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Tyler Johnson:"I am writing a list of tragic character flaws on my dollar bills with a felt pen. I am thinking of the people in my universe and distilling for each of these people the one flaw in their character that will be their downfall--the flaw that will be their undoing. What I write are not sins; I write tragedies."
Heroes (and less often Villains) have a Fatal Flaw which they wrestle with on a consistent basis. This may open them up for specific conflicts later -- when a protagonist's fatal flaw is encountered through the course of a plot, the audience's reaction is very tense. Aristotle calls this hamartia, and it is a key part of Tragedy.
In classic literature, a Fatal Flaw is often what prevents a Tragic Hero from succeeding, or serves as the cause of their Tragic Mistake. It is usually some sort of character deficiency listed below or, in conventional television, an addiction of some sort. In modern television, the Fatal Flaw is more likely to lead to a Very Special Episode.
Some specific Fatal Flaws:
Note the resemblance to the Seven Deadly Sins.
Naturally, this can be good or bad. Sometime, it can serve as a Drama-Preserving Handicap, preventing an otherwise perfect character from becoming a God Mode Sue. Other times, it can merely serve as a hindrance to drag themselves and everyone else down. Someone with the latter is very often The Scrappy.
A literal fatal flaw, as often seen in science fiction, would be Phlebotinum Breakdown.
- Whether it be a raging inferiority complex, self-endangering recklessness, an Oedipus complex, alcoholism, bizarre neo-mystic delusions, or a complete disregard for one's own life, pretty much everybody in Neon Genesis Evangelion had at least one of these. Quite a few have more then one.
- Light Yagami of Death Note has his overwhelming pride, which reaches A God Am I at its worst and blinds him to the point of refusing to even contemplate his own failure.
- Lelouch of Code Geass does things without considering their negative consequences, keeps too many secrets, and doesn't trust people. His counterpart Suzaku has a large lack of self-worth and is too idealistic for his own good.
- However, Suzaku is unable to see that the people he sucks up to due to his lack of self-worth and desperate desire to be a Britannian are everything that he does not want and he is doing everything he claims he is against on a daily basis.
- Shirley's attraction to Lelouch gets her killed when she confronts Rolo. Even though, she doesn't remember him, she trusts him because Lelouch seems to trust him.
- In Chrono Crusade, Chrono's demonic instincts and need to protect others (particularly Rosette) sometimes combine to give him a very, very dangerous temper. Since Chrono's powers drain Rosette's lifespan due to their contract, it's dangerous not just to him, but to Rosette herself. In fact, in the manga this trope is taken literally, when Aion provokes Chrono into unsealing his powers himself and come at him with everything he's got. Several people are killed in the battle, and it drains so much of Rosette's life that the next time she unseals the watch, she dies.
- Death the Kid from Soul Eater has his raging OCD and self-esteem issues; the presence or lack of symmetry in his surroundings (or remembering that he may have forgotten to symmetrically fold his toilet paper roll this morning) can take him out of a battle in a heartbeat.
- In one case, Liz actually uses this against him to avoid getting into a battle in the first place, as the factory containing the Clown scared her, (and with good reason). She does something similar earlier, when taking note of Free's ball and chain to provoke Kid to attack the werewolf.
- The Salvage arc suggests that potentially each of the Great Old Ones has one of these which would make Beat Them By Compulsion a valid tactic against Physical Gods.
- The main characters of D.Gray-man have this. Allen goes out of his way to save others, even when it's impossible for him to do so. Kanda is extremely arrogant and rude to the people he has to work with. Lenalee has a raging fear of losing anyone close to her. Krory is a Horrible Judge of Character. Miranda has next to no self-esteem and is easily depressed. And Lavi is torn between his duty as a Bookman and the people he cares about. Ironically, sometimes these compliment each other and save one from making a fatal mistake; when Allen attempted to destroy an Akuma before it self-destructed (and destroying the tormented soul forever) Lenalee stopped him and scolded him for taking such a foolish risk.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Judai being headstrong, irresponsible, impulsive, and impatience is cute and endearing for two and a half seasons. Then all of those combine and (he thinks) gets four to five of his best friends killed.
- From Durarara, Shizuo's severe anger issues and Kida's inability to face his guilt head on. Not only does this put him in a position where he avoids his girlfriend Saki (they make up at the end of the first anime series) but by not facing this head on, he repeats his whole guilt trip with his best friend Mikado by dropping out of school and leaving Ikebukuro. And Mikado didn't take this well...
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Kamina has his impatience, Simon has his lack of faith in himself. (Of course, Simon beat his fatal flaw senseless less than halfway along and went on to use its limp form as a club, but that's not important right now.)
- Blood+: While it isn't brought up much and never gets anyone killed, Saya is shown to have trouble seeing the world in anything other than black-and-white; despite being one herself, she believes that any and all Chiropterans are evil and must be destroyed. This does make sense considering they are responsible for the death of her adopted father, and later, her younger brother but quite a few conflicts (most notably the one with the Schiff at the hotel) could have been avoided had she just bothered to see them as anything other than an Always Chaotic Evil species.
- Haji always fulfills Saya's wishes, whatever they may be, and never considers what he wants, to the point that he needs a Get a Hold of Yourself, Man! from Kai to convince him to confess his love to Saya and stop her from killing herself.
- Precia Testarossa's Heel Realization in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 1st: "I never notice things before it's too late."
- The characters in Puella Magi Madoka Magica had their downfall brought by their respective Fatal Flaw. Sayaka's is Pride, Mami's is Loneliness, Madoka's is Selflessness, and Homura's is Ambition. And Kyubey is thwarted thanks to his Lack of Emotion.
- Kyouko however, only died after she set aside her Selfishness. Death by Irony?
- In Tiger and Bunny, Kotetsu has a noted tendency to keep personal struggles to himself, even when those personal issues don't just affect him. This starts really coming down hard on him in the second half of the series when he can't work up the nerve to tell Barnaby he's retiring, or the reasons behind it, and Barnaby takes it as a sign that he doesn't trust him.
- And Barnaby has his own flaw; the hell-bent obsession with revenge that made him an Ineffectual Loner who has rejected any close personal relationships for the past 20 years.
- According to Shura of Blue Exorcist, Yukio could be exploited by demons because he keeps his emotions bottled up unlike his more hot-headed brother Rin. Likewise, Rin has trouble controlling his flames because he's afraid of them.
- Nabari no Ou: Tobari is morally unable to take a life, despite being in a world where it's 'kill or be killed'. This makes his task of protecting Miharu very difficult, and he is called out out on it by several characters.
- School Rumble
- Harima is so committed to making Tenma happy that he's willing to deprive himself of happiness.
- Eri is a Clingy Jealous Girl. A hint of Harima getting paired with a girl sends her into a quiet rage which almost messed up her friendships with Mikoto and Tenma, and in the manga almost gets Tenma killed.
- Future Trunks from Dragon Ball Z at first appears to have everything together: is a Badass, has a tragic past, able to beat Freeza and King Cold like it was nothing. But as the arcs progress, his fatal flaw regarding his issues with Vegeta end up costing him big.
- Vegeta himself allows his stubborn pride and arrogance to get the better of him several times.
- Goku has one that rears its head on occassion: His love for a challenging battle. He projects this desire onto Gohan, who lacks said love, leading to Goku's death. Even after that, he still held back in his fight with Majin Vegeta so it would be more enjoyable, releasing Buu.
- Most of the villains in fact have the fatal flaw of thinking there is no way they can be defeated. With Vegeta, it was a low-born defeating an elite. Freeza couldn't comprehend that a "monkey" could become stronger than him. Cell believes his final form is perfect (having the best qualities of each fighter) and thus cannot be defeated. Buu couldn't stand Vegetto's strength. All of them suffer a Villainous Breakdown when they are proved wrong.
- In the .hack fanfiction .hack//G.U.: The Staircase to Nowhere, each of the Epitaph users has one physical/mental flaw that can spell the end for them in the Goddess Morganna's war; Haseo has his photophobia (his sensitivity to light), Atoli's fear of being alone, Endrance's weak lungs, and Kuhn's color blindness.
- In the Glee fanfic Hunting the Unicorn, Blaine's Wide-Eyed Idealism has gotten him the Warblers, Kurt, an unlucky high school friend, an emotionally estranged father, and a stalker. Not to mention that he lost his virginity to a guy who did not share his belief that Sex Equals Love.
- Back to The Future's Marty McFly and his compulsion to prove that he's not "chicken".
- Plunkett and Macleane's main character Macleane has a weakness for women and gambling. Both get him into serious trouble.
- In the Star Wars prequels, Anakin Skywalker's fatal flaw is his Chronic Hero Syndrome, ironically causing him to turn to The Dark Side in his narrow-minded effort to save Padmé at all costs.
- Carlitos Way has a variation of this trope. Carlito's Fatal Flaw is either his determination to keep his "reformed" status, or his ties to his criminal past. If he had gotten rid of one of the two, there might have been a happy ending.
- Jigsaw from Saw sets people up in traps (or as he calls them, tests and "games") where someone must overcome their Flaw or be destroyed. Nine times out of ten, they lose.
- Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket can't to deal with issues without using force.
- Benny from The Mummy (film) is just greedy. Just when it seemed like he was gonna escape with gold, he goes back and dies.
- Col. Jessup from A Few Good Men is so self-righteous that he thought he could admit to covering up his involvement in an accidental death of one of his soldiers then expect to just walk away.
- Tony Carmonte/Montana's Control Freak nature and substance abuse (either to alcohol or cocaine) contribute to his downfall in Scarface.
- The Godfather
- Vito's decisiveness. At the time, his decisions saved his family's life and gave them riches and prestige which he wouldn't have dreamed but it's only in the twilight of his life did he realize he should have chosen different.
- Sonny's Hot Blood nature gets him led into a deadly trap.
- Fredo's need for approval makes him a Horrible Judge of Character.
- Michael's obsession with control pushes away his family until he ends up Dying Alone.
- Mean Girls
- Cady's sneakiness.
- Regina's insensitivity.
- Gretchen's need for approval.
- A Song of Ice and Fire could pretty much be described as a dozen or so tragedies going on simultaneously (with several in the backstory).
- Starks believe in Honor Before Reason. They will always do the right thing the right way.
- Lannisters believe they are above the laws of common men.
- Targaryens practice incest, which create madness but also gives them power over their dragons.
- Baratheons are gluttons for everything from physical pleasures (Robert), glories (Renly) or respect (Stannis).
- Tullys are know-it-alls and often go behind their superior's backs because they think they know better.
- Martells are too caught up in revenge, even after all involved are dead.
- Hubris is a common tragic flaw in mythology and classical literature. One of the more famous examples is Odysseus, who is forced to undergo a 10-year voyage home after angering Poseidon with his arrogance.
- The Pillars of the Earth: Not a hero, but William is absolutely terrified of a Fire and Brimstone Hell. It's a flaw because others use it to exploit him and make him do their bidding.
- In Percy Jackson and The Olympians, it's explicitly stated that every demigod has a Fatal Flaw which, if not mastered, will lead to their death. Annabeth's fatal flaw is explicitly stated to be hubris (except Percy thinks she says hummus). Percy's is personal loyalty--he will go out of his way to do anything necessary to save the people he cares about. Thalia's fatal flaw is that she has a weak resistance when she is offered power, to the point she seriously considered letting her friend down to become more powerful than the gods (though her conflicting feelings over this were apparent). It's a good thing Mr.D was able to step in otherwise she probably would have given in. Nico and Bianca have the Fatal Flaw of holding grudges, which they inherited from their father.
- In The Dresden Files, Harry saves people. It's just what he does. At one point, someone immediately figures out that he's harboring a fugitive because that's Harry's schtick; people come to him for help, he helps them.
- In the Backup Novella a "client" deliberately plays the part of damsel in distress complete with kidnapped child to get Harry's help as part of her plan, Thomas steps in without Harry knowing to save him.
- Harry Potter
- Voldemort's Fatal Flaw is Pride. It's not so much petty, plain-old narcissism and arrogance than it is outright full-blown megalomania. He's the smartest and most powerful wizard in the world and he knows it, so he tends to go out of his way to add a flair of grandeur and grace to his plans while attempting to achieve his objectives in the way he thinks will be more terrifying. For example, he challenges Harry to a duel in the graveyard sheerly for amusement, when the most pragmatic option would be to simply give the Avada Kedavra right there and then when Harry was tied up and couldn't escape. Thus, he doesn't realise that other people could learn about his Horcruxes, or find them, and he certainly doesn't realise that attempting to kill the boy destined to defeat you may result in that boy being actually able to defeat you. And thus, Harry Potter was given the weapons to destroy Voldemort. Voldemort also cannot understand love, though he can't help that - he's The Sociopath whose complete incapability for love and compassion were caused by the fact that his mother coerced his father with love potion, which is not true love.
- And then there's Harry himself, whose Fatal Flaw is his "saving people thing". He's willing to do anything in order to save the people he cares about.
- In another sense, Harry's fatal flaw is that he has a martyr complex that keeps him from asking for help or back-up at times when it would really be a smart idea. He does this to keep the people around him safe but it tends to really work against him. Voldemort uses this to manipulate him into events that lead to Sirius's death.
- Sirius's recklessness - basically, his Fatal Flaw is being a Leeroy Jenkins.
- Severus Snape hangs on to the past to the point that he makes seemingly irrational choices simply because of some event or another that happened a long time ago.
- When he was young, Dumbledore had a whopping case of Pride, planning to create a "new world" with Grindlewald in which wizards would rule over muggles. He snapped out of it with the death of his sister and spent more than a century deliberately avoiding powerful positions because he didn't trust himself (Headmaster of Hogwarts not being that powerful a job, apparently).
- Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights holds on to grudges and he spends his life getting even with people who were mean to him. He uses his own family as pawns and holds Kathy on such a high pedestal that he refuses to see that everything that happened to him was her fault. He is also blind him to the fact that his revenge can never last so when he dies and everything reverts back to normal, it's like nothing happened.
- I don't think it's that he refuses to see that everything is Cathy's fault, (he gives quite a brutal "The Reason You Suck" Speech to her even as she's dying), so much as his obsession over her is so strong he can't break it even when he knows it's making things worse for everybody (including himself).
- Ahab's self-destructive quest against Moby Dick.
- Ambrosio, titular character of The Monk, commits the sin of Pride long before he starts committing any of his truly deplorable acts. It is his pride that allows him to believe himself holy while he continues to sin.
- The Trojan Royal Family in The Iliad is so tight that they protect Paris even though they know he is wrong for taking Helen with him. This dooms them and their country.
- The animals of Animal Farm were far too trusting. Benjamin the donkey is too cynical and refuses to voice out his concerns about the Rebellion's aftermath.
- Great Expectations has Miss Havisham, who was jilted at the altar and has worn only her wedding dress ever since. This inability to move on with her life gets her killed when the dress catches fire.
- The Great Gatsby
- Gatsby's love for Daisy.
- Daisy's timidity.
Live Action TV
- Homicide: Life On the Street - Frank Pembleton's self-righteousness and moral absolutism drive everyone away from him, and eventually force him to turn in Tim Bayliss, the closest thing he has to friend.
- Breaking Bad
- Walter White's pride causes him to start cooking meth instead of accepting charity in the first place, and continues to get him into escalating trouble from there.
- Gus Fring's determination to get revenge against the men who killed his best friend is another major example. He even had a chance to avoid his death by letting his dragon kill the main object of his hate. But because he had to do it, personally, he walked right into a death trap.
- Lydia's obsession with routine.
- In CSI:
- Warrick's gambling problem.
- Ray's struggle to avoid giving into the violent tendencies he feared he'd got from his father.
- In Cheers, Sam Malone's former drinking problem.
- House's vicodin addiction, irritability, and inability to have a healthy relationship.
- In The John Larroquette Show, John Hemingway's (recovering) alcoholism.
- Babylon 5 had Dr. Franklin addicted to "stims" for most of one season, and battling his addiction for a second; and Security Chief Garibaldi's alcoholism (which he had successfully battled for most of the show's run) formed a major part of the fifth season's arc.
- Law and Order: Most characters from the franchise have one of these that occasionally clouds their ability to do their job ethically and fairly or discredits their testimony once in court. Briscoe had drinking problems, Logan was a hothead who'd occasionally rough up suspects, Curtis couldn't curb his infidelity, and so on.
- Most of the cast of What Its Like Being Alone, including Armie, who only has one limb left, Aldous the Emo Teen, Princess Lucy, who would be the Alpha Bitch if she weren't fiendishly ugly, Sammie the alcoholic Fish Person, Charlie, who is always on fire, Seymour, who doesn't have a mouth, and other unfortunates. They're also all orphans.
- Heroes: Pretty much every character on the show has a fatal flaw (drug addiction, insecurity, tendency to explode, carelessness etc.).
- Supernatural: Dean for Sam, Sam for Dean and both of them for John while he was still alive. Ah, the joys of being a clingy, screwed-up family filled with martyrs.
- Both brothers have no sense of self-worth thanks to Dad, who refuses to show any affection or let anyone help him, preferring to keep his sons completely in the dark. Not the greatest planner with vengeance on his mind, this works out badly.
- Dean's self-loathing. His struggle to hold his broken family together, along with his sluttiness, death-wish, general bone-headedness, and feeling that he's only valuable as a "blunt instrument", all seem to stem from efforts to do enough that he feels worthwhile.
- Sam's insecurity. His gullibility and pride seem to be born of his overriding desire to believe that bad people can be good--that he can be good.
- Many of the characters in ER have one at some point or another. Examples include Abby's alcoholism, and Carter's painkiller addiction.
- On American Gothic, Dr. Crower's fatal flaw would quite obviously have to be his struggle with alcoholism (and the tragic event which resulted from it). Gail's, apparently, is sex.
- In Scrubs, the character Dr. Kevin Casey is an example of The Ace with a hidden Fatal Flaw. JD, Cox and Turk all despise him for being such an insufferable genius at everything he does. Until they see him suffering because of his obsessive-compulsive disorder, unable to stop washing his hands.
- Nate's alcoholism in Leverage, which has gotten the team into trouble in at least one episode. Although, the way the new season looks, he might be on his way to beating that.
- In The Chosen Rebbe Saunder's near-fatal flaw was fear that his son would be unworthy. It is overcome because Danny loves his father enough to endure the harsh training that his father thinks he needs.
- In the 1998 Merlin series, the titular character's fatal flaw is that he sees only the good in people, rather than their flaws, and thus expects too much of men. He does get past this overtime, however. The villains also have their own fatal flaws, with Vortigern's being his Pride, and Uther's being Lust.
- The Wire, most of the characters are flawed in their own way, but the most obvious example, would be Jimmy Mcnulty. Ironically, his whoring and drinking don't affect his work but rather his personal life to the point where he becomes a burden to those around him.
- He can't be a good detective and a good person at the same time. Eventually, that leads to him doing wrong things in order to make the right case, which doesn't end well.
- Wesley from Angel has a tendency to commit rash action usually for a good reason. It comes back to haunt him in seasons 3-4.
- Jack's uncompromising sense of justice.
- Tony's love for Michelle.
- Michelle's selflessness.
- Maria La Del Barrio
- Luis Fernando's inability to trust others.
- Soraya's obsession with dominating other people.
- Calixta's Undying Loyalty to Soraya.
- Game of Thrones
- Ned Stark puts Honor Before Reason above everything else, even if it means betraying the wishes of his dying friend and causing civil war.
- Catelyn Stark is a Horrible Judge of Character.
- Jon Snow is too much of a loner and would rather risk his life to keep others safe.
- Robb Stark is too Hot-Blooded, whether it be going to war or marrying someone he shouldn't have.
- Jaime Lannister's Undying Loyalty to his father and sister, no matter how undeserving they are.
- Cersei Lannister's greed for power, and her belief that it's Never My Fault.
- Tywin Lannister, Walder Frey, Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton's cruelty.
- Robert Baratheon's appetite for food, drink and sex, as well as his need to prove he can still fight despite his condition.
- Stannis Baratheon's drastic yet short sighted actions. Having Joffrey, Robb and Balon killed as well having Shireen burned both work but it's disastrous for him in the long run.
- Roose Bolton's more restrained style of villainy gets him marked as soft by Ramsay.
- Tyrion Lannister and House Tyrell both rely too much on slow calculated action rather than quick decisive ones.
- Doran Martell is ignorant of his own Head-in-The-Sand Management.
- Littlefinger is too much of a Smug Smiler and lords his authority over the other nobles of the Vale. They abandon him when his sins are exposed.
- Blackfish's Survivor Guilt over the Red Wedding leads him to go on a futile Last Stand even though Riverrun was surrendered.
- Sandor Clegane fears nothing, except fire.
- The maesters' lack of curiosity.
- Jon Arryn's fondness for young men, owing to his own inability to have children. He rebelled for the sake of Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon but he was also blind to Littlefinger's true character.
- Stranger Things
- Mike's selflessness causes him to do anything for his friends, whether it be standing up to a bully without a chance of winning, turning against Lucas to defend El's honor, jumping off a cliff to save Dustin, and even fighting shady government types like Dr. Brenner.
- Courage is Will's Achilles heel. Bad things happen to him when he doesn't run.
- El's need to escape her past.
- The End of the F***ing World
- James supposed Lack of Empathy makes it hard for him to connect with Alyssa.
- Alyssa inherited her father Leslie's tendency of always running away.
- In the system called House of the Blooded, the characters are all nobility, seemingly built for high drama and Mary/Marty Sue-ism. Each character has six characteristics, each based off of one of the major families, and there is no rolling involved. You have four points for one characteristic, three for two others, two for two more... and the sixth characteristic gets a zero, meaning you can never use it. A zero in Strength means you are too physically weak to force open a sticky door, for example, thus ensuring that all characters have an inbuilt Fatal Flaw that cannot be legally circumvented.
- In Traveller the Fatal Flaw of the Vilani was in trying to call a halt to progress for the sake of stability. Which worked so long as they did not find an outside competitor(I.E. Earth) The Fatal Flaw of the Terrans was more complex. It was in trying to govern the thousands of conquered Vilani worlds without the experience or inclination. The Vilani system was to repressive for the Terrans to use it and the Terran system was only suited for governing a few dozen worlds.
- This trope is present (and of course taken Up to Eleven) in Exalted:
- The Solars, Lunars, Dragon-Blooded and Sidereals all get various versions of the Great Curse, a psychological affliction thrown at them by the Primordials for besting them in war. The Solars and Lunars enter a brief psychotic period called a Limit Break (ranging from berserker rage to uncontrolled crying at the suffering of the world to becoming cold and uncaring about the suffering of others), the Dragon-Blooded get a lighter version of the same, and the Sidereals can't seem to make any of their big plans work right.
- The Abyssals, on the other hand, get Resonance. If, for some reason, they decide they don't want to go along with their masters' goals of feeding all Creation into the mouth of Oblivion and resume something approaching a mortal life, their Resonance will build until it erupts and risks destroying any emotional connections they've managed to make with the world of the living.
- The Infernals get a similar variant, known as Torment. If they defy the will of their Yozi patrons for too long, then said patron will assume control and cause shit to go haywire. This can range from spreading a Hate Plague (Malfeas) to causing the immediate vicinity to become a lifeless and spiritual wasteland (Cecylene).
- Even without supernatural curses or compulsions, each of the four virtues has drawbacks if you have three or more dots (and exalts have to have at least one virtue of 3+): compassionate characters have trouble making harsh decisions; temperate characters have trouble lying, cheating or going back on their word, no matter how dishonest the antagonist; valorous characters don't know how to back down from confrontation; and as for conviction, well... Oh and it's perfectly possible for a character to have 3+ in two or more virtues. If they conflict, tough luck!
- White Wolf are generally pretty fond of this trope. Changeling: The Dreaming and Vampire: The Masquerade are particularly good examples as every sub-flavour of supernatural ("Kith" in Changeling, "Clan" in Vampire) has its own supernatural disadvantage.
- The New World of Darkness also has the option during character creation of giving a character a flaw which could potentially hinder them and - if done right - give extra experience points. Some of the flaws include addictions, Coward, Forgetful, and Behavior Blind.
- Warhammer 40000.
- The Emperor's refusal to believe Magnus' warning of Horus' betrayal just because he was forced to break his vow of not using warpcraft.
- The traitor Primarchs belief that they can surpass The Emperor.
- The Space Marines' Undying Loyalty (or blind obedience) to their Primarchs.
- The Chaos Gods' selfishness.
- The Eldar's undying pride despite being on the brink of extinction.
- The C'tan's gluttony for souls.
- Older Than Feudalism: Pretty much all ancient Greek tragedies had a main character or characters with a hamartia, which is often translated to English as "fatal flaw." It was part of the basic structure for an Ancient Greek tragedy, according to Aristotle. Oedipus was headstrong and didn't know when to stop, Creon in Antigone was proud and was intent on making an example out of Antigone, Antigone was stubbornly committed to her traitorous brother...
- Shakespeare loves to give these to characters in his tragedies:
- Brutus is extremely honorable and expects others to be, or possibly self-centered and susceptible to flattery.
- Richard, Duke of Gloucester, a.k.a Richard III, has a callous disregard for human life and an irrational lust for the crown.
- Macbeth is blinded by power and paranoia and plagued by guilt. He's also very wrathful.
- Lady Macbeth is overly ambitious.
- Hamlet waited too long, and is very likely crazy. And yet he is completely Genre Savvy about this:
"So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole of nature in them...
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,
Their virtues else ? be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo ?
Shall in the general censure take corruption
From that particular fault."
- Romeo and Juliet are so obsessed with each other they forget about anything else. Romeo is a bit of a hothead, too.
- Friar Lawrence thought his Crazy Enough to Work plan would actually work.
- Othello is too rash, not to mention gullible (to be more precise, he believes the people he shouldn't and doesn't believe the ones he should) and prone to jealousy.
- Shown explicitly in Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman. The main character, Willy Loman, is so entranced with his own dreams and desires, that he denies and ignores anything contrary to his beliefs. Willy's conviction that just being well liked is enough to lead to success eventually leads to his downfall, as he can't understand why his sons, who were popular in high school, can't seem to get successful jobs. After Willy commits suicide, the play ends as a Shaggy Dog Story, with nobody attending Willy's funeral. One of Willy's sons even Lampshades his father's Fatal Flaw.
- In Miller's A View from the Bridge, Eddie Carbone's Fatal Flaw is his unrealized love for his niece, Catherine.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Sweeney Todd's obsession with revenge against Judge Turpin (combined with waiting a little too long the first time he had him in his hands) ends up costing him everything in the end (as well as his willingness to trust someone he really shouldn't have concerning his wife's fate).
- In Electra, the title character's unrelenting lust for revenge combined with her nigh incestuous obsession with her brother, Orestes, and her father, Agamemnon, makes for her fatal flaw.
- Though not fatal, Higgins' superior attitude causes Elisa to leave him at the end of My Fair Lady.
- In Fate/stay night, Gilgamesh has a titanic ego and tendency to underestimate his opponents.
- Shirou's need to save everyone constantly causes him problems and is what eventually led to him becoming Archer.
- Dungeon Keeper 2: Turned on its head in execution, but still used perfectly straight. One of the earlier campaign missions pits you against Lord Avaricious in his impenetrable fort. The elegant way to win (as opposed to a head-on slaughter) is to have your imps mine away almost all of the gold beneath his realm, enraging the man enough to lead the charge personally. It doesn't end well.
- In Touhou, the Lunarians as a whole has a titanic ego and tendency to underestimate those they believe to be impure. To their credits, they are more powerful than most people in Gensokyo. Their arrogance eventually render them vulnerable to Yukari's Plan... to steal Lunarian sake, Now that's just petty.
- Note that in Touhou, a lot of people have the Fatal Flaw of overconfidence, but the most vulgar display of it is by Tenshi, who destroys the Hakurei shrine just to experience the thrill of being a Big Bad. She gets what is coming to her.
- Eien no Aselia: Yuuto's fatal flaw in would be his stubbornness and anger. His life to this point has been more difficult than it needed to be due to the former, and because of the latter he nearly kills Kaori.
- In The Sims Medieval, every Sim in your kingdom has some sort of fatal flaw that directly affects their mood or performance (ex.: Gluttons have to eat more frequently, and require more than one meal to be fully satisfied; Licentious Sims get in a bad mood if they don't kiss or Woohoo with other Sims after a set amount of time). Succeeding in certain quests allows them to drop their fatal flaw and replace it with a Legendary Trait, which can't be selected during character creation.
- Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater is loyal to the United States and conducts the ultimate deep cover assignment to the point that it destroys her reputation and costs her her life.
- Happy Tree Friends: Almost all the characters have fatal flaws. Lumpy is inept at everything he does, Nutty is constantly hyperactive and addicted to sugar. Flaky has fears and phobias about just about anything and everything. These flaws do indeed prove to be fatal by the end of the episode. Sgt. Flippy's untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, always proves to be fatal for everyone else around him by the end of the episode.
- Vaarsuvius of Order of the Stick fame has the fatal flaw of Pride in his/her magic power and intellect, which both leaves him/her wide open for the trauma factor of being completely powerless to stop horrible things from happening to his/her friends and loved ones and drives him/her to accept a Deal with the Devil rather than experience that feeling of helplessness again.
- He/She is working on that, though, and is limiting him/herself to low-level enhancements unless he/she needs them, as opposed to just going all out.
- There's also Redcloak, whose inability to back down from the path and plan he's chosen, despite all the senseless sacrifices, really bites him in Start of Darkness.
- In Golden, a take-off of the standard fairy tale, the hero (and his less useful older siblings) are all sent off on the Quest because of their father's fatal flaw: GREED. The king wants gold very, very much. In fact, that whole family loves gold just a little too much to be healthy.
- The Nostalgia Critic is trying to work on his temper and cynicism, but his insecurities about seemingly never being good enough are still getting in the way.
- Danny Phantom: Danny has two: His darkness which manifests into him constantly abusing his powers which if he isn't careful, would result in a very, very, very Bad Future. The other is his emotions which he has a trouble time containing--the latter is often used to his advantage by some of his baddies. Unlike the first example, this is one he has yet to resolve.
- Robin of Teen Titans tends to become so devoted to one goal, he neglects other aspects of his life until the issue is resolved. This characteristic has damaged, or even risked losing, many of his friendships and sometimes even proved his undoing.
- While it is undeniably played for laughs most of the time, Omi, from Xiaolin Showdown has a massive superiority complex, constantly talks down to his friends as if they're beneath him, and it has gotten him in trouble more than a few times.
- Also demonstrated with Raimundo. Due to being singled out of a promotion and treated as inferior by Omi, again, Raimundo betrayed the team.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Iroh's bizarre Fatal Flaw is his love of tea. While normally the wisest and more sensible figure in the entire series, he makes some monumental mistakes when around the stuff. Once, when having to hide his identity as a Fire Bender, he used his bending to heat up some cold tea and nearly blew his cover. Earlier than that, when finding a plant whose leaves were either the world's most refreshing tea or pure poison, he ground it up and drank it due to temptation.
- Discord from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic loves exploiting these to break ponies For the Evulz, and is very good at it, but has one himself, namely his own pride and inability to truly understand how strong the bond of friendship really is. Both of these blind him to the fact the mane cast has reforged their friendship and the Elements of Harmony, the one thing on earth that can possibly defeat him, work again until he gets a friendship powered Wave Motion Gun to the face.
- I Am Weasel
- Weasel's Chronic Hero Syndrome.
- Baboon's desire to surpass Weasel's accomplishments often trumps what little common sense he has.
- Parodied in Family Guy when Meg comes back super tough after doing a prison stretch. When she asks who's the biggest one in the family, Peter says it's him so she beats him to establish dominance. When she asks who's the funniest, Peter again says it's him so he gets beat again. Chris tells him that humility might save his life.
- The Fairly Odd Parents:
- Timmy Turner, his most one being careless and irresponsible with his wishing tends to get him into trouble.
- This is also shared with Chloe Carmichael.
- Cosmo. His stupidity in general could really get everyone in trouble.
- Timmy's parents barely care for their son. Which also really gets them into trouble whenever it involves Timmy.
- Crocker. His obsession with... FAIRY GODPARENTS!
- Vicky. Each time she makes Timmy's life a living hell has chances biting her back in the rear.
- Timmy Turner, his most one being careless and irresponsible with his wishing tends to get him into trouble.
- Drew Pickles from Rugrats gives in too much to guilt to the point that he believes that disciplining Angelica makes him a bad father which is why she grows up a Spoiled Brat.
- Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory has a Complexity Addiction. Many times does he meet a sticky end because he relies on super high tech machines to solve mundane problems.