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Dysfunction Junction
"I'm not sure why the Light Warriors worry about obstacles or monsters standing in their way. They are nothing compared to the obstacles and monsters within the party."

What's your malfunction?

A character with flaws is more interesting than a character without flaws. Ergo, a cast of characters with flaws is more interesting exponentially. QED.

Normality is boring and unartistic. An easy way to crank up drama is to supply everyone with a tragic past, screwed-up family history, other significant psychological issues, or some combination of the three. When Dysfunction Junction comes into play, good parents can be as common as penguins in the Sahara, instead turning out to be neglectful, smothering, unfeeling, abusive, misguided or dead. And let's not even get into the rest of the family.

The resulting prevalence of personal trauma often stretches suspension of disbelief and is a leading cause of Cerebus Syndrome. If done poorly, this is a one-way ticket to Wangst territory, and as so many attempt to smother the series with dysfunction, Deus Angst Machina is a frequent result. If done well, you get a large number of interesting, sympathetic, flawed characters, and their interactions with each other gradually reveal the multiple sides to each of them.

This trope often goes hand in hand with There Are No Therapists, Trauma Conga Line and dramatic Crapsack Worlds. Big Screwed-Up Family can be a justification for this trope. Royal families are particularly prone to this, as are cops and detectives. The Dysfunction Junction is the natural habitat of the Jerkass Woobie.


Example subpages:


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • With few exceptions, almost all of the X-Men have tragic pasts, poor childhoods, dead parents or all three. This is compounded by the series' use of Expansion Pack Past, which tends to add on progressively more tragedies in the character's personal history the longer the series goes on, continually "revealed" to the audience whenever a character is focused on. Some of this is retooling to more clearly explain the animosity of mutants rejected by society, but a fair bit has existed from the team's earliest days.
  • Watchmen comes close; the only superheroes in it that are pretty well-adjusted are the two Nite Owls and the second Silk Spectre. They have some of their own baggage too, but they're generally pretty normal people (Nite Owl II, in particular, is ultimately a mildly depressed guy who feels most comfortable and meaningful- personally and, uh, sexually- in superhero mode, a major step up from a mainstream hero like Batman).
  • On Runaways, the unifying aspect of the group is that everyone had super villain parents.
    • Joss Whedon's run added Klara, a twelve-year-old abused child bride from 1907.
    • Aside from Klara, Whedon's run dials this trope back a bit; surprising, considering he usually gleefully subjects characters with as much as they can take and then some. Quite a few of the Runaways actually come out better or no worse off from their adventure. Chase gets new weapons and manages to move on from Gert's death, resisting the temptation to go back in time to save her. Xavin manages to overcome his/her gender issues. Nico gets a new staff and powers (kind of like Willow). Molly remains unchanged. About the only one messed up further is Victor; he falls for a new girl, Nico dumps him, and new girl doesn't go with him back to the present. One gets the feeling Whedon didn't like Victor.
  • The Doom Patrol. To descend into just how screwed up everyone in that group's roster is would take up the whole page.
    • To give you a taste: The team roster for Keith Giffen's run includes a man whose brain was preserved by putting it in a robot, an off-kilter Energy Being with identity issues, a former B-Movie actress with low self-esteem whose ex-husband is a telepathic stalker, a girl with 64 multiple personalities, and an amoral bastard of a Mad Scientist who treats losing his legs as an inconvenience.
  • It's not exactly dwelt on, so it's easy to forget the Avengers have included an alcoholic ex-prisoner of war with recurrent relationship issues, a man who once woke up to the news that his best friend was dead and it was several decades in the future, a man who struggled with race and class issues all his life and was jailed for a crime he didn't commit, a brainwashed and surgically altered killing machine who works constantly to suppress his savagery, and a former brainwashed terrorist who was experimented on by her father while in a coma, to name just a few.
    • And that's not even getting started on Spider-Man...
    • The Young Avengers, if anything, are worse. We've got everything from accidentally almost killing bullies to juvenile delinquency, steroid abuse, and rape.
      • These angst-filled tragic backstories are so common in Marvel, it may explain the popularity of Squirrel Girl, who is well-adjusted and is a hero because she wants to help people.
    • Ant-Man (or Giantman, or whatever he calls himself, it changes a lot) is constantly reminded, and remembered, by everybody in the Marvel Universe as "the guy who beat his wife". He did hit her, but it was only once and he wasn't fully in control of himself.
      • The animated Ultimate Avengers really didn't care for him, and flat out took him out, because, say it with me now...
    • This explicitly seems to be the premise of Avengers Academy. The student body consists of six teenagers who were forcibly and torturously given powers by Norman Osborn. They include a guy who's stuck in a metal body, a radioactive girl who gave her parents cancer and a girl who's slowly dissipating. They're all revealed to be "damaged goods" who are most likely to turn into villains and are given training to preempt that. Accordingly, their instructors are some of the most troubled members of the Avengers, who are supposed to benefit the kids with their experience of dealing with their problems.
  • Three words: The Bat Family. It consists of a guy whose parents were shot dead in front of him when he was eight, a guy whose parents were killed in front of him when someone sabotaged their trapeze act, a girl who used to be a gymnastic crime fighter until she was shot and paralyzed by someone after her dad, another guy whose parents are dead (including step parents and fake ones), a girl who was raised in The Spartan Way to be the world's greatest assassin and wasn't even taught how to read or talk, and a girl whose parents were shot dead in front of her when she was eight. We might as well just say Gotham is Dysfunction Junction. Just living there practically counts as an angsty past.
    • And Stephanie Brown, aka the Spoiler! Her father was Cluemaster, a third-string Batman villain who was a Riddler rip-off. So when she was growing up, her house was constantly filled with criminals (including, briefly, the Riddler), her dad was in and out of jail, and her mom was addicted to prescription drugs. When she was a young teenager, she got pregnant and ultimately decided to give up her baby for adoption, never ever seeing it. Her father also repeatedly used her in his various plots, once getting her kidnapped and put in very real danger of death as part of an elaborate trap for Batman. For years she struggled with her feelings for her father, trying to figure out if he ever really loved her. And then he died. And she also got the chance to become Robin, but screwed that up, got fired, and promptly went out and accidentally started a massive gang war that killed hundreds of people and ended with her almost dying at the hands of the Black Mask. She eventually was able to come back from the dead and since has begun a relatively well-adjusted life as a college freshman while her mother (now off drugs) works a steady job at a hospital. But on the road to this, she also broke up with her long-term boyfriend (Robin), who later told her she should never do crimefighting again, and had to go through the death of the only strong male figure she ever had in her life (Batman). Then she becomes Batgirl and gets little respect. The poor girl just never gets a break! Amazingly she barely wangsts about any of this.
    • Then there's also Jason Todd, whose parental issues include being The Unfavorite because Batman didn't avenge his death at the hands of the Joker, worded thusly: "I'm talking about killing him. Just him. And doing it... because he took me away from you."
    • And that's without counting the myriad of traumas and psychoses behind almost all the Batman villains.
  • Jesse Custer has familial issues and then some, although not what you would expect.
    • His parents were fine, upstanding people who did not balk at showing their love. Sadly the same did not hold for his maternal grandmother, who in her attempts to control Jesse's upbringing kept him and his parents hostage from an early age on, and had his father murdered for attempted escape. His mother was later to suffer the same fate, for attempting to intervene when Jesse was to be punished by being left to stew in his own feces and urine, with no nutrition, in a submerged coffin, for a week. For using a swearword in anger against her personal henchmen, who had recently murdered his puppy.
  • The Teen Titans. It's arguably more of a support group for superpowered teens than an actual team of superheroes. Considering how many of them have died and/or gone insane, it doesn't do a very good job.
  • While Astro City typically avoids this trope (due to its idealistic nature), it is played straight with the Williams brothers during the aptly-named "Dark Age" story arc. After seeing their parents gunned down during a super-hero fight, Royal becomes a jaded petty thief, while Charles becomes a By-the-Book Cop who gets shot In the Back by Dirty Cops; the two eventually become vigilantes in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against their parents' killer. They abandon their quest after realizing what they've become, and retire to run a chartered fishing business instead.
  • X-Statix had this essentially as its core premise — this was a team of celebrities, not heroes, and as such, extremenote  personalities clashing is to be expected. But to go into detail: the Orphan has an adversarial relationship with the Anarchist, who in turn is bitter rivals with the Spike. Phat and Vivisector don't get along with anyone except occasionally each other. El Guapo disrupts the team when it starts to gel, the Mysterious Fan Boy's naivite grates on everyone but forces them to at least pretend to like each other, Venus Dee Milo draws flak from fans and the media, which lessens her stock among the team members themselves, and Dead Girl is just... weird. U-Go Girl is probably the only one who functions semi-normally within the group.
  • Can somebody say "Todd Casil" also known as Squee? His parents explicitly state on several occasions "I wish you'd never been born," his neighbor is a homicidal psychopath, and he has a 1-sided friendship with the son of Satan!
  • The Fantastic Four were actually a groundbreaking feat in superhero comics because of this trope. Before their creation, it was unthinkable for a superhero team to have such blatantly dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics and depressing personal issues. Not including all the crap that they go through after they get superpowers, from the very beginning the group includes a guy whose entire normal life was ruined by getting turned into a giant, hideous rock monster who can't hide his identity. And as for screwed-up backstories, they have the guy whose former friend hates him with such a blinding passion that every single thing said friend has done in his career as an evil, world-dominating Magnificent Bastard can be traced back to his obsessive desire for revenge.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye gives us the crew of the Lost Light. Almost half of the crew suffers from extreme mental, social, and personality disorders. Rodimus is a self-loathing Glory Hound, Ultra Magnus is Super OCD, Drift is implied to be suffering PTSD, Swerve is a Stepford Smiler who feels like he doesn't have any friends, Tailgate is a Phony Veteran who secretly hates himself, Cyclonus has difficulty forming emotional attachments, Trailbreaker is an alcoholic, Chromedome is constantly depressed and has suffered the Cartwright Curse four times, and Whirl is literally insane. Even the Only Sane Man, Hoist, has a traumatic past that has left him with a crippling phobia of being alone. Just to top it off? They only have one therapist... who might have just as many issues as the rest of the crew, if not more.

    Fan Fic 
  • Series Five of The Lion King Adventures is filled with more character flaws, deaths and tragedies than you can shake a stick at. You'll need a box of tissues to get through it all.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring has become this in Bag Enders. Understandably, as they've been stuck with each other for six thousand years. Gandalf has become a Dirty Old Man who drinks copiously and spends all his time in front of the TV. Merry and Pippin work a string of low-paying jobs in between drinking as much as Gandalf and shagging Anything That Moves. Frodo is suffering from the incurable Post-Ringbearer Syndrome and spends half his time in a mental hospital or latching onto the long-suffering Sam. Gimli works the night shift and is rarely seen. Aragorn suffered a messy divorce from Arwen and is now the nearest thing the Fellowship have to an authority figure. Legolas is the usual viewpoint character and Only Sane Man, but is slowly cracking under the strain of having to spend eternity with the Fellowship instead of in Valinor, and on one occasion was possessed by the understandably-irritable spirit of Boromir.
  • Zenith, Darkness, Reverie, a Death Note fanfiction, combines an insolent shinigami with an exceptionally bleak outlook on life, smothering maternal figures, a mentally shattered teenager (two diagnosed personality disorders, denial of every aspect of her existence, peculiarly elevated intelligence, and severe psychopathic tendencies) with a mass murderer intent on psychologically and physically destroying the entire cast. Said murderer is an alternate personality of the teenager. Such fun.
  • Two Slayers - One Heart, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic, cranks this trope Up to Eleven due to the Slayer mansion set up in Normal being for the ones with problems from mental to physical. From orphaned Slayers to blind Slayers to abused Slayers, they've got it all.
  • In Fill the Moon, the cast all have some sort of horrible, crippling psychological issue. In order; Xemnas' impregnation of his own daughter using his surrogate younger brother as the father, Xigbar has dealt with a completely screwed-up lover, and is outright stated to have become a Knight Templar on his brothers' behalf during their time as Apprentices, and while Luxord, his lover isn't crazy, (which is even lampshaded by Xigbar), Xaldin has been through his entire life feeling alone, unloved, and "undeserving" of affection, Vexen, who worked himself beyond exhaustion being the Team Mom for the Apprentices, and is now dealing with the fact that they've grown up and don't need him anymore, Lexaeus is actually rather normal, but considering his girlfriend, Larxene, has been raped and abused in every single relationship she's had, and was horrifically abused by her ex-husband, who also raped her and is implied to have done far worse, he doesn't have to be crazy. Still more?
    • Axel is dealing with losing his best friend, Saix, to Xemnas, and pining for a lover who doesn't even exist outside of Sora yet, and has defected from the Organization to find him. Zexion, who is already canonically an orphan, is forced to impregnate his thirteen year old lover, who didn't even know what sex was until that catastrophe, is forced to watch her almost die due to the impregnation, and performs a Heroic Sacrifice in her name. Plus, he's implied to have even more trauma pre-Fill the Moon, so we're bound to see more on him. Marluxia is somewhat normal, but rather possessive. Dealing with Vexen could drive anyone crazy.
    • Demyx doesn't have it so good either. Being abused by his older brother for his entire life as a Somebody led to a serious case of PTSD, culminating in a massive mental breakdown before Xigbar managed to help him through it.
    • The worst of the lot is the little OC Nobody, Senayax. She was forced to eat her own grandfather to survive, she has a horrific demon living inside of her that expresses delight in the thought of raping her, she was impregnated by her lover under orders from her father, she almost died as a result, and committed suicide after Zexion performed a Heroic Sacrifice to save her.
    • To sum it up? Everyone in this fic is insane.
  • Fallout: Equestria - Project Horizons takes this trope and runs with it. Blackjack is a none-too-smart bundle of self-loathing and guilt held together by chems, alcohol and Chronic Hero Syndrome. She's also guilty of rape and murder before the story even begins. P-21 has deep emotional scars and constantly stuggles with cognitive dissonance, particularly a repressed desire to kill Blackjack for raping him and killing his lover. Rampage is a nigh-invulnerable child-murdering psychopath with a split personality, who actually wants to be good and/or find a way to die. Lacunae is a live dumping ground for an entire Hive Mind's collective angst, prone to being the subject of Villain Overrides. Scotch Tape is a relatively sheltered Tagalong Kid who attracts psychological trauma like a magnet. The only (relatively) stable member of the main cast is Morning Glory, who quickly develops several problems of her own such as being betrayed and exiled from the Pegasi Enclave, branded, and later losing a wing.
  • Child Of The Storm has Tony Stark all but invoke this trope when Sif's werewolf issues are brought up. Harry and his friends are a particularly good example:
    • Harry's first memory is of his mother being murdered, and was abused for a decade or so by the Dursleys, with much of his character development being coming to terms with family that actually cares for him and that he's now able to express his emotions. And you know, there's a near death experience or two, attempted murder, that sort of thing.
    • Carol has a verbally abusive father with a Stay in the Kitchen attitude, while her mother is implied to be an Extreme Doormat, while also having to deal with a realistic variation of So Beautiful, It's a Curse - lots of grown men hitting on her and touching her without asking, and as a result of this and her unsurprisingly abrasive personality, she has few close friends aside from Jean-Paul and Lex Luthor, both of whom have issues of their own (she's actually the latter's Morality Chain, for example).
    • Jean-Paul is Camp Gay and suffers a fair bit of homophobia because of it. Oh, and his sister is basically insane and he's the only person she really responds to.
    • Uhtred is the youngest of a large and fairly successful family, and consequently has something of an Inferiority Superiority Complex as he tries to be the best simply to stand out.
    • And Diana is the daughter of Hercules and Hyppolyta and thus a target for Hera's wrath. It is further implied that the reason she's living in Asgard - and consequently hasn't seen her parents for years - because Hera repeatedly tried to murder her simply for existing. She's also an Empath and has been since she was a small child, making her involuntarily wise for her years, to the point where Harry specifically notes that her eyes are far too old and knowing for her body.
  • Brave New World, a Pokémon fanfic and sequel to Latias' Journey has a cast chockablock with this trope. Ash Ketchum has a human soul inserted into the body of a Lucario and he has fleeting memories from his life as a human, haunted by memories of previously destroying the world after watching his loved ones get killed; Pikachu is a samurai who knows he may one die in battle; the baby Larvitar, Tiny, had a traumatising birth and refuses to open up to anybody; Lily was born with the purpose to be a sacrifice to Giratina and has been abused all her life by her mother; Dawn was betrayed by her best friend, cannot speak because her vocal cords were removed at birth, and her entire ninja clan was exterminated; and Briney lost his wife to the villains, wearing her eye in place of his missing one. The only major heroes who escape the trope are Leo and Sasha, although they have their own troubles.
    • The fanfic's version of Misty maintains her phobia of bugs, but it was caused after she was brainwashed into becoming part of a Hive Mind and believing she was an insect, until she was saved by Ash and Pikachu, suffering from a traumatic recovery.
  • From All You Need Is Love, a Death Note fanfic in which an Action Mom is being stalked by a mass murderer ( and father of her child. The murderer in turn is being stalked by a Depraved Homosexual detective). After the murderer's little sister is traumatized from being kidnapped by a transvestite mafia lord then most of the cast are Pushed in Front of the Audience by the resident idiot:
    Naomi: I'm very sorry to everyone. My companions don't try to be idiots it just kind of happens. Sayu and I were put through very traumatic experiences; it's just for me, well… I deal with this shit all the time so it doesn't really bother me. For a normal person I'm sure what we went through would have left them shell shocked with only the ability to remain curled in a corner rocking themselves back and forth. So I'm going to apologize on the behalf of everyone here except for Takada who really did try her best, it's not her fault that he's dumb, she's traumatized, I don't have problems, he's an asshole, and he's the devil.
  • Brainbent brings the Homestuck case (see below) to its logical conclusion, as an AU transplanting the cast into residents and staff of a psychiatric institution, treating the matter with the respect and thorough knowledge it really deserves.
  • From I Won't Say after Light/Kira meets the Wammys kids:
  • A Cure for Love: Whoo boy... Matt got pressured into working for a terrorist organization in order to keep his boyfriend safe he was pressured into this by his boyfriend's MOTHER no less. L and Light are mortal enemies and deeply in love with each other and that goes about as well as you might expect they were happy together... until Misa conspires with Astraea to return to Light his Kira memories. After his Relationship Upgrade with Light, L considered Misa to be one of his only friends even if she is a Serial Killer that wants him dead. Light caught L talking with Mello in a clandestine meeting and assumed he was cheating on him. Light kills both Watari and Misa when they both became a threat to his relationship with L and then he kept L drugged up for about a week. Later when L regains his senses he pretends to be all forgiving and gives Light a hug... and then throws him down onto a bed of broken porcelain. Then there's the Yagami family. Mr. Yagami is loudly against Light and L's relationship and so Light used his death to advance his schemes. L had unknowingly become Light's Morality Chain and so when L breaks up with Light and tells him he should be committed Light becomes very cross and Takes Over The World. When Light leaves L made up some excuse for his mother and sister-something along the lines of Kira betrayed and murdered Light and so Sayu wants Kira dead because she believes he killed Light. Matsuda strongly believes in Light's innocence up to the point where Light had him tied to a chair while practicing his Evil Laugh and so his idealism has been crushed. Both Kira and L have hit the Despair Event Horizon since their breakup and haven't been getting much done and this is noticed by their underlings. Light is rapidly losing his grip on his remaining sanity and has been relying on Mikami more and more to do all the administrative duties of ruling the world. Also since Light feels secure in his rule and he has too much time on his hands and wants to forget about L he has developed a drug problem. Aizawa only stays on because he fears everything will fall apart if he leaves. Both Mello's mother and boyfriend were killed by Kira-and on that last note Matt's death was a Psychic-Assisted Suicide and he dies in Mello's arms. Then there's Mello's mother and her Dark and Troubled Past Mello was a Child by Rape and his mother was trained to be an assassin by Wammy's house. She was never allowed near her son as he grew up and the man she loved committed suicide. And then Near is just... Near the "poor copy" Emotionless Boy.
  • The New Retcons: For starters, Elly Patterson lost her mind and thinks it's the 1980s in 2008. John refuses to do anything about it while she terrorizes her children and grandchildren, thinking Merrie and Robin are Michael and Liz, while completely denying that April is her daughter and throwing her out of the house. Meanwhile, Liz and Anthony are coping with realizing the person they married is not the person they thought they married and with Elizabeth cheating on Anthony, with her son not being his. Along with coping with an insane mother and a negligent father, Michael's trying to deal with taking in the displaced April, marital troubles, an autistic son, two miscarriages, finding out he's not John's biological son, and repressing his bisexuality. Then they all discover that Elly lost it cause she feared her bastard daughter showing up, a fear realized when their half-sister Claire appeared, causing John to attack Elly and Elly to end up in a mental hospital. Even then, Elly escaped twice, Michael's marriage is on the rocks when he let his workaholic tendencies get the better of him, Elizabeth and Anthony have setbacks in their own marriage, and John faces being known only as a crazy old man. Then, when Elly snaps out of it and attempts to make amends for her actions, she's murdered, and things went worse in Who Silenced Elly Patterson.
    • Final score: Elly's dead, murdered by her Psycho Lesbian best friend out of being a Woman Scorned, John cheated on her when she went in the mental hospital, married The Mistress (and oh, by the way, a woman that's April's age and had literally stolen from Elly) and died relatively young (younger than his father had, anyway) due to a bad diet, Deanna divorced Michael and got custody of the kids (and pretty much only speaks to April anymore), Elizabeth and Anthony are sticking together pretty much just for the kids, and April's estranged from most of her family. All would agree they're better off though.
  • Wammy's House as Lampshaded in Change Of Circumstances:
    Light: Do you know what it's like to be left alone here with these people? They're all stupid and crazy.
  • In The Wizard in the Shadows, its sequel and anthology of short stories, a good portion of the main cast are like this. Harry is borderline insane for most of the first fic - having immediately followed the Second Wizarding War by being trapped in Middle Earth for a good four years before the story even starts, with no real chance of return, and has been spending almost all that time conducting a one man war against every dark creature North of Gondor. Then he dies. And comes back. And Word of God has pretty much said 'You ain't seen nothing yet'.
    • Emrys Ap Derfel has a background that is arguably worse than Harry and was thrust into battle at the age of 14/15, after losing both his parents by the age of 8, suffering fairly epic racial discrimination from the moment he was born and having his sister sold to Isengard as a breeder (he being a smart boy, he very quickly figures out where the Uruk Hai come from).
    • His sister and sole parental figurewas kept as Wormtongue's personal sex toy in Isengard for four years (from the age of 19/20 onwards) in a literal case of So Beautiful, It's a Curse, and molested by Uruk's for that time.
      • She is also painfully aware that she was only a week away from becoming a breeder anyway. Emrys is forcibly confronted with the fact that he was nearly uncle to an Uruk child and when asked, is not sure what he would have done. And he's sixteen/seventeen at this point.
    • Sirius spent a good six or seven years in Saruman's dungeons being tortured mentally and physically.
  • The Reading Rainbowverse takes the canon of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and spices it up with relationship drama, not a few bouts of insanity, occasional drunken ramblings, and ponies reading webcomics.
  • Seen again in another Death Note fanfic Story Of The Century. L is a Defective Detective and seemingly unrepentant Unscrupulous Hero whose canonical role as the Big Good becomes deconstructed and who ends up as a Tragic Hero; Misa and Light turn out to be Stepford Smilers, Knight Templars and False Friends, but still tragic in their own ways, and the task force are caught in the middle and just trying to get the case solved, especially Soichiro, being the father of one of the accused. Original Character and narrator Erin comes in with considerably less issues than the aforementioned—she does suffer from a volatile temper and insecurity that she disguises through snarking—but leaves the case traumatized and baffled. It's implied that she's developed Stockholm Syndrome towards L on top of it, which may have something to do with why he chases her away after the case closes, despite her insisting that she stay with him until he dies. Ultimately however after starting therapy (though she does go into it telling a different, more credible story than the actual one), Erin decides to work on forgiving the past, and it's suggested that she reconnects with the task force about two years after the case.
    • It appears that the cast for the sequel is shaping up into this as well.
  • In An Alternate Keitaro Urashima, the Hinata Inn serves as this, courtesy of Granny Hina 'helping' its residents by letting them stay there and doing absolutely nothing to try and help with their various issues. As a result, Keitaro wants absolutely nothing to do with the place.
  • In Mega Man Recut, both the heroes and the villains have loads of issues. Roll and Snake Man in particular could use some serious couch time.
  • All the major characters in the Paris Burning Fan Verse are the personifications of major cities. Each one is subject to the trauma of their city's history and the stress of whatever hardships their current inhabitants face, compounded into one unusually long-lived person. Most of them are able to carry on, but needless to say they are not generally very happy people.
  • Apparently, the entire Gensokyo 20 XX series is built on this, especially later on, when we have Reimu who is age-regressed to a child (20XXI) and doped up with sedatives, along with being mentally conditioned (20XXII), later on developing mental health problems and becoming rather fatalistic on top of becoming an Ill Girl (20XXIV and 20XXV), Yukari, who is prison raped by the warden and goes insane (20XXII), Ran goes insane after a Near-Rape Experience and almost kills an age-regressed Reimu in a murder suicide, later on being raped and turned into bitch on top her of her other problems (she gets better), Chen is rendered blind, later on recovering from said blindness, crippled, and then she herself attempts suicide (20XXIV), babies being born and or dying almost soon after, if not being miscarried or stillborn, children growing up in chaos, and all other sorts of things terribly wrong. The kicker? Nothing can really be done about either of those, especially in the aftermath a of nuclear war.

    Film 
  • Everyone in Eagle Vs Shark, from the possibly-autistic Jared, cripplingly-shy Lily, Jared's family still scarred by his brother's suicide...
  • Almost everyone from the Spider-Man Trilogy films, ranging from Peter, Mary-Jane, Doc Ock, Norman and Harry Osborn, Eddie Brock, and Flint. Aunt May and Uncle Ben were perfectly fine and normal folks, and May copes rather normally after Ben's death. As for Dr. Octavius, he was a happily-married well-adjusted scientist until his No OSHA Compliance Combat Tentacles went crazy.
  • This idea is deconstructed in Mental. The movie is about Shaz, a violent, drug-using ex mental doctor. In order to wrangle up a team to get a shark that killed and ate her daughter, she finds 6 kids: The loneliest, least talented, and most mentally unstable children in all of Australia with a recently rehabilitated mother who went to hospital after believing her husband won Family Fortune and bought tons of furniture, and an unfaithful father who hasn't eaten dinner with them since Coral, the eldest child, tried to kill herself by jumping off the roof and landing on his car while he was pulling in, knocking him unconscious for five minutes, and tricks them into her scheme. However, it all falls apart when the children realise that they are sane; in fact, everyone who Shaz presented as insane was actually sane, just to different degrees, but all of them were huge assholes who simply presented Hollywood archetypes of these illnesses, and Shaz was simply suffering from horrible illusions from the shark. The same goes for her ex husband, who simply wants her to suffer for being such a horrible mother. Despite the premise, or because of it, it's a very intelligent but underrated movie with a surpisingly indepth look at this trope.
  • All the kids in The Breakfast Club came from dysfunctional families, and this is what directly or indirectly got them all Saturday detention.
  • The Avengers has its eponymous team. Everyone but Steve and the SHIELD agents has some kind of disorder or other issue.
    • Count on Steve as well. The world he knew is gone, everyone he knew and loved is dead, and he seems to spend most of his time pounding on punching bags while plagued by war flashbacks, hinting that he's most likely suffering from combat-related PTSD. Also it's implied that he was conscious at least for when he began de-thawing from the ice.
    • Also Black Widow was taken from her parents and trained from early childhood to be an assassin who spent years as an outright villain. And Hawkeye, who even at the movie's beginning was hinted at being an eccentric loner, was so thoroughly violated and Mind Raped over the course of the movie that if he didn't have any major issues before, he sure has them now.
    • However, all the Avengers put together can't touch the Royally Screwed Up pile of Sibling Rivalry and aristocratic familial politics that makes up Thor's family life, including the fact that his little brother tried to assassinate him to steal his throne, tried to genocide an alien race, and is currently attempting to conquer a planet.
  • In the 2011 film Warrior: Paddy is a lonely recovering alcoholic, Tommy has PTSD (and a lot of chips on his shoulders) and Brendan has inferiority and abandonment issues.
  • Eddie and Sarah in The Hustler bond with each other over their various dysfunctional pasts.
  • Every single film by Lars von Trier, even in the television show Riget, where it's Played for Laughs.
  • Same for Jean-Luc Godard, who uses this to alienate his audience.

    Literature 
  • Gossip Girl. You know what I mean.
  • Pepys Road, the setting and focal point of John Lanchester's novel Capital, is a near-literal example.
  • The Gemma Doyle trilogy: Just focusing on the four main girls, there are several cases of Parental Abandonment (both from death and otherwise), Parental Incest, self-harm, and in one case — different from the previous! — suicide. For starters.
  • Lampshaded in Peter Watts's Rifters Trilogy, particularely the first book, Starfish: several of the main characters got their jobs as "rifters" - deep-ocean explorers and colonists - by being too dysfunctional to fit in anywhere else; the theory is that those conditioned by their upbringing to accept undue stress as a normal living condition are actually more able to cope in extraordinary environments. This backfires more or less exactly the way you'd expect it to. Well, except that it's a Peter Watts book, so it backfires more or less exactly the way you'd expect it to except more so.
    • Ironically, the protagonist turns out to be so messed up not so much because her father abused her as because her employers surgically tampered with her brain to make her think her father abused her before sending her down there. Her parents turn out to have been fine and upstanding people. Which, in a Peter Watts book, makes them unique.
  • As Stewie Griffin put it, Fyodor Dostoevsky is "the Mad Russian." This is evident in The Brothers Karamazov, in which the father drives his two wives to premature death via sheer force of personality (he enjoyed the meekness of his second wife so much that he couldn't help having orgies with prostitutes in front of her) and then completely abandons his children, leaving his butler to raise them in his shack. This leads to one brother becoming subject to his passions, another becoming highly cold and calculating (and eventually stark-raving mad), and the third left to pick up the pieces, which is depressing by itself. Consequently, anyone they come into contact with also happens to have a tragic backstory, whether it's the misunderstood Hooker with a Heart of Gold or the shipping captain whose family's condition just screams "Pathetic!"
  • Those characters who are perfectly fine in House of Leaves are those who haven't encountered, spent time in, or explored the titular house, or, by proxy, read Zampanò's manuscript about the film about the house.
  • Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen has a lot of this. It's actually a major theme in the series: the Crippled God creates his own House in the pantheon dedicated to brokenness.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is interesting in that half the cast are in the process of gaining their tragic backstories.
  • Justified in The War Against the Chtorr. 60% of the world population has died in a series of plagues, so all the survivors are walking wounded. This materialises in everything from sexual obsessives to zombie-like herds of people; and suicide is the leading cause of death even in the middle of the war. It's even suggested these psychological conditions are another type of plague created by the alien invaders.
  • There are a lot of messed up or incredibly depressed characters in Warrior Cats, but mostly in the third series. Examples:
    • Mostly caused by the fact that the author does not like happy endings. Quoting one of the other authors:
      Cherith Baldry: I've heard it said that if you met your characters in real life they would attack you for treating them so badly!
    • Ashfur and Hollyleaf.
    • Most of the villains in the series: Brokenstar was raised by an unloving mother, Tigerstar's father abandonned him to live with Twolegs, possibly causing his irrational hatred for kittypets, Scourge was abused by his brother and sister and ran away from home as a kit, Hawkfrost is mostly open for interpretation, but his relationship with his father is anything but healthy, and he seems to have quite the superiority complex.
    • Sunrise managed to mess up the lives of every main character from the second series.
    • Instead of just killing off main characters' love interests like she used to, the author has decided to create circumstances where they simply cannot be together, or their relationship gets killed, and they all end up with some kind of problem. This has happened, to some extent, to every major pairing from the second series onward (one of the most extreme cases being Lionblaze and Heathertail, who want to kill each other now).
    • Leafpool has been hit by Deus Angst Machina twice all because of a single decision she made a long time ago. In Sunrise it was practically stated that she was suicidal.
    • Crowfeather, who has lost his two loves and now is paired with a cat who could be considered his friend at best, and is stuck with a bratty son who he neglects and abuses. He also refuses to acknowledge that he is still in love with Leafpool or that he has three other kits.
      • Breezepelt also has some issues because of Crowfeather's abuse. It seems that he has finally snapped under the weight of being unloved, and seems to have sworn revenge against everyone that he believes denied him the right to a happy life.
    • Cinderpelt's leg was run over by a car when she was an apprentice, crippling her for life and destroying her dreams of being a warrior. Then, when she dies, she is reincarnated as her neice, who then breaks the exact same leg and is almost subjected to the same fate as Cinderpelt.
    • Stormfur has been an outsider all his life. His mother died giving birth to him, and his father abandonned him when he was an apprentice, leaving him and his sister as outcasts in RiverClan. Then later on, his sister, who he was much closer to than anyone else, dies, he falls in love with Brook and leaves the Clans to join the Tribe of Rushing Water, which he is soon exiled from. He eventually goes back to live with the Tribe, but the last few chapters of Outcast makes it seem like the Tribe isn't going to be able to survive much longer.
    • Jayfeather and his various attitude problems originating from his dislike of being blind. As a little kitten, he actually says "I wish I had never been born!"
    • Sorreltail comes from one of the biggest families in the series, and now only has two blood relatives left. Within her lifetime six of her close relatives have died, and they are normally killed of within months of each other. One of her brothers' deaths could even be considered Death by Irony.
      • Well, not even bothering to use the Word of God relations, she still has: Cinderheart, Poppyfrost, Cherrykit, Molekit, Brambleclaw, Tawnypelt, Tigerheart, Dawnpelt, Flametail (not anymore), Mothwing, Mistystar, and Reedwhisker. Only five of them are in her Clan, but still, it's not that bad.
    • Am I the only one who thinks that Cinderpelt and Spottedleaf being so close to Leafpool is very creepy because they are both in love with her father?
      • And what about Leafpool naming Jayfeather, her own son, after his father? Considering how similar Jayfeather is to Crowfeather, and the fact that no one was supposed to know they were related, it becomes pretty creepy if you think too much about it.
      • Firestar did the same thing: Leafpool was named after Spottedleaf.
  • Dysfunction is the rule rather than the exception in Harry Potter. It's most noticeable with the Blacks, the Gaunts, and the Dumbledores, but every significant character has some family trauma in their backstory — and if they don't have it by the beginning of Book Seven, they sure will by the end of it.
    • Even the characters with normal families where no one dies will have trauma. For example, if she did it without their consent, what is Hermione going to tell her folks when she restores their memories?
  • The Wraiths are an X-Wing squadron composed initially of nothing but the Commander, his old wingmate, and people on their Last-Second Chance, in the belief that they will work hard to prove their worth. The author is a big believer in using a Cast of Snowflakes. Everyone has something wrong with them. Otherwise they wouldn't be a Wraith. The commander does notice that they're actually good for each other, able to help one another get past their pasts and presents rather than making things worse. Still, the reputation sticks. When a new pilot is transferred in who was assigned because of their track record and not because of big screwups, a pilot jokingly says that he's too normal for the Wraiths. The new pilot then proves to be a Large Ham.
    "Excuse me! Elassar Targon, MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE, reporting for duty!"
  • In the Witcher saga the group that helps Geralt in his quest to rescue Ciri has some of it. They're pretty concious about it.
  • Done very well in Doctrine of Labyrinths series by Sarah Monette. The main characters are especially dysfunctional; going into detail on how monumentally screwed-up Felix and Mildmay are would take a very, very long time.
  • If a character in A Series of Unfortunate Events doesn't have a Dark and Troubled Past, chances are they'll have something traumatic happen to them in the main story, with Count Olaf being the cause of most of it. Most of the adults have a Dark and Troubled Past due to their involvement from an early age with V.F.D. And the main characters lose their parents in the first book in a fire that burned down their house, spend almost every book being pursued by Count Olaf, a greedy psychopath who is after their fortune, lose countless guardians and friends thanks to Olaf's interventions, face kidnapping, one is almost decapitated by her sibling and if not for her quick thinking is almost made to marry above greedy psychopath (who blackmails her with the life of her sister), they are unjustly accused of murder and forced to commit arson to maintain a disguise, get thrown down an elevator shaft by their "guardian", are forced to do chores for a town that's acting as their guardians, thrown into prison, and are nearly killed by said town by being burned at the stake, accidentally kill a man, nearly die in the last book from being infected with the spores of poisonous mushrooms while stranded on an island... One almost wishes they died in the fire with their parents so they wouldn't be put through all this... because life sucks in their world.
  • The Glass Menagerie: There are really only four characters in the play but three of them, namely Amanda Wingfield and her two children Tom and Laura all have significant problems which seemed to be set into motion ever since the father left and their relationship with each other became strained.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe Eighth Doctor Adventures were generally like this. The Doctor was constantly The Woobie, with enough issues to be his own personal walking Dysfunction Junction by the end of the series. He lost a wife and daughter in two entirely separate incidents, not to mention his memory and one of his hearts. Fitz, one of his companions, seemed at times to be competing with him to be the most woobie. He grew up half-German during World War II and subsequently in foster homes, because his dad was dead and his mum was crazy. Then he met the Doctor, who killed his mum (and before that, he'd seemed to be a rather endearing and justified-by-her-neediness variant on the Momma's Boy). Cloning Blues and Cartwright Curse ensued. This overload of issues may explain why he never got a chance to worry much about his crush on the Doctor. After the seemingly wholesome and cheerful Soapbox Sadie discovered she had issues too and left, they were joined by a copy of a copy of a copy etc. of a Deadpan Snarker, who started out a Broken Bird and just got worse, really, no thanks to the Doctor. And then there was Anji, who seemed just peachy until her boyfriend of four years died. And then there was the fact that her whole childhood, the other kids picked on her for being Indian. Oddly, Fitz and Anji never seemed to commiserate about that similarity. And Trix pulled a bit of a Multiple-Choice Past and was never quite clear about it, and Anji suspected that her Broken Bird act was just a trick to get Fitz to like her, but she also had Sticky Fingers, and it was implied she'd been a sex worker at some point...
    • Their predecessors, the Doctor Who New Adventures, weren't much better. Over the course of the books, Seventh did quite a few morally questionable things, which would leave him wondering just how close he was to going over to The Dark Side. While he wasn't quite the woobie Eighth was, thanks to aforementioned morally dubious schemes, he got put through the proverbial grinder quite a few times in the course of events. Ace's parental issues had been established in the TV series, but in the books, the Doctor arranged the death of her current boyfriend, causing her to leave the TARDIS for several books and come back a hardbitten mercenary who took a long time to reconcile with the Doctor. Bernice could probably rival Fitz in terms of just how many issues she had, mainly relating to her childhood involving an interstellar war, a dead mother and a Disappeared Dad. Roz was seriously unlucky in love; she killed her first partner - a man she loved deeply - when she found out he was corrupt, then got it wiped from her memory by the Big Bad. Another of her love interests turned out to be a murderer; Roz being a by-the-book cop, this did not sit well with her. About the only one who was left untouched was Chris... up until Roz died, anyway.
  • Hoo boy, Ironman. (no, not that one.) The main character is an antisocial sports nut who suffers an inferiority complex due to his father's borderline draconian discipline policies. And his anger management group? One's a nihilistic Jerk Ass, one's a confrontational punk with a Hair-Trigger Temper, and the last one is a Cloudcuckoolander who is completely incapable of rational thought and can only spout inane gibberish due to having suffered years of horrific torture from his psychopathic father.
  • Wicked Lovely. Let's list how: Aislinn has a dead mother and Disappeared Dad. Keenan has a dead dad, and an abusive mom. Seth has serious Parental Abandonment issues. We don't know much about Donia's past, but the curse that put her in constant pain for nearly a century is hardly productive to a happy life. Leslie has a Missing Mom, neglectful alcoholic father, abusive druggie older brother, and was raped before the start of book two. Niall also has Rape as Backstory, as well as being in love with the one who let it happen, a major Guilt Complex, and Reluctant Monster syndrome. I could go on.
  • Animorphs. We have a leader who struggles with his own decisions and has an older brother as the enemy, a Machiavellian-esque Smug Snake who's willing to kill his own alien-possesed mother, a Blood Knight who's worried about losing control, a emotional wreck who's stuck in hawk form and is happy that way and a animal rights girl who can play you like a piano. And they're supposed to protect us. Our world is in good hands.
  • Jonathan Franzen loves this trope, and its readily apparent in all his books including The Corrections and Strong Motion.
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: There are only four principal characters in the novel due to the Closed Circle: Battle Butler Conseil has so much Undying Loyalty that considers himself an extension of his employer. The Professor Aronnax practically swims in Stockholm Syndrome, Captain Nemo has a slow Villainous Breakdown caused by him, a good man, crossing once and again the Moral Event Horizon. Only Sane Man Ned Land is slowly Go Mad from the Isolation. This is justified because his adventure is truly extraordinary.
  • The Dresden Files. Oh my God, The Dresden Files. The hero is orphaned, abused, betrayed by his father figure and girlfriend, and nearly executed - all by the time he's sixteen. And let's not even go into what happens to him after the books start.
    • Leaving that aside, there's also the amount of screwed up families: the Raiths (daughters raped once they hit puberty, sons killed off) and the McCoys (Gramps is the White Council's assassin, Mom hung out with an evil crowd and got herself killed, sons have parental issues, crappy luck and crappier love lives, and granddaughter was kidnapped by vampires for use in profane ritual) to name two. The Carpenters are surprisingly well-adjusted considering Dad is always off battling the forces of evil, but even they've got some major dysfunction in the form of Charity and Molly. Charity still has issues stemming from a near-brush with Black Magic as a teenager, and Molly's teenage rebellion leaves her teetering on the edge of The Dark Side even before Harry's death in Changes turns her into a full-on Broken Bird.
  • The Book of Joe has a cast full of characters struggling with their issues, with Joe still coming to terms with his past, Wayne living with AIDS, Brad's marital problems, Carly disastrous former marriage and so forth.
  • The Fire-Us Trilogy is set in a Teenage Wasteland where 90% of the characters would be institutionalized if institutions still existed. Among the main cast we have Teacher (The Insomniac of the obsessive variety who spends all her time writing in their Great Big Book of Everything and then forgetting what she wrote, "discovering" it, and interpreting it as prophecy), Mommy (an Hikikomori with a "screaming spirit" that sometimes overwhelms her, leading her to attack and threaten to kill others), Angerman (a schizophrenic who is convinced his mannequin caused the deadly virus and is now out to kill all of them if they aren't careful), Cory (an ex-cultist), Baby and Doll (two girls who are emotionally and mentally stunted, maybe due to being raised by the older kids), Action Figure (a young boy who's essentially gone feral), Teddy Bear (who's scared of almost everything and in particular of alligators), and Puppy and Kitty (two children who really were feral and speak only in barks and meows. Then you meet the Keepers of the Flame.
  • In C. S. Lewis's The Four Loves, he observes that nothing is more natural for a child to feel no love for a parent who isn't loveable.
  • Where to begin in The Underland Chronicles? Start with Gregor, whose father mysteriously vanished when he was eight and who gets dragged into a war at the age of eleven for no reason other than Because Destiny Says So, then add in Luxa, who broke when both her parents were killed and suffered even more when her cousin and close friend Henry betrayed her in the first book. Gregor's best friend is Ares, who is unfairly stigmatized from Henry's betrayal, which left him in the unpleasant position of choosing to save his bond or Gregor. Ripred is a Deadpan Snarker Fair Weather Mentor at the best of times, something of an outcast among his own kind, whose wife and children died years ago. Even NiceGuys Howard and Vikus have to deal with ever-increasing amounts of horribleness as the series goes on. The most normal person out of all of them is Boots, who is three, and even she is forced to deal with some of the realities of death and war more than her family would like. Most of the time it's not anybody's fault exactly, it's just the natural result of living in a Crapsack World where Everything Is Trying to Kill You.
  • The team in The Leonard Regime. The entire team demonstrate their own flaws, from Brandon's inability to shut up to Daniel's tendency to spit out sarcastic comments.
  • The crew and passengers of the Nostalgia For Infinity in Revelation Space, for the most part, all hate each others guts and have serious personality issues. Captain Brannigan is a guilt-ridden and effectively dead cyborg. Volyova is a morally questionable engineer, who effectively kidnaps recruits to plug into her corrupted Gunnery interface. Sylveste is so obsessed with discovering more details about Resurgram's previous inhabitants that he loses both his wife and control of the colony government. Sajaki is extremely secretive and untrusting. About the only two characters that aren't screwed up are Ana Khouri and Hegazi; a displaced soldier and a cowardly cyborg, respectively. Those that survive become even more dysfunctional in the sequel - Volyova becomes obsessed with redeeming herself over a crime she didn't commit while extorting the Resurgram colony for Sylveste, and Brannigan attempts to slice himself in half with a Death Ray after the horror of what he has done and what he has become dawns upon him.
  • Seth, Regine and Tomasz of More Than This all died as children, so it's not so surprising that they had tough lives. As Tomasz comments: "Are we not some funny kind of group? Child abuse, murder and suicide."

    Music 
  • Played for laughs in "Six-Pack" by Three Dead Trolls In A Baggie: the singer's father is a drunkard, his mother is a whore, his sister is a drug dealer, and the singer himself is schizoid.
  • Exaggerated and also played for laughs in "My Home Town" by Tom Lehrer: although the singer has no complaints and is actually rather nostalgic for his home town, it is apparently completely populated with crazies, perverts, and psychos.
  • Done seriously in La Historia De Juan by Juanes. A kid was abandonded by his mother, is abused by his father, and lives in the street alone and unlived, sleeping on a cardboard box. Then he dies.
  • Gorillaz: Murdoc suffered a thoroughly unpleasant childhood at the hands of his father, his brother, and various school bullies, and if he's telling the truth he "hit puberty when I was eight and lost my virginity to a dinner lady when I was nine and I've been in a bad mood ever since". He grew up into a Satan-worshipping drunkard who takes out his frustrations by verbally and physically tormenting 2D. 2D, as if being raised with a Punny Name like "Stu Pot" wasn't bad enough, suffered from migraines and at least one severe head injury in childhood. Then he was run over by Murdoc and spent a year in a coma, which he came out of when Murdoc ran him over again, leaving him with missing front teeth, fractured eyeballs, and worse migraines. Later on, he managed to father ten illegitimate children. Russel watched his friends die in a drive-by, and ended up possessed by their spirits. He was understandably traumatised, and only got worse when the actual Grim Reaper retrieved his best friend Del's soul, to the point that he ended up having a nervous breakdown in Ike Turner's basement. Noodle, meanwhile, was amnesiac when they found her, and later discovered that she was in fact a genetically-engineered Tyke Bomb super soldier. Regardless of that, she seems to be the only semi-well-adjusted band member untill she gets dragged into hell and replaced by an Axe Crazy cyborg with issues of her own, that is.
  • Played for laughs in "Neighbourhood" by Space, where the neighbours include a family of thieves (although the house is empty because they've all been arrested), a serial killer vicar and a man who thinks he's Saddam Hussein.

    Theater 
  • Between them, the dancers in A Chorus Line have neglectful, emotionally abusive or absent parents, deaths of family members, sexual molestation, and bullying, and the poverty, unemployment and constant risk of injury that come with their chosen career.
  • Half of the main cast of Rent has AIDS or HIV, and that's not even getting into the drug addictions, poverty, suicide of friends and constant relationship problems many of them have to deal with.
  • None of the principal characters of Chess are well-adjusted. Freddie is an arrogant jerk with a Freudian Excuse. Florence was separated from her father and home country at an early age. Anatoly is not a happy Russian at the start of the show, and abandoning his wife for Florence and defecting to the West only causes new problems for all of them.
  • Hamlet. His uncle killed his father and married his mother. His mother may or may not have been in on this. Thanks to him, his girlfriend Ophelia has been rendered either insane or suicidal. With a good dose of Alternate Character Interpretation, he himself is either insane, suffering from an oedipus complex, or both. That's not even getting into the more minor characters.
  • Road. Inhabitants are universally poor and frustrated, often alcoholic and usually from dysfunctional families. Suicide, domestic violence and prostitution are all covered by the end of the first act.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The titular Exalted, thanks to the Great Curse.
  • Changeling: The Lost, in part due to what The Fair Folk did to everyone before the game began. At worst, the Spring Court are desperately throwing themselves into distraction to avoid coping with the pain, the Summer Court are endlessly angry and want to fight the immortal mad gods that made them, the Autumn Court throw themselves into the weird powers they picked up as a result of cosmic abuse, and the Winter Court would like it very much if you did nothing to draw their attention. And that's not counting whatever Loyalists or Privateers that may be lurking in secret...
  • Burning Wheel requires you to spend resource points during character generation to acquire significant relationships. You get discounts for various aspects of said relationships, including having them be hateful, forbidden, and/or family. Thus, it's not unusual to have a party full of family dysfunction.
    • More significantly, the con demo scenario "The Gift" is about four Elves sent as emissaries to the crowning of a new Dwarf prince, who has three close advisors. Except the Elves start by making an immense diplomatic faux pas. The eight premade characters, all PCs, have widely differing attitudes and goals. One is a broken-down alcoholic. Two are on the verge of catastrophic meltdown, one from too much Dwarven Greed and one from too much Elvish Grief. The often disastrous results are a lesson in dysfunction critical mass.
  • Bliss Stage, what with all the adults but one having vanished, imminent alien attacks, and a bunch of teenagers way over their heads knowing that they are dead at 18.
  • For some reason, this trope is heavily involved in the formation of some — if not all — Player Character groups in any tabletop game, ever. It's almost never "A bunch of folks good with {weapons/skills in use} that like to go treasure hunting and killing things for profit because they're good at it." The mage is power mad and/or Blessed with Suck, the warrior/soldier is haunted by past battles or trying to reclaim honor, the priest only turned to religion after tremendous personal tragedy, etc. etc. etc.
    • Moreover, point build systems encourage this to happen, as by picking flaws and misfortunes — say, being an orphan — the player gets bonus points to spend on the character's stats.
  • Warhammer 40,000: For what it's worth the dysfunction junction is just the beginning of how to describe the relationship between the emperor and his sons the primarchs. It can also be argued that the universe is this trope on a massive scale.
  • Heavily and deliberately averted in Teenagers from Outer Space - no matter how wacky an alien you might be, you come from a perfectly normal suburban family.
  • BattleTech: in each faction, at least one or more member in it has some serious issues, or is bat-shit crazy. The great houses tend to have one member who ends up being a tyrant or worse.
  • Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine: Of the eight archetypal characters for the Glass-Maker's Dragon campaign, six have some kind of psychological hang-up. Natalia had her hope carved out of her along with her weakness during Training from Hell in which surviving for long periods on ice chips was a regular feature; Jasper is cut off from her true home and marooned among people with strange habits like sneezing; Entropy II's father was a grade-A evil bastard who he may have killed, and distrusting your memories is stressful enough without having to cope with seeping mutagenic blood from your hands; Leonardo is a lonely, broken genius whose life has been a fairly nonstop parade of suckage from a young age, struggling with a self-assumed responsibility that may be too heavy for him to bear; Seizhi is stressed out about not being properly real; and Miramie is just stressed out in general and has to deal with her past life being an enemy of the world. About the only ones who are relatively stable are Chuubo, who is heavily implied to be an Amnesiac God and is struggling with great power he is really bad at using sensibly, and Rinley, who defies rational explanation. Thankfully, most of them are just dysfunctional enough to produce interesting storytelling possibilities without being quite messed-up enough to be dangerous.

    Visual Novels 
  • The most normal person in A Profile is the girl that alternates between cold and aloof and a shrinking violet at the drop of a hat. Things just get worse from there, though on the surface everyone at least looks normal.
  • This is a given for Cross Channel, which takes place at a school for the emotionally disturbed. (Interestingly, a lot of the characters are twisted variants of recognizable archetypes—a Tsundere, an Emotionless Girl, etc.)
  • The premise of Family Project. All the main characters are there precisely because they have messed up lives, families and are all generally on the edge of homelessness. The various issues vary drastically in seriousness and some also make things worse for everyone else. Such as Chunhua's escape inciting a war between mafia groups and the house being burned down as a result in every route.
  • Katawa Shoujo has many characters with disabilities, yet in most cases, their greatest issues are either unrelated or not directly related to their disabilities.
    • Hisao suffered his first heart attack just as a girl he loved confessed her feelings, later hospitalized for months with nobody visiting him besides his parents,and upon getting out, he left completely embittered and cynical.
    • Emi not only lost her legs in a car accident, but also lost her father and as such, does not let people close to her.
    • Hanako was severely scarred and lost her parents in a house fire, her mother shielding her from the fire. She was abandoned and cruelly treated by her friends for her scars, resulting in her becoming withdrawn, as she saw most people who didn't show her contempt to be pitying her.
    • Lilly was left behind in Japan by her parents for six years, and according to Akira (who drops her carefree facade when talking about this), Lilly's blindness was a major reason for this. She developped the facade of a "perfect", collected mother figure (mostly toward Hanako), which give her difficulties to express her own desires.
    • Rin struggles to be understood by others as an artist, and worries about whether she will have to choose between success and being herself.
    • Shizune wanted to make friends by helping people, but her deafness and competitive personality resulted in her driving most of the rest of the Student Council away.
    • Even Misha qualifies. She made a Love Confession to Shizune, but while Shizune rejected her, she kept her around as a friend, causing Misha pain, and in Shizune's route, she has to watch as Hisao gets closer to the girl she loves. It's also implied that she was bullied for being gay in the past.
    • Some minor characters also qualify: Yuuko shows signs of depression, has troubles managing her extremely busy life and blames herself for everything; Mutou is a Reasonable Authority Figure, but is quite socially awkward and struggles at getting the attention of anyone who isn't Hisao. The less is said about Kenji, the better.
    • Fanfictions trying to emulate routes for other girls also tend to apply to them the same treatment, making their personal flaws the basis of the conflict, along with Hisao's own shortcomings.
  • Name a main or supporting character in the Nasuverse (besides Taiga, but in a couple more games, I wouldn't be surprised) that does not have a major personality disorder. Some examples from Tsukihime:
    • Filling the "normal" niche in the main cast is Hisui, who completely represses her emotions and has a pathological fear of being touched by men (although she did it in her sister's place).
    • Arihiko, support character and comic relief, got a very tragic and traumatic Backstory in Kagetsu Tohya.
    • Satsuki has no tragic backstory that we know of. The in-game story makes up for it.
    • Isn't it nice when one of the most well balanced characters in the series is an 800+ year old vampire with less life experience than a teenager, no friends or family and who lives only to kill vampires? Arcueid does have the worst backstory she just doesn't let it get her down.
    • Averted in a way in Fate/hollow ataraxia. While all the horrible stuff that happened in Fate/stay night is still canon, people have dealt with all of it.
  • In Sharin No Kuni, Kenichi is a stepford smiler atoner, Sachi's day has been cut in half and she has a gambling addiction, Touka's family is horribly broken, Natsumi is severely emotionally scarred and Ririko has vanished from the storyline until you find she has the Maximum Penalty, a fate worse than death. Kyouko, Isono and several others have similar nasty backstories. Which means everyone but Houzuki, which is probably actually especially Houzuki.
  • Almost every in Suika either has a traumatic past or is secretly crazy or ends up so by the end of the chapter they star in. The final chapter is Lighter and Softer, but elements are still present.
  • Key Visual Arts games naturally involve this, being Utsuge. For example, in Little Busters! we have:
    • Komari, who is troubled by recurring dreams of a brother she doesn't remember. Eventually it turns out that said brother did exist, but he died when she was young, an event which traumatised her so much that she repressed the memory. Anytime she sees death or blood, they're triggered over again and she undergoes a Heroic BSOD.
    • Haruka, who is regularly bullied to tears by the School Disciplinary Committee, and is part of a Big Screwed-Up Family of epic proportions.
    • Kud, who is one-quarter Japanese and has lived all over the world, and so struggles with finding a place for herself and being treated like just a Funny Foreigner by her fellow students, not to mention the idea of living in the shadow of her successful mother.
    • Kurugaya, who is a competent, intelligent Action Girl and all-around Ace...except for the fact that she's quite lonely, and has lived her life drifting from one event to another without ever feeling real emotion.
    • Mio, who is totally isolated from basically every other human being, almost to the point where it seems like her existence itself is fragile. Which results from a huge guilt complex she holds over forgetting an imaginary friend turned real (or did she?) when she was a kid, resulting in her wishing that Midori had lived instead of her.
    • Rin, who underwent some vague scary experience when she was very young, causing her to become very nervous and distrustful of strangers right up until high school.
    • Riki himself, who has to deal with his parents dying when he was young, his narcolepsy (which the game does go to some lengths to point out really isn't just a cute flaw but a seriously limiting disease), and having to deal with helping out everyone else with their problems in their routes.
    • And everyone has to deal with the bus they were taking for their school field trip driving off a cliff and leaving them all bar Riki and Rin with fatal injuries. Only after a lot of pain and hard work are they able to change the situation enough that Riki and Rin are able to save them, albeit still with heavy injuries.
  • The When They Cry franchise has plenty of this:
  • Just about every character you can name in Nameless - The One Thing You Must Recall - is deeply traumatized and, in bad ends, nearly ever guy can become violently and dangerously disturbed.

    Webcomics 
  • Everyone in The Order of the Stick whose families are mentioned gets this. Roy's father is a Jerk Ass who dumped the responsibility for a Blood Oath on his son when he got bored with trying to fulfill it, Elan has a vicious Evil Twin brother who actively tries to ruin Elan's life at every turn, Haley came from a family and city of criminals, her mother died when she was young, and her father is in prison, Hinjo's uncle was a Chessmaster faking senility in order to control everyone, Hinjo included, who ended up being killed by an Axe Crazy Knight Templar Paladin fellow, and while Vaarsuvius had a normal family at the start, s/he shot it to hell by going Drunk on the Dark Side, resulting in getting served with divorce papers. And that's just the beginning...
    • He made a deal with a devil, demon and deamon to gain enough power to defeat the dragon that was about to torture his family, and planning to kill them and steal their souls. That must have left an emotional mark on all involved.
    • With the start of the Empire of Blood arc, we find that Elan's mom makes as many convoluted plans as Nale, although without the evilness, Elan's dad is an Affably Evil Magnificent Bastard (yes really), who has been the Man Behind the Man to a series of Evil Overlord wannabes for at least a decade or so, and already considers himself to have won by getting a decade of luxury, and Haley's dad is locked up in the Bloodstone Correctional Facility, the Empire of Blood's gladitorial arena.
  • Vexxarr's crew consists of a Master Computer who, by way of entertainment, regularly plots his demise or makes him think the ship is doomed, a sarcastic robot very similar to the computer, a Wide-Eyed Idealist composed of nothing but eyestalks, and a prey species terminally afraid of being eaten despite the fact that it is Nigh Invulnerable. And Vexxarr himself, a lazy Knight in Sour Armor for whom seething rage and frustration is the default.
  • Summarized by the character Branwen, in this strip of Something Positive, as "Traumatic childhoods are the in thing these days. All the cool kids are doing it."
    • Milholland's love of this trope (both using and subverting it) shines through even clearer in the B-Side Comics series Super Stupor, despite (or perhaps because of) it being mostly unrelated vignettes of several loosely connected characters .
  • In Wigu, Paisley Tinkle's tragic teenage trauma is not that her mother's a mildly selfish alcoholic, nor that her dad's constantly shirtless and is constantly trying to avoid or rebel against something he doesn't understand (when not doing his job as a porn music creator), but that she doesn't get to live in a family ruined by divorce.
  • The Light Warriors in 8-Bit Theater: the astoundingly stupid sword-obsessed Fighter, the Ax-Crazy Stupid Evil Black Mage (that, just to start, sacrificed orphans to get his most powerful spell; The spell was just a bonus), the overly greedy and manipulative Thief (who is also a fugitive prince), the Munchkin with some traumas (that are actually hallucinations caused by another character) that make him cross-dress a lot Red Mage... Not only are they insane, but they also spend most of their time arguing with each other (sometimes going into physical aggression, or stabbing). And they are supposed to save the world.
    Black Mage: This is why the dysfunctional hero trend needs to get over itself.
  • Girl Genius: The main character was an orphan with a plot trinket, but her foster parents were very loving and functional. Even Gil Wulfenbach and his father have started getting Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moments. (Uh, not in that way, obviously. Ew.) But the Sturmvoraus family... hoo boy. The father (who often said that if Providence hands you a powerless scapegoat, it is a sin not to use him) did dangerous Mad Science experiments on the daughter. Even if they'd been successful she'd have been possessed by the Big Bad her father was apparently in love with; since the experiment was a failure, she died horribly. Her brother built a robotic Replacement Goldfish and didn't tell anyone she wasn't really the original transferred into the clank body- not even the Goldfish herself. Then the Goldfish killed "their" father, plotted with the brother to take over the world, or at least part of it... and then he became the Bastard Understudy and shut her down to give her body to the Big Bad after all. Lovely people.
    • And as if that weren't enough, there may have been genetic engineering involved in the current generation, if Zola's "Let's just say they made sure there was a proper heir." conversation with Gil is to be taken at face value. Jesus, this family.
    • It's enough to make you wonder if Othar Tryggvassen (Gentleman Adventurer) with his plan to kill all of the sparks actually might be the only sane person on the cast.
  • College Roomies From Hell!!! Welcome to college, Dave, neurotic loser with a crush on the girl you knew in high school that led you to witness her parents' murders! Meet your wacky new roommates:
    • Mike, spoiled-rotten Manipulative Bastard with an insanely overprotective mother who disciplines him and his siblings with a torture chamber and is getting engaged to a Bond villain.
    • Roger, zany Cloudcuckoolander who really just wants to hold on to a vestige of sanity with the knowledge that he's barely keeping himself from turning half-coyote as part of the family curse that caused his mother to go feral when he was a child.
    • Margaret, that cute girl from high school, who has a heart of gold despite her absurdly large gun collection and comically violent personality due to her parents being murdered in front of her with a bomb she only escaped to scare you away, and recurring nightmares of her post-apocalyptic role as bearer of the Antichrist.
    • Marsha, the hottest girl in your year, even if she can be adorably obsessive about certain things, like her cooking or her high school boyfriends, all of whom she's violently assaulted.
    • April, Only Sane Man, despite the fact that she has an imaginary friend and she's trying to leave her life in the circus behind, especially since she's a few letters away from a clown....
    • And that's the start of freshman year. It gets a lot worse.
  • Lampshaded in this guest comic by John Campbell for Questionable Content.
    Female character: Hey guys, which female character am I? Am I the one with the crippling psychological problems
    Caption: That's all of them do you get it
Among the major female characters, Faye has intimacy issues stemming from a childhood trauma (not the one you're thinking of), Hannalore has severe OCD, Dora has massive trust issues that torpedoed her relationship with Marten and Marigold is a borderline hikikomori with no self-esteem. Raven and Penelope have yet to reveal any major neuroses.
  • Avalon starts off as a bit of a nonsensical slice-of-life story following normal teenagers with normal problems. As the series went on, their issues became even deeper. Much, much deeper.
  • Does eveyone besides Sarah have serious issues in El Goonish Shive or is it all of them?
    • Sarah is normal. Elliot is mostly, except for the gender bending. Otherwise, his folks are normal and loving. Everyone else, though, is screwed.
      • Normal? Sarah is the one with an ingrained distrust of transformations which, thankfully, she is slowly getting over. Being the only Muggle of the group doesn't sit well with her either.
    • Granted, the most obvious example, by far, is Grace, who had an arc devoted to her warped past and the trauma it caused her.
  • Las Lindas is arguably an example. Mora is a selfish, ungrateful and oftentimes bratty Jerk Ass who had everything in her life given to her and tends to not appreciate what she has until she fears she'll lose it, though recent arcs have shown her trying to tone this down. Miles is a shallow, unrepentent lech who recently played Taffy's emotions like a fiddle and cruelly dumped her for a trivial reason and shows no signs of improvement even after being called out by one of his old friends. Idward is so hopelessly obsessed with Mora that he borders on Stalker with a Crush, though he's at least begun to get over it. Racheal lives in constant fear of losing Sarah or something otherwise happening to her and despises Mora for how she never had to work for her good life whereas she, by contrast, struggled her entire life just to get by. Taffy is still dealing with the emotional trauma of the aforementioned dumping and had a highly abusive mother. Sarah is so childishly innocent and naive that she often doesn't realize the consequences of her actions until its too late. Minos is currently struggling to balance his feelings for Mora and Racheal without hurting either one's feelings and is heavily implied to have once served the Emperor. And finally, its heavily implied Alej's one-sided rivalry with Mora is in part due to a case of self doubt. The only characters who seem to have little to no problems are Randall and Digit, and evidence has begun to crop up that Randall may in fact be a Stepford Smiler. One of the main themes of Las Lindas is Character Development, so take that as you will.
  • Shortpacked! thinks that Ultimate Marvel's ending ought to begin with Iron Man inventing a device that can measure the crapsackiness waves of the universe and noticing that the readings don't stop increasing. Eventually, if they don't stop it, everyone will be retconned into having a tragic past. Who pulled *that* Drama Tag?
  • Homestuck's Hivebent arc is composed of twelve trolls from another universe, all of which are very screwed up, even by their own culture's standards. Going down the list:
    • Karkat - A perpetually-angry Jerkass Woobie extraordinaire who hates himself to an astonishing degree and considers himself a freak because of his mutant "candy-red" blood and covers it up by bossing everyone else around.
    • Aradia - An apathetic Mad Oracle who hears the voices of the dead. Dead All Along, courtesy of Vriska, who mind-controlled Sollux into killing her; upon getting a robot body, she went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and beat Vriska to death.
    • Tavros - A massively-insecure Wheelchair Woobie and Vriska's personal Butt Monkey.
    • Sollux - Another Mad Oracle, but where Aradia is "0kay" with everything, he's a pessimistic Mood-Swinger. Still guilty about the fact that Vriska used him to kill Aradia.
    • Nepeta - Massive unrequited crush on Karkat. Other than that, she seems harmless and cute until you remember that she kills wild animals with nothing more than her teeth and claws, eats their corpses, and sometimes wears their pelts for fun.
    • Kanaya - The Alternian equivalent of a goth - which means she loves bright, varied colours and the sun (creepy). Despite her obsession with rainbow drinkers and fondness for chainsaws, the Only Sane Man.
    • Terezi - Magnificent Bastard Amoral Attorney Blind Seer who loves to mess with people and laughs at almost everything.
    • Vriska - Thirteen-year-old Serial Killer, thanks to her lusus's refusal to eat anything but young trolls. Munchkin, Jerkass, Token Evil Teammate, and hiding some surprisingly tragic emotional insecurities.
    • Equius - Has an unsettlingly large collection of creepy fetishes and an obsession with the Fantastic Caste System.
    • Gamzee - Constantly stoned, bizarre religious beliefs, and his lusus was never there. When he's not stoned and his beliefs are proven false, he's an Ax-Crazy Monster Clown.
    • Eridan - A genocidal, over-entitled, stuck-up douchebag who's always hitting on everyone in sight.
    • Feferi - A Genki Girl, and surprisingly sane, considering her caretaker is an Eldritch Abomination that will kill everyone else in the galaxy if it ever gets hungry.
    • This trope appears to be a theme amongst post-Scratch sessions, as Alpha Earth also has some problems to deal with:
      • Jane - Is being brainwashed by Betty Crocker.
      • Roxy - Drunken Mad Scientist who habitually sleepfloats into the Furthest Ring.
      • Dirk - Has his consciousness split between two bodies. Also, he and Roxy are the last remaining humans alive hundreds of years into the future of a post-apocalyptic earth, to the point where Dirk claims to have raised himself.
      • Jake - So far appears to be okay, except that he had to cremate his beloved grandmother as a prepubescent boy.
      • And that's not even getting into the romantic situation. Let's just say that nobody is happy and leave it at that.
    • Hussie references this in the book 2 commentary:
      Rose is wondering about his anxiety disorder in a way that is shamelessly hopeful. I'm sure nothing would delight her more to play therapist to a group of friends riddled with psychological problems. Luckily for her, those are exactly the sort of friends she has.
  • Several of the characters in Schlock Mercenary are either borderline psychopathic (Schlock springs to mind, and Elf generally isn't too far behind) or Paranoiac (Lieutenant Pi).
  • When Electric Wonderland begins, Trawn seems selfish and single-minded in her desire to resurrect a dead form of media, and restore edge to a news climate oversaturated with corporate sponsors. NJ doesn't seem to share her passion for journalism and only takes the job out of desperation to find work. Shroomy has an inferiority complex which she masks through her naivete. Aerynn's seemingly endless knowledge of magic made it hard for years for her to connect with others. Torro hasn't matured at all since his college years. Among later additions, Natasha grew up unable to overcome the shadow of her father, developer of the most widely-used brand of antivirus software. Lululu is an impoverished brat who also can't walk because she impusively selected a mermaid's body for her avatar. At least some of these characters overcome their flaws before long, though.
  • Superego's characters all tend to be somewhat unusual, from boastful Rick to not-quite-there Juliet. They even each have a specific personality disorder theme.
  • The four titular 'good guys' of Roommates are certainly . . . interesting.
    • Jareth: Has a family that makes the Summers' look normal, a childhood crush on a girl who wasn't even born that time (and is extremly confused by his current advances), by definition an alien nature and a Superpowered Evil Side. He is very much a Sad Clown and Jerkass Woobie too.
    • Erik: Misantrophic, workaholic, can't talk to women, with erratic sleeping patterns, no family and a history of violent behavior.
    • James: "Well Done, Son!" Guy, with a drinking problem and blessed with the knowledge of Being Good Sucks (died in heroic sacrifice... twice. But got no respect or even a thank you for it. He still has Chronic Hero Syndrome). Also possible candidate to become a part of Jareth's extended family. Resident Woobie.
    • Javert: Former Teen Rebel with a family he would rather forget (a criminal for father and a mentally unstable mother who is also related to Jareth), a story that was hellbent on deconstructing everything he ever believed in. This left him extremely cynical. Resident Stoic Woobie.

    Web Original 
  • The Binder of Shame by Al Bruno III details possibly embellished accounts of many play sessions with a bunch of socially inept, incredibly messed-up and/or horrible people. The cast, given Meaningful Names to protect the author, includes:
  • Tales of MU:
  • Protectors of the Plot Continuum have to be a little abnormal in order to function at all. Agents include common-or-garden Cloud Cuckoo Lander types, berserkers, drunkards and prescription-medication addicts, characters theoretically incapable of feeling emotions at all, and so on. They may or may not be entirely normal by the standards of their home continua, if said continua run on different standards of normalcy.
  • Let's see what we have in Ilivais X...
    • Iriana Estchell, our not heroic in the slightest protagonist who combines Shinji's ridiculously low self-esteem with Rei's repressed stoicism. In fact, she amplifies those, refusing to believe herself as a person simply because she was altered to not really be intended for a person, and fighting her conflicting emotional engines because she doesn't want to expose the squishy and vulnerable little girl within. And then there's her whole disabled puberty and several rape incidents and Long Lost Sibling Rivalry and somewhat unsuccessful attempts to control everyone around her so as to feel like she has some control and a ton of other crap she's constantly dealing with, all by the age of 17.
    • Mille Chanteau, her Love Interest who's addicted to physical intimacy and is a bit conflicted about why she's so into Iriana (who likely directly manipulated her to feel that). Also has had tons of wierd relationships with older guys, certainly gaining a complex from that seeing as she's only 14 and it tends to ruin any and all attempts at friendship with others. While she is easily one of the most optimistic characters in the story, it's obvious that she has absolutely no idea how to communicate with anyone without sex, and thus is extremely dependent on Iriana, who provides the only emotional relationship she's ever had. It's VERY abusive, yes, but she's so starved for heart-felt affection that she doesn't even see that part.
    • Sura and Essen, having to deal with their above friend slipping slowly into insanity. Essen views Mille as a mom (seeing as she's the Team Mom and all), and therefore is somewhat upset that she's prioritizing a psychotic girl they just met over her friends she's known for a while. Sura sees excellent military potential in her, and so is somewhat upset that she's following the orders of a psychotic girl they just met over the faction they belong to and her equally-ranked friend and ex. It's relatively justified that they're worried they'll similarly fall into acting that way. Especially given how the normally reserved Essen didn't hesitate to voice his opinion when Iriana didn't have any clothes on.
    • The Specialized Weapon Units all have their own deal. Ashe believes people only care about her body, Arteya is sure he's outside natural laws due to being an Aztec, and Sycine has a copious amount of Gayngst going on.
    • The GEKICOM Team is emotionally Flanderized, with emotional engines acting to make them extremist and single-minded.
    • The four STRUQ sub-pilots have issues with the fact that individually they're useless, and when combined they have no real control.
    • The Iberian commanders are dedicated to their countries that technically don't exist anymore, so they're obsessed with preserving dead cultures.
    • The other three Phonos Weapons are little more than Wetware CPUs with the body still attached. Not only that, but their minds are reduced to being fuelled on their given emotion alone, disallowing them to feel anything else.
    • And really, everybody else who isn't that nameless one-shot Mission Control guy from the very beginning.
  • Most of the characters on That Guy with the Glasses.com.
  • Eighties Dan: the wacky adventures of a cocaine-addicted manchild, his anal-retentive landlady, his asshole robot roommate, and the mutually-loathing married couple who live next door.
  • Demo Reel. Two people who have committed war crimes, a self-destructive Former Child Star who lost his mother to suicide, a woman whose uncaring parents sent her on camping trips with her sexually abusive uncle, and an Only Sane Man with a family who hates him because he exposed his father as a criminal. Notable because, unlike the rest of TGWTG, all of that is Played for Drama.
  • Filthy Frank: A Downplayed example, everyone in the show are a bunch of messed up individuals who may or may not have several disorders. The closest to functional human beings are jerkasses who have trouble acting like decent human beings.
  • All of the Outcasts in Tasakeru have their hang-ups. Having a Dark and Troubled Past is a prerequisite for becoming one.
  • MSF High Forum: Par for the course.
  • Team Kimba of the Whateley Universe. Generator manifested while her father was trying to beat her to death. Phase was thrown out of his family and turned over to a Mad Scientist for experimentation that he barely survived. Tennyo was poisoned by her yougner brother and can't go home because a team of assassins is after her. Lancer manifested on an Army base and his brother ratted him out to the local mutant haters, leading to a battle against a heavily armed anti-mutant squad and a tank. Fey's parents are separated and she had the humiliation of slowly turning from a nerdy guy into a sexy redhead over about a year. Bladedancer's mom is dead and her dad has been captured by the Demon Lord of Fiery Immersion. Carmilla is the result when her mom was impregnated by a demon, she had to kill her mom when her mom started turning into a Deep One, and then she died... and turned into Carmilla.
  • Everyone in Red vs. Blue, from the teamkilled ghost with ex-girlfriend problems to the sycophantic cyborg with daddy issues, and that's not even getting into the Freelancers, who are a whole special bundle of issues... or the AIs and their creator, with the dubious honor of being the most messed up people on the show. About the only people who don't seem to have problems are Caboose (who's too stupid to realize he has problems) and Donut (who's... just Donut). Needless to say, this is largely Played for Laughs... except when it's not.
  • Just about every major character in Worm has severe mental hangups, or acquires them over the course of the story.
  • The Bay 12 Katawa Shoujo Roleplay. Some of the students have their own issues, in addition to their disabilities. It comes with the territory.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy: In the later seasons, it becomes apparent that each member of the Griffin Family all clearly has some major issues going on. This is played for laughs.
  • Moral Orel: Every character in the series, with the exception of Orel and a few other characters, is seriously messed up.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The point of the Beach Episode was to get the four dysfunctional teenaged villains together and spill their guts about their personal issues ala The Breakfast Club. Or maybe that was just an excuse to provide us with Fanservice. The teenaged heroes aren't much better off, but being main characters, they handle it with more grace. Although Azula takes her issues perfectly in stride until The Boiling Rock, which shakes her and starts a downward spiral that ends in the finale, at which point she has a psychotic breakdown, turning into The Caligula and hallucinating that her Missing Mom is talking to her- and violently attacking the hallucination upon being told "I love you".
  • Teen Titans: Most of it in the manual (and by manual, we mean original comic book). Raven's Dark and Troubled Past is the only one which gets any detail, though. Cyborg's, Beast Boy's, and Robin's are only implied through dialogue and visual cues. Starfire seems to be the only one with a normal past until the episode "Go" which retcons it into her tragic comic book origin.
    • Robin has a pretty obvious traumatic past as he was raised by Batman.
    • Beast Boy was infected with a deadly virus in a jungle, then his parents found him a cure that had side effects which turned him green and made him unstable for a very long time, then his entire family was murdered in front of him, all this when he was just a kid? At least Robin had the chance to live with Bruce Wayne, who was like a parent figure to him. Raven, too, who lived in a peaceful place like Azarath during her childhood. And let's not talk about Cyborg, whose case is worse than Beast Boy's.
    • Cyborg. Victor Stone was the athletically inclined son of a pair of genius scientists, and his relationship with his father was...not great as a result. It got worse when he visited his parents' lab and arrived just in time to see his mother eaten alive by an Eldritch Abomination that was accidentally brought to Earth by his parents' interdimensional portal invention. Then said Abomination got its tentacles on him. After his father managed to teleport the thing away, he rebuilt Victor using cyborg prosthetics he had invented. Victor did not take being turned into a cyborg very well, to put it lightly. Then his long-time girlfriend dumped him because she couldn't handle the changes. He's only able to reconcile with his father after finding out his dad is dying of radiation poisoning because of the monster that destroyed their family — and they can only spend a few days together before the inevitable. And all of this still pales in comparison to what the rest of the series puts him through.
    • Dude, Starfire didn't even know what the word "nice" was until she came to Earth, and the closest word she had on her planet was "weak", she had a Cain and Abel relationship with her sister, and she was sold into slavery by people who experimented on her before attempting to bring her to live out her days as a servant on another planet!
  • In Transformers Animated, nearly every character with a backstory is tragic. Optimus lost his friend Elita (now Blackarachnia) to giant monster spiders and was thrown out of the Elite Guard despite being qualified for the rank of Prime, Ratchet has PTSD from the Great War, and more specifically having to mindwipe Arcee to save her from Lockdown, Blackarachnia was turned into a half-organic freak because of said monster spiders, Bumblebee was taken out of the running for Elite Guard training because of something that wasn't his fault and also wound up getting the innocent Wasp arrested for treachery, Bulkhead was mercilessly teased for his size and clumsiness during boot camp, and Prowl saw his master die before his eyes, with his last words admonishing him for his attempts to save his life.
    • In fact, the fates of Elita and Arcee led the writers to promise that they would make at least one female character without a tragic past during the second season. Unless you count being cloned from Starscream as tragic.
    • Transformers having tragic pasts and psychological issues is a constant no matter WHAT continuity you look at; in fact, many of the minor and toy-only characters, Autobot and Decepticon alike, are defined primarily by their neuroses.
      • It's not like you'd expect a group of aliens who've been fighting for eons on end to stay well-adjusted.
      • Autobot triple-changer Broadside takes the cake, though. He easily gets seasick and is afraid of heights, so what does he turn into? An ocean-going carrier and a jet fighter!
      • The Stunticons, the second Decepticon combiner team, are a Five-Bad Band Dysfunction Junction, being made up of a pessimist, a psychopath, a schizophrenic, a win-at-all-costs egomaniac, and a tyrannical bully as the leader. When they unite into Menasor, the giant's personality is so messed up that he's not a warrior to command, he's a weapon to point at the enemy and get away from as fast as possible.
  • Adventure Time, despite being a show high in comedy, is very much this. Finn is a human who is secretly depressed about being the last of his kind (and may have issues with being sexually aroused by violence), Jake's parents are dead (and may have kleptomania issues), Princess Bubblegum has the stress of ruling a kingdom and never being able to be a kid, Marceline has daddy issues, the snail is possessed, the Tart Toter is insane, the Ice King suffers from severe dementia, Cinnamon Bun is brain-damaged, Peppermint Butler is borderline satanic, Lemongrab is practically autistic, LSP is surrounded by horrible idiots... in addition to being more or less of a bratty teenager— or is that just a teenager personality?
  • This trope is a defining feature of The Venture Bros., where every major character and most of the minor ones are profoundly damaged.
  • In South Park, some of the characters had issues involving their families. Cartman's mother is a prostitute and he killed his own biological father. Stan has a father who, despite being a geologist, is a complete idiot who constantly takes up crazy activities and careers for the sake of being happy. Kyle has an overprotective mother and a strict father. Kenny and his family are poor, and his dad is sometimes battered by his mom. It could be worse, because... Butters is raised by Abusive Parents, end of story. And Craig's tendency to flip the bird runs in the family.
  • Every character in Daria can be defined by various neuroses. (or just being plain stupid).
  • In Futurama, every member of Planet Express has some kind of issue, even if this Trope is played little bit lighter than the rest of the page's examples. Fry - the series's Unfazed Everyman - isn't the sharpest knife in the kitchen because of a Time Paradox that makes him his own grandfather, and he lost his whole family when he accidentally froze himself. Leela is a cyclops orphan with some serious anger issues. Bender is a criminal, alcoholic, smoker and doesn't have a bit of conscience. Professor Farnsworth is the Mad Scientist who is so senile one keeps wondering how he keeps the company up and running. Zoidberg is the resident Butt Monkey and a really incompetent doctor whose dreams of being a comedian were crushed by his mother. When he isn't available, the role passes to Amy, Asian Airhead who comes from a rich family but has mean and greedy parents, her father being the worst one. The one worker who is relatively sane and happy is Hermes, and he takes strange delight from his job right into the point that he is Workaholic and borderline OCD-patient.
    • Lampshaded when Fry tries to convince Leela that getting phaser eye surgery (to split her one eye into two) is a bad idea:
    Fry: The rest of us aren't normal and that's what makes us great! Like Dr. Zoidberg, he's a weird monster who smells like he eats garbage and does.
    Zoidberg: Damn right!
    Fry: And the Professor's a senile, amoral crackpot.
    Professor: *babbles nonsensically*
    Fry: Hermes is a Rastafarian accountant...
    Hermes: Tally me banana!
    Fry: Amy's a klutz from Mars...
    Amy: *Drops drinking glass* Sploops!
    Professor: And Fry, you've got that brain thing.
    Fry: I already did! So Leela, do you wanna be like us? Or do you wanna be like Adlai, with no severe mental or social problems whatsoever?
  • In Justice League, we have an orphan who saw his parents shot in front of him when he was eight, The Exile who was forced to leave her home, two aliens who are the Last Of Their Kind, The Mole who first betrayed Earth then did a Heel-Face Turn on her home planet and was subsequently banished from there and a man who's serious about his duty most of the time. In fact, Flash is the only one from the Original Seven who doesn't quite fit here... which could tie into the strong implication that without Flash, the entire team would go off the deep end.
  • The entire premise of Total Drama Island revolves around this, the host explains in the first episode itself that the competitors were chosen because of how weird and messed-up they seemed in their audition tapes.
  • Invader Zim: Zim is a delusional megalomaniac with sociopathic tendencies; Dib is an obsessive,vicious Anti-Hero with no friends; Gaz will cause you immense pain for the sake of video games and pizza; and GIR.... is just bat-shit crazy.
  • The Simpsons were, in the early years, considered the epitome of dysfunction on television. George H.W. Bush famously gave an address during which he stated that Americans needed to be 'less like The Simpsons, and more like The Waltons' note . Today, they are one of the more stable examples of a family on TV.
  • The cast of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic are infamous for their mental breakdowns, which the lead writer admitted was partly due to writing the episodes on a tight deadline with lots of coffee.
    • Twilight Sparkle is a neurotic perfectionist frequently terrified into full mental breakdowns by the prospect of academic failure, and who often fails to grasp basic social rules.
    • Pinkie Pie is hyperactive to the point where she’s near incapable of censoring herself or communicating her thought patterns to others, and occasionally has displayed a profoundly paranoid side that once resulted in a fully psychotic break (complete with full on hallucinations).
    • Fluttershy was bullied as a child and at the beginning of the series wasn’t even about to speak to a pony she didn’t know; she later admits to living her entire life in a state of nervous anxiety. Paradoxically she also displays a terrifying hair trigger temper when pushed, and has physically assaulted other ponies on several occasions.
    • Applejack takes stubbornness to new extremes, being willing to flee town and seriously imperil her own health for comparatively silly reasons.
    • Rainbow Dash, despite being a showoff, ultimately suffers from performance anxiety that at one point left her shuddering in the fetal position - but she ultimately got over it and hasn't had problems in that area since, leaving only comparatively mild issues such as narcissism.
    • Rarity is, while a drama queen, ultimately the sanest of the group; her only real issue is OCD, and her only breakdown of note was a completely understandable 'humiliated in front of the person she needed to impress to advance her career' freakout.
    • Spike is plagued with an inferior complex, given that at times he's seemly being ignored/harassed/outperformed by ponies or even being replaced by a better pet sidekick. At most times, he just mopes about; at his worst, he disintegrates into a sadist kid with Evil Laugh.
  • Sterling Archer, a womanizing drunkard with who is a jerk to everyone. This is due to his mother hardly being there for him when he was young, and when she is she makes his life miserable. Cheryl/Carol/Carina/Cristal/Cherlene is an insane pyromaniac who is Too Kinky to Torture. Cyril is a Crazy Jealous Extreme Doormat who cheated Lana several times. Even Lana, the Only Sane Woman, is crazy. She attempts to shoot Archer multiple times when she's angry. Her semi-Heartwarming Moment involves her admitting that she still loves him, oh and that she stole his sperm to impregnate herself.
  • In hindsight, its amazing how much Hey Arnold! was able to get away with for a kids show in regards to this. The titular protagonist is a Cosmic Plaything who constantly gets dealt a raw deal, his parents vanished years ago while exploring Africa, causing him to live in a rundown boarding house with his grandparents. His grandmother is a delusional Cloud Cuckoolander, and his grandfather is the Only Sane Man who is constantly driven up the wall by the antics of his wife and his kooky tenants. Said tenants include a Chinese immigrant who suffers from chronic depression due to severe family issues, a short tempered construction worker who is obsessed with breaking things and is a closet fanboy of the town's local jazz singer, a greedy, selfish deadbeat who constantly blows his money on gambling, much to his wife's chagrin, and a secretive man who is heavily implied to be a government agent. Among Arnold's friends, Gerald is mostly normal, but his father is an overbearing penny pincher, his younger sister's a Spoiled Brat, and his older brother's a Jerk Jock. Helga acts like the resident bully, but this ends up being an act as she is in fact in love with Arnold, but acts like a bully towards him out of both fear and as a result of having lived in a broken home (her mother's a jobless, chronically depressed drunkard, her father's a greedy Manipulative Bastard who is obsessed with advancing his cell phone company, and her older sister is a hugely successful business woman whose constant success has given Helga a massive inferiority complex. Harold, like Helga, acts like a bully to mask his own insecurities, primarily his weight. Eugene is quite possibly the unluckiest person on the planet. Cid is mostly normal, but tends to have severe overreactions whenever something bad happens to him (see the germ episode and "Cid's Revenge" for examples). Ronda is the resident Rich Bitch whose arrogance is kept in check only by her Black Best Friend. Stinky is a dirt poor hillbilly. Curly is a maniacal schemer who constantly gets in trouble due to his zany schemes. And that's just the main characters.

    Real Life 
  • A surprisingly high percentage of people may meet the DSM criteria for mental disorder (although the disorder is often not considered significant enough to be evaluated by a professional).
  • Special schools for kids with serious learning disabilities or mental illnesses can be like this.
  • The Internet, courtesy of the GIFT. Even otherwise normal people start acting like lunatics, jerkasses, or both.
  • Systemic psychotherapy is more or less based on revealing and resolving existing Dysfunction Junction in the family or similar social subsystem.
  • Group homes and foster homes.
  • Mental hospitals and group therapy sessions for obvious reasons.
  • Dementia wards of retirement homes, the closest one can come to a World Gone Mad in Real Life.


Dumb StruckSadness TropesThe Eeyore
Destination DefenestrationSublime RhymeEdible Collectible
Driven to VillainyThis Index Has Had a Hard LifeEmpty Shell
Dueling HackersNarrative DevicesEarth All Along
Dye or DieJust for PunEenie, Meenie, Miny Moai
Drama BombRule of DramaEmerging from the Shadows

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