Created By: AFP on December 29, 2010 Last Edited By: AFP on January 8, 2011
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Heroic Fatigue

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Exactly What It Says on the Tin, this is a trope where The Hero, suffering (or enjoying, depending on the mood of the story) from Chronic Hero Syndrome, spends so much of his time and effort helping people, that it is physically and emotionally wearing him down to the breaking point. It can be even worse for him if he has something akin to super hearing or telepathy, so he can always hear people calling for help, even when he's trying to get an hour or two of sleep before clocking in for his Stock Super hero Day Job and chugging coffee for the entire day.

This may lead sooner or later to Passing the Torch and Retired Badass, or in more cynical works, a Heroic B.S.O.D. or a Despair Event Horizon, as the increasingly strung-out and hopeless hero just loses it because he can't save all those people who need him.

  • Harry Dresden goes through this all the time. Often he will forget to eat, or sleep when he's on a case and the world needs saving from supernatural doom. By the time he manages to solve everything he's usually so strung out that he often ends up just blacking out from exhaustion.
  • Batman suffers an emotional breakdown like this in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "I am the Night".
  • J'onn J'onzz temporarily quits the Justice League late in the third season of Unlimited partly due to this.
  • In Heroes season 4, Peter wore himself to the breaking point trying to rescue and heal people in his job as a paramedic using his abilities.
  • Daredevil: We see the hero going through his before-bed routine, getting everything put away in just the right place, climbing into the sound-proof casket (necessary due to his super hearing, only for him to hear a woman somewhere nearby crying for help. He only lets out an exhausted sigh before slowly closing the casket to close out the sound.
  • In the Pathfinder Adventure Path Curse of the Crimson Throne, most descriptions of Field Marshal Cressida Kroft--the captain of the city guard and resident Reasonable Authority Figure--stress how exhausted she looks from dealing with the various disasters of the city.
  • In ''Megamind, Metroman gets so tired of being a hero all the time he fakes his death.
Community Feedback Replies: 32
  • December 29, 2010
    carla
    i like the alt title better, if it's worth anything. it makes a good parallel with Chronic Hero Syndrome.

    as for an example:

    • Harry Dresden goes through this all the time. Often he will forget to eat, or sleep when he's on a case and the world needs saving from supernatural doom. By the time he manages to solve everything he's usually so strung out that he often ends up just blacking out from exhaustion.
  • December 29, 2010
    Koveras
  • December 29, 2010
    TooBah
    This is part of the reason Peter quits being Spider Man in the second movie.
  • December 29, 2010
    Dcoetzee
    • In Heroes season 4, Peter wore himself to the breaking point trying to rescue and heal people in his job as a paramedic using his abilities.
  • December 29, 2010
    AFP
    Correct me if I'm wrong, it's been forever since I've seen it, but Daredevil has this going on, at least in the beginning of the film. There's a scene where he's getting into bed, and with his blindness-enhanced hearing hears a woman somewhere nearby crying for help... and just collapses to go to sleep. Gotta suck being a superhero with superhearing skills in a densely populated city.
  • December 30, 2010
    DAN004
    This may lead to Passing The Torch and Retired Badass.
  • December 30, 2010
    Darthcaliber
    ^^ yes Daredevil's super hearing (which is more than regular blindness enhanced- there were radioactive chemicals involved) is so great that he has to sleep in a sound-proof box just to get some peace and quiet.

    An episode of The Powerpuff Girls had the titular heroes so worn out they finally refused to fight off a giant monster making the townspeople do it themselves. Of course since the people of Townsville are so stupid the girls wound up talking them through it step by step.
  • January 1, 2011
    AFP
    @DAN 004: Or even worse, a Heroic BSOD or a Despair Event Horizon, as the increasingly strung-out and hopeless hero just loses it because he can't save all those people who need him.
  • January 1, 2011
    Earnest
    See also Samaritan Syndrome, which is what motivates the hero to wear himself out.
  • January 1, 2011
    JRandomUser
    In the Pathfinder Adventure Path Curse of the Crimson Throne, most descriptions of Field Marshal Cressida Kroft--the captain of the city guard and resident Reasonable Authority Figure--stress how exhausted she looks from dealing with the various disasters of the city.
  • January 1, 2011
    AFP
    Trying to think of the dividing line between this and Samaritan Syndrome... I'm thinking, this is basically the end of the road for that? A hero with Samaritan Syndrome might be able to get some help in the form of sidekicks, or a Justice League analogue that can coordinate their efforts so nobody wears themselves out, but a hero with Chronic Hero Fatigue is already at the point where life is just a crushing blur, a sort of punch drunk state of being at their breaking point?
  • January 1, 2011
    Earnest
    Well, a hero who cracks under CHF is likely to do a Face Heel Turn or simply burn out and leave the world of heroics entirely. So it could certainly be the end-game scenario for a Samaritan Syndrome suffering hero with no help at all. Also, you could make a case for a hero who (while not as plagued by Chronic Hero Syndrome) can end up in this situation if everyone is an Ungrateful Bastard who nitpicks the hero's efforts while putting him down.

    Basically, I think the dividing line is that while SS is a motivation, CHF is a (potentially related) condition heros can suffer.
  • January 3, 2011
    troacctid
    Just call it Hero Fatigue. "Chronic" implies that this is something that is a persistent occurrence for the hero, which isn't right--it can easily be restricted to one story arc.
  • January 3, 2011
    Earnest
    Or Heroic Fatigue, just so it isn't confused for a snowclone of Ending Fatigue, or that the viewer is fatigued of the hero.
  • January 3, 2011
    EricDVH
    Chronic Hero Syndrome covers both the motivation for it and the deeds done as a result, so I think this new trope should JUST cover the weariness (physical and psychological) they suffer as a result. A common cause is mixing the burdens of a normal life with heroic antics as a Triple Shifter.
  • January 7, 2011
    troacctid
    I notice a "Launching soon" tag on top there. Launching as Hero Fatigue or Heroic Fatigue, right?
  • January 7, 2011
    peccantis
    Video Game:
    • Jak 3:
      Ashelin: Jak, your friends need you. I need you.
      Jak: The city threw me out, remember? They can rot for all I care.
      Ashelin: But what about your...
      Jak: Forget it! Just leave! I have new friends now.
      Ashelin: So the hero I knew did die in the desert, or was it long before that? Don't you remember who you are?
      Jak: I'm through saving the world.
  • January 7, 2011
    JoeG
    • In ''Megamind, Metroman gets so tired of being a hero all the time he fakes his death.
  • January 7, 2011
    visignis
    This happens to Drake in both Uncharted games. Both times, it's very temporary.
  • January 7, 2011
    AFP
    Eaaahhhh OK, I guess Heroic Fatigue is a better title now that I've been poked with it repeatedly. :-D
  • January 7, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
    This seems to be a Sub Trope of Heroic RROD, just over long term instead of other causes.
  • January 7, 2011
    AFP
    Nah, it's not really a Sub Trope of Heroic RROD, since Heroic RROD seems to be the hero literally falling apart and/or exploding from pushing themselves too hard. Heroic Fatigue is basically about the physical and emotional drain the hero suffers after doing the hero thing for so long. Could be inverted to have the villain getting worn down in a similar fashion too.
  • January 7, 2011
    troacctid
    It's more a Subtrope of Heroic BSOD, if anything. Heroic BSOD covers situations where the hero suffers some psychological trauma that shuts him down. This trope is like a specific kind of psychological trauma. Yes?

    Heroic RROD is only for physical trauma, not mental.
  • January 8, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Okay then.

    ^^ No, exhaustion is included.
  • January 8, 2011
    peccantis
    So in a nutshell,
    • Heroic BSOD: hero suffers from emotional or mental traumas, shuts away in their head
    • Heroic RROD: hero suffers physical trauma from being too physical for heroic reasons
    • Heroic Fatigue: hero is emotionally and/or physically tired of being a hero, and stops or thinks of stopping doing the hero work

    right? So the HF can overlap with either of the other two. Is the stopping part crucial?
  • January 8, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
    If tiring of being a hero is the definition, this best be more specific in the name. Tired Of Heroism?
  • January 8, 2011
    AFP
    Well, more like "Hero is emotionally and physically exhausted from the demands of the hero lifestyle", especially if you consider that folks don't only get in trouble between the hours of nine and five. Maybe he has a case of Good Samaritan Syndrome that keeps him from not going to help someone if they are in need, but the end result is he never gets enough time to himself to rest and relax. He may or may not necessarily think about quitting, as it might go against his fiber, so to speak.
  • January 8, 2011
    AFP
    More like: "Hero is emotionally and/or physically tired due to the lifestyle strains of being a hero" He may or may not think about quitting, depending on the character. If he is the sort who embraces "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility", he may not even be able to consider taking a much-needed break without feeling guilty over it.
  • January 8, 2011
    Grain
    The first story in Astro City, In Dreams. Good Samaritan is the pretty much the equivalent of Superman for Astro City. Good Samaritan has the power to right all wrongs, but at the expense of enjoying his own life. He is an obsessive-compulsive all-powerful do-gooder.
  • January 8, 2011
    troacctid
    Frequently leads to a Ten Minute Retirement.
  • January 8, 2011
    AFP
    The hero might go on vacation to get a break from the responsibility of superheroism. These stories being what they are, it can be fully expected to turn into a Busmans Holiday. In more idealistic works, this could still provide at least the sort of change of pace that helps to pull the hero out of their rut.
  • January 8, 2011
    Catharsis
    Cordelia from Angel: she uses her psychic visions to help people, but the splitting headaches and emotional pain they bring her soon take their toll.
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