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The Grotesque

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"You are deformed. And you are ugly. And these are crimes for which the world shows little pity."
Judge Claude Frollo to Quasimodo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney)

A character that induces both fear and pity in viewers because his deformities belie a perfectly normal — if not noble — personality. The pathos associated with The Grotesque is the implication that he could easily have been a well-adjusted member of society if not for the hideousness that he is powerless to remedy.

He is very rarely presented as the villain and frequently overlaps with the Reluctant Monster and Tragic Hero. The defining trait of The Grotesque is that his hideous appearance belies a gentle personality that is doomed to mistreatment because of society's shallowness. We, the viewers, are left feeling like the only ones who can see him for who he truly is, and want to comfort him with the knowledge that he's not alone in his quiet suffering.

The Grotesque does not necessarily have to be physically deformed; he can be mentally or socially deformed, so long as we continue to see the good within and wish that it can somehow overcome the badness masking it.

Don't expect any of that to allow someone this ugly to get a happy ending. Grotesques are universally tragic characters.

Contrast Red Right Hand, where the outer deformity is symbolic of an inner corruption. Not to be confused with the kind of "grotesque" that adorns old gothic rooftops — see Our Gargoyles Rock. Compare Gentle Giant (where a person is seemingly intimidating due to their size even though they're really sweet), Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold (where the Loners Are Freaks stigma kicks in but they're actually not so bad once you get to know them), and Face of a Thug (Like Gentle Giant but it's their face instead). May result from a Power-Upgrading Deformation.

Not to be confused with mindless violence film Grotesque.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Berserk:
    • The Child of Guts and Casca was conceived as a normal baby when the two made love, but then everything took a tragic turn for the worse when his mother was viciously raped by Griffith when he turned into Femto, thus tainting her womb with his demonic essence and turning the developing child into misshapen and deformed fetus, compelling him to take up a nature of evil and giving him supernatural powers at the same time. However, while instinctively "evil", the Child loves his parents too much to actually be evil. Sadly, his father does not feel much sympathy for what happened to him, seeing him as nothing more than a byproduct of a horrible event that he failed to prevent, and Guts would have even killed him had Casca not interfered. Nevertheless, the Child strives to help his parents whenever possible, up until the point of the mock Eclipse, when the Child expends the last of his energy and powers to save his mother...
    • The Egg of the Perfect World (or the Behelit Apostle). During his life as a human, he was a nameless outcast of society who collected dead bodies at the base of the Tower of Conviction. When he came across a Behelit and sacrificed the world so that it may become perfect, he became the Behelit-shaped apostle that was in the present, though no one knew of his existence. The Egg of the Perfect World, though an Apostle, is one of the first to be introduced that wasn't evil or just crazy. In the final events at the Tower of Conviction, he comes across the weakened Child, whom he saw as kindred for being deformed, forgotten, and unloved. As an act of pity, he consumes the Child so that he could have one moment of tenderness in his life before he and the Egg of the Perfect World were killed during the mock eclipse when Griffith reincarnates himself into the human world.
  • Black Jack: Thanks to a severe childhood accident, Black Jack has poliosis, a huge number of very visible surgical scars all over his body, and a mismatched skin graft covering half his face. This did not do him any favors in school, which is part of why he grew up to be such a bitter jerk.
  • Jinenji from the Inuyasha episode "Jinenji, Kind yet Sad" is a huge monster with bulging eyes, but all he wants to do is farm medicinal herbs. The episode even had a mob of villagers with Torches and Pitchforks as a Shout-Out.
  • Rurouni Kenshin has a number of examples.
    • All of the Oniwabanshuu are this, shunned by society but taken in by Aoshi and therefore loyal to him. Hannya is a particularly good example, since he was partly modeled on Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man".
    • Fuji, one of Shishio's minions, is about 20-feet tall and has been treated like a monster or a living weapon.
    • Yatsume, who works for Enishi also likely qualifies since for poorly justified reasons, his family turned him into Venom, which entailed stretching his limbs so they were freakishly long and doing something that gave him fangs and a long, lolling tongue.
  • Oniwakamaru from the third episode of Samurai Champloo. He wasn't just ugly, he was also huge, and like Jinenji faced constant harassment by villagers with Torches and Pitchforks. Fuu befriends him, being perhaps the only person to ever look at him and not see a monster, but Mugen still kills him in the end.

    Comic Books 
  • Ben Grimm, the Thing, from Fantastic Four (at least at first — by now, he's the idol o' millions).
  • Vlad from Hack/Slash plays with this trope, albeit with much less active persecution. (Except in Chicago, where, as the "Meat Man", he's blamed for a slasher's murders.) Most recurring characters get used to his appearance fairly quickly. He does wear a mask virtually all the time, though. He was also much more misshapen as a child — the butcher who raised him found him in a dumpster, obviously abandoned by his birth parents due to his deformities.
  • Roger the Homunculus from Hellboy. He sees himself as an inhuman abomination and is considered "expendable" by the BPRD due to being an artificial being, but he's one of the nicest characters in the series and willing to kill his own brother in Almost Colossus to save humanity.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: The tomb of "Hate Face" tells his story in this manner. "The face of a devil, the soul of an angel. He rescued millions, yet none could bear his revolting visage. Some say he died in battle — others say it was his broken heart that killed him!"
  • The Mighty Thor: Beta Ray Bill is a warrior who was genetically modified to into a mighty, if ugly, monster to protect his people. During Bill and Thor's first encounter, each thinks the other is a monster meaning to do harm. However, when Bill accidentally strikes Thor's hammer when it's in its walking stick form, he's transformed into a variant of Thor himself yielding the hammer, a feat that can only be accomplished by the noblest of heroes.
  • Arseface from Preacher. After blowing the left half of his face off imitating Kurt Cobain and becoming The Unintelligible as a result, he realizes the error of his self-pitying ways and vows to be a good person. Once he encounters the heroes, he ends up becoming a chart-topping singer even though no one can understand a word he says outside of Jesse. At the end of the story, he meets up with Lorrie Bobs, a girl with one eye due to her inbred family and who also constantly hallucinates, seeing everything as something else. These two hideous beings are the only two truly decent human beings who will Earn Your Happy Ending in all the cast (Jessie, Tulip, and Cassidy have heavy Protagonist-Centered Morality): Arseface rescues Lorrie from some bullies, and Lorrie's visual disorder is a virtual rose-colored glass (she seems Arseface as handsome). In Preacher, everyone is a grotesque freak except the guy with an arse for a face and the one-eyed girl.
  • Much of the first volume of Swamp Thing involves the "muck-encrusted mockery of a man" inspiring fear in most people, when he is a kind scientist who wanted to help end world hunger. For a long time, very few people treat him as anything but a monster even when he saves their lives.
  • In X-Men, any mutant whose mutation affects their outer appearance. As part of the Fridge Logic inherent in the comics, the Thing mentioned above is a celebrity while Nightcrawler is forced to use a Holographic Disguise to avoid attention. Invoked with the Morlocks, a group of sewer-dwelling mutants whose mutations also incurred a more or less severe physical deformity — and any mutant who looks too pretty can be made grotesque by Masque, who warps flesh with his touch.

    Comic Strips 
  • Ziggy: The title character doesn't cause fear in the audience, but pity. He's also pretty deformed compared to everyone else he interacts with. He's also tragic as mishap after mishap befalls him, as the comic's punchline.

    Fan Works 
  • Always Visible: The tumor that was removed from Delia's uterus looked, according to Nelissen, like a sea urchin. Galbraith notes about himself that it was apparently red.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney):
    • Quasimodo won a prize for being the ugliest person in Paris.
    • Victor, Hugo, and Laverne, while repeatedly referred to as Gargoyles, are all actually technically Grotesques (a Gargoyle generally has a spout to convey water, while these three are apparently just decorational when in stone form. Grotesques are the correct name for the fantastical stone figures that often adorn buildings). This is entirely separate from this trope, however.
  • Francoeur from A Monster in Paris is a seven-foot-tall flea who's actually gentle, kind, curious, and passionate. The song that shares the film's title is a soulful lament about how his life thus far as a "monster" after being grown to his spectacular size in an accident has left him too hurt and afraid to show his true self.

    Films — Live-Action 
Examples by creator:
  • Rondo Hatton was an American actor who had a brief, but prolific career playing thuggish bit parts in many Hollywood B-movies. He was known for his brutish facial features which were the result of acromegaly, a disorder of the pituitary gland. His primary role was 'The Creeper', a killer who crushed his victim's spines in a bearhug, but who was all the same desperate for any form of acceptance, a grace rarely bestowed upon him because of his appearance.
Examples by title:
  • Ephialtes the hunchback from 300 survived where other malformed Spartan babies were killed at birth and still wants to help the 300 fight the Persians. He shows the Spartan army the 'goats trail' that the Persians could use to flank them at the pass of Thermopylae, and asks to join the fight. However, King Leonidas rejects his aid, saying that he his deformity makes him unable to form part of the Spartans' highly effective phalanx strategy (which is plausible up until the point where everyone immediately breaks ranks to leap into single combat) but sparing him out of pity. After being denied the right to fight alongside the Spartans, he goes to Xerxes and tells him of the goat pass and switches sides — which, one supposes, means his outer deformity eventually reflects his inner feelings of rejection and jealousy. That certainly fits with the ideology of the Spartans, who did in real life kill any children that were born deformed.
  • Subverted in Batman Returns with the Penguin, who wants revenge on Gotham City for his parents abandoning him at birth due to his deformity. He blackmails Max Shreck, a Villain with Good Publicity, into making him appear to be kind and gentle so the citizens will elect him Mayor. When Batman reveals that the Penguin holds them in contempt, they immediately turn upon him, so he decides to forgo any pretense of humanity ("I am not a human being! I am an animal! Cold-blooded!", a sort of dark spoof of the below Elephant Man) as he proceeds with his master plan to kill all of the first-born sons in the city — a plan he had used the city's sympathy to further without their knowing it: "researching" his parents' identities (it's implied in the novelization that he actually killed them many years before "finding" their graves), he picked up the information about all the other parents who had sons from birth records. When Batman foils this plan, Penguin goes over the edge, instructing his penguins to kill everyone in the city, which Batman foils with the same electronic technique that he used to reveal the Penguin's villainy to the public.
  • Darkman: Dr. Peyton Westlake, a.k.a. Darkman, is somewhere between a Universal Monster and a Superhero. His good looks were ruined by a laboratory fire set by malicious gangsters. Luckily, his research into synthetic skin allows him to grow new faces, making him a Master of Disguise — though in his natural form, he's a classic instance of this trope, a bloody mess covered in mummy-like bandages.
  • The title character in Edward Scissorhands. A bit of a twist, though, in that — being played by Johnny Depp — he's quite handsome. He simply has No Social Skills, and has the unfortunate tendency to cut things up by accident, due to being an Artificial Human with scissors instead of fingers.
  • The Elephant Man stars John Hurt under a lot of prosthetics as the kind-hearted, intelligent, and severely deformed John Merrick. It's a very loose biopic (taking a few liberties with the order of events), telling the story of how he left the freak show circus to move into permanent care in a London hospital. See below under Real Life for more information.
  • Seth Brundle in The Fly (1986) is Tall, Dark, and Handsome. After a Teleporter Accident genetically fuses him with a fly he undergoes a Slow Transformation into a Half-Human Hybrid from the inside out; at first the Super-Strength, virility, and stamina this grants him makes him Drunk with Power, culminating in him tossing his lover Veronica out of his loft/lab because she's worried about the changes, which also include strange hairs and facial blotches. Then he learns what's actually happening to him and loses his haughtiness. A month later, terrified and lonely, he asks her to visit him — whereupon she and the audience see that his entire body is horrifically disfigured, and he now has to vomit on his food in order to consume it. His right ear even falls off before her eyes! Embarrassed and upset, he reaches out to her for an embrace... and, in a moment notorious for eliciting screams from audience members, she hugs him without hesitation, even resting her head against the spot where the ear just molted away. Although Seth's transformation into an insectoid beast continues apace and his mind ultimately undergoes a Split-Personality Takeover that leads to him becoming a danger to her and others despite his best efforts, Veronica's love for him remains intact to the Downer Ending, in which she mercy kills him at his request.
  • Freaks plays with this, focusing on a troupe of circus sideshow performers essentially playing themselves, with no special makeup effects or anything. Unlike in most examples of this trope, they have found a community that accepts them, one where "normal" people are the minority, and they spend most of the film's fairly short runtime just enjoying each other's company and going about their day-to-day lives. Additionally, a few of them are genuinely pretty good-looking in their own way: Frances O'Connor, for example, was a rather beautiful woman who was born without arms, and the film has a brief scene of her eating dinner, holding the knife and fork very comfortably with her feet. The core of the story, however, plays the tragic angle of this trope relatively straight, with Hans, a dwarf from a wealthy family, falling in love with a "big person" trapeze artist, who plans to marry him for his inheritance and then kill him. Even though she and her strongman boyfriend are mostly motivated by greed, it's made pretty clear that they don't really see Hans as fully human because of his dwarfism.
  • Friday the 13th: Jason Voorhees was already unsettling to look at when he was alive thanks to hydrocephalus. Then he drowned. And upon coming back to life, he's always suffering from both decomposition and injuries that he usually powers through. Believe us, the hockey mask is doing us a favor.
  • Sloth from The Goonies is deformed, dimwitted, very strong, and kept as a Madman in the Attic by his family. Once he makes friends with Chunk, however, it's clear that he's a good guy.
  • Patrick in the aptly-named Linda Blair film Grotesque is a hideous monstrosity of a man, but despite developmental disabilities, he can still tell right from wrong. When a pack of bikers lay waste to his foster family, we're treated to a Mook Horror Show of epic proportions.
  • Jaws from the James Bond movies becomes this after his Heel–Face Turn in Moonraker. The actor who played him, Richard Kiel, had acromegaly. In a twist, not only does redemption not equal death, but he manages to get himself a girlfriend out of the deal (and a Bespectacled Cutie who's almost as strong as he is, to boot) after said girl saves Jaws while he's pinned by debris after chasing Bond in a car that went over a cliff!
  • Rocky Dennis from Mask (1985), whose entire life is a "Shaggy Dog" Story (with a few good yanks for good measure).
  • Queen of Outer Space: The eponymous queen keeps her face hidden behind a White Mask of Doom despite her form-fitting dress that reveals a rather attractive body. When The Captain of the Earthmen tries to seduce her into a more friendly frame of mind, he gets a nasty shock when he removes the mask to find her face hideously scarred by radiation poisoning. She does not take his rejection well.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The sole survivor of Dr. Totenkopf's uranium mining and experiments, presumably because of radiation poisoning and Totenkopf's genetics experiments.
  • Frankenstein's Monster in Van Helsing may look horrific and monstrous, and may have been created to effectively be The Antichrist by Dracula manipulating the good doctor, but the worst thing he ever does is violently lash out in self-defense against those who would harm him for being a monster. However, Van Helsing can sense that he is not evil and adamantly refuses to harm him, even to prevent him from being used by Dracula to bring about the end of the world.
    Van Helsing: My life, my job is to vanquish evil. I can sense evil. This thing, man, whatever it is, evil may have created it, may have left its mark on it, but evil does not rule it, so I cannot kill it.
    Anna: I can.
    Van Helsing: Not while I'm here.

  • 1Q84: Ushikawa's ugliness garners disgust and/or pity, and it's heavily impacted his quality of life.
  • The genetically engineered Super Soldiers in Alien in a Small Town are called "Tesks," short for "Grotesque". They defied the government that created them, ending the war they'd been made for, but they and their descendants have had a very hard time being accepted by normal humanity in the years since.
  • Beldin from The Belgariad is a self-aware form of this. He's a hideously ugly hunchback, but he's also one of the most powerful sorcerers in the world. Nobody outside of his allies and enemies knows what he's capable of, though, because as he puts it, "They can't see past the hump on my back." He isn't nice by any means, being a horrifically crude and tactless jerk, but a certain percentage of that is a front, as he's firmly on the side of the heroes. In the Malloreon, he breaks out of this trope by getting a happy ending. Vella falls in love with him because of the whole "turns into a hawk" thing, and they are last seen, as hawks, disappearing into the sky.
  • Deptford Mice: Giraldus from The Oaken Throne is a blind, leprous mole who is a kindhearted pilgrim. His disfigured features cause others to feel revulsion and/or pity at the sight of him.
  • Discworld's version of the Phantom of the Opera, namely Walter Plinge, is deformed mentally, but he ends happily.
  • In Frankenstein, rejection by his Mad Scientist creator and the rest of society truly turns the creature into the monster he outwardly resembles, as sorrow turns to hatred and lust for vengeance.
  • The title character in Edgar Allan Poe's "Hop-Frog" is a long-suffering court jester with deformed legs (hence his nickname) and dwarfism. He gets his revenge on the king and his courtiers in a chilling but satisfying manner.
  • Quasimodo, the title character of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is an archetypal example, suffering from severe kyphosis and being mostly deaf due to the clanging of the cathedral bells. In the original book, he's actually a grouchy, resentful character who nonetheless retains the reader's sympathy through his basic humanity and essential nobility, deeply buried though it is. Most adaptations soften him up, making him more of a naive, sweet-natured kinda guy.
  • Grim's Grotesques from Keys to the Kingdom ultimately end up being this, although they play villain for most of Grim Tuesday.
  • Gwynplaine of The Man Who Laughs, due to a bizarre torture inflicted upon him, has his face permanently stretched into a hideous Slasher Smile, but is basically a decent guy.
  • In Masques, Wolf is, well, a wolf, most of the time, and as such feared by most. Aralorn is unimpressed and still saves him from a pit trap. When he is later seen in human form, his face is disfigured, and he wears a mask over it. When Aralorn finds him, he is rather morally neutral, having fled from his evil father who made him torture people, he doesn't hurt anyone, but doesn't help, either. Over the course of the book, with Aralorn to steer him in the right direction, he becomes more and more heroic, and integrated into normal society.
  • Played with in The Once and Future King with Lancelot. Unlike his traditional depiction as a Hunk, he is ugly to the point of disfigurement, explicitly compared to the modern-day Trope Maker Quasimodo and implied to have limited facial expressions from the extent of his deformity. However, he’s liked and admired by nearly everyone he meets for his prowess as a knight, which ends up giving him Blessed with Suck that emulates So Beautiful, It's a Curse anyway, including being raped by a young woman he rescues (twice!) and being handed quests left and right, meaning he has to live completely indoors for a few years to stay incognito because his ugliness makes him instantly recognizable). Being liked in general — and loved by the beautiful Guenever — doesn't assuage his fear that his ugly exterior reflects an equally corrupt interior, either, and the fact that Arthur cares for him so badly contributes directly to the fall of Camelot anyway.
  • While he's supposed to be the villain, The Phantom of the Opera humanizes Erik (the titular Phantom) after his act of mercy; the increasingly sympathetic view of the motives behind his actions in later film adaptations and the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage version has largely overridden his villainous role. It doesn't help that the transfer from book to play and movie has the level of his deformity lowered from "Skeletor" to "Gerard Butler fell asleep while sunbathing, so his face is a little red". In the original book, Erik subverts this trope in two ways: First: He is not a Gentle Giant, but a Psychopathic Manchild. Second: Ironically, his Nietzsche Wannabe attitude lets him fit into society very well, as a Torture Technician, Professional Killer and successful Blackmailer, because Humans Are Bastards. The Narrator lampshades in the Epilogue that Erik, with an ordinary face, would have been one of the most distinguished of mankind. However, even after his act of mercy he doesn't value human life, and talks casually about Count Phillipe's murder.
  • The Pilo Family Circus has its own freakshow, led by the human-shark hybrid Fishboy, a textbook example of The Grotesque. Being the only performer who is consistently polite and welcoming, he is probably the only member of the Circus that doesn't have any rivalries with his fellow performers, and Gonko, head of the Clown Division, refers to Fishboy as "the nicest bastard in this place". However, like all the Freaks, Fishboy wasn't born deformed: he was mutated by the Matter Manipulator (a flesh-sculpting sorcerer who lives in the Circus Funhouse) and forced to live out his life with the others as an object of disgust and mockery. In fact, this is why he starts an underground resistance movement against the Circus and its managers, and why he and the other Freaks are the first to die when Kurt Pilo starts hunting for traitors.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Tyrion "The Imp" Lannister definitely fits the bill, due to his dwarfism and other deformities. You can't help but feel sorry for him in one scene where he tells his henchman Bronn to find him a prostitute but to make sure to tell her beforehand what he is and how he looks, so she isn't repulsed by his appearance. Then it gets even worse: he takes a sword slash across his face in the battle of King's Landing, losing a large chunk of his nose, twisting his lips, and very nearly costing him an eye.
    • The Hound suffers a milder version of this trope due to his horribly scarred face; he's certainly not gentle, but he's increasingly been shown to be a better person than most suppose, and he's certainly pitiable. It's implied, however, that one of the reasons he's grown up so hard (his brother's horrible presence aside) is that people would immediately be repulsed due to his burns, assuming that such a frightening appearance must be indicative of a bad person. He once remarks, "Why believe them and not me? Couldn't be my face, could it?"
    • Brienne of Tarth is a female example. You won't read a chapter she's featured in without someone mentioning what an ugly freak she is. They mockingly call her Brienne the Beauty.
  • Ellie May in Tobacco Road, who would be easily marriageable if not for her cleft lip.
  • Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, a classic Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold, is an albino take on this trope, feared and hated by most of the community. When we finally meet him at the end, he's definitely a little odd but he's unambiguously a good guy.
  • Venus Prime:
    • The Commander's hands and face are unnaturally dark, the result of years of traveling in space and getting soaked in ultraviolet radiation.
    • After altering herself so that she can thrive on Amalthea, Sparta looks and acts increasingly less human.
  • The Book of the Grotesque was the original title of, and the title of the preface to, Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Everyone in the town takes ownership of a truth, turning them grotesque and the truths themselves into falsehoods.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • Sharaz Jek from "The Caves of Androzani" turns out to be horribly deformed by the mud bursts that nearly killed him but covers it for almost the entirety of the serial by wearing a black mask (and kinky leather) and living amongst androids "because androids do not see as we see!". Evidently, the mud didn't manage to destroy his vanity.
    • In "Silence in the Library", Miss Evangelista fills this role... eventually.
  • Game of Thrones: As explained by Oberyn Martell, when Tyrion was first born all anyone in Casterly Rock, particularly Cersei, could talk about was the monstrous appearance of the youngest Lannister. It was claimed that he is a hermaphrodite with a claw, a red eye, and a tail. While he is not this in actuality, his dwarfism alone is certainly enough for him to be tragically mistreated in the archaic society in which he lives.
  • The intern Ryan from Grimm is a wannabe Grimm who believes that all Wesen must be killed. It's eventually revealed that he's in fact a Wesen himself, and a very hideous one.
  • The Outer Limits (1963) has several examples, such as the scientist changed into a fake alien in "The Architects of Fear", Andro the mutant in "The Man Who Was Never Born", and the Chromoite alien (a blob on legs) from "The Mice".
  • The shapeshifters from Supernatural. Three episodes have focused on them as the Monster of the Week ("Skin", "Nightshifter", and "Monster Movie") and in two of them, each shapeshifter gets a speech about why he is what he is. Most of what we know about them are implied and hinted at in these two speeches: they are born to human parents, but they are supernaturally mutated and very hideous in appearance; they face physical abuse and then run away, but no one will take them in, and they're driven out of every community they go to; they then learn to harness their power of shapeshifting and take revenge upon the world, usually embodying some extreme form of a human flaw (such as aggression or greed). While they are probably the most tragic monsters on the show, the shapeshifters still break the one rule, so the handsome and heroic Winchester brothers must put a Silver Bullet through their hearts every time.
  • In The Witcher (2019), Yennefer starts off as a rather pitiful character whose hunched back and crooked face lead her family to treat her as a slave. After becoming a sorceress, she undergoes a transformation to become outwardly beautiful.
  • The X-Files: The episode "The Post-Modern Prometheus" is about a man with two (more or less fully functional) faces, who gets treated a monster and almost lynched by the local populace. In the culmination of the episode, Mutato suddenly delivers a heartfelt monologue to the angry mob, revealing how he lived, suffered, and longed to be with other people, prompting one of the townspeople to exclaim "He is not a monster, he is alright!"

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The classical god Hephaestus was consistently described as deformed and disabled — either because of injuries sustained after his father Zeus threw him from Olympus as a punishment, or because of birth defects which drove his mother Hera to throw him from Olympus in disgust. In both versions of his Multiple-Choice Past, Hephaestus was hurled to Earth by his parents, and his deformities either caused this or were caused by this, Depending on the Writer.
  • The Squonk, a Pennsylvanian cryptid, is a piglike creature whose baggy skin is covered in warts and moles. It is described as so pitifully ugly that it constantly cries over its hideous, unlovable appearance, maintaining a nocturnal lifestyle purely to reduce the chance of seeing its own visage in the water's reflection.

  • "Killer Wolf", by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, is from the perspective of such a being ("I am the ugly one / A monster that feels no pain"). Despite the title of the song, a line about being "put together from stolen bones and electricity" suggests the narrator might actually be Frankenstein's Monster.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The original Mankind character in the WWF was a villainous version of The Grotesque, being what happens when the disfigured, tragic soul decides to take out his anguish and pain on his "normal" tormentors.
  • Various "missing link" characters have fit this trope through the years, most notably George "The Animal" Steele. His grotesque, neanderthal-type appearance led to the "Beauty and the Beast" storyline with the beautiful Miss Elizabeth and his most famous feud against Randy Savage.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Pathfinder adventure Trial of the Beast features a Frankenstein Shout-Out called the Beast of Lepidstadt, a Flesh Golem who has achieved sentience. Although its first act upon awaking was killing its creator, this was an accident caused by the periodic rages flesh golems experience against their will. The Beast has attempted peaceful contact with humanity at multiple points, even teaching itself to speak and recite poetry in an attempt to seem like more of a person, but is always rejected due to its horrific appearance. It isolates itself in a swamp, partly for its own safety, and partly to protect others from the effects of its rages; it has recently acquired a Flesh Golem creation manual, and is studying it in an attempt to control its behavior better.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Unfleshed were a race of giant, skinless humanoids who were the rejected results of the Daemonculaba (an extremely squicky science/magic experiment). They lived in the sewers, hunting for meat wherever it could be found, and instinctively seeing the God-Emperor as their father (despite being created by enemies of the Emperor). In the book The Killing Ground, they are rescued by a group of Ultramarines who hide them from the wider Imperium, but in the end, it doesn't last long for the Unfleshed.

  • The titular protagonist of Rigoletto is a hunchback who works as a jester for the Duke of Mantua. In the scene he shares with his daughter, Gilda, in the first act ("Figlia!... Mio Padre!"), we are shown his gentler side when he declares his devotion to his daughter, saying "Culto, famiglia, la patria, il mio universo è in te!" (translation: "My faith, my family, my homeland, my universe is in you!"). Throughout the opera, he is portrayed in a sympathetic light and also meets a tragic end, as is typical of The Grotesque.

    Video Games 
  • Klungo, Gruntilda's Igor-esque henchman in Banjo-Kazooie, is initially presented as more of a Minion with an F in Evil, but in the sequel, Banjo-Tooie, he finally gets enough of Grunty's abuse and does a Heel–Face Turn, becoming a more clear-cut instance of this trope.
  • Dr. Jaming from Dark Chronicle is described as a "Tragic Figure". He starts out as a bad guy, but is later said to have a change of heart shortly after you beat him. His grandson, who is just as ugly as he was, develops Ixion at his request to do something good and just.
  • The titular Dropsy is a fat and hideous clown with dull yellow eyes, rotten teeth, and a gaping smile, but is also an innocent Non-Ironic Clown who only wishes to hug and befriend all those around him.
  • Fallout has the Ghouls, who are essentially an entire race of The Grotesque. Victims of a mutation that can happen to survivors of extreme radiation poisoning, Ghouls face severe prejudice due to resembling undead, made even worse due to ordinary people's paranoia that they could turn into mindlessly aggressive feral ghouls without warning.
  • Gonzales from Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade is a recruitable axe fighter who is very ugly and has a twisted, childlike mind even by bandit standards. Like a classic Grotesque character, Gonzales is a Gentle Giant who is bullied by people who judge him for his looks and is sent into battle even though he doesn't want to hurt a fly. His traits are acknowledged by Lilina as she befriends him.
  • Implied in the backstory of Layers of Fear. You play as a Mad Artist fallen hard from grace, following his wife's severe disfigurement in a fire that crippled her hands. The majority of the game then follows the artist's own descent into madness within his house, while pursued by his wife as a mangled figure with nearly all her skin burnt off. One of the game's endings zigzags this trope, when the artist finishes a portrait of his wife of how she looked before the fire, which then changes on its own to look like her burnt self. After it ends up discarded with dozens of other attempted portraits, the player can see that the artist actually did paint his wife as a normal person, at worst with a small scar, but the artist's own insanity made her look like this trope.
  • Resident Evil (Remake) has Lisa Trevor. Lisa was a fourteen-year-old girl who was subjected to torturous experiments for decades by the Umbrella Corporation. The experiments have twisted her body into a nightmarish and nearly invulnerable form. Worse still, she retains a shred of consciousness and still searches for her long dead mother.
  • Street Fighter III's Necro is a young Russian man turned into a freakish mutant by unethical experiments out for revenge against those who did it... but he is mostly an easygoing, un-angsty fellow who kinda likes the powers that came with the looks, and he even has a loving girlfriend.
  • Undertale: The tragic Amalgamates are hideous, invincible Eldritch Abominations generated from multiple monster corpses fused together with Determination that pursue you through the True Lab on your way to the true ending of the game. Most of them, however, retain some of their former intelligence, and none really want you dead: they just smelled the popato chisps on you and hadn't been fed in a while. (It's actually impossible to solve an altercation with them with violence: As stated above, they're all invincible, except one that has incredibly high health and regeneration, and in Undertale you can solve monster fights peacefully. This is the intended solution, as you're working toward an ending you can only achieve without killing any monsters.)

    Visual Novels 
  • Katawa Shoujo has Hanako, a girl with severe burn scars who has suffered greatly because of them.

  • In Oglaf, there is a man whose head is shaped like a penis. When he is told that, despite his flawless personality, he can't join a noble order of knights because of his looks, he drops his trousers, and shows a penis that is shaped much like the knights' leader's head. "I thought the classy thing was not to mention it". The leader, shamed by this display of superior manners, decides that he may join.
  • Unsounded: There's a very good reason why Duane keeps his glamour up every waking moment.


    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • The Penguin is almost this trope played straight. He's nowhere near as evil as, say, the Joker, but then again, he's not even all that ugly (he's certainly less freaky-looking than the Batman Returns version, though he also has deformed hands). Deep down, he really wants to go straight, but he just enjoys stealing priceless artifacts too much, just can't keep from lashing out at people who make fun of him when he does try to reform, and is just terrible at being good.
      • In "Birds of a Feather", he goes straight and actually means it, even when this leaves him alone on the outside (a real-life phenomenon for those trying to change their lives upon leaving prison). Then he meets a beautiful woman who, unbeknownst to him, is only dating him for the thrill and attention she'll get from dating a former super-criminal (She secretly finds him repulsive). He is head-over-heels for her, buys expensive gifts for her, and even saves her life from muggers, all the while so happy to be an accepted member of society that crime is the last thing on his mind. Like this he is surprisingly good-natured, brave, and kind. Too bad the truth comes out and he is so hurt and shocked by it that he dives headfirst back into supervillainy.
      • He eventually finds a good proper balance when he opens the Iceberg Lounge, a Bad Guy Bar of sorts which is, on the surface, a legitimate nightclub that serves Gotham's elite, but beneath it all secretly deals in fencing and trafficking stolen goods and contraband. On the surface he gets to be the suave, straight, law-abiding member of high society he's always wanted to be, complete with (presumably) getting some work done to appear less grotesque, while beneath it all he gets to engage in the subterfuge and sleaze of the criminal underworld that he just loves to be a part of.
    • Zigzagged with one-shot character "Calendar Girl" in "Mean Seasons" — she was a former supermodel who underwent plastic surgery when her popularity waned, but the results horrified her to the point of seeking revenge on those that drove her to it to begin with. At the climax, though, her mask shatters, revealing that she's drop-dead gorgeous — but she could only see the flaws due to what those in her career put her through.
  • Used a few times in Cybersix with a few of Von Richter's creations.
    • Terra, a massive Blob Monster made of mud, essentially has the mind of a child thanks to Jose messing up its creation. Even after being hit with a dose of Psycho Serum it ultimately saves Cybersix's life with a heartbreaking Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Grizelda from "Daylight Devil", a lizard-fish woman who can turn invisible, is seemingly just following orders until she ultimately decides not to kill Cybersix after the latter tries to save her life.
    • Von Richter's monsters, the ones from the intro, are unleashed on Cybersix in the finale. They all immediately attack Von Richter while one smiles at Cybersix and points to the exit.

    Real Life 
  • Joseph Carey Merrick fit this trope to a tee, especially in David Lynch's film adaptation of his life, The Elephant Man (see above under Film). The exact cause of his deformity is uncertain, although Proteus Syndrome is a strong suspect, but he suffered from a badly misshapen skeleton, chronic bronchitis (which ultimately killed him), and numerous skin growths. Many records from his life (mostly those coming from his friend and physician, Dr. Frederick Treves) seem to erroneously give his first name as John, a mistake that is perpetuated in most pop cultural references to Mr. Merrick, including the David Lynch movie, and the song "If I Had A Million Dollars" by the Barenaked Ladies.
  • One of the better examples of the "Horrid outside, beautiful inside" would be Grace McDaniels, the "Mule Woman", so-called due to facial tumors distorting the lower half of her face into a long "muzzle". She is remembered as being one of the kindest people to ever work the carnival circuit.
  • Raymond "Ray" Robinson a.k.a "The Green Man" or "Charlie No-Face" . A man from Pennsylvania who was deformed as the result of a childhood electrical accident, he became the subject of an urban myth regarding a "monstrous-looking man" who would venture out into the night and had "glowing green skin". In reality, he was a loved, respected man amongst locals who would take walks at night since he couldn't bear to show himself to the public in broad daylight.
  • The late James Vance (cruelly nicknamed "Blastaface" by some on the internet), the named plaintiff in James Vance et. al. v. Judas Priest and the subject of the documentary film Dream Deceivers. Whatever you may think of the merits of that lawsuit, or the claim that heavy metal music contains subliminal messages and causes real-life violence, James definitely fits this trope.
  • An uplifting example is Lizzie Velásquez, born with an unknown disfiguring condition. After being harassed online as the "world's ugliest woman," Velásquez began speaking out against bullying and earned a reputation for her positivity.
  • Another inspiring example is Zaid Garcia, who due to an accident when he was a toddler was left with horrific burns over 80 percent of his body, leaving him blind, missing both his hands, and horribly deformed. He didn't let that stop him, however, and he was made an honorary police officer (his dream). He also intends to become a motivational speaker.
  • Another person who managed to work it well was Rondo Hatton, who became disfigured from acromegaly and put his twisted, brutish face to good use in a number of creepy B-Movie roles.
  • The real Rocky Dennis whom the film Mask was based on. Only lived to be 16 due to this condition.
  • It's probably worth nothing that most ugly and deformed people in real life, despite any mockery and discrimination, are in fact perfectly decent people.


Video Example(s):


Mankind's debut vignette

In his debut vignette, Mankind talks about God, his deformities and how he is a reflection of humanity's cruelty.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheGrotesque

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