A subtrope of the Romantic False Lead that is extremely popular in romantic comedies. In order for these movies to last a full two hours, there needs to be some kind of obstacle substantial enough to encourage the leads to continue fighting their feelings for most of the movie. At the same time, the obstacle shouldn't be something that will continue to be a problem after they find their Happily Ever After.
Enter this guy. He might have been there all along, or he might be the result of a rapid Relationship Upgrade. Wherever he comes from, he's designed to slip away again just as quietly in the end. It's never stated how long he's been in a relationship with the heroine, how they met, or how she fell in love with him in the first place. The main issue with this character is that the writers can't allow the audience to sympathize with him when the heroine inevitably dumps him (often, right at the altar) and runs off with his romantic rival. Considering that this is actually a pretty horrible thing to do to someone, the writers employ several different tactics to ensure we're smiling at the nice couple and not cringing along with the loser holding the ring. As follows:
Bland Perfection: He's like Prince Charming come to life. Handsome, thoughtful, romantic, usually rich, in short, the ideal man. Only...he's kind of boring. Not even close to a three-dimensional character. He stays this way throughout, without one shred of Character Development. Nobody can be interested in a character like that and we can watch him walk off into the sunset without any regrets. He tends to pull a I Want My Beloved to Be Happy at the end.
Minor Flaws: This guy wouldn't be so bad if he didn't have such annoying habits. Maybe he writes really bad poetry. He might be embarrassingly nerdy or a total mama's boy. Whatever it is, it's clearly a sign that the heroine has given up on her romantic dreams and decided to settle down...with the wrong guy. This guy doesn't usually kick up a fuss at the break-up, although he can't carry it off with the dignity of Bland Perfection.
Latent Jealousy: The more extreme version of the above. Starts out sensible and modest, but turns wildly jealous at the first sign of a Love Triangle, to the point where this overrides his nice qualities and makes his Minor Flaws stand out more. He'll be a sore loser about the heroine rejecting him.
Evil All Along: This guy is such a sleazebag, it's a miracle the heroine ever agreed to go out with him. He tends to cheat on her, often bad-mouths her behind her back and occasionally to her face. Sometimes he puts on a facade of Bland Perfection but expect him to Kick the Dog the minute the leading lady turns her back. This creep deserves to get dumped faster than a piece of rotting meat. Whilst a Disposable Fiancé of this type is the most straightforward in terms of getting the audience to root for the romantic leads, it can backfire if he's so utterly repellent that it makes the romantic lead look like a fool for even being with him in the first place.
Done poorly, this can involve Unfortunate Implications if the fiancé is crassly dumped without a second thought. Done well, it can provide a lesson about how rushing into things is bad, or that you should know someone well and be comfortable with their character before making such a large commitment.
Sometimes both leads will have a disposable intended and in rare cases, we end up with a Pair the Spares solution. See also Asshole Victim, which is very similar in certain aspects.
In the anime of Princess Lover, Charlotte's fiancé is tossed in at the halfway point of the story, and then rather promptly shot in the back (making him a literal Disposable Fiancé). Turns out it wasn't a killing shot, and he escapes to become the Derailing Love Interest.
Kanae from Shoujo Kakumei Utena. Either a bizarre deconstruction of the trope, or a hilarious parody, depending on how you watch the show. She ends up reduced to a completely vegetative state by Akio, serving only to keep him officially in power in her daddy's academy. And it's very debatable whether Akio even needs her for that, making his actions seem creepy at best and inhumanly cruel at worst.
And, on that note, You've Got Mail, although in that movie they were merely Disposable Roommates Who Are In Long Term Relationships With The Leads. But that doesn't roll off the tongue nearly as easily, does it?
They also filled the roles of being perfectly compatible with the two mains as they perceived themselves and were perceived at the beginning of the film, as they both start to grow and are shaped by the events of the film, they realize they are only compatible with their starting partner on superficial levels but are perfect for each other on deeper levels (even if they are superficially disagreeable with each other). All in all, done better here than most other times, since the audience is perfectly aware that the disposable female is a horrible person and the disposable male leaves amicably as they both realize they aren't really in love with each other at about the same time.
It Happened One Night In this one, the fiancé is actually the reason the leads meet as Peter the reporter, hoping to get a good story, follows heiress Ellie along on her trip to meet the guy her father is trying to get her away from. Of course, Ellie never really knew her original fiancé. He was simply the first man she ever got alone with and married him to stick it to her overprotective father. Once she spends her time with Peter and finds out what falling in love is actually like, she realizes there's no way she ever loved the first guy.
The Graduate: Probably Bland Perfection, to the extent that the audience even gets to know him in the few minutes of screen time he has. Outside pressure was also most likely a factor in Elaine's swift engagement and marriage. Of course, in that movie, she'd already married the guy by the time she ran out in the wedding dress.
The Wedding Planner, of the "let's call the whole thing off" variety. Worked horribly, as the only person you feel sorry for is the fiancé. The man gets romantically involved with another woman (who turns out to be the wedding planner his fiancé has hired) and then berates her for "misinterpreting" his philandering. He then ignores the whole thing and lets his fiancé plan their wedding blissfully unaware that he's falling in love with the planner (who only superficially thinks of ending the whole thing and never lets her client in on what her fiancé is really doing). Meanwhile, the planner is constantly leading on a childhood friend who is desperately in love with her to either serve to make the male lead jealous, or to boost herself up emotionally as she pines for the leading man. At the last second, the fiancé decides she doesn't want to get married, giving him the opportunity to run after the female lead. With his behavior, it's kind of hard to imagine how either woman wants him in the first place.
And the planner is even less sympathetic, because it's revealed she's been the victim of this before, when her fiancé got back with his highschool girlfriend on the night of their rehearsal dinner.
Subverted in My Best Friend's Wedding where Julia Roberts' character is convinced that her love interest's fiancée is one of this type and does all in her power to break them up but in the end decides he belongs with the other girl after all.
Spider-Man 2 Not a romantic comedy, per se, but still follows the trope to a T. John Jameson is Bland Perfection, which is probably lucky as if he had any personality at all, Mary Jane's jilting him at the altar (with just a note left behind) would come across amazingly crass and insensitive........Well, actually, it still does.
Spaceballs: As the name would suggest, Prince Valium is a case of Minor Flaws (so boring he puts himself to sleep). Plus it's an arranged marriage she was being forced into, so she doesn't come off as particularly cruel when she ditches him.
Enchanted does this both ways, always sympathetically. In the real world, Nancy gets a proper characterization, and the Minor Flaw is more on the side of the lead - Robert's eternal cold feet cause her a certain amount of stress to begin with, and a Not What It Looks Like situation understandably angers her - and it's Giselle who suggests the way to make her feel better. Later, when they realize that they're just incompatible with their partners, Giselle forsakes her own (adorably ditzy) Disposable Fiancé, Prince Edward,he and Nancy hop into the sunset - er, manhole - together.
Wedding Crashers: Evil All Along (curiously, the main character manages to win back the heroine without even revealing the fiancé's sleaziness). A notable example of the Evil All Along type, as while Sack Lodge is a Jerkass he is also charismatic and charming enough that Claire doesn't look like a complete moron for dating him in the first place. This is the hurdle that many romantic comedies using the Evil All AlongDisposable Fiancé stumble over.
Old School: Evil All Along, and the type where he hides it from the love interest. It's employed to juxtapose how the lead is perceived as too immature and chauvinist to get the girl, but her fiancé is actually way worse.
Averted in Imagine Me And You - the fiancé (actually, husband) is a genuinely good guy and in love with the heroine. When she falls for the (female) florist who arranged their bridal bouquets, he is genuinely heartbroken with no emotional band-aid or Replacement Goldfish. It's the most convincing scene in the movie.
Whos That Girl. Louden's fiancee is vain, self-absorbed and shallow, not to mention absurdly promiscuous and just not as interesting to be with as Nikki.
Ever After: Let's Call The Whole Thing Off; Turns out the Prince's fiancée had a Love Interest of her own that her parents didn't approve of and was fighting for their happily ever after as well.
Spanish Princess: (Sobs and blubbers in Spanish as she points toward a man in the audience who is also weeping)
Henry:(laughing) My lady, I completely understand.
Hope Floats torpedoes this trope right off the bat by having the would-be disposable fiancé dump her on live television.
Letters to Juliet: While it appears that the main character's finance is neglecting her, a more honest description of their situation is that both sides do not see the presence of the other person as a necessity, which leads to their inevitable break-up.
The Princess Diaries 2: Bland Perfection leaning towards Let's Call The Whole Thing Off. When Mia calls off the wedding at the very last minute, Andrew is perfectly understanding about it, and he's only worried about what his mother's going to think.
L'arnacoeur, aka Heartbreaker: Andrew Lincoln's character is definitely Blandly Perfect
Coming to America: The prince had a fiancé back home, but he came to America specifically to find a replacement for her. You have to feel sorry for the girl. Her bland perfection stemmed from the fact that from the day she was born, she was raised to be his wife and do everything he said. She had no opinions or likes of her own, simply stating "whatever you prefer" when he asked her. What is the poor girl going to do with her life now?
In all likelihood, she hasn'tstopped "barking like a dog. A big dog."
What's Up Doc?: Madeline Kahn again, and here her character Eunice Burns is really the innocent victim of the devious schemes of Barbra Streisand's character. At least Eunice seems to be happier with the millionaire she ends up with!
Baroness Schraeder in The Sound of Music is a combination of Minor Flaws and Let's Call The Whole Thing Off.
Cast Away is a rare aversion; many test audience members who were so used to this trope reacted negatively to the ending because it doesn't follow this pattern.
Leap Year has a combination of Bland Perfection and Minor Flaws (though said flaw is hardly trivial).
Young Adult: An immatureYoung Adult author probably wishes her "rival" is this, despite the fact that the author and her love interest broke up in high school, he got married and just had a kid.
Wicker Park starts with the male lead buying a ring to propose to his Blandly Perfect girlfriend. He then thinks he might be able to find the girl he dated before her, and spends the rest of the movie completely ignoring the woman he was apparently intending to marry, as well as sleeping with someone else. While she has no character, the way he immediately abandons their relationship without even bothering to inform her makes him come off as a Jerkass.
Twister has a rare female example in Melissa. Tends towards Minor Flaws, in that she is somewhat boring and holds back the lead character from doing what he loves.
"Only You" the main character's fiancé is a jerk who doesn't really know her, much less love her, and she's settled for him instead of waiting and following her romantic dreams.
Pocahontas: Bland Perfection (the best warrior in the tribe) and Minor Flaws (as she puts it, "He's so... serious.").
In Monsters vs. Aliens, Susan's fiance Derrick turns out to be, in her words, a selfish egotistical jerk. His wedding day attempt to convince her that his job interview in Fresno is an acceptable substitute (rather than an unfortunate delay) for the planned Parisian honeymoon pushes him into the Evil All Along category.
In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Thuvia has accepted an offer at the opening, though he doesn't actually appear. Then she's abducted, Carthoris chases after her, and the fiancé only reappears at the end — where Carthoris heroically saves his life and intends to leave Thuvia with him. Thuvia begs him to stay, though she admits it's dishonorable on her part, and her fiancé frees her.
In the Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking, Wendy's husband Tove is gay. Wendy is in love with Loki, a prince of the rival group of trolls. He gets the marriage annulled in the final book of the trilogy.
In the world of television The Office's Roy (US) and Lee (UK) play this to Pam and Dawn, respectively. Mostly of the "minor flaws" variation, but with hints of Latent Jealousy.
In the final season of the US version, the characters attend Roy's wedding to a woman we've never seen before. He seems to have changed into a boring nice guy, but a bit of the Evil All Along variant surfaces when he hints to Jim that he dodged a bullet by not marrying Pam.
Inverted in How I Met Your Mother, where where the main character Ted ends up as one of these with Stella.
And then the guy she dumped to go back to writes a hit romantic-comedy movie about the whole thing, with himself as a Mary Sue and Ted as pathetic, evil, goofy, jealous monster (to the point where the fact that Stella is even dating him is described as the movie's only flaw). The Ted-expy even drops his Paper-Thin Disguise altered name ("Jed Mosley") and shouts "I'm TED MOSBY!" at one point during the movie.
From Stella's point of view, Ted probably fell into the "Bland Perfection" category, as in Robin's words, he was "disappearing into someone else's life". Stella later apologizes for her actions, telling him she was always in love with Tony, but she loved and cared for Ted because he made her believe in romance again (ironically priming her to be swept off her feet by Tony when he realizes he's about to lose her forever to Ted).
Glee: With Will/Emma being the primary romance between the show's adults, that pairing alone has a few of these. Ken Tanaka, Emma's fiance at the beginning of the show, is this trope played entirely straight (complete with the "slipping away at the end" business). Terri is Will's disposable wife. In Season 2, when it seems like Will and Emma can finally get together, along comes her sexy new dentist boyfriend Carl Howell, who later seems set up to be a disposable husband.
Lavinia Swire may as well have had this written on her forehead from her first appearance. She dies during the influenza epidemic, but not before seeing her fiancé kissing another woman and insisting that she wants him to be happy anyway.
There's a brief acknowledgment of Let's Call the Whole Thing Off when she tells Matthew that she doesn't want to deal with being the Countess of Grantham, even if she loves him.
There was an even more blatant example with Richard Carlisle, Mary's Disposable Fiancé. Unlike the sweet and selfless Lavinia, Carlisle was a jerk whom Mary only considered marrying to keep the Pamuk scandal out of the press. Once Lord Grantham made it clear that she wouldn't have to worry about that, she dumped his sorry ass.
In A Different World, Whitley becomes engaged to the handsome senator Byron Douglas III. He's pretty perfect (quite the political crusader) but not bland. Whitley leaves him at the altar and marries Dwayne. Since Whitley and Dwayne tend to be the One True Pairing, fans didn't think about Byron too much.
In Once Upon a Time, Abigail/Kathryn to James/David, both in fairy tale land and in Storybrooke, of the Let's Call The Whole Thing Off variety in both:
In fairy tale land, it's an arranged marriage. As it turns out, she's no happier with the arrangement than he is, being in love with someone else.
In Storybrooke, the curse has placed them in a loveless marriage and actively prevents them from being with their beloveds (with a little help from Regina), even when Kathryn realizes David loves Mary Margaret (Snow White) more than her and tries to gracefully remove herself from the picture.
Princess Mithian in Merlin, who Arthur becomes engaged to after Guinevere is Mistaken for Cheating. Yet somehow Mithian averts every single one of the types common to this trope, coming across as an interesting, charming, kind-hearted woman who genuinely falls for Arthur over the course of the episode. The only type she could arguably fit into is Minor Flaw (with her flaw being that she's simply not the woman he's in love with), as were it not for Arthur's latent feelings for Guinevere, she would have been the perfect match for him. She even takes her rejection amazingly well, and on returning in the next season, has no hard feelings toward the Happily Married pair.
Also Princess Elena of the series before, who falls into the Let's Call The Whole Thing Off category after she and Arthur agree that their Arranged Marriage isn't to their liking (Arthur because he loves Gwen; Elena because she doesn't really know Arthur).
Hilarious subversion in a Dungeons & Dragons Adventure, from Free Adventure day. A Lawful Good type is forced into an Arranged Marriage with a succubus, due to a treaty with the local Lawful Evil nation. However, the probable plot is subverted. The marriage is too important to break up. Instead, the goal is to get him a ring that protects against life drain! Furthermore, she is not portrayed as Evil All Along, and can be genuinely...well, if not GOOD, at least you can see it won't lead to slaying.
Tiffany in Mary, Mary, though not a Rich Bitch, is just too wealthy for Bob to keep, and she makes this one of several reasons to call off their engagement. As she leaves, she notes that he was never strongly attracted to her in the first place.
Jane in Brigadoon is far too bland to compete with Tommy's memories of Scotland.
In the 1993 musical of Tommy, the boyfriend talks about getting married with Tommy's mother. However, when her husband comes back home from the war, the mother feels surprised and relieved that he's alive after all, and the boyfriend soon becomes a jerkass by acting hostile toward Tommy's parents and attempting to kill the father. Fortunately, the father disposes of him by shooting him dead in the struggle.
Pretty well averted in Romeo and Juliet. By all appearances Paris is a genuinely decent, honorable guy, and in his dying moments, asks to be buried alongside the supposedly dead Juliet.
In The Desert Song, Margot is still about to marry Captain Paul Fontaine as the first act finale begins.
Persona 3: In Mitsuru's social link storyline after inheriting ownership of the Kirijo Group due to her father's death she is thrown into an arranged marriage with an Evil All Along type, whom she immediately dumps after he insults the main character.