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True Beauty Is on the Inside

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Apparently, she could learn to love a Beast.

"Don't turn your back on what's shabby. And don't embrace a thing because it's clean. When you see a beauty in what's broken or run-down, then the whole world will be art."
Iso Padre, Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion

One of the most common Stock Aesops out there: We shouldn't judge people based on how they look on the outside but rather how they look on the inside. It is usually accompanied by the message that looks are a shallow motivator for wanting to be with someone, but often ends up implying that you're obligated to be with someone you normally wouldn't be attracted to because they're unattractive, and that having a type is inherently wrong unless it is considered unconventional by societal standards.

Many a Betty wins in a Betty and Veronica Love Triangle once the guy realizes this Aesop.

Compare Beauty Equals Goodness and Beauty Is Bad. Related to Evil Is Sexy. Often paired with Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain and Beast and Beauty. In settings with Interspecies Romance, this can override the belief of the non-human party that Humans Are Ugly, and can even explain why characters from different species with vastly different standards of beauty would still be attracted to each other.

Contrast with I Just Want to Be Beautiful.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: Spoofed/Played With by the flamboyant fraccion Charlotte Cuuhlhourne. He's a Large Ham who accuses his opponent Yumichika (a more reserved Narcissist) of being mean and lacking "inner beauty" when he refuses to look at him for thinking he's ugly. Despite that, Charlotte's obsession actually lies with external beauty and at the end of the fight gracefully acknowledges the beauty his opponent had been hiding.
  • Pokémon:
    • Done in the Pokémon: The Original Series episode "Pokémon Fashion Flash", though somewhat poorly — Vulpix is not a particularly unattractive Pokémon (its personality is more of a Defrosting Ice Queen, ironically), and yet it's used to prove this point. (Specifically, her trainer cultivating its natural beauty is contrasted with the tacky makeovers Jesse, James, and Meowth are giving other Pokémon.)
    • Played completely straight in Pokémon Adventures — it takes Ruby a while to realize this in regards to his Feebas (to the point that he accidentally bullies it off the team for a while), but when he does Mimi immediately evolves into Milotic.
  • In Smile Pretty Cure!, this is the Meaningful Name of Cure Beauty. When confronted with her Bad End form, who boasts that the world is only for the beautiful, she gets back up and retort that this trope is what matters, and true to her name, she will be protecting the beautiful hearts which is inside. Cue ass kicking.
  • A mutual version shows up in the backstory of Space Pirate Mito: Fierce space pirate Mito initially dismissed gentle human gardener Kagero as a wussy doormat but came to love him for his caring decency. Kagero continued to love Mito even after she revealed her true alien form. Protagonist Aoi is the Half-Human Hybrid result of their Interspecies Romance.
  • A variant in Red River (1995), where Japanese teen Yuri is transported to the late Hittite Empire and becomes Prince Kail's concubine. While Yuri is fairly attractive by modern standards, by ancient Hittite standards she is very scrawny and plain; indeed she is often mistaken for a young boy at first, leading many characters to wonder what is wrong with Prince Kail that he has fallen in love with someone like her. Invariably, they find themselves smitten with her as well, not because of her looks, but because of her spirit, intelligence, and personality.

    Comic Books 
  • Played with in Top 10: Irma (a plump, middle-aged Powered Armor-wearing mother of two) and Joe Pi (a robot) discuss human appearance. Joe comments after meeting Irma's family, that he believes that Irma has an inner beauty. She replies "Yeah, I've got kidneys to die for".
  • Played with when Deadpool met the Great Lakes Avengers: Deadpool goes on a date with Big Bertha, and is obviously disappointed when she shows up in her slender form rather than her Big Bertha form. Big Bertha lectures him about how it isn't any better than people who pursue her just because of her slender form's beauty, to which Deadpool replies he's been waiting for someone to say that for a long time - at which point he unmasks. Cue Big Bertha vomiting from the mere sight of Deadpool's face.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm plays with this a little, noting that while Harry and Carol are deeply attracted to each other in large part because of the fact that they look past superficial appearances (in Harry's case, his reputation, in Carol's, her looks) and to the person inside - notably, their main connection is mental. However, it is also noted that a good chunk of the rest is down to looks, because both are a) straight, b) teenagers, c) not blind.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Although Italy is definitely attractive on the outside as well, what really attracted Germany and Japan to him was his inner beauty and kindness.
    Germany: "You don't know how hard that actually is." He sighed. "In the past, I always held a distrust of other countries; all I saw was countries taking advantage of other countries for their own gain, yet would go to war without a second thought." Fondness graced his features. "And then I met you; no matter how badly I treated you after we first met, you always came back to me with that beautiful smile on your face." He shook his head. "And even as you caused me trouble from time to time...I actually enjoyed rescuing you, bailing you out despite how angry and annoyed I seemed every time." He chuckled. "You were always by my side, no matter what. Even when I screamed at you, you stayed. Even when I punched you, you stayed. Even when I choked you, you stayed. That earns a lot of respect from me." He lowered his head. "...I'm sorry for hurting you all those times."
    Japan: "Your bright smile, your limpid eyes, your breathtaking beauty, your kind heart, your endless capacity to forgive, your welcoming hugs, everything about you..." Murky ebon depths stared into caramel. "How could I not fall for you? Fall madly and absolutely in love with you?"

    Film — Animated 
  • This appears as An Aesop at the beginning of the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. A beautiful enchantress changes her form to look like an old woman and is not allowed to stay the night at the castle by the prince. She punishes him for judging her by her appearance (and not providing hospitality) by turning him into the Beast. This trope is supposed to be the overall message of the film, as Belle falls in love with him despite his monstrous appearance — once he cuts out the actual monstrous behavior. As well, the Beast becoming a good person is contrasted with Gaston, the handsome hero of the village, becoming more and more repulsive and ruthless as the story progresses simply because Belle rejects his advances.
  • Shrek:
    • The first film did slightly better in that Fiona decided to become an ogre at the end, keeping the trope intact. Of course, she was a rather cute ogre, and was voiced by the even cuter (at the time) Cameron Diaz, which tended to deflate that, especially since Shrek was an ogre and one assumes he finds ogres attractive. Not that it's particularly easy to tell. Taking both to their logical conclusion makes this a sort of a reverse "Beauty and the Beast" as it would mean that Shrek first fell in love with Fiona despite her human appearance once he discovered he and she actually shared a lot of things in common. It just so happens that her human form was one most audiences would consider beautiful.
    • The sequel is more of a straight example of this since Fiona chooses Shrek as an ogre despite how handsome he was as a human and that she herself would live as an ogre instead of a human. And she even chose him over Prince Charming.
  • Quasimodo of The Hunchback of Notre Dame fits this trope as well. It probably helps that it's from the same directors of Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise).
  • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Burbank Animation), Esmeralda tells Quasimodo this.
  • Ludmilla, the Big Bad of Bartok the Magnificent, thinks this is true about herself. Then she takes a potion designed to make its user "10 times what they are inside", expecting to be extremely beautiful as a result. She was WAY off!
  • Strange Magic: Both Marianne and the Bog King are burned by past relationships where they fell in love with somebody because they were good looking. The two fall in love with each other even though the two are nothing like what they each consider attractive note  because they are able to look past their different appearances and see similar personalities.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Shallow Hal has a character cursed with a very literal example of this trope: He is only capable of seeing a person's "true beauty" which, for most of the movie, seems to be personified by Gwyneth Paltrow.
  • Oddly not mentioned in The Graduate, although the beautiful Mrs. Robinson is a depressed alcoholic who cheats on her husband and tries to force her daughter into an unhappy marriage, and Ben (who rescues the daughter) is played by Dustin Hoffman. Then again, Dustin Hoffman was cast at the last minute.
  • In Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter, we find out that Peggy Carter has a photo of Steve in her desk drawer. Not post-serum Captain America, but pre-serum, skinny runt from Brooklyn Steve Rogers. Just goes to show that she fell in love with him long before he became a Super Soldier, unlike the secretary who kisses Captain America just because he's just that - a Super Soldier - in Captain America: The First Avenger.
  • Used in Snow White & the Huntsman if not addressed directly. The "fairest of them all" in this case refers to Snow White because of her inner beauty. After years of being locked in a tower by her Wicked Stepmother, she remains good and kind at heart - her Establishing Character Moment is to comfort another prisoner who's just brought into the tower. This puts her in direct contrast to Ravenna, who drains the youth from innocent women to maintain her great beauty.
  • The Ten Commandments (1956): During Nefertiti's attempt to win back Moses's love, she argues that Sephora is not as attractive as her, but Moses tells her that she fails to understand that there is a beauty of spirit.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Variant. Drax spends the entire film telling Mantis that she is ugly as sin, despite the fact that everyone else considers her a Cute Monster Girl at absolute worst. Drax assures Mantis that it's better to be ugly; that way if someone loves you, you know it's real, while beautiful people can never be sure.
  • Discussed in Liar Liar (Keep in mind that Fletcher Reede is magically compelled to tell the truth):
    Fletcher: You see, Max, sometimes grownups need to lie. It's hard to explain, but if—Look, here's a good example. When your mommy was pregnant with you, she gained 40 pounds; there was nothing she wouldn't eat. And Daddy was scared. But when she'd ask me, "How do I look ?" I'd say, "Honey, you look great. You're glowing." If I had told Mommy she looked like a cow, it would have hurt her feelings. Understand ?
    Max: My teacher tells me beauty is on the inside.
    Fletcher: That's just something ugly people say.

  • Appears in all the "Beauty and the Beast" adaptations as it is the crucial linchpin of the story: Beauty must come to understand that just because beast is a hideous monster doesn't mean he's a bad person. Which is weird considering the fact that in many cases he's been made into a hideous monster specifically because he's a bad person. (But he's gotten better.)
  • Folklorists identify the Loathly Lady motif; a hideous old crone or full-scale monster who is actually a beautiful woman, magically transformed. Many loathly ladies are the innocent victims of curses, and can be restored to their true, externally beautiful forms by an act of True Love; some might be enchantresses teaching the hero An Aesop. The Child Ballads include some examples.

  • Jennifer Murdley's Toad by Bruce Coville is about an ugly girl with a nice personality. At the climax of the story she encounters a witch who offers to turn her "inside out," metaphorically speaking, so that her inner beauty will be on the outside, but upon thinking about this, Jennifer realizes that this would make her ugly on the inside, which she realizes would be worse. So she stays outwardly ugly (but a good person).
  • Dragon Queen: Trava's father believes this. Then again, he's blind.
  • This trope was deconstructed in one of the Spellsinger books. One of the characters is despondent that a beautiful woman he loves won't even give him the time of day. When the protagonist gives the, "She should see you for what you are on the inside", the despondent character points out that in Real Life, looks do count. They are part of who you are. It might not be the most important, but they still are something. Not to mention that one of the reasons he wants her in the first place is for her looks, so it would be a Double Standard if he wanted her to ignore his ugliness.
  • Horrifically subverted in a children's book, in which a young monster who accidentally made a "pretty face" (which was considered horrifyingly ugly by the family) and got stuck with it took her mother's advice "true beauty is on the inside" to the literal extreme and flipped her face inside out.
  • The Discworld stories:
    • Parodied in Jingo — Nobby Nobbs, who is so ugly that he has to carry around a paper from the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork stating he is human, complains that women won't date him. Angua points out to him that maybe he should lower his standards, as he shouldn't expect to be able to date the more sought-after women, suggesting Verity "Hammerhead" Pushpram, an ill-tempered fish seller whose eyes don't face the same direction and who usually reacts to seeing Nobby by telling him to bugger off and throwing fish at him (because hey, free seafood). Nobby shoots down that option by pointing out her eyes, and Angua inwardly observes that while "they say they want a soulmate, but the description usually includes hair like silk and a chest fit for a herd of cows." However, Nobby does sort of end up with Verity, after the events of the book give him a little perspective, and when he does land himself a gorgeous girlfriend, Tawnee, in a later book, Angua is horrified for her - not because Nobby is a bad person (as Vimes observes, he has "a criminal mind, but not a criminal soul"), but because she can do way better. Fortunately by the end of the book Nobby is back with Verity (largely because she's a better cook), while Tawneee is cured of "jerk syndrome", the cause of the situation.
    • Also parodied in Maskerade, where the plump and plain Agnes Nitt is sick of condescending comments like this, and thinks to herself that boys don't normally fall for an attractive pair of kidneys. It's also played with in that the local standards of attractiveness in her native Lancre (but not in the city the story takes place in) actually favor large women on the grounds that a) they can do the heavy physical work of mountain living, b) they tend to be good cooks. Her main problem is her extreme emotional isolation. The end of the book actually subverts the trope; Agnes is still looked over for the much more outwardly appealing Christine, despite the fact that Agnes is clearly the better singer and Christine has a voice like a violin if they'd just tied a cat to it instead of strings.
    • For the most part, though, this is played straight, albeit silently. Most of the people who can be termed "heroes" in this world tend not to be the best lookers. However, Granny Weatherwax is repeatedly implied to have aged much more gracefully than she's willing to admit ("handsome, considering" is her grudging description), and Susan is implied to be very attractive in a gamine, gothic sort of way - it's implied that she has no trouble getting boyfriends, just, like Angua, trouble keeping them (in her case, her hair's disconcerting tendency to rearrange itself on a whim).
    • Supporting protagonists and One-Book-Wonders include a more conventional good-lookers, however. Carrot and Angua are both very conventionally attractive - Carrot's an Ideal Hero, while Angua's self-esteem issues (when vampires aren't involved) relate to her nature as a werewolf and its occasional dog-like results; Conina basically inherited her looks from her mother (temple dancer for a mad god) and her reflexes/urge to steal everything from her father (Cohen the Barbarian); Victor and Ginger are both good looking and in good shape - though it's implied that their charm is more 'screen presence' than outstanding looks; Pretty Butterfly and Lotus Blossom are implied to be very pretty (though Rincewind, thanks to a long stay on a deserted island, is fixated on potatoes, and is sensibly terrified of Butterfly/annoyed at Blossom's Wide-Eyed Idealist view of him as 'the Great Wizard'); and Adora Belle Dearheart is noted to be a) gorgeous, b) move in tight pencil dresses like a snake trying to sashay, c) provide Moist with the thrill that he usually gets by consciously risking his life.
  • Older Than Print with The Canterbury Tales: in the Wife of Bath's tale, the Designated Hero knight of the story finds himself wedded to a smart woman with a great personality — who's also a terribly ugly crone. She catches on to his distress and delivers this Aesop to him (along with a few others regarding wealth and noble birth), and then offers him a choice: as an enchantress, she could make herself young and beautiful, but then he'd always have to risk her sleeping around with his friends — or she could remain old and ugly, but be the best wife he could possibly ask for. His choice. He humbly says that the choice is up to her, and she, delighted that he's learned how to respect her, announces that she will be both beautiful and faithful. And they all life Happily Ever After. Chaucer may have borrowed from folktales of the “loathly lady” here — see under “Folklore” above.
  • Discussed in Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey.
  • In Harry Potter, Fleur Delacour is assumed to be a superficial beauty by a good chunk of the cast (though Harry suspects her Hidden Depths). She truly reveals this, though, when she angrily says that Bill's scars just show how heroic he is. She still wants to marry him, no matters how he looks. This is what finally reconciles Mrs Weasley to the marriage and her prospective daughter-in-law.
  • Ruth Mallory of Someone Else's War is very ugly and treated poorly by the army for it. Matteo likes her so much that he literally can't see her ugliness.
  • Played with a horrific twist in Duckling Ugly. Cara is a nice enough person on the inside, but she is so ugly that she is tormented by everyone around her, even being nicknamed "the Flock's Rest Monster". Then she goes to a magical place called De Leon and while there, becomes beautiful via the Fountain of Youth. It would have ended right there with her happily ever after if she hadn't decided to go back to Flock's Rest and take sadistic delight in punishing the Alpha Bitch by stealing her boyfriend and then using magic to make her ugly. This activated a curse on Cara that made everyone and everything around her ugly while she remained beautiful.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Master Mind of Mars, Valla Dia reconciles herself with her ugly new form with this thought; she was beautiful before only if she had a beautiful soul, and if so, she can go on.
  • Occurs in the Dick King Smith short story Baldilocks & the Six Bears. A bald fairy goes on a quest to gain hair and when he finds out the only way to do that is to kill a bear, melt it down and rub the grease on his head - he can't bring himself to do it. Beforehand he'd kept bumping into a red haired fairy who he describes as having a kind face but not being particularly beautiful. At the end when he admits that he refused to go through with killing the bear, the other fairies mock him. The redhead fairy on the other hand says she's proud of him and likes his bald head. The narration then says that Baldilocks sees that she doesn't just have a kind face; she is beautiful.
  • Discussed in The Twits. According to the narrator, as long as one remains good and has good thoughts, then it won't matter what they look like — their inner beauty will shine through and they'll always look lovely. On the other hand, if you're an awful person and constantly have foul thoughts, you'll turn ugly.
    "You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • King Renly Baratheon, Lady Catelyn Stark and Lady Olenna Tyrell are among the very few individuals in this Crapsack World who can look past Brienne of Tarth's unappealing physique and see her inner beauty. Ironically, the person who probably knows this best is a man who should be her enemy, Jaime Lannister.
    • Sam Tarly is definitely more overweight than the rest of the main cast, and yet he is one of the nicest, most loyal, and trusted people in the series.
    • Played with in Tyrion's case. While he's far from the paragon of virtue (nor the paragon of beauty), he's undoubtedly more virtuous than the rest of his physically attractive family.
  • Ugly Betty is about this trope. At least, that's what the critics said when it debuted, as well as what America Ferrera said at an awards ceremony not long after the show debuted. But not very many actual episodes of the show mention this trope, and the eponymous character (Betty Suarez, played by America Ferrera) is usually treated as if nothing is wrong with her. Hooray for Character Development!
    • Amanda and Mark continue to throw in snide comments about Betty's weight/glasses/braces/clothes throughout the series, even after she bonds with them as they have to maintain their mean and beautiful status. What really undermines the trope is America Ferrara's Hollywood Homely-ness. She was never obese in the first place (despite all the "plus-sized girl" comments Amanda & Co like to make) and lost weight over the course of the show, finally getting to the point where Betty's "ugliness" really is an Informed Flaw.
      • To be fair, the show takes place in the high fashion industry. Compared to them, she would be considered pudgy.
  • This is the premise behind the Reality Show True Beauty. Specifically, contestants believe they are competing in a show where they are being judged on their "outer" beauty, but are in fact being evaluated on their "inner" beauty and how they interact with other people.
  • In Doctor Who, during the episode, "The Girl Who Waited", Amy Pond had an absolutely beautiful speech about this regarding her husband Rory, whose nose and general adorable awkwardness made a few people think that Amy might be a step or two out of his league (this was before he took his multiple levels in badass). Then she says this:
    Amy: You know when sometimes you meet someone so beautiful and then you actually talk to them and five minutes later they're as dull as a brick? Then there's other people, when you meet them you think, "Not bad. They're okay." And then you get to know them and... and their face just sort of becomes them. Like their personality's written all over it. And they just turn into something so beautiful. Rory's the most beautiful man I've ever met.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch does a Beauty & the Beast type episode. Cousin Susie visits and turns Harvey into a beast when she realises how much emphasis Sabrina places on looks. After failing to get Susie to reverse the spell, Sabrina eventually opts to just spend time with Harvey. She still has fun anyway and realises that she doesn't care what he looks like; she loves him for who he is. Cue Cousin Susie delivering the trope name and turning Harvey back.
  • The short-lived reality TV dating show Mr. Personality had the premise that a woman would choose a prospective husband from a number of men who would all wear masks around her so that she would judge them based only on their personality instead of their looks. However, all of the men being Hollywood Homely at worst turned this premise into one gigantic Broken Aesop.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? pokes fun at this in a sketch based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Quasimodo (Ryan) tells Esmeralda (Colin) how beautiful (s)he is. When Colin tells him that he is beautiful too, Ryan claims to be hideous, only for Colin to chuckle and come back with, "I didn't mean on the outside!"

  • Michael Jackson's Ghosts short film tried to impart this moral as well as disprove Loners Are Freaks. Jackson played two characters at odds with each other — a Mayor and the mysterious Maestro (really, Jackson himself) — and stated in the making-of documentary that the Mayor's problem was his inability to see a person's inner beauty; just because a person looks and acts strange doesn't mean they're bad. But it's a Broken Aesop — Maestro is a Jerk Sue and the Mayor himself is a fat, middle-aged white guy whose concern over young boys secretly meeting up with Maestro for ghost stories is seen as merely bigotry against anyone who's different.
  • It's a well-treaded Aesop, but it still bears repeating and "More Beautiful You" by Jonny Diaz does it in a rather heartwarming way from a Christian perspective, telling young women that they were put here for a special purpose, and as such, nothing they change on the outside could make them more beautiful than they already are. And as a bonus, the video even shows the two young ladies' "flaws" being photoshopped away to help make the point that the standard of beauty promoted by popular media doesn't actually exist.
    There could never be a more beautiful you
    Don't buy the lies, disguises, and hoops they make you jump through
    Because you were made to fill a purpose, that only you could do,
    So there could never be a more beautiful you.
  • "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep" by The Temptations.
  • Morgenstern by Rammstein: A guy is begging the morning star to shine upon his ugly girlfriend to make her beautiful. Instead the star shines upon himself and he sees her with his heart and realizes that she really is beautiful.
  • "She's More" by Andy Griggs. He was always attracted to tall, blue-eyed ladies. He married a five-foot-three plain Jane with green eyes, and he couldn't be happier about it. "She's not the woman of my dreams.... she's more."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dilbert satirizes this.
    Dogbert: I realized that what's inside a person doesn't count because no one can see it.

  • From The Bible: a message to wives and women in 1st Peter 3:3-4:
    Do not let your adorning be the outward adorning of braiding the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine clothing. But let it be the hidden nature of the heart, that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

  • The Phantom of the Opera inverts this. The Phantom believes that it's his deformity that prevents Christine from loving him and when he abducts her at the end of the play, taunts her about how she's doomed to spend an eternity with a deformed freak like him. She coolly and calmly tells him that she's not longer repulsed by his mangled face, for, "it's in your soul that the true distortion lies". As in, she could have loved him, malformation and all, had he not been such a murderous psychopath. In the sequel Love Never Dies, however, this trope is played straight with songs like "Look With Your Heart" and "The Beauty Underneath" and the revelation that she realized the murderous psychopath was the man she truly loved too late; when offered the chance to choose him again, she does so.
    • Played straight in the 1990 miniseries. Although Christine initially faints at the sight of the Phantom's face, she gets over it and by the movie's end, is able to remove his mask and kiss him without flinching, showing that she knows he's a good person deep down. (Even though while he isn't nearly as bad as his theatrical incarnation, he still murders several people who dare to venture into his lair and terrorizes Carlotta much in the same way as he did in the show.)
  • Cyrano de Bergerac, the Warrior Poet with the big nose, is too cynical to believe people actually believe this, despite what everyone else in the play tells him. Nevertheless, he invokes this trope at Act I Scene IV when Viscount De Valvert mocks his poor clothes:
    Cyrano: True; all my elegances are within.

    Video Games 
  • While it's not quite a central theme of Splatoon 2, the game does fit the bill. Not only does it provide the page quote, the game's punk/graffiti look is a little grimy, but represents the fun and rebellious of the good guys like the inklings.
  • In Pokémon, the way the shabby looking Feebas evolves into gorgeous Milotic in the Hoenn games is to raise its Beauty contest stat to pretty much its limit.

  • Cursed Princess Club:
    • This is the basis of the main story arc surrounding main character Gwendolyn. The youngest princess of the Pastel Kingdom, she's a kind girl who acts and thinks of herself as a Princess Classic like her two older sisters but has an intimidating appearance more akin to a witch or a goblin. Neither she nor the rest of her family see anything out of the ordinary about her appearance at the beginning of the story, but when Gwen overhears Prince Frederick, her arranged fiancé from the Plaid Kingdom, calling her "really ugly" to his brother, her self-image is severely damaged. It takes running into the eponymous Cursed Princess Club, made of misfit princesses who suffer from various unbreakable Curses that render them "unfit" to represent their kingdoms, for her to try to regain her confidence in her own inner and outer beauty with the help of the girls there. While all that is going on, Frederick gradually realizes that his shallow and selfish first impression of Gwen was wrong as he interacts with her more and comes to know the benevolent girl underneath the freaky face.
    • This is also done in a more humorous manner with a character who is more conventionally attractive. Gwendolyn's twin brother Jamie is a Pretty Boy with a Bishie Sparkle admired for his looks by everyone. The sole exception to this admiration is Lord Leopold of the Argyle Kingdom, a painter who despises the narrow standards of beauty that society holds and is obsessed with convincing people to broaden their perspectives on it. Leopold is notably the first person from outside Gwen's family to find her outwardly beautiful at first sight (in contrast to how Frederick had to correct his first impression of her) — but he finds Jamie's appearance to be Sickeningly Sweet. When Jamie starts wackily sabotaging Leopold's attempts to paint a portrait of Gwen (partly because Leopold insulted his appearance, but also because Jamie doesn't want Leopold to make moves on his already-engaged sister), it just reinforces Leopold's belief that Jamie is a selfish narcissist because of his looks. But when Gwen lets slip her insecurities over her feelings for Frederick and Leopold is visibly and verbally saddened to hear about this, Jamie stops his interference with the painting, apologetically explains that he only did so out of concern for Gwen (while admitting that he now sees Leopold has a similar, genuine concern as well), and gives Gwen a brief pep talk while gently patting her on the shoulders. This convinces Leopold that Jamie has an inner beauty rather than merely a pretty face; the two guys become Vitriolic Best Buds from that point on.
      Leopold: ...[W]hen I saw Jamie actually walk over and speak to you, it was like a light shone down, and I was able to properly see him for the first time as he truly was. I saw someone who wasn't afraid to love and protect his sisters in the most bizarrely fearless way possible. And frankly... that's undeniably beautiful in my book.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: The alien Nemesites believe this. Because their natural lifespan is about two thousand years, their sex drive doesn't amount to much, otherwise "our numbers would flood the sky." But they can still feel loneliness and may fall in love with members of other species, based purely on their personalities.
  • Sequential Art: Art's comment on Hilary and Kat's respective appeals basically boils down to this; Hilary is gorgeous, but she's a petty, vindictive bitch with no redeeming qualities beyond her sex appeal. Kat is just as gorgeous, if less garish about it, but she is a decent person whose bad side only comes out as a defensive reaction to Hilary's abuse. Art implies that Hilary is jealous of Kat for being the better person of the two, and that Kat is ultimately more attractive because of her better personality.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons jokes about this when Bart and Milhouse become Myth Crackers.
    Bart: Legend has it that if you go all the way around the swingset, you turn inside-out.
    Milhouse: Finally, my beauty will be on the outside!
  • Done beautifully in the Johnny Bravo episode "To Helga and Back" where Johnny orders what is essentially a mail-order bride. Of course what he gets is hideous and all he wants is to get rid of her. He drags her to places like the monster truck rally and pro-wrestling trying to drive her away, but it turns out she's into all that stuff as well and falls for him harder. After everything is said and done, he has an epiphany about how "she isn't pretty, and she doesn't smell too good", but comes to the realization that she's the perfect woman for him and decides her looks don't mean anything. Unfortunately this leads to him trying to woo her with his typical Bravo charm, which very promptly disgusts her and makes her dump him. Poor guy.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "It Isn't the Mane Thing About You", Rarity wastes a day angsting over her ruined mane before realizing that, by "shin[ing] from the inside out", she can still come across as beautiful (with a little help from a punk rock vest and mohawk hair weave).
  • This is basically the message behind the South Park episode "The List". The girls make a list that ranks the boys from cutest to ugliest. Kyle is voted the ugliestnote  and spends the episode being depressed and contemplating burning down the school for it. The ghost of Abraham Lincoln visits Kyle and takes him on a journey to show him that ugliness can be more of a blessing than a curse. First, they visit an older woman who was considered the most beautiful girl around when she was younger. Everything was handed to her and boys would constantly tell her she was interesting, smart and funny, but none of it was sincere and she was able to coast through life on looks alone and never had to develop a personality. It wasn't until the woman reached middle-age and began losing her looks that she realized she wasn't very interesting and special at all and now has nothing to show for it. Next, they visit one of Kyle's new ugly friends who is learning to play the piano. Abe tells Kyle that the ugly friend may be struggling now, but the struggle will pay off when he's an adult. Since ugly people have nothing handed to them and are given no special treatment whatsoever, he'll have to put in work in order to make people appreciate him and as a result, he will develop character, something that people who are hot rarely do.

    Real Life 
  • Dustin Hoffman realized this when preparing for Tootsie. When made-up to look like a woman, Hoffman asked the make up artist to make him look more beautiful. The artist told him that's as good as he was going to look. Looking at himself as a woman he had an epiphany. In an AFI interview in 2002, he tearfully admitted there were too many interesting women he ignored before that moment because they didn't fit the standard of beauty that society had instilled in him.