Loser Protagonist

"Why can't the world just die?!"
Al Bundy, utterly despising his life as usual

The loser protagonist is a Sister Trope to the This Loser Is You, but unlike that trope, the Loser Protagonist is not necessarily meant to be relatable, it's just that they may be considered a loser by the standards of their society. (Obviously, this is subject to Values Dissonance.) This character is generally subject to Character Development throughout the narrative to make them more sympathetic or interesting. This character may have underdog status, assuming they aren't so much of a "loser" that the audience thinks they should pull their socks up and get over themselves. See also the Character Flaw Index, Acceptable Lifestyle Targets, and Acceptable Hard Luck Targets.

Traits a loser protagonist may have:

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Choujin Sensen: Tomobiki Rinji can't seem to have anything his way, whether it be gambling at Pachinko stores, finding a better job, or having a girlfriend. Not only does his parents seem to ignore his presence, his little sister pester him about her friends making fun of her brother adds insult to injury.
  • Common in many harem anime. The guy is usually a dateless loser until he meets the heroine, at which point every girl he meets falls for him for some arbitrary reason or for just no reason at all. Since this is a harem, the only people he meets are pretty girls.
  • The signature storytelling style of the short stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi.
  • Usagi/Serena, while not really an outcast, has many loser qualities: she is clumsy, lazy, ditzy, a crybaby, a very poor student, and gluttonous; but she is still the incomparably powerful Sailor Moon.
  • The man that saves a woman from an assault in Skyhigh.
  • Ataru Moroboshi from Urusei Yatsura. Mainly, because of his lechery and other human faults. He was born on the most unlucky day of the year in Japan. His own parents often have no shame in saying how much they wish he wasn't born. He's unpopular with most of the boys and almost all the girls at his high school. Even when the beautiful female alien, Lum, comes into his life, he's still unlucky because of all the baggage she brings with her.
  • Keiichi Morisato of Ah! My Goddess runs the "harem" example above pretty straight, except that he ultimately has no interest other than Belldandy, but his origins were the same, never getting a date due to his short stature. Subverted, as Belldandy points out that he has qualities that make him rather desirable, such as the way he cares for antiquated junk that has no value to other people.
  • Satou from Welcome to the N.H.K. is a hikikomori who does nothing but stay in his house all day, has never attended college, and acts like a jerk.
  • Kimba/Leo started out as a weak coward that everyone makes fun of in the 2009 TV-special of Kimba the White Lion.
  • Bamboo Blade's Sensei is a protagonist who mooches off his students and receives food parcels from his parents.
  • Tomoko from WATAMOTE ~No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!~ is a dating sim-obsessed introvert who doesn't have any friends in her high school and is completely socially inept. The series is about her trying various ways to improve her popularity, which she either spectacularly screws up or is unwilling to learn from her mistakes and try again.
  • Kagerou Daze: Kisaragi Shintaro, our protagonist, is a high school drop-out shut-in with no company aside from a Trolling Tsundere computer program named Ene, no life outside of his bedroom, and as of the first chapter, not even a computer due to an accidental soda-spillage. And when he does eventually venture out into the world, he's literally the only cast member without a superpower. His backstory drives it in further; in middle school, he was an Insufferable Genius, and his only friend was Ayano, a Book Dumb Manic Pixie Dream Girl who was trying desperately to help him open up. Right until she jumps off the school roof. After that, he became the bitter, self-loathing shut-in who we see at the beginning of the story, and in one possible timeline where he never goes outside, he kills Ene, has a mental breakdown, and then kills himself.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari can't get a break. Not only is he introduced as a whiny and spineless Failure Hero, he hardly gets any respect from anybody even if he does save the day. His love interests are either indifferent toward or hate him, most of his friends are killed, and his "job" involves dealing with the Eldritch Abomination of the day, which abuses him to hell and back both physically and mentally, just to ensure that he will only get worse and worse. By the time of End of Evangelion, the kid's had enough.
  • Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi. She's Book Dumb, rather naive and ditzy, gluttonous, said to be kind of fat and average-looking in-universe, trouble always seems to find her, and her parents are divorced (which carries a big social stigma in Japan).
  • Isao from Inside Mari is a friendless, spineless hikikomori with a perma-stubble who lives off his parents money, while they still think he's a college student. His crush is a high School Idol, which may or may not make him even more of a Loser Protagonist. He ends up in her body and slowly screws with her life.
  • Taichi from Yuureitou is a homely, socially awkward NEET in his late 20s. He meets the charming, attractive Tetsuo and ends up becoming useful but he's still adorkable.
  • Punpun from Oyasumi Punpun, especially in high school and just after graduating. He thinks of himself as so pathetic he once decided to kill himself if he didn't improve within a year. Compared to other examples he's a lot more malicious.
  • Inverted and and then subverted in Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai. Kaguya and Shirogane are both brilliant individuals who can expertly debate highly complicated and intricate subjects like philosophy without blinking an eye and are adored by the school the go to as model students by both the faculty and the staff. Despite this, both of them are repeatedly mocked by the narration for their simplistic views of romantic relationships and their inability to confess to one another, which turns them from intelligent chessmasters into bumbling idiots.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, the Lemony Narrator and protagonist of the fic is considered to be a loser, as she's too caught up in her arrogance and conspiracy theories and is looked down upon by many. She even reflects upon this after she gets rejected by the homeless pony she had a crush on, saying that once you get rejected by the homeless, you know your life has gone from bad to worse.

    Literature 
  • In The Wall and the Wing, one of the main characters can not fly and is classified as a "dead weight" in a world where most people can fly and flying is revered. This is a bit of a subversion as it turns out she has the power to camouflage herself to blend in with her surroundings
  • Ignatius Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces, to hilarious effect, although at times it's hard to tell who is more of a loser, him or everyone else around him.
  • Austin from Hollow Places. He's an amputee, half-blind janitor with no biological family left alive and whose foster family had to let him go.
  • Charlotte from ghostgirl is so unpopular at her high school that not even her teachers remember her name and she is almost always ignored by everyone. She is a Butt-Monkey, is Hollywood Homely, gets teased by the popular girls whenever they acknowledge her, and is a mild Stalker With a Crush for Damen. Charlotte also has the very Undignified Death of choking on a gummy bear alone in a classroom. The only reasons kids turned up to her memorial was because it meant leaving school early. They didn't even stay long, plus the Alpha Bitch Petula took the spotlight away from her death by crying to the cameras about how she could have died eating gummy bears instead of Charlotte. Charlotte has better luck in the afterlife.

    Live-Action Films 
  • Broadway Danny Rose: He's a Nice Guy with Undying Loyalty, but ends up being an Extreme Doormat, which is why he can't hold good clients. At the end of the film, his business is failing, but at least he gets the girl in the end.
  • Paul Blart: Mall Cop is overweight, lives with his mother, works as a mall security guard, stalks the women he likes via cameras and to quote Film Brain "He has a really creepy way with food"
  • Simon Pegg plays this in at least four movies, How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, Shaun of the Dead, The World's End and Run, Fat Boy, Run!. Jury's still out on why he even got the role of the protagonist of the latter movie, because he's not even, well, you know... Fat.
  • Ricky Gervais also plays this in The Invention of Lying. In a world where lying doesn't exist and therefore everything is believed by everyone, his character is put down for being a talentless, overweight loser, and the girl that he wants rejects him on the grounds that their kids might look like him. Though shown to be kind of a jerk at times, his conscience ends up winning out, the viewer is expected to empathize with the hopeless underdog and root for him getting the girl in the end. The female lead eventually learns that being fat with a "snub nose" doesn't make him a bad prospective husband.
  • Jack Black's character from School of Rock is a deadbeat who's behind on his rent, got kicked out of his band, his only friends feel sorry for him, he has no girlfriend, he's got no qualifications, and he looks like a slob to boot.
  • John Cusack as Rob Gordon (Rob Fleming in the book, but the film plays it up much more) in High Fidelity. He lives on his own, but he's a hermetic record collector, obsesses about exes to the point of ridicule (one ex even made him drop out of college), and goes off the rails when his most recent ex gets a New-Age Retro Hippie boyfriend. Something that's especially clear in the book is that he feels his life has stalled at this point, and that somehow the transition from adolescence to adulthood passed him by.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past: Past Charles Xavier is the central figure, and he has been a totally unproductive member of society in between 1963 and 1973 because he's clinically depressed. He's a heavy drinker and substance abuser.
  • Private detective Rock Slyde uses positive online auction feedback to boost his self-esteem. And that's not the half of it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dobie Gillis from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis was one of the first examples in television. He lives with his parents throughout the entire series and has little money. He is lazy and aimless. He is considered to have below average intelligence and average looks. His only friend Maynard G. Krebs is an even bigger loser than he is. He chases after girls who often have no interest in him. And the only girl that likes him is Hollywood Ugly.
  • The all-time champion of loser protagonists is Al Bundy in Married... with Children. He's a forgotten high school football legend, works at a shoe store paraded by fat women, his family is dirt poor, he lives with a wife who wants nothing but nonstop sex and to watch Oprah forever, not to mention a Cordon Bleugh Chef (when she even cooks), his son is a Chivalrous Pervert and his daughter is a full-cylinders Dumb Blonde, he lives with two of the most annoying next-door neighbors you could ask for, a dog arguably smarter than the whole family combined, times two, and worst of all, his mother-in-law is the size of a circus carousel. He's also beaten up frequently, waging a futile war against womankind, humiliated at every beck and call, is the Butt-Monkey in any situation, and lives every day realizing it won't get better until he goes back to sleep. In fact, poor Al has thought of divorce and suicide so much it's almost exclusively Played for Laughs. Sometimes, he even has near death experiences that convince him to go back to being miserable! Once he actually went to Hell after a Deal with the Devil only to find it on par with his actual life. Another time, he learns he's genuinely useless to society and his death is actually the greatest improvement to the world. Finally, he discovers that he will die miserable at age 65 of a fatal disease. Even so, Al has become virtually immune to the misery around him- he accepts it and embraces it, somehow finding ways to love the hand fate dealt him- even if the cards are useless. When Al does win at life, it's a rare victory that deserves a standing ovation. For your enjoyment, he's pictured above- just don't throw tomatoes at his face. Also, Al Bundy is the former Trope Namer of Jaded Washout.
  • Everybody Hates Chris. He lives in a house where both his father and mother don't pay much attention to his needs over his little brother and sister. Speaking of which - his younger brother is handsome and most girls his age and even adult women fall for him the moment they see him. This is especially sad, because most of the girls Chris has a crush on during the show, end up falling for his younger brother in the end. His younger brother is also taller and more imposing. His little sister constantly torments him and gets away with it. Worst case scenario: Chris will get in trouble, even if it's obvious his little sister was in the wrong. He goes to a prominently white school where he is bullied by racist students. He gets no help from the teachers whom project their own racial prejudices on him - especially his homeroom teacher who thinks he's a welfare case, despite being raised in a hardworking two parent home. And worst of all: Whenever Chris tries to do anything meaningful, it always backfires on him by the end of the episode. This theme is played till the series end, Where Chris doesn't finish high school, so he takes his GED test. Before the results of the test are announced, the show suddenly ends, taking a cue from The Sopranos. Of course, it's assumed that things work out pretty well for him in the end when he inevitably becomes a successful comedian.
  • Adam Young of Mr. Young, despite being a genius, otherwise qualifies for this trope; he is the subject of constant mockery by everyone else in the show including other loser characters for his comical physical weakness, social awkwardness, and seeming inability to get the attention of a woman.
  • The Muppet Show has the whole troupe continually belittled and insulted as entertainers by not just Statler and Waldorf, but also by outside characters and are also threatened by Scooter's Uncle.
  • Josh of Man Seeking Woman. He works an unsatisfying temp job, has trouble landing dates and actually keeping a girlfriend, and all of his friends and family members are very brutally honest in how they regard him and his life as an utter mess.

    Music 
  • The titular protagonist of Electric Light Orchestra's "The Diary of Horace Wimp" is, as his name suggests, a rather ineffectual, shy and awkward nebbish who's pretty much on track to die alone. The song involves him developing some confidence, asking a pretty girl out and eventually marrying her basically after The Voice yells at him to sort himself out.

    Music Video 
  • Vic in David Bowie's long-form video/Short Film Jazzin' for Blue Jean. In the London of the story, this working class, clumsy, dateless man (played by Bowie) with limited funds and little sense of style is the Straw Loser to everybody else — in particular "Dream", a woman he falls in Love at First Sight with, and British Rock Star Screamin' Lord Byron (also Bowie), whom he tells a Celebrity Lie about to woo her. The bulk of the story has him trying to see the lie through, with much foolishness and humiliation ensuing. But by the end, "Mr. Screamin'" is revealed to be rather less cool than the image he projects, and Dream is revealed to have cruelly strung Vic along from the start. Vic can't help but look slightly better by comparison, and the story ends with Bowie breaking character to object to Vic not getting the girl.

    Video Games 
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the protagonist Junpei is explicitly stated not to have friends after elementary school. He makes up for it with his puzzle-solving skills.
  • You get to play a loser protagonist in Deponia. Rufus, is a loser, who mooches off his girlfriend. Doesn't have a job. Steals other people's stuff to do crazy experiments. Is very arrogant, self-centered, and has delusions of grandeur. Everyone in town dislikes him for one reason or another, even his seemingly best friend, Wenzel.
  • In Space Quest the player character, Roger Wilco, is a bumbling, lazy janitor who constantly gets the short end of the stick, either through his own lack of foresight or simply because he's an unlucky bastard.
  • Mike Dawson becomes one in Dark Seed II, being a whiny and cowardly manchild who still lives with his mother. Granted, he moved in after having a nervous breakdown in the first game, but he's been there for a year and she's not too fond of this fact.
  • In Always Sometimes Monsters, your hero is $500 behind in the rent and about to get kicked out of their shabby apartment, has lost their Love Interest, and is generally completely down on their luck. A major theme of the game is exploring just how far you're willing to go to turn your life around.
  • The protagonist of Welcome to the Game is an avid Deep Web lurker who is trying to find a Red Room livestream for reasons unknown, but can certainly be chalked up to either morbid curiosity or just plain sadism. One of the alternate endings released in the 2.0 build confirms that they're looking it up for sexual pleasure. In fact, it's actually Lydia, one of the antagonists of Rides With Strangers.
  • The Protagonist of Sunset Overdrive fits this trope pretty well; at the beginning of the game he/she works for the Mega Corp. Fizzco in a dead-end job, stuck with the crappy job of being custodian to the massive party Fizzco is throwing to celebrate the release of their new energy drink, Overdrive, but not actually able to take part in the festivities. This actually turns out to be a good thing for you, since not moments after the party reaches its peak, people start turning into mutants...

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • The unfortunate Ava of Ava's Demon fits this trope. She is often considered insane because of the frequent possessions caused by the Demon Wrathia, and has lost her one and only friend because of it. Because of her demonic possessions she often gets in trouble at school (through no fault of her own) and is eventually expelled to a "Special Needs" child containment planet.
  • Luigi is this in It Sucks to Be Weegie!. The world is always out to make his life miserable.
  • Park Hyung Suk in Lookism couldn't catch a break until a weird miracle happened. He has a low-paying part-time job, is poor, does not have a love interest, is fat, was the lowest of the low on the Popularity Food Chain, didn't have any friends, lacks any fashion sense (mainly due to not being able to afford much clothes), was unmotivated... After some much needed Character Development, he decides to not rely on the miracle alone anymore and decides to change himself.
  • The titular character of Matchu has no friends, lives in a crappy apartment with his underpaid brother, is immediately assigned as a janitor when looking for a job, and the universe denies him any sort of happiness to the point where a UFO lands on top of him before he can say anything when his Love Interest actually shows him some acknowledgement.
  • Jolee in WooHoo! is, at the start of the story, penniless and friendless in a new city. Her terrible money-management skills are to blame.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LoserProtagonist