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Break the Cutie

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"Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of."
Kurt Vonnegut, "Eight Rules for Writing Fiction"

A series introduces a character as sweet and lovable, a fountain of Heartwarming Moments, more comic relief than anything, who likes nothing more than to pet little creatures. They make you adore them, root for them, love them and want to hug them.

Then the writers proceed to slowly torment them in front of your very eyes. They destroy everything important to them, kill everyone they love and make them suffer from horrible accidents, diseases and acts of violence, including but not limited to torture, rape or any other Fate Worse than Death. They beat the character with one cruel stroke of fate after another until they are just an Empty Shell of their former cheerful, carefree self.

This technique is often used to build The Woobie in an attempt to enhance "adorability" points. Writers have to be careful or else The Cutie will become the universe's Chew Toy.

Be careful about torturing sweet little things — sometimes instead of breaking, or when there's nothing left to break, they snap. If they snap, you'd better hope your life insurance policy is up to date, especially if the cutie was a badass to begin with. If they break, but refuse to show it, they could be a Stepford Smiler.

Sometimes it can be Corrupt the Cutie, where the character in question breaks it by themself. Frequently a part of a character crossing the Despair Event Horizon or the cause of a Heroic BSoD. Also frequently part of the backstory of the Broken Bird, and instrumental in the Freudian Excuse of a villain who Used to Be a Sweet Kid. Compare Prone to Tears, who may have once undergone this, and Wide-Eyed Idealist. And sometimes this trope can straight-up kill the character in question.

On a more constructive note, sometimes breaking the cutie can result in a cute but weak character Taking a Level in Badass as they confront their tormentors and become more assertive. Circumstances may even lead to a cutie making an emotional recovery and regaining their sweet, hopeful nature. When the cutie refuses to break, they might become an iron or Stoic Woobie, a Determinator, or a Plucky Girl. If they are simply unbreakable to begin with, they are probably a Pollyanna. They may be the subject of Speaking Up for Another.

Contrast Break the Haughty (where bad things happen to an arrogant person who had it coming), Break the Badass (when a super-strong person is put through the wringer), or the even worse variation, Kill the Cutie. Compare Break the Comedian, when the comedic relief gets made miserable. On the other hand, it may be possible to Heal the Cutie.


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • Big Finish Doctor Who: If you think Ten and Eleven had it bad, consider Eight's audio adventures.

    At the start he's the nicest, most cheerful Doctor in a couple of decades. He saves his newest companion, Charley from the doomed airship R101, thus creating a paradox. In a heartwrenching scene Charley begs him to kill her in order to save our Universe from anti-time, which breaks free through Charley. The Doctor instead chooses to materialize the TARDIS around the casket of anti-time, saving Charley and sacrificing himself. He then becomes infected with the entity known as Zagreus, who wants to destroy the Universe or something. He becomes basically mad with split personalities. Then it turns out that TARDIS is infected as well and very pissed at the Doctor. Torture ensues. At last, mirroring earlier scene with Charley, he begs to kill him. Which she complies with much drama. He then fails to regenerate, because for a second, he wanted to die. He eventually survives by accepting Zagreus. He then forced to leave our Universe forever, because otherwise Zagreus will infect our Universe with anti-time, which is bad.. He is thoroughly disillusioned with Time Lords, most of whom turn out to be lunatics on his watch. Thus begin his adventures in the divergent Universe, where there is no time, which is highly uncomfortable for the Doctor and he is decidedly gloomier after his experiences and as a result of merging with Zagreus. Eventually, he is able to return. Then it turns out that Davros completely erased his memories of his two companions prior to Charley as an elaborate revenge plan. Some time after, Charley leaves on quite the bad terms with the Doctor. The Doctor meets Lucie, and just when their relationship starts being warm and friendly, The Doctor is trapped for 600 years on the planet with the jellyfish people, to whom he gets pretty attached. Who are all slaughtered by the end of the episode. The Doctor becomes even more aloof and gloomy and continues traveling with Lucie, but their relationship has suffered and they distrust each other. Just as things seem to have returned to normal, Lucie discovers that the Doctor lied to her by omission about her past. She leaves in a decidedly non-jovial Christmas special. He meets her again during an epic showdown with the Daleks, during which both Lucie and the Doctor's great-grandson die. After that, he's manipulated into taking part in a plan that would have erased the Daleks from existence at the cost of letting another innocent woman die, and after that, he's forced to face a series of twisted plots by the Dalek Time Controller, the Master, and a group of deranged Time Lords who seek to "save" Gallifrey at the cost of destroying every other form of life in the universe. After facing a species who essentially evolved to eat Time Lords, the Doctor has to spend the better part of two years stuck on Earth while trying to prevent a devastating future time line, and after all that, the Time War is waiting in the future...
  • Welcome to Night Vale can sometimes be FULL of this, most notable with Cecil Palmer and his interns.
  • Really this could apply to most characters in The Magnus Archives, so a few examples:
    • Callum Brodie is heavily implied to have had an abusive father, and at only 12 years old was kidnapped by The People's Church of the Divine Host to be used as the vessel for the reincarnation of Maxwell Reiner. It didn't work, but later in the fear-apocalypse he's seen reigning over a domain dedicated to torturing children with visions of dark monsters,
    • Agnes Montague was created solely to be an avatar of the Desolation. Her childhood was lonely, with her unable to be around other children or people not already associated with the Cult of the Lightless Flame for fear of setting them on fire accidentally. At about 11 she was sent to live at a halfway house on Hilltop Road, all the while knowing that the man running the house was sending the children living there to their deaths once they aged out but having no way of stopping it. In 2006, she started casually seeing a man who had no idea about her supernatural origins or abilities. When she finally kisses him, she accidentally burns his face, severely scarring him. Afterwards, she has the cult sacrifice her via hanging. She is one of the few people mentioned in multiple statements that never gives a firsthand account in the podcast, her entire life story being told by other people.
    • Gerry Keay's mother killed his father when he was too young to remember him. For the rest of his childhood, he grew up with a mother who never seemed to care for him beyond what he represented for establishing a supernatural legacy. He tried running away numerous times, but being raised so entrenched in the supernatural left him unable to fit into the normal world and he always came back. In 2008, he walked in on his mother brutally mutilating herself in an attempt to bind herself to and fully control the Catalogue of the Trapped Dead. He panicked and ran away, so when his mother's corpse was discovered by the police he immediately became the primary suspect in her murder. However, she was partially successful in her attempted binding to the book, so she was able to manifest and mess up enough evidence that the case was deemed a mistrial. For the next five years, she haunted and tormented him as revenge for not helping her fully bind herself to the book successfully. He eventually meets Gertrude Robinson, who destroys his mother's page of the book, effectively freeing him from her for the first time in his life, and for a while things are about as good as they can get when one spends most of their time disrupting rituals to prevent fear gods from manifesting in the world. But this doesn't last long, as he suffers a seizure and dies in hospital less than two years later, and he isn't even freed in death. When Gertrude was destroying his mother's page of the book, she also learned how to make new pages and bound Gerry to the book himself. Being bound to the book made just existing painful, and it didn't help that he soon fell into the possession of two monster hunters who use him as their personal dictionary of all things spooky. Eventually, however, he convinces Jon to burn his page of the book and he finally gets to rest.
    • Timothy Stoker was a cheerful, goofy, flirty guy who was forced to watch as an avatar of the Stranger wore his dead brother's skin and peeled it off of itself. This drove him to quit his successful job at a publishing house and join the Magnus Institute so that he could learn about whatever strange being killed his brother. While working at the institute, he's attacked by flesh-eating worms during the Jane Prentiss attack, spends an entire year having no idea that yet another creature of the Stranger has killed and replaced his best friend/work crush, and falls into a deep depression once he finally finds out. He goes out in a blaze of glory though, blowing up a building with him still inside it to prevent the full manifestation of the power that killed the two people he cared about.
    • Martin K. Blackwood, with his high-pitched voice and awkward demeanor, is probably the closes the Magnus Archives main cast has to a "cutie," and boy does he break. His mother got sick when he was very young, causing his father to leave the two of them. He spent his whole childhood caring for his mother, who always treated him like a pest. He was actually forced to drop out of high school so that he could care for her, and thus was never able to get the qualifications needed for a job that paid enough to take care of her sufficiently, so he had to lie on his CV to get a job at the Magnus Institute. Eventually, she was the one who decided that she'd rather just live in a care home than be taken care of by her son. He was never all that good at his job, which lead to his supervisor (and crush) being much harder on him than his other employees. While working on a case for work, he became trapped in his apartment by Jane Prentiss and her legion of worms for two weeks with no way to contact anyone for help and only canned peaches for food. During Prentiss's attack on the Institute, he becomes separated from the others and is the one to discover the body of Gertrude Robinson. Some time later, his boss uses his connection with the Eye to insert the knowledge of just how much his mother hates him for looking like his father as a punishment for burning statements. About two months after the Unknowing, with Jon in a coma and his mother now dead, Martin agrees to work with Peter Lukas and isolates himself for months while learning about the Extinction. At the time, he knows that Peter is just using him and purposefully isolating him, but he figures it's a good way to get killed and he has nothing else to live for anyways. Eventually he refuses to keep going along with Peter's plans and gets sent into the Lonely as punishment, where his emotions are dulled and he becomes essentially a living ghost with no connection to anything or want to keep going. But Jon is able to pull him from it, and they leave together. Martin gets a few weeks of happiness (he's no longer stuck to the Lonely, his crush likes him back, there's good cows, things are going pretty well), but then Jon's tricked into bringing forth all the fears into the world, leaving the two of them as apparently the only people left not stuck in a personalized hell. They head out into the hellscape to try and find a way to fix everything, but eventually Martin is forced to stab his love as the Panopticon falls. Their bodies are never recovered from the rubble, and nobody knows what became of them afterwards.
    • Jonathan Sims, the Archivist himself. His parents died when he was very young, leaving him to be raised by a grandmother who wasn't cruel but clearly didn't feel like raising another child in her retirement. When he was 8, he accidentally came across one of Leitner's books, which lead to him watching his childhood bully be eaten by a giant spider. While working as Archivist, he puts on an air of haughtiness and pretends not to believe any of the supernatural statements he receives in order to distance himself from the fear, but eventually concedes during the Prentiss attack, which he survives with quite a few scars from the worms (both physical and mental) to prove it. The whole next season he's a wreck, convinced that one of his coworkers killed his predecessor. His paranoia grows so extreme that he starts stalking his coworkers and realizes that one of them was killed and replaced by a doppelgänger during the attack. He destroys a table that he thinks will kill the monster, but only succeeds in freeing it from its prison. He's saved by Leitner, who tells him about the fear entities and is brutally pipe murdered as soon as he leaves the room. Obviously, this leaves him as a prime suspect in the murder, so he hides out at his ex Georgie's house for a time to avoid the police. While staying at her apartment, he's kidnapped and nearly murdered by Daisy Tonner before Basira Hussein is able to stop her. He's kidnapped again, this time by Nikola Orsinov, who threatens to skin him for the Unknowing if he's unable to retrieve an ancient gorilla skin for her. He's rescued again, and then, shockingly, kidnapped for a third time, where he meets the ghost(?) of Gerry Keay, who explains the entities to him in greater detail. Later, he discovers that he's developed a physical dependency on taking statements, and will get sick if he goes too long without them. He's able to stop the Unknowing, but the resulting explosion puts him into a coma. During the coma, he dies and comes back, now fully an avatar of the Eye. When he comes back to the institute, he finds it changed. Basira and Melanie King have moved in, as they're in too much danger of being attacked by the fears. Peter Lukas now runs it after Elias was arrested for Gertrude and Leitners' murders, and Martin is now working for Mr. Lukas just as Jon is starting to realize his feelings for him. He goes to Jared Hopworth to remove one of his ribs as an anchor so he can enter the Buried and save Daisy, but it ends up not working and he becomes trapped in there with her. He's only able to leave when Martin piles tape recorders on top of the coffin he entered from, and rescues Daisy. It's revealed that Jon has been taking statements from random people off of the street, traumatizing them in order to feed his dependency, and his coworkers start to see him as a monster. He stops for a time, but is left weakened by the withdrawal. When Martin is sent into the Lonely, Jon follows after him, killing Peter Lukas and saving Martin. Cue the three weeks of domestic bliss, the apocalypse, and convincing Martin to stab him in the heart and release the fears from their reality. His fate is left unknown.

    Animated Films 
  • 5 from 9 is a very sweet and trusting character, but that doesn't stop him from getting abused. First, he loses his eye. Then, his best friend is killed right in front of him. And then, right when it seems like everything is going to be all right, he dies.
  • Fievel from An American Tail, who suffers disappointment after disappointment as he searches for his family in New York, to the point where he completely gives up trying to search for his family and decides to become a Street Urchin. Cue Gray Rain of Depression as he curls up and cries himself to sleep.
    "This is my home now..."
  • Remember all those baby birds from The Angry Birds Movie? Well, this trope happens to some of them in the sequel. You see, one of them, Zoe, wants to have fun with her friends re-enacting the war between the Birds and Pigs, and tried to make the whole thing more authentic by bringing her yet-to-be-hatched sisters into the scenario as the eggs to rescue. Unfortunately, they happen to be playing right on the edge of the beach near her house, and the tides sweep her sisters away into dangers unknown. These Hatchlings would then have to embark on a dangerous journey they were never prepared for to save them — and this especially gets hard on Zoe when she comes so close to saving them, only to have them end up eluding her grasp once again, out of her reach. You can clearly understand that she has a lot to cry about it.
    "I want my unborn sisters back!"
  • You have to feel sorry for Lucas in The Ant Bully. He's bullied, he has no friends, his parents don't know how to relate to him, his sister shows absolutely no interest in him and he has no other enjoyment but to torture animals all day. And that's before he gets shrunk and kidnapped in the middle of the night by giant ants that push him down various incredibly (comparatively) great heights and then threaten to eat him alive when he is completely helpless. All while he's completely naked. No wonder his eyes start leaking.
  • The eponymous character of Bambi after losing his mother.
  • The Joker did this in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker where during Bruce's time he kidnaps Tim Drake and tortures/Mind Rapes him into giving up Batman's secrets (including Secret Identity) as well as making him into a miniature version of the Joker known as J.J. (Joker Jr.) to fit into a sick excuse of a family unit with Harley Quinn and him. This is shown as enough to convince Batman to try and kill Joker (which would mean that the Joker finally broke Batman, too), which he fails to do... but is saved by the still-broken Tim killing the Joker after Joker tries to get him to kill the subdued Batman. This only further adds to his trauma. Although he does get better, Tim is forever traumatized and never again becomes Robin in the DC Animated Universe.
  • Big Hero 6: Hiro completely snaps when he learns that Callaghan, the man his beloved brother Tadashi died trying to save, not only set the fire that killed Tadashi but also (at least superficially) feels no remorse for his actions or Tadashi's death. The resulting Heroic BSoD provides a rather rare example of a Disney hero trying his hardest to murder the villain, not in self-defense but in a fit of pure rage.
  • The Book of Life:
    • Manolo is mocked by townsfolk for not killing bulls. Looked down on and basically disowned by his own father at one point. Thinks he sees the love of his life die before his eyes. The guy gets put through the wringer.
    • Maria breaks into sobs when she learns Manolo has died.
  • In Brother Bear, when it's revealed that to him that Kenai killed his mother, the usually upbeat Koda runs away in tears.
  • Happens to Mater in Cars 2 after he discovers that everyone else views him as a clueless ditz, good only at distracting others while real heroes get things done.
  • Danny from Cats Don't Dance: He arrives to Hollywood with big dreams and is met with nothing but scorn and cynicism from every other character. He doesn't break, he instead rallies the other animal actors until he rekindles their own dreams.
  • The eponymous Chicken Little has been ridiculed all because the sky was "falling". Hell, they even made a movie about the incident. It gets worse when he warns the town again about the aliens (who are looking for their only son), only to be ridiculed once again. You can’t help but want to hug and snuggle the poor little guy.
  • Coco: Miguel has been put through the wringer several times, but the scene where he discovers that his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, is a fraud really stands out.
  • In Takashi Yanase's book and anime Ringing Bell, a lamb named Chirin starts out as cute, friendly, and happy-go-lucky until his mother is eaten alive by a wolf. So he seeks revenge, but realizes that he's too small and weak to do any damage. Thus he convinces the wolf to make Chirin his apprentice and he goes through Training from Hell until he becomes a deformed ruthless killing machine. In layman's terms: a ram version of Darth Vader.
  • Despicable Me: When the girls have fulfilled their dreams of being adopted, they start to enjoy their exciting new home - until Dr. Nefario, worried that they're too much of a distraction for Gru, has them returned to the orphanage. Agnes begs Gru not to let Ms. Hattie take them back, while Margo just quietly thanks him for everything, and Edith gets really pissed with her arms folded. And even then, the three of them still hope that he'll make it to the recital...
  • Dumbo revolves around this. Throughout the film, the title character is ostracized for his big ears just shortly after birth, has his mom locked up after defending him from a group of monstrous brats, inadvertently causes the circus tent to collapse in his first major act which he gets blamed of, is made a clown as a result, undergoes further humiliation from the other clowns, and gets accidentally drunk. The crows ostracizing him and Timothy proves to be the final straw for both; after Timothy snaps, the crows turn supportive and help Dumbo earn his happy ending.
  • The Fox and the Hound: Tod and Copper evolve into a Woobie and a Hero Antagonist through the course of the film. They start out as best childhood friends, and one of them is supposed to kill the other. Tod especially gets it bad; he is abandoned by the only family he knows to live in the forest where he meets some angry critters. He falls in love with a girl fox and makes a fool out of himself in front of her. His best friend blames him and wants to kill him for something that wasn't his fault. The way he got his friend to forgive him? Saving him from a giant bear and barely survive plummeting down the falls with it. Copper then stands in front of Tod to defend him from his master's gun and convinces Amos Slade to finally leave Tod alone. Then Tod and Copper simply give each other a small smile to let each other know they're not enemies anymore and they go their separate ways. And it's implied that they likely will never see each other again, but part on good terms and remain friends in their hearts.
  • The Frozen franchise:
    • Anna and her sister Elsa in Frozen (2013) go through this for most of the film: At a young age, Elsa inadvertently almost kills Anna, and while her parents understand it's an accident, they worry that other people won't and might attack her, so they try to protect her by hiding her away and teach her to hide her powers. She ends up becoming a recluse who's afraid to show any emotion at all. She won't even let her parents give her a hug anymore, for fear of hurting them. Meanwhile, Anna is left to wonder why her sister and best friend in the world doesn't want anything to do with her anymore. Then their parents die, leaving them utterly alone. Later, Elsa's secret is revealed and she flees the only home she's ever known. Then she's informed she's set off an Endless Winter harming the kingdom, and is being hunted down. In her panic, she accidentally freezes Anna's heart, and Anna doesn't even know it's an accident. Anna's one hope to save her turns out to be a heartless manipulator who's only after the throne and leaves her to slowly freeze to death from the inside out. Elsa survives an assassination attempt, only to be imprisoned instead. She breaks down when she thinks her sister died because of her, only to be saved by Anna's Heroic Sacrifice, which involves freezing to death.
    • In Frozen II, first it happens to Elsa, and then Anna:
      • Elsa breaks into tears when blaming herself for the death of her parents.
      • Anna is deeply heartbroken when she finds out that Elsa died, and then when Olaf dies as well.
  • Hercules: Megara. She pledged service to Hades to save an old boyfriend's life - only to have said boyfriend run after another girl shortly afterwards. Plus, she's implied to have had some run-ins with boys who don't understand the word "no". OUCH.
  • Joy and Sadness get this treatment in Inside Out. Joy and Sadness are both dedicated to doing their jobs, but Joy's ignorance and Sadness' self-doubt see them forcibly ejected from Headquarters and completely helpless as they watch Riley's self-identity and mental health crumble away piece by piece. The absolute lowest point for both of them is when Joy is stranded in the Memory Dump, in danger of being forgotten and having failed at her job of making Riley happy, and Sadness, while not in the dump, watches Joy fall to her doom after being told by Joy in no uncertain terms that she's a danger to Riley's well-being, and after being treated as a liability for most of the movie. Both Joy and Sadness suffer a massive Heroic BSoD that sees them both, temporarily, completely losing hope. This all contributes to Riley's Break the Cutie treatment as well, since she has neither Joy to make the best of her new situation, nor Sadness to properly address the pain she's experiencing, ultimately leading to her sinking into depression and trying to run away back to Minnesota.
  • When Littlefoot in The Land Before Time suffers the death of his mother partially by his own doing. This continually happens when he suffers nothing but disappointment after disappointment.
  • Unikitty mourning the destruction of Cloud Cuckooland is by far one of the longest and most serious moments of actual, genuine drama in The LEGO Movie. Like, a whole fifteen seconds!
  • Simba of The Lion King (1994) loses his beloved father Mufasa in a horrifically tragic "accident," which is followed by a heartbreaking Please Wake Up scene when he finds Mufasa's body. Then Scar convinces him that Mufasa's death was his fault and sends him running away from his home and everyone he's known. Not until years later, and a visit from his father's spirit, does he finally stop running from his grief and guilt.
  • Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted: In the third act, Stefano suffers a major breakdown after realizing Marty and the others aren't actually circus animals, and can barely stand to go on without his cannonball partner. He recovers when Vitaly and Gia decide to rescue the four from the zoo.
  • The title character of Midori, a fantastically gory and disturbing 1992 short movie, faithfully based on Suehiro Maruo's manga Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show. The film was made almost entirely by one Hiroshi Harada over the course of five years, is the ultimate example of this — her parents die, she is taken in by a freak show where she is routinely beaten and raped by the workers, and — well, if not worse, it certainly gets more bizarre from there.
  • Migration: Gwen temporarily goes through this after Mack, Pam, Uncle Dan, Delroy and the other ducks are kidnapped by The Chef, fearing that they’ll all be cooked including herself and Dax, to the point of becoming a sobbing mess.
  • Susan Murphy of Monsters vs. Aliens. Hit by a meteor on her wedding day, she begins glowing green and turns into a monster, sending everyone she knows fleeing in terror. She's captured by the military and locked away permanently. She's with real monsters who don't understand her. When she finally gets a chance to get out (by facing something out of her nightmares), her fiance rejects her and she's abandoned. Then she's kidnapped by an alien who wants the phlebotinum that turned her into Ginormica so he can destroy the world. She finally grows a backbone and takes a level in badass.
  • (Human) Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games. Already struggling with a Friendless Background and a lack of respect from her peers at Crystal Prep, she finds herself pressured into joining the titular games by her principal against her wishes. Upon arriving at Canterlot High, she's baffled when the entire student body mistakes her for her Equestrian counterpart, leading to further negative sentiment when most of them think she's a traitor. She also sees the support Canterlot students get from each other while her own classmates make quite clear they're only using her for her smarts. Furthermore, her studies into magical activity led her to develop a special magic-detecting amulet, which starts acting of its own accord and sucking the magic out of several Canterlot students. She's frightened when she realizes what's happening, but Sunset Shimmer thinks she's doing it intentionally and verbally excoriates her, causing her to become despondent. Principal Cinch seizes on Twilight's mental state to encourage her to unleash the amulet's full magical potential, and when she does she's forcibly and painfully transformed into a reality-threatening magical abomination. Sunset saves her through quick thinking and both the Canterlot and Crystal Prep students make amends with her. But even when Twilight transfers to Canterlot and befriends Sunset and the rest of her group, the events of Friendship Games continue to haunt her into the next film, where she's tormented by nightmares of her transformed self and blames herself for anything that goes wrong, resisting Sunset's efforts to get her to accept herself.
  • Michelle, the badger in Once Upon a Forest. When the toxic gas spreads trough the woods, Michelle ends up passing out while her mom and dad end up at Death's doors. When she comes to, she first feels overjoyed that many of the families are getting back together. But after finding out her parents are dead, her moment ends up getting squashed. While we don't exactly see Michelle sobbing over it (because that would be too much of a Tear Jerker even for this movie), the implications of how Michelle will need to cope with that after the movie ends is tragic enough.
  • The Plague Dogs is basically one long story of the two protagonists, dogs Rowf and Snitter, being slowly broken by the world. Both dogs are kept in a research facility, where inhumane experimentation leaves them permanently scarred (quite literally in Snitter's case). Snitter's case is more obvious, as he comes from a happy home, only being sold to the facility after his owner dies, while Rowf is implied to have been either born in the facility, or a stray dog that got caught by them, as he is shown to not know any "good" people. At least in the book they get saved at the last moment by Snitter's owner, who is discovered to be Not Quite Dead, and the book ends with Rowf saying that maybe not all men are bad, but the movie ends in the way the book was originally supposed to with the dogs running away into the sea, hoping to reach an island where they'll finally find peace. The final moments show the up until then optimistic Snitter saying he can't swim anymore, and Rowf claiming to finally spot the island. It is strongly implied Rowf lies in order for Snitter not to give up.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie: The Girls send themselves on a self-imposed exile after becoming pariahs in the eyes of Townsville and even the Professor. As they commiserate on a lone asteroid, Bubbles is left bawling, Buttercup channels her sadness into rage, and Blossom stares up at the earth with tear-filled eyes, buries her head in her hands and cries to herself.
  • Sleeping Beauty: Briar Rose grows up in the woods with virtually no human contact because her "aunts" are terrified that Maleficent would find her. She doesn't seem to mind, as she has woodland friends for company and her dreams as Escapism. The day she finally meets another human being, it's Love at First Sight. They eagerly make arrangements to meet again and she rushes off to tell her aunts. When she returns home, she's given a series of life-shattering revelations: that her name isn't really Briar Rose, but Aurora; she's actually the king's daughter; her "aunts" are actually fairies; they plan on returning her that night; she's been in an Arranged Marriage since birth; and she will never see her girlhood home again. Aurora doesn't say another word for the rest of the film, only sobbing when the fairies lead her to the palace and conjure a tiara. From there, Maleficent almost doesn't even need to mind-control her, as the girl is so confused and miserable, she'll take any way out she can get.
  • This apparently has happened to Peni Parker in Spiderman Across The Spiderverse. When we see her in Spiderman Into The Spiderverse, she's a peppy Genki Girl, full of smiles and an energetic attitude. But by the time it's time for Miles' You Can't Fight Fate talk, an aged up Peni just addresses him by name and gives him a cold and saddened stare, apparently having gone through her fair share of canon events herself...
  • Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron has the titular horse gets taken from his family and abused by white American colonizers with the intent of breaking him for riding. He rebels against them and escapes with a Lakota boy named Little Creek, but they recapture him with the intent of building a railroad that would threaten his home. This is the point where he nearly breaks and loses hope in seeing his family ever again, but with the help of Little Creek, he sabotages the project and makes it back home. In fact, defying this trope is the core theme of this movie, made explicit at the end with Little Creek calling him Spirit, Who Could Not Be Broken.
  • The normally cheerful and adorable little she-squirrel in The Sword in the Stone is tragically left heartbroken and in tears when Arthur is turned back from a squirrel into his human form.
  • Big Baby from Toy Story 3. He gets taken away from his previous owner by Lotso, who convinced him she never loved him in the first place. He was also manipulated into doing his dirty work, and when Woody shows Big Baby the Daisy locket to remember his owner, Lotso cruelly taunts the toddler and smashes the locket in front of him, unsurprisingly sending Big Baby to tears. Not to mention that Lotso even hits him hard in the stomach with his cane during his Straw Nihilist rant. This thankfully causes Big Baby to get his payback to Lotso by throwing him into the dumpster.
  • In Turning Red, Mei starts the movie as a cute, smart, confident girl who honestly believes she's in full control of herself and her life. Then in short order she gets horribly and publicly embarrassed by her mother twice, discovers the red panda transformation (which she finds horrifying), finds she has no control at all over the red panda transformation, has to run home across town in broad daylight in her monstrous panda form, and discovers her parents knew about the red panda and didn't warn her. Finally, she finds herself facing solitary confinement for a month, living in an empty bedroom, cut off from friends, school, and everything she enjoys in her life. She doesn't regain her confidence until after her friends promise they will never abandon her and she learns how to properly control her panda form.
  • WALL•E. Let's see, the main character gets rejected by his love, multiple times, and ends up risking his life to help her; said girl is called dysfunctional, is classified a rogue robot, and watches the robot she finally loves get squashed; and that's not counting the myriad of possibilities in the repair ward. He's still a pretty cheery guy.
  • James and Hilda Bloggs of When the Wind Blows are a nice retired British couple who could be your grandparents. They really don't understand the implications of surviving World War III, so we're going to see them die of radiation poisoning, still believing that the Government will collect them.
  • The Winnie the Pooh series of all things does this to not just one but two characters in The Tigger Movie. First Tigger starts to become lonely over the lamentation he's "the only one" and begins searching for a family, to no avail. The others attempt to cheer Tigger up by disguising as a family of Tiggers, but when Tigger finds out he was tricked he storms out of the Hundred Acre Wood to search alone in heartbreak. For most of the film's climax, poor Roo is in inconsolable tears from his idol having told him he never wants to see them again.
  • Wreck-It Ralph
    • Vanellope Von Schweetz gets this treatment quite a lot. She is persecuted by the other racers of Sugar Rush, her game world, and not allowed to race as she is glitchy and clumsy and players may think the game is broken if she glitches when being played, which may cause the arcade to "unplug" the system (which would mean something of an apocalypse to the game's inhabitants). As an outcast, Vanellope lives alone in a secret, unfinished level; a volcano full of soda and dangerous pop candy. She also has no memory of her past, only that she knows 'racing is in her code', despite never setting foot on a race track. Meeting Ralph helps her cope with this, as they are very much alike in that they exist but don't get enough love from their peers.
    • Both Vanellope and arguably Ralph himself go through a straighter breaking later, after King Candy convinces Ralph to wreck Vanellope's kart for the good of both herself and the game as a whole - all part of the main villain's plan, as he had messed with the programming with only his own interests in mind. Ralph was only able to un-break Vanellope after he realized that something was amiss in the first place, due to her picture being on the side of her game console.

  • Cavalier of the Abyss: Learning how her mother died drove Iffrita insane with hatred for the Demon Clan, especially Serin.
  • Jack Frost: Why exactly is Noh-A dead in the first place? She committed suicide in life after realizing she was a Doom Magnet and being unable to stand the loneliness and the rumors.
  • The Legend of Maian:
    • Felix got hit very hard by Felicia's sacrifice. And it's implied that something bad happened to the Regis Knights during the Time Skip.
    • Ruby gets this treatment also as her formerly kind, loving master turns into a Jerkass who abuses her.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism: The Book of Job of The Bible is one long tale of horrible misfortunes that beset a decent, pious man because God and the devil made a bet on whether he could be broken. He did break, but not quite as far as the Devil wanted him to. Satan's goal was for him to give up on life, curse God and just sorta stop living, as a subtextual request for a mercy-killing (or as his wife puts it, "Why don't you just curse God and die?"); he settles for cursing his own existence.
  • Echo in the Greek Myths was initially a funny, witty, spirited nymph known for her entertaining and humorous stories, and her talent for music. When one of the said stories distracts Hera from avenging a different nymph having an affair with Zeus, Hera takes away Echo's voice. Subsequently, she falls in Unrequited Love with Narcissus, and spends the rest of her life pining away for him. In some versions, she is the victim of an Attempted Rape and successful Murder by the repulsive woodland god Pan.

  • "Janie's Got a Gun" by Aerosmith - Janie is sexually abused by her father multiple times. She's told people, but nobody has listened or helped her (the music video takes this farther, by showing that her mother is well aware of what her husband is doing, but is choosing not to act). She finally just snaps and puts a bullet in his head, later showing no remorse or guilt.
  • "Alison Hell" by Annihilator tells about a girl who hallucinates monsters. She tries to tell people about it, but no one believes her. Her fear eventually developes in Schizophrenia and she becomes a hollow shell of her former self.
  • "Another Rainy Day" by The Crystalline Effect: How much hurt can she tolerate?/How many times can she hit the floor?/How many times can she lie to herself/and keep coming back for more?/She remembers an innocence/of a purer time/she remembers how it was before she learnt to cry
  • "Happiest Girl" by Depeche Mode (from the World in My Eyes EP): And I would have to pinch her / Just to see that she was real / Just to watch the smile fade away / See the pain she'd feel
  • "Façade" by Disturbed is basically about a girl hiding abuse and slowly coming to the point where killing her abuser is sounding like a pretty good idea. Further, "Inside the Fire" is about a boyfriend (the singer and songwriter, incidentally) coming home to find his girlfriend had committed suicide, and being told by Satan that she's in hell for doing so. If he ever wants to see her again, he'll have to join her in hell... and the easiest way would be to commit suicide.
  • "Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner" by The Dresden Dolls, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: An idealistic teenage girl who just wants to be a musician is seduced, drugged, and raped by her piano teacher. And since he roofied her she isn't even sure it was him who raped her, and she ends up having to be his page turner for YEARS.
  • The video for "Ne Nado" by Kis-Kis. And how! The protagonist (played by the band's drummer, Alina Olesheva) starts out smiling and innocently talking to a man she met at a party. Then when she starts to leave, he and his friends force her to stay, brutally beat her, and gang rape her before leaving her for dead.
  • "Good Old Girl" by Marian Call (from Got to Fly): She's lived too long and seen too much / All over scabs and scars and such / But she's a pretty girl / Kinda pretty girl / If you cock your head and squint / If you recognise the prints of space and time...
  • "The Lunacy Of Duke Venomania" by mothy featuring Kamui Gakupo. Duke Venomania was teased in his childhood, especially by Gumina Glassred. With the help of Irina Clockworker, he obtained the Venom Sword and made himself irresistible to women. He then set himself to build a harem in his own basement composed of women who were lured outside of their homes.
  • Reboot Me Has Ele.OS. The titular song has her being abandoned by her owner because said owner was careless and downloaded a Computer Virus onto her. The song itself is pretty tearjerking, and Please Subscribenote  shows that she's still pretty affected by it.
Ele.OS: Maybe you're not what I want
Maybe that person's absence is what haunts
me to this very day
I should move on and saaAaaAAaAy''
  • "And She Sang" by The Puppini Sisters tells of an innocent young woman who believed in fairy tales and the new man in her life. He basically had some fun with her, and then he left without a trace. That's when the music suddenly changes from witty and magical to a loud instrumental breakdown. Then as the music calms down again, it feels a little sadder, signifying that the woman was merely a shadow of her former self.
  • "Breaking the Girl" by Red Hot Chili Peppers (from Blood Sugar Sex Magik): Twisting and turning / Her feelings are burning / You're breaking the girl...
  • "Pretty When You Cry" by VAST: pretty much the whole song.
  • "I Was A Flower", by ABBA's Agnetha Fältskog: I was a flower / Now look at what you've done / You've made my colours fade / Too close to the sun / Once I was innocent, beautiful, life had just begun / I was a flower / Now look what you have done...
  • Mordred from The Mechanisms' High Noon Over Camelot starts the album as an optimistic young man, the only person in town willing to push for peace with the Saxon Gauls. He was raised by a Saxon woman after his traveling party was killed, and when he returned home to Camelot his own father didn't recognize him. When he finally managed to set up a peace meeting between the townspeople and the Gauls, a too-eager shot from Gawain forced him to fight and kill the people that raised him, seeing the face of the woman who saved his life in every one. By the end, he was so broken that he decided that driving all of Fort Galfridean into the sun was a better option than letting his rotten world live.

  • Opera in general is well known for this trope, as there are so many female characters who really get broken throughout.
  • Aïda from Verdi's Aida definitely counts. An Ethiopian princess-turned-slave for Egyptian Princess Amneris, she is torn between her love for Egyptian warrior Radamès and her loyalty to Ethiopia and her father Amonasro, and tries to help him escape from Egypt along with Radamès. This being opera, the plan fails, Amonasro is killed, and Radamès is charged with treason and sentenced to be buried alive, so Aïda sneaks into the tomb to die with Radamès.
  • Lakmé from Delibes' Lakmé. A sweet Hindu priestess who falls in love with British officer Gérald, Lakmé wants to make their love everlasting by having him drink magical water from a spring with her. However, when Gérald is reminded of his duties, he becomes indifferent to Lakmé, who becomes so devastated that she consumes a poisonous leaf to commit suicide. This makes Gérald change his mind and drink the water, of course, just before Lakmé dies.
  • Poor, poor Lucia di Lammermoor. After her lover Edgardo leaves for France, Lucia is forced to marry Arturo after her brother Enrico forges a letter claiming that Edgardo has taken a new lover. To make matters worse, Edgardo shows up at the wedding and curses Lucia before trampling the ring that she gave him. All of this culminates in Lucia going mad and stabbing her new husband to death on their wedding night before interrupting the celebrations by wandering around in a blood-splattered wedding gown and singing her famous aria in which she believes that she's living a happy life with Edgardo. And after all of that, she dies from madness. The universe really has it in for her.
    • Donizetti loved doing this to the heroines of his tragic operas. Other examples include:
      • Anna Bolena (Anne Boleyn) from Anna Bolena. Based on Anne Boleyn, the wife of King Henry VIII, Anna is neglected by her husband and rumours of him being interested in another woman are flying around the court. Even worse, the new lover is Anna's chief lady-in-waiting, Giovanna Seymour (Jane Seymour). Anna is eventually accused of infidelity and convicted of such, and she temporarily goes mad just before her execution.
      • Maria Stuarda (Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots) from Maria Stuarda. Even before the opera starts, Maria has been forced to abdicate the throne and flee from Scotland after a rebellion, and tries to seek asylum in England from her cousin Elisabetta (Elizabeth) but ends up imprisoned. When the opera starts, Maria is still imprisoned but is trying to petition her release, unintentionally having Roberto of Leicester falling in love with her, much to Elisabetta's anger. Sadly, Elisabetta refuses to let Maria go free and signs her death warrant, and the opera ends with Maria dying.
  • Poor Gilda from Verdi's Rigoletto. The daughter of court jester Rigoletto, Gilda falls in love with the sleazy Duke of Mantua, and sacrifices her life to save him from assassins hired by her father. He really doesn't deserve her.
  • Dvorak's Rusalka has the titular water nymph suffering so much for love. She gives up her voice and immortality to fall in love with the Prince, but the Prince grows bored with her because she doesn't speak and instead goes after the manipulative Foreign Princess. He even kisses her in front of Rusalka! Even worse, when Rusalka cannot bring herself to stab the Prince in order to turn back into a water spirit, she cannot return to the lake and is condemned by her sisters, so she ends up as a demon of death trapped at the bottom of the lake.
  • Tosca: Floria Tosca is a sweet, religious girl, though a bit prone to jealousy. Corrupt police boss Scarpia uses this jealousy to not only get her to accidentally betray the artist Mario Cavaradossi, who she loves, to him, but then forces her to both tell him where Mario might be hiding Angelotti to stop him from being tortured, then agree to be raped to keep him from being executed in Scarpia's namesake ultimatum. Poor Tosca has a complete breakdown at that point, asking God why he would do this to her, who lived only for art and love, and tried only to serve him. She manages to palm a dagger and kill Scarpia when he returns to rape her — but, when she goes to meet up with Mario, the false execution that Scarpia arranged... turns out to be not so fake after all. As she breaks completely, and the troops can be heard coming to arrest her for the murder of Scarpia, she takes the only action left to her, and throws herself over the parapet.
    • Puccini certainly put his cuties through the wringer. Poor Sister Angelica, forced to live out her days in a convent for the crime of having a child out of wedlock seven years prior: one day her rich aunt comes and tells her, "Your younger sister is about to get married to THE MAN YOU SLEPT WITH, you brazen slut, and you have to sign over your inheritance to her, since you won't be needing it. Oh, and your son died a couple of years ago. Bye," after which Angelica, devastated, brews up a poison out of the plants in the garden she tends, drinks it, and then realizes that she's committed a mortal sin and therefore has condemned herself to hell.
    • Madame Butterfly: Poor Cio-Cio-San. She marries an American lieutenant, only for him to abandon her for three years on the cusp of poverty, during which she fervently believes that he will return to her. When he does come back to Japan, it's with his new American wife in order to take her son Sorrow back to America. Realizing this, the heartbroken Cio-Cio-San commits suicide in order to restore whatever honour she has left.
    • Poor Liù from Turandot; a slave girl who cares for Prince Calaf's blind and ageing father, she gets tortured on the account that she knows Calaf's name, yet she refuses to tell Princess Turandot. Instead, she sings "Tu che di gel sei cinta" while being tortured, telling that love is her resolve before committing suicide with a guard's dagger.
  • As that distinguished opera critic, Bugs Bunny said in What's Opera, Doc?, "What did you expect from an opera? A happy ending?"

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE seem to be doing this to A.J. Lee as well. She got eliminated from NXT despite being one of the favourites to win, showed up on SmackDown! only to be betrayed by her friend and mentor Natalya for being a "perky little princess", was mocked for being in a romance with Hornswoggle, got attacked by Maxine who messed with her head and now it seems like her best friend Kaitlyn is turning on her as well for all the matches she's lost.
    • Moreover, she's been recently injured after Big Show (who was facing her boyfriend Daniel Bryan) ran into her in a No-Disqualifications Match for the World Heavyweight Title.note 
    • And finally, this Cutie finally broke after Daniel Bryan mentally abused her. When he got kicked in the face and lost his World Title, he summarily broke up with her, which made her snap.
  • Kaitlyn. AJ Lee, her former friend, had just humiliated her with sending false secret admirer's messages and gifts, plays mind games with her, and beat her at Payback of 2013. And the way Kaitlyn was sobbing about the humiliation and attacks the new Divas' can't help but feel sorry for the poor girl.
  • Kelly Kelly was probably the poster girl for this trope. Let's see, Mike Knox abused her, her friends mocked her for dating Balls Mahoney, a member of her dance group turned on her, Kane was after her blood, Vickie Guerrero fired her for helping Edge retain his title, Beth Phoenix turned on her for no good reason, and then Beth and Natalya seem very fond of locking her in a painful-looking submission hold and holding up the house microphone to her face so the arena can hear her scream.
    • Crosses into real life when you remember her then-boyfriend Test died in 2009
  • On one episode of Raw, Lita was overjoyed to reunite with Matt Hardy and Matt said there was a special question he wanted to ask her, hinting strongly that he was going to propose. The same night the two of them were booked in a tag match that said Lita would lose her job if she lost. Matt turned on her and cost her the match, then dumped her on the spot for choosing the Women's title over him. Fired and dumped in the space of two minutes, and good God the poor girl was a convincing crier.
    • Outside the ring. she got a huge amount of abuse from fans after the Edge situation. Matt apparently encouraged the fans to chant obscenities at her, not helped by WWE turning it into a storyline. According to Lita. she couldn't even leave her house without someone screaming "you screwed Matt" at her. thus forcing her to retire from WWE.
  • Nearly literally, with the incredibly sexy Maria Kanellis. She had forcibly been placed in a match against Umaga – all for spilling coffee on Eric Bischoff's coat, and she was told to take the match or lose her job – and endured a brutal beatingnote . Just before Umaga made good on his mission to make Maria the hottest woman ever to lie in state at her hometown's funeral home, John Cena ran in to save the day. There were many other instances, however, where Maria was placed in extreme danger, only for a face wrestler – usually, Cena – to run in and save her in the nick of time.
    • And a year before that, Maria was just asking him a question and Eric put her in a match with Kurt Angle, who proceeded to beat her around with the Angle Slam. Poor girl didn't catch a break.
  • Miss Elizabeth, the valet (and one-time real-life wife) of Randy "Macho Man" Savage, was the poster girl for being placed in extreme danger – or at the very least, having her name splattered in mud – many times throughout her run (1985-1992). The short list:
    • Savage himself often grabbed Elizabeth's head and arm during his first heel run, usually when she didn't handle his robe properly or was perceived to be looking at another guy too long. He also tried using her as a shield to ward off attacks (usually by Hulk Hogan).
    • Honky Tonk Man shoved her to the mat during a match against Savage, after he attempted to break a guitar over his head. Later, he cornered her in several matches and made suggestive gestures toward her.
    • She was handcuffed and had her wrist severely bruised by The Big Boss Man (and he threatened to club her in the stomach with a nightstick).
    • She was accused of "doing favors" for WWF President Jack Tunney by Bad News Brown.
    • André the Giant (more than once) grabbed her by the ankle – and on one other occasion, by the hair to forcibly pull her into the ring – after he became frustrated by her constant complaining to the referee about his choking out Savage.
    • She was a frequent target for Jake Roberts. At her wedding, she opened a gift package that hid a snake. Two months later, when Roberts lured Savage to the ring and allowed his snake to bite his arm, Elizabeth ran to the ring to stop it, but Roberts nearly sicced the snake on HER! A month later, he slapped Elizabeth in the ring (during the "Tuesday in Texas" pay-per-view").
    • In her final major WWF angle, Ric Flair claimed that she had an affair with him behind Savage's back. The angle never progressed past showing Photoshopped photos of Flair with Elizabeth (and later, the same photos with Savage in them in place of Flair), as Elizabeth left Savage in Real Life in the summer of 1992.
  • "Piggy" James. To elaborate, when Mickie James was drafted to Smackdown the duo LayCool didn't enjoy her stealing their thunder so they decided to make her life hell. Their attempts ranged from the ridiculous (taunting her backstage and cutting up her clothes) to the downright nasty - making fun of her weight and calling her Piggy James. This culminated in a segment where she got triple teamed and pig cake shoved down her throat and punch poured all over her. She got her own back though by winning the Women's Championship from Michelle in twenty seconds and then smashing a massive cake all over them.
  • Rey Mysterio Jr.. After his best friend Eddie Guerrero died, he won the Royal Rumble...only to lose that shot to Randy Orton. That's just one of many storylines including his son finding out he was not his biological father, his best friend turning on him and brutally attacking him, his daughter getting scared by CM Punk (on her birthday) and the number of times he's won the world title only to have it ripped away in ridiculous ways.
  • While the WWF's announcers routinely and roundly condemned male wrestlers who even so much as mildly threatened Elizabeth with harm, they enthusiastically cheered whenever villianous female valet/wrestler Sensational Sherri was struck by a male wrestler, most often after she tried interfering on Savage's behalf during his matches (Savage took on Sherri as his valet-manager after his falling out with Elizabeth over her overly-friendly behavior toward Hogan) The most frequent Sherri-beaters were Hogan (who once struck Sherri with her own loaded purse at SummerSlam 1989), "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan (at least once) and most often the Ultimate Warrior.
    • In the Ultimate Warrior's case, his most extensive beating of Sherri came during his 1991 steel cage match against Savage at Madison Square Garden. Sherri repeatedly interfered in the match on Savage's behalf, causing Warrior to repeatedly beat her back or smack her head against either the steel bars or Savage's head. After Sherri ultimately caused Warrior to lose the match, he stalked Sherri and, after shoving aside numerous WWF officials and security officers, grabbed her by the neck and press-slammed her as hard as he possibly could to the mat. (Fortunately, real or kayfabe, Sherri was a top-shelf worker and not seriously injured.)
    • Sherri also was spanked by André the Giant in a 1991 skit that aired on WWF Superstars, although this was a comedy skit — Sherri was trying to seduce Andre, who replied by bending her against the bar and swatting her behind five times with a hilarious trollface expression.
  • Zack Ryder and Eve Torres...poor them. You think that after all the push that Ryder got to become the US Champion, it'd be fine. No; Kane has to come in and destroy him in order to goad John Cena into embracing hatred and Eve has become another target once Zack was out of the way. And then when Cena tries to play hero and save Eve from Kane's wrath on 2/13/12, they (accidentally) kiss in front of Ryder. Ryder is pissed, Eve has taken much of the blow for the crumbling relationship and about to become embodied by hatred.
    • As of 2/20/12, everything was revealed. Zack was nothing but Eve's meal ticket and she was going to dump him for Cena. As if WWE had to twist the knife for Zack even further. Thankfully Cena chewed Eve out about this, but what happens to Cena and Ryder's friendship is up in the air.
    • Coupled with a dose of Fridge Horror - the Raw before Eve kissed Cena it was heavily implied that Kane raped her backstage. No wonder she got so messed up.

  • Henrik Ibsen has broken many cuties in his production at large.
    • Agnes, wife of Brand, suffers a Heroic BSoD when she understands her son is ill, and has to struggle with the fact that she has to stay with her husband for the sake of duty, at the expence of their son's life. Later, she is shut off from his feelings, which he hides, and she passes the Despair Event Horizon. Eventually, she dies.
    • Hedvig, The Ingenue from The Wild Duck, has lived with Hjalmar Ekdal, whom she believed was her father, and was emotionally attached to him. She breaks when he disowns her, because he learns that he in fact is not her father after all. When Hedvig decides she will prove her love for him, tragedy ensues.
    • Aline Solness from The Master Builder. She married Solness, then had to go through a massive Despair Event Horizon when her childhood home burnt to the ground, and her sons died afterwards. She never recovered, and is left with a continuous Thousand-Yard Stare.
    • Margit from The Feast at Solhaug, when she realized she married the wrong man. After his death, she retires to a convent.
    • Helene Alving from Ghosts, who married a faithless upper class jerkass and bore him a son, who in turn ended up with his father's generic disease and lost his wits.
    • Hedda Gabler is broken by the rules of society, well on the way to Broken Bird territory.
    • The female characters from Ibsen's plays that doesn't break, are either willful determinators, action girls, or completely insane.
  • Several examples from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee:
    • Schwarzy, already the most adorably awkward character in the show with her lisp and overachieving attitude, has to deal with constant stress and pressure to be perfect from her two dads. She starts out cheerful and optimistic, but eventually complicates a word too much and is eliminated. Her exit is also played as much more of a Tear Jerker than the other eliminations, collapsing into Mitch and sobbing as she's ushered offstage. The ending makes it better by saying she eventually won the Bee in her last year of eligibility.
    • Coneybear, who's goofier and more cheerful about the Bee than any of the other spellers. He's also the first speller to be eliminated in the second act, leading to a Dark Reprise of "I'm Not That Smart."
    • Olive, who spends the whole show waiting for her dad to arrive, on top of already dealing with her mom being on a spiritual quest in India with no idea of when she's returning and her dad being borderline-abusive. Comes to a head in "The 'I Love You' Song," where she sings to her mom about wanting her to come home (and, to rub a little salt in the wound, she mentions she had "quietly packed" to join her). There's a Hope Spot when Panch supplies her with the $25 necessary to pay the entrance fee, but some productions have a Downer Ending for her where she has to come home to an empty house, her dad still at work and her mother still in India. Even the show's writers came up with a happier version where her dad drives her home and she recaps the Bee for him, since they thought the original was too bleak.
  • Shelley in Bat Boy: The Musical. She is living happily with her veterinarian father and house-wife mother. She falls in love with Edgar, a feral 'Bat Boy' that was found nearby who lived on blood, after her mother makes him civil and caring. All is well. Towards the end of the show, after Shelley and Edgar have already had sex, it's then revealed that while her mother worked as her father's assistant in a lab, he accidentally spilled an experimental pheromone on her, and, driven mad with lust, raped her. Stumbling her way home, she is then attacked and raped by a swarm of bats.She got pregnant and gave birth to twins: a mutant (Edgar), and a human (Shelley) So, Edgar turns out to be her twin brother. In the finale, Shelley watches as her father (Dr. Parker), furious and out of his mind, slits open his throat to tempt Edgar with blood. Edgar pounces on him and begins to drink, and Dr. Parker takes the initiative to stab him multiple times in the back. Trying to get him to stop, her mother rushes in and is also stabbed by her husband. All three of them die, and Edgar dies in her lap. So, no only does she find out her lover is actually her brother, she watched her FAMILY get murdered by her father, who in turn bleeds out through the neck. After that, she's very quiet. Nice story, right? I thought so too.
  • Elisabeth starts out as an adorable, willful little girl, who caught the romantic attention of Death after falling from a great height and nearly dying. Her Disney-esque happy marriage to the Emperor breaks down quickly, from both her mother-in-law's interventions, and Death sabotaging it so that she would die and be with him. Minus the personification of Death, all of this is historical (or at least rumors that circulated in real life):
    • Her youngest daughter, named Sophie (after the detested mother-in-law) is taken away from her. And then dies from typhus fever at age two, because Elisabeth has begged for her children to be brought along while traveling.
    • Her husband turns out to be a doormat regarding his mother, refusing to stand up for his wife at all until it's too late. And then he cheats on her and transmits syphilis to her.
    • Her only son and heir, Rudolf, (who is arguably a case of Kill the Cutie himself) grows up emotionally neglected and vulnerable thanks to the crippling depression Elisabeth falls into after the death of little Sophie. Which leaves him open prey to Death, who seduces him into leading a revolution, which gets him disinherited by his father, and abandoned by his mother (out of her refusal to talk to the Emperor). Driven to utter desperation, Rudolf shoots himself. A thoroughly broken Elisabeth screams at Death to deliver her from pain, but he refuses to take her.
    • And by the end, the Empress is so broken that as she is stabbed by Lucheni and her lady-in-waiting calls for help, Elisabeth pushes her aside - and runs into the embrace of Death for her fatal kiss.
  • Hamlet pretty much pulls this trope on Ophelia. Between his running into her room disheveled, sexually harasses her (in two separate scenes, no less) and finally kills her father under the impression that he was killing Claudius, driving her insane. It could be considered Kill the Cutie, since it's debatable whether or not she kills herself or accidentally drowns; either way, it's at the hard dark edge of the two tropes. Indeed, Hamlet himself qualifies as a broken cutie. Many of his friends speak highly of the good and loving man he was before his uncle murdered his brother and married his mother. The brooding, cynical man who is mean to Ophelia and mindlessly manslaughters her father is a different man from the sweet-natured heir to the throne who wrote her love letters and was Horatio's best buddy. We don't see much of him being this guy (because the play begins when he is already broken), but he still has the ability to make us laugh! He's adorable.
  • Veronica from Heathers starts off as a sweet, dorky, snarky, intelligent outsider who just wants to fit in. Then she joins The Heathers, who treat her best friend terribly. Then she gets kicked out of the Heathers and the Alpha Bitch promises to ruin her life. Then it turns out that Veronica's boyfriend is a Serial Killer, who has his eye on said Alpha Bitch as his first victim of the school... Cue bodies piling up and Veronica beginning to lose it.
  • The 2013 musical of James And The Giant Peach does its best to break James within the first act. The play starts with James already in an orphanage after his parents died and he's still having nightmares about it. The Matron Nurse in charge isn't interested in his emotional well-being and just hands James off to his abusive aunts without a moment's thought, telling James he can't return to the orphanage. Spiker and Sponge promptly tell James they only claimed him because he's a source of free labor, constantly berate and insult him, abandon him to spend a day at the beach and refuse to believe him when he tells hem he was responsible for the giant peach's growth and- by default- their new-found wealth. James's aunts then destroy his deceased parents' scarf and glasses and tell him he has to sleep outside from now on. Oh, and THEN James finally manages to find his way into the peach and starts his adventure with his bug companions, during which he and the others spend a few hours starving and thirsty before they actually eat some of the peach. And then he has another nightmare not just about his parents' deaths, but Spiker and Sponge chasing after him. Thankfully, Grasshopper and Ladybug take it upon themselves to comfort him with the song "Everywhere That You Are." The two of them end up becoming James's adoptive mother and father at the end, providing him with the love and care James lost at the beginning of the play.
  • Little Shop of Horrors: Aww, look at Seymour with his adorable clumsiness, his hopeless little crush on the local abused girl, Audrey, and his quirky way of confiding in his pet plant! The poor guy's lived such a horrible life, and no one's ever loved him—can you really blame him for wanting a little happiness? Or for wanting to off the jerk who beats up Audrey? Or for having to kill off his boss, too, so he won't get ratted on, and then keeping the plant who needs to be fed blood so that Audrey won't leave him and ...well, you see where this is going. Suffice it to say that his death is probably the nicest thing that happens to him in the whole show.
  • Happens to Rapunzel in Into the Woods. The Witch's treatment of her, which included locking her in a tower for most of her life with little socialization, then banishing her to a wasteland with little food when she sought company from someone else where she ended up giving birth to twins, on top of the Witch blinding her prince, left the poor girl emotionally traumatized, prone to fits of hysterics, and uncontrollable crying at random moments. She ultimately threw herself under the foot of the Giant, and was crushed to death.
  • Philomele in The Love of the Nightingale starts out as a beautiful if naïve girl. Her sister and best friend Procne asks her husband Tereus to bring her for a visit. Tereus proceeds to fall for Philomele who in turn has fallen for a captain. Tereus then tells her Procne's dead, kills her lover, proceeds to rape her after she turns him down and finally cuts out her tongue to keep her from talking. She spends five years alone but with her servant before finally making dolls to re-enact what happened to her to Procne. Tereus tries to kill them but they (as it is a Greek myth) turn into birds, making them a literal Broken Bird.
  • Kim in Miss Saigon. Orphaned when her family's village is bombed. Has to go to work as a prostitute to support herself. On her very first night of work, meets and falls in love with a disillusioned GI (who himself may be an example of this trope). He plans to take her home with him, but instead, they are separated in the chaos of the fall of Saigon. She has to endure pregnancy and childbirth on her own. She has to kill her cousin to protect her child from him. After 3 years of pining away for Chris with her faith in him and love for their child being the only things that kept her going, she rushes to his hotel room. . .to be greeted by his wife. Determined to make sure that they take the boy with them to America (as a half-Asian, he would be an outcast in Vietnam), she kills herself. Yeesh.
  • Next to Normal is Break The Cutie: The Musical. Diana has been treated for severe Bipolar disorder for 20 years, haunted by manic-depressive episodes, side-effects of potentially lethal medications, and hallucinations of her late son. After undergoing a heavy dose of ECT (which she seems to have enjoyed a bit too much), she loses most memories of her family. After regaining them, the trauma of losing her son finally rushes back she decides that the slow and dangerous treatment isn't worth tearing her family apart, so she decides to leave them.
  • Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Three hours after she marries Romeo, he kills her cousin (who was like a brother to her) and gets kicked out of Verona. The next day her parents try to force her to marry a man she doesn't love, and threaten to disown her if she refuses. Her father claims that he and her mother "have had a curse in having her". Meanwhile, she's loyal to Romeo, not only because of her inclinations, but because of her religious beliefs (i.e. "I'm already married, it would be wrong of me to get married again") and is fully prepared to kill herself rather than go through with the wedding. She ends up taking a potion that makes her appear dead, even though she's terrified of what it will do to her, as part of an incredibly risky plan to get out of Verona that entails never seeing the people she loves again. Then, when she wakes up in her family tomb, her husband is lying dead with his head on her chest. She runs herself through with his dagger. And she's fourteen-years-old.
  • Spring Awakening is also a good candidate for Break The Cutie: The Musical because half the characters get broken. Ilse and Martha got physically/sexually abused by their fathers, and they both had crushes on Moritz. Speaking of Ilse, she got kicked out for telling someone about her father and ran off to an artist's colony, only to head back home when one of them holds a gun to her chest. After heading back and conveniently meeting Moritz, who also got kicked out for failing in school, she offers to take him home — but he refuses. After realizing he's made a huge mistake, he eats his gun. Meanwhile, Wendla gets pregnant by Melchior and later gets a botched abortion, which Melchior is unaware of because he got framed by the teachers and sent to a reformatory for his best friend's suicide. Then there's Hanschen and Ernst, who... kind of vanish after the second act.
  • In A Streetcar Named Desire when Stanley raped Blanche the cutie really became broken.
  • By the end of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Johanna and Toby have gone mad due to having been treated cruelly for their whole lives, but also partly because of their first hand discoveries of Sweeney and Lovett's practices.
  • In Vanities, Kathy's boyfriend Gary, while she was on the pill, slept with another girl, got that one pregnant, and married her. Kathy is utterly and irrevocably devastated as a result, to the point of having a nervous breakdown. Cute Boys with Short Haircuts says it all.
  • West Side Story
    • Maria.
      "How do you fire this gun, Chino? Just by pulling this little trigger? How many bullets are left, Chino? Enough for you? And you? All of you? WE ALL KILLED HIM; and my brother and Riff. I, too. I CAN KILL NOW BECAUSE I HATE NOW! How many can I kill, Chino? How many — and still have one bullet left for me?"
    • Anita qualifies even more as a Broken Cutie, as she starts out as comic relief — a snarky but nice girl who's happy to be in America and only wants to live her life in a new country and help Maria and Tony out. Then Tony kills her boyfriend. Understandably she becomes pretty jaded, but she STILL agrees to help Maria get a message to Tony (yes, the guy who killed her boyfriend). Instead she finds his friends, who almost rape her. That's pretty much the last straw, and she tells the lie that leads to the tragic conclusion.) Killthe Cutie happens to bother Riff and Bernardo.
  • While Elphaba from Wicked isn't exactly a traditional cutie, the Wizard and Madame Morrible do their best to break her by turning her into a terrorist fugitive, murdering her boyfriend, giving her former best friend an important position which seems to be trying to mitigate Elphaba's activities and DROPS a house on her sister. No wonder she finally snaps in epic fashion during "No Good Deed".
  • Which Witch The Musical: Maria is publicly shamed for her love of Daniel and after coming with him to Germany, Daniel suddenly ends the relationship. Then Daniel falls sick, she's accused of being a witch, is tortured in horrible ways and is later burned at the stake.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Phoenix himself gets this in Case 3-1 (a flashback to his college days) and during the time skip. The poor kid was deeply in love with his girlfriend Dahlia... only for her to turn out to be a manipulative sociopath who was using him as an Unwitting Pawn. He's managed to pick himself up by the present day... only to be manipulated into presenting forged evidence and getting disbarred, which breaks him for 7 years until he's able to catch the person who did it.
    • The reason Miles Edgeworth is so cold and brutal in court is because he suffered one of these moments in his childhood and never really recovered. He was trapped in an elevator with his father and a bailiff after an earthquake, and wildly threw the bailiff's gun in an attempt to save his father from the guy's panic. The gun went off before everyone fell unconscious due to oxygen deprivation, and Miles spent 15 years thinking that that shot killed his father, which wasn't helped by Manfred von Karma taking him in and reinforcing his trauma to mold him into an amoral prosecutor just like Manfred himself.
    • If you are an assistant in Ace Attorney, you're going to suffer some sort of tragedy.
      • Maya is introduced clutching her sister's dead body and getting framed for the murder, and while she manages to keep a cheerful attitude, she still gets tasered, framed for murder, kidnapped, almost murdered, locked into a freezing cave, framed again, and kidnapped again. And a good chunk of her trouble comes from her own aunt trying to get her killed for her position as Master of Kurain Village.
      • Ema starts with just a strained relationship for her older sister Lana, but later in her introductory case it's revealed she was nearly killed by Joe Darke as a child, and Damon Gant used the opportunity to frame her for murder so he could blackmail Lana. By the fourth game, she's failed the test to become a forensic scientist (her dream job), and is stuck as a grumpy detective, though she gets thrown a bone in the sixth game when she takes the test again and passes.
      • Pearl is a sweet little 8-year-old girl who just wants to be helpful and adores her cousin Maya. So of course she's got to take Maya's place while Maya's kidnapped and gets used as an Unwitting Pawn by her own mother in order to kill Maya.
      • Trucy's perky stage magician attitude hides that her mother died when she was young and her birth father abandoned her. And of course she later gets kidnapped herself for tradition's sake.
      • Rayfa, in the span of a few months, learns that a) her dad and mom were really her uncle and aunt, b) her aunt kidnapped Rayfa from said real parents (after trying to kill them), and is using her as a hostage against her mother and brother, c) her aunt is evil (her uncle was also evil, but to a lesser extent, and said aunt ended up killing him) and was purposefully manipulating Rayfa's entire worldview to support her usurping the throne, & d) her divinations have been used to convict innocent people, and the purpose of the lawyers she was taught to despise was to prevent that from happening. That's a lot of horrible revelations for one 14-year-old.
    • In 2-3, Moe the Clown invokes this with Regina Berry in a Cruel to Be Kind way, as her childlike naivete had caused serious unintentional harm to her friends and family in the circus, and he thought that seeing the end of the 2-3 case and learning how her innocent dismissal of Bat's coma resulted in Acro trying to murder her and killing her father instead would be necessary for her emotional maturity.
    • In 2-4, Adrian Andrews applies too, especially since you're the one who has to break her by exposing her co-dependency issues and suicide attempt just to stall for time.
    • From AAI2: Yumihiko Ichiyanagi: Ace Woobie. The poor kid might have a bit of a swelled head, but he most certainly didn't deserve his dad telling him that he was an idiot and the only reason he became a prosecutor was because his dad bribed people.
      • It also happened to Simon Keyes in the backstory. The poor kid had absolutely no one in his life save for Sirhan Dogan who didn't betray or exploit him in some way, and spent his teenage years hunted down as a witness to an international conspiracy. Honestly, it's no wonder he became a manipulative and untrusting bastard.
    • Nobody comes out of Dual Destinies sans trauma, but Simon, Athena, and Apollo get the worst of it. Apollo has to see his best friend die and suspects his friend Athena of the murder, Simon was broken 7 years previously by his mentor's murder and being on death row for a crime he didn't commit, but felt he had to take the fall for to protect Athena, and Athena is so badly traumatized by her past ( she saw her mother's murder) that she has black psyche-locks, indicating a secret someone is hiding from themselves. The devs have gone on the record to state that the markings on Simon's face are Exhausted Eyebags because he has nightmares and tear tracks because he cried so much in prison.
  • Sky during the first chapter of Ascension (2013). She loses her father, Tahn, and is too despondent to even speak to her Heterosexual Life-Partner, Aida. Even though Sky admittedly disagreed with her father a lot and fought incessantly with him, his death had emotionally devastated her.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. The whole plot is about locking up 15 teenagers with special talents and different degrees of "cuteness" (from the nonexistent to the overflowing), pitting them against each other, telling them that the only way out is to commit murder, and seeing which one will break down first — and enough to start killing their companions without any mercy. The ones who get put through the grinder the most are Makoto Naegi (accused of the first murder, was framed for it and barely escaped, has to defend his companions and himself in trials, witnesses murders and executions), Kiyotaka Ishimaru (completely breaks down after his first real friend, Mondo Owada, becomes the second killer and is executed) and Aoi Asahina ( takes her friends's deaths increasingly and incredibly hard, loses her own best friend as well, and with some push she snaps hard enough to try getting herself and everyone else executed). Let's not even get started on all the crazy shit that happens in the sequel...
  • All the girls in Doki Doki Literature Club! are broken in some way. Monika has an epiphany that she is a character in a visual novel, and an un-romanceable one to boot. This utterly destroys her, leading her to go so far as to get rid of the other girls in hopes of being able to contact the only real person she knows. To make matters worse, the way she goes about getting rid of the girls involves horrific Mind Rape via amplifying their negative character attributes — it's supposed to just make them unlikeable to the player, but she doesn't care that much when it goes horribly right. Sayori is targeted first, with her mildly-crippling depression intensified to the point that she hangs herself. With the game reset, Monika goes after Yuri by Gaslighting her and cranking up her obsessive tendencies, which drives Yuri insane (as well as madly in love with the player character and very hostile to the other members). This culminates in her stabbing herself to death when she confesses her deranged love for the player character. Meanwhile, Natsuki is forced to deal with all this, combined with (via Monika's manipulation) being constantly bullied and having an abusive father. Her end comes when she discovers Yuri's corpse despite doing everything she could to get her help, and then she gets outright deleted.
  • Sakura from Fate/stay night, as revealed in the game's final route, Heaven's Feel. Poor kid spent years being carefully and brutally broken by the Matou family. Who got her raped, abused, and infected with horrible crest worms.
  • The Fruit of Grisaia: Literally everyone in Mihama Academy went through something similar, to even try to summarize their backstories would take too long, a short list of what they went through would be something like this: Parental abandonment, negligence, abuse and death, numerous traumatizing incidents, not being able to socialize in school or being outright bullied, long periods of hospitalization for both mental and physical problems just to name a few.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend: if you consider pigeons to be cute, (and why wouldn't you?) then the entire "Bad Boys Love" route is a big ol' break the cutie for pretty much every single character. Ryouta gets the worst of it.
  • Little Busters!: Naturally, being a Key/Visual Arts game and so specialising in Earn Your Happy Ending, all of the heroines go through this in their routes. However, the most obvious is definitely Komari's, wherein she goes from a childish, sweet Wide-Eyed Idealist to a Heroic BSoD-ing creepy Stepford Smiler on the revelation that she had an older brother whom she loved who died when she was young and who she forgot about. She gets better in the end, thankfully.
  • Lux-Pain has, well, everyone in the main cast. Atsuki, Natsuki and Hibiki were broken in their backstories. During the game, this happens to two of the female leads: Mika, who was targeted by a serial killer (twice) causing Officer Mako Ando to be fatally wounded, and her best friend sent to the hospital, Yayoi who is driven mad by a mind parasite causing her to be jealous of her sister. She also tried to consult with a bunch of people she met online who were suicidal, but they ended up killing themselves. A few other Cuties, both male and female, end up snapping, like Akira, Sayuri, Yui, Honoka, and the list goes on. Forget curing Silent, that entire town needs one big hug.
  • Poor, poor Fin Euclase in Steam Prison is viciously and comprehensively broken over the course of the story. The kind, mild-mannered partner of the game's heroine Cyrus is transferred into the HOUNDS after Cyrus's exile, where Sachsen subjects him to severe and repeated physical and mental abuses purposefully intended to strip away his humanity and render him a hardened killer obedient to Sachsen's orders. Fin's sanity is left completely shattered by the experience, and by the time Cyrus meets him again he's a broken and violently unstable man.
  • 18+ Romance Game Under the Moon offers love/hate story paths in which love interests become Fetishized Abusers, so this trope is the order of the day. Each boy employs his own strategy to crush the Love Martyr heroine's spirit, but Softspoken Sadist Seizh is cutie-breaker extraordinaire. The more deranged he becomes, the more blatantly he treats the poor girl like a plaything.
  • The Zero Escape trilogy:
    • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors has Clover and Akane/June. The former loses it when her brother Snake is (apparently) murdered, at which point she proceeds to go literally Ax-Crazy on everyone she can find, while the latter was broken by what happened in her own Nonary Game, to the point where she becomes willing to kidnap and manipulate innocent people in order to prevent it from happening.
    • Virtue's Last Reward gives us Clover again, this time when she finds her partner Alice with a knife in her chest, at which point she becomes determined to escape no matter who has to die in the process. We also have Luna, should you choose to Betray her in the final AB Game on her timeline. Zero Jr. even chews you out for it.
    • Zero Time Dilemma provides a truly terrifying example when Akane and Carlos discover Junpei's severed head in the Pantry, at which point she outright snaps and hacks Carlos to pieces with a chainsaw.


"I just want to be better."

After having gone through his emotionally traumatizing adventure with Moloch and Father Gregor, Skid tells his mom that he doesn't want to be a burden to her and wants to be better. Him saying this causes him and Lila to break down crying as they embrace each other, ending off the episode on a depressing note.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / DownerEnding

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