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If it wasn't for bad luck,

I wouldn't have no luck at all.
—"Born Under a Bad Sign"

Aunt Wu: Your future is full of struggle and anguish. Most of it self-inflicted.

Sokka: But you didn't even read my palms or anything...

Aunt Wu: I don't have to. It's written all over your face.
Avatar: The Last Airbender, "The Fortuneteller."

Some people have all the luck-- but they aren't this guy.

When you're Born Unlucky, it's like the world is out to get you. You, personally. Lucky pennies crumble in your hands; rabbits' feet run away in terror. Black cats won't cross your path, and mirrors shatter preemptively when you walk into the room. When you walk outside, it starts raining; when you walk inside, your house collapses. The only time you attract good luck is as a set up for even worse luck: You find a winning lottery ticket, but the wind picks up and blows it out of your hands... and into your rival's. You are really unlucky-- so mind-bogglingly unlucky it defies all chance.

Look for terms like "cursed" or "born under a bad sign", although they aren't required-- just so long as we know Lady Luck (or Fate, or the world, or God) doesn't like them very much. At all.

There may be significant overlap with Cosmic Plaything, Butt Monkey, and The Chew Toy, but the key about being Born Unlucky is that it really IS "luck" that is bringing them down. A Butt Monkey can be a Butt Monkey because other characters tease him, but someone suffering this trope is always tormented by plum bad luck. Also, this can be Played for Drama. In games, being Born Unlucky may be represented by a Luck Manipulation Mechanic in which players are forced to roll dice multiple times, and must accept the lowest result.

Some folks who are Born Unlucky may also be The Jinx. The difference between these two is who the bad luck affects-- someone who's Born Unlucky will slip on a banana peel, but a Jinx will cause everyone else in the room to slip on banana peels. Heaven help the former if he ever meets the latter. (Or, well, no-- it probably won't.)

Contrast Born Lucky. Compare The Klutz, The Jinx. See also Cosmic Plaything (destiny has fun messing with them), Butt Monkey (the butt of everyone's jokes), or The Chew Toy (someone whose constant pain is intended to amuse). If the bad luck is meant to be funny, it's because of Comedic Sociopathy.

Examples (if possible, elaborate on how their bad luck works):


Anime and Manga

  • Touma from To Aru Majutsu no Index is a character with a supernatural ability to negate all other magical or psychic power or influence (ie., Anti-Magic). As it turns out this is also the reason that he's cursed with bad luck - this being a magical universe, it also cancels out his "good fate".
  • Himawari from XxxHolic, whose bad luck crosses over into The Jinx and Doom Magnet.
  • Urusei Yatsura - the lot of poor Ataru Moroboshi is to deal with all of the crazy (but fortunately attractive) aliens of the galaxy, but that's what you'd expect from someone whose name means "hit by a falling star".
  • Seina Yamada from Tenchi Muyo! GXP, who has luck so bad it is more or less successfully weaponized.
  • Miranda from D.Gray-man, who was known in her hometown for this.
  • Lelouch from Code Geass.
  • Hayate of Hayate the Combat Butler, he was given his name to be able to escape debt collectors. Since he's the male lead in a harem manga though, it's mostly averted, and he just thinks it applies.
    • It's still played straight on occasion however. Just often enough to remind us it's there.
    • This is much more significant in the original manga however; aside from having the misfortune of being born to his parents, he also had to work from the age of eight to support said deadbeat parents. He also has the borderline-curse of losing any money given to him (losing it to circumstance or spending it on others out of kindness) such that his friends call him the God of Poverty. Most of the plots in the manga can basically be summed up as "Hayate is sent out on a simple errand. Hilarity Ensues as the universe hates him."
  • Keiichi Morisoto, literally born under the Star of Misfortune. His luck is so bad that even having a goddess move in just alters the scale at which it hits him. (Example: he makes a wish that said goddess stay with him for good, but he lives in a men-only dorm... so he gets thrown out.)
  • Ryouga Hibiki of Ranma ½ seems to be the universe's chew toy. There's a reason his strongest attack is an Angst Nuke.
  • Kumagawa of Medaka Box. His bad luck is so strong that he can rely on it to, for example, always give him the worst possible hand in a card game. Of course, when you can rely on something you can plan around it... As the series puts it, he's a man who has always lost at everything, which makes him stronger than anyone.

Comics

  • Sonya Rosencrantz from Tank Vixens. Her designation is 'Unit Jinx' and her function is to deflect bad luck from the rest of the unit by attracting it to herself.
  • Snake from the Australian newspaper comic Snake Tales.
  • Calamity James from The Beano has this as his gimmck. It's sufficently bad to sabotage any attempt to make his luck better.
  • Donald Duck in the Disney comics. Several stories revolve around his practically supernatural levels of misfortune. He's often contrasted with his Born Lucky cousin, Gladstone Gander.
    • This is made reference to (in hilarious Lampshade Hanging fashion, no less) when Magica DeSpell curses Scrooge McDuck with 'the Mother of all Hexes'. Scrooge at one point laments that his mystically-enforced casualties wouldn't even happened to Donald (and that's really saying something!).
      • Donald is so unlucky that he cannot even capitalize on it (winning the "Unluckiest Man in the World"-contest, working as a Butt Monkey for hire). In both cases his luck completely turned around and he was exceedingly lucky- at least until his grumpy customers/spectators were out of eyesight.
  • Joe Btfsplk from Li'l Abner. Among other things, typically had a little thunderstorm right over his head.
  • Poor Peter Parker, he's so unlucky it's taken this long for him to be mentioned. He's even mumbled the page quote more than a few times. It should be noted his poor luck has been both played for laughs and done seriously.
  • Tootles from Peter Pan.

  ...not the least brave but the most unfortunate of all that gallant band. He had been in fewer adventures than any of them, because the big things constantly happened just when he had stepped round the corner; all would be quiet, he would take the opportunity of going off to gather a few sticks for firewood, and then when he returned the others would be sweeping up the blood. This ill-luck had given a gentle melancholy to his countenance, but instead of souring his nature had sweetened it, so that he was quite the humblest of the boys.

Fan Works

  • Mary Jane Watson really gets burned by this trope. Growing up in a broken home, having her grades end up in the toilet from being a Triple Shifter, getting in trouble with her boss at the coffee shop and eventually getting fired for constantly showing up late, being sexually harassed by the fashion designer who hired her as a model, losing acting roles she's dreamed of all her life, attracting a psychotic Stalker with a Crush who became a supervillain just to attract her notice, suffering from Perpetual Poverty because of her having to juggle her acting and modelling careers with her school studies and her fighting crime as Spider-Woman, being subjected to a public hate campaign by a relative of one of the victims of one of her supervillain enemies, driving herself crazy with guilt over not being able to keep everything going, and eventually nearly suffering a nervous breakdown when everything finally comes crashing down at once.

Film

  • The French movie La Chevre (English title: "Knock on Wood"). A rich businessman's daughter goes missing. Since the girl is known to be extremely accident-prone, one of his advisers comes up with a crazy plan: send a person just as unlucky after her and maybe he'll attract the same trouble and so lead them to her. The characters go through a number of crazy adventures and coincidences that indeed leads them to the girl in the end. (A memorable scene is the businessman testing the hero after they first meet - even in a room full of chairs he will always sit on the chair that is broken.)
    • Remade starring Danny Glover and Martin Short.
  • The main character of the film The Cooler seems to be this way. Simply standing in a casino causes everyone to start losing. It's cured when he gets a girlfriend, though.
  • The Lindsay Lohan movie Just My Luck was about a girl who was Born Lucky but ends up trading luck with a guy who was Born Unlucky after they kiss.
  • Louis from Kangaroo Jack. Even his "lucky" shirt is stolen by a kangaroo. At the end of the movie, the shirt is considered to have actually been lucky for getting them out of trouble, but this is arguable, as it may have been Charlie's presence and actions which ultimately saved all of them.

Literature

  • The main character in Holes finds a pair of shoes and is on his way to return them, and gets arrested. His family actually is cursed, because of his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." We later get that ancestor's side of the story.
  • Erast Fandorin is Born Lucky, but it has been established that luck alternates every generation in his family: both his father and his son were Born Unlucky (while his grandson Nicholas was extremely lucky again). The unlucky Fandorins, however, don't get mentioned much.
  • An European fairy tale told the story of a man whose attempts to become wealthy never worked, while his brother's always did. While traveling, the man found the castle where Destiny himself lived. Destiny explains to the man that he was born on an unlucky day and that will be his luck forever. When the man asked what he could do about it, Destiny told him to tell everyone that all his properties actually belong to his niece, who was born on a lucky day. It worked- soon he was a prosperous man. But when at one point he couldn't help boasting about his riches, all of them disappeared instantly! (until he retracted and admitted they were his niece's.) Talk about Cosmic Plaything...
  • Lytol in the Dragonriders of Pern novels was like this for a while. He was a dragonrider, and his dragon died. He left the Weyr to become a weaver, raised a family, and lost his wife and daughters when Fax took over the Hold. Only after becoming Warder of Ruatha after Fax's death did his life stop being an ongoing disaster.
  • In the Discworld Rincewind is a favorite pawn of The Lady, the goddess of luck (though never explicitly named as such). Some people consider him extremely lucky for how many dangerous situations he's survived. He considers himself incredibly unlucky because of how many dangerous situations he's encountered. One of his deepest desires is boredom.
    • It's stated that that's why The Lady likes him so much: Whenever someone realizes they have The Lady's favor, they immediately lose it because it's not fun for her anymore. Rincewind is the luckiest person alive, but since he's lucky in the sense that he's survived through some pretty awful stuff, he assumes he's unlucky because he keeps getting into the situations to begin with. Of course, he gets into the events in the first place because Fate hates him.
  • Michael from the Knight and Rogue Series. Just about anything than can go wrong for him will.

Live Action TV

  • The entire Bundy family in Married... with Children, but Al gets the worst of it.
    • The Bundy family is under the effect of a british witch's curse, but even breaking the curse doesn't end their bad luck streak. It's just that powerful.
  • In Hee Haw the quote above was used in a skit which started out with a song:

 Gloom, despair, and agony on me;

Deep, dark depression, excessive misery;

If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all;

Gloom, despair and agony on me.

Then they go on to tell a sad story in poetic meter matching the song.

  • Appears temporarily in Supernatural after Sam gets (and loses) a rabbit's foot, which grants people incredible luck while they possess it, and eventually terminal bad luck when they inevitably lose it. At one point while sitting doing nothing in a hotel room, the radiator caught fire. He managed to knock himself unconscious putting it out. He also lost his shoe.

Music

  • The protagonist of the song "Born Under a Bad Sign" of course.

 Born under a bad sign

I been down since I begin to crawl

If it wasn't for bad luck,

I wouldn't have no luck at all.

Newspaper Comics

Tabletop RPG

  • Champions - Any character with 3 dice of Unluck.
  • GURPS - Any character with the Unluckiness disadvantage.
    • Even worse for people with Cursed: "Any time the GM feels like hosing you, he can, and you have no complaint coming, because you are Cursed." One thread in the SJGames forums reveal that the disadvantage frightened players so much that it was never taken at character creation.
  • One splatbook for Werewolf: The Apocalypse attempted to introduce this with the "Jupiter Descending" flaw - an extra die would be rolled every time, with said die capable of subtracting a success from the roll. The problem is that it was only a one-in-ten chance of taking place, and was worth enough points to become a Minmaxers Delight.
  • The short-lived Marvel Role-Playing Game had the unlucky hindrance. Whenever a card check (in lieu of dice) would be made involving this character, another card would be drawn from the deck and the card that was worse for the unlucky player would be used. Yes, Spider-Man had this hindrance.

Video Games

  • In the Tokimeki Memorial series, Kyoko Izumi from Pocket and Miyuki Kotobuki from 2 (the latter even having as a Catch Phrase : "Tsuitenai no ka na~...", "I really have bad luck~...") : if anything bad happens, you can be sure it'll happen to them. Of course, this being Tokimeki Memorial, it's always Played for Laughs.
  • Maggey Byrd from Ace Attorney. She is accused of murder no less than 3 times and can't seem to hold down a job; she is called "Goddess of Misfortune" and "Lady Luckless" in-game. She's never even won or tied at a game of tic-tac-toe!
  • Knoll from Fire Emblem the Sacred Stones is so unlucky that when rescued from the dungeons, he assumes that his execution date was moved up. His Luck Stat is appropriately low... It starts at zero.
    • A Running Gag is that Joshua will always lose any kind of coin toss he attempts. So much that he even loses rigged coin tosses. (To be fair, that one was against L'Arachel.)
  • Both Lancers in Fate Stay Night and Fate/Zero have rank E luck (E being the poorest possible for a Servant to have), and both are extremely unlucky in their respective stories. Cu Chulainn is a Blood Knight saddled with a Dirty Coward of a master who denies him battles and leads him to suffer The Worf Effect, while Diarmud is a Tragic Hero whose Blessed with Suck ends up denying him everything he ever wanted from his participation in the Grail War.

Web Comic

Web Original

  • Karl Van Buren, a Survival of the Fittest v3 character, seems to have this problem, as he's notorious for having extremely bad luck. Some of the things noted in his backstory include, in no particular order, almost drowning, the plane he was on sucking in two people, an ax falling down and hurting people while he was reading about an ax murder, and a transvestite commiting suicide and landing on his car, among other things. He doesn't last very long in-game, having had his neck snapped by Gabriel Theobaldt. He even gets posthumous bad luck, as Victor Kurchatov comes across his corpse and... you don't want to know.

Western Animation

  • Misery from Ruby Gloom, whose entire family had the most outrageous bad luck. (In particular for Misery, she attracts lightning bolts. Even indoors.)
  • Eugene from Hey Arnold. His birthday was on Friday the 13th.
  • Frank Grimes (a famous one-shot character for the Simpsons, hence why his son appears in a later episode) wasn't born lucky at all. He never got to go to school and was abandoned by his parents.
  • Bad Luck Schlepprock from the Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Animated Series.
  • "Who gets stuck with all the bad luck? No one, but Donald Duck!" Also probably the biggest example of The Chew Toy.
  • On Avatar: The Last Airbender, Ozai often says that his daughter Azula was Born Lucky, while his son Zuko was lucky to be born. Zuko isn't quite like a lot of these other examples, but he does have a lot of crud to deal with as the series goes on.
    • Sokka is a bit of this too. See the quote above (and note how many times he gets sick, rained on, etcetera).
  • Butters from South Park, often grounded for no reason. His birthday is even on September 11.
  • Philip J. Fry has terrible, awful luck. Unless he happens to be holding his lucky 7-leaf clover, as shown in The Luck of the Fryish.
    • Though his bad luck does normally cause the situation to end positively for him; just the experience was traumatic and needlessly painful.
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