A "woobie" is a name for any type of character who makes you feel extremely sorry for them. Basically, the first thing you think to say when you see the woobie is: "Aw, poor baby!" Woobification of a character is a curious, audience-driven phenomenon, sometimes divorced from the character's canonical morality.
A story with the Woobie allows the audience to vicariously experience relief from some pain by fantasizing about relieving the Woobie's pain. (No, not that
way! Well, okay, sometimes
.) Woobification can also tie into a disturbing hurt/comfort dynamic, in which fans enjoy seeing the Woobie tortured so they can wish the hurt away. This is often explored in Hurt/Comfort Fic
An important aspect of the Woobie is that their suffering must be caused by external sources. A character who suffers as the result of their own actions is a Tragic Hero
and does not qualify.
The difference between the Woobie and such Sickeningly Sweet
characters as the Littlest Cancer Patient
is that the audience actually finds the Woobie compelling rather than pathetic. Where you draw the line is sometimes a matter of opinion.
Sometimes a Woobie goes Omnicidal Maniac
and seeks to destroy the world in a bid to make the pain stop, in which case you're dealing with a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds
. Sometimes it's possible to bring such a woobie back from the edge, but other times, only his or her destruction in a Shoot the Dog
moment will stop things.
In Lighter and Fluffier
fiction, the Woobie can sometimes earn their happy ending
In many versions there is also something about the Woobie's suffering that is notably heroic or noble. In this case the character is an Iron Woobie
. When the Woobie does not show much outward emotion about their hurts (or anything else, for that matter), they are a Stoic Woobie
, the Woobie makes up a large part of Moe
characters. Part of their appeal can come from them constantly striving against their chains
. Can be taken to the point of Break the Cutie
, and if the amount of misfortune seems too great it may result in Deus Angst Machina
If the character is The Chew Toy
, a Jerkass
, or evil, he is not the Woobie (unless the character is also meant to be sympathetic
). If the character doesn't let bad events faze him, he is not the Woobie. A small, one-off bad event does not make the character the Woobie, though it may qualify as a Tear Jerker
If in your opinion the character desperately needs to die, that's likely Damsel Scrappy
. Should not ever
be confused with Butt Monkey
. However, a Butt Monkey can often become a Woobie if abused too mercilessly.
For the curious, the fanspeak term "woobie" is ultimately derived from a word for a blanket, stuffed animal, or other soft object that a child keeps for its comforting properties (hence the name—some of these characters really could
use a snuggling!).
Subtropes include Iron Woobie
, Stoic Woobie
, Jerkass Woobie
, Monster Sob Story
, and Wheelchair Woobie
Not to be confused with a species of hairy bipedal humanoids that inhabit the planet Kashyyyk.
, or a Linux installer