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Dysfunction Junction / Western Animation

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  • Adventure Time, despite being a show high in comedy, is very much this. Finn is a human who is secretly depressed about being the last of his kind (and may have issues with being sexually aroused by violence), Jake's parents are dead (and may have kleptomania issues), Princess Bubblegum has the stress of ruling a kingdom and never being able to be a kid, Marceline has daddy issues, the snail is possessed, the Tart Toter is insane, the Ice King suffers from severe dementia, Cinnamon Bun is brain-damaged, Peppermint Butler is borderline satanic, Lemongrab is practically autistic, LSP is surrounded by horrible idiots... in addition to being more or less of a bratty teenager— or is that just a teenager personality?
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  • Sterling Archer, a womanizing drunkard with who is a jerk to everyone. This is due to his mother hardly being there for him when he was young, and when she is she makes his life miserable. Cheryl/Carol/Carina/Cristal/Cherlene is an insane pyromaniac who is Too Kinky to Torture. Cyril is a Crazy Jealous Extreme Doormat who cheated Lana several times. Even Lana, the Only Sane Woman, is crazy. She attempts to shoot Archer multiple times when she's angry. She admits that she still loves him, oh and that she stole his sperm to impregnate herself.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The point of the Beach Episode was to get the four dysfunctional teenaged villains together and spill their guts about their personal issues a la The Breakfast Club. Or maybe that was just an excuse to provide us with Fanservice. The teenaged heroes aren't much better off, but being main characters, they handle it with more grace. Although Azula takes her issues perfectly in stride until The Boiling Rock, which shakes her and starts a downward spiral that ends in the finale, at which point she has a psychotic breakdown, turning into The Caligula and hallucinating that her Missing Mom is talking to her- and violently attacking the hallucination upon being told "I love you".
  • BoJack Horseman's heavy focus on Hollywoo mental complexes results in this. The title character is a deeply depressed and unpleasant man who is discovering that having Abusive Parents, substance abuse issues and fundamentally good intentions doesn't justify his unlikeable behaviour - and that's just the beginning of his problems.
    • Princess Carolyn's career makes her miserable and lonely, but she can't leave it due to her addiction to pulling other people out of crises. She also suffers from an inability to have kittens, which has ruined several of her relationships.
    • Diane's high intelligence and great potential as a writer contrasts with her job ghostwriting celebrity memoirs and tweets, and even her relatively stable love-life is full of bad communication. Her family treated her awfully when growing up, and her inability to be let go and "just be happy" in her marriage takes a continual mental toll on her. She also suffers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after moving to a warzone for a job, and witnessing young children being killed. Upon her return, her failure to do something that matters also weighs heavily on her mind.
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    • Todd and Mr Peanutbutter are the more well-adjusted members of the main cast, but Todd's a directionless millennial whose achievements are systematically sabotaged by BoJack out of terror Todd will ever leave him, and Mr Peanutbutter is able to thrive in Hollywoo simply because it's as shallow, superficial, attention-deficit and cynical as he is.
  • Every character in Daria can be defined by various neuroses. (or just being plain stupid).
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy has this in spades:
  • In Futurama, every member of Planet Express has some kind of issue, even if this Trope is played little bit lighter than the rest of the page's examples.
    • Fry - the series's Unfazed Everyman — isn't the sharpest knife in the kitchen because of a Time Paradox that makes him his own grandfather, and he lost his whole family when he accidentally froze himself.
    • Leela is a cyclops orphan with some serious anger issues.
    • Bender is a suicidal, criminal, alcoholic smoker who has barely a bit of conscience.
    • Professor Farnsworth is the Mad Scientist who is so senile one keeps wondering how he keeps the company up and running.
    • Zoidberg is the resident Butt-Monkey and a really incompetent doctor whose dreams of being a comedian were crushed by his mother.
    • When he isn't available, the role passes to Amy, Asian Airhead who comes from a rich family but has mean and greedy parents, her father being the worst one.
    • The one worker who is relatively sane and happy is Hermes, and he takes strange delight from his job as an Obstructive Bureaucrat right into the point that he is Workaholic and borderline OCD-patient. Also, his wife is constantly cheating on him with his former athletic rival Barbados Slim.
    • Lampshaded when Fry tries to convince Leela that getting phaser eye surgery (to split her one eye into two) is a bad idea:
      Fry: The rest of us aren't normal and that's what makes us great! Like Dr. Zoidberg, he's a weird monster who smells like he eats garbage and does.
      Zoidberg: Damn right!
      Fry: And the Professor's a senile, amoral crackpot.
      Professor: *babbles nonsensically*
      Fry: Hermes is a Rastafarian accountant...
      Hermes: Tally me banana!
      Fry: Amy's a klutz from Mars...
      Amy: *Drops drinking glass* Sploops!
      Professor: And Fry, you've got that brain thing.
      Fry: I already did! So Leela, do you wanna be like us? Or do you wanna be like Adlai, with no severe mental or social problems whatsoever?
  • The characters of Gravity Falls have gradually been revealed to be this throughout season two.
    • Dipper is a borderline Nightmare Fetishist with some major self esteem and trust issues. He tries to hide his insecurities by being The Smart Guy.
    • Mabel is an energetic Stepford Smiler who is secretly afraid of growing up and growing apart from her brother, so much so that she was willing to freeze time so that he couldn't leave her. She can also get extremely emotional, showing severe depression in "The Time Travelers Pig" after losing Waddles.
    • Stan is a shyster and conman who has done some very shady things in the past, including being in prison on more than one occasion. "A Tale of Two Stans" reveals he was kicked out of his house as a teenager, and accidentally caused the disappearance of his twin brother, and that those questionable things he did were all done either to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, because his father's parting words about not being allowed to come back until he earned a fortune instilled an obsession with money in him, or both.
    • Soos spent years waiting for a father that wanted nothing to do with him.
    • Wendy has a calm demeanor, but reveals that she is actually stressed 24/7 due to her family and just tries to hide it.
    • The author of the journals, Ford Pines, held a petty grudge against his brother for many years and only bothered contacting him when he needed his help. He originally went to Gravity Falls to study the paranormal, but his search for answers got him more than he bargained for, and events regarding the portal and Bill Cipher eventually drove him to near insanity, to the point that when his brother did show up at his doorstep, said brother was greeted by him wielding a crossbow and screaming "HAVE YOU COME TO STEAL MY EYES?!"
    • Old Man McGucket was once a highly intelligent, if slightly eccentric, inventor with a family and a fairly normal life... That is until he was exposed to the portal. This lead him to create the Society of the Blind Eye and erase his own memories, which in turn drove him more insane and left him as the infamous town kook who lives in the dump.
    • Pacifica Northwest was trained like a dog by her parents and conditioned to obey them every time she heard her father ring a bell, leaving her TERRIFIED at the thought of disobeying them. It's entirely as messed up as it sounds.
  • In hindsight, it's amazing how much Hey Arnold! was able to get away with for a kids show in regards to this.
    • The titular protagonist is a Cosmic Plaything who constantly gets dealt a raw deal, his parents vanished years ago while exploring South America, causing him to live in a rundown boarding house with his grandparents.
    • His grandmother is a delusional Cloud Cuckoolander, and his grandfather is the Only Sane Man who is constantly driven up the wall by the antics of his wife and his kooky tenants, which considering how eccentric he can get, says a lot about them.
    • Said tenants include a Vietnamese immigrant who suffers from chronic depression due to severe family issues, a short tempered construction worker who is obsessed with breaking things and is a closet fanboy of the town's local jazz singer, a greedy deadbeat who constantly blows his money on gambling, much to his wife's chagrin, and a secretive man who is heavily implied to be a government agent.
    • Among Arnold's friends, Gerald is mostly normal, but his father is an overbearing penny pincher, his younger sister's a Spoiled Brat, and his older brother's a Jerk Jock.
    • Helga acts like the resident bully, but this ends up being an act as she is in fact in love with Arnold, but acts like a bully towards him out of both fear and as a result of having lived in a broken home. Her mother's a jobless, chronically depressed drunkard, her father's a greedy, emotionally distant Manipulative Bastard who is obsessed with advancing his beeper company, and her older sister is a hugely successful business woman whose constant success has given Helga a massive inferiority complex.
    • Said older sister also has severe problems of her own, thanks to her dad always pushing her to strive for the top, and had a breakdown when she thought she had a B+ on her report card.
    • Harold, like Helga, acts like a bully to mask his own insecurities, primarily his weight.
    • Eugene is quite possibly the unluckiest person on the planet.
    • Sid is mostly normal, but tends to have severe overreactions whenever something bad happens to him (see the germ episode and "Sid's Revenge" for examples).
    • Rhonda is the resident Rich Bitch whose arrogance is kept in check only by her best friend.
    • Stinky is a dirt poor hillbilly.
    • Curly is a maniacal schemer who constantly gets in trouble due to his zany schemes. And that's just the main characters.
    • Lila looks perfect at first glance but comes from an improvised family with a single father. Word of God is that she has a hidden darker side but it's never completely shown.
  • Invader Zim: Zim is a delusional megalomaniac with sociopathic tendencies; Dib is an obsessive,vicious Anti-Hero with no friends; Gaz will cause you immense pain for the sake of video games and pizza; and GIR.... is just bat-shit crazy.
  • In Justice League, we have an orphan who saw his parents shot in front of him when he was eight, The Exile who was forced to leave her home, two aliens who are the Last of Their Kind, The Mole, Hawkgirl, who first betrayed Earth then did a Heel–Face Turn on her home planet and was subsequently banished from there, and a man who's serious about his duty most of the time. In fact, Flash is the only one from the Original Seven who doesn't quite fit here... which could tie into the strong implication that without Flash, the entire team would go off the deep end.
  • Kaeloo: Everyone on the show is seriously messed up in some way.
    • Kaeloo is obsessed with perfection.
    • Stumpy is an idiot who has no sense of reality, who has even gotten himself killed on more than one occasion by doing stupid things.
    • Quack Quack is addicted to yogurt, and is still traumatized by the death of his parents.
    • Mr. Cat, the worst of the lot, is an Ax-Crazy preteen sadomasochist who murders people for fun and has been arrested at least once.
    • Pretty is a shallow, superficial Alpha Bitch. Her narcissism causes her to endanger herself by doing things like buying a dress that was several sizes too small and forcing herself to lose enough weight to make it fit her, and she screams at, abuses, and manipulates anyone who dares to stand against her.
    • Eugly is a shy Extreme Doormat who spends her time being abused and ridiculed by the other characters.
    • Olaf is a megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur who wants to Take Over the World. One episode even has him build a giant statue of himself and force the citizens of Smileyland to worship it.
  • Moral Orel: Every character in the series, with the exception of Orel and a few other characters, is seriously messed up. And considering everything that happens to him, the fact he's not seriously messed up is a testament to Orel's emotional and psychological fortitude.
  • The cast of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic are a more downplayed example; while they can go crazy, they’ll help one another out. With that being said;
  • Rick and Morty:
    • Rick is often drunk and almost completely detached from what you and I would call morality due to his Super Intelligence and experience with things far beyond humanity, as well as an inability to find meaningful happiness to the point of attempting suicide at least once.
      • There's a commercial starring Rick and Morty for Alien: Covenant in which Rick is attacked by a facehugger, which dies within seconds of attaching to Rick. Rick explains that this is due to all the drugs and alcohol in his system.
    • Morty is a whiny, horny, teenager who likely has a learning disability and has no experience with the nature and Blue-and-Orange Morality of the bizarre things Rick works with and the repercussions thereof.
    • Jerry is an incredibly pathetic man in a failing marriage whose insecurity leads him to believe things that aren't real. As much as he wants to be a decent family man, just about every meaningful or validating moment turn out to be some sort of alien fake.
    • Beth, while not as pathetic as Jerry, has similar difficulties swallowing her pride. She is deeply affected by Rick walking out on her when she was little, and as a result tries to gloss over the craziness Rick beings upon the family.
    • Summer somehow manages to be least dysfunctional of the family, even though she's a typical teenage girl. Even then, weirdness of Rick's dealings does cause her a fair bit of ache. As did the revelation that her parents were going to have an abortion, but didn't go through with it because they got a flat tyre on the way to the clinic.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: One meme: My Baby needs Advanced Therapy. Most of the major characters are kind of messed up.
    • Catra is the most obvious example: her abusive upbringing has left her with an envious streak a mile wide, symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder, and enough self-destructive tendencies to blow up the world. Literally - in the throes of a Villainous Breakdown, she decides to end the world because Adora wants to save it, and she refuses to let Adora have even that much of a victory.
    • Adora's own abusive upbringing was more subtle in its damage, but it left her with PTSD symptoms, an obsessive fear of failure, a guilt complex that takes three seasons to even begin to recover, and an overall tendency to view herself less as a person and more as a tool for realising the greater good, no matter the cost to herself. This causes her a lot of trouble; both her relationship with Catra in the early seasons and her relationship with Glimmer in season 4 are severely damaged by her tendency to claim responsibility in all situations and fence others in to protect them, which Catra takes as attempts to once again claim the spotlight and put Catra in Adora's shadow, and Glimmer takes as challenges to her own authority.
    • Glimmer has insecurities relating to her difficulties with her seemingly perfect mother. While the relationship begins to heal when Angella admits to her own faults and starts encouraging Glimmer to follow her own path rather than insisting she model herself on Angella, Angella's subsequent death and Glimmer's ascent to the throne cause those insecurities to start exploding out of control, which combines with other stressors to split Glimmer up from her True Companions and start making some really bad decisions.
    • Scorpia's education in the Horde, which insisted that the Horde was the only place she would ever be accepted, left her bordering on Extreme Doormat, putting up with Catra's worst abuses for three and a half seasons while endlessly pining for her, and rationalising her entire messed-up situation as being for the best (she goes so far as to insist that her grandfather surrendered her to the Horde because he knew, when she barely possessed object permanence, that she would have been happier as a soldier). Her realisation that she deserves better than putting up with Catra's shit, combined with her decision to rescue her closest real friend, leads to her Heel–Face Turn.
    • Angella's pose of perfection is a mask for her consuming regret over her husband's death in a battle she ordered, and a lot of her issues with Glimmer come about because she's trying to sculpt Glimmer into someone more like her and less like Micah in order to keep her safe. Just before she makes her Heroic Sacrifice, she admits that she kind of hates herself for being a coward, and views her sacrifice as a chance to make up for it - that today, she chooses to be brave.
    • On the surface, Entrapta seems cheerful and free of angst. However, she secretly feels insecure about the perceived failures of all her friendships. During a moment of despair triggered by the signal on Beast Island, she blames herself, concluding that she isn't meant for friendship.
    • Even Hordak, the Big Bad for four seasons, is eventually shown to be essentially a lonely child striving for the approval of a father figure who will never give it. His prior life as a clone soldier under Horde Prime has seriously damaged his sense of self-worth, and his attempted conquest of Etheria is an effort to prove his worth to Horde Prime. The apparent "betrayal" by Entrapta, the only person he's ever truly cared for, does not help his mental state. He spends a decent whack of season 4 in a deep depression, barely able to function without Entrapta.
  • The Simpsons were, in the early years, considered the epitome of dysfunction on television. George H. W. Bush famously gave an address during which he stated that Americans needed to be 'less like The Simpsons, and more like The Waltons' note . Today, they are one of the more stable examples of a family on TV, which says a lot when you consider that...
    • Homer has been in a downward spiral ever since his mother left to protest evil and his father kept bringing him down when he was little, leaving him a gluttonous, lazy, stupid oaf addicted to TV and beer. The only time he's not doing a half-assed job at home or work, he's going on some crazy, poorly thought-out adventure.
    • Marge is a housewife constantly frustrated by Homer's boorishness, Bart's hell-raising, and her older sisters' belittling. She often goes on crusades to make everything around her as wholesome as possible, and has made several attempts at realizing her talents beyond the home only for them to fall through by way of Status Quo Is God.
    • Bart constantly raises hell to cope with the fact that he knows he'll never achieve well academically due to genetic predisposition and a lack of focus that not even his best effort can counter. Both parents and teachers offer him little to no faith or support, and often drop everything to be there for Lisa.
    • Lisa routinely grapples with depression and social anxiety due to her above-average intellect. Her preachy attitude and inability to accept the less than perfect grades that come from a genuine challenge stem from desperation for as much emotional gratification as possible.
    • Maggie seems to be a clean slate, but the fact that she can effectively handle weapons before she's fully learned to walk or talk casts a lot of suspect about her upbringing.
    • Really, almost everybody in Springfield, from Ned Flanders being a Bible-thumping double widower, Police Chief Wiggum being a lazy, corrupt, incompetent boob, Krusty the Clown being a drug-addled sellout, and many more, is messed up in some way.
  • In South Park, some of the characters had issues involving their families. Cartman's mother is a prostitute and he killed his own biological father. Stan has a father who, despite being a geologist, is a complete idiot who constantly takes up crazy activities and careers for the sake of being happy. Kyle has an overprotective mother and a strict father. Kenny and his family are poor, and his dad is sometimes battered by his mom. It could be worse, because... Butters is raised by Abusive Parents, end of story. And Craig's tendency to flip the bird runs in the family.
  • Basically everyone in Steven Universe is varying degrees of traumatized by the series' dark backstory:
    • While Garnet is the most strong and stable, she admits that she masks her own weaknesses to bear The Chains of Commanding, made worse by the void Rose Quartz has left due to her Death by Childbirth.
    • Amethyst has an inferiority complex regarding the circumstances of her creation.
    • Pearl was in love with Rose and tries to get over it by transferring her suicidally obsessive desire to protect from Rose to her son Steven.
    • Steven has shown issues with never having had a chance to know Rose and with the stress of being at the epicenter of all this and its consequences. It even goes so far that he eventually gets diagnosed with what amounts to post-traumatic stress disorder.
    • Lapis Lazuli is a victim of a spectacular Trauma Conga Line: severely traumatized by her years being used by the protagonists as an inanimate object and subsequent being used not much better by the villains, she made a vaguely suicidal attempt at stopping Jasper by fusing with her and trapping them both at the bottom of the ocean. Their time spent fused is treated like an abusive relationship, where the way they treated each other was extremely toxic and Lapis admits that she took out thousands of years of frustration on Jasper, but she also admits to missing Japser despite how wrong it all was. The incident also caused Lapis to want to "take a break from water" despite her powers revolving around it. As Earth continued to be under more and more threat, she eventually fled to the moon in panic when she heard the Diamonds themselves were getting involved, not wanting to deal with any more terrible things, although she eventually came back.
    • Onion might have abandonment issues from his father being at sea most of the time, but it's hard to tell.
    • Peridot is neurotic and has No Social Skills, and is also, to a point, a de-powered Gem due to having been created during a resource shortage on Homeworld. Before discovering her ferrokinesis, she had a massive inferiority complex compared to other Gems, and most of her character arc is about dealing with the baggage of Fantastic Racism instilled in her on Homeworld.
    • Jasper is arguably even worse. She belonged to Pink Diamond, but now Pink is gone, leaving Jasper to serve a Diamond she wasn't made for and thus doesn't care about. Her personal hangups were damaging enough to lead to her fusing with a corrupted Gem and becoming corrupted herself.
    • Even Rose isn't safe from this. While initially being presented as an ethereal goddess-like leader and the ultimate Big Good, she was then over time said to have killed Pink Diamond and and revealed to have poofed and bubbled Bismuth for wanting to do the same to the other Diamonds. It eventually turned out that she was Pink and faked her own death.
    • Bismuth turned into a Well-Intentioned Extremist willing to go against Crystal Gem ideology to assassinate the Diamond Authority.
  • Teen Titans: Most of it in the manual (and by manual, we mean original comic book and occasionally the Teen Titans Go! comic). Raven's Dark and Troubled Past is the only one which gets any detail, though. Cyborg's, Beast Boy's, and Robin's are only implied through dialogue and visual cues. Starfire seems to be the only one with a normal past until the episode "Go" which retcons it into her tragic comic book origin.
    • Robin has a pretty obvious traumatic past as he was raised by Batman after his biological parents were killed.
    • Beast Boy was infected with a deadly virus in a jungle, then his parents found him a cure that had side effects which turned him green and made him unstable for a very long time, then his entire family was murdered in front of him, all this when he was just a kid. While he did get taken in by the Doom Patrol, the leader Mento cut him no slack for being a kid who wasn't ready to make tough decisions. At least Robin had the chance to live with Bruce Wayne, who was like a parent figure to him. Raven, too, who lived in a peaceful place like Azarath during her childhood. And let's not talk about Cyborg, whose case is worse than Beast Boy's.
    • Cyborg. Victor Stone was the athletically inclined son of a pair of genius scientists, and his relationship with his father was...not great as a result. It got worse when he visited his parents' lab and arrived just in time to see his mother eaten alive by an Eldritch Abomination that was accidentally brought to Earth by his parents' interdimensional portal invention. Then said Abomination got its tentacles on him. After his father managed to teleport the thing away, he rebuilt Victor using cyborg prosthetics he had invented. Victor did not take being turned into a cyborg very well, to put it lightly. Then his long-time girlfriend dumped him because she couldn't handle the changes. He's only able to reconcile with his father after finding out his dad is dying of radiation poisoning because of the monster that destroyed their family — and they can only spend a few days together before the inevitable. And all of this still pales in comparison to what the rest of the series puts him through.
    • Dude, Starfire didn't even know what the word "nice" was until she came to Earth, and the closest word she had on her planet was "weak", she had a Cain and Abel relationship with her sister, and she was sold into slavery by people who experimented on her before attempting to bring her to live out her days as a servant on another planet!
    • Raven is half demon. Her father at his nicest just wants her to join the family business of destroying the universes. Her Dangerous 16th Birthday involved her father trying to destroy the universe, using her to open a magic portal. Oh, and her mother didn't give consent.
  • The entire premise of Total Drama revolves around this - taking some of the most eccentric and over-the-top teenagers around Canada, putting them all together on a reality show, and watching the fur fly. The host even explains in the first episode that the competitors were specifically chosen based how weird or messed-up they seemed in their audition tapes and how entertaining it would be to have them interact with each other and compete in absurdly life-threatening challenges. In brief:
  • In Transformers Animated, nearly every character with a backstory is tragic. Optimus lost his friend Elita-1 (now Blackarachnia) to giant monster spiders and was thrown out of the Elite Guard despite being qualified for the rank of Prime, Ratchet has PTSD from the Great War, and more specifically having to mindwipe Arcee to save her from Lockdown, Blackarachnia was turned into a half-organic freak because of said monster spiders, Bumblebee was taken out of the running for Elite Guard training because of something that wasn't his fault and also wound up getting the innocent Wasp arrested for treachery, Bulkhead was mercilessly teased for his size and clumsiness during boot camp, and Prowl saw his master die before his eyes, with his last words admonishing him for his attempts to save his life.
    • In fact, the fates of Elita-1 and Arcee led the writers to promise that they would make at least one female character without a tragic past during the second season. Unless you count being cloned from Starscream as tragic.
    • Transformers having tragic pasts and psychological issues is a constant no matter WHAT continuity you look at; in fact, many of the minor and toy-only characters, Autobot and Decepticon alike, are defined primarily by their neuroses. It's not like you'd expect a group of aliens who've been fighting for eons on end to stay well-adjusted. Transformers: More than Meets the Eye (in the Comics section) is so popular because of how it delves into this.
      • Autobot triple-changer Broadside takes the cake, though. He easily gets seasick and is afraid of heights, so what does he turn into? An ocean-going carrier and a jet fighter!
      • The Stunticons, the second Decepticon combiner team, are a five-member Dysfunction Junction, being made up of a fatalist, a psychopath, a schizophrenic, a win-at-all-costs egomaniac, and a tyrannical bully as the leader. When they unite into Menasor, the giant's personality is so messed up that he's not a warrior to command, he's a weapon to point at the enemy and get away from as fast as possible.
  • This trope is a defining feature of The Venture Bros., where every major character and most of the minor ones are profoundly damaged.

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