The “Ugly Pretty Girl” is an enduring cliche’ used in entertainment and will probably never fade away due to the formulaic nature of what passes for popular entertainment. The Pygmalion plot is an easy way to create drama and sympathy in an audience or reader, who, truth be told, can usually identify in some way with the trials of the character. In most of these stories the female character simply gets a makeover and is suddenly transformed from ugly duckling into a swan. This is usually done with no regard in the story to those personality traits or esteem issues that led to her hiding her assets to the detriment of her own happiness in the first place. Countless men over the ages have overlooked the obvious pitfalls of caring only for the surface beauty to discover that the object of their desire is
a crazy gold-digging psycho not their one, true soul-mate.
For the male gender in stories like this the usual approach is that they remain essentially the same in appearance but have a special value that makes them stand out and then become more desirable. As an example the nerdy mathematicians in the television show Numb3rs manage to land incredibly hot, complex women because of their unique abilities and talents that distract the opposite sex from their looks and Go-Bots collections, things that would normally ensure they die alone and virgins. This plays into the perception that women are valued more for their appearance and men for their skills.
The story The Missing Key in Romantic Story #33 (August 1956) is a typical example of the “Ugly Pretty Girl” tale, including the familiar ending where after the protagonist realizes she abused the power of her new found social status only to find love in the quiet dork who pined for her when she was “unattractive” prior to her transformation.