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Starbuck: Let me ask you, Lizzie -- are you pretty?Starbuck: There's no such thing as a plain woman! Every real woman is pretty! They're all pretty in a different way -- but they're all pretty!
Lizzie: No -- I'm plain!
Starbuck: There! You see? -- you don't know you're a woman!
Lizzie: I am a woman! A plain one!
Basically, this is when a girl (or, in some cases, a guy), regardless of her actual attractiveness, believes herself to be unattractive. Many such girls are lacking in conventional attractiveness, but it's rare for them to be actually ugly. Often the complaint of a girl who believes herself to be 'plain' or 'boring'.
A Hot Amazon may believe herself to be unattractive because she's suffered from No Guy Wants an Amazon, and she doesn't realize that she's hot. Or, on a similar note, a Bokukko or Shorttank may believe that she's too masculine because she's always been One of the Boys.
A Wrench Wench may believe that wearing coveralls and being covered in grease all the time means she's got no feminine appeal even though many guys (and girls) are really into that kind of thing.
Or a girl who is simply not model-gorgeous may believe that she's simply not attractive at all for whatever reason.
This is often the basis behind a Beautiful All Along or She Cleans Up Nicely event, when a character who is seen (rightly or wrongly) as unattractive is gussied up and made the Belle of the Ball. However, the main issue at hand is not how other characters see her, but the fact that she sees herself as unattractive. If the girl can realize her worth and attractiveness without a makeover, so much the better.
Related to Hollywood Homely, where we are informed that the girl is unattractive or ugly, and everyone in the show seems to believe it, but to us she seems quite pretty. With Suetiful All Along, the author insists the character isn't pretty at the outset, then lavishes complimentary descriptions on her the rest of the time. A girl who is fishing for compliments may pretend to feel this way, but she really doesn't. This can be Truth in Television, if the girl in question has a poor self-image and/or unrealistic ideas of what constitutes beauty.
Anime and Manga
- Played straight in The Wallflower, where Sunako believes she is ugly simply because a boy she liked told her she was. Cue the whole series revolving around her "ugliness", even though she's pretty much a bishoujo.
- Male example: Natsume Takashi from Natsume Yuujinchou has been used to being ostracized or bullied most of his life because people considered him a Creepy Child. Thus, he's a bit surprised to find out that many of the kids at his high school consider him quite attractive
Natsume: ...Good looks? Nobody's ever said that to me before.
Kitamoto and Yushimura: Liar!
Natsume: Eh? Are you serious?
- A conversation in the fifth volume of Durarara suggests that Shizuo Heiwajima is entirely oblivious to the fact that he looks like... well, Shizuo Heiwajima.
- Yura of Honey Hunt believes herself to be plain. This isn't helped by how other people tell her that compared to her beautiful and successful mother she's quite plain. However, once she loses the glasses and fixes her hair she can actually be quite good looking.
- In Naruto, Kushina says this word by word when we finally meet her. Even if she's, well, dead. It Makes Sense in Context.
- In Black Butler, the teenage Angelina believes she's ugly, especially when compared to her big sister.
- In Axis Powers Hetalia, Vietnam considers herself to be plain and not photogenic. Taiwan tells her she's a cutie, though.
- Belgium also considers herself as such, but doesn't make a big fuss of it. In her own words:
Belgium: "With all these strong guys around me, I may appear a bit plain, but I'm doing my best"
- Sakurako Sanjou from Hana Yori Dango gets extensive plastic surgery just because other children, especial importance placed on Tsukasa, called her ugly as a kid. In the Japanese drama, the girl playing her is not at all ugly.
- A very tragic case is Yuri Tokikago from Mawaru Penguindrum, who believes herself to be ugly because of her Mad Artist dad's abuse.
- The title character from Empowered tries to believe she's beautiful, but rarely manages it, despite being drop-dead gorgeous even by superheroine standards. Sistah Spooky's constant digs do nothing to help.
- Dierdre "Nezumi" Mitako from the Inuyasha fanfic Purity 3: Forever is a Wrench Wench who has been One of the Boys for so long that she has a hard time thinking about herself as an attractive woman, even though almost the entirety of the story is about a guy trying to convince her he actually loves her and wants to marry her.
- Fiona of Shrek was cursed to become an ogress and later becomes one permanently after sharing a True Love's Kiss with Shrek. At the end of the first movie she tells Shrek "I don't understand. I'm supposed to be beautiful." Shrek responds with "But you are beautiful." And indeed, she's still pretty for a Cute Monster Girl.
Film (Live Action)
- Lizzie in The Rainmaker insists she's plain. Starbuck takes her hair down and convinces her otherwise.
- Adrian in Rocky.
- Subverted in Shallow Hal, when Hal (Jack Black) believes that his "slender" love-interest (Gwyneth Paltrow) has been abused into simply thinking she's not beautiful -- when the fact is that she weighs 300 lbs., but he's simply been hypnotized into thinking that she looks like Gwyneth Paltrow.
- Sara Crewe in A Little Princess thinks she must not be pretty because she doesn't mesh with the beauty standards of late-nineteenth-century England, being small, skinny, black-haired and green-eyed, but the author tells us that she's definitely pretty in her own way.
- In Howl's Moving Castle, it's more of a matter that Sophie lacked confidence and self-esteem to see herself as pretty and sees herself as plain and doomed to a boring life.
- And Wrong Genre Saviness: Sophie is the eldest of three sisters, and is in a story - she just assumes it's a classic fairy tale instead of modern fantasy.
- Bella of Twilight does this constantly.
- Anne Shirley, of Anne of Green Gables. While in the first book she genuinely is as plain as she believes herself to be, as she matures she takes on a kind of attractiveness that's just unconventional for her time period. The fact that she's a Fiery Redhead in a time period where red hair was deemed horribly unattractive does give her some grounds for believing this even as an adult, however untrue it really is. It's implied that sympathetic people are the kind who will find her pretty, while the jerks think her plain.
- Early on, Jane Eyre believes Mr. Rochester isn't interested in a homely woman like her, and is instead pursuing Blanche Ingram, a beautiful and classy dame.
- Parodied in Discworld. Where the human-despite-all-appearances-to-the-contrary-Nobby Nobbs starts dating a beautiful strip dancer, no one can believe it. Apparently, she thinks herself ugly. Why? Because every other guy assumed that she was out of there league and never approached her, leading her to believe she was unattractive.
Live Action Television
- Done rather beautifully in Dollhouse with Bennet Halverson concerned that Topher had just tried to taze her with a device that only works on Dolls. She has a hard time believing this because Dolls are beautif... oh.
- An early Twilight Zone episode has a young lady whose head is swathed in bandages as the plastic surgeon laments that he was unable to do much for her. They remove the bandages to reveal she has a lovely face and is, in fact, quite beautiful. As the doctor and the nurses all gasp with dismay and disgust, the point of view pulls back to reveal they are all horribly disfigured by our standards, with ugly pig-snoutish noses. By their standards, she was the horribly disfigured one. The young girl sees her reflection in a mirror and bursts into tears at seeing herself as so ugly.
- Subverted in a Saturday Night Live skit when Pamala Anderson cohosted. The scene played out as above until the young girl (played by Ms Anderson) looked at herself in the mirror. She jumped up and exclaimed in delight, "Hey, I'm Hot. I'm the hottest Chick on this planet" and ran from the room.
- The waitress in the Harry Chapin song "A Better Place To Be": "I wish that I was beautiful, or you were halfway blind..."
- Averted in Katawa Shoujo. The original illustration has Hanako reacting this way to a Love Confession; in the finished game, though, this doesn't happen. She's self-conscious about her scars, but she never directly calls herself ugly or unattractive.
- Jadis from the Whateley Universe believes herself to be unattractive. She's plain at worst, but most of her issues come from being in a school full of Exemplars, and while she's been classified as an Exemplar, she hasn't got the looks to go with it.
- Iriana of Ilivais X is a little in the Uncanny Valley, but she believes that she's an undesirable freak and not even worth being called human. However, every single one of her teammates thinks she's VERY cute, Mille in particular consistently fantasizing about her.
- Marz Gurl seems to think this, in spite of being one Channel Awesome's biggest Dude Magnets.
- Nurse Pamela from Dominic Deegan starts out believing herself to be 'plain and ordinary', but when she lets her hair down, she reveals that she was Beautiful All Along... and quite a Hospital Hottie to boot. Hellooooo Nurse Pam!
- Marigold Farmer from Questionable Content believes herself to be fat and ugly. While she does have bad skin and poor hygiene, she's actually considered rather cute, and has a not-terrible figure, being Hollywood Pudgy.
- Liri from The Challenges of Zona believes she is ugly and unattractive, because she is a giantess and has been reviled by humans her whole life. This persists even after she met and fell in love with another giant, Keltan, leading to the two of them having Innocent Cohabitation until Zona, the main character, convinces her otherwise and tells her about sex.
- In Megatokyo, Sonoda "maybe if I wasn't so ugly and plain" Yuki. At least one boy in her class has had a crush on her for years.
- Audrey Hepburn thought she wasn't very attractive. Allegedly, she once said: "I never thought I'd land in pictures with a face like mine".
- Meganekko Rachel Maddow said at a 2009 "New Yorker" Festival, "I'm not very pretty...I am what I am. I look like a dude. I wear boring jackets . I have a big nose . I have short hair . No one is going to mix me up with a Fox Business anchor."
- Male example: Benedict Cumberbatch, who usually describes his looks in a self-deprecating way.