The Woobie
aka: Woobie

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. And while it's technically a YMMV trope, it's hardly tough to spot the guy the writers intend them to be, considering all the bad stuff that tends to happen to them.

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.

In anime, 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 a Hate Sink, 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.

A character who is considered a woobie can also be considered a Tragic Hero on some occasions, though not every woobie may have a Fatal Flaw that defines such classifications.

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!).

Check out our analysis page on this trope if you're looking to write a Woobie of your own.

Not to be confused with a species of hairy bipedal humanoids that inhabit the planet Kashyyyk, or a Linux installer.


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  • New The Daily Show correspondent Kristen Schaal is making a career out of being one of these. See here what happens to her when she learns the truth about Chinese female babies. In another segment, she was forced to strip off an article of clothing for every baseless accusation made against a presidential candidate. Needless to say, that episode, everybody found out that Kristen wears a Wonder Woman costume under her suit. Bizarrely enough, her stand-up act runs on this as well.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show:
    • Kermit the Frog. He tries so hard to be cheerful, friendly and positive that when he does become sad or even just exasperated by the madness going on around him, you just want to give him a hug.
    • His friend Fozzie Bear probably falls under this too. He just wants to be funny, but he keeps falling on his face.
    • Don't forget Gonzo! In the first two series and the first film especially. He gets booed off stage every week, has a perminantly sad expression on his face and has his heart broken by Madaline Kahn. I mean, just watch these. Not to mention this clip from Jim Henson's memorial/funeral

  • Martin Crieff in Cabin Pressure. The poor guy lives in an attic, lives in Perpetual Poverty and doesn't get paid to fly, but he does anyway because it's the only thing he's wanted to do since he was six years old. His father always disapproved of his dreams, and passed away four months before Martin got his pilot's license and proved his father wrong. Oh, and what does he actually do to support himself? He does removals with the van his father bequeathed him in his will, rather than the 5000 pounds each of his siblings got. So, even though he did become a pilot, his father was still right about him. All of this is played for laughs.

    Theme Parks 


Alternative Title(s): Woobie