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Opposites Attract

"Strange extremes meet in love's pathway."

Strong relationships, in both TV and real life, thrive on how each member compensates for the other’s weaknesses with his/her own strengths, and vice versa.

A Motormouth just isn’t as funny if he doesn’t have the Straight Man to torment. Similarly, only when a sweet, shy person is paired up with an equally jerkish one is their kindness and timidness made all the more noticeable.

It is all but guaranteed that the characters’ differences will cause more friction than harmony between them. That’s what gives the Odd Couple its fuel for Slap-Slap-Kiss, Will They or Won't They?, and Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other situations. Bickering and mushiness in one package. What’s not to like?

The Odd Friendship also has elements of this, but tends to focus on how the differences make them see each other, and maybe the world, through new eyes. Perhaps the serious one is Not so Above It All, or the Shrinking Violet has an inner strength she never knew she had. A Moe Couplet also does something similar to this, focusing on how each half of the couplet brings out the other's endearing or nurturing traits.

Opposites Attract has become so widespread in buddy cop shows, in the form of Serious White Guy meets Loud Black Guy, that it branched off into its own subtrope.

About the biggest challenge in creating a day-and-night dynamic is to keep the attract and repel cases relatively balanced. When the pendulum swings too far toward the repel side and the characters seem more interested in torturing each other than helping out, it’s no longer cute to watch; it’s just masochistic. The key (both in fiction and in Real Life) is to watch the pair's goals. If they want the same thing but use completely different methods to achieve it, it's Opposites Attract. If they want different things entirely, it's a divorce waiting to happen.

If you add a third-party mediator for balance, you get a Power Trio.

Contrast Birds of a Feather. Compare Too Much Alike.

Popular Opposites Attract dynamics:


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

IMPORTANT: Please, no ships, just Canon portrayal of attraction. If you see an example that hasn't been portrayed in canon as this type of attraction (or hasn't been portrayed in canon at all), please delete it. This also means examples will tend to be spoilery, so read on at your own risk.

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • When their relationship began, Starfire and Robin (later Nightwing) were this: Robin was reserved and methodical to Starfire's passionate impulsiveness. As the trope often works in real life, they began to influence each other so that each acquired a level of the other's personality, to the point that their breakup ultimately had Nightwing making an impassioned plea for Starfire to stay and Starfire making the reasoned, logical choice to leave.
  • Beast Boy and Raven, also of the Teen Titans. One is an emotionally-schizo daughter of a demon who has a tendency to sometimes turn evil and attack her friends quite frequently, one is a fun loving, optimistic man-child who can turn into just about any animal on the planet. Due to Raven's emotional issues and her desire not to harm people she cares about, the two are frequently on/off but always come back to one another due to Beast Boy refusing to take a hint. Prior to the New 52 reboot, Raven had recently made the decision not to ignore or suppress her feelings any longer and to embrace the future with Beast Boy. How they fared may never be known...
  • Batman and Catwoman: one is a stolid, no-nonsense upholder of the law, the other is a mischievous (but never malicious) lawbreaker. They Fight Crime (sometimes, when she's not causing it herself).
  • Cyclops and Phoenix of the X-Men. He's an emotionally withdrawn introvert control freak and she's fire and life incarnate an outgoing redhead who reads minds. He draws the attentions of at least two other hot and extrovert telepaths, which suggests there's something interesting going on behind that facade...
  • Runaways paired quirky genius Gert with dumb jock Chase.
  • The Authority has gruff, brooding, cynical Midnighter Happily Married to kind, cheerful, optimistic Apollo. Even their costumes emphasise this trope: Apollo's is white with a gold sun emblem, while Midnighter's is black with a silver crescent moon.
  • Peanuts features Peppermint Patty and Marcy. Peppermint Patty is extroverted and athletic but Book Dumb. Marcie is introverted and intellectual and not at all into sports. They develop a symbiotic relationship, with Peppermint Patty protecting Marcie from bullies and Marcie helping Peppermint Patty with her studies.
  • Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter and Lois Lane, determined and outgoing reporter.

    Film 
  • Mulan and Shang in Mulan II.
  • Odd Couple Steed and Mrs. Peel in The Avengers (1998): he follows the rules, she doesn't. He admits that she's "just my type".
  • Milo Thatch and Princess Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire: she's a Tomboy Princess, he's an Adorkable nerd.
  • Roger and Jessica Rabbit. "He makes me laugh."
  • Film/Back to the Future: There are several. Outgoing, rebellious Lorraine Baines and shy, soft-spoken George Mc Fly. Outspoken Marty Mc Fly and reserved Jennifer Parker. Talkative Doc Brown and shy Clara Clayton.
  • No-nonsense Captain von Trapp and cheerful Maria in The Sound of Music.
  • The Great Race. The Great Leslie - charming male chauvinist. Maggie DuBois - militant women's libber. How can they not fall in love?
  • Enchanted: Giselle the cheery optimist, and Robert the sarcastic pessimist.
  • Tangled gives us the jaded, worldly-wise thief and the spirited, innocent princess.
  • WALL•E has The Woobie WALL•E and Action Girl EVE.
  • In Brave, who would have thought that Maudie the maid and the Hunk of clan Dingwall would become an item?
    • Not to mention King Fergus and Queen Elinor. Fergus is your typical boisterous Fiery Redhead while Elinor is the graceful, proper queen.
      • Granted, the fact that they're together at all is only due to an Arranged Marriage, and Elinor outright states that she was less than thrilled about it. This trope only comes into play in that they clearly warmed up to each other somewhere along the way.

    Literature 
  • Rachel and Cassie of Animorphs.
  • Ron and Hermione of Harry Potter's Power Trio: She's uptight, smart, logical and Crazy-Prepared, while he's more laid back, driven by emotion and acts on instinct.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club:
    • Mary Anne's father and Dawn's mother are a textbook example.
    • Also shy and quiet Mary Anne paired with jockish and outgoing Logan.
  • Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby. He Will Not Tell a Lie; she's a Consummate Liar.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade. Mara even says it, for crying out loud!
  • Brainy ambitious women regularly find P. G. Wodehouse's Upper-Class Twit Bertie Wooster romantically irresistible.
  • Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series has Matt Cruse, poor cabin boy, and Kate de Vries, rich wanna-be scientist... cue angsting about how they can never be together...
  • This seems to be the driving force behind Zavahl's and Ailie's relationship in the Shadowleague books- he has the personality of a bad rainstorm, whereas she is never seen to frown.
  • From the Wheel of Time, Mat is a Farmboy turned Four-Star Badass raised in a Arcadia, Tuon is an Empress and Chessmaster who was raised in a Deadly Decadent Court. They're married.
  • The 39 Clues. Ian is a Handsome Devil, mega-rich, an Evil Brit, and a Momma's Boy. Amy is a Shrinking Violet, pretty smart, poor, and an orphan. She apparently always found him attractive, but when he actually started flirting with her, it was, of course, a trick. And then came a whole new set of complications.
  • Captains Carrot Ironfounderson and Angua von Uberwald in Discworld are on opposite ends of the Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism. He inspires her to fight injustice, she reminds him not to set his expectations too high.
    • Similarly, in Interesting Times, it's strongly suggested that Wide-Eyed Idealist Twoflower's daughter Pretty Butterfly inherited her Rincewindian view of the world from her late mother.
  • In Death: Eve has pointed out that Roarke and her have this between them, like in Divided In Death. She is a cop who is crude, rude, not interested in money, believes in the law, and has morals that are basically black and white. He is a former thief who is suave, charming, has more money than you can imagine, believe more in his conscience than in the law, and his morals are very much grey. Fortunately, one thing they do have in common is that they both were raised by bad parents and had lousy childhoods.
  • Enforced in the novel Youth in Sexual Ecstasy, the sexual therapist actually says that for a couple to succeed in the long term, they must have opposite temperaments alongside with similar lifestyles and independent realization. The protagonist and his fiancee agree on this being the case for them.
  • In Michael Flynn's Up Jim River, Greystroke says that he and Bridget have this.
  • Alan E. Nourse's "The Compleat Consummators" took this to a horrifying conclusion with a couple whose differing interests and personalities meshed so well that they ended up as a sort of composite creature:
    After It had jelled for awhile, It got up from the sofa and went into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee.
  • Ignatius J. Reilly and Myrna Minkoff of A Confederacy of Dunces. Him: fat, stentorian (if hypocritical) in his morality, obsessed with chastity, an archconservative—nay, reactionary!—who believes Western civilization took a wrong turn at the Renaissance and longs for an authoritarian king and authoritarian Catholic Church. Her: thin, stentorian in her love of sex, believing that the world in general and Ignatius in particular is perfectible through sex, an archliberal—nay, radical!—who believes in revolutionary socialism and racial (and gender) equality, and who long ago abandoned her ancestral Judaism for—something. It isn't clear what (other than sex). They engage in a fevered exchange of letters that has all readers firmly convinced that they are in fact almost exactly the same despite appearances and perfect for each other. By the end of the novel, Ignatius has agreed to go to New York with Myrna.

    Live Action TV 
  • Sam and Diane of Cheers, practically archetypes of the Mars and Venus Gender Contrast.
  • Laid-back, jovial "Hawkeye" Pierce and hard-nosed Margaret Houlihan in Mash.
  • Penny and Leonard on The Big Bang Theory are such an extreme example as to nearly defy belief. Leonard is a bespectacled, hopeless nerd with a Ph.D in Physics and alarmingly subpar social skills (which suddenly appear impressive when compared with those of the people he hangs out with); Penny is an attractive aspiring actress who works as a waitress in the nearby Cheesecake Factory and never finished college. Lots of Lampshade Hanging on this one.
    Leonard: Are you even listening to me?
    Sheldon: Yes. "Blah blah, hopeless Penny delusion, blah blah."
  • Bad Ass Action Girl Aeryn Sun of Farscape, for some reason, finds herself falling for Plucky Comic Relief who alternates between The Kirk and The McCoy in the form of John Crichton. Though he's pretty well helpless in a real battle, she does end up training him up almost to Badass Bookworm levels. And while she does thaw a bit from her Ice Queen demeanor, he just gets more and more extroverted as he slowly goes crazier.
  • Microsoap used and deconstructed it. As the kids describe it, "It was a case of Opposites Attract. Then it was a case of Opposites Drive Each Other Crazy".
  • Damon and Elena on The Vampire Diaries. They have vastly different personalities, values, outlooks and beliefs.
  • Fox Mulder and Dana Scully from The X-Files: Skeptical, scientifically oriented redheaded Catholic meets agnostic UFO/supernatural enthusiast. And it works.
  • Ultra-conservative Alex P. Keaton finds himself attracted to women who are the ideological opposite of him - while his best friend, Skippy, is the intellectual opposite of him.
  • Degrassi has done this for just about every pairing and friendship it can. It'd be faster to list the exceptions.
  • Moonlighting, starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis. Maddie (Shepherd) is a chic, smart, former supermodel who's dead serious about running the business; David (Willis) is a glib, lighthearted, and pragmatic Private Investigator.
  • The show Dharma and Greg revolves around this trope. Dharma is a free-spirited, tolerant, and ditzy flower child. While Greg is an upright, conservative, somewhat uptight lawyer. Despite the fact that they have virtually nothing in common they got married on their first date.
  • iCarly: Subverted or Inverted with the Sam/Fredde arc depending on what aspect you look at. The subversion is they are complete and total opposites that become physically attracted to each other but eventually break up when the actual relationship fails. They are unable to find any common ground in their interests and actually end up sabotaging them for each other when they try being involved in each other's activities. It ends up being one of the main causes of their break up. The inversion is Sam wants someone abnormal like her, and Freddie wants someone more normal like him, so that while they did have an Opposites Attract vibe, it's not what they need in a partner, making it clear that in their case they are attracted by similarity not opposition.
  • Bones has the coldly intelligent, scientific, atheist, hyper-rational titular character and her partner the FBI agent- religious, more emotional, more of a people person. Clearly they complement each other, but each also finds the other fascinating and attractive.
    • Both lampshaded and subverted on the show; Sweets wrote an essay about Booth and Brennan's relationship dynamic called "Opposites Attract", which Gordon Gordon punctured by calmly stating that Booth and Brennan were complimentary, not opposites.
  • Action Girl/Amazonian Beauty Zoe in Firefly is married to Non-Action Guy/Ace Pilot Wash.
  • CSI NY City boy Danny Messer and country girl wife Lindsay "Montana" Messer. (she's still tough in her own right, though.)
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold Arthur and Shrinking Violet (except when she's sufficiently ticked-off) Guinevere from Merlin. Also noteworthy was their difference in class status, with him being a prince and she being a servant.
  • Stargate Atlantis: Elizabeth Weir and John Sheppard. She's a civilian diplomat and has a total of two relationships throughout the series; he's a Air Force pilot and military man who practically has a girl on every planet. Despite this they establish a successful co-command of Atlantis, frequently defend each other from other interfering superiors and build a close and affectionate friendship, often acting as each others' only confidantes. With lots of Unresolved Sexual Tension thrown in of course.
  • Parks and Recreation: Who'd have thought a liberal feminist vegetarian community college professor would be hot for the carnivorous libertarian man's-man Ron Swanson?
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer is built on this. Cordelia and Xander, Willow and Oz, Faith and Xander, Giles and Jenny, Giles and Joyce,] Willow and Tara, Buffy and Spike, William and Drusilia, Faith and Wood, and there's likely several others unmentioned.
  • In The Good Wife the law firm's co-owner Diane Lockhart, who would probably consider the term "liberal wacko" a compliment, is in a relationship with weapons expert Kurt McVeigh, who would likely feel the same about the phrase "right-wing nutjob". They even get engaged as of "The Wheels of Justice".
  • Friends : Ross and Rachel; Phoebe and Mike. To a lesser extent Monica and Chandler.
  • Doc Martin: Martin and Louisa basically cover every trope in this section at some point.

    Music 
  • You Lost My Memory by Skyclad. This romance doesn't end well, but is described as sort of awesome anyway.
    The Brownian-Motion within this love potion,
    ensures our opinions are always dividing.
  • The Paula Abdul song "Opposites Attract" is basically all about this trope. And the music video involves her singing it as a duet with an animated rapping cat...
  • The song also called "Opposites Attract" by Juris.

    Video Games 
  • BioWare has a tendency to create somewhat psychotic mad people (usually women) who can be most successfully romanced by a nicer player character.
    • Jack in Mass Effect 2 is impulsive, impatient, anger-driven, and generally insane; the Paragon romance arc involves calmly and patiently listening to her issues and generally being nice.
    • Morrigan in Dragon Age: Origins is a survivalist in the extreme who believes love is a weakness; she does, however, approve of some of the Warden's behavior that is rather contrary to her stated doctrine.
    • Garrus in Mass Effect 2 has trouble with the rules, but is just as likely to fall for Female!Shepard if she calls him out on it and points out that the rules are there for good reasons as if she goes along with his ends justify the means ideas.
    • Bastila in Knights of the Old Republic is attracted to the male player character no matter what, so if you are a silly rule-bending sort or an Ax-Crazy maniac your very straight-laced and overly serious companion will still fall for you.
    • Viconia DeVir in Baldurs Gate 2 is a neutral evil drow priestess who believes that the strong are meant to dominate the weak, but that doesn't stop her from being romancable by good-aligned male player characters.
  • In Fire Emblem Elibe we have Fiora (serious, motherly Pegasus Knight) and Sain (Chivalrous Pervert who mouths off to authority). And if you max out their supports, they get married.
    Farina: “This is probably someone else's doing... Like Marcus, or Oswin... You know, Merlinus might try something like this, too...”
    Kent: “I don't think it is a conspiracy... I mean, what would anyone have to gain from making us fight together?”
  • Fire Emblem Awakening gives us Henry, a Blood Knight and Perpetual Smiler with some VERY loose screws, and two of his potential love interests: Sumia and Olivia. The first one is a klutzy Submissive Badass, the second is a cute Shrinking Violet.
  • The Forerunners Didact and Librarian from Halo. The Librarian is a Friend to All Living Things whose favorite species was humanity. The Didact is a Four-Star Badass in a society of pacifists, who was responsible for destroying humanity's empire and sending us back to earth as cavemen. Everyone lampshades how odd this match is; however, they both love each other fiercely.
    Bornstellar: Your relationship with the Lifeshaper does not seem ideal.
    Didact: You don't know the half of it.
  • GTA Radio has a married couple host a political talk show. One's a Democrat, the other's a Republican, both are strawmen.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Mille and Iriana of Ilivais X. Iriana is a Broken Bird Creepy Child who acts like an Emotionless Girl to avoid her Drive Core pushing her towards being a hyper Love Freak, and is highly logical and cynical, yet becomes surprisingly impassioned and devoted when those she cares about are in danger. Mille is essentially a blank slate Phonos Weapon in the form of a cheerful, lively, and outgoing Ethical Slut who's a little on the ditzy side and erratically emotional, but take Iriana from her and she becomes dark and sullen. They couldn't be more opposite, and they couldn't be crazier about each other.

    Western Animation 
  • Robin and Starfire on Teen Titans. Robin is the serious and determined leader, and Starfire is the sensitive, sunny one.
  • Rogue's attraction to Scott in X-Men: Evolution, at least until you think about it for a while. But on the surface, he is The Stoic and she is The Snark Knight.
  • Silverbolt and Blackarachnia of Transformers Beast Wars fit this trope without Question: Femme Fatale and Knight in Shining Armor.
  • Miss Information and Mr. Smartypants on Histeria!: The Dumb Blonde and The Smart Guy.
  • Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable who do eventually hook up. The first one is a popular overachiever, the second one is a unpopular underachiever.
  • Exaggerated in Kids Next Door with Kuki Sanban (Numbuh 3) and Wallabee Beatles (Numbuh 4); he's an abrasive hard-boiled proto-Badass with an extreme aversion to everything cutesy and sugary, while she's an upbeat Japanese girl with a kind heart and an obsession for stuffed animals. In the series Distant Finale they get married.
  • Hotheaded, headstrong, native waterbender Korra and serious, collected firebender Mako in The Legend of Korra, who fit several of the dynamics listed: Red Oni, Blue Oni (Korra's red, Mako's blue, despite their Chromatic Arrangement), The Hero + The Lancer, Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl, and possibly Uptight Loves Wild.
    • Same goes for Mako's brother, Bolin, for one of Korra's cousins, Eska. Bolin is a happy, funny guy who took a serious interest in Eska while Eska herself is a bit of an emotionless Deadpan Snarker and a Royal Brat who sees Bolin as a means to an end. They're more like Plucky Comic Relief + The Quiet One.
  • Warm, passionate, generally friendly, closer to Earth Wonder Woman and cold, stoic, anti-social, sometimes arrogant Batman on Justice League.
  • Deconstructed realistically in Total Drama with Alpha Bitch Courtney and her delinquent ex-boyfriend Duncan. The bitter arguments start up almost as quickly as the sparks fly, with her ultra-preppyness directly contrasting his harsh nature. Their relationship is unstable from the beginning, and they break up and come back together several times. Eventually, the constant arguing becomes too much and Duncan to tires of her by season 3 and he cheats on her with goth girl Gwen; leading to his and Courtney's final breakup.
  • Goofy, happy go lucky Wally West/Kid Flash and focused, rough and tumble Artemis Crock on Young Justice. Ironically, the writers paired them up because of their similarities — namely, they're both intelligent, yet insecure teenage heroes who resort to sarcasm and bravado to hide how much they care about each other, and are somewhat amused by the fandom latching on to them as part of this trope.
    • From the same series, moody, emotionally stunted Superboy and perky, outgoing Miss Martian.

    Real Life 
  • Actual science tends to show that the best predictor of compatibility is in fact similar background, interests, and attitudes. A likely reason is that we tend to only notice the ways a couple are different (since it's not that surprising when two partners are alike), at which point we feel the need to form a theory to explain why all the couples we see are so different (when they are, in fact, Not So Different). The grain of truth in it is that a partner who's exactly like you in every way would probably cause all sorts of problems, so we do seek our opposites, after a fashion—just not our total opposites.
  • SPC Kate Norley, an activist representing Vets For Freedom, a group whose "mission is to educate the American public about the importance of achieving success in [Iraq and Afghanistan]," and still an occasional guest commentator on Fox News, while attending the 2008 RNC convention to show her support for John McCain, as part of a campaign that earned her praise from right-wing bloggers up to and including Michelle Malkin, apparently fell in love with one of the correspondents there. They married in 2011. His name? John Oliver.
  • Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. For example, Roger Ebert hated Mars Attacks! because Tim Burton "seemed to like the aliens more than the humans" (paraphrasing); Gene Siskel loved it for the exact same reason. Even in watching old At the Movies episodes, you can tell that Siskel is more carefree and cheery, while Roger Ebert is ever-sarcastic and snarky.
  • James "The Ragin' Cajun" Carville and Mary Matalin. He's a rather liberal Democrat; she's a quite conservative Republican. They were both prominent campaign managers/political operatives in their respective parties from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, facing each other occasionally in races across the country and seeing each other as rivals, being the top operatives of their day. It came to a head in the early 90s, when he was chief strategist for Bill Clinton and she was deputy manager for George H.W. Bush, in preparation for the 1992 presidential campaign. Then...they started dating. Mind you, while they were thinking of ways to beat each other (making this a case of Dating Catwoman, as well). They married in 1993, and now have two daughters. They understandably do not talk politics at home.
  • Literally true (in terms of forces) for charged particles and magnetic poles. Sometimes described as a pun on this trope.


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