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"That's just something ugly people say."
Fletcher, Liar Liar

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. Looks are a shallow motivator and are almost always wrong.

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.

Contrast with I Just Want to Be Beautiful.

Examples of True Beauty Is on the Inside include:


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.


Comics

  • Played with in Top Ten: 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".


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).
    • But it ends up as a bit of a Broken Aesop at the end when the Beast's reward for learning his lesson (and Belle's reward for loving him despite his appearance) is that he is returned to his former, handsome self.
  • Shrek 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 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.
  • Quasimodo of The Hunchback of Notre Dame fits this trope as well.
  • 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!


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. It's also an interesting hypocrisy, since Tony Robbins' real-life girlfriend is something of a "Perfect Ten;" however from his presentation of himself given in the film, his girlfriend should be a hideous girl with a heart of gold. Clearly, Dr. Tony doesn't follow his own orders. And to Unfortunate Implications, it's also worth adding that the movie played on the 300-pound Rosemary as an Acceptable Target.
  • 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 Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, the blunt, not-quite-on-the-same-wavelength-as-everyone-else Drax considers the isolated, adorable alien known as Mantis "ugly", and is up-front about the matter. However, this carries all the way to him telling her that better-looking people don't know whom to trust, and quietly saying at the end of the movie that she's "beautiful... on the inside".

Folklore

  • 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.


Literature

  • Jennifer Murdley's Toad by Bruce Coville (part of the Magic Shop series) 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).
  • 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.
  • 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. Nobby eventually settles on a 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). When Nobby does land himself a gorgeous girlfriend in a later book, Angua is horrified for her, though 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".
    • 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.
      • 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.
  • 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.
  • Discussed in Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey.
  • In Harry Potter, Fleur Delacour says that Bill's scars just show how heroic he is. She still wants to marry him, no matters how he looks.
  • There's a short story by Dick King Smith about a male fairy who is mocked for being bald. He mentions there is one red-haired fairy who isn't beautiful but has a kind face. After he learns his Aesop about vanity the red-haired fairy sits down next to him and tells him she finds him perfect the way he is. He is then said to see that she doesn't just have a kind face, she is beautiful, providing a suggestion that people often seem more beautiful when they are good-hearted.
  • Ruth Mallory of Someone Elses 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.


Live Action TV

  • 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.
  • This is the premise behind the Reality Show True Beauty.


Music

  • 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. The aesop fails because Maestro is a Jerk Sue and the Mayor himself is presented as an Acceptable Target: 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 "More Beautiful You" by Johnny Diaz does it in a rather heartwarming way. [1] And as a bonus, the video even shows the two young ladies' "flaws" being photoshopped away to make the point that the standard of beauty promoted by popular media doesn't actually exist.


Newspaper Comics

 Dogbert: I realized that what's inside a person doesn't count because no one can see it.


Theater

 Cyrano: True; all my elegances are within.


Webcomics


Real Life

Notes

  1. Yeah, it's a Christian song, but give it a shot anyway. It's nice.
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