I disagree that it’s a lazy shortcut. For Uriah Heep, for instance, the reader is often uncertain what to make of him at first, it’s only as one reads along that the hand rubbing and 'umble becomes clear. For Pap, we already KNOW he’s wicked, we’ve been told that several times, and Huck’s observation clarifies it. Some readers will think that, since he’s Huck’s father, he SHOULD rightly have some say in the boy’s raising, and Twain wants to shut that down quickly. What Twain writes (the “fish-belly white”) is NOT trite (or wasn’t at the time.)
How about “Portrait of Dorian Grey”? Is that trite? The notion that evil and sinful behavior can leave physical marks was a well-established part of philosophy/theology/wossname.
Goes right along with fat bankers are almost always cheats/villainous. Movies, like books, only have so much time, and often don’t want to take 10 minutes (or three chapters) to establish that so-and-so is wicked. It’s not lazy to short-cut a description of the physical area down to one or two sentences, either. It’s just the author decided what things to spend time on (and what things for the reader to spend time on) and what not.
I don’t disagree that it CAN be lazy and overused and trite; but I don’t think it’s ALWAYS (or even MOSTLY) those things.