Dysfunction Junction

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"I'm not sure why the Light Warriors worry about obstacles or monsters standing in their way. They are nothing compared to the obstacles and monsters within the party."

What's your malfunction?

A character with flaws is more interesting than a character without flaws. Ergo, a cast of characters with flaws is more interesting exponentially. QED.

Normality is boring and unartistic. An easy way to crank up drama is to supply everyone with a tragic past, screwed-up family history or other significant psychological issues. When Dysfunction Junction comes into play, good parents can be as common as penguins in the Sahara, instead turning out to be neglectful, smothering, unfeeling, abusive, misguided or dead. And let's not even get into the rest of the family.

The resulting prevalence of personal trauma often stretches suspension of disbelief and is a leading cause of Cerebus Syndrome. If done poorly, this is a one-way ticket to Wangst territory, and as so many attempt to smother the series with dysfunction, Deus Angst Machina is a frequent result. If done well, you get a large number of interesting, sympathetic, flawed characters, and their interactions with each other gradually reveal the multiple sides to each of them.

An important thing to remember is that too much of these shows will cause the viewer to mutate into people who act like the cast. So occasionally watch Excel Saga or Mr. Bean or Doctor Who or something. Or do it at the same time and gain superpowers involving the manipulation of angst into glowy balls of energy. TV Tropes is not responsible for property damage, casualties, or the men in the white suits coming to take you away.

This trope often goes hand in hand with There Are No Therapists and dramatic Crapsack Worlds. Big Screwed-Up Family can be a justification for this trope. Royal families are particularly prone to this, as are cops and detectives. The Dysfunction Junction is the natural habitat of the Jerkass Woobie.

Examples of Dysfunction Junction include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The TV Series of Black Rock Shooter. The only sane person is Yuu. Nope. Actually, Yuu vanished into Otherworld years ago. The person we've been seeing named Yuu is actually her Otherself Strength. She's not crazy, however, she IS the crazy.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion may well be the king of this trope. Keeping within the circle of main characters, we have: Shinji, the shy, borderline-depressed protagonist with negligible self-esteem and self-worth; Rei, an emotionally-repressed Extreme Doormat who sees no issue with considering herself totally expendable; Asuka, a self-hating, abrasive, attention-seeking Tsundere borderline-narcissist; Misato, a Broken Bird who craves love and acceptance but fears more than anything the very commitment that comes with the deeper relationships said desire entails. The rest of the cast is little better.
    • In fact, Neon Genesis Evangelion's cast is sufficiently messed up that the viewer practically 'needs' similar issues of their own to identify with them. Those who don't may well find it easier to identify with a cast of Mary Sues. This is a big part of Evangelion's polarizing nature.
    • It should be noted, however, that the manga version (written by character designer Sadamoto) features a much less screwed up cast. However, Evangelion is technically Anime First; the manga was only made as an advertisement initially. This being Evangelion, of course, there's still plenty of dysfunction to go around.
    • Rebuild of Evangelion introduced some positive properties to each of the main cast: Asuka is willing to be nice to others, Rei gradually comes out of her shell due to her crush on Shinji, Shinji himself demonstrating extreme selflessness towards Rei...
    • There's also the Lighter and Softer RahXephon. All of the characters are dysfunctional at some point or another, but they get better.
    • Lampshaded by Toji in the French translation, he states that nothing's better than a crazy girl to pilot an Eva (whether he refers to Asuka or Rei is open).
      • When you think about it, if the characters weren't deranged at first, the events WOULD drive them crazy. And you can easily guess anyone sane would resign from NERV. Actually, putting sane persons in this show would be EVEN MORE CRUEL.
  • The Fullmetal Alchemist universe seems to have psychological trauma as one of the qualifying factors for a commission in the Amestrian military. Notable cases are the Elric brothers, who were abandoned by their father, and sparked the plot by trying to use forbidden alchemy to resurrect their dead mother. Other characters partying in Trauma Conga Line include Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye, Winry Rockbell, Van Hoenheim, Izumi Curtis, Tim Marcoh, and Scar. Plus, Alex Armstrong and King Bradley make the list unexpectedly.
    • And then the plot happens. Almost every single major character (and definitely every single major character who already had past issues) gets badly traumatized at least once by the end of the series. Those that survive will surely have issues for years to come. Earn Your Happy Ending indeed.
    • Not aided by There Are No Therapists, because the series is set in an alternate 1914.
  • Just about everyone in Death Note has problems. Light is a Knight Templar with a god complex, Matsuda watches all his ideals and beliefs crumble around him, Soichiro is chasing after a criminal happens to be his son, and don't get me started on the kids at Wammy's House.
  • Key the Metal Idol, and everything that takes after it: Serial Experiments Lain, Boogiepop Phantom, Ghost Hound, Texhnolyze, Ergo Proxy, and Haibane Renmei to name a few.
  • Fruits Basket. In most cases if the parents of a Sohma member are mentioned, at least one rejected their child as a monster. All of the characters have at least one other tragic aspect: Yuki was abused as a child, Kyo was looked down upon as a monster even by the other Zodiac members and blamed by his father for his mother's suicide, Hatori lost part of his sight and erased the memories of the woman he loved, Shigure was involved in a twisted love triangle, etc, etc... This includes Tohru and her friends.
  • Kodomo no Jikan: Rin, Kuro, and Mimi all have really serious issues (especially for 9-year old girls) and could definitely use some counseling. Later in the series it becomes clear that they aren't alone. Rin's caretaker Reiji's a mess for a long time ago (he doesn't seem to understand why Aoki is so squicked by his Wife Husbandry plan), Shirai-sensei has mother issues and is emotionally stunted, and even Kyoko has issues (there's a reason she always wears the same sweatshirt and sweatpants ensemble to school everyday). Aoki is pretty much the only major character without any serious angst in his past. What the main storyline puts him through makes up for it.
  • Ranma ½. It's a lighthearted slapstick-action romantic comedy, so very few of the characters are genuinely malicious, but Alternative Character Interpretation tends to take it in this direction. Even Ukyo Kuonji, sometimes considered the most normal in a cast of loonies, has no mother and abandoned her father to be a transvestite for most of her life because some other little girls taunted that she would never find a husband after her so-called fiance ran off with her dowry. The fandom, of course, makes it Cerebus Syndrome or What Is Evil?.
  • Forget Oyashiro-sama and curses and government conspiracies and parasites. The abuse, betrayal and manipulation that the cast of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has gone through in their Backstory would make anyone go insane.
  • Anyone in Elfen Lied who wasn't already murderous, emotionally traumatized, or unlucky in love sure as hell became one (or all) of those. The only character to come across as somewhat well-adjusted would have to be Nana, and sometimes, not even her!
    • When the most normal person in your cast is the one with no arms or legs, expect some serious issues.
  • Everyone in Welcome to The NHK has either a tragic past or a tragic present. In detail: Satou is psychotic and scared of strangers; Yamazaki found out just before the series started that his parents had planned his entire life out for him; Hitomi is also psychotic with a particular bent toward conspiracy theories and seems to also be depressed; and Misaki, leading the pack, well... her father is dead, her stepfather was abusive, her mother may or may not have committed suicide, and she herself tries to commit suicide due to delusions of inadequacy caused by said abusive stepfather. On top of that, she also has borderline personality disorder.
    • Misaki is even worse in the manga, where That entire history is made up to garner sympathy and attention. She even did the cigarette burns herself!
  • School Days. The high school in the game and anime appears to be attended by people with a fairly weak grasp of reality, which doesn't particularly help the already fragile mental health of the lead characters. Like Eva for Humongous Mecha, this is used to further its Deconstruction of Tenchi Solution H-Games.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei: How about a harem made entirely of characters whose main trait is a specific dysfunction. Brilliantly Played for Laughs.
  • Just about every Hentai ever, especially of the Dating Sim variety, where the female characters are all suffering from various traumas that can only be cured (or are inflicted) BY SEX!
  • The majority of the main characters from Sailor Moon fill this trope: two characters were orphaned at an early age (Makoto even lives alone as a minor), two have dead mothers, one is the child of divorce, and three never have their parents mentioned at all. Only three of the main characters have whole nuclear families (incidentally, these are the happier, more-or-less well-adjusted characters) and even then, both ChibiUsa and Minako have some intense issues with their parents—ChibiUsa feels completely inferior to her messianic mother, and Minako is constantly hounded by her shrill one. Usagi's really the only one without any deep-seated problems regarding her folks.
    • With two exceptions, the Senshi all have lonely lives at school before they team up, as well.
  • Pretty much everyone shown in Deadman Wonderland, but considering DW is a maximum security prison / themepark / secret mutant containment center it's hardly surprising.
  • Weiss Kreuz all main characters have serious issues. Either there is a dead lover, a little sister in a coma, a backstabbing friend, or a whole family of psychothic people; rest assured that these Bishonen are scarred for life.
  • Kyouran Kazoku Nikki has every character coming from a dark past. Yuka and Chika suffered abuse at the hands of their family, Teika is a survivor of the near-genocide of his people, Hyouka is a killing machine suffering from humanity issues, Ouka has no recollection of his past...
  • Most of the characters in GetBackers have some kind of personal or family tragedy that lets them lapse into angst at some point. Wangst is generally avoided because they're all huge dorks that can also lapse into shameless perversion, immature name calling, fistfights, etc. at a moment's notice.
  • The latest group of antagonists in History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi, YOMI (the disciples of YAMI), are all pretty messed up teenagers. Among them are a guy who was bought from a child slavery ring and put through Training From Hell that rivals Kenichi's, a prince who was Lonely At the Top his whole life and developed into a royal Smug Snake Jerkass as a result, a military nut obsessed with following orders to the point of suicide (possibly a Child Soldier as well), and Odin, whose sole motivation for becoming a vicious fighter was losing a childhood squabble with Kenichi over a badge. This is all before YAMI molded them into killing machines. Half the reason Kenichi is able to eventually triumph against all of them is because unlike them, Kenichi is not batshit insane. Due to their issues, the YOMI members tend to have a Villainous Breakdown in the middle of the fight when confronted with Kenichi's conviction and/or his unexpected strength, allowing Kenichi to beat the crap out of his otherwise superior opponents.
  • Most of the characters in Naruto that get any screen time usually have suffered through the death of a loved one or some kind of abuse, including Sasuke, Naruto, Sakura, Gaara, Iruka, Kakashi, Sai, Hinata, Neji... you get the point.
  • Chrono Crusade isn't quite as bad as some of the other examples, but that may be in part because the original manga is fairly idealistic. Chrono was found by Rosette and Joshua Christopher sleeping in a tomb—which is later revealed to have been the final resting place of Mary Magdalene, a woman he was in love with, that he accidentally killed during a fight with Aion. Rosette and Joshua's parents are dead, and when Joshua gets Chrono's horns from Aion and puts them on his head he goes insane. Most of the people Azmaria has ever cared about have been killed or have abandoned her because of her powers. Satella's family was killed in front of her by a demon without horns, and she has spent her entire life searching for him so she can enact her revenge. Fiore is an Emotionless Girl that is later revealed to be Satella's dead sister, turned into a "mindless doll" by Aion to further his goals. Remington in the anime is some sort of fallen angel and in the manga was turned into a half-demon half-human thing by the Elder at his own request. Oh, and he may have been in love with Mary Magdalene too. In the manga, the bad guys don't even get away without tragic backstories—the Sinners are basically a Breakfast Club.
  • Just about every character in Yu-Gi-Oh! has either a tragic, despressing backstory or present.
  • Subverted and played straight in One Piece. Subverted in that every member of the Straw Hat Pirates has a depressing backstory, but very rarely does it ever seem to get them down. Other characters, on the other hand, play it straight. Montblanc Cricket was bullied and derided for most of his childhood because of something his ancestor did (ironically, his ancestor was telling the truth and no one believed him). Boa Hancock and her sisters were sold as slaves to the Celestial Dragons when they were young, who did such terrible acts to them that they can't even speak about it without breaking down into tears. And surprisingly, Arlong and his followers presumably went through some hard times, as mermen and fishmen were always treated horribly by humans.
  • The new Original Seven of Gun X Sword. This is kind of funny, in that Gadved, the Only Sane Man, boasted to Van about how powerful they are and how well they work together. With the likes of Carossa, Fasalina and especially Wo...
    • The protagonists are also something like this, especially when you count Ray.
  • Shadow Star Narutaru. In the entire 2500+ pages, there are two (one of whom appears for about 15 pages before being killed off) characters who are not broken or insane.
    • And in Bokurano it's rather difficult to name a major character that doesn't have issues of some sort.
  • Good Lord, Cowboy Bebop. Not just all of the main characters have issues, but practically everyone they meet in the entire series. It doesn't help that the theme is practically a deconstruction of Growing Up Sucks, as is fully explored in some literary papers. (Yes, you heard me; literary papers have been written about Cowboy Bebop.)
  • Black Lagoon. Seriously, you know you're dealing with one fucked up group of people when the least emotionally unstable characters are a Vietnam Veteran (or so we think) turned Pirate-mercenary (Dutch), a jaded former police detective turned underworld kingpin (Mr. Chang), a Soviet commander sent one too many times into Afghanistan who took her troops and formed the syndicate Hotel Moscow (Ms. Balalaika), a Japanese salaryman whose life just got turned upside down (Rock), and a man who was forced to flee his home country after pissing off both the FBI and The Mafia (Benny).
  • Most of the main characters in Nabari no Ou have either a horrible traumatic past, or a horrible traumatic present. Or both.
  • Nana has most of its main characters dealing with Parental Abandonment, abuse or even just everyday love life issues. Drug addiction also starts to figure into the story as well.
  • Oh, Saiyuki. Much of it family-related. We have dead parental figures, sibling incest, parental incest, parents attempting to kill children, children killing parents, characters murdering entire villages and clans...
  • White Album. Touji is a slacker and seemingly can't take any kind of initiative, Yuki is an Extreme Doormat, Yaoyi is... well, not particularly functional, Haruka seems to be something of a Wild Child, Misaki is pretty much incapable of functioning, Mana is neglected by her parents, Eiji is... Well, just crazy. All in all not the most mentally stable of casts.
  • While not nearly as angsty or drama-milking as other series, there's barely a character in Baccano!! that isn't maladjusted, severely traumatized, or (most commonly) just plain nuts. You know your cast belongs on the wrong side of the crazy train when even the Only Sane Man is an orphaned, Mafia-raised teenager with the Ghost Memory of a centuries-old Mad Scientist.
  • Durarara!!—you know you've got a messed up cast when every leg of your Love Triangle is a Yandere stalker.
  • If a character in Rave Master didn't lose their parents at a young age then they either lost something worse or don't get to be part of the main cast. Bonus points for Musica, who loses his whole family as a little kid (to an early villain) and, several years later, loses his adoptive father to disease.
  • Pandora Hearts. It'll be hard naming a character that totally lacks any issues.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: Everyone in the series has a closet packed full with skeletons. In one of the earliest examples, Nanami killed the kitten that she had given to her brother as a gift only days before because it was taking his attention away from her. And she was just a little kid at the time. Compared to other characters in the cast, that's quite tame, actually.
  • D.Gray-man: Oh boy... name one character with a backstory that isn't depressing and you get a cookie.
  • Oniisama e...: Just about everyone. And if they don't already have a tragic past, all the drama in the main story more than makes up for it.
  • Seitokai no Ichizon: Zany antics and laughter aside, everyone in the council aside from Kurimu has some deep seated personal trauma, be it bullying (Chizuru), a broken family (Minatsu and Mafuyu) or a broken heart (Ken).
  • All the important characters in Wolf Guy Wolfen Crest have rather significant problems. Those who currently have manageable ones will undoubtedly have more piled on top of those.
  • Hardly anyone in Berserk is safe from this, considering what a huge Crapsack World it takes place in. Some people manage to survive and better themselves as best as they can, but for most, it's a nightmarish existence topped off by a nightmarish death. Special mention goes to Guts and Casca since the universe seems to have had it in for them ever since the two were born and it really messed them up bad.
  • Peacemaker Kurogane: Everyone. And it only gets worse for them later on too.
  • Everyone in Hellsing. Especially Seras.
    • Which is ironic, since Seras lampshades the dysfunction.
      • Which is even more ironic when you take into consideration that Seras is one of the most sane characters in the entire series, despite having every reason not to be.

"Makes you wonder if anybody normal works in this place..."

  • Mirai Nikki. Just about the whole cast is Ax Crazy, especially Yuno. The main cast is comprised of a serial killer, a terrorist bomber, a prophetess of a self-proclaimed Religion of Evil who was also used as an unwilling sex toy by them in the past, a guy who thinks he's a Hero of Justice but actually is just a vigilante nutcase, a Tyke Bomb, a cop who betrayed his principles, a group of orphans trying to make their foster mother figure God whether she wants it or not and killing in the process (and the mother herself, who kills for her little darlings because they want her to), a major who wants his citizens to become a master race like Hitler wanted, gaining nigh-omniscience as a byproduct of it, a man manically in love with his dogs, neglecting anything else for them... To put things mildly, every contestant is unbalanced or has some messed up past/present. Two characters are crazy for each other, and in such a way that stretches way beyond being a loving couple. And Yuki with the help of his Ax Crazy Stalker with a Crush and the scenarios he's put into, which includes losing both of his parents and being manipulated by Yuno into killing all of his friends thinking that it would help him accomplish the goal of bringing his parents back, Yuki eventually cracks and/or shatters mentally under the strain of everything...
  • Sora no Woto. Save for Kanata, the rest of the cast has a tragic past related to the war. But they believe you can Earn Your Happy Ending, though.
  • Practically everyone in the manga Under Grand Hotel.
  • The majority of the villains in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX have a Freudian Excuse, and given the series usual penchant, this is probably intentional. Then there's the Protagonist, Judai, who is far by the most mentally screwed up character in the series, and he only gets worse as time goes on.
    • Examples of villains can be summed up in 4/7 of the 7 Stars. Camilla is a vampiress whose people have been killed by humans and took refuge in a coffin until Kagemaru found her. And Abidos III rebelled against his advisers over dueling. However, the worst cases are for Darkness and Amnael, better known as Asuka's older brother Fubuki and Daitokuji-sensei. Fubuki mysteriously vanishes in the abandoned dorm one night and became Darkness. And as for Amnael's origins... Daitokuji was an alchemist. Kagemaru funded his research, but Daitokuji fell gravely ill and had to make a second body to continue. And it turns out all along that Daitokuji wanted to stop Kagemaru.
  • Angel Beats!: It's strongly implied that a number, if not all, of the SSS members have a Dark and Troubled Past. In fact, it's implied to be a requirement to enter the afterlife.
    • As a child, Yuri witnessed her three younger siblings' murder at the hands of a gang of robbers. This is the root of her anger towards God. It was also her "fault" that they died because she couldn't find money in the house to give to the robbers. They probably would've killed them all regardless, but that doesn't really help Yuri's feelings of guilt.
    • Iwasawa had to deal with a drunk father who continually fought with her mother. She died from a cerebral contusion, caused by her own father who bashed her in the head with a beer bottle.
    • Hinata botched an easy catch during a critical baseball game, causing his team to be eliminated from the regional championships.
    • Naoi has continually lived in his brother's shadow for years and was forced to take his place when he died, leading to a serious identity crisis.
    • After regaining his memories, Otonashi's revealed as having one. He had an ill sister who was his only reason for living. Until she died, he carried on in an apathetic manner towards the rest of the world. Then he decided to make a difference in the world, started caring a lot more, and was on his way to medical school when the train he was on crashed and he died.
    • Angel has a lesser example, but her rank as Student Council President was taken away, the teachers and students have lost all respect for her, and her comfort food was taken away from her all because of the SSS's actions. It's also sad when you realize that Angel probably is a human like the rest of SSS and was just trying to fulfill her duties as Student Council President. Her reputation and life in the after world is ruined because she was trying to play by the rules.
  • Just about everyone in Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru has some sort of Dark and Troubled Past, or major personal issues stemming from their Dark and Troubled Past.
  • In Code Geass most major characters have some serious problems, which places them past the Despair Event Horizon and sometimes leads to their dragging others close to them down in the undertow. Most especially, all characters tied to Geass are seriously messed up.
  • The primary members of the cast in Mahou Sensei Negima tend to have the most horrible backstories. Negi's never met his parents, is too self sacrificing and had his village burned down. Asuna was a weapon and was forced to cause the destruction of Ostia. Konoka is fairly normal, but she's been estranged from her best friend/love interest for years. Setsuna was cast out of her tribe for what is strongly implied to be albinism. Evangeline has had people trying to kill her her entire life. Chao, Rakan, Chachamaru, Anya, Kotaro, Shiori... But don't worry, not everyone is like this; Makie can't think of any worries.
  • Heat Guy J. Let's see, there's a Token Mini-Moe "raised" (and I use that term very loosely) by an alcoholic mom and a Disappeared Dad. There's an Ax Crazy Mafia leader who became Ax Crazy and killed his father after years of abuse from his dad. The Hero's mom walked out, and his dad was assassinated shortly thereafter by the aforementioned Mafia leader's father, causing his brother to go into an Angst Coma and eventually try to take over the city, there's the son of a blues singer who became The Unfavorite after his dad left the family for the woman he was cheating on his wife with. And a werewolf that's constantly searching for a little sister that isn't even his little sister. And a Hot Scientist who's dad was always working (and died of unknown causes when she was young). In fact, the only character without a dark past or troubled family is Kyoko.
  • Every member of the cast of Yami no Matsuei (aka Descendants of Darkness,) has some sort of horribly traumatic past. It seems to be a job requirement for shinigami. When one of the protagonists, who suffers from a cripplingly uncontrolled power of empathy, to say nothing of the ancestral curse, combined with a childhood spent locked in a cell in the basement and a sibling who shares his given name and was murdered by their parents, and ends up being raped and murdered via a wasting curse cast by the main villain all by the ripe old age of sixteen, and his backstory is comparatively cheerful next to that of his partner... well, it's just a pity that the department is run on too much of a shoestring budget to hire a staff therapist. They could use one.
  • Every Loveless character who isn't a psychopath or sociopath has been through emotional hell. Ritsuka (amnesia, ongoing physical abuse from his mother, the death of his beloved older brother, and the discovery that said older brother is a murdering psychopath who faked his own death) and Soubi (orphaned, raised by a teacher who wanted to exert complete control over him and sexually abused him, and physically and emotionally abused by Seimei, who saw him as an object), are probably the worst off, but Yuiko is a victim of bullying, Natsuo and Youji felt neglected by their creator, and Kio is estranged from his daughter and has been disowned by his family, just to name a few.
  • The entire main cast of Chaos;Head is certifiably insane. Including the narrator.
  • The Allies of Axis Powers Hetalia could be this. England had no friends, and was bullied and hated as a child by his own family, and ends up being left by the one person who ever showed him any love. France's implied love was murdured by his own charge turned enemy. China's former little brother stabbed him for seemingly no reason and declared war on him. And let's not forget Russia, who was raised by General Winter and endured through several things that messed him up completely (Bloody Sunday, anyone?) The only one who appears to have gotten it easy is America. And when you take into consideration how The American Revolution must have affected him as well, even that's debatable.
    • The Soviet Union also qualifies. Russia is an insane type 3 Stepford Smiler with an awful past. Belarus is a Yandere who wants to get married to Russia. Ukraine is a sentimental girl who's always trying to defect. Lithuania is The Woobie, complete with scars presumably inflicted by Russia, and is in love with Belarus. Latvia is the fragile one who's always trembling. Estonia seems to be the Only Sane Man, but that could be just because he gets so little screen time; he's still terrified of Russia and identified as part of the "trembling trio" with Lithuania and Latvia.
      • Hell, it's fair to say ANY character in Hetalia fits this. Considering the fact that the cast represents countries and their histories, and that history is far from perfect, the trope is extemely justified.
  • NEEDLESS (no relation) plays this for laugh. The entire cast are sociopaths in one way or another, and they have Dark and Troubled Past that led them to becoming who they are now. About the only one who is sane is Cruz, the Butt Monkey.
  • It seems that in Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service's world, becoming an orphan correlates with gaining weird skills or powers. So far, with the exception of the main character, all of the main cast and a few secondary characters who also have supernatural powers have revealed that something horrible happened to their parent or parents as a child.
  • In Clannad, nearly everyone has a problem or several, some pretty bad and some not as bad as others, but nonetheless, played and displayed depressingly at times.
    • Same goes for Kanon and AIR. Key seems to like this trope...
  • Wandering Son is more mild then most examples here, but still counts for several reasons. It's mainly the main trio though. The protagonists are having troubles related to them being transgendered, along with typical adolescent problems. Chiba however is just.. Rather dysfunctional for most of the manga, lacking proper social skills and being depressed often.
  • Bleach has large amounts of characters with tragic or complicated pasts. All six of the manga's heroes (Ichigo, Rukia, Orihime, Uryu, Chad and Renji) all have dead relatives or loved ones with different reactions to their losses which affected their lives. Other characters have had sad backstories like Matsumoto, Gin, Tosen, Ulquiorra, Starrk and Lilinette, and pretty much everybody affected by Aizen's action 101 years prior to the manga's main storyline.
  • The characters of Life easily count. The protagonist is a cutter who's bullied and can never seem to be happy for long, her ex-friend's boyfriend is a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who has Abusive Parents and who's girlfriend set him up to get beat up, her only friend is a delinquent of sorts who misses school in order to have a job, there's a boy in the series who was severely bullied in middle school..
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is full of them. Heero is orphaned very young. He's used as an assassin and trained as a child soldier. Duo live on the streets with other kids and steal to stay alive. He ends up in a orphanage and all his friends are adopted except for him. OZ and the Alliance then massacre everyone leaving him the sole survivor. Trowa is trained as a mercenary with no memory of his lost family. Quatre has a low esteem of himself and thinks his father doesn't love him because he was born as a test tube baby (in reality he was conceived naturally and doesn't know it). Wufei lost his wife during an OZ attack on his colony. Zechs lost his parents during an Alliance invasion and had his pacifist homeland conquered.
  • In Sakura Gari between Souma's childhood, being raped and tortured DAILY, silently and lonely while everyone pretends it doesn't happen, Matasaka's childhood and rape and torture at the hands of Katsuragi, the entire situation with Youya, and Souma's stepmother, Katsuragi and Sakurako and you have Up to Eleven extremes that just keep on climbing.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica—unsurprisingly, since it was created by Gen Urobuchi.
    • Madoka is a shy little girl who has no self-worth and feels useless, which enables her to delete herself from existence to save the world.
    • Sayaka is a stubborn loudmouth with an unwavering devotion to justice that leads to her eventual transformation into a witch, as she refuses to replenish her Soul Gem because she thinks it's unheroic. She ends up broken and alone after watching her best friend fall for her crush and having her life destroyed by her wish.
    • Mami puts on a cheerful, heroic facade to hide the crushing loneliness and exhaustion she feels from constantly fighting witches on her own.
    • Kyouko is a harsh, selfish sociopath who won't kill familiars until they go on a killing spree and turn into witches, thinks Sayaka should win Kyosuke's love by breaking all his limbs and rendering him helpless without her, and watched her father commit a murder-suicide on her entire family after her wish goes horribly wrong.
    • Homura is pretty much the queen of dysfunction. She watched her only friends die multiple times while desperately trying and failing to save them through her Groundhog Day Loop powers, which eventually became so traumatizing that she abandoned all emotions and went from being a sweet little Moe with glasses and braids to a cold, hard Badass who fights with an armory of guns and bombs she stole from the Yakuza. In the current timeline, she has to watch her best friend Madoka - the girl she's relived a single hellish month over and over to save - shy away from her in fear and treat her like she's an intimidating stranger.
    • Kyubey can't feel emotions - in fact, his species regards feelings as mental disorders.
  • Mawaru Penguindrum: To list all of the characters' respective problems would be incredibly spoiler-riffic and take up half this page. Suffice to say that every major character must deal with several serious issues (and most of them don't deal with those issues very well). Put them all together, and the results are...interesting.
  • Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, besides being a slice-of-life school comedy, also details the lives of seven socially-inept members of the Neighbors Club, particularly its principal trio (which also serves as a Love Triangle of the sorts) -- Kodaka is an otherwise well-adjusted boy whose social life suffers due to being frequently mistaken for a Delinquent; Yozora is an abrasive loner with almost No Social Skills; Sena is a notorious Rich Bitch, her shapely figure notwithstanding; Yukimura is an extremely-effeminate boy with a severe lack of self-confidence; Rika is a Teen Genius with an incredibly perverted streak; Kodaka's little sister Kobato is under a constant self-delusion of being a vampiric Elegant Gothic Lolita; and Maria is their ten-year-old advisor with severe reality-testing issues. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Just about ANYTHING by Kaori Yuki. Angel Sanctuary and Count Cain deserve special mention.
  • Deadman Wonderland features much of the characters with dark pasts or Ax Crazy disturbed persona's. Most everybody's present aren't nice either.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • With few exceptions, almost all of the X-Men have tragic pasts, poor childhoods, dead parents or all three. This is compounded by the series' use of Expansion Pack Past, which tends to add on progressively more tragedies in the character's personal history the longer the series goes on, continually "revealed" to the audience whenever a character is focused on. To be fair, some of this is retooling to more clearly explain the animosity of mutants rejected by society.
  • Watchmen comes close, the only of the superheroes in it that are remotely well-adjusted are the two Nite Owls. (And sometimes not even then!)
    • This is part of what Moore wanted to portray, in that a person who chooses to become a masked hero and beat people up at night wouldn't exactly be right in the head.
  • On Runaways, the unifying aspect of the group is that everyone had super villain parents.
    • Joss Whedon's run added Klara, a twelve-year-old abused child bride from 1907.
    • Aside from Klara, Whedon's run is actually a bit of a subversion; surprising, considering it's Joss Whedon. Quite a few of the Runaways actually come out better or no worse off from their adventure. Chase gets new weapons and manages to move on from Gert's death, resisting the temptation to go back in time to save her. Xavin manages to overcome his/her gender issues. Nico gets a new staff and powers (kind of like Willow). Molly remains unchanged. About the only one messed up further is Victor; he falls for a new girl, Nico dumps him, and new girl doesn't go with him back to the present. One gets the feeling Whedon didn't like Victor.
  • The Doom Patrol. To descend into just how screwed up everyone in that group's roster is would take up the whole page.
    • To give you a taste: the current team roster includes a man whose brain was preserved by putting it in a robot, an off-kilter Energy Being with identity issues, a former B-movie actress with low self-esteem whose ex-husband is a telepathic stalker, a girl with 64 multiple personalities, and an amoral bastard of a Mad Scientist who treats losing his legs as an inconvenience.
  • It's not exactly dwelt on in the new comics, so it's easy to forget the current Avengers include an alcoholic ex-prisoner of war with recurrent relationship issues, a man who once woke up to the news that his best friend was dead and it was several decades in the future, a man who struggled with race and class issues all his life and was jailed for a crime he didn't commit, a brainwashed and surgically altered killing machine who works constantly to suppress his savagery, and a former brainwashed terrorist who was experimented on by her father while in a coma, to name just a few.
    • And that's not even getting started on Spider-Man...
    • The Young Avengers, if anything, are worse. We've got everything from accidentally almost killing bullies to juvenile delinquency, steroid abuse, and rape.
      • These angst-filled tragic backstories are so common in Marvel, it may explain the popularity of Squirrel Girl, who is well-adjusted and is a hero because she wants to help people.
    • Ant-Man (or Giantman, or whatever he calls himself, it changes a lot because he) is constantly reminded, and remembered, by everybody in the Marvel Universe as "the guy who beat his wife". Which, while not defending the position, is sad because really he slapped the Wasp once (back in the day too, so slapping wasn't uncommon) during a time when he wasn't himself, and never touched her again. But damn if not everybody, even newcomers, won't mention "Hey, aren't you that guy...", and he has been paying for that for decades. The Ultimate Universe upped the ante, giving him a full-wife-beatdown with added ant attack (she was shrunk at that time, it makes sense when you read it).
      • The animated Ultimate Avengers really didn't care for him, and flat out took him out, because, say it with me now...
    • This explicitly seems to be the premise of Avengers Academy. The student body consists of six teenagers who were forcibly and torturously given powers by Norman Osborn. They include a guy who's stuck in a metal body, a radioactive girl who gave her parents cancer and a girl who's slowly dissipating. They're all revealed to be "damaged goods" who are most likely to turn into villains and are given training to preempt that. Accordingly, their instructors are some of the most troubled members of the Avengers, who are supposed to benefit the kids with their experience of dealing with their problems.
  • Three words: The Bat Family. It consists of a guy whose parents were shot dead in front of him when he was eight, a guy whose parents were killed in front of him when someone sabotaged their trapeze act, a girl who used to be a gymnastic crime fighter until she was shot and paralyzed (possably even raped) by someone after her dad, another guy whose parents are dead (including step parents and fake ones), a girl who was raised in The Spartan Way to be the world's greatest assassin and wasn't even taught how to read or talk, and a girl whose parents were shot dead in front of her when she was eight. Hell, we might as well just say Gotham is Dysfunction Junction. Just living there practically counts as an angsty past.
    • And the Spoiler!
      • To explain for non-Stephanie Brown fans... her father was Cluemaster, a third-string Batman villain who was basically a Riddler rip-off. So when she was growing up, her house was constantly filled with criminals (including, briefly, the Riddler), her dad was in and out of jail, and her mom was addicted to prescription drugs. When she was a young teenager, she got pregnant and ultimately decided to give up her baby for adoption, never ever seeing it. Her father also repeatedly used her in his various plots, once getting her kidnapped and put in very real danger of death as part of an elaborate trap for Batman. For years she struggled with her feelings for her father, trying to figure out if he ever really loved her. And then he died. And she also got the chance to become Robin, but screwed that up, got fired, and promptly went out and accidentally started a massive gang war that killed hundreds of people and ended with her almost dying at the hands of the Black Mask. She eventually was able to come back from the dead and since has begun a relatively well-adjusted life as a college freshman while her mother (now off drugs) works a steady job at a hospital. But on the road to this, she also broke up with her long-term boyfriend (Robin), who later told her she should never do crimefighting again, and had to go through the death of the only strong male figure she ever had in her life (Batman). Then she becomes Batgirl and barely gets respect by not only Damian (duh), but also Babs and Dick. The poor girl just never gets a break! Amazingly she barely wangsts about any of this.
    • Then there's also Jason Todd, whose parental issues include being the Unfavorite because Batman didn't avenge his death at the hands of the Joker, worded thusly: "I'm talking about killing him. Just him. And doing it... because he took me away from you."
    • And that's without counting the myriad of traumas and psychoses behind almost all the Batman villains.
  • Jesse Custer has familial issues and then some, although not what you would expect.
    • His parents were fine, upstanding people who did not balk at showing their love. Sadly the same did not hold for his maternal grandmother, who in her attempts to control Jesse's upbringing kept him and his parents hostage from an early age on, and had his father murdered for attempted escape. His mother was later to suffer the same fate, for attempting to intervene when Jesse was to be punished by being left to stew in his own feces and urine, with no nutrition, in a submerged coffin, for a week. For using a swearword in anger against her personal henchmen, who had recently murdered his puppy. It Got Worse.
  • The Teen Titans. It's arguably more of a support group for superpowered teens than an actual team of superheroes. Considering how many of them have died and/or gone insane, it doesn't do a very good job.
  • While Astro City typically avoids this trope (due to its idealistic nature), it is played straight with the Williams brothers during the aptly-named "Dark Age" story arc. After seeing their parents gunned down during a super-hero fight, Royal becomes a jaded petty thief, while Charles becomes a By-The-Book Cop who gets shot In the Back by Dirty Cops; the two eventually become vigilantes in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against their parents' killer. They abandon their quest after realizing what they've become, and retire to run a chartered fishing business instead.
  • X-Statix had this essentially as its core premise—this was a team of celebrities, not heroes, and as such, extreme[1] personalities clashing is to be expected. But to go into detail: the Orphan has an adversarial relationship with the Anarchist, who in turn is bitter rivals with the Spike. Phat and Vivisector don't get along with anyone except occasionally each other. El Guapo disrupts the team when it starts to gel, the Mysterious Fan Boy's naivite grates on everyone but forces them to at least pretend to like each other, Venus Dee Milo draws flak from fans and the media, which lessens her stock among the team members themselves, and Dead Girl is just... weird. U-Go Girl is probably the only one who functions semi-normally within the group.
  • Can somebody say "Todd Casil" also known as Squee? His parents explicitly state on several occasions "I wish you'd never been born," his neighbor is a homicidal psychopath, and he has a 1-sided friendship with the son of Satan!
  • Fantastic Four were actually a groundbreaking feat in superhero comics because of this trope. Before their creation, it was unthinkable for a superhero team to have such blatantly dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics and depressing personal issues. Not including all the crap that they go through after they get superpowers, from the very beginning the group includes a guy whose entire normal life was ruined by getting turned into a giant, hideous rock monster who can't hide his identity. And as for screwed-up backstories, they have the guy whose former friend hates him with such a blinding passion that every single thing said friend has done in his career as an evil, world-dominating Magnificent Bastard can be traced back to his obsessive desire for revenge.


Fanfic[edit | hide]

  • The Fellowship of the Ring has become this in Bag Enders. Understandably, as they've been stuck with each other for six thousand years. Gandalf has become a Dirty Old Man who drinks copiously and spends all his time in front of the TV. Merry and Pippin work a string of low-paying jobs in between drinking as much as Gandalf and shagging Anything That Moves. Frodo is suffering from the incurable Post-Ringbearer Syndrome and spends half his time in a mental hospital or latching onto the long-suffering Sam. Gimli works the night shift and is rarely seen. Aragorn suffered a messy divorce from Arwen and is now the nearest thing the Fellowship have to an authority figure. Legolas is the usual viewpoint character and Only Sane Man, but is slowly cracking under the strain of having to spend eternity with the Fellowship instead of in Valinor, and on one occasion was possessed by the understandably-irritable spirit of Boromir.
  • Two Slayers - One Heart, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic, cranks this trope Up to Eleven due to the Slayer mansion set up in Normal being for the ones with problems from mental to physical. From orphaned Slayers to blind Slayers to abused Slayers, they've got it all.
  • Sweet god. Fill the Moon is this trope. This is not an exaggeration; the ENTIRE CAST has some sort of horrible, horrible, crippling psychological issue. In order; Xemnas' impregnation of his own daughter using his surrogate younger brother as the father, Xigbar has dealt with a completely screwed-up lover, not to mention is outright stated to have become a Knight Templar on his brothers' behalf during their time as Apprentices, and while Luxord, his lover isn't crazy, (which is even lampshaded by Xigbar), Xaldin has been through his entire life feeling alone, unloved, and "undeserving" of affection, Vexen, who worked himself beyond exhaustion being the Team Mom for the Apprentices, and is now dealing with the fact that they've grown up and don't need him anymore, Lexaeus is actually rather normal, but considering his girlfriend, Larxene, has been raped and abused in every single relationship she's had, and was horrifically abused by her ex-husband, who also raped her and is implied to have done far worse, he doesn't have to be crazy. Still more?
    • Axel is dealing with losing his best friend, Saix, to Xemnas, and pining for a lover who doesn't even exist outside of Sora yet, and has defected from the Organization to find him. Zexion, who is already canonically an orphan, is forced to impregnate his thirteen year old lover, who didn't even know what sex was until that catastrophe, is forced to watch her almost die due to the impregnation, and performs a Heroic Sacrifice in her name. Plus, he's implied to have even more trauma pre-Fill the Moon, so we're bound to see more on him. Marluxia is somewhat normal, but rather possessive. Dealing with Vexen could drive anyone crazy.
    • Demyx doesn't have it so good either. Being abused by his older brother for his entire life as a Somebody led to a serious case of PTSD, culminating in a massive mental breakdown before Xigbar managed to help him through it.
    • The worst of the lot is the little OC Nobody, Senayax. She was forced to eat her own grandfather to survive, she has a horrific demon living inside of her that expresses delight in the thought of raping her, she was impregnated by her lover under orders from her father, she almost died as a result, and committed suicide after Zexion performed a Heroic Sacrifice to save her.
    • To sum it up? Everyone in this fic is insane.
  • Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons takes this trope and runs with it. Blackjack is a none-too-smart bundle of self-loathing and guilt held together by chems, alcohol and Chronic Hero Syndrome. She's also guilty of rape and murder before the story even begins. P-21 has deep emotional scars and constantly stuggles with cognitive dissonance, particularly a repressed desire to kill Blackjack for raping him and killing his lover. Rampage is a nigh-invulnerable child-murdering psychopath with a split personality, who actually wants to be good and/or find a way to die. Lacunae is a live dumping ground for an entire Hive Mind's collective angst, prone to being the subject of Villain Overrides. Scotch Tape is a relatively sheltered Tagalong Kid who attracts psychological trauma like a magnet. The only (relatively) stable member of the main cast is Morning Glory, who quickly develops several problems of her own such as being betrayed and exiled from the Pegasi Enclave, branded, and later losing a wing.
  • Brave New World, a Pokémon fanfic and sequel to Latias' Journey has a cast chockablock with this trope. Ash Ketchum has a human soul inserted into the body of a Lucario and he has fleeting memories from his life as a human, haunted by memories of previously destroying the world after watching his loved ones get killed; Pikachu is a samurai who knows he may one die in battle; the baby Larvitar, Tiny, had a traumatising birth and refuses to open up to anybody; Lily was born with the purpose to be a sacrifice to Giratina and has been abused all her life by her mother; Dawn was betrayed by her best friend, cannot speak because her vocal cords were removed at birth, and her entire ninja clan was exterminated; and Briney lost his wife to the villains, wearing her eye in place of his missing one. The only major heroes who escape the trope are Leo and Sasha, although they have their own troubles.
    • The fanfic's version of Misty maintains her phobia of bugs, but it was caused after she was brainwashed into becoming part of a Hive Mind and believing she was an insect, until she was saved by Ash and Pikachu, suffering from a traumatic recovery.
  • From All You Need Is Love, a Death Note fanfic in which an Action Mom is being stalked by a mass murderer ( and father of her child. The murderer in turn is being stalked by a Depraved Homosexual detective). After the murderer's little sister is traumatized from being kidnapped by a transvestite mafia lord then most of the cast are Pushed in Front of the Audience by the resident idiot:

Naomi: I'm very sorry to everyone. My companions don't try to be idiots it just kind of happens. Sayu and I were put through very traumatic experiences; it's just for me, well… I deal with this shit all the time so it doesn't really bother me. For a normal person I'm sure what we went through would have left them shell shocked with only the ability to remain curled in a corner rocking themselves back and forth. So I'm going to apologize on the behalf of everyone here except for Takada who really did try her best, it's not her fault that he's dumb, she's traumatized, I don't have problems, he's an asshole, and he's the devil.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Pretty much everyone in Eagle vs. Shark, from the possibly-autistic Jared, cripplingly-shy Lily, Jared's family still scarred by his brother's suicide...
  • Any Family in a Wes Anderson Film..
  • Running With Scissors is based on living at the Junction station house.
  • Happiness.
  • Orphan: On both the villainous and heroic sides.
  • Almost everyone from the Spider-Man films, ranging from Peter, Mary-Jane, Doc Ock, Norman and Harry Osborn, Aunt May, Uncle Ben, Eddie Brock, and Flint.
  • Love Exposure
  • All the kids in The Breakfast Club came from dysfunctional families, and this is what directly or indirectly got them all Saturday detention.
  • In Winter's Bone this is a major factor in that virtually every character that gets in the way of Ree is a member of her extended family.
  • The Avengers has its eponymous team. Pretty much everyone but Steve and the SHIELD agents has some kind of disorder or other issue.
    • Count on Steve as well. The world he knew is gone, everyone he knew and loved is dead, and he seems to spend most of his time pounding on punching bags. Also it's implied that he was conscious at least for when he began de-thawing from the ice.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Gemma Doyle trilogy: Just focusing on the four main girls, there are several cases of Parental Abandonment (both from death and otherwise), Parental Incest, self-harm, and in one case—different from the previous! -- suicide. For starters.
  • Lampshaded in Peter Watts's Rifters Trilogy, particularely the first book, Starfish: several of the main characters got their jobs as "rifters" - deep-ocean explorers and colonists - by being too dysfunctional to fit in anywhere else; the theory is that those conditioned by their upbringing to accept undue stress as a normal living condition are actually more able to cope in extraordinary environments. This backfires more or less exactly the way you'd expect it to. Well, except that it's a Peter Watts book, so it backfires more or less exactly the way you'd expect it to except more so.
    • Ironically, the protagonist turns out to be so messed up not so much because her father abused her as because her employers surgically tampered with her brain to make her think her father abused her before sending her down there. Her parents turn out to have been fine and upstanding people. Which, in a Peter Watts book, makes them pretty much unique.
  • As Stewie Griffin put it, Fyodor Dostoevsky is "the Mad Russian." This is evident in The Brothers Karamazov, in which the father drives his two wives to premature death via sheer force of personality (he enjoyed the meekness of his second wife so much that he couldn't help having orgies with prostitutes in front of her) and then completely abandons his children, leaving his butler to raise them in his shack. This leads to one brother becoming subject to his passions, another becoming highly cold and calculating (and eventually stark-raving mad), and the third left to pick up the pieces, which is depressing by itself. Consequently, anyone they come into contact with also happens to have a tragic backstory, whether it's the misunderstood Hooker with a Heart of Gold or the shipping captain whose family's condition just screams "Pathetic!"
  • Those characters who are perfectly fine in House of Leaves are those who haven't encountered, spent time in, or explored the titular house, or, by proxy, read Zampan�'s manuscript about the film about the house.
  • Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen has a lot of this. It's evidently intended as character development, but much of the time it comes off as pointless Wangst (with Seren Pedac being, in this editor's opinion, the most repulsive example).
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is interesting in that half the cast are in the process of gaining their tragic backstories.
  • Justified in The War Against the Chtorr. 60% of the world population has died in a series of plagues, so all the survivors are walking wounded. This materialises in everything from sexual obsessives to zombie-like herds of people; and suicide is the leading cause of death even in the middle of the war. It's even suggested these psychological conditions are another type of plague created by the alien invaders.
  • There are a lot of messed up or incredibly depressed characters in Warrior Cats, but mostly in the third series. Examples:
    • Mostly caused by the fact that the author does not like happy endings. Quoting one of the other authors:

Cherith Baldry: I've heard it said that if you met your characters in real life they would attack you for treating them so badly!

    • Ashfur and Hollyleaf.
    • Most of the villains in the series: Brokenstar was raised by an unloving mother, Tigerstar's father abandonned him to live with Twolegs, possibly causing his irrational hatred for kittypets, Scourge was abused by his brother and sister and ran away from home as a kit, Hawkfrost is mostly open for interpretation, but his relationship with his father is anything but healthy, and he seems to have quite the superiority complex.
    • Sunrise managed to mess up the lives of pretty much every main charcter from the second series.
    • Instead of simply killing off main characters' love interests like she used to, the author has decided to create circumstances where they simply cannot be together, or their relationship pretty much gets killed, and they all end up with some kind of problem. This has happened, to some extent, to pretty much every major pairing from the second series onward (one of the most extreme cases being Lionblaze and Heathertail, who pretty much want to kill each other now).
    • Leafpool has been hit by Deus Angst Machina twice all because of a single decision she made a long time ago. In Sunrise it was practically stated that she was suicidal.
    • Crowfeather, who has lost his two loves and now is paired with a cat who could be considered his friend at best, and is stuck with a bratty son who he neglects and abuses. He also refuses to acknowledge that he is still in love with Leafpool or that he has three other kits.
      • Breezepelt also has some issues because of Crowfeather's abuse. It seems that he has finally snapped under the weight of being unloved, and seems to have sworn revenge against everyone that he believes denied him the right to a happy life.
    • Cinderpelt's leg was run over by a car when she was an apprentice, crippling her for life and destroying her dreams of being a warrior. Then, when she dies, she is reincarnated as her neice, who then breaks the exact same leg and is almost subjected to the same fate as Cinderpelt.
    • Stormfur has been an outsider for pretty much his entire life. His mother died giving birth to him, and his father abandonned him when he was an apprentice, leaving him and his sister as outcasts in RiverClan. Then later on, his sister, who he was much closer to than anyone else, dies, he falls in love with Brook and leaves the Clans to join the Tribe of Rushing Water, which he is soon exiled from. He eventually goes back to live with the Tribe, but the last few chapters of Outcast makes it seem like the Tribe isn't going to be able to survive much longer.
    • Jayfeather and his various attitude problems originating from his dislike of being blind. As a little kitten, he actually says "I wish I had never been born!"
    • Sorreltail comes from one of the biggest families in the series, and now only has two blood relatives left. Within her lifetime six of her close relatives have died, and they are normally killed of within months of each other. One of her brothers' deaths could even be considered Death by Irony.
      • Well, not even bothering to use the Word of God relations, she still has: Cinderheart, Poppyfrost, Cherrykit, Molekit, Brambleclaw, Tawnypelt, Tigerheart, Dawnpelt, Flametail (not anymore), Mothwing, Mistystar, and Reedwhisker. Of course, only five of them are in her Clan, but still, it's not that bad.
    • Am I the only one who thinks that Cinderpelt and Spottedleaf being so close to Leafpool is very creepy because they are both in love with her father?
      • And what about Leafpool naming Jayfeather, her own son, after his father? Considering how similar Jayfeather is to Crowfeather, and the fact that no one was supposed to know they were related, it becomes pretty creepy if you think too much about it.
      • Firestar did the same thing: Leafpool was named after Spottedleaf.
        • Of course, this isn't because Leafpool looks like Spottedleaf. In fact, she looks like Firestar's sister.
  • Dysfunction is the rule rather than the exception in Harry Potter. It's most noticeable with the Blacks, the Gaunts, and the Dumbledores, but pretty much every significant character has some family trauma in their backstory—and if they don't have it by the beginning of Book Seven, they sure will by the end of it.
    • Hell, even the characters with normal families where no one dies will have trauma. For example, if she did it without their consent, what is Hermione going to tell her folks when she restores their memories?
  • The Wraiths are an X-Wing squadron composed initially of nothing but the Commander, his old wingmate, and people on their Last Second Chance, in the belief that they will work hard to prove their worth. The author is a big believer in using a Cast of Snowflakes. Everyone has something wrong with them. Otherwise they wouldn't be a Wraith. The commander does notice that they're actually good for each other, able to help one another get past their pasts and presents rather than making things worse. Still, the reputation sticks. When a new pilot is transferred in who was assigned because of their track record and not because of big screwups, a pilot jokingly says that he's too normal for the Wraiths. The new pilot then proves to be a Large Ham.

"Excuse me! Elassar Targon, MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE, reporting for duty!"

  • Done very well in Doctrine of Labyrinths series by Sarah Monette. The main characters are especially dysfunctional; doing into detail on how monumentally screwed-up Felix and Mildmay are would take a very, very long time.
  • If a character in A Series of Unfortunate Events doesn't have a Dark and Troubled Past, chances are they'll have something traumatic happen to them in the main story, with Count Olaf being the cause of most of it. Most of the adults have a Dark and Troubled Past due to their involvement from an early age with V.F.D. And the main characters lose their parents in the first book in a fire that burned down their house, spend almost every book being pursued by Count Olaf, a greedy psychopath who is after their fortune, lose countless guardians and friends thanks to Olaf's interventions, face kidnapping, one is almost decapitated by her sibling and if not for her quick thinking is almost made to marry above greedy psychopath (who blackmails her with the life of her sister), they are unjustly accused of murder and forced to commit arson to maintain a disguise, get thrown down an elevator shaft by their "guardian", are forced to do chores for a town that's acting as their guardians, thrown into prison, and are nearly murdered by said town by being burned at the stake, accidentally kill a man, nearly die in the last book from being infected with the spores of poisonous mushrooms while stranded on an island... One almost wishes they died in the fire with their parents so they wouldn't be put through all this... because life totally sucks in their world.
  • The Glass Menagerie: There are really only four characters in the play but three of them, namely Amanda Wingfield and her two children Tom and Laura all have significant problems which seemed to be set into motion ever since the father left and their relationship with each other became strained.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe Eighth Doctor Adventures were generally like this. The Doctor was constantly The Woobie, with enough issues to be his own personal walking Dysfunction Junction by the end of the series. He lost a wife and daughter in two entirely separate incidents, not to mention his memory and one of his hearts. Fitz, one of his companions, seemed at times to be competing with him to be the most woobie. He grew up half-German during World War II and subsequently in foster homes, because his dad was dead and his mum was crazy. Then he met the Doctor, who killed his mum (and before that, he'd seemed to be a rather endearing and justified-by-her-neediness variant on the Momma's Boy). Cloning Blues and Cartwright Curse ensued. This overload of issues may explain why he never got a chance to worry much about his crush on the Doctor. After the seemingly wholesome and cheerful Soapbox Sadie discovered she had issues too and left, they were joined by a copy of a copy of a copy etc. of a Deadpan Snarker, who started out a Broken Bird and just got worse, really, no thanks to the Doctor. And then there was Anji, who seemed just peachy until her boyfriend of four years died. And then there was the fact that her whole childhood, the other kids picked on her for being Indian. Oddly, Fitz and Anji never seemed to commiserate about that similarity. And Trix pulled a bit of a Multiple Choice Past and was never quite clear about it, and Anji suspected that her Broken Bird act was just a trick to get Fitz to like her, but she also had Sticky Fingers, and it was implied she'd been a sex worker at some point...
    • Their predecessors, Virgin's New Adventures, weren't much better. Over the course of the books, Seventh did quite a few morally questionable things, which would leave him wondering just how close he was to going over to The Dark Side. While he wasn't quite the woobie Eighth was, thanks to aforementioned morally dubious schemes, he got put through the proverbial grinder quite a few times in the course of events. Ace's parental issues had been established in the TV series, but in the books, the Doctor arranged the death of her current boyfriend, causing her to leave the TARDIS for several books and come back a hardbitten mercenary who took a long time to reconcile with the Doctor. Bernice could probably rival Fitz in terms of just how many issues she had, mainly relating to her childhood involving an interstellar war, a dead mother and a Disappeared Dad. Roz was seriously unlucky in love; she killed her first partner - a man she loved deeply - when she found out he was corrupt, then got it wiped from her memory by the Big Bad. Another of her love interests turned out to be a murderer; Roz being a by-the-book cop, this did not sit well with her. About the only one who was left untouched was Chris... up until Roz died, anyway.
  • Hoo boy, Ironman. (no, not that one.) The main character is an antisocial sports nut who suffers an inferiority complex due to his father's borderline draconian discipline policies. And his anger management group? One's a nihilistic Jerkass, one's a confrontational punk with a Hair-Trigger Temper, and the last one is a Cloudcuckoolander who is literally completely incapable of rational thought and can only spout inane gibberish due to having suffered years of horrific torture from his psychopathic father.
  • Wicked Lovely. Let's list how: Aislinn has a dead mother and Disappeared Dad. Keenan has a dead dad, and an abusive mom. Seth has serious Parental Abandonment issues. We don't know much about Donia's past, but the curse that put her in constant pain for nearly a century is hardly productive to a happy life. Leslie has a Missing Mom, neglectful alcoholic father, abusive druggie older brother, and was raped before the start of book two. Niall also has Rape as Backstory, as well as being in love with the one who let it happen, a major Guilt Complex, and Reluctant Monster syndrome. I could go on.
  • Animorphs. We have a leader who struggles with his own decisions and has an older brother as the enemy, a Machiavellian-esque Smug Snake who's willing to kill his own alien-possesed mother, a Blood Knight who's worried about losing control, a emotional wreck who's stuck in hawk form and is happy that way and a animal rights girl who can play you like a piano. And they're suppostied to protect us. Our world is in good hands.
  • Jonathan Franzen loves this trope, and its readily apparent in all his books including The Corrections and Strong Motion.
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: There are only four principal characters in the novel due to the Closed Circle: Battle Butler Conseil has so much Undying Loyalty that considers himself an extension of his employer. The Professor Aronnax practically swims in Stockholm Syndrome, Captain Nemo has a slow Villainous Breakdown caused by him, a good man, crossing once and again the Moral Event Horizon. Only Sane Man Ned Land is slowly Go Mad From the Isolation. This is justified because his adventure is truly extraordinary.
  • The Dresden Files. Oh my God, The Dresden Files. The hero is orphaned, abused, betrayed by his father figure and girlfriend, and nearly executed - all by the time he's sixteen. And let's not even go into what happens to him after the books start.
    • Leaving that aside, there's also the amount of screwed up families: the Raiths (daughters raped once they hit puberty, sons killed off) and the McCoys (Gramps is the White Council's assassin, Mom hung out with an evil crowd and got herself killed, sons have parental issues, crappy luck and crappier love lives, and granddaughter was kidnapped by vampires for use in profane ritual) to name two. The Carpenters are surprisingly well-adjusted considering Dad is always off battling the forces of evil, but even they've got some major dysfunction in the form of Charity and Molly. Charity still has issues stemming from a near-brush with Black Magic as a teenager, and Molly's teenage rebellion leaves her teetering on the edge of The Dark Side even before Harry's death in Changes turns her into a full-on Broken Bird.
  • The Book of Joe has a cast full of characters struggling with their issues, with Joe still coming to terms with his past, Wayne living with AIDS, Brad's marital problems, Carly disastrous former marriage and so forth.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Soap operas ARE this trope.
  • Much of Joss Whedon's work - Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel, mainly. Those few characters without tragic pasts quickly get them within the course of the story, as you know any happy character will either be killed or have a loved one killed.
    • Even those who are relatively happy will always be revealed to have at least one parent (usually the father) who is either abusive or absent. Then they have a tragic event happen to them as well, anyway, to compound the matter.
      • In the commentary for A Hole in the World, he observes, "Oh, look at that, they're happy. Better have someone cough up some blood!"
    • Firefly is better about having a cast with varied backgrounds. River and Simon, however, have a background as traumatic as they come, while Mal and Zoe were comrades on the losing side of a war. Still, the second pair doesn't treat their defeat as entirely traumatic, and focuses on finding little ways to get back at the Alliance (robbery, bar fights, etc.)
    • Spoofed in a Home on the Strange strip concerning a hypothetical Firefly MMORPG: "It's right in the Terms and Conditions: 'No relationship in the Whedonverse is allowed to end happily...'"
    • Subverted in the "Fredless" episode of Angel. Fred's parents stop by looking for their daughter, and we are led to believe they may have bad intentions for her. Eventually it's revealed that they are loving people who want the best for their daughter. Ironically, this ends up reminding the rest of the cast what a sucky relationship they have/had with their own parents.
      • Echoed for laughs in Lineage:

Wesley: If you're here to tell me about how you killed your parents... perhaps it could wait for another time.
Fred: What? No. They're fine.

  • Degrassi the Next Generation often has tragic, melodramatic, hard to believe tragedies happen to most of the cast. In a relatively upper-middle class school- in Canada, no less, two students are dead via violence in unrelated incidents, one is crippled, another raped, beaten in a hate crime, had their father die, sent to prison for killing someone in a drag race, contracted HIV, become addicted to cocaine, etc. - all within the same five years.
    • All Degrassi shows suffer from this, to various extents.
  • The Sallinger family on Party of Five. It really is a wonder that none of them picked up on being Cosmic Playthings to a Finagle's Law obsessed writer.
  • Lost. The majority of characters have issues with their fathers, stepfathers, fathers-in-law, or other father figures (the exceptions being Shannon and Ana Lucia, who hate their stepmother and mother, respectively). Not to mention various other dysfunctionalities. It's saying something when the former Iraqi torturer is the most level-headed person on the island. One of the earliest episodes is even titled "All the Best Cowboys have Daddy Issues."
    • Turns out to be an Invoked Trope as Jacob was looking for people who were missing something in their lives to succeed him in protecting the island.
  • In the HBO series Six Feet Under, every character is subjected to some horrific event at least once within the run of the series. While the show centers around death, most of the characters have lived or will live through situations seemingly worse than death - sometimes to teach them an Aesop and sometimes just to just have them go through horrible events for the sheer pleasure of it - and often leaves them with countless dysfunctions and irrational fears.
  • Two words: Battlestar Galactica Reimagined. Anyone who wasn't depressed, delusional, suicidal, emotionally repressed, alcoholic, unlucky in love, and/or really really pissed off at both their parents and the world before the Cylons attacked... sure as hell is now.
    • Sharon 'Athena' Agathon seems to be doing alright (misplaced Mama Bear moments aside). Even moreso, Helo. For all that he went through on Caprica and back again, he seems to be levelheaded and reasonable.
      • Of course, they have the Screwed Up Past: Athena was a spy ordered to con a human into getting her pregnant, only to fall for the guy and become a traitor to her own people, while Helo was the aforementioned con victim who discovered his love interest/flight partner was not only a spy, but not even the same individual he'd originally known, who was also a spy.
      • Said original individual forced them to work at staying happy during the last few episodes of the series.
      • The fact that Helo remains a level-headed family man in spite of all the shit he has to deal with brings new meaning the phrase "Badass Normal."
  • In the TV show Malcolm in the Middle the entire family is dysfunctional. In one episode he discovers a "normal" family and starts spending all his time there as the kids' babysitter, enjoying the "normalcy". Until he discovers that they were using a video camera to spy on him (something that is actually considered ok by many when it comes to child care) and he decides that although his family is dysfunctional, they are honest with him.
  • Supernatural... just Supernatural. While they might have started out darker than your average cutie, Sam and Dean have been broken into martyred, self-loathing, co-dependent, slightly suicidal basketcases, after Mary's death John was a suicidal, emotionally abusive Jerkass who you can't help but pity, Mary might have started this whole mess anyway, Bela turned out to be a broken, sexually abused fourteen year old who made a Deal with the Devil, Jimmy (Castiel's vessel) has had to say goodbye to his wife and daughter forever in order to save their life, and Bobby had to kill his own wife. Twice. Even the angels have severe daddy-issues. And that's not even mentioning the show's Kill'Em All fetish. Need to go to your Happy Place yet?
  • Cold Case: Lilly Rush's father left her and her younger sister Christina in the 'care' of their alcoholic mother Ellen, who ended up drinking herself to death the same day her daughter got shot almost to death on the job. Christina grew up to be a seductress (even sleeping with Lilly's fiance) and a scam artist, who dayed Lilly's partner Scotty Valens and then ran out the moment a police officer from NYC came to Philadelphia to arrest her. Not to mention what happened to her as a child...
  • This Is Wonderland, starting with the name. Unglamourous lawyers representing hideously dysfunctional people, many of whom are drug addicts, and just waiting for their nervous breakdown. Luckily, it's only a borderline example, as there were a few people who were moderately well adjusted.
  • In Farscape, everyone starts off with at least a little damage - except John Crichton, the human. Then as the series progresses eveyrone else manages to shore up each other's sanity...except John, who descends into madness.
    • While John did have a pretty nice life prior to the show, the whole getting lost far, far from home among aliens, some of whom are trying to capture/torture/kill you, definitely counts as trauma, even before the deliberate crazy-making business.
  • In Plain Sight: The lead character, Mary, is a US Marshal in the witness protection program. During the pilot, she narrates how good she is at solving other people's problems but not her own. Her father abandoned his family to evade the police when she was a child, and she's been taking care of her alcoholic mother and chronically irresponsible sister ever since. During the course of the series, the sister ends up involved in a drug deal gone bad. Even Mary's sorta-boyfriend is a minor-league baseball player who can't make it to the big leagues, and he's pretty much the most normal character in the immediate family. With the exception of Mary's coworkers, everyone else in the show is messed-up, even the witnesses under protection.
    • Justified - you would expect people in situations that would necessitate witness protection to have experienced some trauma.
  • Scrubs. For a comedy, most of the show's characters are pretty messed up whether it be in their backstory, personality, or both. Turk is probably the most normal and well-adjusted of the lot.
    • And even he has a couple of episodes where it's implied that his family is somewhat dysfunctional, although nothing compared to the other characters'.
      • "Let me share with you a typical Thanksgiving at the Turk household. It starts with my mother yelling at my sister for yelling at my grandmother who's yelling at the television screen, which happens to be the microwave. And then my militant brother Jabari, formerly Bob, gives my father attitude for using the word black, even though he's referring to the turkey, which, by the way, only got burnt because instead of turning the oven off, my bi-polar Aunt Leslie tried to shove her head in it!"
    • As Carla puts it:

Carla: Me -- dead mom. J.D. -- dead dad. Elliot -- emotionally abusive parents. Dr. Cox -- emotionally and physically abusive dead parents which he may have killed; no one's sure.

  • Heroes is practically made of this. Anyone who doesn't have a tragic past gets a tragic present.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles runs rampant with this. John Connor suffers from post-traumatic stress and the sheer weight of Because Destiny Says So, Sarah Connor has to deal with raising her son through the hardest time of his life, relationship issues, and fighting to save the world without killing anyone, Derek Reese is just plain sociopathic and suffers from enough PTSD for a battalion of Vietnam vets, and don't even get started on the mountain of psychological issues with Cameron....
  • Prison Break has a metric buttload of this. But then, it's kinda necessary to justify why all these people would be dumb/crazy enough to get caught up in the series' main story arc. Some of the kickers are child rapist and murderer T-Bag, who was sexually abused by his father and forced to memorise the thesaurus, or Mahone, who literally went insane while chasing a fugitive, got hooked on the meds he used to stay sane, caught and then murdered the fugitive in cold blood and was blackmailed by the villains into becoming their assassin.
    • This is not counting all the extra crap that gets piled on the characters over the course of the series, like the murder of Mahone's young son, which drives him even further off the deep end.
    • Not to mention revelations made during the series that actually make previous dysfunctions seem even worse, like Michael and Lincoln discovering not one, but both their parents worked for the villains, including their long-dead mother who isn't really dead.
  • Not one character on House MD escapes this trope, including most patients of the week. In between learning about the patients' tragic past, we get a look into the lives of the doctors who treat them.
    • The misanthropic, crippled, drug-addicted House and his fellow Chase have major parental issues. House goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid contact with his parents. The most extreme example of this is when his father dies and he refuses to go to the funeral despite his mother's wishes. He does end up attending but only because Cuddy drugged him so Wilson could get him in his car and escort him there. In the same episode it is revealed that his father is not actually his biological father. House worked this out as kid and didn't talk to his father for a whole summer after he found out.
    • Chase was left to care for his alcoholic mother after his father abandoned them. His father turns up during the thirteenth episode and bridges start to mend, but little does Chase know that his father is dying of cancer. Chase finds out two months later in the eighth episode of the second season when he gets a phonecall saying his father died of terminal lung cancer. It gets even worse the seasons twenty-second episode in which House deduces that Chase was cut out of his father's will, a fact that is confirmed in Season 3.
    • House's other two fellows don't have an easy time of it either. Foreman, a former juvenile delinquent, has a sick mom who he can't stand seeing and it is revealed Cameron married a dying man when she was in her twenties and then fell for his best friend.
    • When we first meet Wilson he has been divorced two times and his third marriage is on the verge of complete collapse. In Season 1, he proclaims that, "I've only got two things that work for me: this job and this stupid, screwed-up friendship [with House]." Before season 2 is over, Wilson finds himself divorced again and homeless. In season 3 his assests get frozen while attempting to keep House out of jail and it's revealed (surprise, surprise) he's suffering from depression. In season 4, his his girlfriend, Amber, dies, and in season 5 it's revealed that his long-lost, homeless brother that is mentioned in Season 1 is also schizophrenic and that he blames himself for him running away.
    • Cuddy has apparently failed every relationship she's ever tried to make work and angsts about not being able to start a family. In season 5, she adopts a baby, but has emotional issues bonding with her.
    • House's new fellows have problems too. Thirteen is dying from Huntington's. (Her mom died from it too.) And in season 7 it's revealed she had to euthanize her brother who suffered from the same disease Kutner's parents were killed in a robbery when he was six and in Season 5 he commits suicide, and nobody knows why, not even House can figure it out. Taub cheated on his wife, and has financial problems in Season 5.
  • The whole point of Titus (and the stand-up it was based on) was Christopher's supremely dysfunctional family, especially his manic-depressive schizophrenic mother and his hard-drinking/chronic-marrying/wussy-hating father. "Hey, once you've driven your drunk father to mom's parole hearing, what else is there?"
  • All the Pushing Daisies regulars have to deal with some scarring stuff, but they tend to take it with a great deal of dignity. Ned, Lily and Vivian are the most messed up, but even they soldier on quite well.
    • To expand:
      • Ned: Watched his mother die. Twice. Accidentally killed his childhood sweetheart's father. Got sent by his neglectful father to a boarding school. Upon solving his first "case", was mistaken for a murderer and sent to jail. When he was ten. Can't touch his girlfriend.
      • Chuck: Her father died when she was eight. She went to live with her aunts, one of which actually was her biological mother. Upon seeking liberty from her reclusion, got killed in a cruise.
      • Olive: Grew up as a Lonely Rich Kid. Was once accidentally kidnapped by two thieves who were very kind to her... and got sent to jail by the Snooks unjustly. Kept for years an oath about the murder of her jockey friend.
      • Emerson: Born Detective trained from infancy in the art of crook-catching by his own mother. Fell in love with - and was promptly swindled by - grifter Lila Robinson, who prevented him from seeing his own daughter for about nine years.
      • Lily and Vivian: Two quite different siblings who were prevented from pursuing a career in synchronized swimming by their social phobias. Lily fell in love with Vivian's fiance, Charles, and had a child with him. Upon finding out, Vivian was not exactly pleased.
  • The two main characters of Bones are a woman whose parents disappeared when she was a teen, and a man with an abusive and alcoholic father. Upon learning that Dr. Sweets had been whipped as a child:

Booth: What are we, the island of Misfit Toys?

It was later revealed that Brennan also suffered abuse at the hands of her foster parents
  • Alias: There's dysfunctional and then there's the Bristow family. The dysfunctionality certainly extends past the Bristows though. Most of the characters lives are marred by the death and/or betrayal of loved ones. It certainly doesn't help when our heroes are forced to work with the bad guys and double-crossers or the people they thought were dead but actually weren't.
  • ESPN's short-lived Playmakers series featured a football team where seemingly every player had at least one major dysfunction, including drug addiction, marital abusive, steroid abuse, closet homosexuality and inevitable rabid homobphobia, adultery all over the place, a player suffering near-debilitating guilt for having paralyzed an opponent and just about anything else you could think of to some extent. It's amazing they had time to play any football.
  • The Torchwood team. An immortal man obsessed with finding the only person who he thinks can remove his immortality. A hedonistic doctor who lost his lover to an alien and eventually half-dies. A woman whose love interests always seem to either not return her affection or are evil. A man hiding his crazed cyberchick girlfriend in the basement of their secret hideout. A woman who cheats on her boyfriend with a coworker, while in love with her boss. And that's just to name a few of their issues.
    • And, as of the end of the Children of Earth miniseries, three of them are dead, one has run away to pick up men in outer-space bars after killing his own grandson and one is...happily married and pregnant with her first (human) child, though feels guilty for feeling so happy.
  • The West Wing is an unusual case; everyone on the cast has father issues, but very few mommy problems.
    • Jed Bartlet's father beat him for being smarter and Catholic.
    • Leo McGarry's father passed on his alcohalism gene before committing suicide.
    • Sam Seabourne's father is unfaithful to his wife.
    • Toby Ziegler's father was a convicted felon and member of the Jewish Mafia.
    • CJ Cregg's father is suffering from Alzheimer's and at times forgets who she is.
    • Charlie Young's father is conspicuously absent.
      • And on that note, Charlie's mother was killed in the line of duty.
    • And finally, Josh's father was actually very supportive of his son and by all accounts a good guy - until he died.
  • Stargate SG-1 Shall we make a list?
    • Jack O'Neill: Originally joined the SGC on a suicide mission because he was depressed after his son accidentally shot himself. Has an implied dark past working for Special Ops, but they never go into too much detail, However, whenever he meets someone from his past, he always has issues with them.
      • Not too much detail, other than noting that he had a parachute accident on the wrong side of the Iran/Iraq border during the First Gulf War, and he had to save himself by walking nine days with a fractured skull and broken leg. Also that he spent four months in an Iraqi prison after being left for dead by his friend, who he never forgave. None of this touches upon the myriad traumas suffered during the series, most notably the episode [1] Abyss.
    • Daniel Jackson: Saw his parents die when he was eight. Lived in foster care, failed at every romantic relationship, before joining the SGC basically because he had nowhere else to go. Stayed behind with his wife on an alien planet for a year before she was kidnapped and taken over by creepy evil aliens. And that's just his backstory.
    • Sam Carter: Her mother died when she was pretty young, and she and her brother both blamed her father for that. When Sam eventually got over it, her brother never forgave her, and her father was already distant and detached. Add to that the crazy and possibly abusive (ex)fiance, and you've got yourself a walking tragedy.
      • Almost all the men she's ever been involved with have croaked.
    • Teal'c: Hell-bent on getting revenge for his father's murder. Also grew up in slavery to an evil guy. (Same evil guy who kidnapped Daniel's wife. He was a really evil guy). Abandoned the love of his life when she joined a temple, and had to leave his wife and son behind when he went off to start a revolution.
    • Cameron Mitchell: Cam had to grow up watching his father cope with being a paraplegic, and later during service in the Air Force was the trigger man for a mistargeted air strike that resulted in friendly casualties.
    • Vala Mal Doran: Host to evil Goa'uld Qetesh, tortured by her own people, abandoned by her father, sold by her mother, innumerable failed marriages, tortured again, gave birth to the Big Bad's Dragon, left on a hostile planet for the better part of a year, spent decades trapped on a ship, and finally entered into a loving and supportive relationship which was immediately retconned. Ouch.
      • Note that Stargate doesn't delve all that much into the dark sides of the character's pasts, though you know it's there.
  • Find me a main character on Criminal Minds that doesn't have some damage (this is just the gist, there's a lot more):
    • Hotch's marriage collapsed, he's been blown up, he's been stabbed, and there's evidence of an abusive childhood.
    • JJ was attacked by three vicious dogs that had already torn a woman apart, seems to have issues from her small-town childhood, was hit in the head with a shovel by a serial killer that she didn't know was a serial killer, and when JJ was eleven, her older sister commited suicide.
    • Reid was kidnapped, beaten, and drugged, was held hostage, got anthrax poisoning, had to deal with his schizophrenic mother, and his father left when he was ten.
    • Rossi lost a childhood friend to a drunk driver, was haunted by a murder involving children that he didn't solve until he joined the team, unintentionally got a friend killed, and unintentionally got a fan killed.
    • Morgan was a victim of a child molestor and watched his cop father get shot and killed when he was a kid.
    • Garcia's parents were killed by a drunk driver when she was eighteen and was shot by a man that she had gone on a date with.
    • Elle was shot in her house, and her cop father was killed when she was a child.
    • Gideon got a bunch of people killed, including his kinda-girlfriend and one or two coworkers before the series.
    • Emily has major issues stemming from her childhood as the daughter of a United States Ambassador, had an abortion at 15, and she had the Doyle arc.
  • Nip Tuck: Christian Troy's mother was raped by his father and then given up for adoption. The adoptive father sexually abused Christian. Sean McNamara's father was abusive towards Sean because he had a cleft lip. Dad left the family when mom secretly paid to have Sean's lip fixed. Sean's ex-wife Julia slept with Christian on the eve of their wedding and became pregnant with Matt. Sean believed that Matt was his son until a DNA test revealed that Christian was his biological father. Julia's mother Erica was emotionally abusive and negelected Julia for pretty much all of her life. Sean and Julia's daughter Annie is pretty much ignored by both of her parents and eats her hair out of stress. Youngest son Conor has lobster claw hands, Matt married Christian's ex-fiancee, porn star Kimber and had a baby with her. Kimber and Matt got hooked on meth. Matt's done some really crazy shit, but most recently he turned to a life of crime while dressed as a mime and is now in prison, having just killed his prison husband. Liz Cruz seemed to be above all the crazy, but she married Christian at the end of season 5 and divorced in the first episode of season 6. Even Christian's adopted son Wilbur has some dysfunction. His mother Gina met Christian at a sexaholics meeting and his biologial father was part of an orgy that Gina hosted. It looks like Nurse Linda is the only same person at the asylum that is McNamara/Troy.
  • While the original Law and Order largely avoids this, both SVU and Criminal Intent slid into this trope over the years, to the point where one suspects that the detectives had been read their 'Nielsen Rights': "You have the right to Drama; if you waive this right, anything you don't say can and will be used against you in the Court of Public Opinion. You have the right to a dysfunctional family; if you have no family problems, one will be invented for you...". Prime examples in these series:
    • Robert Goren is the son of a troubled schizophrenic and a serial rapist. His older brother, a heroin addict, was murdered by an obsessed serial killer.
    • Olivia Benson is the daughter of an alcoholic who became pregnant with her after being raped.
    • Alexandra Eames' husband was a police officer who was murdered while on duty. Her father was a detective who was disgraced for corruption.
    • Elliot Stabler's daughter has the Hollywood Psychology version of bipolar disorder, inherited from Elliot's dangerously unstable mother. Elliot himself has violent tendencies that have gotten him in trouble more than once, and his workaholic obsessions have driven his wife away more than once.
      • Let's start with McCoy: A lapsed catholic that attributes his legal prowess to having been abused by his father. He can't stop living and dying on every case he has, and has been shown to be willing to bend the law to a very high degree to get a conviction. He also carried through with convicting a priest that confessed to cover for the real criminal (or so McCoy thinks). He's also had affairs with every female ADA he's had up through Kincaid, and the only reason he stopped is because she dies. It really says something that there's more to be listed (that are considered to be enough in themselves to list a character dysfunctional), but they're mild compared to the rest. He's dysfunctional enough for the entire cast, but they have their own stuff they're dealing with.
      • Ah, Detective Briscoe, where to begin with you? Well, your daughters hate you. In fact, one of those daughters is a meth addict who's killed after testifying against a dealer. You're a recovering alcoholic, and one slip causes the current ADA, Kincaid, to drive you home. While she's driving you home, you confess to her that you wish she was your daughter. Five seconds later, the car is struck by a drunk driver and she dies. You blame yourself. You were also accused by your partner and your boss of falsifying a confession, based solely on the fact that the criminal said he didn't confess.
      • Detective Curtis' wife is dying more recently, has died of MS, which is why he leaves the force. He thinks that his wife's MS is a result of his cheating on her, and is later accused of falsifying evidence to help a woman he is accused of sleeping with.
      • DA Schiff has many friends in high places. They're all absurdly corrupt. He also pulled the plug on his wife after she suffered a stroke.
      • ADA Carmicheal was raped in law school, and a very good friend of hers (a fellow ADA) gets murdered by mobsters she is helping to convict.
      • Lieutenant Van Buren injured a mugger and killed his partner... who turned out to be a mentally retarded teenager. Her title is grounds for dysfunction as well, as it's discovered that the case that caused her to be promoted was based on evidence that a forensic scientist falsified. More recently, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer as a result of a STD that she received because her husband had been cheating on her.
      • Admittedly, most of L&O tends to focus on the cases, rather than the characters, but nearly any time part of a character's backstory is revealed, it's something really bad.
  • The Secret Life of the American Teenager
  • In ER, a lot of the patients are this and most of the doctors/nurses too.
    • Sam came from a family of alcoholics and druggies and she was pregnant at fifteen.
    • Abby's father left when she was very young and both her mother and brother have bipolar disease, which caused difficulties on Abby, as she had to raise her brother on her own.
    • Pratt's father left him and his mother when he was very young. Turns out his father tried to get back with them, but Pratt's mother kept blocking him out. Had a stepbrother mentally handicapped after receiving a gunshot to the head.
    • Lewis' parents are extremely hard to talk to and are never around. Her older sister has several problems with drugs, alcohol and men.
    • Carter is distant with his mother and she became colder towards him after the death of his brother. His grandfather is disappointed in Carter's career choice.
    • Corday has a strained relationship with her mother, who apparently didn't spend a lot of time with her.
    • Mark Greene has a strained relationship with his father, who he purposely tries to upset and does the opposite of what his father wants.
      • Like father, like daughter. This troper always found it sad (if not ironic) that Rachel would be to Mark what Mark was to his father.
    • Kovac saw his wife and children being murdered in Croatia
  • No one from Oz escapes this trope, not even the people who aren't prisoners.
  • Rescue Me is a show about some seriously flawed individuals.
  • Everyone in Mad Men. Or at least, all of the characters who are married.
  • The SRU team in Flashpoint has varying degrees of this.
    • Greg Parker was divorced from his wife because of his problems with alcoholism and hadn't seen his estranged son in years. And that's not mentioning how he survived a hard life under his strict father by learning to negotiate.
    • Ed Lane had been having problems with his relationship with his wife and son, being more attached to his job than them.
    • Sam Braddock revealed in "Acceptable Risk" that he saw his younger sister being hit by a car and killed instantly when he was nine years old.
    • Kevin "Wordy" Wordsmith appears to be the most normal of the team, Happily Married and loving to his three daughters.
  • Let's face it, every single character on Blakes Seven has SERIOUS issues. In the original crew alone, we have the delusional revolutionist, the violent smuggler, the guerilla soldier, the Deadpan Snarker who verges on psychopathic, the compulsive thief (who's also an alcoholic and a coward), the computer who is obviously hiding something from the crew, and the Gentle Giant who's only a Gentle Giant because he had a limiter put in his head to stop him from murdering anyone else. For bonus points, it's heavily implied that they ALL have tragic pasts. This crew is just one big happy family...
  • I Love Money a VH 1 reality game show starring contestants from Flavor of Love, I Love New York, Rock of Love, Real Chance of Love, For the Love of Ray J, Daisy of Love and Megan Wants a Millionaire, who all immediately proceed to have sex with each other.
  • In Community's group, pretty much everyone's banged up emotionally, resulting in the Spanish study group being a substitute family for most of them. (Britta says as much early on)
    • Jeff is on the verge of disbarment, and estranged from his father.
    • Britta's past involves having dropped out of high school, and small crimes like vandalism.
    • Shirley's divorced, and her genuine kindness and sweetness duel with some serious rage issues.
    • Abed's parents are divorced, and his relationship with his dad had suffered because of it.
    • Annie's past involves bad self-esteem and many many pills.
    • Troy threw away a bright athletic career.
    • Pierce has been divorced 7 times ... not the most social chap in the world.
  • Leverage features this for most of the main characters:
    • Nate was an honest man before the insurance company he worked as an investigator rejected the policy on his son's health coverage causing him to die. As a result of this, he becomes a robin hood.
    • No one actually knows who Sophie really is as she is a grifter who is constantly living in new identities.
    • As the only member of the team to have physically hurt people in the past, Eliot is The Atoner and was probably abused as a child.
    • Parker is the most broken of the main cast, grew up on in the system without ever knowing her family apart from her brother who died at a young age. After being caught for car theft when she was 12, she trained under the greatest thief in the world as a teenager who kept her away from his real family. To top it off she also has Asperger's Syndrome meaning that she never really fits in in social situations. She also may have killed her last foster parents.
    • Hardison is the only member of the main cast that seems to be relatively normal as the Playful Hacker.
  • NCIS:
    • Gibbs lost his wife and daughter in the early nineties and has had three divorces since. He and his father don't get along, and he avoids going home at all costs.
    • Tony lost his mother at a young age. His father has been married several times since, and up until season seven, they appear to have been estranged.
    • Ziva lost her younger sister as a teenager. Her father raised her to be an assassin, ordered her to kill her half-brother, left her to die in Somalia, and tried to pin a murder on her. Her boyfriend also turned out to be a terrorist.
    • McGee can't seem to sustain a relationship to save his life, but whether this is due to his relationship abilities or just the women he chooses is kind of up for grabs. They've also given him Daddy issues as of Season 9.
    • Abby discovers she's been adopted and her (dead) parents never told her. Not to mention her, and the team in general's, inability to have functional out-of-work friendships or romantic relationships, and a tendency to seek a subsitute family in their coworkers. Congratulations, NCIS writers. You've officially given the entire field team, and now Abby too, issues with their parents. Just . . . at a loss for words.
    • After her father's suicide, Jenny Shepard had a decade-long obsession with the arms dealer she suspected of killing him.
  • The relaunch of Doctor Who often veers towards this. It was more overt during the tenure of the first producer, Russell T. Davies, but Steven Moffat has also made reference to it.
    • The Doctor is the sole surviving member of his race and so he has pretty obvious survivor guilt and a self-destructive streak when left to his own devices. Later on we find out that he was directly responsible for the death of his own people, for the greater good of the rest of the universe. "The Doctor's Wife" had him obsessively chasing down clues that suggested another Time Lord might have survived because he wants forgiveness. "Let's Kill Hitler" showed him activating a voice interface for the TARDIS so he could give it verbal commands and when it generated a hologram of himself as the interface he immediately changed it to "someone I like" instead. He also feels extreme amounts of guilt for the irrevocable way he changes the lives of his companions, and not always for the better.
    • The Doctor's companions often have less-than-ideal backgrounds too, and yet their time with the Doctor in many ways leaves them more screwed up than they were before they met him. It's hinted at in some of the Expanded Universe books but pretty much stated outright in the new series that this is because the Doctor turns people into "living weapons" who are unable to return to a quiet ordinary life after leaving him and are then primed to catalyse important events and fight crime, evil and injustice instead.
  • The entire cast of Weeds are constantly screwing themselves and each other over, typically in an attempt to escape the consequences of completely different problems, which they usually brought upon themselves in the first place.
  • The It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia gang is messed up to the point of absurdity, giving the show much of its hilarity.


Music[edit | hide]

  • Played for laughs in "Six-Pack" by Three Dead Trolls In A Baggie: the singer's father is a drunkard, his mother is a whore, his sister is a drug dealer, and the singer himself is schizoid.
  • Exaggerated and also played for laughs in "My Home Town" by Tom Lehrer: although the singer has no complaints and is actually rather nostalgic for his home town, it is apparently completely populated with crazies, perverts, and psychos.
  • Done seriously in La Historia De Juan by Juanes. A kid was abandonded by his mother, is abused by his father, and lives in the street alone and unlived, sleeping on a cardboard box. Then he dies.
  • Gorillaz: Murdoc suffered a thoroughly unpleasant childhood at the hands of his father, his brother, and various school bullies, and if he's telling the truth he "hit puberty when I was eight and lost my virginity to a dinner lady when I was nine and I've been in a bad mood ever since". He grew up into a Satan-worshipping drunkard who takes out his frustrations by verbally and physically tormenting 2D. 2D, as if being raised with a Punny Name like "Stu Pot" wasn't bad enough, suffered from migraines and at least one severe head injury in childhood. Then he was run over by Murdoc and spent a year in a coma, which he came out of when Murdoc ran him over again, leaving him with missing front teeth, fractured eyeballs, and even worse migraines. Later on, he managed to father ten illegitimate children. Russel watched his friends die in a drive-by, and ended up possessed by their spirits. He was understandably traumatised, and only got worse when the actual Grim Reaper retrieved his best friend Del's soul, to the point that he ended up having a nervous breakdown in Ike Turner's basement. Noodle, meanwhile, was amnesiac when they found her, and later discovered that she was in fact a genetically-engineered Tyke Bomb super soldier. Regardless of that, she seems to be the only semi-well-adjusted band member untill she gets dragged into hell and replaced by an Axe Crazy cyborg with issues of her own, that is.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • Between them, the dancers in A Chorus Line have neglectful, emotionally abusive or absent parents, deaths of family members, sexual molestation, and bullying, not to mention the poverty, unemployment and constant risk of injury that come with their chosen career.
  • Literally half of the main cast of Rent has AIDS or HIV, and that's not even getting into the drug addictions, poverty, suicide of friends and constant relationship problems many of them have to deal with.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In MARDEK, the main evil force, the Governance De Magi, includes an extremely creepy necromancer called Moric, who volunteered first to hunt down Rohoph simply for the pleasure of killing him and was allowed to go first because the rest of the GDM wanted to be rid of him for a while, an utterly insane member called Melchior, who at one point complained of him saying "The galaxy will soon be mine", since it would be "theirs", not "his" specifically, and when it is pointed out that he did say "ours" and was asked if he was even listening, his response was "No, I had a nice little tune going in my head. It go da da daaa da da da daaa da daaaaa da.". There are also Gaspar, who always talks in what he probably thinks are swearwords, but are actually more of gibberish, and in no particular way, Balthazar and Qualna are both quite annoying. Even considering the whole thing with the evil plan to enslave the galaxy, you almost kind of pity Anu for having to put up with them.
    • It Got Worse in the third chapter. Mardek's a Cloudcuckoolander who dwells on his best friend's supposed death, Deugan is a self-depreciating man who can't accept himself as a hero even after he takes a Heroic Sacrifice and lives. Emela is the Water Guardian, a position that is doomed to keep herself alone for life, and can't hold a relationship with Deugan (though to be fair, it was equally his fault for that), Vehrn was an abandoned child, Zach is a Proud Warrior Race Guy who dishonored his clan and forced to become a mercenary to people who consider him as a weapon only, Donovan is the King of Goznor's son, who is forced to become king after his father's death at the end of the chapter, Sslen'ck is another Proud Warrior Race Guy whose parents were killed by undead, Solaar is an alien who was supposed to keep the Dark Crystal safe from some evil, and failed to do so, Elwyen's parents were crystallized in the last chapter, Gloria had a half-brother named Steele (more on that later), Meraeador accidently killed his parents in an accident, causing him to nearly commit suicide if it weren't for Mardek and Deugan, and of the four souls of Legion one was a Shaman killed by her husband, another was once the evil ruler of the world, and a third went insane in the Lost Monastery. Even the villains aren't exempt from this, whether Steele, who is Gloria's half-brother and took a Face Heel Turn after being shot in the face by Emela, or Muriance who is implied to be the evil Solaar was sent to stop. Then there's Rohoph who is quickly becoming a Knight Templar due to the Violet Crystal and Qualna who really wanted Rohoph's help to destroy the Violet Crystal and was killed by Rohoph because of his Knight Templar attitude. And finally there's Enki, Mardek's Disappeared Dad, who is implied to actually be the captain of a ship from another planet. It's much easier to list the major characters who AREN'T screwed up in some way.
  • Final Fantasy VII takes this Up to Eleven.
    • Cloud is a hopelessly deluded, mind-controlled Tomato in the Mirror with a borderline split personality recovering from a Heroic BSOD.
    • Tifa is too uncertain about whether or not she or Cloud was wrong about him being there when their entire hometown was slaughtered to confront Cloud about the subject.
    • Barret is locked into hate and anger toward Shinra for destroying his hometown and family, which he disguises as a higher political moral when really he just wants revenge.
    • Aerith is an orphaned Last Of Her Kind chasing after the memories of her long-lost first love in the man who is unconsciously emulating him, as well as struggling with her heritage and duty and her own personal desires.
    • Cid is so obsessed with his crushed dream that he berates the woman he thinks is responsible on a daily basis.
    • Vincent is sick with guilt over being unable to stop the woman he loved from marrying the wrong man, leading to Sephiroth being born.
    • Yuffie is highly rebellious against her father, believing him to be an impotent weakling who sold out their hometown's proud culture.
    • Red XIII believes his father to have been a coward who abandoned his mother during a battle long ago that resulted in her death.
    • Cait Sith is a robotic cat with an Alien Scrappy programming, but his controller, non-corrupt executive Reeve, is actually a decent, well-adjusted guy (except for the fact he apparently believes Cait Sith is somehow useful). As far as the bad guys are concerned.
    • Sephiroth discovers he's a genetic experiment, suffers a complete mental breakdown and becomes convinced he's God.
    • Rufus is a ruthless, Machiavellian bastard who sides with the winners and then screws them over; and Hojo is an Evil Scientist who commits atrocities with little or no reason. If you believe the Compilation, some of the heroes get better later through The Power of Friendship. Awww.
  • Let's just say that it is difficult to find a single character in the Metal Gear series that doesn't have a horrible past and/or at least one mental condition (usually caused by that past).
    • As a matter of fact, it is rare to find a character with just a horrible past or just a mental condition.
  • Persona 3 - Every major character in the game you can interact and build social links with has some kind of mental or physical disorder, tragic past, neglectful or dead parent or similar that they angst over. And the one to reach to them with The Power of Friendship or The Power of Love and make them get over it? It sure isn't the town psychologist.
  • Most, if not all, of the major characters of the computer RPG Planescape: Torment possess some manner of dysfunction, tragic past, or similar torment. The player character, The Nameless One, is an amnesiac immortal with a large number of dark pasts, and his party members range from an orphaned part-demon to an insane fire wizard who was turned into a living conduit to the elemental plane of fire. Most of the major NPCs are similarly tormented - many of them, it turns out, as a result of interactions with The Nameless One at some point. This turns out to be a major plot point - one of the 'powers' possessed by The Nameless One as a result of his immortality is an unconscious dominion over torment, symbolized by a tattoo on his shoulder. Whether he likes it or no, his power draws troubled and dysfunctional souls to him like moths to a flame and binds their destinies to his. Furthermore, in several cases (notably Ignus, Vhailor, Dak'kon, Morte and especially Deionarra) the Nameless One is the direct and intentional cause of this horrid past, in one of his Complete Monster or Chessmaster incarnations.
  • In Baldur's Gate, the character personalities are pretty one-dimensional sketches, and tend to range from quirky to the point of being weird to outright insane. In Baldur's Gate II, where the characters are better developed, not every one has a tragic past... but a good portion of them do, and all four possible Love Interests most certainly do. One is a recent widow, another was raised in an Exclusively Evil society and then is subject to prejudice when she leaves it, a third was subject to horrific abuse and abandonment, and the fourth has daddy issues up the wazoo. While not a romance option (he was originally supposed to be one, apparently), Valygar also has some severe problems.
  • Every non-Valkyrie character in Valkyrie Profile has some sort of personal tragedy that ends in a convenient Karmic Death. Even the Valkyrie was once a mortal girl who was raised by an abusive mother that was going to sell her into slavery. Her self-esteem was so low that she allowed herself to die in a field of poisonous flowers.
  • Final Fantasy VI also has universal tragic past syndrome. All of the characters a)are being hunted by the Empire (even before the story begins), b)are imprisoned or harassed by the Empire, c)are misused by the Empire, d)have lost a loved one to the Empire, or e)some combination of the above.
    • No, not all your party members were wronged by The Empire. Gau's mother died in childbirth and his father was so grief-stricken that he went insane and abandoned Gau on the Veldt, whereas Relm's father is (very) heavily implied to be Shadow, who walked out on her because of his career as an assassin; even Shadow has had plenty of problems of his own, even before selling his skills to The Empire and nearly getting killed for his trouble. Setzer is reasonably unhappy with The Empire, yet is considerably more unhappy with the time his Love Interest died in an airship crash. Since a large theme of the game is hope, and keeping that hope strong even in the face of hardship, most characters get better, but it helps that most of them have a lot of getting better to do.
    • Consider the team's angst levels doubled after Kefka damn near destroys the world and separates the party, thus kicking off the World of Ruin phase of the game.
      • Celes is the one the player first controls in the World of Ruin, and she's stuck on a tiny island with nobody around but her surrogate grandfather, Cid, who reveals that there used to be others on the island...until they all flung themselves from the northern cliffs in despair. If you don't feed the fastest fish to Cid constantly, he will die, and Celes will also try to end her life at the northern cliffs. it's possible that the esper Quetzalli is the only thing that keeps her from dying then and there; her only hope comes from the minute possibility that Locke is still alive as well.
      • Strago is so distraught with the reasonable possibility that his adopted granddaughter is dead that he's next seen as a member of the cult worshipping the guy that did it. Relm has to slap him out of it, since the intervention of a loved one is said to be the only thing strong enough to do so.
      • Even Mog, the cutesy moogle mascot of the game (and the whole series, some might argue), gets a Funky Winkerbean-caliber level of tragedy tacked onto him when the party finds him after the end of the world. Turns out he's been in Narshe's moogle cave for the whole year since the end of the world, alone, staring at the wall; if you recruited him on your first chance, he'll be amazed that you're even alive after all this time, and will re-enter the party on the assumption that he has nothing better to do. Searching the wall he was staring at yields an item that only Mog can equip that completely stops all random encounters, but Fridge Horror sets in when you realize that this "Molulu's Charm" is likely all Mog has left of not just his girlfriend, but of his entire people. And when the Big Bad asks the party what it is they're fighting for, Mog's response is simply, "New friends, kupo!" D'aww...
      • If one brings Cyan to Doma Castle in the World of Ruin, a demon named Wrexsoul traps Cyan in an eternal nightmare, in order to feed off the despair Cyan still feels due to failing to save his family and his king from Kefka's poison. His grief is so great that not only is he the one that Wrexsoul attacks, but when he gets better, his confidence grows so much that he suddenly masters all of his Bushido skills.
      • The only party member who doesn't get better is Shadow. Shadow ultimately decides that he can't let go of his past and stays behind to die in Kefka's crumbling tower.
  • Although Final Fantasy XII doesn't explore it nearly enough, all the player characters have tragic pasts of some sort. Vaan's parents died of the plague when he was younger, and his only remaining family, his older brother Reks, was killed before the game started supposedly by his trusted commander Basch. Penelo's parents and eight brothers all died in the war. Fran was shunned by her village and her older sister for believing that there was a path for her outside the village, and slowly lost her ability to commune with the Wood, which to a viera is like losing one of their senses. Balthier watched as his father was driven insane by the nethicite and neglected his family, until he couldn't take it anymore and ran away to become a sky pirate. Ashe's husband and father died at the age of seventeen, leaving her as the heir to an entire kingdom that was invaded sooon after. Basch's original home country was invaded which lead to the death of his mother, and he failed to protect the lord of his adopted country and was then framed for killing the king and locked in solitary confinement for two years.
  • If someone doesn't have a problem in Drakengard, they're probably going to be dead soon. The protagonist Caim is filled with Unstoppable Rage, determined to kill all of his enemies because his parents were murdered when he was younger. Leonard wanted to commit suicide because he failed to protect his family from The Empire, and really doesn't have the will to live anymore (he's a pedophile in the Japanese version, and said 'family' were his victims). Arioch is Ax Crazy because The Empire killed her children, so now she eats babies. Seere is the closest thing to normal, but he's got issues concerning his twin sister, who happens to be the Big Bad. And those are just the protagonists - the supporting characters and villains are even more messed up!
  • Practically everybody in Psychonauts. This is to be expected, as the game is about going into people's minds, but even characters whose minds you don't explore are usually pretty messed up, too. Even the ones who seem outright normal like Milla have hidden traumas, usually found by exploring their memory vaults.
    • My favorites are the preteen Stepford Smilers who are trying to kill themselves so they can pull an Obi-Wan Kenobi and come back more powerful than you could ever imagine. And no, there is nothing in the game that implies this would actually work.
  • Every main character in Persona 4 (except the Protagonist) has some sort of secret fear, worry, or issue secretly eating them from the inside that eventually whisks them away to the shadow-possessed Mayonaka TV, where the problem is able to freely manifest and eventually cause their death.
    • In the manga, the Protagonist's parents' line of work causes him to move constantly. As a result he is afraid to get close to others, lest he becomes too attached to them and is hurt when he has to leave. This causes him to be a, secretly cynical, Stepford Smiler . From the final scenes of the game it can be deduced that he gets over it because all the people he formed social links with, while living with his uncle, were actually reaching out to him without either side realizing it(in contrast to P3's protagonist). He left the town with a smile and no regrets. D'aww
    • His anime counerpart (named Yu Narukami) also has a secret fear, though it's midway into the series before this is made clear. Yu's biggest fear is that after the investigation is over, the group will go their seperate ways and he'll be by himself again (possibly based on past experiences). When this is exploited by Mitsuo's shadow it causes him to have a tremendous Heroic BSOD.
  • The five final party members in Persona 2 all have major issues, especially with their fathers. This caused the final boss to take the shape of their fathers in bondage gear and attached as tentacles to each other. Squick is an easy way to say it. Funnily enough, there actually are therapists in the game, but they'll just heal your hp and sp.
  • In Mass Effect, Shepard has a tendency to collect crewmembers with....issues. Fortunately, not many of them actually get in the way of the mission with the exception of Wrex.
    • Tali's father's position on her people's Admiralty Board puts her under enormous pressure to prove herself to other members of her culture, as well as causing her relationship with him to be somewhat distant and formal.
    • Liara is subject to prejudice from her own species due to being a "pureblood" child of two asari. Her relationship with her mother is strained even before her mother joins the Big Bad, and she knows nothing about her "father."
    • Garrus is a would-be Cowboy Cop who chafes at the red tape restrictions placed on him by the police force - which he joined in large part because of the expectations of his career cop father, turning down the opportunity to be considered for the Council's elite operatives in the process.
    • Ashley's military career is, up until the events of the game, a dead end because her grandfather surrendered a garrison to aliens during the pre-game First Contact War rather than allow civilians to keep dying. As a result, Ashley has a deep-seated suspicion of and prejudice toward aliens, making her the best example of Fantastic Racism in the game.
    • Kaidan suffers periodic migraines as a side effect of the implants which enable him to use his biotic abilities, and got put through Training From Hell as a teenager by an alien Drill Sergeant Nasty in order to learn to use those abilities. His excessive degree of self-control is something he cultivated after he killed the aforementioned Drill Sergeant Nasty in self-defense trying to protect his girlfriend from his abuse - and the girl was terrified of him thereafter. Despite all of this, he manages to be one of the most open minded character you can meet.
    • And then there's Wrex, whose entire species was hit by a Depopulation Bomb which makes it next to impossible for them to reproduce, and who at one point was an idealistic leader among his people trying to organize them into saving themselves, until his own father betrayed and attacked him, provoking him into committing patricide and then abandoning his species out of cynicism.
    • Shepard isn't necessarily free of past traumas either; of the possible options for his or her history, one involves growing up on the streets of Earth, one involves being orphaned in a brutal batarian slave raid, and one involves being the only person out of a platoon of fifty marines to survive an attack by monstrous, poison-spitting giant worms. Conversely, Shepard can also be the Only Sane Man and even borderline on Marty Stu with the Spacer/War Hero background choices, wich essentially means s/he had an happy childhood and already made of pure raw badassery before the game starts.
      • Of course, it's up to the player to either solve some of those problems (Paragon Shepard) through specific side-quests (Tali, Wrex, and Garrus) or advancement in the main plot (Liara) or to finish completely screwing up those poor souls (Renegade Shepard), essentially by being a pure Jerk. Video Game Cruelty Potential to its best.
    • And there is Joker, brilliant pilot and navigator suffering from Vrolik syndrome that makes him unable to exert in any way. He constantly tries to conceal his angst with jokes and cocky attitude.
  • The squadmembers of Mass Effect 2... well, let's just say it goes way, way, WAY above this trope's minimum.
    • Miranda is a ruthless, genetically engineered Uberbitch with some serious father issues.
    • Jacob, perhaps the most normal playable character in the game, has a father who has been missing for the past ten years, and even before said disappearance hadn't talked with him for years before that. He has also severe conscience issues as he is really good guy perfectly aware that he works for really shady organization (he hasn't quit only becuase he thinks that goverments are no different).
    • Jack is an Axe Crazy convict who suffered horrific medical experiments as a child.
    • Grunt is krogan Super Soldier who doesn't care about anything or anybody.
    • Mordin is eccentric scientist who atones his work on the Genophage and who thinks, that end justifies the means. Therefore he can be quite ruthless (going so far as killing his student in cold blood during the loyalty mission) even if he is a good person. Also, a former black-ops commando.
    • Thane is an extremely religious terminally ill assassin, who hasn't spoken with his son since his wife was murdered by his enemies.
    • Samara is an eerily serene Knight Templar on a quest to murder her own daughter.
      • Alternately, you can get Morinth, a psychotic sex vampire serial killer with a bit of a god complex.
    • Garrus and Tali both return as playable characters, but both are significantly Darker and Edgier:
      • Garrus has spent the last two years as a vigilante on the hellhole of Omega, had his squad betrayed, gets part of his face blown off by a gunship missile, and his loyalty mission involves tracking down the turian who betrayed his squad on Omega, all while he gets closer to going over the edge. He's also more cynical and pragmatic in general.
      • Tali is leading quarian teams in retrieving geth parts. By the time you recruit her, she's already gotten her entire team massacred twice. She gets in trouble with the Flotilla for supposedly sending active geth parts to her father for research, which then killed the team on the research ship. To top it off, her own father actually activated the parts, to test new firewalls. And if you really want to drive her over the edge, you can reveal that, exonerating her but ruining her father's name.
    • Zaeed devoted his entire life to kill a man he co-founded a mercenary group with, who betrayed him and left him for dead after shooting him in the eye - to the point where he's willing to burn an entire refinery full of civilians to get to his target.
    • Kasumi seems fairly normal, but spends a lot of time living in her dead lover's memories, preserved in a "greybox".
    • Legion is the most well-adjusted member of the team... and he's a geth. A friendly, pleasant geth, but still, the most alien member of the team also being the one with the least trouble with other people says something.
      • Shepard him/herself can lampshade this in one conversation with Jack:

Shepard: So you're crazy. That's practically a prerequisite for the boarding pass to get on this ship.

  • The Squad in Mass Effect 3 introduces or reintroduces the following to our Ragtag Bunch of Misfits.
    • EDI. The AI previously limited to running the day-to-day runnings of the Normandy, becomes a full squad member after deciding to Gundamjack a Cerberus infiltration gynoid that Shepard disables on Mars. She uses this new body to learn more about the human experience and should Shepard encourage her, begins a relationship with Joker.
    • James Vega. A marine who was forced to choose to either save his squad or gather valuable intel that could be used to defeat the Collectors. He chose the latter and his squad perished... only for the information to be rendered useless, as by the time it could be used, Shepard had already destroyed the Collector base.
    • Commander Javik. A Prothean and Last of His Kind who was in stasis for 50,000 years. Born while the Reaper-War of his Cycle had been going on for Centuries, he was raised and molded into an "Avatar of Vengeance". He is best described as the Prothean version of Commander Shepard who failed in his mission to stop the Reapers, lost his entire crew to indoctrination, subsequently spent years hunted by his former comrades and forced to kill them all. Depending on your interactions with him, he might go into full-on Death Seeker mode.
      • Javik's Fantastic Racism towards the "Primitives" of this Cycle is also a prevalent aspect of his character. He often comes across as dismissive of various races, bemoans their lack of potential from what the Protheans had expected from them and occasionally indulges in light-hearted mockery. Naturally this characteristic has earned him Ensemble Darkhorse status among the Fandom and the sobriquet of "The Oldest Troll in the Galaxy".
    • Ashley/Kaiden: The Virmire Survivor and possible former lover of Shepard's, promoted to the rank of Lt Commander/Major and later second human Spectre. The relationship with Shepard is tenative at best, with Kaidan/Ashley still unsure if the person in front of them is truly their old Commander and not some pawn of Cerberus.
  • This is so prevalent in Knights of the Old Republic that HK-47 lampshades it in one of the funniest pieces of dialogue in the sequel, where everyone's favourite rusty psychopath mocks the group of companions the first game's protagonist picks up.

HK-47: Statement: Oh, yes. My master had quite the collection of tortured individuals that seemed unable to confront their basic personality conflicts. Let me cite some specific examples.
HK-47: Mockery: [mimicking Carth's voice] "Oh, master, I do not trust you! I cannot trust you or anyone ever again!"
HK-47: Mockery: [mimicking Bastila's voice] "Oh, master, I love you but I hate all you stand for, but I think we should go press our slimy, mucus-covered lips together in the cargo hold!"
HK-47: Conclusion: Such pheromone-driven responses never cease to decrease the charge in my capacitors and make me wish I could put a blaster pistol to my behavior core and pull the trigger.

    • Of course, the team in the sequel is even more screwed up than the one from the first game, with the added bonus that, unlike the first game's party, they mostly seem to hate one another and all the causes of their issues can be traced back to the PC's doorstep.
  • This is the point of Silent Hill. If you don't have a tragic past, you're either a hallucination or in the wrong town. Even the first game, with its relatively bland protagonist, had Complete Monster Dahlia Gillespie, who traumatized her daughter so badly that the trauma took three lifetimes to sort itself out. The second game, meanwhile, set the standard that the later games followed, in turning the town into an attraction for the mentally warped.
    • The protagonist of Silent Hill 4 appears even more dysfunctional by not having a tragic past to explain his deadpan acceptance of the surreal and sinister. His dysfunction could be inferred from terse description of his recent past, in that he's been confined for weeks without food or water, little sleep or contact with the outside world. His thick-wittedness supports this possibility.
      • By far the longest entry on Silent Hill 4's Wild Mass Guessing page is devoted to a theory that Henry is the real killer, and "Walter Sullivan's ghost" is his delusion. It's frighteningly convincing.
  • Many, many of the players of The World in .hack// are very, very disturbed people. It doesn't help that the game uses this against them.
    • To be fair, most players are just fine. It's the screwed up ones that get the malevolent forces' attention.
  • Tales of Vesperia. Yuri despises most authority and in the game's second part alienates his best friend by murdering two Complete Monsters, Estelle is naive and caring to a fault, and is causing the world to die simply by existing, Karol is extremely timid and cowardly to the point he's been discharged from multiple guilds, Judith is conflicted between her longheld desire to keep her life's mission a secret and her newfound loyalty to her new friends, Rita didn't have any friends before meeting the party, and in fact was treated like a freak and an outcast by the people of her town, and Raven was brought Back From the Dead against his will by one of the major villains and forced to serve him, becoming a Death Seeker as a result. Whew.
    • In the PS3 Updated Rerelease, the party is joined by Flynn and Patty. The former struggles against becoming a Knight Templar and the latter is an amnesiac pirate whose crew died in a horiffic manner.
  • Basically the premise of Family Project. All the main characters are there precisely because they have messed up lives, families and are all generally on the edge of homelessness. The various issues vary drastically in seriousness and some also make things worse for everyone else. Such as Chunhua's escape inciting a war between mafia groups and the house being burned down as a result in every route.
  • Since it's a Bioware game, it should come as no surprise that this appears in Dragon Age Origins. All of your potential recruits (except the dog) have issues. These issues tie into their Personal Quests, affect whether they approve or disapprove of your various choices, and when they might believe you have crossed their Moral Event Horizon. Alistair has dependency issues and lacks confidence in himself due to being a royal bastard orphan who spent his formative years in the repressive Chantry, Morrigan was raised by her Complete Monster mother alone in a swamp and was taught that she could never trust anyone but herself, Sten went berserk and killed innocent people after losing his treasured sword (a huge deal in Qunari culture) which he literally considered to be part of his soul, Leliana has a very Dark and Troubled Past and might actually be crazy if her "vision" is any indication that inevitably catches up to her in her Personal Quest, Zevran is a Stepford Smiler and Death Seeker due to killing the girl he loved when he mistakenly believed she was a traitor, Wynne became The Atoner after Her Greatest Failure: she was so arrogant and harsh to her first student that he ran away from the Circle; Wynne was told that the Templars hunted him down and killed him, Shale joins the Grey Warden due to having no memories of her former life as a dwarf and having nowhere else to go, Oghren became The Alcoholic and an outcast of Dwarven society after he killed someone in a bar brawl due to being a Love Martyr to his missing wife Branka who he later discovers has gone utterly batshit crazy, and a lesbian, and Teryn Loghain has...issues with foreigners, specifically Orlesians, to put it lightly.
    • Ah! But even the dog just lost its master in battle and would have suffered a long and painful death from darkspawn poision had you not intervened!
      • Not if you're a Human Noble. Then it just shares his/her tragedies instead. Wait...
    • Depending on the Origin, the Grey Warden isn't exempt from this either. The Origin story with the least amount of personal trauma is the Mage Origin. That the Mage Origin starts off with you fighting for your soul in another dimension against a demon in a battle of wits as a final exam and ends with you being unwittingly complicit in helping a Blood Mage (who was your former best friend) escape the Circle and can still be considered the least traumatic one says all you need to know about the others. But just for the sake of completeness:
      • The Dwarf Commoner Origin: the PC and his/her sister Rica are casteless Dwarves (which are treated as garbage in Dwarven society) working for a crime boss who forces the PC to do his dirty work while forcing Rica to go "noble-hunting" though that actually works out pretty well for her. In the end, the PC is forced to choose between exile, death, or the Grey Wardens. He/she chooses the Wardens.
      • The Dwarf Noble Origin: The PC and his/her loyal retainer Gorim are tricked into killing the PC's older brother Trian by his/her own younger brother Bhelen. Then Bhelen arranges for your father the king to witness the act. Don't kill him? Still get framed for it. Gorim gets banished to the surface and you get sent to the Deep Roads to die. You later find out that your father died of grief due to this incident.
      • The Human Noble Origin: Starts off happily enough; loving family, prosperous home, the works. One betrayal by the Obviously Evil family "friend" later and nearly everyone you've ever known and loved is dead. The PC has to see such delightful things like the dead bodies of his/her little nephew and sister-in-law, his/her father bleeding to death on the ground, and his/her mother staying behind to make a Last Stand.
      • The City Elf Origin: Second-class citizen treatment and racism, mass kidnapping during a wedding, Attempted Rape if the PC is female, actual rape of one of the PC's friends, etc.
      • The Dalish Elf Origin: The PC and his/her Childhood Friend (an unlucky one if the PC is female) encounter an Artifact of Doom that infects them both with the darkspawn taint. The PC joins the Grey Wardens just to have a chance of surviving the taint. The friend isn't so lucky...something you find out much later.
    • Lampshaded by a dialogue option when Oghren wants to join the party:

Warden: "Don't I have enough armed lunatics following me already?"

  • Just to further prove that life in Thedas probably sucks, Dragon Age II gives us its motley crew of adventurers:
    • Hawke him/herself slowly loses what family they have left over the course of the game through various means, ends up inadvertently causing the Circle/Chantry civil war, and is forced to abandon most, if not all, of his/her traveling companions.
    • Aveline comes from proud line of chevaliers, only to fail to live up to the exacting standards of her father. She then loses her husband to the darkspawn taint in the game’s opening act.
    • Varric is the product of a disgraced Orzimmar merchant house exiled to the surface. While his brother Bartrand worked to repair the family name, Varric’s task was to care for his alcoholic and drug-addicted mother who never recovered from the loss of her husband five years after their exile and family status.
    • Merrill first loses her friend Tamlen during the Dragon Age Dalish Elf origin story and moves with her clan to the surrounds of Kirkwall. There, she discovers another Eluvian and makes a Deal with the Devil to repair it, forcing her clan to exile her.
    • After the events of ‘’Awakening’’, Anders absorbs the Fade spirit Justice who is darkened and corrupted by Anders’ hatred of the Chantry’s treatment of mages. He can just barely maintain control over the twisted spirit of Vengeance, who is all too eager to mete out violent retribution against its enemies both real and imagined.
    • Fenris is an ex-Tevinter slave hunting his former master. A forced infusion of lyrium enabled him to phase through objects but erased all of his memories prior to the infusion, leaving him with a deep-seated and abiding hatred of all things magical.
    • Isabela's mother practically sold her to a man who saw her in the market for a few gold coins and a goat; she was understandably not too upset when Zevran later killed her husband.
    • And from the Exiled Prince DLC, Sebastian Vael was exiled to the Chantry by his own parents, who saw him as a family disgrace and a threat to his elder brothers’ advancement. Though his initial relationship with the Chantry was rather strained, he served faithfully until his family was brutally murdered, leaving him as the only surviving heir.
    • Carver Hawke spends most of the game addressing some serious Sibling Rivalry issues that get worse as the story progresses. Bethany has some pretty horrific problems with self-loathing, though she still appears the most well-adjusted person on the team.
    • And then it gets worse. For all of them.
  • Team Fortress 2's R.E.D. and B.L.U.: Soldier, Scout, Pyro, Demoman, Sniper, Heavy, Engineer, Medic, and The Spy.
    • And The Administrator (the announcer), a middle-aged woman who seems to have an almost-sexual desire to watch the two opposing sides hate and kill each other. The above and her, quite literally, are every single character in the game itself. All ten of them. This is funnier than it sounds.

The Administrator: The bomb has almost reached the final terminus! WA HA HA HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  • Tales of Symphonia: Everyone either starts out with issues, or gets them later.
  • Almost every in Suika either has a traumatic past or is secretly crazy or ends up so by the end of the chapter they star in. The final chapter is Lighter and Softer, but elements are still present.
  • In Sharin no Kuni, Kenichi is a stepford smiler atoner, Sachi's day has been cut in half and she has a gambling addiction, Touka's family is horribly broken, Natsumi is severely emotionally scarred and Ririko has vanished from the storyline until you find she has the Maximum Penalty, a fate worse than death. Kyouko, Isono and several others have similar nasty backstories. Which means everyone but Houzuki, which is probably actually especially Houzuki.
  • Neverwinter Nights and Shadows of Undrentide are mostly immune to this, but your allies in Hordes of the Underdark consist of a drow out to redeem herself from past crimes and suffering from a severe case of guilt, a tiefling with rage issues who feels he has to bury his emotions as deep as possible to avoid exploding, an unjustly executed dead paladin, and a kobold who spent most of his life as the Butt Monkey of a kobold clan ruled by a dragon.
    • The companions in the Shadowlords arc have some serious issues; Anera was thrown out of Celestia for daring to try to do good in the mortal realm; and Teira was betrayed by the man who had raised her and forced to use a magical effect that is currently consuming her life force to escape.
    • The companions in Tales of Arterra also have lots of issues: Evanine is a Fallen Princess and everyone who was ever kind to her (except for the player) has been killed; Persey has no concept of self-worth and honestly believes she is an object to be bought, sold, and used; and Montador comes from a society in which strength is valued above all and despises his own parents for weakness.
    • A Dance With Rogues, especially in the second module. Vico is a psychopath who has fallen in love with the player character and is trying to work out how to deal with it, Pia has had most of her friends slain in the Dhorn purge of the Betancuria thieves' guild, Anden has thrown away his home and his life to follow a woman who he loves yet believes he is unworthy of, Bran and Norah had their entire clan killed and are on a quest to find the killer (and are the most well-adjusted characters in the party, no less), and Rizzen is on the run from his own family after inadvertently witnessing his mother's embarrassment and is a realistically-played runaway drow besides.
  • In Neverwinter Nights 2, pretty much the only party members without a traumatic past, a mental disoder, or both are Grobnar and Zhjaeve. As for the others, Khelgar is an arrogant Blood Knight who left his clan to go on a quest to become a Monk while having no idea what they're about and just assuming that all they do is punch things, and much of his clan resent his decision to leave, claiming (perhaps truthfully) that he did it solely for personal glory. Neeshka has been oppressed her entire life due to being a Tiefling. Elanee had to watch her beloved Mere slowly become a twisted, barren wasteland due to the King of Shadows' influence, believing her beloved Druid Circle to be dead. She later learns that they're still alive, but is horrified to learn that they, with a single exception, have been driven mad by the King's influence, and is forced to kill them. Casavir abandoned his Paladin order due to frustration over their inaction over the many plights of the commonfolk, and has difficulty recognizing the value of friends and teamwork. Bishop is a sadistic, sociopathic prick who has a bad case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. Sand was originally a member of Luskan's Hosttower (Essentially a wizard mafia), but was forced to flee for his life after refusing to continue performing their atrocities. Qara is an egotistical, sociopathic pyromaniac who literally thinks she's the center of the universe. Shandra Jerro lost her farm to desperate Lizardfolk, which she blames the PC for, and later becomes a target of the Githyanki due to their history with her bloodline. Oh, and she's killed by her own grandfather. That grandfather, Ammon Jerro, was originally a kind, eccentric mage who fell to increasingly extreme and flatout evil acts to combat the King of Shadows, not realizing what he's becoming until after he kills Shandra. Oh, and did I mention that he is wracked with guilt over not just her death, but everything else he did before opening his eyes? And this is just the original campaign.
    • Mask of the Betrayer gives us Gannayev, a hagspawn Casanova searching for "a dream that truly touched him" and suffering from a more severe case of Parental Abandonment than is normal; Safiya is obeying the last orders of her now-deceased and somewhat distant mother after her contact in Rashemen was murdered; Okku has failed in his oath to destroy the spirit-eater twice now after nearly destroying the spirits of his clan in order to entrap the spirit-eater the first time and has been reluctantly roped into a wild goose chase; and Kaelyn has some pretty severe parental issues along with a major crisis of faith that has her banned from her home.
  • Trauma Team has a team of six playable characters, all with their own unique quirks and flaws.
    • CR-S01, the general surgeon, is a convicted mass-murderer with Laser-Guided Amnesia performing operations to atone for his supposed crimes and to shorten his sentence.
    • Gabriel Cunningham, the diagnostician, has lost the ability to care about his patients and is dealing with his mediocre parenting skills.
    • Maria Torres, the paramedic, is a headstrong Jerkass who always tries to do things herself and has trouble cooperating with others.
    • Hank Freebird, the orthopedic surgeon, leads a double life as a Hero with Bad Publicity and has trouble getting other people to understand his views on humanitarianism.
    • Tomoe Tachibana, the endoscopic surgeon, is the heiress of a powerful Japanese ninja clan who moved to America and became a doctor because she was tired of living in luxury.
    • Naomi Kimishima, the forensic examiner and a returning character from Trauma Center: Second Opinion, has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and is patiently waiting for her life to end.
  • A pretty boy experiment gone wrong who lost it completely and killed dozens of innocent people-including and in fact, mostly children including his own sister , a sheltered (and I do mean sheltered) girl who was supposed to have her life and death predetermined and yet somehow was saved, and the sole survivor of a vicious massacre of his entire military troop, brought to you via Resonance of Fate. And these are just your playable characters.
  • Xenogears. Be it main, secondary or side character, if they have a name, they have a tragic past. And most probably a tragic present and future too. The villains are no exception.
  • Touhou. When half the cast have world-wrecking power and 90% of the cast is Chaotic Neutral to various degree, this trope can't be helped. Special mention goes to the Scarlet Mansion: the mistress of the house has delusion of grandeur, her maid is blindly loyal to her, her best friend is extreme apathist, and her little sister is totally crazy. Oh, and their gate guard is incompetent.
  • Dark Souls: The cast by and large is more messed up than they appear, even if they are nice people overall. Just for example, Laurentius of the Swamp is one of the nicest characters in the game. Even then, his dialog implies he has probably never had anyone close to him aside from his pyromancy teacher, meaning the player is quite possibly his first real friend.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Exalted, thanks to the Great Curse.
    • And then there are the Yozis, due to the fact that being defeated in the Primordial War and reshaped into new forms effectively gave each of the Yozis the cosmic equivalent of a mental disorder.
  • Changeling: The Lost, in part due to what The Fair Folk did to everyone before game began. At worst, the Spring Court are desperately throwing themselves into distraction to avoid coping with the pain, the Summer Court are endlessly angry and want to fight the immortal mad gods that made them, the Autumn Court throw themselves into the weird powers they picked up as a result of cosmic abuse, and the Winter Court would like it very much if you did nothing to draw their attention. And that's not counting whatever Loyalists or Privateers that may be lurking in secret...
  • Bliss Stage, what with all the adults but one having vanished, imminent alien attacks, and a bunch of teenagers way over their heads knowing that they are dead at 18.
  • For some reason, this trope is heavily involved in the formation of some—if not all -- Player Character groups in any tabletop game, ever. It's almost never "A bunch of folks good with {weapons/skills in use} that like to go treasure hunting and killing things for profit because they're good at it." The mage is power mad and/or Blessed with Suck, the warrior/soldier is haunted by past battles or trying to reclaim honor, the priest only turned to religion after tremendous personal tragedy, etc. etc. etc.
    • Moreover, point build systems pretty much encourage this to happen, as by picking flaws and misfortunes—say, being an orphan—the player gets bonus points to spend on the character's stats.
  • Warhammer 40000: For what its worth the dysfunction junction is just the beginning of how to describe the relationship between the emperor and his sons the primarchs. It can also be argued that the universe is this trope on a massive scale.


Visual Novels[edit | hide]

  • The most normal person in A Profile is the girl that alternates between cold and aloof and a shrinking violet at the drop of a hat. Things just get worse from there, though on the surface everyone at least looks normal.
  • Name a main or supporting character in the Nasuverse (besides Taiga, but in a couple more games, I wouldn't be surprised) that does not have a major personality disorder. Some examples from Tsukihime:
    • Filling the "normal" niche in the main cast is Hisui, who completely represses her emotions and has a pathological fear of being touched by men (although she did it in her sister's place).
    • Arihiko, support character and comic relief, got a very tragic and traumatic Backstory in Kagetsu Tohya.
    • Satsuki has no tragic backstory that we know of. The in-game story makes up for it.
    • Isn't it nice when one of the most well balanced characters in the series is an 800+ year old vampire with less life experience than a teenager, no friends or family and who lives only to kill vampires? Of course, Arcueid does have the worst backstory she just doesn't let it get her down.
    • Averted in a way in Fate/hollow ataraxia. While all the horrible stuff that happened in Fate/stay night is still canon, people have just about entirely dealt with all of it.
  • This is a given for CROSS†CHANNEL, which takes place at a school for the emotionally disturbed. (Interestingly, a lot of the characters are twisted variants of recognizable archetypes—a Tsundere, an Emotionless Girl, etc.)
  • Katawa Shoujo deconstructs this trope with its setting where all people who are major characters and even most secondary characters have a disability of some kind. The deconstructive part? They are all PEOPLE.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Everyone in Order of the Stick whose families are mentioned gets this. Roy's father is a Jerkass who dumped the responsibility for a blood oath on his son when he got bored with trying to fulfill it, Elan has a vicious Evil Twin brother who actively tries to ruin Elan's life at every turn, Haley came from a family and city of criminals, her mother died when she was young, and her father is in prison, Hinjo's uncle was a Chessmaster faking senility in order to control everyone, Hinjo included, who ended up being killed by an Axe Crazy Knight Templar Paladin fellow, and while Vaarsuvius had a basically normal family at the start, s/he shot it to hell by going Drunk on the Dark Side, resulting in getting served with divorce papers. And that's just the beginning...
    • Funny that you mention V's divorce after his day at the dark side, but don't mention how he got there: He made a deal with a devil, demon and deamon to gain enough power to defeat the dragon that was about to torture his family, and planning to kill them and steal their souls. That must have left an emotional mark on all involved.
    • With the start of the Empire of Blood arc, we find that Elan's mom makes as many convoluted plans as Nale, although without the evilness, Elan's dad is a Completely Monstrous Affably Evil Magnificent Bastard (yes really), who has been the Man Behind the Man to a series of Evil Overlord wannabes for at least a decade or so, and already considers himself to have won by getting a decade of luxury, and Haley's dad is locked up in the Bloodstone Correctional Facility, the Empire of Blood's gladitorial arena.
  • Vexxarr's crew consists of a Master Computer who, by way of entertainment, regularly plots his demise or makes him think the ship is doomed, a sarcastic robot very similar to the computer, a Wide-Eyed Idealist composed of nothing but eyestalks, and a prey species terminally afraid of being eaten despite the fact that it is Nigh Invulnerable. And Vexxarr himself, a lazy Knight in Sour Armor for whom seething rage and frustration is the default.
  • Summarized by the character Branwen, in this strip of Something Positive, as "Traumatic childhoods are the in thing these days. All the cool kids are doing it."
    • Milholland's love of this trope (both using and subverting it) shines through even clearer in the B-Side Comics series Super Stupor, despite (or perhaps because of) it being mostly unrelated vignettes of several loosely connected characters .
  • Paisley Tinkle's tragic teenage trauma is not that her mother's a mildly selfish alcoholic, nor that her dad's constantly shirtless and is constantly trying to avoid or rebel against something he doesn't understand (when not doing his job as a porn music creator), but that she doesn't get to live in a family ruined by divorce.
  • The Light Warriors in 8-Bit Theater: the astoundingly stupid sword-obsessed Fighter, the Ax Crazy Stupid Evil Black Mage (that, just to start, sacrificed orphans to get his most powerful spell; The spell was just a bonus), the overly greedy and manipulative Thief (who is also a fugitive prince), the Munchkin with some traumas that make him cross-dress a lot Red Mage... Not only are they insane, but they also spend most of their time arguing with each other (sometimes going into physical aggression, or stabbing). And they are supposed to save the world. The author, Brian Clevinger, even offered up one of the page quotes when describing them.

Thief: This is why the dysfunctional hero trend needs to get over itself.

  • Girl Genius:
    • The protagonist was an orphan with a plot trinket, but her foster parents were very loving and functional.
    • Wulfenbachs can work together, but Gil was convinced his perpetually unimpressed father may just take him apart and start again if he's deemed too much of a disappointment, though later it works better for a while (if not the simple fact that they both are kind of insane.
    • The Sturmvoraus family? The father (who often said that if Providence hands you a powerless scapegoat, it is a sin not to use him) did dangerous Mad Science experiments on the daughter. Even if they'd been successful she'd have been possessed by the Big Bad her father was apparently in love with; since the experiment was a failure, she died horribly. Her brother built a robotic Replacement Goldfish and didn't tell anyone the original is dead (not even herself). Then the Goldfish killed "their" father, plotted with the brother to take over the world, or at least part of it... and then he became the Bastard Understudy and shut her down to give her body to the Big Bad after all. Lovely people.
      • By extension, the whole Storm Lords clan - most of them were trained as Smoke Knights - especially those who aren't Mad Scientists, and they are sneaky and devious enough to hold their own in such a family. One of the best is the everyone's friend Princess Xerxsephnia whose talents at double dealing and getting away with this are downright unearthly, which may have been one reason why their matriarch made her an ambassador to the strongest among the other major powers in Europa - Wulfenbach (with approved optional matrimonial plans).
      • And as if that weren't enough, there may have been genetic engineering involved in the current generation, if Zola's "Let's just say they made sure there was a proper heir." conversation with Gil is to be taken at face value. Jesus, this family.
    • Voltaires have their problems, too. But, in the words of a prospective heiress -

Violetta: Whoof — and I thought my family was bad.
Colette: Your family is bad. Mine is noisy and embarrassing.

Female character: Hey guys, which female character am I? Am I the one with the crippling psychological problems
Caption: That's all of them do you get it

    • To elaborate: Among the major female characters, Faye has intimacy issues stemming from a childhood trauma (not the one you're thinking of), Hannalore has severe OCD, Dora has massive trust issues that torpedoed her relationship with Marten and Marigold is a borderline Hikikomori with no self-esteem. Raven and Penelope have yet to reveal any major neuroses.
  • Avalon starts off as a bit of a nonsensical slice-of-life story following normal teenagers with normal problems. As the series went on, their issues became even deeper. Much, much deeper.
  • Does eveyone besides Sarah have serious issues in El Goonish Shive or is it all of them?
    • Sarah is normal. Elliot is mostly, except for the gender bending. Otherwise, his folks are normal and loving. Everyone else, though, is screwed.
    • Granted, the most obvious example, by far, is Grace, who had an entire arc devoted to her warped past and the trauma it caused her.
  • Las Lindas is arguably an example. Mora is a selfish, ungrateful and oftentimes bratty Jerkass who had everything in her life literally given to her and has a tendency to not appreciate what she has until she fears she'll lose it. Miles is a shallow, unrepentent lech who recently played Taffy's emotions like a fiddle and cruelly dumped her for a trivial reason and shows no signs of improvement even after being called out by one of his old friends. Idward is so hopelessly obsessed with Mora that he borders on Stalker with a Crush, though he's at least begun to get over it. Racheal lives in constant fear of losing Sarah or something otherwise happening to her and despises Mora for how she never had to work for her good life whereas she, by contrast, struggled her entire life just to get by. Taffy is still dealing with the emotional trauma of the aforementioned dumping and had a highly abusive mother. Sarah is so childishly innocent and naive that she often doesn't realize the consequences of her actions until its too late. Minos is currently struggling to balance his feelings for Mora and Racheal without hurting either one's feelings and is heavily implied to have once served the Emperor. And finally, its heavily implied Alej's one-sided rivalry with Mora is in part due to a case of self doubt. The only characters who seem to have little to no problems are Randall and Digit, and even then evidence has begun to crop up that Randall may in fact be a Stepford Smiler. Of course, one of the main themes of Las Lindas is Character Development, so take that as you will.
    • As of the end of a recent arc, Mora seems to be determined to tone down her ungrateful and Jerkass tendencies.
  • Shortpacked thinks that Ultimate Marvel's ending ought to begin with Iron Man inventing a device that can measure the crapsackiness waves of the universe and noticing that the readings don't stop increasing. Eventually, if they don't stop it, everyone will be retconned into having a tragic past. Who pulled *that* Drama Tag?
  • Homestuck's Hivebent arc is composed of twelve trolls from another universe, all of which are very screwed up, even by their own culture's standards. Going down the list:
  • Several of the characters in Schlock Mercenary are either borderline psychopathic (Schlock springs to mind, and Elf generally isn't too far behind) or Paranoiac (Lieutenant Pi).
  • When Electric Wonderland begins, Trawn seems selfish and single-minded in her desire to resurrect a dead form of media, and restore edge to a news climate oversaturated with corporate sponsors. NJ doesn't seem to share her passion for journalism and only takes the job out of desperation to find work. Shroomy has an inferiority complex which she masks through her naivete. Aerynn's seemingly endless knowledge of magic made it hard for years for her to connect with others. Torro hasn't matured at all since his college years. Among later additions, Natasha grew up unable to overcome the shadow of her father, developer of the most widely-used brand of antivirus software. Lululu is an impoverished brat who also can't walk because she impusively selected a mermaid's body for her avatar. At least some of these characters overcome their flaws before long, though.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The Binder of Shame by Al Bruno III details possibly embellished accounts of many play sessions with a bunch of socially inept, incredibly messed-up and/or horrible people. The cast, given Meaningful Names to protect the author, includes:
  • Tales of MU:
  • Protectors of the Plot Continuum have to be a little abnormal in order to function at all. Agents include common-or-garden Cloudcuckoolander types, berserkers, drunkards and prescription-medication addicts, characters theoretically incapable of feeling emotions at all, and so on. They may or may not be entirely normal by the standards of their home continua, if said continua run on different standards of normalcy.
  • Let's see what we have in Ilivais X...
    • Iriana Estchell, our not heroic in the slightest protagonist who combines Shinji's ridiculously low self-esteem with Rei's repressed stoicism. In fact, she amplifies those, refusing to believe herself as a person simply because she was altered to not really be intended for a person, and fighting her conflicting emotional engines because she doesn't want to expose the squishy and vulnerable little girl within. And then there's her whole disabled puberty and several rape incidents and Long Lost Sibling Rivalry and somewhat unsuccessful attempts to control everyone around her so as to feel like she has some control and a ton of other crap she's constantly dealing with, all by the age of 17.
    • Mille Chanteau, her Love Interest who's addicted to physical intimacy and is a bit conflicted about why she's so into Iriana (who likely directly manipulated her to feel that). Also has had tons of wierd relationships with older guys, certainly gaining a complex from that seeing as she's only 14 and it tends to ruin any and all attempts at friendship with others. While she is easily one of the most optimistic characters in the story, it's obvious that she has absolutely no idea how to communicate with anyone without sex, and thus is extremely dependent on Iriana, who provides the only emotional relationship she's ever had. It's VERY abusive, yes, but she's so starved for heart-felt affection that she doesn't even see that part.
    • Sura and Essen, having to deal with their above friend slipping slowly into insanity. Essen views Mille as a mom (seeing as she's the Team Mom and all), and therefore is somewhat upset that she's prioritizing a psychotic girl they just met over her friends she's known for a while. Sura sees excellent military potential in her, and so is somewhat upset that she's following the orders of a psychotic girl they just met over the faction they belong to and her equally-ranked friend and ex. It's relatively justified that they're worried they'll similarly fall into acting that way. Especially given how the normally reserved Essen didn't hesitate to voice his opinion when Iriana didn't have any clothes on.
    • The Specialized Weapon Units all have their own deal. Ashe believes people only care about her body, Arteya is sure he's outside natural laws due to being an Aztec, and Sycine has a copious amount of Gayngst going on.
    • The GEKICOM Team is emotionally Flanderized to all hell, with emotional engines acting to make them extremist and single-minded.
    • The four STRUQ sub-pilots have issues with the fact that individually they're useless, and when combined they have no real control.
    • The Iberian commanders are dedicated to their countries that technically don't exist anymore, so they're obsessed with preserving dead cultures.
    • The other three Phonos Weapons are little more than Wetware CPUs with the body still attached. Not only that, but their minds are reduced to being fuelled on their given emotion alone, disallowing them to feel anything else.
    • And really, everybody else who isn't that nameless one-shot Mission Control guy from the very beginning.
  • Pretty much most of the characters on That Guy With The Glasses.com. Nuff said.
  • Eighties Dan from The Cinema Snob: the wacky adventures of a cocaine-addicted manchild, his anal-retentive landlady, his asshole robot roommate, and the mutually-loathing married couple who live next door.
  • All of the Outcasts in Tasakeru have their hang-ups. Having a Dark and Troubled Past is pretty much a prerequisite for becoming one.
  • MSF High Forum: Par for the course.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Family Guy: In the later seasons, it becomes apparent that each member of the Griffin Family all clearly has some major issues going on. This is played for laughs.
  • Moral Orel: Pretty much every character in the series, with the exception of Orel and a few other characters, is seriously messed up. But Clay takes the cake. Seriously, the characters are sometimes even WORSE than Neon Genesis Evangelion!
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The entire point of the Beach Episode was to get the four dysfunctional teenaged villains together and spill their guts about their personal issues ala The Breakfast Club. Or maybe that was just an excuse to provide us with Fan Service. The teenaged heroes aren't much better off, but being main characters, they handle it with more grace.
    • Although Azula takes her issues perfectly in stride until the finale, at which point she has a psychotic breakdown, turning into The Caligula and hallucinating that her Missing Mom is talking to her- and violently attacking the hallucination upon being told "I love you".
      • Technically she first moved into Dysfunction Junction at the end of the Boiling Rock when for the very first time since she was introduced, she lost it in a serious way.
      • Boiling Rock pretty much pushed her over the line:

Joker: Insanity is like gravity. All it takes... is a little push.

  • Teen Titans: Most of it in the manual (and by manual, we mean original comic book). Raven's Dark and Troubled Past is the only one which gets any detail, though. Cyborg's, Beast Boy's, and Robin's are only implied through dialogue and visual cues. Starfire seems to be the only one with a normal past until the episode "Go" which retcons it into her tragic comic book origin.
    • Robin has a pretty obvious traumatic past as he was raised by Batman.
    • Beast Boy was infected with a deadly virus in a jungle, then his parents found him a cure that had side effects which turned him green and made him unstable for a very long time, then his entire family was murdered in front of him, all this when he was just a kid? At least Robin had the chance to live with Bruce Wayne, who was like a parent figure to him. Raven, too, who lived in a peaceful place like Azarath during her childhood. And let's not talk about Cyborg, whose case is worse than Beast Boy's.
    • Let's talk about Cyborg. Victor Stone was the athletically inclined son of a pair of genius scientists, and his relationship with his father was...not great as a result. It Got Worse when he visited his parents' lab and arrived just in time to see his mother eaten alive by an Eldritch Abomination that was accidentally brought to Earth by his parents' interdimensional portal invention. Then said Abomination got its tentacles on him. After his father managed to teleport the thing away, he rebuilt Victor using cyborg prosthetics he had invented. Victor did not take being turned into a cyborg very well, to put it lightly. Then his long-time girlfriend dumped him because she couldn't handle the changes. He's only able to reconcile with his father after finding out his dad is dying of radiation poisoning because of the monster that destroyed their family—and they can only spend a few days together before the inevitable. And all of this still pales in comparison to what the rest of the series puts him through.
    • Dude, Starfire didn't even know what the word "nice" was until she came to Earth, and the closest word she had on her planet was "weak", she had a Cain and Abel relationship with her sister, and she was sold into slavery by people who experimented on her before attempting to bring her to live out her days as a servant on another planet!
  • In Transformers Animated, nearly every character with a backstory is tragic. Optimus lost his friend Elita (now Blackarachnia) to giant monster spiders and was thrown out of the Elite Guard despite being qualified for the rank of Prime, Ratchet has PTSD from the Great War, and more specifically having to mindwipe Arcee to save her from Lockdown, Blackarachnia was turned into a half-organic freak because of said monster spiders, Bumblebee was taken out of the running for Elite Guard training because of something that wasn't his fault and also wound up getting the innocent Wasp arrested for treachery, Bulkhead was mercilessly teased for his size and clumsiness during boot camp, and Prowl saw his master die before his eyes, with his last words admonishing him for his attempts to save his life.
    • In fact, the fates of Elita and Arcee led the writers to promise that they would make at least one female character without a tragic past during the second season. Unless you count being cloned from Starscream as tragic.
    • Transformers having tragic pasts and psychological issues is a constant no matter WHAT continuity you look at; in fact, many of the minor and toy-only characters, Autobot and Decepticon alike, are defined primarily by their neuroses.
      • It's not like you'd expect a group of aliens who've been fighting for eons on end to stay well-adjusted.
      • Autobot triple-changer Broadside takes the cake, though. He easily gets seasick and is afraid of heights, so what does he turn into? An ocean-going carrier and a jet fighter!
      • The Stunticons, the second Decepticon combiner team, are a Five-Bad Band Dysfunction Junction, being made up of a pessimist, a psychopath, a schizophrenic, a win-at-all-costs egomaniac, and a tyrannical bully as the leader. When they unite into Menasor, the giant's personality is so messed up that he's not a warrior to command, he's a weapon to point at the enemy and get away from as fast as possible.
  • Adventure Time, despite being a show high in comedy, is very much this. Finn is a human who is secretly depressed about being the last of his kind, Jake's parents are dead, Princess Bubblegum has the stress of ruling a kingdom and never being able to be a kid, Marceline has daddy issues, the snail is possessed, the Ice King and the Tart Toter are insane, Cinnamon Bun is brain-damaged, Peppermint Butler is borderline satanic, Lemongrab is practically autistic, LSP is surrounded by horrible idiots...
  • This trope is a defining feature of The Venture Brothers, where every major character and most of the minor ones are profoundly damaged.
  • In South Park, some of the characters had issues involving their families. Cartman's mother is a prostitute and he killed his own biological father. Stan has a father who, despite being a geologist, is a complete idiot who constantly takes up crazy activities and careers for the sake of being happy. Kyle has an overprotective mother and a strict father. Kenny and his family are poor, and his dad is sometimes battered by his mom. It could be worse, because... Butters is raised by Abusive Parents, end of story. And Craig's tendency to flip the bird runs in the family.
  • Just about every character in Daria can be defined by various neuroses. (or just being plain stupid).
  • Every member of Planet Express has some kind of issue, even if this Trope is played little bit lighter than the rest of the page's examples. Fry - the series's Unfazed Everyman - isn't the sharpest knife in the kitchen because of a time paradox that makes him his own grandfather, and he lost his whole family when he accidentally froze himself. Leela is a cyclops orphan with some serious anger issues. Bender is a criminal, alcoholic, smoker and doesn't have a bit of conscience. Professor Farnsworth is the Mad Scientist who is so senile one keeps wondering how he keeps the company up and running. Zoidberg is the resident Butt Monkey and a really incompetent doctor whose dreams of being a comedian were crushed by his mother. When he isn't available, the role passes to Amy, Asian Airhead who comes from a rich family but has mean and greedy parents, her father being the worst one. The one worker who is relatively sane and happy is Hermes, and even he takes strange delight from his job right into the point that he is Workaholic and borderline OCD-patient.
  • In Justice League, we have an orphan who saw his parents shot in front of him when he was eight, The Exile who was forced to leave her home, two aliens who are the Last of Their Kind, The Mole who first betrayed Earth then did a Heel Face Turn on her home planet and was subsequently banished from there and a man who's serious about his duty most of the time. In fact, Flash is the only one from the Original Seven who doesn't quite fit here.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Seriously, as the series goes on it becomes increasingly clear that Ponyville really needs a good therapist. By the end of the first season each one of the six main ponies seems to be in a competition to see who can have the worst breakdown. All played for laughs of course.
    • Incidentally, the current winner? Twilight Sparkle.
      • During the very first episode, Twilight shouts "Everypony in this town is CRAZY!" Oh, Twilight, if only you knew how very, very right you are...
  • The entire premise of Total Drama Island revolves around this, the host explains in the first episode itself that the competitors were chosen because of how weird and messed-up they seemed in their audition tapes.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • It's said that half of the entire population of the United States meets the criteria for at least one mental disorder (DSM-IV).
    • Although DSM-IV also covers pretty "normal" things like Phobias.
    • In a nutshell, based on NIMH estimates (and, in any given year): approx. 18% of us are anxious, 10% depressed and/or bipolar, 4% have ADHD, 4% have some sort of eating disorder (binge eating, bulimia, and anorexia, in decreasing order of prevalence), 3.5% have PTSD, 1% have OCD and 1% are schizophrenic. The big surprise would appear to be personality disorders, estimated to be "diagnosable" in 9% of the population. (Those with PDs rarely seek treatment, as these cause problems which tend to affect loved ones more than the patients. Also, mental-health professionals generally do not regard personality disorders as curable.) Did they specifically mention "diagnosable" because few people are being treated for them? Or because even fewer are aware they would fit the diagnostic criteria?
  • Any place where lots of Aspergers people hang out seems like this. Aspergers people almost universally have past experiences that are traumatic. Presumably associated with the fact that AS is associated with low cortisol levels which is in turn associated with the development of PTSD. Or something like that.
    • Cortisol levels being slow to "snap back" to normal: this is regarded as a marker for several mental illnesses. Which might represent lab-test diagnosis being a Holy Grail of the mental-health profession, more than anything which has current validity (or reliability).
    • It has more to do with the fact that having Asperger's syndrome means you have a difficult time getting along with people. Such circumstances can quickly dissolve as the jerks make the nicer ones standoffish..
      • Yep, the circular feedback loop of eccentricity and social isolation. Many folks with Asperger's are able to break the cycle by working harder at appearing "normal". That is, if they so wish (but if they don't, that would be understandable).
      • Actually, many people with acute Asperger's Syndrome are virtually incapable of reading and expressing emotion, so their behaviour becomes almost purely cerebral (they may go very well with other similar people). Such people, while extremely aloof can be more psychologically stable and even socially adjusted that "normal" people suffering from anxiety, anger bouts, inferiority complex etc.
  • Special schools for kids with serious learning disabilities or mental illnesses can be like this.
  • The Internet, courtesy of the GIFT. Even otherwise normal people start acting like lunatics, jerkasses, or both.
  • Systemic psychotherapy is more or less based on revealing and resolving existing Dysfunction Junction in the family or similar social subsystem.
  • Pretty much the entire world is this. Then you realize that some countries have too many nukes and too little wisdom.

Notes

  1. read "clusterfuck"