The rule for finding plots of character-centered novels...is to ask, "What's the worst thing that can possibly happen to this guy?" And then do it.You have reached a writer's block. You've created a hero so righteous, noble, good and pure that traumatizing them just once is not convincing enough to break them. Yet you want the intended audience to still feel like they want to reach into your work and hug the character in question. Hence the name of this trope. You get ready to write, and put on a hat with the name "Murphy" written on it, and think to yourself: "If traumatizing a hero once can earn the audience's sympathy, then what better way to earn your audience's love for the character than to lay trauma after trauma on them like a falling row of dominoes?" Having donned the hat of "Murphy", you, the creator of this fictitious universe, are entitled, nay, obligated to make sure that whatever can go wrong for your hero will go wrong. The effect is akin to the Chinese proverb of water continuously dripping on a rock: one drop won't even dent it, but a million will crack a boulder. In other words, having your hero lose everyone they love and/or have every dream unfulfilled and broken is the most realistic way to turn a God Amongst Men into a pathetic crying wreck. The usual results of a Trauma Conga Line is as follows: Result A) The hero perseveres over the trials of life, rises above it and becomes a better person for it all. Defining term: Iron Woobie Result B) The protagonist throws off his hero mantle, tramples it, and in a cold rush of unrelenting cynicism becomes a villain just as bad, if not worse, than the antagonist. Defining term: Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds Result C) The hero curls into a figurative or literal catatonic ball in a cold dark corner, then proceeds to give up on life and the world. Defining term: Despair Event Horizon. Result D) Goes out in a blaze of bloodthirsty rage realizing that the best way out is by taking it out on everyone. Defining term: Roaring Rampage of Revenge Result E) The protagonist loses their sense of idealism, but not their morality. Most Anti Heroes who started out as an Ideal Hero are Type E. Defining term: Knight in Sour Armor Result F) Rarest one: the protagonist just shrugs their shoulders at the Deus Angst Machina. No lessons are learned nor does the character behave differently. All that's changed is that the Bunny-Ears Lawyer now sleeps in a cardboard box and eats out of dumpsters. Defining term: Angst? What Angst? Result G) Somewhere between the Despair Event Horizon and unbreakable resolve of the Iron Woobie is a common middle ground, where the survivor is clearly damaged by the ordeal, but is not lost completely or rendered insane (and thus has hope of recovery to Type A). Defining term: The Woobie Result H) Loses all will, drive, ambition, or capacity for emotion from being broken so much. Defining term: Empty Shell This trope is a particularly vicious example of Break the Cutie, and is a gamble on the part of you, the writer. Handled correctly, it will create the ultimate Iron Woobie so endearing that the audience will cry and cheer with him/her to the bitter or uplifting end. On the other hand, one melodramatic violin-music-laced scene too many, and you'll have the Narm of the century. See also Humiliation Conga, where this happens to a villain who deserves what's coming to him, and that's usually Played for Laughs while a Trauma Conga Line is rarely meant to be funny. Deus Angst Machina is similar and there is quite a bit of overlap, but with the Trauma Conga Line more of it happens on-screen than in the backstory.
Here Be Spoilers, Ladies and Gentlemen.
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- Present in a good number of Don Bluth films. Fievel just never gets a break in An American Tail; in The Land Before Time Littlefoot sees his mother die, his herd separated, and his home destroyed, with only his few friends as support. Good thing Don Bluth believes in happy endings; too bad you have to earn them.
- Elsa goes through one throughout the film as viewers watch how a Cheerful Child grows up into a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds filled with fear and anxiety. She nearly freezes her little sister to death by accident while playing, receives a vision of her possible future where she is seemingly attacked by an angry mob due to her powers, grows up in isolation since she now fears how her steadily growing powers could harm her loved ones again, loses her parents who were the only ones helping her with her powers, gets her powers revealed in public on the day of her coronation in the worst possible way, goes into self-exile after she believes that everyone sees her as a monster now, starts to accept her powers again only to learn that she accidentaly caused an Endless Winter when she ran away and she doesn't know how to reverse it, accidentally strikes her little sister with ice magic again, gets an army Storming her Ice Palace, is nearly killed by the Duke's henchmen, is chained and imprisoned in her own home, learns from Hans that her little sister had died because of her and is nearly killed again only to be saved because her actually-not-dead little sister pulling a Big Damn Heroes at the very moment she completely turns into ice, so Elsa gets front row seats to her very worst fear coming true. It's like Elsa was wearing a cosmic kick-me sign for most of her life, as every well-intended action and inaction she did only made things worse for her. Fortunately, Anna's sacrifice actually saved her life, inspiring the epiphany Elsa needed to finally truly control her powers, allowing her to become a Type A.
- Her sister Anna gets one as well. First her beloved sister shuts her out without any explanation as the reason was erased from her mind, she becomes an orphan and has to attend her parents' funeral alone, then in the space of a day she has to endure her sister refusing her to marry what she thinks is her true love, having said sister reveal ice powers and flee the town while ignoring her pleas to come back, then later on reject all her attempts to reconnect and strike her heart with her ice powers, dooming her to a slow death, and finally who she thought was her true love reject her in the most callous way. Then she has to choose between saving her life or her sister's. Fortunately she makes the right choice.
- In The Book of Life, Manolo is publicly ridiculed by the town for not killing the bull. His father even disowns him. He thinks that he caused the death of Maria, his one true love. Joaquin coldly states it should have been Manolo instead. Finally, being Driven to Suicide and with Xibalba's "help" he commits indirect suicide to "join" his beloved.
- What happens to Veronika in The Cranes Are Flying? Well, Operation Barbarossa separates her from her fiance when he joins the army. Her parents are killed by a German bomb. She's raped. She gets stuck in a marriage with her rapist. She's evacuated to a shack in Siberia along with the rest of her hospital. And she goes to greet her old fiance when he comes home from the war, only to find out for sure that he is dead.
- The Dark Knight: Poor Harvey Dent, the White Knight of Gotham, was a prime candidate for vicious brainwashing by The Joker after losing Rachel, the love of his life, and half his face in a gas explosion. His transformation into the cynical monster Two-Face only took the slightest of nudge on the evil bastard's part.
- This trope drives much of the events in the Coen brothers' 2009 film A Serious Man; it's played for dark comedy.
- The film version of 1408 is essentially the story of one man getting repeatedly kicked in the balls, by an "evil, fucking room."
- Johnny Belinda. Your mother dies in childbirth. You go deaf from an illness shortly thereafter. You get raped. Your father falls off a cliff and dies. The town tries to take from you your child by rape. You have to shoot your rapist to keep him from stealing your baby. Then you're tried for murder.
- Serenity sees fit to kick Mal in the balls over and over again. Also, the only reason it doesn't kick River in the balls is because she's already been hammered plenty of times prior to the movie, and, well, she doesn't even have a set to be kicked in anyway.
- The Human Centipede is an unusually literal use of the trope. Do I really need to spell it out?
- In the Thor film, Loki goes through a trauma roller coaster as his Start of Darkness.
- In It's a Wonderful Life George Bailey survives getting trapped in his hometown,robbed, his company's near bankruptcy (multiple times), intense disillusionment, and almost getting erased out of existence to become one of cinema's most heroic Iron Woobies.
- Jurassic Park: Tim and Lex barely endure most of the worst events during the first movie. (read the whole story in the film's main page)
- Vada from My Girl goes through this. Her life was already a little rough, but then her best friend, Thomas J, dies in a bee attack. She was the one who angered the bees in the first place, and he only went back to try and find her mood ring that she lost, her father is the coroner, the funeral is held at her house, and to top it all off, on the day of said funeral, she discovers the teacher that she had a crush on is getting married. It's quite understandable when she ends up having complete breakdown, although some would argue that it's a bit surprising that it wasn't worse.
- Well, let's see what happens to Kotpun, the heroine of The Flower Girl. Her father dies. Her mother becomes deathly ill. Her brother is sent to jail. And her sister is blinded. And that's all in the backstory. As the story unfolds, her mother dies, her brother is reported to have died in prison, and her sister is presumed dead after disappearing without a trace. And just for fun, she's dirt poor, hence the name of the movie, as she's selling flowers in the street to get medicine for her mom.
- Ella goes through a particularly harsh one of these in Cinderella (2015). First her mother dies when she's only a child. Then years later her father re-marries, only for it to turn out that her new step-family are absolutely horrible people, who make Ella move into the attic after she selflessly offered for Anastasia and Drisella to share her room with her. Then her father leaves for a long trip, only for him to die, too. THEN Lady Tremaine is only concerned about the financial aspects of her husband's death, fires all the staff at the country house, then makes Ella their servant and they all constantly bully her. Then the one thing that Ella gets excited about, the ball, is dashed after her stepmother forbids her to go and cruelly ruins her mother's dress. It's amazing that the poor girl didn't reach the Break the Cutie stage much sooner than she did.
- What happens to poor Thymian in Diary of a Lost Girl. Namely: raped. Impregnated. Imprisoned. Baby dies. Drugged, raped again. Three years as a prostitute. Husband kills himself.
- Jesus has an increasingly rough day in The Passion of the Christ.
- In Santa's Little Helper, a character in the beginning of the movie gets fired, his girlfriend dumps him, his car gets towed away, and he gets informed that his house is being foreclosed upon, all within a matter of hours. There is no indication that anything was wrong beforehand, which seems to imply the movie believes that losing your job means losing your bank account and gaining additional debt immediately.
- In Quadrophenia, Jimmy in short order gets arrested in a fight in Brighton, kicked out of his parent's house, loses his job, his girlfriend, his mates, gets his scooter wrecked, and eventually finds out his idol is a common bellboy.
- The Life of Oharu: Oh boy. One doesn't go from daughter of a samurai and resident of the Imperial court to wandering beggar in one step. So what happens to Oharu? Well—she's caught with her lover, and banished from the court. She's sold to a lord as a concubine. She's ejected from the lord's house after bearing his son, the heir. She's hired at a brothel, only to get kicked out of that for not being obsequious enough to clients. She gets a job as a domestic, only to get fired from that job after her past as a sex worker comes out. She gets married, but her husband is murdered. She applies to be a nun—but she's raped in the monastery, and the mother superior catches her while she's being raped, so she's kicked out. She's reduced to being a streetwalker, but eventually she gets too old and unattractive to even do that. Oh, and in the meantime she's promised that she can live with her grown son, the new lord, only for that promise to be broken. So, all around, a feel-good laugh riot.
- The Daniel Craig version of James Bond is railroaded into this:
- Lost his parents at a young age in a climbing accident. He had a strong relationship with Hannes Oberhauser (who took him in after Bond was orphaned), but Franz Oberhauser, Hannes' son, kills him out of jealousy.
- Fretted over losing Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale despite her betrayal - Spectre shows that her death has affected Bond greatly.
- In Quantum of Solace, he again frets over losing his close ally René Mathis, and briefly goes rogue to track down Dominic Greene.
- Skyfall shows him shedding tears in response to the death of M, the closest thing he had to a mother left in this world.
- Spectre reveals that Franz Oberhauser/Ernst Stavro Blofeld was not only behind many of Bond's earlier enemies (Le Chiffre, The Pale King/Mr. White, Greene, Silva and C/Max Denbigh), but also orchestrated many of the tragedies Bond suffered so far. Thanks to the machinations of C/Max Denbigh and Oberhauser, Bond and MI6 are even put out of business briefly. Near the climax, Oberhauser even tried to break Bond again by having Madeleine Swann trapped in the old MI6 building that was rigged to explode, but Bond manages to save Swann in time.
- The "Weird Al" Yankovic song "One of Those Days" describes, y'know, one of those days; where everything that can possibly go wrong does, from getting to work late and getting yelled at by the boss, to getting chased by Russian spies, having a 747 crash through the den window, running out of Cheetos, and finally having the whole world explode for no reason.
- The Police have two songs about this, Played for Laughs: "On Any Other Day" and "Synchronity II."
- The Half Man Half Biscuit song "National Shite Day" may be the apotheosis of this trope. The first line is "Pulling the ice ax from my leg, I staggered on," indicating that before the story has even properly begun, the narrator has managed to get a mountaineering tool lodged in his leg. It gets worse...
- Happens to 2D in Gorillaz. Ran over by Murdoc, causing his eyeball to fracture and him to become comatose. He's then put in the care of Murdoc, who crashes the car again and fractures 2D's other eyeball as well as waking him up. Since then he's been constantly verbally and physically abused by Murdoc (including brutal beatings and chloroforming, both of which have also been seen during during an iTunes interview), who also had an affair with 2D's girlfriend at the time, and he's gotten addicted to painkillers because of it. Then after the band splits up he's kidnapped by, guess who, Murdoc, who then stops him leaving the island they're on by having a whale guard his room, knowing that 2D is deathly scared of them. Oh, and his his real name is "Stu-Pot". During most of the latest Plastic Beach arc he's ended up as a Type C, curled up in a fetal position in his room and freaking out about the whale just outside.
- He's also become more of a Type E, as this has finally made him realize that Murdoc is neither his friend nor a good person.
- The Music Video for Billy Joel's "She's Right On Time" counts for Joel's character and his date. Played for Laughs.
Mythology and Religion
- The Bible: The Ur-Example. Job's servants rush in to inform him of the latest tragedy to plague his estate even while previous servants are still informing him of the one before it.
- Cassandra; there's nothing that ever seems to go right for this girl, making her perhaps one of the biggest woobies in Classical Mythology on a whole. First, Apollo tries to rape her. Then, when she escapes, he curses her so that none of her visions of the future are ever believed. Then the Trojan War happens and her brother dies. Then she starts to lose it. Then she tries to hide in Athena's temple, only to be kidnapped and violently raped by Ajax the Lesser. Then she becomes Agamemnon's concubine. And finally, Agamemnon's cheating wife kills her. Jeez. She did end up being allowed into the Elysian Fields, because of her piety.
- The Bebop-a-Rebop Rhubarb Pie fake ads in A Prairie Home Companion tend to appear with barely any rhyme or reason after a tale of increasingly (and hilariously) improbable and bad events, told in Garrison Keillor's completely deadpan style in the second person. The suggestion of pie is generally made when you are at the brink of death or something worse, making this both a parody of the Trauma Conga Line and of the Enforced Plugs that characterized the old-timey radio shows at which Prairie Home cozily pokes fun.
- Eddie Lawrence's comic monologue "The Old Philosopher" (you'll find it on one of the Dr. Demento compilation CDs) has this as its core, as well as putting a cruel spin on Think Happy Thoughts.
- Monty Python had "Four Yorkshiremen" on their Live At Drury Lane album. The four men, who were very well off, tried to outdo each other about how they had to suffer through abject poverty and parental abuse as children. Eric Idle tops them all:
I had to go to sleep at night at 7 o'clock half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulfuric acid, work twenty-nine hours from permission to come to work and when we got home, our mum and our dad would kill us and dance about on our graves singing "hallelujah".
- Warhammer 40,000 has the God-Emperor of Mankind. Even disregarding the Horus Heresy, in which he got to see his children slaughter each other and come close to undoing everything that he'd ever accomplished, for the past ten thousand years the guy has been stuck on life support watching the universe go further to hell, helpless to do anything but act as a glorified psychic lighthouse against the darkness threatening to extinguish humanity forever.
- Magnus the Red didn't exactly have it easy either, and was not only essentially forced to participate in aforementioned Heresy because of it, but the very reason he did so—to save his Legion—was make utterly pointless soon afterwards. All Just as Planned for Tzeentch.
- This is Warhammer 40,000. EVERYONE is on a Trauma Conga Line. And it never ends.
- Crowning glory has to be the survivors of the First War of Armageddon (though someone should have thought about the implications of naming a planet after an "end of days war" ahead of time). After the typical untold generations of Imperial bureaucratic corruption and negligence, an immense uprising occurs thanks to the worshipers of the Chaos god Khorne being supercharged by a passing Warp Storm. Then in comes a space hulk, carrying Angron, fallen Primarch and Daemon Prince of the Chaos God of blood and carnage. But there was good news! The Space Wolf chapter arrives, along with a gigantic force of Imperial Guardsmen, and the near-legendary Grey Knights, who are in total able to stop the invasions. Unfortunately, where go the Grey Knights, so goes the Inquisition...and since most in the Imperium don't know that most of the fallen Primarchs are still alive and well as Daemon Princes, not to mention knowing much about overall Chaos nastiness, the world is quarantined and every civilian and soldier that wasn't a Space Marine was rounded up, sterilized, and put into internment camps while the world was quietly resettled by people who were told only that there was a war and there had been no survivors.
- There is another Hope Spot when the Space Wolves say "screw you" to the Inquisition and rescue as many survivors as they could...but there's only so many people you can fit aboard a few spaceships, so most of them die anyway.
- And it doesn't stop there. This defiant gesture sparks a cold war between the Wolves and the Inquisition, including the Grey Knights, later escalating to a full-on war despite the Wolves not firing back at Inquisition ships opening fire on them—all due to the incompetence of the original Inquisitor whose decision it was to have the survivors purged in the first place, then tried to apply street-level tactics to a planet and didn't get that Space Marines outrank Puny Humans. It ends with the Inquisition attacking the Space Wolves' homeworld and their milleniary warrior Bjorn Fell-Handed teleporting aboard the ships to get everyone to stand down.
- Magnus the Red didn't exactly have it easy either, and was not only essentially forced to participate in aforementioned Heresy because of it, but the very reason he did so—to save his Legion—was make utterly pointless soon afterwards. All Just as Planned for Tzeentch.
- The titular protagonist of Hamilton's life is this before he came to America: He was a bastard, his father left at ten, his mother died of disease and he almost did as well, became an orphan, moved in with a cousin, who then committed suicide, then a hurricane destroyed everything on his island, and he was booked passage on a New York-bound ship ... which then caught fire.
- Miss Saigon: Parents killed in a military attack. Forced to work as a prostitute in order to support herself (this is how she loses her virginity). There's a brief Hope Spot when she meets a nice soldier who falls in love with her and plans to take her back to America with him—only for them to be separated during the Fall of Saigon. She then has to endure pregnancy and childbirth on her own and in hiding from those who might imprison or even kill her for consorting with the enemy. When her cousin finds her and tries to kill her son, she is forced to shoot him to protect the boy and flee to another country to avoid punishment, where she resumes work as a bar girl. Throughout all this, she hopes and prays and believes that her lover will return for her. But when he does, he's married to another woman and doesn't want to take the boy back to America. So she kills herself to force him to do exactly that.
- It's based on the opera Madame Butterfly. So what did you expect in an opera, a happy ending?
- Oh God, Scootaloo in Motherly Scootaloo. The story starts off with her pregnant. Then we find out that her mom died several years back, and she ended up being taken care of by a friend of her mother who promised her Scootaloo would go to a good home, causing her to act because of an unconscious hope that that would cause her to return. We also find out that the father of her child left her when he found out (not to mention that there was a lot of teasing, mainly by Diamond Tiara) and Sandy (the previously mentioned foster mom), put her unborn child up for adoption, despite Scootaloo wanting to keep the foal. Then Scootaloo has an argument with Apple Bloom, and smashes her head into a mirror (luckily, Rainbow Dash agreed to watch her along with Fluttershy, giving her and Apple Bloom a chance to make up). Then, during "The Birthing", she gets a MAJOR Kick the Dog from Jet Set and Upper Crust, who Sandy had been thinking of as adoptive parents for Scootaloo's newborn son, Lightning Blitz, causing her to take Lightning from the hospital just so she can be with him, which causes her C-section wounds to rupture, nearly killing her (and according to Word of God, she would have if rescue hadn't come when it did). Thankfully, when the Jerk Ass couple says to Sandy that Scootaloo would be better off dead, she has a My God, What Have I Done? moment (after giving the couple a Shut Up, Hannibal! speech) about this, which leads to Lightning being taken into a sort-of foster home by a friend (since they don't have the money to take of him at the moment) and Scootaloo gets clearance to visit him relatively quickly (following a subversion of There Are No Therapists), and Sandy officially adopts Scootaloo, and their relationship has seriously improved, causing the story to take a turn for the better.
- Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures : What HASN'T freaking happened to Abel in his life? His best friend from childhood killed herself, he watched several people die in a single day, including an old enemy that he was reconciling with and ended up listening to his dying thoughts, his father turned out to be a succubus who killed his mother's husband years ago and proceeded to terrorize and shame May, murder his other childhood friend, and kidnap Abel away to SAIA. And that's just part one!
- Homestuck: Poor, poor Tavros.
- It seems every almost every update from 1/24/11 onward is dedicated to crushing Karkat: He's watched his friends get murdered (by each other), his plans fail horrifically, and his romantic inhibitions get crushed.
- Let's just say everyone who isn't a permanant resident of the dreambubbles, Jack Noir, or LORD ENGLISH is having one really bad day/week/million-billion years.
- And now the dreambubble residents have had their day spoilt too, and Jack Noir is currently being chased by a vengeance-fueled postwoman who is really, really pissed off.
- WV. He gets his innocent farm burned down dozens of times, begins a rebellion and watches helplessly as Jack Noir slaughters every single one of his soldiers. Then, after he parts ways with John, Jack blows up a ship he happens to be riding in, sending him to a post-apocalyptic Earth, that's merely a gigantic desolate desert. He's not done yet. As things FINALLY begin to look up for him when he meets the other exiles, he watches at John gets killed in front of his eyes, gets trapped in a capsule, dreams that he's become Noir - his worst nightmare - only to wake up and realize the embodiment is in front of him. Jack then proceeds to rip a chunk of uranium out of his stomach, nearly killing him. It's yet to be seen whether the conga line will continue.
- Great: "Lousy" doesn't even begin to describe the main character's introduction. It appears that he gets better.
- Vaarsuvius from The Order of the Stick since the end of the Azure City arc. First, he/shenote feels guilty that the battle is lost and the party is split, trying desperately to contact them, failing every time. He is haunted by bad dreams because of his failure to save Azure City. Then he gets his family threatened, which results in a Deal with the Devil, and him going over the top when saving them, casting Familicide on the dragon, which again results in his mate filing a divorce. Type A, so far. But when he sees the result of the Familicide he had cast earlier, it turns into a Type C (spoiler warning!). As a result of the Deal with the Devil, the fiends will take over his soul for a time.
- Girl Genius: Airman Third Class Axel Higgs. Higgs is Type F:
Dr. Sun: When they found your father he was severely injured. They set out for the hospital immediately, even though the fight was still raging. They were hit by some kind of cannon. The alarms woke Airman Third Class Axel Higgs. He reported for emergency duty, he found the main cabin in flames—and the crew dead.Dr. Sun: Then he saw the monsters. Some kind of biological weapon, I'm betting. Higgs could see that there was no help to be had from the rest of the fleet— [in flames, through the window] —and the monsters were between him and the evacuation gig. Things were actually going fairly well, until he found your father.Dr. Sun: While he was dragging him to the gig, he encountered Captain Dupree, who was delirious. She broke his arm. He knocked her out, but broke her jaw in the process. He got them both into the gig and shoved off just as the ship went down. He's not rated as a pilot or navigator, but he set the ship controls toward Mechanicsburg and rigged a crude automatic pilot. He then began to apply first aid to your father—which is when he was again attacked by Captain Dupree.Dr. Sun: This time, she broke his leg. But he finally managed to subdue her. He tried to find some way to restrain her, which is when she bit him. That's infected, by the way. She also got in a good, solid kick at the gig's controls. He did his best to fix the damage, and then tried to set his own arm—and apparently, blacked out from the pain. Only to awaken as the gig was crashing into a farmer's pond. He dragged your father and Dupree ashore, where he encountered a nesting goose—which broke his other arm.Dr. Sun: The farmhouse was some distance away, but, as fortune would have it, there were troops there. They had been hearing strange reports coming from Sturmhalten, so they were already jumpy when they saw Higgs coming. They thought he was a revenant, and shot him in the leg. Afterwards, they were very sorry. They saw to your father and Dupree, called for emergency transport, and gave Higgs some rum. Lots of rum. Before he passed out, he told them everything.
- Those are merely physical injuries, not emotional trauma. And there's no indication from Higgs that he found it at all traumatic. There are, however, an increasing number of hints in the comic that Bosun Higgs is in fact a Jägermonster. (Given the great variety of forms the transformed soldiers have taken on becoming Jägermonsters, why shouldn't there be one that didn't change outwardly and still looks human? After all, we've already seen that the claim that no female Jägermonster exists turned out to be false.) Higgs is treated with respect by all Jägers we've met so far, he talks about events in the past as if he'd been there and in general shows a surprising knowledge of Heterodyne history and Van Rijn's Mechanical Muses for a mere Boatswain. The artificial intelligence of Castle Heterodyne recognized him. And he has demonstrated greater speed, endurance and strength than normal humans on several occasionsnote .
- Commander Badass (a.k.a. D39-9E-B52), a time traveling Navy SEAL single dad from the nonspecific space future and central character of Manly Men Doing Manly Things, suffered a weeping emotional breakdown when, during his days as a Space Marine, he was told that his family of in-vitro Space Marine brothers and sisters had been killed...quite to the disappointment of his idiot general who had invented the whole story out of the mistaken hope this would turn the Commander into a Rambo-style one-man army and send him on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Instead it only showed the man's complete misunderstanding of the human psyche, probably fueled by too many action movie clichés. When the Commander found out he'd been lied to...he sued his boss and won. (Just as cloned Space Marines had previously fought for the right to not have army surgeons graft laser cannons into their soldiers' chests whenever the army felt like it, and instead be treated like people.
- Shandala of Broken Saints fame, whose biography reads like something off of the From Bad to Worse page. Washed ashore on a Fijian island and adopted by the tribe, her childhood was peaceful and idyllic until her adoptive mother was viciously murdered and mutilated by white strangers under the command of (and possibly personally led by) the Big Bad. Then, as an adult, she reluctantly leaves her home and family and all that she loves to find the truth about her biological parents. Then, her adoptive brother Tui is accidentally killed due to an big scary empathic rage thing on her part. Then, she is washed off the ship in a giant storm and found and brought to the lair of the Shadow Men to be tortured and sealed away in the back of a sleazy strip club. Then, after being rescued, she ends up falling back to her Superpowered Evil Side briefly, deciding to go back home, and ends up confronted by The Dragon, who murders and mutilates her Empathy Pet Bula the same way her adoptive mother was, and then kidnaps her. Then, in the Grand Finale, she is turned into an instrument of mass suffering via her empathic powers by her Big Bad father, only saved by her friends in time for her to commit a Heroic Sacrifice and save the world. And yet throughout it all, she retains her purity of heart.
- Ayla Goodkind (Phase) of the Whateley Universe. In a massive Break the Haughty event, Phase goes from an incredibly wealthy heir to the biggest fortune on the planet to a despised mutant intersexed freak who is turned over to a Mad Scientist by his own parents and on getting out ends up living in a basement. On going to Whateley Academy he is hated for being from the best-known mutant-hating family around. those don't even touch on highlights like getting trapped in a sewer and attacked by zombies. Or nearly being eaten by an unkillable demon. Or...
- Part of what makes The Nostalgia Critic so fun to watch is this mixed in with Misery Builds Character. The guy's life is shit, and it's sadistic fun to see how he'll react to the next horrible thing happening to him.
- The third arc of Critical Role is this for Percy; he already watched his family get brutally murdered, after which he was tortured for information about his home. In the space of about four episodes, he watches the Briarwoods almost kill one of his friends, goes Ax-Crazy trying to stop them, starts Hearing Voices of some smoky entity from his dreams, returns to Whitestone and sees the town stripped of inhabitants, desecrated by undead stone giants, and its central landmark (a giant tree) corrupted by evil and decorated with eight corpses made up to look like him and his friends. And the arc is just getting started.
- RWBY: Yang really gets shoved through the mincer through the latter half of Volume 3. By the end of the Volume, she has been framed for assault and arrested on global television, effectively told that her Missing Mom cares very little for her, watched her teammate get stabbed through the torso, and had her right arm sliced off. To make matters even worse, the best friend she sacrificed her arm trying to save then runs away and cuts all ties not long afterwards. Yang is left emotionally exhausted and bedridden, and brushes Ruby away with very little concern.
- Arc nine of Twig serves as this for Sylvester, as he's forced to work alongside the new personality inhabiting his best friend's body, his girlfriend takes a huge dose of the Psycho Serum Wyvern and it massively alters her personality, and his "brother" Gordon's heart finally gives out, forcing them to abandon his corpse in a burning building. It's enough to shatter what had previously been an Undying Loyalty to his creators, and Sy immediately decides to flee Radham Academy at the first opportunity.
- In the various GoAnimate "Grounded" videos, this is referred to as a "Punishment Day", where a parent, instead of just grounding someone, will instead enact a series of actions meant to humiliate the punished. Of course, they tend to be a case of Disproportionate Retribution, as the punished will be attacked, have their possessions destroyed or even outright killed due to minor things.
- Lapis Lazuli from Steven Universe is a Type B or G. Prior to her debut, she was forcibly trapped in a mirror for many years and only spoken to when needed. After being released, she tried to use the oceans to go back to her home planet, but was unable to do so due to her cracked gem. After Steven heals her, she is able to return to her home planet... only to find out that Homeworld had advanced so much that she couldn't understand it. She is then used as an informant by Peridot and Jasper and taken back to Earth before being imprisoned again. After constantly being imprisoned, Lapis chooses to fuse with Jasper after the latter was defeated by Garnet. However, Lapis then takes control of the fusion and submerges herself and Jasper in the ocean. Her control is slipping by "Chille Tid", before it's gone completely and they have to be forcibly unfused in "Super Watermelon Island". She gets better in later episodes, though there are nods to what happened, such as her desire to "take a break from water".
- Butters Stotch from South Park seems to be perpetually going through one.
- In later seasons, this has been increasingly the case with Kyle. Namely "Human Centi Pad" and "Ginger Cow".
- Robot Chicken: The Worst Halloween
- Peanuts: Depending on the episode, Charlie-you-poor-sucker-Brown.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zuko. First, his mother leaves him (to save him no less), then he gets challenged to an Agni Kai as a thirteen-year-old, by his own father who brutally scars and then banishes him, then he gets sent on a Snipe Hunt after the Avatar. During said quest how much happens to our poor banished prince? (Read: Too much to list here.) And then when he finally gives up that quest, he has to fight his little sister in the show’s only real deathmatch and take a lightning bolt in the chest to save a friend's life. He lives through it, but barely. The next day he has to start ruling his country, which he is effectively going to have to force through a Heel–Face Turn, after they’ve been at war with everyone else for a century. He was even destined to take on all that trauma from birth, being a direct descendant of both the Fire Lord who started the war and the Avatar who opposed him. His destiny was to take on all the horrible influences from his father and co. and all the positive influences from his uncle and the Avatar, and come out of it with the understanding necessary to make the right decisions and have the right credentials to be the Fire Lord the world needed to rule the Fire Nation in the wake of the Avatar’s defeat of Ozai. In a way all this trauma molds him into a much more complex character than the Avatar and allows him to fill a role that Aang could not, which ends up being almost as important or maybe even as important as Aang's own role in the story. It also makes him the thoroughly-adored Woobie of the series.
- The Legend of Korra: The titular character herself. First, she fought against the leader and Big Bad of the Equalists and got her bending taken away, resulting in a Result A. Then, she fought her Evil Uncle who nearly destroyed the world, resulting in a Result G. Then, she fought an evil anarchist, which probably took her closest to the Despair Event Horizon and was one of the saddest scenes to have yet been animated in Western Media. Then she went against an evil dictator and was repeatedly convinced that she was no longer needed in the world. In short, Korra has arguably been through more than Zuko. Thankfully, the last two were notable Result A's. She admits to Tenzin that all the suffering that she went through in the last two seasons made her a better and more compassionate person. Best illustrated by how she saves Kuvira's life and, doesn't beat her down, but talks her into surrendering through understanding.
- Asami also goes through a somewhat less severe one, also becoming Result A. When Asami was a child, her mother was killed by firebenders. She was strung along by Mako while dating him, only to lose him to Korra. She learned that her father, whom she looked up to, was working for the Equalists, and was forced to attack him, damaging the reputation of his company and their relationship almost irreparably. She had to take on the failing company, the guy she trusted to help her restore it stole the inventory. She watched Korra, her best friend whom she'd fallen in love with at that point, almost die from the Red Lotus's poison and become a crippled, emotionally broken shell as a result of it. She had to wait three years before she'd see Korra again, when Korra promised to see her in three weeks after leaving Republic City to recover. While she did manage to recover the company that once belonged to her father, and she reconciled with her father, he died while attacking Kuvira's Colossus, and all of the company's inventory got destroyed.
- Beast Wars: Poor Waspinator! Almost every episode, he is blown to bits, killed, or badly injured, just to come back the next one.
- Metalocalypse: While every band member has their share of trauma, special recognition must go to rhythm guitarist Toki Wartooth. He spent most of his childhood in Lillehammer being forced into manual labor and punished with physical abuse by his deeply religious father, to the point where Toki goes catatonic upon seeing him. Even within Dethklok he is one of the bigger Butt Monkeys of the band, constantly being the victim of horrible things and being forced into the background by lead guitarist Skwisgaar. Everyone that he loves is cursed to die in a horrible way, including his cancer-stricken father with whom Toki had just reconciled...moments before dropping him down an icy mountain and falling into a frozen river where he drowned before Toki's eyes. And in the fourth season, Toki meets the guitarist he replaced, Magnus Hammersmith, who at first seems intimidating and like he may be planning a scheme. Instead he saves Toki's life from a bully's exploits that nearly killed him, and they end up becoming friends, only for Magnus to reveal himself as a member of the Revengencers and take Toki hostage as part of the group's attack at the end of the season. But not before stabbing him in the stomach. The only consolation at this point is that he's probably not dead.
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series:
- An alternate Peter Parker lost both Uncle Ben and Aunt May at an early stage. He then presumably went through much of the same crap that our Peter did. Including losing Mary Jane went she wound up in another dimension, getting her back and marrying her, only to learn that she was clone who then died. Then he learned that he had a clone named named Ben Reilly, and later learned that he might actually be the clone. He wound being tragically broken and crazy, and was then bonded with the Carnage symbiote and swears to destroy all of reality.
- For that matter Ben Reilly himself, who went through the same shit (except for being bonded with Carnage.) Even he isn't sure which one of them is the clone. However not only is he still a hero, he's actually still a nice guy in spite of all it. Making him a textbook example of the Iron Woobie.
- The surviving crew of the USS Indanapolis (CA-35). You'd think things would be bad enough, with only 317 of the ship's nearly 1,200 crew surviving getting sunk by a Japanese submarine, then spending four days in shark-infested seas. Things got worse for the survivors when they found out that, at the very least, most of those who made it off the ship alive could've been saved. First, they were sent out of Guam without destroyer escort (which was standard procedure for the area). Then the ship's officers weren't informed that there were Japanese subs in the area (which had already claimed at least one Allied ship). Then when the ship sank, its distress call was dismissed by Allied command as a Japanese trap. Then when the Indianapolis failed to join the rest of the fleet in the Philippines, the ship was marked as "late" instead of "missing", so no search party was sent out. The survivors were found by a scout plane that happened to spot the oil slick from the Indianapolis' wreckage.
And just to polish things off, when people started demanding to know why the ship went missing for so long without being looked for, the Navy made a scapegoat of the ship's C.O., Capt. Charles McVay; court-martialing and convicting him of putting his ship "in harm's way" via his failure to maintain a "zig-zag" sail pattern. They even went so far as to call the Japanese sub commander that sank him as a witness (Who called the "zig-zag" pattern useless). McVay was the only ship's captain in the U.S. Fleet to lose a ship and be court-martialed for it. (He committed suicide in 1968).
- Jackson C. Frank's story. On March 31, 1954, a furnace exploded at Frank's elementary school. The resulting fire killed 15 of Frank's classmates (including his then girlfriend Marlene du Pont) and left him with burns on 50% of his body and life-long depression. In 1966, a year after his first and only album was released, Frank developed writer's block and his depression began to worsen. During the 1970s, Frank's son died of cystic fibrosis, deepening his depression and resulting in a stay at a mental institution. In the 1980s, he traveled to New York in an attempt to find friend Paul Simon, but failed and ended up homeless. During this time, he ended up in and out of mental institutions. In the early 1990s, Frank was sitting on a bench in Queens when he was shot by teenagers indiscriminately firing a pellet gun, blinding him in his left eye. He died March 3, 1999 from pneumonia and cardiac arrest. A major Tear Jerker indeed.
- Speaking of natural disasters, New Orleans. First the levees break during Hurricane Katrina killing over a thousand people and leaving countless others homeless and suffering from physical and mental ailments, then the government's response is worse than that of the Boxing Day Tsunami and the Haiti earthquake, then speculators use the destruction to get rid of homes and schools for the displaced poor black community, then they win the Super Bowl, and then the BP oil disaster kills 11 people and craters the fishing industry, then after that Hope Spot occurred, the team that won the Super Bowl was vilified for a bounty scandal.
Various survivors: We're just a rich Haiti. Who did we kill 300 years ago to deserve this? We sold our souls for the Super Bowl!!
- One of the survivors of the Deepwater Horizon oil drill disaster made an escape that sounds almost fictional: The initial explosion sent a three-inch thick metal fire door slamming into him, and as soon as he was able to free himself another explosion sent another door straight into him, pinning him to the wall again. By that point he was starting to get angry. After watching all their fire drills go to waste by everyone panicking, he plunged two or three stories into the ocean which allowed him time to think about the fact that he had jumped from a place that wasn't on fire into the ocean, which was. When he got over being stunned by hitting the water, hard, he realized he wasn't dead because he felt a burning sensation all over his body; fortunately he wasn't on fire.
- Wilmer McLean was the owner of the farm that the Civil War battle know as The First Battle of Bull Run took place on. After the Confederates commandeered his house for a headquarters his kitchen was destroyed by a Union cannon ball. After the battle Wilmer decided to move to protect his family and because the proximity of the Union Army was making business difficult for him. He moved near the Appatomattox court house. Robert E. Lee officially surrendered to union general Ulysses S. Grant in Wilmer's parlor. After the signing of the surrender, members of the Army looted all his furniture for souvenirs.
- On August 6th, 1945, Tsutomu Yamaguchi was staying in Hiroshima for a business trip. The first bomb fell no more than 3 km away from where he stood, but the next day he returned to his home in Nagasaki for medical treatment. According to his account, he was describing the devastation at Hiroshima to a disbelieving boss...and then the second bomb fell and destroyed Nagasaki. He lived until 2010 at age 93.
- In 2008, a sixteen-year-old cheerleader from Silsbee High in Texas was sexually assaulted by Rakheem Bolton a football star at the school. While the attacker was initially charged, he admitted to misdemeanor assault and served no jail time, instead ending up with a fine, community service and mandatory anger management classes. Silsbee did not suspend or expel him, even continued to allow him to play on the team, whilst telling the girl that she should keep a low profile and avoid attending school-related social events. After being advised by her counselors not to give up on activities she loved, she continued to cheer. At a game in 2009, she remained silent during his free throw, understandably refusing to gleefully chant "put it in!" at her attacker...which got her kicked off the squad. She and her family sued the school for violating her free speech rights, a case which was denied earlier this year on the grounds of being a frivolous lawsuit. Her family is now being ordered to pay $45,000 in legal fees. Fortunately for her, the cheerleader was given support from many NFL cheerleaders and a petition started in her support to drop the fine, with many people asking for the school to either pay her family the $45,000 or fine Bolton instead, quickly got over 150,000 signatures.
- You live in San Bernardino during the late '80s. A runaway train crashes into your neighbourhood at 100 mph and ravages every home except yours, killing several people. The rubble is cleaned up and life goes on. Two weeks later you get blown up by a fuel line that was damaged during the cleanup.
- Kelsey Grammer's life has been ridiculously tragic. His father was shot dead in 1968. His sister was abducted, raped, and murdered in 1975. His younger twin half-brothers were killed in a freak accident in 1980. And his friend and Frasier producer David Angell was on American Airlines Flight 11 when it crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11.
- A British couple named Jason and Jenny Cairns-Lawrence went vacationing in New York City during September 11th, 2001, when the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history occurred. In London, they experienced another terrorist attack on July 7, 2005, at the London Underground subway system. And during their vacation three years later on November 26 in Mumbai, India, guess what happened? Yep, yet another terrorist attack! However, just like Clark Griswold, Jason and Jenny were determined to enjoy their trip regardless.
- Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning 7 times and killed himself at 71 over an unrequited love.