You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough.
The opposite of the usual sitcom plot of everything going wrong, the plague of good fortune is when a character has an amazing series of good things happen to them, despite the fact that they don't want it to. There are several reasons for them to fear their good luck:
- They have something riding on failure (See Springtime for Hitler for examples of this).
- The good fortune is only coming to them because of mistakes and misunderstandings, and the character doesn't want to just let it keep happening.
- The character fears that if good things keep happening, then eventually something awful will happen to restore the karmic balance.
- All this good luck damages the character's philosophy of the world being a miserable place. Yes, some characters value that philosophy more than the results of the good fortune. Alternatively, the character getting good luck means that somebody else is getting all their bad luck, so the world is still miserable.
- The character feels cheated of his honor. He should have earned what he's lucking into. Or he harbors dark suspicions about why he's getting so lucky... This one is often played straight. If it's played straight but badly or accidentally, then it's likely to be a case of Cursed with Awesome.
- A character is displeased with good fortune as they enjoy having bad fortune (or from the sympathy that comes from it).
A common way for one of these plots to end is for the good luck to end in a parade of bad luck
, which has the ironic effect of making the character much happier unless the bad luck happens too late to matter.
The polar opposite of Kafka Komedy
Compare and contrast to Unwanted Harem
. Compare Unluckily Lucky
as well. See also Gone Horribly Right
, where a character gets exactly what they wanted, only to realise that what they wanted wasn't in their own best interests.
Anime and Manga
- In My Balls, each person has three peaks of luck in romantic endeavours. The protagonist has all three peaks combined into a period of extreme "luck" during the same month that his having sex would cause the destruction of the world.
- The Paranoia Agent episode "Happy Family Planning" has an odd version of this; its central characters repeatedly attempt suicide, only to fail every time. They eventually discover they actually did die in one of their attempts and just didn't realize it.
- The protagonist of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (or Goodbye, Mister Despair) keeps trying to kill himself, only to have circumstances — often a student in the class he teaches — save him. His gut-response to the usually violent method is "What if I had died?" His attempts to help students also go awry, with a Hikikomori settling into the school and a stalker-girl following him.
- Whenever Tsunade in Naruto gets lucky at gambling, it's a bad omen. And she's quite aware of this.
- Needless to say, the ONE time she tries to use this to her advantage, by betting everything she had that one of her allies would die... She wins.
- One of the ghosts in the anime Ghost Hunt attempted to commit suicide by various means after being jilted by a man. None of them succeeded due to sheer dumb luck. Despondent, she gave up and walked home only to slip, fall and crack her skull....
- The Cat Returns: As a reward for saving the prince, Haru is showered with gifts by the Cat Kingdom. They are all gifts from a cat's point of view, like catnip, dead mice, or being turned into a cat.
- In Code Geass, Suzaku tries to have himself die in battle, only to fail due to either dumb luck, or later, Lelouch giving him a "live" command.
- This was supposedly Mephisto's "curse" on Doctor Doom in Earth X, and Doom's rationale for hating Reed Richards. (Ironically, Doom's mother sold her soul to obtain this blessing.) Subverted in that Mephisto was (surprise!) lying, and Doom was just that good.
- Gladstone Gander's luck sometimes turns against him like this. He doesn't want it in some stories simply because it's boring. Don Rosa also once gave this the bizarre and not all that logical reversing twist that Dewey, Huey and Louie made him lose a lottery by making it extremely likely that he win (since his luck makes him win when it's extremely unlikely). They fill the lottery with his name and just one with Unca Donald. It works. But not really, turns out the "tropical" cruise Donald won was struck with cold weather
- Donald Duck himself gets a plague of good fortune once when an eccentric foreign guy is about to gift him a huge diamond for his extremely bad luck. So naturally he doesn't get it, and after the other has left, his luck turns back and he loses all he got for his good luck earlier. Turns out the Anthropomorphic Personification of good luck had chosen that moment to target him, but she gets shooed away by her bad counterpart who gets back to work on her favourite subject. This makes him meta-unlucky.
- In another story, Daisy introduces Donald to a TV executive who is looking for someone incredibly unlucky to play a part on a TV show. Naturally, every thing goes right for Donald and he doesn't get the part. He bemoans this state of affairs to Daisy who, after he leaves confesses to her diary that she was behind this: as soon as the two had left, she remembered that "TV people are superstitious" and started following them around setting up all these things not knowing that she was hurting Donald in the process.
- There's one Scrooge McDuck comic where he has to lose a certain amount of money to stay in a lower tax bracket, otherwise he'd end up losing even more money (never mind that taxes don't actually work that way). Naturally, he is unable to do so.
- Also a few stories where Scrooge's "Giant Money Bin" is so full that he has nowhere to store his profits, but spending the profits generally only results in them coming straight back to him.
- Several Richie Rich comics involve the Rich family's improbable good luck. In one, Richie goes for a date-walk with his wealth-averse girlfriend Gloria. In order to satisfy her desire for it to be just a simple walk, he goes out without even a penny in his pockets, only for an improbable series of events to occur ending with him holding a three-foot-high (a bit less than one metre) stack of paper money while a disgusted Gloria walks away (even though none of it was Richie's fault).
- In one story, a man gets a ring that says whoever has it will have great luck. Without even trying he becomes a king...just for the kingdom to suddenly fall apart all around him. It is only due to the ring's luck that he barely manages to escape with his life. Whole thing was so traumatizing he'd rather have died, and he throws the ring away.
- Although somewhat helped by his friends, Brewster's Millions star Richard Pryor has serious trouble getting rid of his money. Every time he turns around, he either is getting helped by his friends who think his bad decisions are the result of a gambling and drinking habit, or he's winning at the failed stocks he throws his money behind.
- The 2004 film Millions is about two English boys finding a bag full of money and have about two weeks to spend it before the UK switches over to the Euro. The protagonist, who's obsessed with saints, wants to donate the money, while his brother wants to invest, or at least spend it. It doesn't work out either way, since the younger boy's donations only attract greedy people, and the older brother finds that there's no way for a kid to either invest the money or spend a huge amount inconspicuously. When they learn the money is stolen, they end up carrying it everywhere, and the younger one, at least, realizes what a burden it is.
- A "real life" story of this portion of the trope concerns a man who attempted to commit suicide by jumping off of a cliff, hanging himself from a rock that would fall on top of him at the cliff's bottom, setting himself on fire and shooting himself in the head after swallowing poison. He proceeded to jump, only to fire the bullet which severed the rope around his neck as he landed in the ocean off the side of the relatively small cliff, with the water putting out the flames and the shock of hitting the water causing him to vomit the poison out of his body. He was picked up by a local fisherman and taken to a hospital, where he died several days later of pneumonia from the extended period of time he spent in the cold water. Snopes discusses this folk tale here.
- The O. Henry story The Cop and the Anthem is about a bum who tries to get arrested so he can spend the upcoming winter comfortable in jail instead of on the street where he might freeze to death. Various circumstances keep him a free man despite his best efforts.
- And then there's Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen. Poor Stuffy Pete. You should know better than to wander into Greenwich Village in late November and expect not to be force-fed by the deranged inheritors of old money!
- Literary example: Rincewind in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, who "knows" that this applies to him (and it often does).
Terry Pratchett: Rincewind is one of those people who gets in the way of his own happiness. If it was raining kisses he'd be the only person with an umbrella.
- While Sam Vimes thinks in one novel that the string of good luck he's had come his way the last few years (marriage to a good woman, massive wealth, a revitalized City Watch, a son) can't possibly last, and sooner or later the bill's gonna come due. It hasn't. Yet.
- This is Older Than Feudalism: Herodotus tells the story of the Greek king Polycrates who had such good luck that he threw a cherished ring in the ocean to try and balance things out, hoping to dodge whatever doom the gods had in store for him. The ring was eaten by a fish, the fish captured by a fisherman, and the ring returned to the king. This sealed his fate—he lost everything.
- This actually does happen to The Deptford Histories star Thomas Stubbs a.k.a. Thomas Triton. In the words of the fortune teller Simoon;
"Fortune may indeed be shining upon you, yet so bright does her glory gleam that those about you are lost in shadow and she is blind to them. Though you may survive great peril it does not mean your companions shall. Almost, the charm you bask in is the very beacon that leads them to disaster."
- Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!!) may qualify too. He frequently tries to keep himself safe and sound above all else, but this usually through good (or, on his part, bad) luck makes him look even more heroic and boosts his reputation even further, putting him in even more dangerous situations. Needless to say, that is the absolute opposite of what he is striving for.
- Every time Honor Harrington gets a new satchel of medals, promotions, and fabulous cash prizes heaped on her, her first reaction is deep embarrassment at her own perceived unworthiness for them. Her second is darkly ruminating upon the possible political motives behind them.
- Stephen Black manages to gain the attention of the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, who gifts him with all manner of treasures in increasingly bizarre ways because he believes Stephen to be some sort of king. Needless to say, the Gentleman is not the sort of person you want interested in your affairs.
- Teela Brown from Ringworld has been selectively bred for luck. Unfortunately, she hasn't been bred to bring luck to those around her. Her expedition crashes and is nearly stranded because she'll be happier there. The other characters spend the sequels carefully staying thousands of miles away from her.
- In Can You Forgive Her? Anthony Trollope takes a very rich, very upper class, and young and spirited wife Glencora Palliser to a casino on the European mainland. A woman, and especially one of her elevated class, is expected to never actually gamble. She timidly bets a small amount and wins. Her husband, older and more staid, upbraids her for taking money that they didn't need and that wasn't theirs.
- One of the characters at the bar of the Crosstime Saloon (a later book in the series) and a character in Lady Slings The Booze, both by Spider Robinson have strings of... well, luck...
- Moby-Dick: A subtle example of type 4: Once Ahab has decided to destroy Moby Dick, a lot of good things (for a superior spirit, of course) happened to him: He discovers the beauty of nature, he appreciates the loyalty of his crew, he rediscovers love and charity again when he befriends Pip, Starbuck’s reminds him of his wife and son, the captain of the Rachel begs him to save his son… It’s like the whole universe conspires to save Ahab from his self imposed doom, to convince to abandon his philosophy of Rage Against the Heavens … he only can blame himself.
- Maxwell Smart needs to lose big at gambling in order to infiltrate a KAOS cell, but he ends up staggering home with twice as much money as he started out with.
- He threw away a winning hand at poker only to be dealt an even higher winning hand, then leaned against a slot machine that paid out a jackpot without a coin even being inserted!
- In I Love Lucy when they are touring Europe and in Monte Carlo, Lucy and Ethyl are forbidden from going to the casino to gamble. They sneak down to the casino, but are too scared to gamble. On their way out, Lucy finds a chip on the floor, and picks it up and tries to 'return' it by putting on a table - the roulette table. Of course, it wins and she has more chips now. The croupier, speaking French, tries to give them to her, but she pushes them away, and they win again. By the end of the night, she has a suitcase full of chips. Hilarity ensues.
- The episode of Friends where Phoebe's bank accidentally credits her account five hundred dollars, and her attempts to rectify the situation eventually land her with seven grand.
- Or the near-identical events which happened to Martin in Frasier.
- Cody trying to shake his near-mystical lucky streak in Step by Step.
- An example occurred in The X-Files, with a character who had unstoppable good luck, which had the unfortunate side effect of causing horrible misfortune to those around him.
- Hurley on LOST wins the lottery and gets richer and richer, but one calamity after another afflicts those around him.
- Wild coincidences rule the life of Chance Harper of Strange Luck.
- Married... with Children:
- Though this never happened in Charmed, Piper had a perpetual fear that, whenever she felt contented, something (generally a Monster of the Week) would come along and ruin it. This could be a real danger and weapon for in-universe Wicca. Magic tends to balance and use of the magic for selfish purposes will cause an eventual backlash. Bless somebody with good luck using magic and eventually the scales will balance violently.
- John Becker's wonderful Christmas in Becker. (Un?)fortunately, his good day is completely undone in the last minute of the episode, making this also an example of the previous category. He was completely aware of this trope throughout the episode, however, and, in a subversion, he was actually happy to see the other boot drop.
- Chance In A Million was British Sitcom about Tom Chance, a man whose life was a neverending series of unlikley coincidences. It eventually reached the stage where the local police were ordered to never arrest him for anything, no matter how suspicious the circumstances.
- A well known episode of The Twilight Zone had a burglar seemingly sent to Heaven where he wins every game he plays. Heck even simply breaking the balls at pool just has them automaticlly going into the holes. Eventually he grows bored and begs his "guardian angel" that he doesn't belong in Heaven and want to go to the "other place". Only to be to be told that this "is the other place."
- An episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide had Ned being nominated for class president. As he doesn't want to be, he ends up trying to do various things that make him look like a troublemaker, but they all backfire, one example being he tries to graffiti the lockers in front of a bunch of people but the paint ends up the same color as the locker, making everyone think he's trying to clean the school up.
- The Bob Ricci general parody song "Depressing Rock Song" is about a person who has all sorts of good things happen to him but wants bad things to so that he could have material for a song.
- Similarly, the Arrogant Worms have a song called "Shipwreck Balladeer". It's about the singer lamenting that "they're building ships too good today" and, since there aren't any more shipwrecks, he has nothing to sing about.
- In the Legend of the Five Rings fiction, Bayushi Tangen, lived his life in shame because of what he viewed as a curse. What was the curse you ask... he was so lucky, the Gods would smile on him and allow even the most poorly thought out, suicidal plan to work perfectly. At one point, he defeated an entire enemy army because a tower fell on their archers, and a bolt of lightning struck their general just as he was about to kill Tangen. There is a drawback - nothing he ever does will be "his accomplishment", because his luck does everything for him.
- Joachim Osen in Valkyria Chronicles II is an odd version of this. Good fortune is constantly falling upon him, but his spoiled personality causes him to either interpret these events as bad luck almost to the point of being The Eeyore, or they simply fall short of his criteria for what he considers good luck, so much that he considers himself Born Unlucky. One event has him guessing correctly on 27 questions for a quiz before missing the last one and receiving a small figurine instead of the grand prize (something he whines about to no end). Later carrying it on his person in the midst of battle, this same figure managed to take a bullet for him, which made him whine that he was starting to like the figure.
- In Sinfest, Slick suspects that Satan is behind it to trap him.
- In an episode of The Addams Family animated series, Gomez is upset because everything he does in life is too easy. He is convinced to try his hand at something he's never done before, failure, but the ever-increasingly-outrageous feats he attempted all ended in success. At the end, he was comforted by Morticia, who informed him that he had, in fact, failed at failure.
- The episode of Daria named either "Fail!" or "The 'F' Word" had Mr O'Neill, the English teacher, give an assignment where the students were supposed to fail. A variation of the failing at failing.
- An episode of Two Stupid Dogs had Little and Big Dog on a The Price Is Right type game show who were giving out dog treats as consolation prizes. Little Dog tries everything he can to lose the games but each attempt backfires and he keeps winning. Even trying to cheat does nothing. That's right, he cheats to lose and still ends up winning.
- The B-plot of the King of the Hill episode "The Peggy Horror Picture Show" has Bobby and Joseph try and prank various folks around Arlen, but wind up making things better for them. In order:
- Drawing a line on a quarter with a marker, and having Dale, who was nervous about a coup at the gun club give himself a quarter massage, which leaves lines all over his face. When he arrives, his buddies assume it's war paint, and immediately elect him president.
- Having Bill chase a dollar bill around on a string, which causes a car to crash when he runs into the road. When Bill checks on the victim, the lady inside has her beer goggles strapped on tight enough to find Bill attractive, and drives off with him.
- Unscrewing a salt shaker top, and ruining Connie's lunch...only for a group of popular girls to walk by and invite her to have pizza with them. Bobby gives up after that (but not before Joseph begs Bobby to prank HIM so he can get some awesome good luck).
- On The Simpsons episode "500 Keys", Bart takes a whole mess of stray keys with plans to commit some epic pranks, but each time he does he only ends up helping people.
- The Japanese yen began gaining in value compared to other major international currencies starting around late 2008. This is actually bad for the Japanese economy because their high volumes of exports means that their income is worth fewer yen when converted back. (Imagine if you lived in the US but were paid in British pounds. The less the US dollar is worth, the more your paycheck is worth in US dollars when converted. With Japanese companies selling lots of their products overseas, they're paid in foreign currencies, and the same scenario applies.) The Bank of Japan has actually been trying and failing to devalue their own currency.