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Some people are just unlucky in love. Others seem to have done something to personally piss Cupid off and are spending the rest of their lives paying for it. The Fatal Attractor is a character whose Love Interests always end up having some sort of critically serious flaw, be it personality, physicality or just a maniacal urge to destroy the universe, which ultimately precludes any kind of long-term relationship.
By making sure that the relationships are doomed via the use of flawed love interests, the writers are able to make sure that Status Quo Is God without having legitimate love interests Stuffed Into the Fridge. The trouble is, when it's done to a character several times over the course of a long-running series, they end up coming off as either having really bad taste in love interests or being a magnet for psychotics. Or both.
For this reason, long-running series characters are the main ones to run into this problem, especially ones who use Girl of the Week or Monster of the Week format (usually the two end up being combined). Usually only males suffer this problem, but that has more to do with the fact that Most Writers Are Male than any inherent quality of this trope.
Interestingly, this usually only happens to secondary characters -- leads tend to have more functionally sane love interests. In any case, all of them suffer from the Cartwright Curse.
Like everything else that he can't catch a break with, the Butt Monkey is usually the most common victim of this trope.
Anime and Manga
- Used in Katekyo Hitman Reborn, where Longchamp Naito has a different girlfriend in every appearance. Played with in the sense that they're all hideous, so it's not like the writers are even pretending that they have a chance.
- Oh god, this is almost a joke in Code Geass! Poor Lelouch Lamperouge just can't catch a break with his love life!
- The Naive Everygirl? Shirley is Mind Raped by Axe Crazy Mao, forcing Lelouch to order her to forget about him so she could life a normal life, and then he realizes he loved her just after. She later regains her memories thanks to Jeremiah, and promptly panics when she realizes she's had her memories modified twice and that essentially everyone is lying to her. Then, the maddened Gay Option Rolo kills her. As she lays dying she admits knowing everything to Lelouch and swears her undying love for him. Lelouch was... most upset.
- The Action Girl? He pushed Kallen away from him so she could live a normal life rather then die by his side, leading her to believe he had used and betrayed her. She only realized his true feelings and intentions when he was dead.
- The Mysterious Waif? C.C. lost her memories and became a slave girl again for a few episodes before regaining her memory and her place as his co-conspirator. She's mostly alright by the end though.
- The Rebellious Princess? Even when Lelouch admits Euphie was his first love... He accidentally Geassed her to perform a genocide and then had no choice but to kill her.
- His little sister? Nunally was made to believe her brother was a heartless monster, and only realized what he was up to and essentially declared her love for him before he died.
- His Gay Options, either the Tyke Bomb or the Forgotten Childhood Friend? Ohgi lied, Rolo died, right after he finally could show genuine (as in, not obsessive Yandere-like) love for Lelouch. And after a season and a half of madness and pain, right after Lelouch and Suzaku managed to make amends... he forced Suzaku to kill him publically, also giving him a Fate Worse Than Death for world peace.
- Himself? Not that way! He died too.
- Yuuichi Aizawa of Kanon is often joked to attract girls with psychological problems or on the verge of death. The one normal girl in his harem? Her mother gets hit by a car.
- Train from Black Cat doesn't seem to be able to attract very normal love interests. It would be rather interesting to know if he would still choose to be a Celibate Hero and appear to be asexual if a halfway decent and semi-normal woman would come into his life. His (possibly) blooming feelings for Saya (the most normal of his love interests) is cut very short by... a certain very jealous person. Rinslet is a very manipulative thief who constantly takes advantage of him and tricks him into doing things for her. Kyoko is too much of a borderline Yandere who is overly aggressive and a Stalker with a Crush. And that's not even mentioning Creed, who is the most insane and obsessive pervert when it comes to Train...
- Sakura Gari: Every one of Souma's lovers are shown to have horrible endings. He even notices and mentions it himself. Of course, this doesn't stop him from continuing to take lovers.
- This trope is what Terry Bogard in the OVA and animated movie adaptations of Fatal Fury becomes. At the point in time in which they were made, Terry did not have a canonical love interest (indeed, The One Girl existing in the games proper at the time was/is crushing on Terry's younger brother), so a pair of Canon Foreigner girls were added in to amp of the drama:
- The first OVA gives us Broken Bird Lily McGuire who is practically a slave to the Big Bad, Geese Howard, and in fact was partly responsible for an incident in which Geese killed Terry's father, which emotionally broke her. Regardless, the two fall for each other, and just as Lily has made her High Heel Face Turn and agreed to finally leave Geese to be with Terry, Geese Reppuukens her through a window to her death. His failure to protect Lily haunts Terry for the remainder of the trilogy.
- In The Movie, Terry meets Plucky Girl Suila Gaudemus who as luck would have it, is the Crazed madman Laocorn Gaudemus' little sister. Terry spends the movie trying to keep himself from getting too close to Sulia because of what happened to Lily, but just as he's coming to terms with his feelings, Laocorn becomes a godlike being, and Sulia makes a Heroic Sacrifice that allows Terry to beat him.
- Yoko of Gurren Lagann had the bad luck of drawing the romantic attention of two characters. Kamina and Kittan. Both of them don't survive the show. Kamina perishing in the battle for Dai-Gunzan, and Kittan sacrificing himself to save the team. These factors lead her to being alone for most likely the rest of her life.
- More superheroes than can really even be counted. The lucky ones (Superman, Spider-Man, etc.) at least have a single canonical love interest, but most of them just end up in an endless revolving door of doomed relationships.
- Spider-Man started out caught in this revolving door for his first few decades. And that's not to mention what happened to Gwen Stacy...
- Daredevil is the king of this trope. If Matt Murdock is attracted to you, your days are almost certainly numbered. Among his girlfriends include Elektra (murdered, but she got better, Karen Page (murdered), Heather Glenn (suicided), Glorianna O'Breen (murdered), and Milla Donovan (insane). And that's not counting the merely misguided or evil ones, like Lady Deathstrike, Typhoid Mary, and Echo. This trope is so prevalent that right after Matt hooked up with Dakota North, fans were already posting "We hardly knew ye" laments.
- Batman's track record is not quite as disastrous as Daredevil's, but does include those who dumped him because they thought he was a worthless playboy (Julie Madison, Linda Page), those obsessed with proving Bruce Wayne was Batman (Vicki Vale), those who left him because they couldn't cope with his double life (Silver St Cloud), those marked for death because of his double identity (Sascha Bordeaux) or actually murdered because of it (Vesper Fairchild), those driven insane (Sondra Kinsolving), and the outright criminal (Catwoman, Talia, Jezebel Jett).
- This trend even continues in the New 52 reboot with his new on-and-off girlfreidn Jaina "Jai" Hudson who is also the supervillain White Rabbit.
- Nico Minoru of Runaways. Her first boyfriend,who she still hasn't completely gotten over after his death, turned out to be The Mole and she ended things with her second boyfriend because he fell for another girl. She also made out with a vampire at one point.
- The title character frm Ms. Tree. Most of Michael's boyfriends since the death of her husband have turned out to be killers.
Films -- Live-Action
- Parodied in Shallow Hal. Hal's friend laments that they're "cursed when it comes to women". We find out they only pursue women who are way out of their league and then complain about small imperfections.
- This was lampshaded in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, where the Angels confirm a character is an assassin by asking Drew Barrymore's character whether she found him attractive.
- Bingo Little of Jeeves and Wooster is always in love with girls of low social station. Bingo's main problem is that he is in love with falling in love. Even if it gets to the point of starting a relationship, Bingo's fickle heart (or whatever organ is involved) will lock onto another target. And every time it is "The One".
- Bertie himself is perhaps a better example. While Bingo's romances tend to break off more because the girl dumps him/he falls for some other girl/the girl was never dating him to begin with than because there's a problem with the girl herself, Bertie legitimately attracts--and is attracted by--girls who turn out to be either complete weirdos or just terrible people.
- Chiao Tai, former highway man turned Judge's assistant in the Judge Dee mysteries is an ancient Chinese poster boy for this trope. One girl turns out to be an enemy agent who tries to kill him. Another woman is a husband killer and his true soul mate is not only a dancer-courtesan but a murderess. Chiao Tai should give serious thought to entering a monastery.
- Harry Kim, from Star Trek Voyager, who is described in the quote at the top of the page, fairly accurately sums up this trope. And for those of you who were wondering, the person being discussed in that conversation turned out to be an alien saboteur who was trying to start an interstellar war. Poor Harry just can't catch a break in the romantic department.
- Neither can Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who in addition to his past relationship with Cordelia and his unrequited crush on the title character, always seems to end up with murderous non-humans. (Except for the murderous non-human who transformed into a law abiding human).
- And then, when he does finally find himself a stable, (relatively) normal love interest she's killed by a Japanese vampire a few comics later. Now, he is in a relationship with his best friends little sister. Ah, love...
- Buffy herself doesn't fare much better. Her three boyfriends (counting Spike, but not her one-night stand) were, respectively, a Ensouled Vampire who lost the soul after her night with him, a Super-Soldier, and an Unensouled Vampire who proceeded to get a soul and whose relationship with her was quite the unhealthy one.
- Lampshaded in Season 1. At the end of an episode, Willow is depressed cause it turned out the "boy" she had a crush on and that seemed interested in her was in fact a robotic demon. Buffy and Xander tries to cheer her up by pointing out that Buffy's current boyfriend is a vampire and that Xander was recently attracted to a She-Mantis. It doesn't quite work, as they ALL end up depressed.
- On Angel, Cordelia ends up with a similar problem, combined with mystical pregnancies.
- Ah, the poor characters on NCIS. Somebody's new girl/boy friend turning out to be evil happens just about once a season, to the point that Genre Savvy fans instantly suspect anyone's new love interest. There was an undercover Mossad agent, identity thief, serial killers (yes, two!), daughter of an international arms dealer, and a freaking South Korean assassin. McGee ends up having the aforemention assassin try to kill him, and she ends up shot and dying in his arms, prompting him to mumble, "I swear I'm joining a monastary." Tony has sexual tension with (probably over) half the feamle killers on the show. Abby ex-boyfriend stalked her and intended to kill and a make it look like a suicide. Even Ducky got in on the action by dating a serial killer. It makes Gibbs look kinda normal, though he's gone out with a few (yes, literal) killers over the course of the show.
- Sam Winchester from Supernatural. His girlfriend was killed, he had to kill Madison, Ruby was a demon and evil, he couldn't stay with Sarah because he wanted to find his dad and the demon who killed his girlfriend...
- Daniel Jackson of Stargate SG-1 only ever seems to get a reprieve from this when his Cartwright Curse kicks in. The lecherous, amoral starship thief whom he only ever had a committed relationship with in an alternate universe was actually a step up for him.
- And, considering her husbands included a religious zealot bent on utter domination of the galaxy and a cook who couldn't make pie he was kind of a step up for her too.
- Rare female example: Catherine Willows of CSI also has a tendency to run into this.
- Another rare female example is Stella Bonasera of CSI: NY.
- Seinfeld turned this into a running gag.
- DI Robbie Ross in Taggart
- Justin in Wizards of Waverly Place. First there was the werewolf, then there was the vampire...
- Classical Mythology makes this one Older Than Dirt, when Aphrodite got pissed off at Paiphae, the wife of King Mino of Crete, so she made her fall in love with the Cretan Bull, which would attack and kill anything that got close to it. Well anything except the royal cattle, thus leading to Pasiphae disguising herself as one of these cows and conceiving the Minotaur.
- Jon before he started going steady with Liz was like this with pretty much ANY girl he dated.
- Non-romantic example: Latooni Subota from Super Robot Wars seems to be attracting danger for whoever she is close with... First, when she is in The School, she gets to see her friends die one by one due to super crazy training method. When she gets out and found by Garnet and Giado, nothing happens much... until she gets acquainted with Princess Shine Hausen. Said Princess later gets caught by the enemy, Brainwashed and Crazy and starts attacking her (but recovers). While she thought it'll be over, her two surviving friends Arado Balanga and Seolla Schweitzer got sent to kill her, and while Arado is kind of lucky to avoid it quickly, Seolla got subjected with various brainwashing to the point that she thinks Latooni needs to die, thus putting herself in various dangers on her own, but she got saved eventually. Then when she wanted to save her Onee-Sama Ouka Nagisa, although they briefly succeeded, she immediately followed with a Heroic Sacrifice. Does it stop there? No. When they are given a new friend in form of Lamia Loveless, the ODE Incident happened, and Lamia took the full brunt of damages, being put in the main core of the Bartolls, shot down near dead, then Brainwashed and Crazy, though to be fair she managed to recover. All in all a lot of people Latooni got close with would be subjected with danger. We'll see if her love interest Ryusei Date will eventually get one misfortune specifically for him due to this thing...
- Also, before Lamia entered the Aggressors, Latooni was a member of it alongside Raidiese F. Branstein. Did danger come to him too? Oh hell yes. He ends up meeting with his arch nemesis Archibald Grims, ends up temporarily losing his cool and fatally shot, almost killing him...
- Ryusei is almost certainly doomed to his inevitable Heroic BSOD when the SRX gets wrecked and Aya is missing presumed dead when the plot from Alpha 3 gets brought over to the OGverse.
- Montblanc gets a Prank Date in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Tactics a 2.
- Webcomic example: All of Lucas' ex-girlfriends are crazy or wanted to harm him in some way. It got to the point where he wore a bulletproof vest on his latest date. As for how that one turns out, it's a loveless relationship where the other party allows him to essentially use her for sex and companionship in the hopes that he'll reciprocate her deeper feelings, and they are both fine with this.
- Until Lucas DOES reciprocate her feelings and walks in on her taking advantage of the open nature of their relationship...with another man.
- In Something Positive, Davan's girlfriends usually turn out to have something very wrong with them. The sole exception left him (with his blessing) because her dream job required her to move. His current relationship with Vanessa seems to be working out okay, though she has her little quirks.
- Justin from Wapsi Square described himself as a crazy chick magnet. It turns out that there's a little bit more to it than that. He doesn't just attract crazy women, he attracts crazy paranormal women, many of whom want to do things that he is uncomfortable with.
- Hadji from The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. His two main love interests over the run of the show were:
- A succubus-like monster who was using him to get to Jessie so it could consume her life force, and
- The daughter of his adoptive father's terrorist arch-enemy. After this particular Reveal, Hadji's friend Jessie Lampshaded his Fatal Attractor status.