Deus Angst Machina

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
What a coincidence.
"You'd think I'd be used to it by now. But they keep finding new angles to torture me with."
Spider-Man, inner monologue. It's unclear if he means his villains or his writers.

So, your character is angsting. It seems that his dog just died in a freak accident. That accident involved his kindly uncle, who didn't swerve in time to avoid the poor puppy. However, he did swerve in time to go off an embankment and hit a bus full of high school students, killing many, including his beloved girlfriend, to whom he'd just been engaged the previous day. Unfortunately, the shock of the news caused the protagonist's kindly old mother to have a heart attack, which left his father devastated. More unfortunately, economic recession hits, and the character and his father are left without a job and sunk neck deep in debt. The character's brother turns to robbery, but is caught and thrown in prison. Poor Daddy turned to drinking and lost all will to live, and finally shot himself (along with several others in a mad shootout), leaving the character all alone in the world to deal with the trauma. And that just happens to be the day when the mother of all earthquakes lays waste to the whole city, including the character's house. Our character (who now has to live on the streets) is pulled out of the ruins, perhaps having suffered a crippling injury, and is taken to the hospital, where the doctor diagnoses him with cancer.

And that's just the beginning of his bad days... Wait, what? Isn't this a little too overboard?

Deus Angst Machina is something of the polar opposite of Wangst in terms of cause, but can come across as no less frustrating. Simply put, the character in question has every reason in the world to retreat into himself and become a brooding, angsty person, because his life really does suck as much as he thinks it does. However, the circumstances seem entirely too contrived. This is a step beyond the coincidences that most stories tend towards to build up drama, as the character seems to have provoked some sadistic god who is now dedicated to making his life as miserable (and angst-filled) as possible. Sure, anyone would be miserable in his situation, but when said situation is less likely than being struck by lightning, it can seem to be outright ludicrous.

However, Tropes Are Not Bad, and if done with careful consideration and appropriate acknowledgment of just how unlikely it all is, it can be justified.

A common pitfall for those who think True Art Is Angsty, yet are wary of falling into Wangst (although, given the nature of the trope, they generally end up falling into it anyway). For the comedic version, see The Chew Toy. Commonly experienced by those who have heard the writing advice "conflict is drama, so the more conflict, the more drama", but who don't quite get that conflict is about more than just angst. Remember... any writer who thinks happy people are boring isn't trying hard enough.

Different from Diabolus Ex Machina in that it's many separate and unlikely events conspiring to create angst instead of a Downer Ending, but can still overlap at times.

Misery Lit has thrived on this trope since the Victorian era. The Sadist Show will play it for laughs, and others may end up doing so unintentionally. If the story appears to be building up to something, only to ultimately end up going nowhere or sputtering out, then it may be a case of Shoot the Shaggy Dog.

Not to be confused with Tragedy. See also Trauma Conga Line, Disaster Dominoes. And it's far worse when it happens in Real Life.

Examples of Deus Angst Machina include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Blue Gender, the universe is out to get Yuji and Marlene. This is not a supposition, it is a fact supported by Word of God.
  • Being as it sits on the very far right of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, Bokurano can feel very much like this trope. Not only are the kids tricked into playing a deadly "game", but the one who pilots the mecha will die whether he/she wins or loses. If they lose, their universe is destroyed, but if they win, they destroy another universe and everyone in that universe will die. The series seems to go out of its way to make everything as tragic and depressing as possible, as most of the children have tragic backstories on top of having to play the "game"; for just one example, see the pilot who turns out to be pregnant, and whose baby dies along with her after her battle.
  • Yamcha of Dragon Ball Z has a large one in the Cell saga which he never recovered from. His girlfriend of 15 years gets pregnant by the Sociopathic Hero who previously killed him and his friends rub salt in the wound by asking if the baby is his. Shortly afterwards he gets impaled by a relatively weak android and realizes he'll never be able to catch up. He never recovered either; in Bojack unbounded its revealed he's broke and in his last DBZ appearance he still has no one as a 50 year old man (with his goal in life being to raising a family). His miserable lot in life is parodied in Gintama's 202nd episode.
  • Lelouch Lamperouge gets some serious deus angst machina in Code Geass at a few points, especially in R2 episode 19 after Nunnally 'dies', especially combined with the fact that C.C. has lost her memories and he just caused the destruction of Tokyo and Shirley died and....
    • This trope is the story of the entire R2 season.
    • Some can argue that the entire story is nothing but this.
  • Gunbuster: Well known for its proper depiction of time dilation, this series also seems to only display such well-researched science when it can make the main characters angst. Prime example? Jung making a careless comment to Noriko regarding the loss of her father because it's been months from her perspective but only hours from Noriko's.
    • New Mauve Shirts are usually introduced just so they can die and make Noriko emo.
  • Subverted: Hayate in Hayate the Combat Butler can never seem to get a break. He's got deadbeat parents who steal his money and are willing to sell him to the Yakuza some 'very nice people' to clear their gambling debts, and after becoming Nagi's butler, he keeps getting into situations where everybody wants him dead. Hell, he's the greatest, most gentle kid in the world, and Santa won't even give him presents! The only thing that keeps this series from becoming a tragedy is that Hayate is used to crap like this happening and that some twist of fate usually occurs to make it so that things aren't quite as bad as they seemed at first.
    • ...And, of course, that most of these events are played for comedy. And succeed.
    • This probably works because the protagonist in question has the mental fortitude to match his physical constitution (getting hit by a speeding car, falling off a clocktower without so much as a bruise etc.).
      • Which means that instead of being all wangsty about his troubles, he usually mentions them offhandedly and cheerfully, as if they were something minor. Other characters, however, are visibly disturbed when they learn of them and Hayate once had his grade school class and the teacher in tears when he cheerfully and obliviously read a report showcasing his crapshack of a home life.
    • And just to add to the problems, in the manga he's been forced to decide between Constant Love and Constant Protection by Santa-Mikado. He finally breaks down and angsts for a while, until the issue is solved for him.
  • Shirakawa Naoya in Love Mode. I mean, how much misery can one person have in a short time?
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion is perhaps the king of this trope. Most characters only seem to get characterization so that they can angst over it. But the trope is played to the hilt with Shinji, to whom almost anything bad can and will happen so he can angst about it. Potential replacement mother figure sucks at the job? Angst. Dysfunctional fellow pilot is a world-class Tsundere who emotionally abuses him? Angst. Same girl is then telepathically mind raped from orbit? Angst. Girl finally snaps and goes catatonic? Angst. Permanently maims one of his friends (or in the manga, kills) without knowing about it until after the fact? Angst. Creepy potential love interest nearly dies? Angst. Said girl then turns out to have been a science experiment, and an aquarium full of clones of her get diced? Angst. New friend, who is like a male version of the creepy potential love interest but genuinely cares for him turns out to be The Mole and Shinji has to crush him to death so he won't set off The End of the World as We Know It? Angst. Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies? ...uh, you get the picture. Angst, angst, angst! Is it any wonder he finally mentally self-destructed and decided to just end the world?
  • Parodied and averted in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. The title character engages in Wangst to the extreme over ridiculous hypotheses and tiny coincidences. Meanwhile, Kafuka, the happy ball of sunshine who continues to announce that life is wonderful every single day, often mentions in passing that her father repeatedly attempted suicide, her mother was possessed by a demon, she appears to be in the Witness Protection Program...
  • Poor Joe Asakura in Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. To explain everything here would take forever, starting with the him witnessing his parents' murder as a child, to an apparent Cartwright Curse and finally being turned into a cyborg to save his life.
  • Parodied in the fourth episode of Slayers Evolution-R where drama inducing events make no sense at all. For example a character becomes a delinquent and another is revealed to have a terminal disease. It all happened for no reason in an instant. They where both happy walking fish kids before.
  • Used in an interesting fashion in Trigun. Not only does Vash actually have someone out there living and breathing solely to make him as miserable possible, he's also very good at it.
  • Fay from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is literally cursed, and more than once: He had a twin, which in his world was considered a bad omen, so both little boys got imprisoned separately- only after their father has died and their mother has killed herself, supposedly because of the twins. Then the king who condemned the boys to an eternity in prison stabs himself through the neck in front of Fay (Yuui) while begrudging their birth. Still as a kid, the Big Bad promises to have someone set him free if his brother dies, and then he curses him. Twice. If he ever meets someone more powerful than him, Fay will have to kill them: this means stabbing Sakura, the heroine, whom he loves as a daughter. The other curse? He must kill the king who rescued him from prison, or else his world will implode. The king knows this and kills most of his people just so Fay would kill him in turn... but Fay still refuses, someone else kills the king, and the world implodes. Oh, and to get Fay out of the imploding world, Kurogane gives up one of his arms. It also turns out that Fay still wished to revive his brother, and found out the hard way that it was impossible. But wait, there's more! The kid that Fay loved as a son turns out to be a soulless clone who gouges out Fay's eye and eats it for its magic! And to survive, Fay gets turned into a vampire! And he can only feed from the man he loves!
    • This series really showcases CLAMP's ability to lay it on thick. Sakura and Syaoran seem to have had to rebuild their relationship from scratch several times already, due to various plot twists that keep reversing any progress they make towards a confession and a formal romance. Kurogane's past is only not-angsty by comparison with Fay's, and his character has to go through quite a bit in the course of the story, including having to watch the man he loves deal with all the above crap.
      • Fai really does give meaning to the term "angst it up like a CLAMP character"
        • Speaking of CLAMP characters, Subaru Sumeragi from Tokyou Babylon has just accepted his love for his older friend Seishirou when he is informed that seen years ago, Seishirou made a bet with him that if he were to live with Subaru for a whole year and learn to feel for him by the end of it, then Subaru would be allowed to survive the series. Guess what? Seishirou doesn't love him. Cue Seishirou breaking Subaru's arms, heart, and sister.
  • Mori, the main protagonist of Kokou No Hito, has even worse luck than Kenshirou. Everyone who spends time with him gets shafted by fate: ( Yumi, who loses her scholarship and ends up becoming a prostitute; his co-workers, who all get shafted by their company because they're temps; his teacher, who gets killed by a giant boulder while trying to find Mori on a local mountain; and the ENTIRE TEAM he climbs Kazeru no Ken with, who die off one by one). On top of that, because of his shyness and awkwardness, he's treated like shit by his co-workers and fellow climbers. Even the company's resident creepy quiet girl is able to impose herself on him, as Mori can only will himself to put his foot down after she falls down the stairs at his place. It's as if the author enjoys concocting new ways to keep him socially isolated and mentally frail.
  • The Battle City Tournament Arc of Yu-Gi-Oh, and its immediate anime Filler arc, Doma, were seemingly written to break down poor Mai.
  • In volume two of Ooku: the Inner Chambers we are introduced to an ill-tempered and somewhat unstable maiden referred to as Shogun Iemitsu. Then we find out where she is coming from. Her mother was a commoner raped by Shogun Iemitsu on a whim to prove to his retainer that he could to lie with women (said retainer could do nothing to intercede but leave his short sword as proof of his identity, and it is to the credit of Iemitsu's de facto chancellor Lady Kagura that despite Iemitsu's refusal to admit he had ever seen her when she showed up a year later with a daughter the commoner was bought off with a manor and pension anyway). Then when said daughter (then named Chie) was around ten she was effectively kidnapped (her mother and nurse were murdered out of hand) and dragged to Edo Castle where her hair was forcibly cut off, she was dressed as a boy, and she was told that her name would henceforth be Lord Iemitsu. At fourteen she was wandering the grounds when a groundskeeper took her for a catamite, tore off her clothes to discover otherwise, then raped her. She was found only after she had stabbed the man to death, and she insisted that she had sported with him willingly then killed him for his clumsiness. Then she found out she was pregnant. Then her daughter was stillborn. Who would not have an attitude problem after all that?
  • Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto. He has to have had one of the most fucked up experience in the entire world. First his brother kills their entire clan. Second, his brother more-or-less told him it was done on a whim. Third, Sasuke's brother Mind Rape him with Tsukiyomi... many, many times... Fourth, Sasuke sells his soul to The Big Bad/Complete Monster/Grand Theft Me/Manipulative Bastard/Memetic Molester, Orochimaru. Fifth, He spends a whole decade of his life trying to kill his Aloof Older Brother, only to find out that Itachi had been a so-called good guy the entire time. And then it really strats getting bad...
    • There was also Nagato, who the universe itself seemed to love in a Domestic Abuse kind of way. Sure, it gave him the Rinnegan and, in the process, pretty much turned him into a Physical God, and his life did have its glimpses of brightness, (like when he found two friends to start a new family with, or when Jiraiya took him and his friends in and taught them the ninja arts so that they could protect themselves and each other, and the time he decided his reason in life would be to protect his friends and bring about a lasting peace,) but for the most part his life was a trip down hell's own gutter from the moment his parents, the only family he had ever known, were accidentally killed before his own eyes by two ninjas... He was eventually broken when forced to make a Sadistic Choice which ended in the death of one of the friends he had sworn to protect.
  • D-Boy/Takaya Aiba of Tekkaman Blade. Gosh, his life is really sucks. Fortunately, the sequel show him completely recovered from his loss so it all ends well, but the sheer crap he gone through is so nasty, its a wonder why he doesn't snap from all of it.
  • The life of Guts from Berserk sucks to such a major degree that it puts the Trauma Conga Lines of Griffith and Casca to shame, especially since the trauma factor of the latter coincides with the trauma of the former. His life sucks so much that the universe was literally out to get him before the dude was born. He refuses to let the universe control his destiny, but even Guts has his breaking point.

Comic Books

  • Incredible Hulk, to the point that the series more or less became a parody of itself for half a decade during The Dark Age of Comic Books because the writers were sick of the endless angst (probably).
  • Since Tim Drake became Robin: His mother was poisoned to death, his friend Darla was killed (but later came back to life (Of course)), his dad was killed by a Captain Boomerang, his girlfriend Stephanie Brown, tortured and 'murdered', his stepmother was most likely killed via a nuke in Bludhaven, his best friends Superboy and Bart Allen were killed (but, as expected, later came back to life), his adopted sister Cassandra Cain went insane, But eventually returned to the side of good, his civilian best friend, Ives, has cancer now in remission, and Batman just supposedly died. But his girlfriend did come back only to start helping one of Tim's enemies in order to push him to become more efficient, on Batman's orders. The writers joke about giving him a puppy so they can kill it too. Tim's response to all this? To emotionally deaden himself and go the Jerkass route.
    • On the other hand, we have Stephanie Brown. Grew up the child of a physically and emotionally abusive convict and a (now-rehabilitated) drug addict. Suffered attempted sexual molestation by her piano teacher at age 11. Almost had her face melted off by her own father with an acid capsule on her first foray as a vigilante. Set up for kidnapping and murder by her own father again several months later. Becomes pregnant by a boy who abandons her without even stopping long enough to learn that she was pregnant. Carries the child to term, then gives him/her/ up for adoption in a complete Tear Jerker of a moment, not letting herself even know her baby's sex or naming him/her because otherwise she could never force herself to let go. (And for extra angst points, almost dies of complications during the delivery.) Father (apparently) dies while trying to reform, leaving her entirely conflicted on the issue. Tortured grotesquely by Black Mask for hours. Upon returning from her faked death and one years' isolation in Africa, immediately ordered by Batman to betray her ex-boyfriend "for his own good", leading to complete alienation from him. Given the absolute minimum of support and validation in her superhero career, even by her own boyfriend, throughout. Subjected to active discouragement from pursuing a superhero career by virtually everyone. Depending on whether or not its Canon Discontinuity yet, possibly still carrying the guilt for setting off a destructive gang war that killed hundreds. And her response? Total refusal to let any of this crap get her down. With arguably as much to angst about as her ex-boyfriend Tim, there is not one panel of her whining or indulging in self-pity available in the sixteen years the character has been in Bat-Comics. Steph entirely shares Commissioner Gordon's awesome immunity to PTSD or Wangst.
      • Well, she gets an issue of Robin dedicated to a few of her really crappy life experiences after her dad died. That's it.
  • The Spider-Man "Brand New Day" storyline is nothing but Deus Angst Machina, mixed in with a healthy serving of non-stop Wangst. Every conceivable thing that can go wrong does. Twice. In a single issue. Just to remind us Spider-Man's deeper and more dramatic now!
    • It's worth noting that "One More Day" / "Brand New Day" represents a 'back to basics' move on the part of Marvel's editorial team, as an attempt to get Peter back to his roots - the classic Spidey had lots of things go wrong for him in his early days as well. However, they seem to have forgotten about all of the good things that used to happen to him at the time as well - his life was never unremitting misery and failure.
  • These British girls' comics. As the commentator puts it, "Sometimes your ballet career is cut short by a tragic car accident that kills your family and leaves you a cripple and your evil relatives are stealing your disability checks and they're sending your toddler brother out to work with the construction crew next door. I hate when that happens."
  • He doesn't exactly angst over it but Nodwick has all kinds of horrible things happen to him and done to him (even by his allies) for the sake of comedy, including dying regularly - sometimes multiple times on the same page! When he gets the chance to hear why from The Powers What Is, they state that he is a "destiny sponge" soaking up all kinds of horribleness so other people and the world don't have to. Alternate worlds without him have gone from Crapsack World to pure hell.
  • This was pretty much Will Vandom's life. Let's see - dad was a compulsive gambler, driving their family broke. Mom divorced him and he disappeared. When her powers were starting to develop, she's ostracized by her friends for being weird. Mom decides to move to Heatherfield and she spends her first day of school in the rain with a broken bike. You'd think that after becoming a Guardian, her life would be better - you'd think wrong. Stops Phobos? Mom wants to move back to their old town. Dad comes back? Turns out he wants to use Will for to swindle money out of her mom... and when he's gone, her precious pet dormouse she got from her future boyfriend Matt is ran down by a passing car! It's no wonder when that happens, the first thing she says is "Why does this keep happening?!"
    • Note that this is just the first 30 issues. It keeps getting weirder and weirder after that.

Films -- Live-Action

  • Lilya 4-ever. Movie about a 14-year-old girl living in the slums of the former Soviet Union. Almost unbearable sad.
  • Crank had, as its theme, that every character from minor to major had the biggest bad luck day possible on the day that Chev was poisoned.
  • The short film Six Shooter was basically based on this trope. It starts with the main character on the train home from the hospital after finding out that his wife has died in an accident. He strikes up a conversation with a young man, who reveals that his mother had been murdered the night before. Over the course of the movie said young man ends up causing the suicide of a young mother who'd just lost her child, is found to be the murderer of his mother, and dies in a shoot-out with the police (still on the train). The main character picks up the discarded gun, which has two bullets left. He takes it home intending to commit suicide. He remembers his wife's rabbit and, being merciful, shoots it first so it doesn't have to starve. He then drops the gun, which fires its last bullet, and so he can't kill himself anymore. The last line? 'What a day.'
  • Mel Gibson's character, Benjamin Martin, in The Patriot only decides to fight in the Revolution after his eldest son was captured and sentenced to hang and his younger son was shot in cold blood by the over-the-top evil Tavington, who had just walked in to the Martin's home and murdered several wounded Colonials in their beds and set their home on fire as punishment, even though the Martins were also caring for British wounded. That's when Benjamin gets out the hatchets.
  • Played for humor in My Cousin Vinny when Lisa nags Vinny about getting married:

Vinny: "Lisa, I don't need this. I swear to God, I do not need this right now, okay? I've got a judge that's just aching to throw me in jail. An idiot who wants to fight me for two hundred dollars. Slaughtered pigs. Giant loud whistles. I ain't slept in five days. I got no money, a dress code problem, AND a little murder case which, in the balance, holds the lives of two innocent kids, not to mention your [stomps his foot] BIOLOGICAL CLOCK - my career, your life, our marriage, and let me see, what else can we pile on? Is there any more SHIT we can pile on to the top of the outcome of this case? Is it possible?"
Lisa: [pause] "Maybe it was a bad time to bring it up."

Robin Hood: Blinkin, listen to me. They've taken the castle!
Blinkin: I thought it felt a bit drafty. Cor, this never would have happened if your father was alive.
Robin Hood: He's dead?
Blinkin: Yes.
Robin Hood: And my mother?
Blinkin: She died of pneumonia while... oh, you were away...
Robin Hood: My brothers?
Blinkin: There were all killed by the plague.
Robin Hood: My dog, Pogo?
Blinkin: Run over by a carriage.
Robin Hood: My goldfish, Goldie?
Blinkin: Eaten by the cat.
Robin Hood: [on the verge of tears] My cat?
Blinkin: Choked on the goldfish.

    • Don't forget the clincher:

Blinkin: Oh, isn't it great to be 'ome, Master Robin?

  • Very Bad Things. The whole damn movie, starting with the bachelor party in Vegas.
  • Much like the Robin Hood example above, the Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence movie Life provided this.

Pokerface: [on a break; Ray and Claude have just come in] Either one of you new fellas know how to read?
Ray: I know how to read, why?
Pokerface: I've been carrying this letter for four months now
Claude: You mean to tell me none of y'all can read?
Willie Long: Last fella what could read made parole about, what, Christmas.
Pokerface: [about his letter] I don't even know who this come from.
Ray: [takes the letter] Gimme that shit.
[turns to old inmate sitting next to him]
Ray: You can't read?
[old inmate replies "no"]
Ray: Almost sixty years old; motherfucker can't read. Here: look, it's from, it's from your mama's neighbor, Mrs. Tadwell, you know who that is, Mrs. Tadwell; she thought you ought to know that your second cousin Bo died, Bo died, and your, and your other cousin Sally on your daddy's side, she died. Oh, and apparently your sister died, too.
Pokerface: Jenny?
Ray: No, it said Marlene here, Marlene died
[reads on]
Ray: ... no no no, Marlene, Jen-Jenny, Jenny died, too, Jenny and Marlene both dead. Then it goes on for a while about how the crop didn't come in on account of the frost, she finished up, there's been a big tornado in which your mama and your daddy were both killed, but don't worry because she's gonna take care of the dog, that is if he gets over the worms; dog had worms.
Pokerface: Appreciate it.
Ray: Yeah, well you know, any time I can help.

  • The revised ending of Stephen King's The Mist, in which the main character kills all the other survivors, including his ten-year-old son, only to run out of bullets when he tries to finish it by killing himself, and tries to get a monster to kill him...just in time for the cavalry to arrive—this in Portland, having come all the way from Bangor with no sign of fellow survivors.
    • It gets better. The cavalry arrives from behind their stalled car. They had been driving directly away from help the entire time.
  • In Van Helsing, Anna's death doesn't really have much narrative purpose other than giving Van Helsing something to scream about.


  • Possibly subverted (eventually) in The Bible. The story of Job centers on a man who loses his farmhands, shepherds, servants, several kinds of cattle, children, and health. All of this ends up demonstrating several points about God's sovereignty, though, among other things, and at any rate, Job got better.
  • Pick a character in Animorphs. Almost any character. Fans tend to think Tobias wins at this particular kind of angst, but a careful reading of the series reveals that he has some pretty serious competition. (Consider the backstories of the Auxiliary Animorphs, and how they wound up being used in the end. Dang.)
  • It has become pretty apparent that the writer To Live's main objective is to make the protagonist suffer as much as possible, no matter how ridiculous the manner is.
  • Like the final quarter of the last book in the His Dark Materials trilogy is a ridiculously convoluted justification for why the Hero and Heroine can't just get married and have a happy ending.
  • Harry Potter—every single male parental figure in the title character's life - except Arthur, who was supposed to die in the middle of book five - ends up dead, one by one. (Sort of Voldemort's plan)
    • Tip of the iceberg. Harry's whole life is epic Dickensian-level suck, from the ugly hand-me-downs to the ridiculously cruel relatives.
      • She does the same thing with Severus Snape, really. Poverty, emotional abuse, and appalling parental neglect. In his case, though, it's more of a Truth in Television. Lack of funds in a family can lead to all sorts of nastiness; most cases of child abuse and neglect come out of poor neighborhoods.
  • Stephen R. Donaldson loves putting his characters through hell so he can watch them suffer.
  • Even The Black Stallion series goes for this one. Jockey Alec Ramsey, having undergone a pretty eventful life already, falls in love with a bewitching free spirit named Pam in The Black Stallion and the Girl. She leaves him to continue her wandering ways, but at the beginning of the next book, The Black Stallion Legend, her bus plunges off a cliff, killing her and everyone else on board. Alec finds out about this through a newspaper account and goes quite mad. He recovers eventually.
    • But not before he drives out into the desert with only his beloved horse, gets lost, gets found by an Indian tribe who thinks the Black is some sort of spirit horse sent to lead them to safety, which seems more reasonable when a GIANT METEOR hits the Earth, causing disaster and destruction, including massive damage to Hopeful Farm which he finds out when he decides to call home and tell them he's not dead, but it does all get better in the end. Yeah, at this point, author Walter Farley was getting a bit odd.
      • To be fair, Pam was modelled on Farley's daughter, who died in a car crash in Europe. The Black Stallion Legend was his way of handling it.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events is a (darkly) humorous take on this.
  • Is there an "uplifting" chick-lit novel, Lifetime Movie of the Week, or Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation that doesn't do this to its heroine(s)?
  • Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, arguably. Two young teens being desperately in love with each other but separated by the feuding of their families is a realistic situation, but that ridiculous farce of a dual duel misunderstanding? Tybalt tries to challenge Romeo, Romeo refuses so Mercutio fights in his place, and is killed by Tybalt, causing Romeo to kill the offender in a fit of pique. And on top of this, the Friar's messenger just conveniently fails to reach Romeo to warn him of Juliet's fake death, causing Romeo to drink poison mere moments before Juliet awakens, who then proceeds to stab herself with a dagger, promptly dying. So the actual tragedy of the story, the lovers' demise, could've been avoided if Romeo had waited a bloody five minutes before committing suicide, or even if the messenger had succeeded in delivering the message in the first place.
  • Soul Of The Fire, the fifth book of the Sword of Truth series is made of this. For starters, it takes place in a country where more than half the population is convinced they're inherently evil (think about if Hitler somehow managed to convince the Jews they deserved to be exterminated, and you'll get the idea). The one person in this group who wants to change it has his head unceremoniously broken in half. His would-be girlfriend sees her entire regiment (made up of fresh-faced girls) either slaughtered, raped, or both at the same time before running for her life and likely suffering the same fate. A good friend that a major character had known years ago is burned at the stake. And the hero's wife is beaten to death (but saved with the kiss of life) and loses their baby. Singularly the most depressing book in the whole series.
  • Turin from JRR Tolkien's The Children of Hurin. His little sister died when he was 5. When he was 9, his father went off to war and was captured by the Big Bad, who cursed his entire family. (Turin didn't know about it and thought his father died.) He then leaves his pregnant mother behind to seek shelter from the Elf king, so he wouldn't be enslaved. When he was 20, he accidentally kills an Elf who attacked him verbally and physically. Believing the king would punish him, he exiles himself. The king forgave him when he found out the truth, and let Beleg, a good friend of Turin, search for him. Turin joins a band of outlaws and becomes their leader. He is captured by orcs and tied up. Beleg finds him at night and cuts his bonds, but his knife slips and wakes Turin up. Turin jumps up and kills Beleg. Later, his mother and the sister that was born after he'd left, Nienor, goes to the Elf king to look for Turin. Obviously he's not there, so they go look for him. Glaurung the dragon puts a spell over Nienor so she forgets who she is. She goes running crazy into the woods until Turin finds her. They fall in love and get married. Eventually Turin goes to slay Glaurung. He fatally stabs him, but the blood makes him pass out. Nienor finds him and thinks he's dead. Glaurung tells her that she's pregnant by her brother and dies, thus lifting the spell. Nienor remembers everything and jumps off a cliff. Turin wakes up and and goes home, where he is told about Nienor from her Stalker with a Crush. He commits suicide by impaling himself on his sword which apparently talks to him.
    • Tolkien makes the subtle point that most of Turin's troubles can be traced to his angsty self-absorption. As somebody - Beleg? - points out, other people have their problems too. Given that the War Against Morgoth is being lost, that is something of an understatement!
    • This series of events is supposed to be abnormally unfortunate, as Morgoth's punishment of Hurin (Turin's father) was to give Hurin the ability to see everything that happened to his family and then to curse said family. Considering that Morgoth helped make the world, it is to be assumed that his curses would actually come true.
    • Don't forget how, when he goes to Nargothrond with Gwindor, Gwindor's fiancee falls for him, whilst he remains oblivious and he ends up destroying Nargothrond by persuading its inhabitants to fight. Gwindor dies wishing he'd never met Turin and Finduilas dies because Glaurung hypnotises Turin into letting orcs drag her off.
  • Robin Hobb loves to use this trope, Fitz from Farseer never seems to get an even break. Every time he appears to achieve or be about to achieve anything events conspire to dash his hopes and often make things much, much worse. Possibly justified because all the bad things that happen are the natural result of the setting and event transpiring around him, but included because he always seems to get the short end of the stick.
    • This is later justified in the series because this is Fitz's role in fate. Technically he doesn't have a normal fate like everyone else does because he wasn't supposed to exist, which means that the Fool can use him as a wedge to drive the turning wheel of fate out of its current path. Meanwhile the wedge gets run over and ground down by the wheel in the process.
  • Spoofed in the "Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan" stories within Daniel Pinkwater's Young Adult Novel:

So here was Kevin, a thirteen-year-old alcoholic, pusher, and thief. His mother would never get well, his father certainly wouldn't, and sister Isobel was turning tricks on State Street. It seemed to Kevin that there wasn't a chance in the world that he would ever get his life straightened out.
And he was right. So we hit him over the head and fed him to the pigs.

  • Voltaire's Candide is an entire book of this. Despite his assertions that we live in the best of all possible worlds, Candide is kicked out of his idyllic home for kissing a girl who is apparently his cousin (although this is never brought up by any of the characters), is tricked into joining the Bulgarian army, is flogged until he has no skin on his back and begs for death, sees horrific death and destruction caused by the war, has a chamber-pot emptied on him, finds out that his beloved teacher has become a beggar hideously disfigured by syphilis, learns that his childhood home was utterly destroyed and his love interest and her family have been murdered (after brutal mass rape), and the ship he's on is beset by a storm... in the first four chapters. In fact, every character in Candide suffers from this trope—it's hard to find a character who hasn't been enslaved, raped, flogged, or lost all their worldly possessions.
  • In Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan Universe, where Arab terrorists destroy a big chunk of Denver with a nuclear weapon and almost succeed in provoking a global nuclear exchange between the US and Russia, Japan threatens the U.S. with nuclear weapons, a madman pilot does a kamikaze attack with a Boeing 747 into the Capitol and kills the President and most of Congress, and Iran then attacks the US with biological warfare (see following entry)... and after all this, Clancy decides to still include the events of September 11, 2001 in this world. What already happened was bad enough; the last one was truly unnecessary piling on.
    • You forgot Iran funding terrorists to launch a biological attack and try to kidnap the President's daughter, which started a short war in the Middle East; Japan invading US territory (the Marianas); a war with the US and Russia on one side and China on the other, which culminated in China launching an ICBM at Washington D.C. that is shot down at the last possible minute; a small battle between US and Russian forces in Berlin after the nuke in Denver, which almost lead to nuclear war (again); and a few more things.
  • In The Last Herald-Mage trilogy from the Heralds of Valdemar books, the title character Vanyel has no paranormal abilities at all and no friends. He gets his arm broken by his weapons trainer in an attempt to "toughen him up" (note, he was an aspiring musician). His one true love goes insane when his twin brother dies, plans a complicated revenge, suffers a massive breakdown, and ultimately commits suicide, but not before flooding Van with a massive torrent of magical energy that forcibly awakens all of his magical gifts. Van is left in such emotional and psychic pain that he attempts suicide twice before starting to recover.
    • And that was just in the first volume! In the second volume he's mostly just lonely, a bit sad, slightly shell-shocked, and suffering from a mild deathwish; but in the third volume he watches his king (who is one of his few actual friends) die by inches (and it is quite explicit that the king's beloved, one of Vanyel's other few friends, will die with him), his Aunt is painfully killed because he dismisses her worries about a rash of fatal accidents, and he gets gang-raped... all because apparently he didn't have enough angst in his life already...
    • Not to mention that he is cursed with foresight, starting early in Book One, that he will die facing down an Evil Sorcerer.
  • Tycho Celchu can be seen as one of these. He was born and grew up on Alderaan and was a very good pilot for The Empire. When the Empire blew up his homeworld, it was his birthday, and he was in a full-holo conference celebrating it with his entire family and his fiancee. When the holo failed, for several hours he thought it was just "technical difficulties" and planned to rib them about it, since his family owned the station and had been suffering similar failures. Later, having switched sides and serving the Rebellion, he got kidnapped by Isard, the Empire's mistress of intelligence and brainwashing. She failed and transferred him out of her secret prison into one from which he was able to escape. Since he told his superiors that Isard had kidnapped him, they believed he had been brainwashed - all previous brainwashed people hadn't been able to tell anyone - and restricted what he could and could not do. Since the head of Rouge Squadron trusted him, he was allowed to fly an unarmed shuttle into combat to rescue downed pilots, but he had a guard at all times. Later he got framed for Corran Horn's apparent death, and his friends and allies were forced to clear his name. Throughout this Tycho was unfailingly portrayed as incredibly calm and noble. His situation certainly got better later, but damn.

"I am Tycho Celchu, son of Alderaan, now orphan of the galaxy. I have come to this place of my birth to pay homage to who I was and those I knew. And those I loved and love still. It is my wish that when life abandons me, I am returned here to be among you, so that for eternity we may be together as we should have been in life. These gifts are but insufficient tokens of the love for you all that still burns within me. This fighter is another. It bears the colors of the Alderaanian Guard and transmits their code. It is my pledge to you - not of vengeance but of vigilance. I hope you rest well knowing you will rest alone, because it is my life's work to see to it that no one else suffers as you have. I won't rest until this quest is complete. Rest easy. I miss you all."

    • A later book lampshades it a little when Adumarians dub him "The Doleful One". He's not sad, but he always looks sad. So sad that, well...

Tycho: * frowns* I'm not sad.
Janson: No, but you look sad. Makes the ladies of Cartann's court want to comfort you. They're so sad about wanting to comfort you that you could comfort them.
Hobbie: And Tycho's the only one of us with a successful relationship with a woman. Missed opportunities, Tycho.

  • Leafpool in Warrior Cats. In Twilight, her mentor dies (and she blames herself for her death), she has to give up the love of her life, and she essentially becomes isolated from the rest of the Clan. She seems to have been able suck it up, but then in Sunrise it is revealed that she was actually pregnant and had to give up her kits to be raised by her sister, she can no longer be a medicine cat (pretty much the only joy in life she had left), she gets insulted by the aforementioned love of her life, her own daughter tries to kill her, and she apparently blames herself for Ashfur's death. The ending makes it difficult to tell exactly what is going to happen to her now. All this isn't really a Contrived Coincidence though, since it all just originates from one bad decision... and another bad decision to cover up the first one...
  • Alonso Quixano in The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. Almost everybody he encounters takes advantage of his delusions for comedy value. Don Quixote attributes all misfortunes to his mysterious, non-existent enemies, which are exchangeable, and consist of a sorcerer.
  • Push by Sapphire has received criticism because of this. Precious Jones, the protagonist, is a completely illiterate 16 year old in the 8th grade. Her father raped her and caused her to get pregnant twice, the first time she was 13. The baby from the first pregnancy(Little Mongo) has severe Down's syndrome. She is currently pregnant with the second. When she was in labor with Mongo, her mother was kicking her on the floor. It Gets Worse(and a little bit better). By the end of the book, she is a semi-literate HIV-positive teen mom living in a homeless shelter. And the sequel, The Kid, is apparently even worse, with Precious dying in the first chapter.
    • Though the author has said that Precious was based on a girl she met when she was a teacher.
  • Any Jodi Picoult book. It would be a Tear Jerker, except that she puts it on much too thick at times. Some examples include My Sister's Keeper (one sister has leukemia, the other was born to give the other tissue, and the brother is a serial arsonist), The Pact (teenage girl puts her boyfriend's hand to shoot the gun so she can die, results in criminal case for boyfriend, it is revealed that the teenage girl was pregnant, and had been raped as a child, and as a result could not bring herself to get an abortion).
  • Kurt Vonnegut's success is based on laying misery down on his characters, but special mention goes to the book Deadeye Dick. The main character, Rudy Waltz accidentally shoots and kills a pregnant woman at twelve years old. His naive, pampered father takes the blame for the killing and both he and his son are imprisoned, where they are tortured and humiliated by the police. Rudy is stricken by grief and dedicates his life to making up for his actions he never does, at least to his satisfaction. Consumed by grief he shuts himself off from all worldly pleasure and lives life as what he calls as an asexual "neuter." His hometown knows him as almost an urban legend and derisively refer to him as "Deadeye Dick." He spends the remainder of his parents' lives as their effective slave because they have no idea how to care for themselves after losing their enormous wealth. When they die, he becomes an expatriate in Haiti until he hears his hometown has been obliterated by a neutron bomb to open the city up for real-estate sales. And that's the end of the book.
  • Thomas Hardy is notorious for books of this nature. Characters may make temporary gains, but everything from the nature of society to the weather will conspire to destroy them. It's been suggested that he suffered from depression himself.
  • Happens in Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust. Not only is the main character's family poor and living in the middle of Kansas in the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, but she accidentally burns her hands, destroying her musical talent, after she sets her pregnant mother on fire, eventually killing her.
  • Ron Currie, Jr.'s Everything Matters. So your druggie brother finally starts to get clean? Oops, the drugs addled his brain. He'll live, but with the mentality of a child. You almost killed yourself to find a cure for your father's cancer? Well, he'll fall asleep at the wheel and die before you get to see him again anyway. You finally convinced your girlfriend to escape your doomed planet with you? She's going to be shot by terrorists a page later. And then there's the small matter of The End of the World as We Know It hanging over the whole story... Still a good book.
  • Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendour. The last fourth of the book involves nearly everyone close to Richard either dying or betraying him, to the point where he more or less stops caring. Justified because all of these events come out of the historical record, turning the whole thing into a major Tear Jerker.
  • The Aeneid. Juno (who in an earlier epic poem is actually called an "eternal bitch") gets angry at the Trojans. Therefore, Aeneas' city (Troy) is defeated and burned. As he's escaping, he loses his wife, and his frantic midnight search for her only turns up her ghost. Then he has to lead a bunch of refugees across the known world in search of a safe place to resettle. They are caught in numerous storms, and accidentally burn down their own fleet at one point. He is forced to abandon the first woman he falls in love with, leading to her suicide. When they finally reach a point where they think they can settle down and rebuild their lives, Virgil says "Only look upward" and reminds the reader that the bitchy goddess is still after them... enter war and death and destruction.
  • The backstories of the Stationery Voyagers and their allies take the Humans Are the Real Monsters concept to extremes.
    • Arnold "Pextel" Rubblindo is ignored by his little sister, treated with complete apathy when worried about his missing girlfriend, discovers that his father has the Stationery being equivalent of Pick's disease, fears his mother might have it also, gets in an agonizing car crash brought on by a police chase gone wrong against a drug smuggler who was working for the company owned by his girlfriend's parents, is transformed against his will into a robot to save his "life," is assigned a job as a ship captain and ambassador to several other planets by an organization that has effectively enslaved him, and is eventually rejected by his own mother because no son of hers is a Mechie.
    • Pinkella discovers that her parents have sold themselves and the company out to evil foreign terrorists who want to poison the candy and make children become helplessly sexually compulsive as early on as possible. Then, she finds out her parents have an open marriage and don't care. Then, they turn their backs on everything that they ever taught her in her youth, and try to get her to find someone to have sex with other than her boyfriend, who's "beneath" them. Then, her attempt to escape an unpleasant vacation results in her nearly getting raped by her would-be rescuer. Who is eaten by a shark after he falls overboard. And leaves her looking like a suspect of grand theft boat. Then, her brother turns out to be a Depraved Homosexual whose boyfriend has connections with a Sleazy Politician. The brother proceeds to murder her parents, then make an attempt on her life. Only to be betrayed and murdered by his gay partner, who then takes over the company. She finds herself effectively in almost the exact same position as Pextel, minus the being turned into a robot.
    • It's never stated what happened to Rhodney's family. He never discusses them and nobody dares bring it up. The safe assumption is that with the war going on, they're all dead. But it's hard to say. Rhodney actually gets off lucky. Other than the possibility that his very small family might all be dead, the worst thing he faces his Desperately Looking for a Purpose In Life.
    • Likewise, it's never really stated what happened to Oceanoe's family. But they too are probably mostly obliterated. His one for-certain living relative, his brother, steals his music career out from under him. He goes on to join the Voyagers, and to a life of being constantly beat up and chased out of town by mobs throwing molotovs at him. And in one episode, the villains actually poison him with a special toxin to try to turn him gay. (Instead, it just fills his head with debilitating hypersensitivity to and fear of abused masculinity, made worse by the toxin's propensity toward making everyone under its influence completely obsessive-compulsive. In his case, resulting in a sort of Heroic BSOD.) He also in one episode has to stop a submarine from being sunk by his political enemies, which would drown the whole crew and himself.
    • Marlack's grandfather complains of getting too old and of fears of dying, and fears of what it will take to maintain the ranch. Marlack feels unworthy because he's done almost nothing with his life, and wants to prove himself. He wants to join the Voyager program, leave after a few years, then come back and take over only when his father Henry is ready to phantomar-over the reins. But then, Henry is killed during a rodeo stunt gone wrong, leaving Marlack the direct heir to the ranch. Then, Marlack's sister Bonnie is raped and becomes pregnant. And the rapist is in league with the terrorists that are trying to render the country bankrupt. And the grandfather puts pressure on Marlack to restore his sister's honor. But attempting to do so nearly gets Marlack killed - first by evil gangsters and then by a lone psychopath who happened to be in the area.
    • And none of these schmucks have anything on Neone. She was kidnapped from her loving parents after one month of being born. She was then left in a dumpster to die by an Evil Sorcerer who was too lazy that evening to get creative with using is evil powers on her. A carpenter rescues and adopts her, resulting in her going from life as fairy tale royalty to a life of poverty in a ratty house in a corrupt capital city. Then, the only father figure she ever grew up knowing is brutally murdered in front of her, with the killers laughing the whole time and forcing her to watch just so they could laugh at her horrified reaction. They then lock her in an unsanitary dungeon inside a mafia-esque compound/industrial warehouse complex. They then make her into a call girl, and threaten to murder any of her customers if the customers fall in love with her. They punish her for crying, or even reacting to pain at all. Her lone friend she makes in the brothels is forced to become a jewelry store thief, who ends up stealing something worth about one dollar less than the estimated value. And is brutally murdered for it. Neone, wishing to escape, does so only to find herself being chased by a psychopath who blames her for all the trauma he faced in grade school. Which included persecution from the teachers and principal, who told him that he would never be remembered for anything other than the stench of his own rotting corpse. She escapes all the madness, only to find herself an envoy on a planet that is completely engulfed in The War On Straw. Where her criticisms of the sex industry make her the target of bomb threats. Also, she does discover her royal lineage. Only to have a cave collapse on the royal family and kill them all. After which her entire home planet is taken over by a terrorist with a bazooka fetish.
    • Easily why Erasaxo is The Woobie. He was reduced to The Last of His Kind. He is generally ignored or becomes the Butt Monkey for other reasons. His only reward? Being shot and killed on an enemy planet that he helped set to self-destruct. And then his body abandoned there to be blown to smithereens along with the entire rest of said planet.
    • Liquidon was forced into a Sadistic Choice: let his own brother die, or perform a move to save his brother that would surely kill Astriliad if pulled off right. With only seconds to react, he chose the latter. And the consequences were him being unwelcomed by some of the locals of his hometown. And a genocide campaign against his own species launched in retaliation for his lone act. He tries to find redemption by joining the Voyagers, only to have to have his release from jail negotiated after intelligence mistakes him for a terrorist. He joins the Voyagers, only to find himself having to constantly save their sorry behinds from the molotov-throwing Dirty Communists. He finally gets a girlfriend...who cannot be out during daylight and craves iron and potassium. And she has to sacrifice herself to stop him from having a Superpower Meltdown that could wipe out an entire city, adding to his sense of guilt and shame.
    • The sequel Final Hope is no better about this. Philidrio finds himself the only one the universe will allow to defeat Balontir. His backstory is also very similar to Pextel's. Only instead of his family dying of brain cancer, they are killed in an arson. After he is turned into a Mechie, his love interest leaves him for the Heel Face Turn version of her rapist. He ends up instead with a grown-up Stella-Marie Jenkins, who acts 27 but is really somewhere close to 70. And has a prison record.
    • Laura is abandoned by her own family, hunted by Astrabolo's government, betrayed by her own boyfriend, sent to the guillotine, and finds out that she is under an edict from God that will let her regenerate a new body every time she is killed, unless she loses her technical virginity. So she ends up getting to relive the trauma of her own beheading every single time she is captured.
    • Verdegal was raped in her own back yard. And nobody believed a word of it. She runs away from home, and is nearly killed in the subway. Her rescuer is shot, and is one of the few men she ever loved. Wishing to keep him around for therapeutic sex, she is forced instead to turn him into a robot. After the transformation, their romance begins to fade. After her rapist defects to the good guys' side, she finds solace with him. And then both of them are brutally murdered just before Judgment Day.
  • Subverted in The Count of Monte Cristo. Initially Dantes is quite justifiably angsty about his certainly terrible position. But when he overcomes it, he decides that he's going to spend the rest of his lifetime handing out angst to those who deserve it.
  • Agrajag in The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy is killed by Arthur Dent in each of his lives (he keeps reincarnating).
  • Very common in Danielle Steel's novels. An example is Gabbie in The Long Road Home, who has a very abusive mother, a father who doesn't help and leaves when she is 9. Her mother then moves to California and leaves her in a convent, where she decides to become a nun and falls in love with a priest. However, they are not allowed to be together, and her lover feels guilty and hangs himself. She is kicked out of the convent and ends up moving into a boarding house. Just as things seem to be moving up, her closest friend is essentially killed by the con-man Gabbie fell in love with and said con man then beats Gabbie almost to death for the money the friend left her in his will.
  • We've gone this long without mentioning Harry Dresden? Guy's had a hard life. From start to finish: His mom died giving birth to him, his dad died when he was a kid, his first mentor tried to turn him into a dark wizard, he killed said wizard with dark magic (and thought his first love died in the resultant fire), was put under magical probation for most of his adult life, had his second true love, Susan, turn into a half-vampire, started an entire war over her, lost several friends in said war, learned Susan had borne his daughter and never told him about her, learned she was kidnapped by the Red Court of Vampires...and, oh yeah, to top it all off, he learned of a spell that was supposed to use his daughter to kill him and ALL of his blood relations, and he slit Susan's throat to kill each and every Red Vampire in the WORLD. And you think you have it hard?
    • Not to mention he put his daughter in a safe house at the very end... and he said it was better he didn't know where she lived. And his daughter was scared of his face when she first saw him. And then he was so depressed he got his apprentice to kill him. And his best friend lost her job.
    • It wasn't depression, and his apprentice didn't kill him. He had his apprentice erase his memory of ordering his own assassination so he could renege on a deal he made with the Winter Court essentially selling his soul to repair his recently received paralysis to save his kidnapped daughter.
  • Life in the Fat Lane, by Cherie Bennett is almost nothing but Deus Angst Machina. Lara Ardeche, homecoming queen and teen beauty contestant, develops a chemical imbalance that causes her weight to double within months. Her Girl Posse brush her off as a result; the school Fat Girl, whom she'd inadvertently insulted, makes a point of gloating; and her relationship with her parents deteriorates. Later, her father cheats on her mother, her mother attempts suicide, and the whole family moves to another town...where Lara is treated like a Butt Monkey at school for being fat. (And there's also her break-up with Jett...but that was kind of her own damn fault.)
  • This is one of the more common complaints about Mockingjay that the amount of angst was cranked Up to Eleven. For example Prim and Finnick's deaths are often called uneccessary, Gale changes overnight, most of the district dies. Peeta's arc is particularly glaring, the book starts with his entire family being killed, follows with his torture to the point of insanity, and concludes with him nearly burning to death in battle.

Live-Action TV

  • Goren from Law and Order: Criminal Intent qualifies, if any one does. Let's see.... his schizophrenic mother hates him, even though he's the only one who takes care of her, his drug-addicted brother gets all the love from their mother, his father—who treated him like shit anyway—turned out not to be his real father, and his biological father turned out to be a serial killer who's executed in another state. He gets persecuted by the FBI, ends up in a mental hospital, gets fired, not to mention that his health and good looks go to shit, too. This is only a partial list of all the shit that goes down. If anyone can be accused of provoking the wrath of the writer-deities, this character would be definitely be it. The unrelenting, unceasing suffering that occurs was enough to make many fans stop watching the show, out of sheer disgust. If anyone earned a happy ending they never got, it's Goren. Shoot the Shaggy Dog, already.
  • Law and Order Special Victims Unit often falls into this. Granted, a Cop Show about victims of rape and other sex crimes isn't exactly going to be all smiles, sunshine and cartoon bluebirds, and there's going to be fair bit of angst at times, but they really do tend to lay it on a bit thick. Often occurs whenever one of the characters gets into an It's Personal moment, which is roughly every episode.
  • Anyone in Battlestar Galactica. Anyone. Cylons included. Heck, they exterminated 99.99% of the human race - and it was just the beginning!
  • Daniel Jackson in Stargate and Stargate SG-1. Loses both his parents in an accident, has his scientific discoveries rejected and mocked... then, just as he finds that his theories aren't crazy after all and everyone thinks he's going to live Happily Ever After on another planet with his new wife, she is promptly taken away by the Big Bad and implanted with a Goa'uld symbiote. After he spends three years fighting the Goa'uld, with the hope of seeing her again being his only motivation, he's forced to see her killed by Teal'c, one of his best friends. He recovers, only to have another love interest taken away by another Goa'uld. Not even death stops the chain of unfortunate events: after ascending, he's quickly frustrated with his inability to intervene, and finally kicked from the ascended plane after trying to stop another Big Bad from dropping a planet's worth of bridges on Abydos... and failing. The most amazing thing is how he eventually gets over all this...
    • All the main characters of SG-1 have tormented pasts and presents, perhaps not contrived when you take into account how often they tempt fate and win.
  • In the Canadian teen drama series Degrassi, just about every awful thing that can happen to a teenager has happened to one of the characters. There's been a school shooting, a stabbing, at least one rape, self-mutilation, eating disorders, and multiple drug addictions and pregnancies. All the while, nobody seems to notice that Degrassi might not be the best place to go to school...
  • As repeatedly noted on this site, Buffy during season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The last couple of episodes stick out though: After having her mentor/father figure leave town, seeing the marriage of two of her best friends fall apart at the altar (causing one of them to revert to being an evil vengeance demon), having her ex-boyfriend come back to town happily married and disappointed in seeing her working a dead-end job at a fast food place and dating a vampire, then barely avoiding a rape by said vampire, then having her best friend's girlfriend shot by a random bullet meant for her, then having said best friend go Psycho Lesbian and on a killing spree with her magical powers, then having her little sister attacked by demons enroute to the Psycho Lesbian causing the end of the world... who could blame Buffy for wishing she had stayed dead at the end of season 5?
    • Of course, the seasons of Buffy before this one weren't exactly over-brimming with happiness either. But it was never quite this bad.
    • Season six went so far it became an in-universe example of Crosses the Line Twice: when Giles (very dramatically) returned at the end of the season, Buffy told him about all the horrible traumatic things that have happened just since he left, never mind everything that happened before. Does he give her a hug? Tell her everything's going to be all right? Help her figure out how to stop the latest instance of The End of the World as We Know It? No - he breaks down in uncontrollable laughter. A moment later, Buffy joins him. And so does the audience.
    • It's a similar story on Angel. And Firefly. And Dollhouse. In fact Joss Whedon is so in love with this the trope could almost be renamed after him.
  • A Saturday Night Live sketch featured Mike Myers as a British WWII soldier recovering in a hospital, who goes through one of the worst cases of this ever but refuses to lose his cool. Turns out the nurse he is engaged to is already married and only pretended to be in love with him to keep his hopes up. And the mission he just flew didn't result in the death of Hitler as he had been told. In fact, he blew up an orphanage. And he can't go back and play football for his favorite team because the doctors had to amputate his leg. And his team lost anyway. Because their opponents' team had the nurse's husband kick the winning goals. And when he comments that such a great player must have three legs, it turns out that he does. Because that's what they did with the leg they took from him. And then the husband shows up and it's Hitler! Myers comments that at least nobody has hit him over the head with a pipe today. Guess what Hitler does.
  • Eastenders. Just... Eastenders. Most soaps have a bit of inherent angst involved, but in that one, whatever can go wrong is guaranteed to go wrong—and then, whatever can't go wrong will also go wrong, just for good measure.
  • Oh, lord, Supernatural. With its numerous break the cuties, Abusive Parents of all kinds, a Kill'Em All fetish, characters that can jump from a Jerkass to a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, applies Rule 34 and Mood Whiplash in spades, numerous death wishes, deals with the devil that twist and break the other characters, episodes where incest would actually be more acceptable, a penchant for Downer Endings and festering issues, you have to wonder how anyone on the show hasn't checked into therapy yet or put a bullet in their brain (although Dean was close in Season Two). This might seem like the rest of the shows on here but you have to remember; this was supposed to be a show with no chick-flick moments and the basic premise of two pretty-boys brothers hunting down demons with rock salt.
    • Just to demonstrate, here's a list of some of the crap they go through (deep breath): Let's see... Dead mother, emotionally abusive father, fucked up childhood; Sam's attempt at a normal life ends with his girlfriend's death; their father makes a Deal with the Devil for Dean's life, leaving Dean to deal with the guilt and anger of knowing his dad's in Hell because of him; he also tells Dean he'll have to either save Sam or kill him, leaving Sam terrified he'll go Dark Side. Sam dies, prompting Dean to make his own deal. Dean goes to Hell for forty years; Sam allies himself with a demon; Dean gets raised from Hell by Castiel, an angel... Only to find out that the angels want to start the Apocalypse. And Dean inadvertently broke the first seal and kick-started the whole thing. Dean persuades Castiel to help him, only to get there too late to stop Sam from accidentally freeing Lucifer and starting the Apocalypse. Dean and Sam find out they're vessels for Michael and Lucifer, and if Dean says yes Michael will torch half the planet in 'saving the world'; they try to kill Lucifer themselves, but fail (and lose two close friends in the process); Castiel tries to find God, only to be told that God doesn't give a damn. Dean comes very close to saying yes to Michael out of sheer despair. They eventually manage to find a way of beating Lucifer that involves Sam going to Hell, and Cas pisses off back to Heaven, leaving Dean pretty much broken. At least he has love interest Lisa and her kid Ben to comfort him, though... Then Sam comes back - except without a soul. He gets his soul back, they get sold out by their grandfather, and then the Big Bad turns out to be Castiel, who they regard as family. Dean's relationship with Lisa and Ben also deteriorates to the point where he gets Cas to erase their memories of him. And Sam gets back his memories of his time in Hell, which had been blocked to stop them from driving him insane causing him to have hallucinations of Lucifer, so now he's not sure what's real and what's not. Cas absorbs all the souls from Purgatory and Leviathans which eventually take control of his body and kill him,[1] Dean's ready to quit hunting, and Bobby, the character who has survived for an incredibly long time considering the show's track record, get's a bullet to the brain and dies, leaving Sam and Dean alone in their fight.
    • So, to summarize: between the deaths, trauma, abandonment issues, crippling guilt, unhealthy co-dependency, betrayals and lies, 'fucked up' is an accurate description. Bobby, at one point, comes out and says that the only reason he doesn't put a bullet in his brain is Dean and Sam.[2] How's that for cheerful? (And this isn't even the worst of it; Dean gets to time travel to a potential future for one episode, which is much, much worse. If you haven't seen it, read the above, and try to imagine what, if this is business as normal, the crappy future was like. Try.)
  • Pretty much everyone in Xena: Warrior Princess, but Callisto in particular: Her sociopathic/homicidal tendencies stem from witnessing her parents' deaths. Upon attaining Goddess-hood she has the chance to save them via time travel... and kills them in front of her younger self to ensure she becomes the person she is.
  • The modern Doctor Who veers hard into this country, to the point that Wangst has replaced gratuitous kidnapping of a companion as a source of cheap drama. See the endings of Journey's End and, depending on your interpretation, Forest of the Dead for some particularly gratuitous examples.
    • A more egregious example would be the Doctor, a pacifist being forced to fight in the biggest war ever, The Time War, having to destroy his planet and kill his entire species in order to end it. But the Daleks still manage to survive, again and again. He finds love in Rose Tyler, but she is sucked into a parallel universe, never to be seen again. He discovers another of his kind still alive - but it's The Master, who takes over the entire Earth and subjects the Doctor to ritual torture humiliation for over a year, and showing the Doctor that his precious humans are capable of cannabalising themselves, turning themselves into mutants strapped into cold metal shells, and coming back in time to murder their ancestors "because it's fun". And then when shot, the Master chooses to die rather than regenerate purely to spite the Doctor and make him suffer. In the series four finale, he is reunited with all his past companions, even Rose, but one by one they all leave him, and he even has to wipe Donna's mind of all her memories of him, right after she saved the world and gained self-confidence for the first time in her life. For a fluffy children's program, the show ain't half depressing sometimes; it sometimes seems that the writers of the new series take some sort of sadistic pleasure in emotionally torturing the Doctor and are determined to break him into little pieces. No wonder he almost went completely mad over the course of the 2009 specials.
  • To say that House's life has been unbelievably crappy so far would be a huge understatement. This is a long list, so bear with us.
He was abused as a child by a man who turned out to be his non-biological father and the events leading up to how he got his limp were horribly unfair (as if having a blood-clot in your leg wasn't painful enough). But, in the show itself, it's Stacy who starts the real downward spiral; after a long bout of The Masochism Tango, he gets her to leave because her crippled husband is willing to do anything to keep her around and he isn't, her leaving brings him more psychosomatic pain and a heartbreaking, disturbing scene involves him being reduced to begging Cuddy for some morphine and in the Season Finale, he gets shot twice and Hannibal Lectured by his shooter/conscience throughout the whole episode. When he gets the ketamine which magically regenerates his thigh muscle, he seems to be changing for the better (no drugs, running everywhere, getting upset when a patient's wife thanks him and he can't even feel pleased) but this obviously cannot last so the pain comes back in full force, he's back on the drugs and Wilson and Cuddy have just decided that this would be a brilliant time to teach the poor bastard some humility. Then there's the legally and ethically insane Tritter arc, the depression of trying to find ways to relieve the pain, and the Ducklings leaving (and Wilson mindfucking him into thinking he's hallucinating them). This is followed by House's guilt over his involvement in the events that led to Amber's death at the end of the fourth season. He nearly got brain damage in trying to save her too. Wilson subsequently dumped him even though he didn't blame House for what happened to his late girlfriend, and it wouldn't help anything in any case. He followed Wilson around for months, trying to get him back. Then again, Season Five too is one big angst fest. Not long after Kutner did himself in for no particular reason[3] he started having hallucinations and went through rehab, only to find that the woman he's in love with, Cuddy, won't date him. Ever so briefly averted at the end of season six, when House went an entire season without Vicodin, started acting like kind of a human being, and even magically got Cuddy to dump her fiance for him. Then Season 7 has it all go downhill again. He's together with Cuddy but they secretly make each other miserable, Cuddy later dumps him, he's back on Vicodin, and to top it all off he's a wanted criminal when he flees the country for months after ramming a car into her home out of revenge. In season 8 he has to serve jailtime although he has no priors, simply because he ended up with a lousy lawyer. Cuddy quits, but House gets out on parole because Foreman (the new Dean of Medicine) needs his expertise, and because with the hospital's resources stretched thin re-employing House is a good bargain given his situation. After that things started to look slightly up as he eventually refunds his department, gets his staff back, and amends things with Wilson. Except then Dominica (the Russian immigrant he married to get her a green card) dumps him once she gets her citizenship. House had withheld the news from her that she'd gotten her citizenship because he realized he actually did like her, and wanted her to stick around. The irony being she also had feelings for him and probably would have stayed with him if he hadn't lied to her. And right after that happens, Wilson tells House that he (Wilson) has stage 2 thymoma. With three episodes left to go, Wilson is still alive so there's still hope.

Suffice to say, all of this has been mostly accepted because he still remains a snarky, funny Jerkass and because Hugh Laurie's sad blue eyes and his mad acting skills can make anything work but most fans probably wouldn't be too surprised if he just broke one day and curled up into an angst-ridden ball on his office floor.

  • A stellar example: the all but forgotten Disney Channel original movie One Magic Christmas. It is a... loose reimagining of Its a Wonderful Life, sort of. And it sits uncomfortably between this trope, Narm, Tastes Like Diabetes, Clueless Aesop, Glurge, and Nightmare Fuel (the latter especially due to the violent Mood Whiplash). Bonus points for having many of the same Unfortunate Implications as The Christmas Shoes, as pointed out by Patton Oswalt: "What a horrible fucking God!!!". The whole things seems like it was designed to scar children for life.
  • The Filipino drama Eva Fonda is a quite horrific example. The show starts off its first episode with the main character being raped by one of the richest men in town. Then she goes home after the rape to find out that the love of her life was sleeping with her best friend while she was being raped! The show then continues with her trying to confront her rapist's father, only for him to try and rape her too! After she stabs him in self-defense and is taken to jail, one of the police officers tries to rape her during her interrogation! During her time in jail, she finds out that her sister died, and later on finds out she's pregnant with her rapist's child (which, by the way, she decides to keep and miscarries). She ends up escaping jail and living on the lam from the police and her now even-more-obsessed rapist, and the show isn't even over yet... Deus Angst Machina indeed.
    • Pretty much the case of most, if not all Filipino soap operas.
  • Torchwood is veering into this after killing half of its main cast within a few episodes of each other.
    • Not to mention everything Jack goes through in series 3 alone: First we learn he has a daughter who doesn't really want him anywhere near her or her son. Then he gets blown up and feels it, comes back to life screaming with all of his skin still burned off, gets drowned and trapped in concrete, is thrown off a cliff while in the concrete, has his daughter and grandson taken hostage, and learns that he is partially responsible for the latest alien threat. Then, just when it looks like he might be able to stand up to the alien threat, Ianto (the man he is in a relationship with and almost certainly loves) is killed and dies in his arms, something Jack blames himself for. Then, to finally save the world from the alien threat, he has to kill his grandson in front of his daughter. Understandably, he doesn't stick around on Earth too long after that.
  • Little House On the Prairie is fairly notorious for this. If anything good is happening to anyone in the Ingalls family and / or great plans are being made, expect something to go horribly wrong soon. The absolute worst case was with Albert, who found out he was terminally ill just as he received a full scholarship for medical school. To make matters worse, this was not long after he overcame a morphine addiction.
  • Hawkeye—Hawkeye, Hawkeye, Hawkeye from Mash. The writers seemed absolutely determined to do anything they could to break his spirit (going so far, in one episode, as to instill an army point system—which in real life, hadn't actually been in effect since WWII—so that Colonel Potter could tell Hawkeye the army had raised the number of points needed to get out of the military), until he's finally nearly beaten in the show's finale when he unintentionally causes a mother to suffocate her own child. I mean, c'mon...
  • Veronica Mars - what did this girl do in a previous life? Not only does her best friend die, her boyfriend dumps her for no reason, her whole school hates her, her father loses his job, her mom walks out (after having been an alcoholic and cheater), and she's drugged, raped, and laughed off when she tries to report it. Then the actual series starts...
  • John Crichton in Farscape. First, he gets lost untold light-years away from Earth. Then, he gets tortured, mind-raped, and raped. Then he gets mind-raped and tortured some more, kills his girlfriend, gets cloned, loses his girlfriend to his clone, dies repeatedly, and also has basically the secret to the ultimate weapon of the universe implanted in his head, ensuring that the weight of the universe falls on his shoulders and that he's going to be pursued by pretty much everyone, all of whom are eager to torture, mind-rape, and rape him some more.
    • Mind you, Crichton does go completely frelling insane by the end. The functional kind of crazy, but still.
  • ER writers always seemed to go out of their way to make the characters as miserable as possible. Nobody on the show was ever genuinely happy.
    • Mark Greene probably gets the worst of this. First his wife divorces him and takes their daughter with her, then he misses getting to a train in time to tell his best friend that he's in love with her before she leaves Chicago forever, then a chain of terrible minor incidents happen to him, then he gets viciously beaten up for no reason in a bathroom and develops PTSD as a result, then his best friend moves away, then his mother gets dementia and dies, then father gets cancer and dies, and then, just after he gets happily engaged to Doctor Corday, she gets pregnant on the same day that he finds out he has terminal brain cancer and will only live a few months. And then he dies. His only consolation prize is that he hangs in there a bit longer than expected, so he gets to see his child born before he kicks off.
  • Sookie Stackhouse of True Blood loses family members and friends, often but not always to death, all the time, starting with her parents years before the beginning of the show.
    • Arguably, her best friend Tara has it even worse: she was abused by a violent alcoholic mother throughout her childhood, and it only gets worse from there.
  • Mulder on The X-Files. His sister disappears when he's a kid, which ends his parents marriage and he later finds out he was the one that was supposed to be taken. And he finds out that she was basically dead most of the time and was never going to find her. He works in a division that everyone thinks is a joke and no one ever believes most of the stuff he says (even though he's usually right) and he has very few friends. He gets shot three different times, once by his own partner, not to mention the countless times he gets beaten up and loses his gun. His father is murdered right in front of him, his mom has a stroke and later commits suicide. His partner and the only person he really trusts gets abducted by aliens and almost dies. The she gets cancer and almost dies again. He's been drugged, had his memories erased, arrested, imprisoned, tortured by Russian scientists, almost had his arm removed against his will, starts getting debilitating headaches and other problems and then has brain surgery against his will, and then gets abducted by aliens himself and is tortured in various gruesome ways. He's died and come back to life several times, and was once buried semi-alive. He's forced to leave Scully and their son, and by the time he comes back the baby has been given up for adoption. He gets caught on a secret government installation where he's arrested and tortured (again) in an attempt to brainwash him. He's put on trial and condemned to death but he escapes. Oh, and the guy he hated most who was at the head of most of the conspiracies he was trying to expose? Was his biological father.


  • Country music in general is frequently criticized for Deus Angst Machina. The old joke "what happens when you play country music backwards" makes light of this.
    • punchline: you get your dog back, you get your truck back, you get your house back, you get your girl back...
  • The Police's song "On Any Other Day" from the album Reggatta de Blanc: the narrator's wife has burned the scrambled eggs, the dog just bit his leg, his daughter ran away, his son has turned out gay (the song's context makes it clear that the dad doesn't mind but just resents his son's abysmal sense of timing), he slammed his fingers in his car door, his wife proudly tells him of her love affairs, and he just spilled his tea and is "covered in misery". However, the whole thing is Played for Laughs. On the other hand, the really creepy, near-horror variety of this comes with "Synchronicity II", which chronicles the similarly Deus Angst Machina day of a depressed, frustrated average guy stuck in a miserable existence by contrasting it with the repeated imagery of "something crawling from the bottom of a dark Scottish lake" - the final verse can be taken as implying that he finally snapped.
  • You Never Even Called Me By My Name by David Allan Coe has a final verse that parodies country music's tendency towards this:

I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pick-up truck
She got ranned over by a damned old train

    • When writer Steve Goodman showed Coe the song and bragged that it was "the ultimate country and western song", Coe disagreed because it "hadn't said anything at all about mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting drunk", and proceeded to write the last verse.
  • The backstory of Evelyn Evelyn. The title characters were conjoined twins (actual names Eva and Lyn Neville) whose mother suffered Death by Childbirth. The doctor attempted to separate them with a chainsaw, then was shot by the sheriff who walked in just in time, causing him to accidentally kill the twins' father with the chainsaw. Then It Got Worse.
  • The Weird Al Yankovic song "One of Those Days" describes a day in which everything goes wrong in a Trauma Conga Line, starting with sleeping through your alarm and ending with the world blowing up.

Professional Wrestling

  • A bizarre mix of real life and storyline trauma afflicted Jeff Hardy during the end of his latest run in the WWE. First, his beloved older brother Matt's appendix bursts and he nearly dies from an infection. Then for several months he can't quite manage to get over the hump and win the WWE title, though he's coming closer than he ever has. Then he fails a Wellness test and gets suspended for two months, including Wrestlemania, at which he had been rumored to win a high-profile match. While he's suspended, his house and everything he owns burns to the ground, and his cherished dog is killed in the fire as well. Then once he returns, he's set upon by a malevolent GM and still can't quite make it to winning the title. Finally, finally he wins it, but his brief run is marred by a mysterious person making repeated attempts on his life. His title run ends when his own brother turns on him in favor of Edge, who at the time was the mortal enemy of both. Matt then reveals that not only did he do that, he was the one repeatedly trying to kill Jeff, he was the one who burned his house to the ground, and he was the one who killed Jeff's dog, and he then goes on to soundly trounce Jeff in all but the very last match of their feud. After all this, he wins the title again but loses it within a few minutes to CM Punk, who then goes on to rail at Jeff about his drug issues and keeps the title from him through many underhanded tactics. And when things are finally looking up for Jeff...he's made peace with his brother, he'd won the championship again, all was just starting to look up, bam, he loses it and his job thanks to CM Punk. The sad thing is, there's probably some more things that got missed in all of this. Can't blame the guy for wanting to go home and lick his wounds for a while now, can you?
    • Of course, after he finally does go home, he's arrested for possession of obscene amounts of drugs.
      • And even THAT is rumored to be the result of a piss-poor attempt by the police at a sting operation, which, if true, will end up being entrapment and will mean he went through all this misery because of some overeager cops.
  • Sting. Just...Sting.


  • In Sophocles' Antigone, after a bloody battle for Thebes and the mutual slaying of the two heirs to the throne, Creon, the self-proclaimed new king condemns his niece to being buried alive for having buried one of the two aforementioned heirs who had fought against Thebes. When the oracle Tiresias comes to warn him that this blasphemous travesty will bring Creon much anguish, Creon relents and goes to free her, only to find the tomb already open and his son Haemon, who was betrothed to Antigone, mourning over her dead body, with her having hung herself. Haemon kills himself, and then Eurydice, Creon's wife, kills herself in response.

Video Games

  • Technically, he brought it all on himself, but to the player of Planescape: Torment it sure seems like the entire world is against him. First of all, you're cursed with immortality as well as amnesia. Your only guide is a floating skull who is a compulsive liar. Meanwhile, strewn about you are the people whom you've hurt and pissed off in past lives, and they just love to get their revenge by screwing with you and manipulating you for their own gain. Half your companions only join you because a past version of you enslaved them. You are haunted by the ghost of a woman who claims to love you, but is too confused and heartbroken to give you any useful information (also, it turns out you murdered her, and she still loves you anyway). Worst of all, you come to realize over the course of the game that you are a real asshole, and you absolutely deserve everything you've got, which would make this more legitimate angst than Deus Angst Machina, except for the fact that you can't remember doing any of it.
    • Torment does this very well, though, as a means through which to examine morality and humanity and all that good stuff, and ultimately to answer the question: "What can change the nature of a man?" As all these past deeds and their consequences make themselves known, it becomes clear that one of the best answers is "regret."
  • Fortune in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Her father was sunk in the game's prologue, causing her mother to kill herself, her husband died in prison, and the grief caused her to miscarry. As Snake explains, in the six months following her father's death, she lost her family and everything that mattered in her life . When she tries to commit suicide, she discovers that she's gained a flukish ability to escape death or injury, allowing her to wield experimental weapons and fight battles which would otherwise be impossible.
    • And then Ocelot drops the hint that these were not accidents, but orchestrated by The Patriots.
      • As said by Fortune to Raiden in Hiimdaisy's MGS2 parody Let's Destroy Metal Gear Again, "What was that? I couldn't hear you over my TRAGIC PAST."
    • And don't forget The Woobie Otacon from the same game, who turned out to have had deep layers of sexual trauma all this time that were never mentioned at all before the point he revealed them. Also the only person in the whole wide world that he loves who hasn't died horribly yet is Solid Snake, and he's a self-destructive killer who happens to be ageing prematurely into the bargain. And apparently, some people on this page have managed to get their hands on spoilers implying he may go stark raving nutso and turn evil. Unless these are fake spoilers, Otacon may be the world's biggest Butt Monkey.
    • Not true. He does find love with Naomi Hunter, but then she dies of cancer. And Snake is pretty much on the brink of death himself, but Otacon won't even get the chance to say goodbye to Snake in person because Snake's FOXDIE virus has mutated enough that it is lethal to anyone who inhales it.
      • Big Boss tells Snake that the new FOXDIE virus is overtaking the old, now-contagious one, meaning that Snake will not create a massive epidemic. In fact, at the end, Otacon makes a resolution to live with Snake up to his last days as a family with Sunny.
  • Arguably, Shion from the Xenosaga series falls into this trope, though the full extent of this isn't revealed until XS 3.
    • Hoo boy, where to begin? Shion was a pretty sweet little girl, who loved her parents and flowers. Then the plot happens--her mother Aoi comes down with a strange illness that leaves her a vegetable, causing Shion's father to distance himself away from Shion and putting his comatose wife in a treatment institution, and Shion's brother Jin spent nearly all of his time in the military. Second Milita gets caught up in a battle over the Zohar, and someone lets loose an army of crazed, cannibalistic Realians, a few of them killing and devouring Shion's nanny Febronia while Shion watches. The guy who saves her stays behind to fight them off, instructing her to escape into the city where her mother is, only to get cornered in her mother's room and forced to watch as both her father and mother are brutally murdered by another brigade of berserker Realians.
      • (cont.) The Heroic BSOD Shion falls into is what ultimately unlocks the gate to the imaginary realm, causing innumerable swarms of Gnosis to enter the human realm. Shion is saved by Jin but from then on, resented him for not being there when he "should" have been. From that point she pretty much repressed all the horrors she experienced, joining the Vector company to work on the KOS-MOS project, focusing solely on her work. Oh and she witnesses her fiance Kevin get killed by the prototype, and forced to blow its head off. And, as revealed in Ep. 3, Shion is some sort of reincarnation of Mary Magdalene's (the godly primal force's soul that was planted within KOS-MOS) attendant/daughter/whatever, and she is suffering from the same illness her mother did, due to encountering the game's "higher power", because KOS-MOS herself draws power from it, and the exposure is slowly killing Shion. And as such, to Wilhelm, Shion's only a key to awaken Mary so they can activate his Doomsday Device to literally hit the Reset Button on the entire history of the universe for eternity. Yup, Shion's got problems.
  • To put it lightly, Tsugumi of Ever 17 has lived a really crappy life. She lives the first 12 years of her life quite normally until her friend dies of leukemia, then on the same day, she's hit by a truck. She wakes up in a test facility of a pharmaceutical corporation, where she learns she has caught a virus that will render her immortal after 5 years. She is then experimented on for eight years straight, lied to by the staff, and her only friend in the facility dies five years in. Then she escapes from said facility and lives as a fugitive for four years. Then she gets trapped in an underwater theme park, and just when it seems like her life is turning around after she's met a guy that she loves, he sacrifices himself so that she survives to escape the park. Then she goes on the run as a fugitive again from the corporation, and discovers she's pregnant with the guy's kids. After giving birth to them and living a hard but happy eighteen months with them, she's found again by the company and is forced to give up her children to an orphanage to hide them from the group so they may live normal lives. She goes on the run for 16 more years, and in this time, her son and daughter are found by the corporation anyway and are experimented on for ten years. At least it all ends up well for her in end.
  • Every single one of the Beauty And The Beast unit in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Laughing Octopus had her entire village's population killed by octopus-eater-hating cult members while she was a child. That is, they killed all but her own family and friends, whom she had to torture and kill herself. Raging Raven grew up in a war-torn country, and was captured as a child by soldiers, who beat her and the other kids regularly. Eventually, she and the other children were left by the soldiers, and the rest of the children were eaten by birds. Crying Wolf also had her village slaughtered, but escaped along with her baby brother. Whom she smothered to death in order to escape notice from soldiers. And then carried the rotting corpse around to a refugee camp, where she went mad from the crying of children, and killed all the children there. Screaming Mantis guess what? That's right, her village was burned to the ground. When escaping, she wound up hiding in a the corpse-pit beneath a torture chamber, and was locked in there, while villagers were tortured above. She stayed there for weeks, surviving by drinking bloody water and eating off of the corpses. Being utterly insane by then, she was taken in by Liquid Ocelot, who eventually brainwashed her own psyche out of her brain, and put in Psycho Mantis' instead.
  • Kratos from God of War finds his own, murdering his wife and daughter in blind rage, then having their ashes permanently fixed to his body. When asking the gods to make him forget his crimes, he is forced to live through it again at the hands of Ares. When he has killed Ares, and the gods tell him they lied to him to get him to do their dirty work for them, he tries to kill himself - and is instead given immortality, an eternity with his memories. No wonder he made a beast of himself to get rid of the pains of being a man (lot deeper than you thought, eh?)
  • Oersted, one of the heroes from the SNES game Live a Live. As his chapter starts, he wins the tournament which names him the greatest hero in the land, as well as the hand of the beautiful princess in marriage. As the two make wedding plans, a monstrous demon sent by the Demon King appears and kidnaps the princess. No matter, this happens in video games all the time. Oersted and his best friend Straybow the magician, as well as two older heroes who defeated the Demon King years earlier, set off on a quest to get her back. And then... The group is barely able to reach the Demon King's palace before one of the heroes is killed. And then the palace collapses, and they are forced to leave Straybow behind. And then, when Oersted returns to the palace, he finds the Demon King there and slays him... oops, that was actually an illusion, and his would-be father-in-law is now dead. Oersted is arrested for murdering the King, and the other elder hero is tortured to death as an accessory, barely able to summon enough strength to help Oersted escape. Oersted flees the kingdom, every citizen in it who once cheered him now calling him a traitor and murderer, and makes a heroic solo effort to take the Demon King down. When he finally reaches the villain... it turns out it was his old friend Straybow all along. Oersted is forced to kill his best friend, and the princess appears. A bittersweet ending? Nope. The princess tells Oersted that she believed Oersted would save her, but it was Straybow who saved her,[4] declares that she loves Straybow, not him, and commits suicide. Poor Oersted. Is it any surprise to find that the Demon King that the other heroes battled was Oersted himself, embracing the darkness?
  • Acro (aka Ken Dingling) from Ace Attorney fits this trope to a T. First, his parents abandoned him and his brother, forcing them to join the circus (lessened by the fact that the ringmaster is the nicest guy you'll meet. Acro dedicates himself to repaying his kindness). Some time later, the ringmaster's daughter Regina gave Bat a scarf covered in pepper, to get him back for all the times he teased her with it. He then proceeded to go "If I can put my head in the lion's mouth you have to take me to the movies!" The lion sneezed with his head inside, putting him in a coma. Acro tried to save him, but that just put him in a wheelchair. Shame she's so innocent and naive that she believes Bat is just a star in the sky, making Acro think she's making fun of the whole thing. He plans on murdering her, but after a series of events, he ends up accidentaly murdering the ringmaster, the man that has been his father figure all these years.
  • Dragon Age II - Arguably an example the maincharacter(and again, arguably his/her entire party to an extent) suffers this in that over a ten year span you lose your father, your home, 'one' of your siblings is killed brutally on screen, you're forced into a year of servitude, your other sibling can die or otherwise be forced, or by their own choice, into ditching you, your mother dies after finally getting back her childhood home and in a particularly heartwrenching fashion too and finally at the end of it all a partymember and possible love interest sets off a series of events where you are forced to make a gristly decision involving either massacring a series of mostly innocent mages and supporting the Knights Templar or becoming an outlaw and possibly losing friends because they just weren't quite loyal enough. Damnit, Hawke just cannot catch a bloody break...or maybe that's the issue, he can.
    • One companion, Fenris, practically embodies this. An elven slave in the evil Tevinter Imperium, he was forced to endure having lyrium tattooed into his skin in a ritual that stripped him of all his memories. The tattoos cause him great pain at all times, and he can't bear to be touched because of them. His masters were extremely physically (and, it's hinted, sexually) abusive, and continue to hunt for him to kill him and retrieve the valuable quantity of lyrium in his skin. Then, he learns he had a sister who is still alive. After spending three years trying to contact her, and bringing her by ship all the way to Kirkwall, she betrays him by bringing his former master along with her to sell him out in exchange for a higher status in the Imperium. If you stop him from killing her on the spot, she tells him that he wanted the tattoos, and competed for them, before leaving (presumably forever). The universe just does not want this guy to be happy, and only the guiding hand of character development gives him the fanbase he has.
  • Cloud Strife of Final Fantasy VII. Failed to become a SOLDIER, instead ending up as a grunt. His great hero Sephiroth flipped out, burned his home town to the ground, apparently killing his parents. He received grievous wounds from Sephiroth, was then experimented on by Hojo and given mako poisoning. His best friend Zack then died defending Cloud, and Cloud's mako poisoning caused him to seriously alter his memories. That's all before the first game even begins.
  • Jack in Mass Effect 2. She is abducted by a terrorist organisation at age four, with her parents believing her dead. Said organisation, Cerberus, tortures and drugs her for most of her childhood, For Science!, in a bid to create a super-biotic. The facility where she is held goes through children in the dozens, which usually arrive half-starved in animal cages, bought by slavers, and end up on child-sized dissection tables. There she was also forced to fight and kill other children in arena fights, being electroshocked when she refused to, which is about the only interaction she has with other people, as she is else locked up and isolated in her room all the time. Escaping from the facility, she immediately ends up with people who abuse her for her powers and her body, only to then sell her as a slave. This starts Jack's long career of criminal activity and violence, where most people indeed only see a tool to be used in her, while Cerberus' agents still hunt her. The only person in all the time who does care for her and loves her - ends up sacrificing himself for her so she can get away after a weapons theft goes bad, giving her a massive dose of survivor's guilt as well. She eventually ends up on 'Purgatory', a prison ship from hell doubling as slave market, where she is gang-raped by a group of wardens and prisoners, and upon taking her revenge is put into constant cryostasis, as she is deemed to dangerous. She joins the game because she is bought free by Commander Shepard's financial backers - which is Cerberus, so she ends up on a Cerberus ship, with the ship's XO (a Cerberus member) flat out rejecting that the organisation made any mistakes. And of course, said ship is heading towards a suicide mission. Many players dislike Jack as too violent and too aggressive but there's a reason for that in the background story. Luckily for her, this also signals things getting better for her (if she survives said mission), as Shepard shows her she need not subside on anger and bitterness alone. In Mass Effect 3 her life has gotten somewhat better. Well, except for omnicidal AI killing machines invading the galaxy, of course, but that's a fate everybody suffers then.

Web Comics

  • Speaking of furry comics, the side comic Abel's Story from Dan and Mabs Furry Adventures. Basically, if Abel cares about a character, they're screwed, and it's not even a plot point. After an old friend's funeral, two of Abel's newfound friends are slaughtered by a group that includes his old kindergarten teacher, his dad suffers a "heart attack" before turning back into his true form, an evil incubus, and then proceeds to severally beat Abel's mother, kill his best friend via slicing her into pieces, and spirits him off to the cubi academy, all within a few hours. This results in a long-lasting BSOD.
  • Jay Naylor's Better Days seems to have been written to be one long string of these, functioning under the two classic errors that "bad things happening" is the same thing as "Character Development," and that "bad things happening" is always good writing. For actually good writing (or rather, terrible writing, but done intentionally in a hilariously ingenious way), try "Nay Jaylor's" edits of Better Days strips. "Hey guys look how far I can suck in my face." * FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF*
  • In Roomies and It's Walky!, David Wallis' habit of dropping the Drama Bomb meant that his characters often had to suffer through copious amounts of extremely unpleasant and traumatic things happening to them all at once (when they weren't angsting about things that had happened long ago, that is). His latest strip, Shortpacked, is relatively free of this in comparison.
  • The Order of the Stick: The recent arc to this point can arguably be summed up as Vaarsuvius' Bad Day. Nearly every single twist in the plot, the timing and the contrived coincidences seem as if they were engineered with the explicit, deliberate purpose of breaking Vaarsuvius in mind and spirit. Or, to put it a bit more optimistically, with the purpose of bursting V's bubble and inducing crucial character growth.
  • Similarly to the Better Days example above, this was one of the major failings of The Broken Mirror, together with no real character development from this "character development".
  • Parodied in Trigger Star with the protagonist, Avocado, who initially sets out to avenge his torched stack of porn magazines.
  • The Ciem Webcomic Series began as one very long string of this, with the goal being a Break the Cutie moment to force the protagonist from being a humble teenage girl to being a superpowered spy/vigilante - one who's not above tricking her enemies into killing themselves.
  • John of The Word Weary often uses his angst as an excuse not to move forward with his life or pursue women- unless he's drunk. Poor Trotmann on the other hand is straighter version of the trope.

Web Original

  • Subplott's backstory in Life in A Game: He finds out he's a prince, but then an evil wizard brainwashes his father, the king, killed his uncle, kidnapped his sister, Zelda, and banished him, then, to top it off, erased Subplott's Pokédex.
  • Plenty of main characters in the Whateley Universe have horrific backstories, but the ongoing Merry stories never seem to stop piling it on. When Merry isn't being captured and tortured by government agencies, she's getting multiple personality disorder, only one of the personalities is the evil AI she defeated, which has found a home for itself. In her head. She's been injured, killed, gone to Hell repeatedly, you name it.
  • Limyaael's Fantasy Rants, in "Rant on abuse of abused characters" [1]/[2] and "Ten ways of managing angst" [3]/[4]

In fiction, you do have to show that these events make sense and have a reason for being there—and you have to make them interesting, too. It’s too easy to turn to nonfiction if we want to read a chronicle of endless suffering. So, when the character’s already been sexually abused, seen her little brother die in a fire, been singled out as “different” and beaten up because she’s telepathic, told she could destroy the world with a stray thought, had her first love betray her, been physically abused by her next caretaker, and cast out from her new village, reconsider having her puppy get stabbed to death. Please.

Western Animation

Calculon: Give it to me straight, doctor. Don't sugar coat it.
Doctor: Very well. Your entire family died when a plane, piloted by your fiancee, crashed into your uninsured home... and you have inoperable cancer.

    • Not to mention Zoidberg himself, a walking, talking, lobsteresuque version of this trope- which is of course the writers' intent. In one episode, for instance, his lovable pet slinky, is, how you say, de-slinked by Bender (along with several other objects in the house, and Professor Farnsworth) into a long, thin metal noodle. Zoidberg attempts to remake its coils, tentatively sends it down an ascending pile of books- then the toy promptly bursts into flames.
  • Frank Grimes from The Simpsons hated his life and his whole set of circumstances. Everything he tried to accomplish backfired on him, he lives in an apartment sandwiched between two bowling alleys, and his arch-nemesis, Homer Simpson, seems to have a better life than him. Frank's Hell is thought of as Heaven by Homer, but the final attempt to shame Homer for life (by having him enter a children's model building contest) imploded spectacularly when Homer won, and thus, he went crazy. And electrocuted himself. And as a final little insult, Homer fell asleep during his funeral and loudly ruined it by yelling "Change the channel, Marge!" in his sleep, to the amusement of everyone else attending. The producers later attempted to rebut criticism that they went a bit over the top torturing Grimes by claiming that it demonstrated that a 'real' person couldn't survive in the Simpsons universe, but even this explanation is a little unsatisfying considering the sheer amount of misfortunes piled on top of Grimey is way over the top.
    • And then there's old Gil.
    • Then there's Kirk Van Houten's divorces, where his wife is shown as inherently right despite the divorce obviously coming from mutual resentment and disrespect, he's fired from his job for being single, and apparently got nothing out of the divorce settlement so he ends up straight in low-income housing, and it's one of the few times the show defies Status Quo Is God by keeping it this way. All of this just to deliver a Broken Aesop to Homer about respecting his wife that he'll forget by the next episode.
      • How is Kirk getting fired for being single a wallbanger? Crackers are a family food. Happy families. Maybe single people eat crackers, we don't know. Frankly, we don't want to know. It's a market we can do without.
    • And let's not forget Hans Moleman.
      • Nobody's gay for Moleman.
      • Aw, c'mon, try it. It's like kissing a peanut!
  • Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender spends his childhood being mentally tortured by his sadistic sister, gets a fireball thrown into his face by his own father and banished for speaking up in a war meeting and suggesting a tactic that could save the lives of more of his country's soldiers, and is constantly humiliated in his attempts to capture Aang to regain his family's respect. Eventually he's even declared a fugitive for his continued failure and has to live off the land for the first time in his life. His Day in the Limelight episode features him befriending a family of farmers and taking care of the corrupt soldiers harassing them, only for them to reject him afterwards because he revealed his identity in the process. Is it any wonder he takes to screaming at the sky, demanding to be hit by lightning? And it fails to happen?
    • You forgot to mention that his mother, the one person other than Iroh who loved him unconditionally, was banished/presumed dead when he was eleven years old because she (probably) murdered his grandfather to protect him, who in turn had ordered Ozai to murder his son as a "lesson". Of course Ozai, being parent of the year, said "Sure, no problem." Presuming Social Services operated in the Fire Nation, it seems the Fire Lord's Palace was beyond their reach.
  • In an alternate time stream, the titular character of Danny Phantom grows up to be evil, and we mean EVIL. Why did he turn evil? Well, when under pressure for the CAT test, Danny ends up deciding to cheat with the accidentally acquired answers. Harmless enough, but via a Stable Time Loop and his parent's and teacher's concern (and his evil future self's intervention) he witnesses the explosive death of his family, friends, and teacher. Totally broken, he goes to live with his Arch Enemy, Vlad Masters. Then, unable to bear his tortured emotions, he has his humanity torn away from his ghost half, which goes mad with pain, merges with Vlad's ghost half and murders his human half. Through the combination of Danny's evolving powers and Vlad's total evilness he ends up pretty much destroying the world. Even disregarding what it must have felt like for Danny to be torn into his two alter egos, then turn evil/helplessly watch as his heroic side turns evil, when the time-traveling Danny sees all this... it kinda falls right in this trope.


  • Fanfic writers absolutely adore this trope. It's most commonly found in romance (especially slash) and Mary Sue fics; in the former it's used as a means of getting the OTP together, in the latter it's used in lieu of actual Character Development.
  • Parodied in an Urban Legend: "Your Dog is Dead" - I've got some bad news: your dog died... from eating charred horse flesh... they died in the fire... started by the candles from the funeral... for your mother who had a heart attack... after she found your kid who drowned in the tub... because your wife slipped on the stairs and broke her neck.... [and on and on].
    • It appears in a comedy sketch, with the punchline being that the mother died from a broken heart because she found out the guy's wife was cheating on him with the groundskeeper... The guy interrupts: "Wait a minute, you're my groundskeeper!" Cue guy chasing storyteller off-stage.
  • The game Kill Murray/Save Murray features two gods, one benevolent, who wants to keep plucky everyman Murray alive, and one evil, who moves the game forward by throwing anything and everything he can think of to utterly annihilate him.
  • This chain e-mail.
  1. Though Misha Collins is coming back, he might not play Cas
  2. Though admittedly, this is at a time when it looks like he'll be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life and the world is about to end
  3. In real life, because the actor took up a job in the White House and thus his character had to be written off the show
  4. and after all that Oersted went through to try and save her, no less