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There are a lot of Characterization Tropes that can be used to quickly and non-verbally introduce a character, and one of the sadder ones is the Friendless Background. The character will, through fate or choice, be presented as not having any friends, or at least not within easy visiting or communication range. He or she will eat lunch alone, look forlornly (or enviously) at others with friends and Love Interests, and usually be found immersed in reading, video games, or some other highly solitary activity.

This is commonly because of a few of the following, sometimes in combination to really grind the alienation in:

  • Newcomer: Be they a New Transfer Student in a new school, an employee at a new work place, or having escaped their Doomed Hometown as a refugee.
  • The Loner: Might be because of preference or ostracism. Freakishness optional. Jerkass-ness optional.
  • Home Schooled: Similar to Newcomer, the character has grown up or lived away from others. May or may not come with interesting psychological quirks.
  • Emo: Some sadness like parental abuse (often seen in Dark Magical Girls) or other kind of angst may keep the character from letting anyone close to them, can result in The Woobie.
  • Shyness: Some characters (like in real life) are insecure of themselves for whatever reason and are not even able to talk to other people (sometimes temporary).
  • Lack of self confidence: Similar to the one above, the character may believe he is not worthy of other people's friendship while craving acceptance.
  • Incompetence: A character may simply lack the social intuition required to connect with others, regardless of how willing or confident they are.
  • Unattractiveness: The character is physically repulsive and avoided or mistreated because of that.

The last 5 types can result in envy for more extroverted characters (like Misao from Magical Project S).

What's curious about this Dark and Troubled Past (or present) is that it's incredibly easy to fix. "When you have nothing to lose, you stand to gain everything", so to speak. In short order the character will Crash Into Hello, get in a fight, drop their groceries or make a new friend through less quirky means. Before long they'll make loads more friends[1] or join a group of them. Despite their lack of social skills or experience they'll magnetically gather new friends thanks to their at times strange but honest charm and learn to use The Power of Friendship to its fullest.

Of course you can expect the "genuine" loners who become one of the True Companions to moan about being stuck With Friends Like These... -- all while secretly thanking them all.

It should be mentioned that this can become implied against the author's wishes if the character never mentions or demonstrates having had friends before meeting their new ones, and/or never hangs out with anyone outside their Limited Social Circle. Fridge Loners, so to speak. If they had any friends, they're kind of like a set of living Forgotten Fallen Friends. Of course, this can be fixed by introducing a Beleaguered Childhood Friend, showing a photo album, or introducing Those Two Guys as friends.

Related to I Just Want to Have Friends and compare with Social Circle Filler when an author wants to prevent this initially.

Examples of Friendless Background include:


Anime and Manga

  • Twenty-fifth Baam had absolutely no human contact before he met Rachel, even the name he was given by somebody refers to his birthdate. His loneliness is what made him so caring about human beings and eager for friendship, while it also makes him quite the stalker.
  • Magical Project S Besides Sasami, Misao Amano has no friends and is most of the time alone. her parents are always working, which is the main reason that she is very shy. At the end she gets more confident.
  • Dragon Ball featured Goku, who was raised alone by his adoptive grandfather and never knew anyone until the start of the series. Several characters from that series also qualify, but most of them because they start as dickish villains who eventually get reformed.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yugi Motou was one of these before completing the puzzle.
  • Gaara from Naruto never had a single person in his village who loved him - not even his own parents - because everyone (including his own siblings) was afraid of the tailed beast sealed inside him. As a result, he's a complete sociopath by age 12, but an encounter with Naruto helped him see the value of other people.
    • Naruto himself started as this, a perpetual social outcast who wanted to make friends but always failed due to parents telling their children to steer clear of him. Only after he graduated did he finally begin to truly befriend his classmates and others.
      • However, flashbacks from his, Choji's and Shikamaru's point of view showed that they hung out together at times with Kiba as the "Dead Lasts". Shikamaru was Choji's first and only friend before that point, and his parentage didn't enforce Naruto's ostracism like other families did. So, how friendless Naruto (or Choji) was depends on who's telling the story and how much the author wants you to think their life sucked compared to who they're fighting.
  • Lucy of Elfen Lied was like this during her childhood spent in an Orphanage of Fear where she was frequently bullied by the other children for her horns and emotionlessness. The one person who it seemed like she was gonna become friends with at the orphanage later betrayed her and sold her out to the boys that had been bullying her.
    • She then makes herself an Iron Woobie by making two more attempts to reach out to someone else and become their friend. The first ends in another betrayal, while the second ends in her new friend being killed and her being captured. After that it's sort of understandable why she stopped trying.
  • Queen Nehelenia in Sailor Moon reveals that she has no friends in a fight with Sailor Jupiter, who is protecting Usagi. Sailor Jupiter tearfully asks if she has anyone like Usagi to be there for her, and the queen gets angry and blasts her.
    • On another note, it's shown at least twice that all of the Inner Senshi had little to no friends before Usagi befriended them. Hotaru is similarly isolated until ChibiUsa follows in her mother's footsteps and makes pals with the other girl.
      • It's a little ambiguous, since that comes from one of the movies, which may be separate from the anime continuity. Anime episode 54 suggests that Rei is pretty popular at her school (she attends a different school from the others).
  • In Natsume Yuujinchou, Natsume spent most of his childhood friendless because everyone (including his many foster parents) didn't believe that he could see spirits and assumed him to be a creepy pathological liar.
  • Medaka from Medaka Box since she was so awesome that other people were intimidated by her. For a long time Zenkichi was her only real friend. Which is why she drags him along with her, she is desperate not to be alone again. Abnormals in general seem to have this sort of background; their Abnormalities make it nearly impossible for them to form connections with other people. "Minuses" also have these backgrounds, except they don't want friends either, since each and every one of them is a Complete Monster. The Abnormal Hinokage has it the worst though: people can't even remember him...because he is so awesome they forget him out of sheer fear.
  • Durarara's Shizuo Heiwajima spent the majority of his childhood with a grand total of one friend, as most people either were either terrified or resentful of him.
  • Miharu from Nabari no Ou deliberately acts cold and indifferent to discourage people from making friends with him. Weirdly, his classmates all seem to adore him anyways.
  • Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke starts the series as never having had a friend in her whole life, due to being very shy and looking (and unintentionally acting) like Sadako from The Ring.
  • How about Mr. Friendless England of Axis Powers Hetalia, bullied and beaten up as a child, (which probably have something or another to do with the current Mean Brit and Tsundere stance he projects) and was even subjected to humiliation and exclusion by his own brothers according to Word of God.
  • Homura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica never had any friends because she was very sick and spent most of her time in the hospital. It's probably why she goes to such extreme lengths to protect that friend.
  • Barnaby Brooks Jr. from Tiger and Bunny has always been too preoccupied with revenge to develop any significant relationships, and was a complete loner until he was paired up with Kotetsu. Kotetsu is literally the first friend he's ever had.
  • Kodomo no Jikan: As seen in a flashback, Rin started out completely friendless, as well as mute (due to the trauma of her mother's death combined with her blaming herself for it). By the time the manga/anime starts, she, Kuro and Mimi are True Companions.
  • Saori from Wandering Son has been shown several times to have no friends before she met Shuichi. She has No Social Skills and found boys to be too rambunctious but girls to be too snobby.
  • Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion, owing to at least five of the reasons listed above, has no friends at the beginning of the story, although he forms some tentative friendships once he moves to Tokyo-3. Rei also has no non-professional relationships with anyone except her surrogate father figure Gendo.
  • Kio from Loveless claims to be Soubi's first and ,until the mange begins, only friend. And given Soubi's background -Parental Abandonment, physically psychologically and sexually abused as a child, essentially a slave to his sacrifice- this is hardly unlikely.
  • In Saint Beast, thanks to Fantastic Racism Kira and Maya grow up in the shrine away from other angels. After they grow up Maya instantly makes friends with Gai who has a similar temperament and no prejudices whereas Kira attempts to stay a loner.
  • From Tsuritama, up until Haru basically stalked/mind-controlled him into friendship Yuki had always been alone thanks to a combination of crippling social anxiety issues, the frighteningly ugly face he pulls whenever scared, and need to constantly switch schools because of his grandmother's job.


Comic Books

  • Huntress; particularly emphasized in certain issues of Birds of Prey; a somewhat unusual example, in that she did have family, some of whom genuinely cared for her (although they were all evil), but until she teamed up with the Black Canary, she never had even one friend.
  • An example of the second sort: if Tintin had any friends at all besides Snowy prior to the start of his adventures they are never mentioned.


Film

 Turkey Creek Jack Johnson Why are you doin' this, Doc?

Doc Holliday Because Wyatt Earp is my friend.

Turkey Creek Jack Johnson Friend? Hell, I got lots of friends.

Doc Holliday I don't.

  • Near the end of Tommy Boy, Richard confesses he thinks of Tommy as friend, even after all their misadventures.

 Richard: It may not mean much to you, since you have so many...but I don't.


Literature

  • Bella Swann of Twilight. Her best friend back in Arizona was her mother (or so she says.)
  • The Power Trio in Harry Potter. In the first book there's a mention of Harry being bullied at Muggle school because of the tatty hand-me-downs and broken glasses he wears (and because no-one wanted Dudley to think they liked him), and he is friendless until Hagrid shows up in his life. Ron is mocked for being poor by the Slytherins, and of course is perpetually in Harry's shadow, so he's an outcast to an extent. And Hermione... well, she was a stuck-up prissy know-it-all in the first book. To misquote Ron, "No wonder she hasn't got any friends!" But probably Neville has it worst in their year, until book 4 or 5.
    • Word of God indicates many wizarding children, including the Weasleys, are homeschooled before starting Hogwarts, so it seems they conveniently don't have much chance to make friends before they're eleven. You'd think the Weasley kids would have made friends with Luna considering how closely she lives to them, but book 5 seems to be the first time she and Ron meet. No wonder Ginny got so entranced in that diary -- she literally had no one to talk to other than her older brothers and parents.
    • Luna also seems to suffer heavily from this trope. Being somewhat strange, she is heavily teased or just ignored. She loved being part of the DA because "it was just like having friends". When the trio happens upon her room they see that she hand-painted a magical mural of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Neville, all interlocked by a moving golden chain of "friends" repeated over and over.
  • 'Cita in the second Petaybee book. She grew up as a member of a cult that gave children names like "Nightsoil" and "Goat-dung", and even by that standard, she is was an outsider.
  • The Secret Garden's protagonist Mary Lennox has gone through life with no friends because she is shown to be spoiled and sour and has No Social Skills. A good portion of her character growth involves her gaining friends. At one point she's talking about the number of people she likes, and says, "I never thought I should like five people." One of those five is a robin.
  • Anne Shirley has one of these, having spent her childhood in and out of orphanages and foster homes. She is so lonely that she invents imaginary friends, to Marilla's horror.
  • Chichikov in Dead Souls. He's more interested in making money than making friends.
  • As children, both Vlad Dracula and Elizabeth Bathory in Count and Countess.


Live Action TV

  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we have Faith. Her parents were worthless and the only person who never treated her badly died before she showed up in Season 3. This leads to her becoming evil after her tough girl act makes her push Buffy away when she they accidentally kill a guy.
  • ICarly: During the flashback that showed how Carly came to know Sam, Carly was eating alone. Probably justifiable since Carly had moved to Seattle from her existing home in California. Not friendless before that though, as she had Missy, her best friend back in California.
    • Freddie apparently came to know Carly and Sam either during the last year of elementary school, or their first year of middle school. Whatever friends Freddie had must have moved to different schools, as it was shown in the earlier episodes his only real friend was Carly. Eventually, he started joining various school clubs and became friends with a handful of other students.
    • Sam was a bully, even in her younger years, and her only 'friend' was likely to be her twin sister Melanie, who left on a boarding school scholarship, as well as being a grade ahead due to Sam falling behind. Carly pushed back when Sam stole her sandwich, and their friendship was born.
  • Adult example: Spock in Star Trek: The Original Series. It's mentioned in the series (and shown in both the animated series and the 2009 movie) that he was bullied as a child, and it's implied that Kirk is his first real friend. In the episode "The Naked Time" he mentions being ashamed of his friendship with Kirk, so it's possible Vulcans don't generally have friends in the way humans do.
    • Though they do at least have some variety of friendship; in Amok Time, Spock formally identifies Kirk and McCoy as his friends to T'Pau, and mentions a legal right to have them present for his wedding in that capacity. General consensus is that he didn't have any friends because of his mixed racial heritage.
  • This seems to initially be the case for Brian Krakow in My So-Called Life. The closest things he has to friends are Angela and Sharon, who are both often rude to him and who he doesn't seem to be very close to anymore. This changes later as he seems to develop a close friendship with Rickie, and the last few episodes seem to forshadow a possible new friendship with Jordan. An apparent friend named Brad is mentioned once, but only in a lie Brian is telling his parents, so it's not clear if Brad even actually exists.
  • Veronica Mars half-willingly ejected herself from her own social circle and plummeted down to the bottom-most rung (outside of freshmen) at Neptune High after her father, at the time the sheriff, accused the father of her murdered friend Lilly of killing her. She remained there until Wallace Fennel arrived, and she helped him down from the flag pole...
  • Lex Luthor from Smallville. The most poignant scene is actually very short, but drives home the point that Lex has been a loner all his life, probably because he was considered a freak by the other kids (not to mention his twisted upbringing): Adult Lex flashes back to his childhood, to a birthday party where he sits alone at a table surrounded by cakes and paper streamers, crying silently.
  • Beth from Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. She's been kicked off multiple anti-terrorism taskforces in the past for being too blunt, and when she joins the team, she has nobody to put down as an emergency contact until Cooper volunteers himself.
  • Sherlock in the recent updated series Sherlock. Until John comes along, he doesn't have any friends, nor does he seem to want them.

  Sherlock: I don't have friends. I've just got one.


Theater

 Dr. Dillamond: Miss Elphaba, don't worry about me, go along and enjoy your friends.

Elphaba: (breezily) Oh, that's alright, I have no friends.


Video Games

  • The manga for Persona 4 fleshes out the protagonist's character quite a bit, and depicts him as friendly and polite, but distant. Because his parent's work causes them to move around a lot, he tries to avoid getting attached to other people, so he won't disappoint them when he leaves, essentially like a perpetual "Newcomer" version of this trope. Naturally, a large part of the game involves him getting over that and forming social links with various people around Inaba.
  • Geo from Mega Man Star Force is also one (being a combo of types 3,4 and 6).
  • According to the Official Fanbook, Raidou Kuzunoha grew up friendless, since he never had spare time or energy from his training everyday. He consequently became a Heroic Mime because he cared little for his own emotions and never thought his words would be worth hearing.
  • In Dragon Age Origins, Morrigan may be the most horrific example of the home-schooled variant (to the point of being Nightmare Fuel). She explicitly says, if you get close to her (either platonically or romantically), that she is unused to such things as friendship, but is grateful for yours.
    • Alistair even lampshades this:
      • Alistair: Oh, let me guess, this is the part where we find out you've never had a friend in your entire life--
      • Alistair is from something of a Friendless Background himself. Until he joined the Grey Wardens, he was ostracized his whole life; everyone he knew near his age either disdained him for being a bastard or thought he was stuck up because he was treated with favor and protected by the local nobleman. And then AFTER he joined the Grey Wardens, they all got killed at Ostagar. Poor guy.
  • Mass Effect 2 has probably every variety of the trope you can find:
    • Jack grew up in an experimental facility, and after escaping actively avoided making friends.
    • Grunt was grown in a tank, only being 'born' when you recruit him.
    • Garrus lost all his friends to a mercenary attack.
    • Thane and Samara never bothered making friends, both being Married to the Job.
    • Miranda ran away from home, cutting ties with everyone she knew. And the one person she trusted betrays her on her loyalty mission and eneds up getting killed.
    • The majority of the options in Shepard's Multiple Choice Past leave him/her with few friends and family.[2]
  • When Laharl fom Disgaea was asleep for two years people just assumed that he was dead or simply forgot about him. No one cares beyond that, except Etna who wanted to use him for her own gain, and one of his vassals who expressed disappointment that she didn't get to use the grave she dug for him.
    • Granted, everyone are demons and thus clearly aligned Evil, it's only in their nature to abuse, backstab and use each other. Laharl doesn't even care for his own father aside from disappointment that he found out too late that his father died and thus the competition for his father's Overlord position had been going on for quite some time before he woke up.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, there are a few cases of this.
    • Hisao loses touch with all his old friends, including the girl with whom he shared a mutual crush, during his stay in the hospital, and as such, has no friends upon entering Yamaku.
    • Hanako had a few friends before the house fire that scarred her and claimed the life of her parents, but they abandoned her because of how she looked
    • Shizune has difficulty keeping friends from communication problems related to her deafness and her tendency to come off as overbearing and abrasive.
    • Surprisingly, Misha, who gets along well with most of the other students, says she has no friends from her previous schools whom she misses or hopes to reconnect with, and vaguely hints at being bullied for being a lesbian.


Webcomics

  • MAG ISA - Eman Cruz has no friends. And if he gets one, they either leave him or die.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob: Galatea, who was raised as a lab specimen, was like this when she first escaped.
  • Oddly induced in The Good Witch; in her original timeline as a transgirl, Angel had one friend, Tommy. In her new timeline as a genetic girl, Angel has no friends, with Tommy barely even knowing her (apparently a warning sign about her personality)--so she uses her magic to turn him into her new best friend Molly.
  • Tnemrot has almost all its main characters like this. Dae was a homeless scavenger all on his own, Mia was sheltered in her father's home and never received much attention and Angel was a slave unable to move a muscle without her owner's say so.
  • Abel is shown to have grown up this way in his origin comic, having been shunned by the other people in the town he was born in because of his wings, neither he nor his mother knowing that his father was actually an Incubus, growing up thinking he was a normal Being who just happened to have been born with wings, possibly due to magic his father had encountered as an adventurer. It seems like the only people who cared about him in his hometown were his parents and babysitter, his babysitter being a young woman who was similarly shunned for having a third eye-on her hand. The local school won't even allow him to enroll because of him being different. This prompts his parents to move to a demon-run city, where he seems to make several close friends and feel accepted, until his headwings come in, causing his father to reveal his real self and take him to SAIA, where the only friend he seems to have was his guide Mink due to the crushing depression he felt at having to abandon his home and mother, along with having seen one of his best childhood friends-and some not so close ones- murdered right in front of him and learning that everything he thought he was is a lie causing him to be distant with everyone. The fact that he is the last of his clan doesn't help either.


Web Original

  • Part of The Nostalgia Critic's backstory. Although, not to defend the evil of kids and teenagers, it's been established that he was a seriously Troubled Child. Sounding like he needed a hug immediately yes, but not the best to hang around with.
  • Abel lived alone in a house for his entire childhood with effectively no contact with the outside world until his later teens. The upside? It gave him enough free time to absorb an unearthly amount of information through books and, later on, the internet. The downside? His social skills were limited to what little contact he had with a temporary tutor he spoke with at a very young age. As for the reason of his isolation, both of his parents were underground crime bosses that didn't want their son growing up to be like them. They succeeded, but died before getting a chance to see Abel grown up and self-sufficiently independent.
  • Kurai from Land Games.


Western Animation

  • Kim Possible is arguably this. Despite being a hot, popular cheerleader and involved in just about about every activity in the school, she has no real friends outside of Ron and Monique, and she meets Monique during the series. Ron on the other hand, despite being a Loser Protagonist, seems to be able to run in multiple circles with friends all over the school, and he has no less than three Action Girls after him, though he spends most of his time with Kim.
  • Both title characters in the animation for grown-ups, Mary and Max.
  • Sari Sumdac from Transformers Animated is the home-schooled type (her Dad was probably afraid she'd accidentally find out she wasn't quite human). The only kids who come to her birthday parties are the ones whose parents work for her Dad, and they aren't very happy about it. Of course, she gets to be the Tagalong Kid and later Sixth Ranger to the Autobots, so it works out.
  • Lemongrab from Adventure Time is HEAVILY implied to be this. Word of God states that he doesn't have any friends, and that he lives in an isolated castle outside of the kingdom walls. His reason for being friendless? He's a mentally/emotionally unadjusted jerk with an almost total inability to read social cues. It's only partially his own fault; on one hand, he has serious mental problems. On the other hand, he's a sourpuss, and mean as hell to everyone he talks to.
    • The Ice King. Although he has Finn and Jake as friendly rivals, and his penguins, he's actually very lonely, because his insanity has resulted in his social skills being more or less flushed down the toilet.
  • Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender has the emo/parental abuse/woobie type background. For the first two seasons, the only person he could trust was Iroh, and he wasn't even very nice to him most of the time. Flashbacks suggest he didn't have many friends as a kid, and for the first part of the third season, the only person keeping him in the Fire Nation was his Victorious Childhood Friend Mai. Fortunately for both of them (and Ty Lee), turning good tends to earn you True Companions.
    • Also Toph Beifong, for the first twelve years of her life. She was confined to her Big Fancy House, with her existence kept a complete secret by her parents, due to her blindness. However, this is remedied quickly, when she joins the protagonists at the end of the episode she is introduced in.

 Toph: (to her parents) You were doing it to protect me, but I'm twelve years old and I've never had a real friend.

  • The titular character of The Legend of Korra grew up in an isolated compound (located in the South Pole) populated only by guards and teachers. Her only friend before arriving at Republic City was her polar bear dog.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: The loner background seems to be the case for Twilight Sparkle, who starts off as being too wrapped up in her studies to make friends. In fact, the entire series is kicked off when her mentor, Princess Celestia, tells her to "stop reading those dusty old books" and go make some friends already. (Granted, this was part of a Batman Gambit to stop Nightmare Moon, but still...)
  • Gus Griswald from Recess. Due to constantly moving from town to town (not to mention also being very shy), he was never able to make any friends at any of his schools (and it's also been suggested that he was bullied a lot in the past as he is now)...until he moved to town in his introductory episode (1B, "The New Kid"), and got the best friends he could ask for.
  • The title character of Daria, unless you count Beavis and Butthead or Amelia. Probably Jane as well.
  • Both Pidge and Keith from Voltron: Legendary Defender:
    • Pidge was picked on by her classmates for her high intellect and "nerdy" passions, as shown in a flashback and mentioned in the "Pidge's Story" book. The kids called her names and stole her dessert, so it's no surprised she was so attached to her big brother and went full I Will Find You mode when he disappeared.
    • Keith was a surly little "emo kid" who was more or less ignored by his classmates and treated like a problem child by most of the adults in his life due to his temper and prickly nature. Shiro was the first friend he ever had since his father died, so it's no surprise he was quite obsessed with finding him and keeping him safe early in the series.

Real life

  • The Naked Photo Test is an example. It works like this: say a photo turns up of you nakedly doing something that would shame you and your family for generations. Bestiality, perhaps. Ask yourself how many people in your life you would trust with that photo. If you're like some studies have shown you might have at most 2.
  • This article from Cracked.com exposes how this is very common in real life, where one out of four people do not have anyone to trust and some people have a very limited trust circle.

Notes

  1. (Which for some reason usually become a Limited Social Circle, but hey, it's easier to keep track of than the Cast of Snowflakes!)
  2. Earthborn grew up an orphan running with gangs and left them all behind by joining the Alliance, Colonist had his parents and almost all of his/her friends killed or kidnapped by batarian slaves, Spacer was a Military Brat and grew up all over the galaxy (But at least his/her mother is still alive), Sole Survivor say his/her whole squad die on Akuze, Ruthless sent most of his/her squad on Torfan to their deaths. The only background where this isn't implied is the War Hero one, where Shepard rallied the colonists on Elysium against raiders and almost single-handedly saved the colony.
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