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Born Unlucky
A normal day for Donald Duck.

Aunt Wu: Your future is full of struggle and anguish. Most of it self-inflicted.
Sokka: But you didn't even read my palms or anything...
Aunt Wu: I don't need to. It's written all over your face.
Avatar: The Last Airbender , "The Fortuneteller"

Some people have all the luck— lucky they aren't this guy.

When you're Born Unlucky, it's like the world is out to get you. You, personally. Lucky pennies crumble in your hands; rabbits' feet run away in terror. Black cats won't cross your path, and mirrors shatter preemptively when you walk into the room. When you walk outside, it starts raining; when you walk inside, your house collapses. The only time you attract good luck is as a set up for even worse luck: You find a winning lottery ticket, but the wind picks up and blows it out of your hands... and into your rival's. You are really unlucky— so mind-bogglingly unlucky it defies all chance. However, you will never die before your time - because the universe would like to torture you some more.

Look for terms like "cursed" or "born under a bad sign", although they aren't required— just so long as we know Lady Luck (or Fate, or the world, or God) doesn't like them very much. At all.

There may be significant overlap with Cosmic Plaything, Butt Monkey, and The Chew Toy, but the key about being Born Unlucky is that it really IS "luck" that is bringing them down. A Butt Monkey can be a Butt Monkey because other characters tease him, but someone suffering this trope is always tormented by plum bad luck. Also, this can be Played for Drama. In games, being Born Unlucky may be represented by a Luck Manipulation Mechanic in which players are forced to roll dice multiple times, and must accept the lowest result.

Some folks who are Born Unlucky may also be The Jinx. The difference between these two is who the bad luck affects— someone who's Born Unlucky will slip on a banana peel, but a Jinx will cause everyone else in the room to slip on banana peels. Heaven help the former if he ever meets the latter. (Or, well, no— it probably won't.)

Contrast Born Lucky and Unluckily Lucky. Compare The Klutz, The Jinx. See also Cosmic Plaything (destiny has fun messing with them), Butt Monkey (the butt of everyone's jokes), or The Chew Toy (someone whose constant pain is intended to amuse). If the bad luck is meant to be funny, it's because of Comedic Sociopathy.


Examples (if possible, elaborate on how their bad luck works):

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Touma from A Certain Magical Index is a character with a supernatural ability to negate all other magical or psychic power or influence (ie., Anti-Magic). As it turns out this is also the reason that he's cursed with bad luck - this being a magical universe, it also cancels out his "good fate".
  • Himawari from xxxHolic, whose bad luck crosses over into The Jinx and Doom Magnet.
  • Urusei Yatsura - the lot of poor Ataru Moroboshi is to deal with all of the crazy (but fortunately attractive) aliens of the galaxy, but that's what you'd expect from someone whose name means "hit by a falling star".
    • The All There in the Manual additional material twists the knife further, stating that he was born on Friday the 13th, in the middle of an earthquake, on Butsumetsu (the day Buddha died), considered the unluckiest day in the Japanese calendar.
  • Seina Yamada from Tenchi Muyo GXP, who has luck so bad it is more or less successfully weaponized. Largely because his luck is so bad that it spreads to those around him.
  • Miranda from D.Gray-Man, who was known in her hometown for this.
  • Lelouch from Code Geass.
  • Hayate of Hayate the Combat Butler, he was given his name to be able to escape debt collectors. Since he's the male lead in a harem manga though, it's mostly averted, and he just thinks it applies.
    • It's still played straight on occasion however. Just often enough to remind us it's there.
    • This is much more significant in the original manga however; aside from having the misfortune of being born to his parents, he also had to work from the age of eight to support said deadbeat parents. He also has the borderline-curse of losing any money given to him (losing it to circumstance or spending it on others out of kindness) such that his friends call him the God of Poverty. Most of the plots in the manga can basically be summed up as "Hayate is sent out on a simple errand. Hilarity Ensues as the universe hates him."
  • Keiichi Morisoto from Ah! My Goddess, literally born under the Star of Misfortune. His luck is so bad that even having a goddess move in just alters the scale at which it hits him. (Example: he makes a wish that said goddess stay with him for good, but he lives in a men-only dorm... so he gets thrown out.)
  • Ryouga Hibiki of Ranma ˝ seems to be the universe's chew toy. There's a reason his strongest attack is an Angst Nuke.
  • Kumagawa of Medaka Box. His bad luck is so strong that he can rely on it to, for example, always give him the worst possible hand in a card game. Of course, when you can rely on something you can plan around it... As the series puts it, he's a man who has always lost at everything, which makes him stronger than anyone.
    • More than that, he's basically capable of impressive plans and slick fights... he just can't, technically, win. This usually results in things turning out for the best by and large, but whatever specific goal he had in mind being just beyond his reach.
  • Tsunade from Naruto. Her luck is so bad that, she's get the nickname "The Legendary Sucker" for never being able to win at gambling. When she does win, something worse usually happens to balance it out.
  • Asebi Inoue from Ben-To, who apparently is always sick, is constantly falling from high places and it tends to affect everyone around her. She gets the Nom de Guerre Reaper despite the fact that she never particpates in any of the battles.

    Comics 
  • Sonya Rosencrantz from Tank Vixens. Her designation is 'Unit Jinx' and her function is to deflect bad luck from the rest of the unit by attracting it to herself.
  • Snake from the Australian newspaper comic Snake Tales.
  • Calamity James from The Beano has this as his gimmck. It's sufficently bad to sabotage any attempt to make his luck better.
  • Donald Duck in the Disney Ducks Comic Universe. Several stories revolve around his practically supernatural levels of misfortune. He's often contrasted with his Born Lucky cousin, Gladstone Gander.
    • The perfect example would be Donald picking a three-leaf clover... in Gladstone's 100% shamrock garden.
    • This is made reference to (in hilarious Lampshade Hanging fashion, no less) when Magica DeSpell curses Scrooge McDuck with 'the Mother of all Hexes'. Scrooge at one point laments that his mystically-enforced casualties wouldn't even happened to Donald (and that's really saying something!).
      • Donald is so unlucky that he cannot even capitalize on it (winning the "Unluckiest Man in the World"-contest, working as a Butt Monkey for hire). In both cases his luck completely turned around and he was exceedingly lucky—at least until his grumpy customers/spectators were out of eyesight.
    • The Beagle Boys have the aptly named 1313.
  • Joe Btfsplk from Li'l Abner. Among other things, typically had a little thunderstorm right over his head.
  • Poor Peter Parker, he's so unlucky it's taken this long for him to be mentioned. He's even mumbled the page quote more than a few times. It should be noted his poor luck has been both played for laughs and done seriously.
  • Tootles from Peter Pan.
    ...not the least brave but the most unfortunate of all that gallant band. He had been in fewer adventures than any of them, because the big things constantly happened just when he had stepped round the corner; all would be quiet, he would take the opportunity of going off to gather a few sticks for firewood, and then when he returned the others would be sweeping up the blood. This ill-luck had given a gentle melancholy to his countenance, but instead of souring his nature had sweetened it, so that he was quite the humblest of the boys.
  • Detective Soap from The Punisher. By the end, he gets desperate enough to attempt suicide by Frank.

    Fan Works 
  • In Ultimate Spider Woman, Mary Jane Watson really gets burned by this trope. Growing up in a broken home, having her grades end up in the toilet from being a Triple Shifter, getting in trouble with her boss at the coffee shop and eventually getting fired for constantly showing up late, being sexually harassed by the fashion designer who hired her as a model, losing acting roles she's dreamed of all her life, attracting a psychotic Stalker with a Crush who became a supervillain just to attract her notice, suffering from Perpetual Poverty because of her having to juggle her acting and modelling careers with her school studies and her fighting crime as Spider-Woman, being subjected to a public hate campaign by a relative of one of the victims of one of her supervillain enemies, driving herself crazy with guilt over not being able to keep everything going, being disliked or outright hated by her boyfriend's parents, and eventually nearly suffering a nervous breakdown when everything finally comes crashing down at once.
    • The worst example of how utterly bad Mary Jane's luck can get is the fact that, by pure coincidence, she ended up being the superheroine who Jack O' Lantern fixated on as his Arch-Enemy.
  • In "Fan Fic/Embers", Zuko is the embodiment of this. Actually a lot of a characters run into this problem in this story simply because of how the world is set up.

    Film 
  • The French movie La Chevre (English title: "Knock on Wood"). A rich businessman's daughter goes missing. Since the girl is known to be extremely accident-prone, one of his advisers comes up with a crazy plan: send a person just as unlucky after her and maybe he'll attract the same trouble and so lead them to her. The characters go through a number of crazy adventures and coincidences that indeed leads them to the girl in the end. (A memorable scene is the businessman testing the hero after they first meet - even in a room full of chairs he will always sit on the chair that is broken.)
    • Remade starring Danny Glover and Martin Short.
  • The main character of the film The Cooler seems to be this way. Simply standing in a casino causes everyone to start losing. It's cured when he gets a girlfriend, though.
  • The Lindsay Lohan movie Just My Luck was about a girl who was Born Lucky but ends up trading luck with a guy who was Born Unlucky after they kiss.
  • Louis from Kangaroo Jack. Even his "lucky" shirt is stolen by a kangaroo. At the end of the movie, the shirt is considered to have actually been lucky for getting them out of trouble, but this is arguable, as it may have been Charlie's presence and actions which ultimately saved all of them.
  • The Spanish thriller Intacto plays with luck-related tropes, and a variation of Born Unlucky sets the plot in motion. The film posits that certain people are Born Lucky. Samuel Berg (Max von Sydow) not only has this gift in spades, but also has the ability to take it away from others who have it. He does this to his employee and protegee Federico, leaving him not unlucky, but no more immune to bad luck than anyone else.
  • The Spanish animated film The Missing Lynx has a Born Unlucky lynx named Felix as its main character. He exploits his bad luck at the end when he faces his human antagonist in a room full of traps, by launching himself onto his enemy's body and holding on, so the antagonist gets injured by all the traps instead.

    Literature 
  • Stanley Yelnats, the main character in Holes, is walking home from school one day (late, because he was fishing his books out of the toilet, courtesy of his bullies), when, as he passes under a freeway overpass, a pair of shoes hits him on the head. But wait — these shoes are just the thing Stanley's father needs for his scientific experiment! Stanley starts running home — but the cops pull up alongside him and ask him to stop. Turns out, those very shoes belong to Stanley's favorite baseball player. They were about to be auctioned off for charity, but they were stolen fifteen minutes ago. Stanley is put on trial for the theft, can't prove that he didn't steal the shoes, and is sent to Camp Green Lake — all for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His whole family line is cursed, matter of fact, because of his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." We later get that ancestor's side of the story.
  • Erast Fandorin is Born Lucky, but it has been established that luck alternates every generation in his family: both his father and his son were Born Unlucky (while his grandson Nicholas was extremely lucky again). The unlucky Fandorins, however, don't get mentioned much.
  • An European fairy tale told the story of a man whose attempts to become wealthy never worked, while his brother's always did. While traveling, the man found the castle where Destiny himself lived. Destiny explains to the man that he was born on an unlucky day and that will be his luck forever. When the man asked what he could do about it, Destiny told him to tell everyone that all his properties actually belong to his niece, who was born on a lucky day. It worked- soon he was a prosperous man. But when at one point he couldn't help boasting about his riches, all of them disappeared instantly! (until he retracted and admitted they were his niece's.) Talk about Cosmic Plaything...
  • Lytol in the Dragonriders of Pern novels was like this for a while. He was a dragonrider, and his dragon died. He left the Weyr to become a weaver, raised a family, and lost his wife and daughters when Fax took over the Hold. Only after becoming Warder of Ruatha after Fax's death did his life stop being an ongoing disaster.
  • In the Discworld Rincewind is a favorite pawn of The Lady, the goddess of luck (though never explicitly named as such). Some people consider him extremely lucky for how many dangerous situations he's survived. He considers himself incredibly unlucky because of how many dangerous situations he's encountered. One of his deepest desires is boredom.
    • It's stated that that's why The Lady likes him so much: Whenever someone realizes they have The Lady's favor, they immediately lose it because it's not fun for her anymore. Rincewind is the luckiest person alive, but since he's lucky in the sense that he's survived through some pretty awful stuff, he assumes he's unlucky because he keeps getting into the situations to begin with. Of course, he gets into the events in the first place because Fate hates him.
  • Michael from the Knight and Rogue Series. Just about anything than can go wrong for him will.
  • Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure: No matter how hard Jude strives to achieve things in his life, all his efforts are doomed. His dream is to study and be a scholar, trying to be a family man with his wife, trying to live with the love of his life and children, helping workers' community: none of this works out, even though he's an intelligent and capable man. He must be cursed or something, but his wide-eyed idealism sure does not help. Poor guy.
  • A minor character in the Xanth novel Yon Ill Wind lost the Superpower Lottery and ended up with "bad luck" as her magic talent. How unlucky is she? Well, when someone important goes looking for her, an accident causes him to encounter someone else instead. Having missed her chance at Main Character status, as well as the Plot Armor and guaranteed Happy Ending that comes with it, she's never mentioned again.
  • Bossuet/Lesgle from Les Misérables.
  • Raymond Jardine from Gordon Korman's A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag.
  • Sam Pickles from Tim Winton's Cloudstreet loses most of the fingers on his right hand at the very beginning of the novel. His luck from then on (especially at the races) doesn't ever get much better.

    Live Action TV 
  • The entire Bundy family in Married... with Children, but Al gets the worst of it.
    • The Bundy family is under the effect of a British witch's curse, but even breaking the curse doesn't end their bad luck streak. It's just that powerful.
  • In Hee Haw the quote above was used in a skit which started out with a song:
    Gloom, despair, and agony on me;
    Deep, dark depression, excessive misery;
    If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all;
    Gloom, despair and agony on me.
    • Then they go on to tell a sad story in poetic meter matching the song.
  • Appears temporarily in Supernatural after Sam gets (and loses) a rabbit's foot, which grants people incredible luck while they possess it, and eventually terminal bad luck when they inevitably lose it. At one point while sitting doing nothing in a hotel room, the radiator caught fire. He managed to knock himself unconscious putting it out. He also lost his shoe.
    • This is also used in the climax of the episode, when Dean grabs the foot and confronted by the armed Bela (who is also now Born Unlucky thanks to that). However, no matter how she aims, she can't hit Dean who's standing three feet in front of her. However, she can't help but hit Sam.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Sergeant Siler is the unluckiest man in Cheyenne Mountain. Something almost always happens to him. He's shot, hit, smacked, runs into things, is hurt by explosions, fried by electricity, gassed, and overheated. Even when he appears in a Stargate Atlantis episode, he's stunned.
  • The titular family in the short lived Dom Com The Pitts were if anything even more unlucky than their Married... with Children counterparts - at least none of the Bundys got mauled by werewolves, kidnapped by their own haunted car or end up with a two foot long pipe lodged in their heads after a boiler explosion.
  • The title character in Kamen Rider Den-O is unlucky to the point that it is often lampshaded by other characters that it seems impossible for him to be this unlucky, let alone still alive.
  • Community - Pierce, working his way back into sailing class with a rowboat on wheels, is an inspiration to Jeff, despairing over his poor pottery skills, with his life story:
    Pierce: Jeffrey, when I was born, I got my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, both arms, and one of my ankles. Mom said that there came a point when the doctors stopped delivering me and just started laughing. I mean, if I ever let being bad at something stop me I wouldn't even be here! That thing some men call failure I call living! Breakfast! And I'm not leaving 'till I clean out the buffet. Now - how 'bout a shove?
    Jeff: [pushing Pierce's boat into the road] Good luck, Pierce!
    Pierce: Don't need it - never had it!

    Music 
  • The protagonist of the song "Born Under a Bad Sign" of course.
    Born under a bad sign
    I been down since I begin to crawl
    If it wasn't for bad luck,
    I wouldn't have no luck at all.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Charlie Brown in Peanuts is an intersection of this and The Determinator.
  • Brutis Thornapple aka The Born Loser. His family crest is a straitjacket, a tax form, a broken eyeglass, and a Poker hand of four spades and a heart.
  • Jon from Garfield is notable in that he may have topped Charlie Brown in sheer rotten luck.

     Radio 
  • In the Cabin Pressure episode "Abu Dhabi", Martin Crieff demonstrates his luck by winning a coin toss for the first time in years, being allowed to Call Shotgun as a result and being ordered to switch seats with Douglas because Carolyn can't see to drive.

    Stand-Up Comedy 

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Champions - Any character with 3 dice of Unluck.
  • GURPS - Any character with the Unluckiness disadvantage.
    • Even worse for people with Cursed: "Any time the GM feels like hosing you, he can, and you have no complaint coming, because you are Cursed." One thread in the SJGames forums reveal that the disadvantage frightened players so much that it was never taken at character creation.
  • One splatbook for Werewolf: The Apocalypse attempted to introduce this with the "Jupiter Descending" flaw - an extra die would be rolled every time, with said die capable of subtracting a success from the roll. The problem is that it was only a one-in-ten chance of taking place, and was worth enough points to become a Minmaxer's Delight.
  • The short-lived Marvel Role-Playing Game had the unlucky hindrance. Whenever a card check (in lieu of dice) would be made involving this character, another card would be drawn from the deck and the card that was worse for the unlucky player would be used. Yes, Spider-Man had this hindrance.
  • The Serenity RPG has this as the character trait "Things Don't Go Smooth". As a Minor Complication, once per session the GM can make you re-roll and take the lower of the two rolls. As a Major Complication, the GM can do this twice per session. Worth mentioning: Malcolm Reynolds' character sheet has the Major version.

    Video Games 
  • In the Tokimeki Memorial series, Kyoko Izumi from Pocket and Miyuki Kotobuki from 2 (the latter even having as a Catch Phrase : "Tsuitenai no ka na~...", "I really have bad luck~...") : if anything bad happens, you can be sure it'll happen to them. Of course, this being Tokimeki Memorial, it's always Played for Laughs.
  • Knoll from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is so unlucky that when rescued from the dungeons, he assumes that his execution date was moved up. His Luck Stat is appropriately low... It starts at zero.
    • A Running Gag is that Joshua will always lose any kind of coin toss he attempts. So much that he even loses rigged coin tosses. (To be fair, that one was against L'Arachel.)
  • Ashton from Star Ocean: The Second Story has the lowest base luck stat out of any of the characters and it never increases as a result of leveling up either, making items the only way to raise it. The first thing that happens to him in the story is having a two-headed dragon fuse with him in an aversion of Talking Is a Free Action, thanks to the party distracting him before he could finish it off. The dragons actually turn out to be quite nice (And useful in combat), but he wants to be rid of them regardless, and in line with his bad luck, he still hasn't found a way to non-lethally separate them from his body by the time of the sequel game that occurs a few years later.
  • Captain Boochbeard from Pirate101 has Rincewind type luck. His plans are always thwarted but he always survives to try again.
  • The Hero of Dragon Quest V, who suffers Trauma Conga Line throughout the game, is notable for having the worst Luck stat.
  • Kanbe Kuroda from Sengoku Basara is The Chew Toy par excellence. Not that he lets it stop him.
  • Actually, games in general commonly cast The Hero as this to extend game length. That guy you traveled halfway across the world to get the MacGuffin from? He's dead. But you can make it yourself using his notes! Which are spread across the enemy's base. But once you collect them, you're all set! To travel back across the world to gather material to build it. But they're all in one small area! Which is swarming with even more bad guys.

    Visual Novels 
  • Maggey Byrde from Ace Attorney. She is accused of murder no less than 3 times and can't seem to hold down a job; she is called "Goddess of Misfortune" and "Lady Luckless" in-game. She's never even won or tied at a game of tic-tac-toe!
  • Both Lancers in Fate/stay night and Fate/Zero have rank E luck (E being the poorest possible for a Servant to have), and both are extremely unlucky in their respective stories. Cu Chulainn is a Blood Knight saddled with a Dirty Coward of a master who denies him battles and leads him to suffer The Worf Effect, while Diarmud is a Tragic Hero whose Blessed with Suck ends up denying him everything he ever wanted from his participation in the Grail War.

    Web Comic 
  • Ava of Avas Demon. At the moment she is born, the demon Wrathia possesses her body and has been bound to her body since then. Because of Wrathia's frustration of being stuck in Ava's body, she frequently controls Ava against her will and gets her in constant trouble. This has ruined any possible friendship for Ava, and her parents are nowhere to be seen.
  • In Basic Instructions, Scott says that Rick's unlucky streak started when the obstetrician's "spank" his his head instead. Rick does not deny or question this.
  • Madness In A Box has Spanky The Bad Luck Bunny.
  • Jack from Zoophobia.
  • The titular character of Matchu.

    Web Original 
  • Karl Van Buren, a Survival of the Fittest v3 character, seems to have this problem, as he's notorious for having extremely bad luck. Some of the things noted in his backstory include, in no particular order, almost drowning, the plane he was on sucking in two people, an ax falling down and hurting people while he was reading about an ax murder, and a transvestite commiting suicide and landing on his car, among other things. He doesn't last very long in-game, having had his neck snapped by Gabriel Theobaldt. He even gets posthumous bad luck, as Victor Kurchatov comes across his corpse and... you don't want to know.
  • In one episode of Counter Monkey, Spoony tells about his friend Crazy Mike, who played a dual-wielding warrior, but somehow didn't hit with a single attack for the first two months of a bi-weekly Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

    Western Animation 
  • Misery from Ruby Gloom, whose entire family had the most outrageous bad luck. (In particular for Misery, she attracts lightning bolts. Even indoors.)
  • Eugene from Hey Arnold!. His birthday was on Friday the 13th.
  • Bad Luck Schlepprock from the Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Animated Series.
  • "Who gets stuck with all the bad luck? No one, but Donald Duck!" Also probably the biggest example of The Chew Toy.
  • On Avatar: The Last Airbender , Ozai often says that his daughter Azula was Born Lucky, while his son Zuko was lucky to be born. Zuko isn't quite like a lot of these other examples, but he does have a lot of crud to deal with as the series goes on.
    • Sokka is a bit of this too. See the quote above (and note how many times he gets sick, rained on, etcetera).
  • South Park:
    • Butters is often grounded for no reason. His birthday is even on September 11.
    • Kenny. Again and again and again.
  • Philip J. Fry has terrible, awful luck. Unless he happens to be holding his lucky 7-leaf clover, as shown in The Luck of the Fryish.
    • Though his bad luck does normally cause the situation to end positively for him; just the experience was traumatic and needlessly painful.

    Other 

    Plot MagnetButt Monkey
Beleaguered AssistantLoser ArchetypeButt Monkey
Born LuckyLuck TropesChain Letter
Born LuckyProbability TropesCatchy AI
Boomerang ComebackComedy TropesBorscht Belt
Carl BarksImageSource/Comic BooksEvil Debt Collector

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