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"You want to know how to write a good story? You take a group of interesting, likable, wonderful characters. And you turn their lives into Hell on Earth."

Good guys are happy, right? Good Feels Good, and, as such, a hero should always feel spectacular, right?

Not always.

Sometimes, being The Chosen One is hard, especially when it puts your life in danger, consumes all your free time, and makes you choose between being alone or putting your loved ones in danger.

Heroic powers can have a terrifying will of their own and be hard to control and demand that a price be paid. If the Hurting Hero Jumped At the Call, they'll probably wish they had Been Careful What They Wished For and think I Just Want to Be Normal.

Heroes are also not immune to personal tragedy and the memory of certain events and people can haunt them like everyone else. A Dark and Troubled Past can make them not even find peace in their sleep. The audience will love them for it, in that twisted and tender way they love The Woobie.

Different heroes handle this different ways. Some get dark and broody, some drink, some cease to care how they look. Some play the idiot, and some force a smile and crack bad jokes because if the whole world thinks you're happy, that many people can't be wrong. Can they?

Sometimes, the pressure gets too great, leading to anything from a Heroic BSOD, to a full-on Fallen Hero Face Heel Turn. Some heroes go Don't You Dare Pity Me!, others are glad for a little comfort.

Still, heroes are heroes. They can and will rise above their weakness and pain and declare for everyone and the villain to come and see what they can do. And they'll do it, thus earning their happy ending.

Compare Being Good Sucks.

Examples of Hurting Hero include:


Anime and Manga

  • Naruto. Which he hides behind a smile and an upbeat cheerful attitude. In one chapter, Sai comments on this: "Even I can tell that Naruto's suffering, because of his promise to bring Sasuke back and his feelings for you. Both you and Sasuke cause him pain."
    • He even admitted to Hinata that the smile is a mask, and Pain put him on the ropes by breaking him down with words, getting him to second guess his own actions.
    • While attempting to gain complete control of the Kyuubi, it was revealed that despite finally achieving his dream of being respected and loved in Konoha, Naruto still had deep-seated issues from his childhood holding him back both from defeating the Kyuubi and embracing his new-found fame.
  • Vash The Stampede of Trigun, especially later in the series. And let's not even get started on the manga, where he's a Stepford Smiler of epic proportion and has a few HeroicBSODs and fits of Unstoppable Rage (not to mention the scenes of epic alcoholism). Meryl is shocked when she gets engulfed in his memories during one of his most spectacular Heroic BSODs and realizes he's just a ball of pain.
  • Chise from Saikano is another spectacular Stepford Smiler, though how much of a heroine she is is up for debates.
  • Shinji Ikari of Neon Genesis Evangelion crosses the Despair Event Horizon at the end of the series and for most of The Movie... then he ends up saving humanity and undoing everything SEELE attempted to do. Probably.
  • This is somewhat the point of Mobile Suit Gundam. Amuro is a massive ball of Wangst, but he still manages to basically single-handedly win the One Year War for the Federation.
  • Judai by Season 4 of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX
  • Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist is constantly burdened with guilt over pressuring Alphonse to help him with his efforts to bring their mother back through human transmutation, and causing the subsequent loss of Al's entire body (and the loss of his own arm and leg). He also feels anger at his father's abandonment and holds him responsible for his mother's death.
    • For that matter, Alphonse is wracked with guilt about his brother losing his arm to save Al's life.
      • To say nothing of the fact that during both brothers' times seeing The Truth about alchemy, he got a bunch of wonderful images flash through his eyes (Yes, this is why they were screaming after it happened). And it happened to Edward twice, since he used the Human Transmutation circle again to escape Gluttony's stomach.
    • Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye, and Alex Louis Armstrong are all wandering around with buckets of guilt over the parts they played in the war in Ishval, where they were ordered to massacre innocent people. On top of this, Roy and Riza have sizeable doses of Love Hurts.
  • Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach struggles with guilt over the death of his mother at the hands of the hollow Grand Fisher, feeling for quite some time that it was his fault. He also suffers from depression from time to time in the present, basically whenever he fails to completely save the day.
    • At the moment, he's barely holding back a Heroic BSOD after losing control of his Hollow, literally ripping Ulquiorra apart, impaling Ishida when he tried to talk him down, and making Orihime (the one he wanted to save) have an Heroic BSOD of her own over the whole deal. Not only, he now is faced with the knowledge that, no matter how much control he thinks he has, a moment's weakness is all it takes for him to lose everything.
  • Kenzo Tenma from Monster. He saved the life of a murderer, and decided to take responsibility for it.
  • All three Magic Knights were this at the end of the first series of "Rayearth" and the beginning of the second. They hated how they killed the very person they sought to save, and having Zagato's blood on their hands as well made them even more depressed.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Homura. Oh man, Homura. The saddest part is that despite being The Stoic Anti-Hero she is clearly more emotionally fragile than she looks.
    • Mami and Sayaka too. Mami regrets not saving her family with her wish, and Sayaka learns the truths about being a Magical Girl and it really gets to her.
  • Van of Gun X Sword exemplifies the broody Anti-Hero version: he's one of the gloomiest heroes you'll ever see. It's implied that at one point, he dealt with his pain through drinking (hence the nickname "Hangover Van"); he also seems to use violence to cope with it.


Comic Books

  • Sometimes Batman, Depending on the Writer.
  • Spider-Man is infamous amongst comic book fans for the sheer amount of angstworthy drama dumped on Peter Parker.
  • If one put all the angst all of the mutants in X-Men have suffered, you'd probably have a worthy opponent for the angst caused by the Holocaust. Which has happened multiple times to mutants in the Marvel universe. At least a dozen if one counts alternate timelines. Not to mention the mutants who were in the actual Holocaust.
  • The last couple of writers on Daredevil (Bendis and Brubaker) have seemingly competed to see just how much pain they can put Matt Murdock through. Just in the last two runs, he's gone though a mental breakdown over the death of his longtime girlfriend Karen Page, his secret identity was blown and he was sent to a high security prison (filled mostly with crims he'd put away) for obstruction of justice, his wife was driven insane by a supervillain and committed to a mental hospital and his best friend was stabbed and assumed to be killed.
    • Mark Steven Johnson adopts the same tradition for The Movie. Matt Murdock's superhero lifestyle is depicted as being a thankless and torturous affair.
  • Since leaving the BPRD, Hellboy's life has become more and more like this.
  • Tony Stark, whose difficulty coping with the heinous crap in his life is actually a major character trait, what with the chronic depression and alcoholism and Survivors Guilt, etc. Rather exacerbated by his actions in the Civil War arc and its aftermath; in current canon, most other superheroes (and quite a lot of fandom) openly revile him.
  • The life of Spider Jerusalem is one of pain.
  • Empowered. Let's see, constant mockery and humiliation (much of which comes from her own teammates), a somewhat embarassing track record that it seems she'll never live down down though she's getting better, an inability to hold a steady job... That's the small stuff. The big stuff includes a fellow superheroine and one of Emp's few friends sacrificing herself to save Emp (survivor's guilt, ahoy!) and watching her father die right in front of her on the kitchen floor when she was a little girl.
  • Doctor Strange, sometimes. He may enjoy the perks of being Sorcerer Supreme, but he is also responsible for every innocent life in the universe -- expect a good wallow in guilt after a major disaster, even if it's something he never could have foreseen or prevented.


Film

  • Batman in The Dark Knight Saga.
  • In Spaghetti Westerns, heroes hurt in more ways than one. Generally they are near-invincible gunslingers who are nonetheless subject to the most horrible of tortures. The titular character in Django embodies this, his invincibility almost becoming a curse to him because he is trapped in a cycle of violence he cannot get out of.
  • John McClane from Die Hard.
  • Optimus Prime in Transformers. See Western Animation for more detail.


Literature

  • Fitz from the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies by Robin Hobb. Dear God, the pain that man has to suffer. The fact that he has to suffer Because Destiny Says So doesn't exactly help.
    • Just to illustrate, seers within the series state that the world is in a stagnating cycle, akin to a wheel driving a rut in the ground, endlessly. To kick things up, bring a little more life into the universe, the wheel's got to be kicked out of that rut. The easiest way to do that? Stick a pebble in it's path, so that when the wheel crashes into it with enough force, it'll bounce out of the rut and into a new path. That's the metaphor. Now, guess who get's to be that pebble?
  • All of the Animorphs.
  • Harry Dresden. A lot. Also a Sad Clown.
    • In Summer Knight, Martha Liberty votes for him because she realizes how much he is hurting -- while he disclaims his (physical) wounds as minor. When Aurora offers him surcease, he realizes for the first time how badly he was hurting -- and refuses, since it would mean giving up.
  • Vanyel Ashkevron.

 "Savil, am I whining?"

"After all you've been through, sometimes you deserve a little whine."

  • In Nick Kyme's Warhammer 40000 Salamanders novel Salamander, Tsu'gan is deeply grieved by the captain's death and his own failure. Iagon actually uses it to foment his ambition: fighting at the head of the company would assuage his hurt.
    • Fugis confesses to having lost faith at the same time; Dak'ir thinks how Tsu'gan resorts to fury and Fugis to despair.
  • Harry Potter, who at seventeen years old has bested the Dark Lord at least eight times. And survives, unlike most of the people he loves.

 Hermione: Now that Malfoy's a prefect, he could make life really difficult for you.//

Harry: Really? Gee, I wonder what it would be like to have a difficult life!

  • Thomas Covenant definitely qualifies. The series begins with him losing two fingers to leprosy, his wife leaving him, and the town preparing to re-zone his home just to run him out. Then it gets worse.
  • Kvothe in The Name of the Wind lost his entire troupe - the people he lived with, and 90% of the people he knew and loved - when he was twelve. Life doesn't treat him much better after that.
  • Dear god, Rand Al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn is arguably the Patron Saint of this trope. To start out, he has access to the tainted male half of magic, everyone else with access to male magic in the last 3000 years went mad, rotted alive, and killed everyone in his vicinity. He's fated to destroy the world in saving it. He's responsible for taking the fight to Satan Himself, whose elite followers consider the current crop of Aes Sedai (wizards and witches) to be children at best. Then he discovers that his predecessor was literally reborn as a backseat driver in his mind. That predecessor is himself only somewhat sane, can't be revealed because it would be assumed that the current Dragon is going insane, has suicidal tendencies, tries to grab the magic out of the current Dragon's hands with regularity, and was well known for killing his entire family as he went insane, realizing for a single moment what he'd done, and committing suicide so dramatically that it made a volcano. The current Dragon is barely more than a teenager from a tiny farm village in the middle of nowhere. He seems fated to be a martyr for humanity. Everyone and their mother works against him - and most aren't even evil, merely selfish, superstitious, foolish, set in their ways, and determined to control this kid who is clearly not in charge of saving the world. His ancestral people have pledged to him - and some of their warrioresses act as his bodyguards, and he's lived his entire life expecting to protect women with his strength. That in particular scars him so much that he keeps a list of all of the women who have died where you could even hypothetically lay the blame at his feet. He was captured by Aes Sedai and tortured ruthlessly. Alanna once connected her mind to his, and spent the next month crying in the pain of it. Nynaeve, the limit-breaking healer, once looked at his mind and realized that there was nothing she could have done for him if not for Lews Therin's heroic sacrifice. To top it all off, nobody believes him, everyone thinks they know better than him, and as he's trying to save the world, the world is trying its hardest not be saved. He once quipped that the pressure of that alone should be enough to drive him insane, never mind Saidin.


Live Action TV

  • Um, Buffy, anyone? Her life sucks beyond all reasonable measure, she goes through multiple Heroic BSOD, outright depression at points, yet she always manages to keep fighting.
    • Angel as well. He constantly fights against his vampiric side, can never be perfectly happy for fear of losing his soul, and must deal with over a century of the most vile sins conceivable he committed while soulless.
  • Doctor K and Dillon from Power Rangers RPM. The Woobie Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds and the amnesiac Phlebotinum Rebel, respectively.
  • Jack Harkness from Torchwood. Just... In Children of Earth alone, first we learn he has a daughter and a grandson; while the grandson thinks Jack is his uncle, the daughter just really doesn't want anything to do with Jack. Then he gets blown up and feels it, comes back to life screaming with all of his skin still burned off, gets drowned and trapped in concrete, is thrown off a cliff while in the concrete, has his daughter and grandson taken hostage, and learns that he is partially responsible for the latest alien threat because he once surrendered 12 children to them. Then, just when it looks like he might be able to stand up to the alien threat, Ianto (his lover) is killed because of his very bad plan and dies in his arms, something Jack blames himself for. Then, to finally save the world from the alien threat, he has to kill his grandson in front of his screaming daughter.
  • In Doctor Who, most of the Doctor's incarnations have something to be sad about, but in particular from Nine onwards, after the Last Great Time War in which he basically got the entire race of Daleks and Time Lords killed.
    • Doctor number Ten, especially. "Born from war" is an apt description, and the guy sometimes comes across as just one big moving mass of pain. Hell, he can make grown men and women burst into tears just by talking about his home planet.
  • Sam and Dean Winchester, anyone? They always keep fighting (if sometimes for selfish reasons), even when they would rather just give up or rest.
  • Quite a few of the crew of the not-so-good ship Serenity have been put through one form of hell or another in their lives. Malcolm Reynolds suffers under the weight of the chains of command and still bears quite a bit of pain from the end of the Unification War, and both Simon and River Tam have gone through horrifically traumatic experiences; Simon giving up everything he had to save his sister, and River having suffered three years of mind-shattering experimentation that left her insane and with uncontrolled Psychic Powers.
  • Olivia from Fringe has had her life described by another character as "something of a nightmare." And that's before she gets trapped in a parallel universe, tortured by light deprivation, brainwashed into thinking she's another Olivia, narrowly escapes having her brain cut out, and finally manages to get herself back home... only to find out that the other Olivia has been living her life and even dating Peter, the man she loves. Her life sucks.
  • Poor Merlin. Not only is he stuck looking after Prince Arthur (and never receiving any kind of recognition for his service), but he also has to actively hide the fact that he's magic, even when it costs him his friends, his love, and even his long-lost father.
    • Arthur also qualifies. He's under extreme pressure from his father to live up to his duty as the next king of Camelot, he's in love with a girl who is just a servant (and who still carries a torch for one of his knights) and now his newly discovered half-sister is trying to kill him.


Video Games

  • Raiden becomes this so hard in the latest Mortal Kombat game. His actions slowly keep making things worse for Earthrealm, the heroes die one by one under his watch, and the Elder Gods seem to be pulling a major The Gods Must Be Lazy trip. By the end of the game, his actions narrowly prevented Armageddon from happening, but at the cost of practically all of Earthrealm's champions. Even Liu Kang, Raiden's favored champion, is dead (although unintentionally) by his own hand, after having first turned on him for the tragedies he so far caused. He carries the guilt of his actions throughout the entire game and you can tell it takes its toll. By the game's ending, he's emotionally and physically exhausted. And The Stinger at the end just makes it even worse. Seriously, the guy probably needs a hug badly when all's said and done.
  • Hawke of Dragon Age II after his/her mother's death. You get a few minutes of Hawke just sitting in his/her house in a deep, crushing depression.
  • Mega Man, both original and X, often wonder how long they're going to have to keep fighting.
  • The Tales (series) is very fond of this trope, especially in regards to The Chosen One. Both Colette, Zelos and Luke get a lot of pain from their status as Chosen Ones.
  • Tekken has many of these. Notably Jin Kazama and Kazuya Mishima but it could be argued that nearly all the characters are the hurting hero of there own backstory.
  • Gorath from Betrayal at Krondor - as someone who's trying to protect and enlighten his Always Chaotic Evil race that doesn't know what's good for it.
  • It's called Planescape: Torment for a reason.
  • Garrus Vakarian as of Mass Effect 2. His career as turian Punisher really hasn't gone well for him, and to top it off, his family thinks he's a slacker and has no idea of his saving the galaxy. Especially evident if you pursue his romance, in which he eventually tells Shepard (the one person in the galaxy that he trusts and respects the most) that the reason he's been so awkward and nervous about their relationship is that he so badly wants it to be the one thing in his life that finally goes right.
  • Midna in Twilight Princess turns out to be this, initially for abandoning her people after Zant turned her into an imp and later for being so selfish with Link and Zelda despite all the sacrifices they made to help her.
    • Link himself, more than once. In Link to the Past, he's already an orphan, immediately proceeds to lose his uncle/godfather, and is framed for the kidnapping of Zelda (arguably his only friend at that point) soon after. In Ocarina of Time he's already the "Boy Without A Fairy," so getting one means he's on his way, right? Yeah, on his way out of the only world he's ever known, blamed for the death of yet another father figure, while leaving behind his only remaining friend. Then he makes friends with Zelda, who needs his help to stop the evil Ganondorf. Sounds good -- at first. One could argue Majora's Mask (searching for "a lost friend" -- presumably Navi -- that he never finds) as well. Oh Link, you happy-go-lucky elf, you.
      • Arguably, the Hero of Time is a canon case of Hurting Hero, since the new anniversary book confirms he's the Hero's Shade in Twilight Princess. Regardless of what else he did with his life, he was never able to let go of his perceived duty as hero.
  • Solid Snake is one of the best examples in gaming. It would take such a long time to explain all the crap this guy has gone through, you just need to play the games.
    • As a summary of Solid Snake (let alone Big Boss/Naked Snake or Raiden)
      • Metal Gear: He is forced to fight and kill his father figure who betrayed him
      • Metal Gear 2: He is forced to fight and kill his best friend (Grey Fox) as well as his father figure who has survived. And, after the flavor added by the Solid series, both fights are very much a case of both warriors acknowledging the necessity of the battle, but without any animosity. It also doesn't help that he finds out said father figure was actually his father...
      • Metal Gear Solid: Snake is once again forced to fight and kill people who, for all intents and purposes, are pretty nice people and enemies he respects. He is also forced to fight with the knowledge that, if he succeeds, he will kill the brother he only learned about the previous morning. Oh, and one of the only men he trusts has betrayed him (and the cute doctor has poisoned him). And he once again has to fight against his best friend who has suffered immeasurably due to their previous battle. And, depending on the ending, he may have contributed to the death of his friend's daughter.
      • Metal Gear Solid 2: Snake basically has to deal with the aftermath of helping the big bad of the series, has his name dragged through the mud, and has to continue to help the big bad in the hopes of finding a way to stop them.
      • Metal Gear Solid 4: Snake finally learns the true story of his birth (and finishes off becoming an orphan) and has to live with the knowledge that he is becoming a biological WMD and that, even if he finds a cure, he will die of old age before the year is out. And he is CONSTANTLY reminded of how his body has failed him.
  • In Famous Cole McGrath in the good ending.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog in both the Cosmic Fall Hero ending, and the actual ending.
  • Samus Aran. Metroid: Other M goes a long way towards showing just how utterly psychologically broken she is by the utter living hell that is her Doom Magnet life and quest for vengeance/justice. Post traumatic stress disorder in spades, dependency issues developing towards authority figures like Adam, survivor's guilt...
    • Samus worked mainly alone in her missions and whatever job the Federation tasks her to do, she always does it by her own rules. She most likely repressed everything that happened in her life and working alone allows her to focus on her objectives. It isn't until she sees Adam again in Other M that her suppressed feelings start to resurface.
  • Mickey freaking Mouse in Kingdom Hearts. He hides it like a pro, but his failure to save the Birth By Sleep crew continues to haunt him, over a decade later.
  • Alex Mercer in Prototype and James Heller in the sequel.


Web Comics

  • Lexx from Alien Dice. He starts out broken and hurting anyway, but it continues to get worse as the series goes along. He tends to hide it, but private moments and internal conversations show how much he's afraid of what will happen to him next.


Web Original

 I'm a perfectly ordinary girl and I have an ordinary life... but I've also got another life. And I hate it. I hate every minute of it.

  • All four main characters in Broken Saints are like this--especially the men. Shandala has a Dark and Troubled Past, but she doesn't let it haunt her everyday life until the plot gets going and bad shit goes down.
  • Most of Team Kimba from the Whateley Universe. Tennyo is regarded as a crazed menace even by most of the other supers at Whateley Academy. Bladedancer has just had to separate herself from all her friends because of her prophetic dreams. And Phase... Poor Phase. He has become a mutant, been kicked out of his mutant-hating family, lost the wealth and protection that gave him, been tortured by a Mad Scientist, been turned into an intersexed mostly-female form, and been sent to Whateley Academy. But his last name (Goodkind) represents everything mutants hate and fear. People come out of the woodwork to attack him, either verbally or physically. sometimes both.


Western Animation

  • There is an ever present yet dignified sadness in Peter Cullen's performance of Optimus Prime, as if The Great War has affected him so deeply, that he is always crying deep inside. Cullen stated in interviews that he drew inspiration from his brother, a Shell-Shocked Veteran of the Vietnam War, who told him before the audition for Optimus "Don't be a tough hero; you are strong enough to be gentle."
  • Goliath, if not the rest of his clan, perfectly embodies this trope on Gargoyles.
  • Aang (though one could justify others in the show as this) from Avatar: The Last Airbender.
    • Zuko, full stop.
      • Except that once he's actually able to be called a hero, he's the happiest he's been in the entire series. Not bad for a Heel Face Turn that happens within the last 10 episodes of a 3 season series. Zuko is your rare example of a Hurting Villain.
      • Nah, Zuko stopped being an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain somewhere in Season One. He was basically an Anti-Hero at worst for most of Season Two, even if he did make the wrong choice under Ba Sing Se.
  • Subverted in Justice League, when Orion thinks that Flash covers this trope, but is proven wrong:

 Orion: I understand you now. You play the clown to hide a warrior's sorrow.

Flash: Dude, the bad guys went down, and nobody got hurt. You know what I call that? A really good day.

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