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 why she's 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. If female (male examples of this variation on the evil fiancé are possible, just much rarer), they might be a bonafide Gold Digger, or in even worse cases a Black Widow.
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.
It's not Always Male, but due to a weird Double Standard female examples are rarer.
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.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
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 Revolutionary Girl 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.
In Catherine and Her Fate, when the king hears Catherine's story, he decides to marry her instead of the princess who was coming. To be sure, he had just given Catherine all the gold in his treasury.
Films — Animated
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 Frozen, Anna gets engaged to Hans immediately, but then we see her relationship with Kristoff develop more fully, indicating he would be the real love interest. But that's okay because Hans is just Bland Perfection or so it seems, but he is actually Evil All Along. This even gets lampshaded by one of the trolls, who refers to the engagement as a "flex arrangement."
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.
And again in The Deal where she's been with Glenn (Bland Perfection) for over seven years, but quickly throws him away for an affair with Charlie, although she plans on returning to Glenn once the filming is over, at least until Charlie convinces her they make a good team. Unlike most examples, it's suggested partway through the movie that she's been grooming Glenn entirely as a meal ticket.
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 fiancée. The man gets romantically involved with another woman (who turns out to be the wedding planner his fiancée has hired) and then berates her for "misinterpreting" his philandering. He then ignores the whole thing and lets his fiancée 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 fiancée 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.
Made Of Honor: Bland Perfection. While he takes the loss of his fiancee well enough, he at least still decks the main character for humiliating his family, who cheers him on.
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 is 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, especially since he doesn't seem to mind (or even notice).
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.
The Baxter is a movie told from the perspective of one of these guys a short while after he's just been dumped at the altar.
Addicted to Love: subverted in that the fiancée has already left Sam, he just won't give her up.
Subverted in Mrs. Doubtfire which seems to feature a Bland Perfection type, but he gets to stay with the woman in the end. Instead he just vanishes from the movie after Robin Williams is exposed.
Almost played straight in that the original ending had Danny and Miranda get back together, which was opposed by Chris Columbus, Robin Williams, and Sally Fields (all divorcees).
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'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: Main character Mavis, the immatureYoung Adult book author, wishes her "rival" Beth is this. Averted in that Beth is a perfectly nice woman, and Buddy (Mavis' ex that she's trying to get back together with) has absolutely no intention of leaving Beth or the baby he just had with her.
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.
In Secretary, the fiance's flaw goes beyond boring - he seems to genuinely just want to get married and start a family, and doesn't much seem to care with whom. Maggie is swept along due to an inability to say "no", plus the mixed messages she's receiving from her actual love interest. It's only when trying on the wedding dress that she realizes that she can never be satisfied with him. Her dumping of him is still quite the surprise for the oblivious guy, but at least she didn't wait until the altar.
TheSureThing: Two completely different forms of Bland Perfection. Allison's boyfriend Jason treats their relationship like a potential corporate merger (to be fair, so does she before her Character Development). And Gib thinks of "The Sure Thing" as just a beautiful girl he is guaranteed to have sex with until he meets her and realizes she has a much more boring personality than Allison.
In Midnight in Paris, Gil's fiancée Inez prefers to hang out with her friends rather than Gil. She doesn't think that Gil's dreams are worth exploring, and believes that he should remain a hacky but successful scriptwriter rather than try writing a novel. Whenever Gil has an argument with her (male) friend, she always takes the side of the friend, even though her friend is clearly full of it. Near the end, Gil finally figures out that Inez slept with her friend (meaning she not only betrayed Gil but also her friend's wife with whom she hangs out). When Gil confronts Inez, she treats it as no big deal and fully expects Gil to still be on for marriage. Inez and her parents are outraged when Gil simply calls the whole thing off and leaves. Definitely an Evil All Along example.
In Lajja, Maithili is about to marry her college sweetheart, who comes from a wealthy family. Maithili, meanwhile, comes from an upper-middle-class family. Her fiance's parents have set an extremely large dowry price, which they will not budge on, and which her father is struggling to scrape together. He's a few thousand rupees short, and if he can't get the money together, the wedding will be called off, and his daughter will be publicly humiliated. When Maithili finds out, she tells her fiance, but he's afraid to stand up to his parents. At the actual wedding ceremony, Maithili calls her would-be in-laws out for their greed, and her fiance for his cowardice. She ends up breaking off the engagement at the cost of Family Honor, which would normally mean that no one would want to marry her (and that she'd be pressured to commit suicide in order to save her family's honor), but Raju steps in and marries her offscreen.
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.
Shan Elariel in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy. She was engaged to Elend before Vin (who would later marry Elend) killed her. Considering that Shan was trying to kill Elend at the time, this is probably acceptable.
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).
Happens once again with Victoria as the bride. She is convinced to write a note to her fiancé, but when Ted goes to drop it off he bumps into said fiancé who was also running away from the marriage. Turns out that he realised that she is almost what he wants, but not quite.
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).
Combining Bland Perfection and Let's Call the Whole Thing Off is Dr. John Taglieri, from the first season of ER. He's Carol Hathaway's rebound guy after her breakup with Doug Ross and subsequent suicide attempt. They're quickly engaged, but he leaves her at the altar at the end of the season because he knows she'll never be as thrilled to be with him as he is with her.
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.
In Tsukihime, Akiha had previously been engaged to Fat Bastard Tonami Kugamine, presumably at the behest of her father, but as soon as he dies Akiha takes over the family, breaks off the engagement and throws Kugamine out of the house. In this case he's significantly older than her, perverted, and Akiha is actually in love with her brother Shiki.
When The Nostalgia Chick did Meg Ryan Chick-Flick Month she points out how weird some of the Minor Flaws examples can be, like a man who sneezes too much and a girl who asks for Tic-Tacs during a stressful situation. The "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" scenes also baffle her in how completely painless they seem to be for everyone involved; Sleepless In Seattle's actually sends Todd in the Shadows into a rage.
Hro Talek, Hawkgirl's longlost fiance in Justice League. Initially presented as Bland Perfection, he winds up as Evil All Along. Interestingly, Hawkgirl had been in a relationship with the Green Lantern before we even hear about Hro.