlfriend proved to be "too easy", and he ended up feeling nothing for her.
  • Cupid, "The Linguist": Pygmalion is a linguistics professor; Galatea is a talented chef with a Jersey accent.
  • Doctor Who. The idea behind Nubile Savage Leela becoming the Doctor's companion, though, needless to say, there was no romance involved. And Leela didn't change much either, given that a Action Girl in a leather bikini proved to be quite popular with the audience.
  • So Weird did an episode about a painter who disappeared into the beautiful pastoral scene he'd created after falling for it. Though this is probably a near-miss, the Opening Monologue relates the story of Pygmalion.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In the episode "Elaan of Troyius". Captain Kirk must teach the Dohlman of Elaas civilized manners before her wedding to the ruler of the planet Troyius. He ends up falling in love with her because he touches her tears — and the tears of Elaasian women are a potent love potion.
    • "Requiem for Methuselah" is a rare example where both the literal (Flint made Rayna, the last of a line of android models) and figurative (he used Kirk to try to spark her further emotional development) variations of the trope are used for the same character.
  • A similar episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled "The Perfect Mate" has Captain Picard forced to learn from her (a slight twist compared to the original series story) how to perform the various ceremonial customs for her arranged marriage meant to end centuries of war between two planets. This woman is literally the "perfect mate" in that she is a powerful empath who, once she reaches full sexual maturity, will become the perfect mate for her companion. Her intellect, interests, personality, etc. are all shown to be highly variable at least until she permanently imprints on a mate. She ends up imprinted on Picard himself due to all the time they spend together since she likes how she is when she is around him, and he realizes that he is quite taken with her as well. In the end, her sense of duty won't allow her to stay with him and she goes off to marry the obnoxious jerk (who personally admitted he preferred the thought of discussing trade deals for the finalized treaty to meeting his betrothed) and end the war. Before departing, she assures Picard (in flowery prose to rival his own silver tongue) that while she will pretend to become whoever her new husband desires (so he will be satisfied with his prize), she will always be the woman she became with Picard and will always love him.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Chrysalis" crosses this trope with "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome. In this episode, Bashir cures a young woman who's been in a cataleptic state as a result of childhood genetic engineering gone wrong, and then falls in love with her. When she starts shutting down again, it looks like a Pygmalion Snap Back, but when Bashir finds out she actually just feels overwhelmed by his romantic attentions, he backs off and helps her to get an internship at a research station.
  • Star Trek: Voyager, "Someone to Watch Over Me": The Doctor gives Seven of Nine lessons in dating and ends up falling for her. Interestingly, the Doctor is a hologram (and therefore an artificial being himself). Comes complete with The Bet, in this case with Tom Paris, who congratulates the Doctor's success right in front of Seven.
  • Will & Grace had a storyline in which Jack and Will make-over a Straight Gay named Barry into a Camp Gay (which they consider a "proper gay"). Both of them fall for Barry and end up fighting over him afterwards. The arc is called, of course, "Fagmalion."
    • Jack also fell for Will in the distant past, when mentoring him out of the closet.
  • This was the basis for Nikki and Victor Newman's love story on The Young and the Restless, with her being a reformed stripper and him being a wealthy tycoon.
  • The entire plot of The Great Love Experiment, an ABC Afterschool Special, is this trope, for a girl named Maude.
  • The Twilight Zone (2002): In "Dream Lover", a bored artist decides to create the literal girl of his dreams to help him unwind after drawing her on a sheet of paper. She gradually becomes more rebellious and starts to ignore him until she reveals that he didn't create her, she created him. She erases him when he becomes jealous of her romance with a real man.

  • Vocaloid Rin's song "KOKORO" and Gackpo's sequel song "Sayonara, Arigatou" by Toraboruta-P, tell a platonic version the story in which a robot that was made to be like a daughter for the scientist. However, the two never technically meet face-to-face, as the robot only becomes conscious after centuries of isolation and disuse.
    • Luka's song "Leia" features a man who fell in love with his painting, to the point of burning himself and the portrait when he realized it couldn't return his feelings, so as to be Together in Death.
  • The Human League's "Don't You Want Me" is a duet. She was working in a cocktail bar when he met her, he picked her out, he shook her up, turned her into someone new. Now five years later on, she's got the world at her feet, but she oughtn't forget who put her where she is now.
  • "Transcendence" resembles this in that the man at the computer projects whatever he wants onto Lindsey Stirling and she moulds to fit it, and when she breaks out of this he is angry.
  • A variation in Yes's "Turn of the Century." A man creates a sculpture of his newly dead wife, and said statue brings said wife back from the dead... Maybe.
  • The music video for REO Speedwagon's "Keep on Loving You" opens and ends with Kevin Cronin talking to a psychiatrist about how he wrote a love song about a made-up woman, only to fall in love with her.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Galateids from Promethean: The Created are descended from the original Galatea. However, their version of the story isn't nearly as clean as the myth. According to them, Galatea was made not from a statue, but from the corpses of the most beautiful women in Pygmalion's kingdom. At first the relationship went all right, but the Disquiet Galatea gave off made Pygmalion ever more possessive and spiteful, until finally she had enough. Pygmalion's body was found one morning with massive bruises on his throat; what happened to Galatea after that, no one knows, but the existence of the Galateids indicates she made at least one more of her kind.


    Video Games 
  • You can help an artist pull this off in Dark Cloud 2 by getting him special paints.
  • Ever17 contains one scene in which Takeshi tries to teach Robot Girl(ish) Sora how to behave like a real woman of her (apparent) age; it doesn't stick, and he concludes in the end that he likes her better as she is. The game also explicitly compares Takeshi and Sora's relationship to the Pygmalion story at one point.
  • This plot is pretty much the point of The Idolmaster, though the romance doesn't always happen...
  • Strongly hinted at between Professor Mei Ling Hua and her Robot Girl creation Mei Fang in the Arcana Heart series.
  • The Interactive Fiction game Galatea deconstructs the original Pygmalion myth. Here, the titular Galatea has been abandoned by her creator, who was mentally disturbed and didn't want (or expect) a real person to deal with. Her new "owners" decided to put her in an exhibition of Artificial Human art pieces, where the PC, an art critic, meets her. Of course, having come to life spontaneously (or so she says), Galatea is not like the rest of the pieces...
  • Pulseman has Doc Yoshiyama create, then fall in love with, an artificial intelligence. He uploads himself into a computer so he could make love to the AI, in doing so creating Pulseman and going Ax-Crazy.
  • In the lore of The Elder Scrolls, the High Elves' divine scribe Xarxes created his wife Oghma from his favourite moments in history. One text has her question whether she's marrying because she wants to or because she must, but doesn't record her conclusion.

  • The Art of Monsters is designed as a "reverse" Pygmalion story, where a monstrous creature who has been civilized (sort of) by a mountain hermit tries to return the favour. It doesn't end well..

    Web Original 
  • A Nintendo 3DS Nintendo Video entry called "The 3D Machine" has an Igor-like scientist's assistant discover that his master's new invention can bring drawings to life, so he attempts to use it to create a beautiful woman. However, said woman is not attracted to the hunchback, so he sets a drawing of King Kong on her, who then wrecks the nearby city.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in Disney's Hercules, when a dateless Herc, inspired by Pygmalion himself, makes a sculpture for Aphrodite to bring to life, which she names Galatea. Unfortunately, like with April he neglects to do much with her personality — she's clingy to say the (very) least — and chaos ensues. Eventually Hercules lets Aphrodite make Galatea her own person, and she immediately dumps him. Comically, Pygmalion had the exact same problem, he's just such a Dirty Old Man that he doesn't care.
  • The Simpsons:
    • As the title suggests, "My Fair Laddy" parodies My Fair Lady, in which Lisa plays the Pygmalion role and the Galatea is Groundskeeper Willie. It probably doesn't really need to be said that no romance occurs.
    • Also parodied in "The Regina Monologues":
      "Oh, look at those urchins! Surely they could never be taught proper manners!"
      "One gold sovereign says I can do just that."
      "Oh! It's a bet, Lord Daftwager!"
  • Tiny Toon Adventures also did this to Dizzy.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series episode "Obsession", the Toyman creates a perfect toy mate for himself named Darci (complete with creepy implications that she's basically a sex slave). However, she rebels against him and runs away, working as a runway model. It doesn't end well.
  • The Batman Beyond episode "Terry's Friend Dates a Robot", Howard has a synthoid girl custom made, with the assertion that, personality-wise, she would be completely devoted to him (This one comes back to haunt him).
  • The Duckman episode "My Feral Lady" had the titular character teach his feral mail-order bride how to be civilized.
  • In The Smurfs episode "Clockwork Smurfette", Handy creates a Distaff Counterpart to Clockwork Smurf so she could be his creation's mate, but unfortunately she ends up feeling more attracted to her creator than to Clockwork. Eventually, though, after she helps Clockwork Smurf rescue the Smurfs from Gargamel, her affections turn towards Clockwork.
  • The story format features in the King of the Hill episode appropriately titled "Pigmalion". Luanne is hired by pig processing plant owner Trip Larson to be his girlfriend and he starts modeling her into a new model of a maid from his company's logo, (which was created by his father and who he is obsessed with) even dying her hair in her sleep so that she resembles the woman. He's also uncharacteristically aggressive for a character from this series, as well as being clinically insane. At the end of the episode he gets an electrical shock to the brain and then comments that the voices in his head have stopped. He threatens Peggy and even trying to kill Hank (without Hank ever realizing it) to get her to back off. In a twist on the trope, he doesn't want to marry Luanne—he wants her to marry a different man who he modeled after a guy in lederhosen also from the company logo (so that's two Pygmalion Plots in one) so that the three of them can be a family together with Trip himself as the third character from the logo: the pet pig.
  • Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo's supposed Big Bad Brushogun has origins in this: he fell in love with a painting of a woman he created and used black magic in an attempt to bring her to life.