Trope Workshop:Mirror of Plastic Surgery

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In the real world, plastic surgery is a long and painful process, with clearly-defined limits on what can be accomplished. Thankfully, in a magical, or sufficiently futuristic setting, things are a lot more simplified; all you need is the right spell, artefact, or professional, and minutes later you can be taller, prettier, or a fully-fledged member of the opposite sex. Heck, why not all three?

A popular trope in video-games and high fantasy, where often the only limit to these fantastical transformations is the inability to swap races, and sometimes not even then.

When used to change a character's sex, this is a form of Easy Sex Change. Not to be confused with Magic Plastic Surgery, which is when real plastic surgery techniques are portrayed as this. Has some overlap with Voluntary Shapeshifting, but the effects here are permanent and typically used on someone other than the caster.

Examples of Mirror of Plastic Surgery include:


  • One Macy's ad has a woman flicking her fingers so her family and home is dressed for the occasion. When it's her turn, she selects a Macy's outfit from her phone and changes in a flash.
  • This ad about Las Vegas shows a woman walking with different looks and hairstyles without breaking her stride.
  • Sometimes the Trix Rabbit manages to sport a completely different look in a matter of seconds, just to get a bowl of Trix. That is very impressive.

Anime and Manga

  • Subverted in Code Name Sailor V. The Dark Agency's latest plot is to get the city addicted to fattening chocolates, and then lure the victims to a spa where "weight loss pods" will make them thin again. The pods just drain their energy and the spa uses funhouse mirrors to make the patrons look like they lost weight. Minako avoids this because Artemis confiscates her chocolates and makes her lift weights for several days. Even her healing powers can't make everyone lose the extra pounds; they have to all put in the work to remove it.
  • Sailor Moon
    • The Disguise Pen can sometimes accomplish this, though it helps that it can summon heels to make the girls look taller or give them a shorter cut which wears off as soon as they transform into Senshi.
    • Similar to the Sailor V manga, Jadeite ran a gym for a few weeks. Unlike in the manga, he brainwashed real exercise instructors to put the guests through rigorous routines, and only then would they use the energy-draining pods after finishing their workouts. The moral ambiguity, energy-stealing aside, is when Usagi and her friends, who are minors, are put to the same routines rather than adjusting to their growing bodies. Luna makes Sailor Moon intervene when Ms. Haruna is using the pods so much that she's on the verge of dying. ]
    • The anime has the Starlights changing gender when they transform into Senshi. One could interpret them as genderfluid, while in the manga it's mentioned they only dress as boys to hide their identity from whoever kidnapped their leader Kakyuu.
  • Pet Shop of Horrors has a horrifying example of this played in the "Diet" chapter. A model comes to Count D, having heard that he has weight loss pills. He gives them to her, rather than assign her a personal trainer as he did for the teenager that was stress-eating and venting to him. At first the model is fine, and shares the pills with another model. Then they both start transforming into creepy buglike creatures.
    • Subverted, however, with the girl in question. The personal trainer puts her through the wringer while helping her work out and watch her weight, while also telling her to stand up and speak for herself rather than let others define who she is. She uses a beautiful prom dress as an incentive. Even though the girl loses the weight and gains self-confidence, complete with her smacking a guy at prom who is a douche to her and her friends, while still stress-eating on the side at times, D thought that she didn't deserve to pay any price for such magic and made her put in the real work. The girl also sincerely wants to find the trainer to thank her. D says the trainer had to move, but would be very happy if the girl adopted a sweet kitten. The girl adopts the kitten, while noting she seems very familiar...
  • In Ultra Maniac, Nina reveals that different spells can achieve this goal. She can change herself or anyone else of the opposite gender, make them taller and prettier, and so forth. The hitch is you need the counterspell to reverse the effects. If you don't have it ready? Nina has to spend hours finding it on her computer.

Comic Books

  • In Sandman, it's shown that the Endless can alter their appearance as they see fit, complete with hairstyle or skin changes. Delirium rarely wears the same outfit or look twice; in some cases she may even appear taller than before, depending on how she hunches. Death would rather be in her standard tank, but if asked to dress formally, she will show off her wardrobe.

Fan Works


  • The Happily Ever After potion in Shrek 2 is able to transform Shrek and Fiona into humans, and Donkey into a stallion. Only lasts for a day, unless sealed with true love's kiss by the stroke of midnight. At the end of the movie, Shrek tells Fiona that he would stay human forever if it would make her happy. Fiona thinks about it, touched that Shrek would sacrifice his identity for her, but says that she married an ogre, and intends to keep it that way.
    • What happens to Dragon under the effect of this potion anyway?
  • Played for horror in Disney's Snow White. When the mirror reveals to the Queen that the Hunter faked Snow White's death and reveals her location, the Queen storms to her private potion chambers. She makes a potion that would give her a harmless peddler's appearance so that no one will recognize her as she goes to murder her stepdaughter personally. It requires a hag's cackle, mummy dust, black of night, a scream of fright, a blast of wind, and a thunderbolt. The resulting effects make her look terrifying, and the potion itself causes great pain to the queen. This plan is so complicated that a few viewers asked why not make a potion that would make her more beautiful than Snow White.


  • In The Belles, Belles are supposed to have this power. They can shapeshift different looks on any paying customer. The Big Bad Sophia, spare to the New Orleans throne, finds this power intriguing and wants to control it all. Why? So she can turn them into her personal Belles factory and use them to disfigure or murder anyone in her way.
  • Aza in Gail Carson Levine's Fairest gets it in her head to try and find these in the Ayorthian libraries. She hates how she's tall with pale skin, red lips and black hair; it makes her look ghastly. The first attempt, a singing spell, doesn't go well; it nearly turns her to stone. While her body revives, her big toe remains stone as a reminder of the near-miss. She figures out that the new Queen Ivi hides these in the flute she never plays, finding a potion for beauty, and drinks a few drops. It makes her beautiful by Ayorthian standards, but the price is that when she and Ivi die, a spider named Skulni will trap them in a mirror while he travels the world for as long as he likes. He also reveals that he manipulated Ivi into attempting to murder Aza, as well as either get her killed in a civil war or die by suicide so that he can go out and explore the world. Turns out he's destroyed entire countries to have his bit of fun! Even though Aza is mad at Ivi for framing her for treason and blackmailing her, she sings that no one deserves that fate and destroys the mirror while trapped inside of it. The potion reverts them to their normal looks, and Aza admits that beauty is not everything.
  • Justified in Scott Westerfeld's original Uglies trilogy. While the surgeries themselves are not necessarily easy to get-- they do require anesthetic and have to make adjustments-- they are more convenient than they would be in real life. Books two and three start with Tally suffering no physical complications from being turned Pretty and later Special. Emotional complications, however, are another matter: when Tally undoes the brainwashing from the lesions by sheer Magic Feather, she's shocked and broken by the end of the series. We also find out that surgeries have more complications when performed on people with brain damage, because there's a high risk of the tissues being rejected. While Zane agrees to receive the Specials surgery if he betrays the New Smoke haven when a brainwashed Tally and Shay persuade him, turns out he lied. He knew it would be futile to fix him. To make it worse, his brain dies on the operating table when Diego surgeons attempt to repair his tissue.

Live-Action TV

  • The Twilight Zone episode "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" explains there is a process called The Transformation. It will make anyone beautiful from a limited set of body types and looks, and extend their lifespan. Marilyn, the protagonist who is "pretty" but not beautiful, shocks her family and the doctor wanting to operate her by saying that she doesn't want to look beautiful. She says that she wants to stay as herself, in mind and body. Sadly, the doctor and nurses take the choice away from her, turning her into a vapid Barbie.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • In The Mahabharata, Arjuna is cursed to be a eunuch for one year, but he can choose when to serve that sentence. When Duryodhana is hunting him and his brothers down, he thinks it's a good time to activate the curse. After the year is up, he reverts to normal.
  • Subverted in the tale of The Story of Tấm and Cám, which some Western readers may refer to as the Vietnamese Cinderella. It follows the Cinderella tale, up to the part where Tấm returns home to pay respects to her dead father. As she undergoes preparations, her stepfamily murders her. After a series of Tấm's reincarnations, including when she becomes a bird, peach trees, and a golden apple tree, she comes back to life, still beautiful as before. Tấm reunites with her husband, as her stepsister Cám asks how the former retains her youth and beauty. Tấm reveals that she boils herself in boiling water or sesame oil every night to peel off her skin. Either she "helps" Cam with this step, using her royal authority to get this revenge, or Cám is stupid enough to step into a boiling pot. The boiling water or oil kills Cám instantly.
  • In "Strong Wind," a Native American version of Cinderella, it plays out a little differently. The Cinderella figure, the youngest of her chief father's daughters, is scarred by her sisters, not her stepsisters, out of pure spite and cruelty. They cut her hair into jagged streaks and press red-hot coals to her face. She goes to see Strong Wind, a magical warrior seeking an honest woman for a bride because he believes someone who would lie to be with a prospect is not worthy. Because she is the only one who answers honestly that she cannot see him, Strong Wind reveals himself to her and says that she passed the test. He then heals her scars and grows her hair back. As punishment to her sisters for being bullies, however, he turns them into trees.

Puppet Shows

  • The sadly banned episode of Sesame Street with Margaret Hamilton played the Wicked Witch of the West has this. When David finds the broom -- rather, it lands in his hands-- he refuses to give it to Witchy on the grounds that she was very rude to him. She transforms herself into a "sweet old lady," that is Margaret Hamilton without her makeup, in the blink of an eye, to con him into giving it back to her. Even so, everyone recognizes her; David pretends not to and says he would return the broom, if she asked politely. Witchy finally does, and David returns it while wishing her a safe trip back to Oz.

Tabletop Games

  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, this is but one of the many, many miraculous wonders the Tzimisce are capable of through their unique power of Vicissitude. Laughably, raising your Appearance score using the power is Difficulty 10 (in OWOD, Difficulty is what you have to roll to succeed; the game uses a ten-sided die, so...), and if you suffer Critical Failure you get uglier.
    • There are some things that even Vicissitude can't do—trying to change a Nosferatu's appearance is impossible.
      • Changes that make them prettier, anyway. Changes that make them uglier, or cosmetically status quo (don't move their appearance trait at all) stick, while improvements 'heal' painfully in minutes. Makes sense considering Clan weaknesses are a malevolent curse rather than a genetic quirk to be fixed.

Video Games

  • Once you craft a make-up table and mirror in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you are free to alter your appearance in it at any time.
  • City of Heroes: Thanks to the good people at Icon (or the somewhat less morally inclined folk employed by the Facemaker), heroes and villains can easily change the size and shape of their bodies, even switch genders. Of course, in a world where there is a black market for magical artifacts and super science is used daily, this is pretty well Justified. During the game's original run this was only available to those players who had purchased the Super Science Super Booster, but with the game's resurrection in 2019 has become available to all.
  • This is the in-universe excuse for Shepard's appearance if you change it between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2; s/he died in the interim and had to be completely rebuilt.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic has "Appearance Designer Kiosk's" that can provide this service, provided you have enough Cartel Coins.
  • World of Warcraft barbers can change your gender, hair, facial features, and skin colour.
  • Galathil from Skyrim offers this service for an affordable price down in The Ragged Flagon.
  • In the world of Elden Ring, one need only approach the Clouded Mirror Stand to change your age, gender, or any other cosmetic features of your character.
  • You can build a "Dressing Table" (which is a mirror attached to a small storage desk) after the first chunk of Dragon Quest Builders 2. It actually gives significantly more options than initial character customization offered, and allows setting any armor or weapon you've obtained as your appearance instead what you actually have equipped. You can also find one just after the tutorial in the Isle of Awakening before leaving for Furrowfield and play with it almost immediately. Also an Easter Egg lets you duplicate the effects of the Sword of Ruin glitch from Dragon Quest II by equipping the cursed sword and changing its appearance to the Falcon Blade to once again get the best of both weapons..

Western Animation

  • An episode of Adventures from the Book of Virtues features an adaptation of "The Indian Cinderella," to convince Zach to come clean about breaking his father's camera. In this version, Cinderella is named Morning Light, a beautiful young woman who is not afraid to tell the truth when necessary, or do work. She's a candidate to meet Strong Wind, a magical warrior that can turn invisible. Out of spite, her sisters wear masks at night, cut her hair and scar her. Unlike in the original fairy tale, her father goes Papa Wolf and promises to punish the attackers after seeing Morning Light run off in tears. She figures out it was her sisters because they didn't think to take off their jewels, and exposes them to her father. He grounds and punishes them, as Morning Light goes to see Strong Wind with her scarred face and jagged hair. When she passes the test by honestly saying that she doesn't see him in the sky, until he reveals himself, he uses magic to grow her hair back and heal her scars.
  • In The Owl House, one can use illusion bracelets to obtain this effect. Remove the bracelet and the illusion vanishes. It's revealed that the Blight parents make Edric and Emira wear them, and Darius designs a potion for Eda to disguise herself as Raine for his plan to stop the Day of Unity.
  • One gag in What's New, Scooby-Doo? showed the gang visiting an amusement park of innovations. Daphne jokingly pushes Velma into a high-tech makeover machine. Velma steps out in five seconds with makeup, her turtleneck turned into a tank, and stylish platforms. The machine does nothing to Daphne, who says there's no improving on perfection.

Real Life

  • A great makeup artist or stylist can change a customer's appearance radically. It may come down to the hair, contours, and some well-placed silicone.