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Dark and Troubled Past

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And the book says, "We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."
The Narrator, Magnolia

Something terrible happened to a character; some tragic event in their past that shaped a fundamental level of their personality. Long after the event is over, it still has a powerful influence in the character's life.

The root effects are usually:


Usually involves one or more of the following:

Expect to see the above overlap for extra Angst or Wangst.


This is a stock Backstory for a character. Much like a Mysterious Past, except more tragic and troubled. Don't expect it to be revealed all at once, or sometimes at all. It usually gets revealed in small doses through a Troubled Backstory Flashback as the story progresses; possibly in a Flashback Nightmare where a happy memory transforms into a slaughter. Often used as a Freudian Excuse for an asocial character's Jerk Ass tendencies or quiet stoicism. Still, it is understandable that the character wants to keep it secret because They're Called Personal Issues for a Reason, after all.

This can lead to either becoming an Anti-Hero or Hurting Hero. For villains, this is a Start of Darkness. Especially blatant cases of this trope will result in the character being seen as a Sympathetic Sue.

Female characters with a Dark and Troubled Past include the Dark Magical Girl and the Broken Bird. Male characters with a Dark and Troubled Past are instant bait for the Estrogen Brigade who have bought him leather pants. Expect all nearby female characters to become afflicted with attraction to his Troubled, but Cute appeal, and try to help him heal his heart. Not happening. Or maybe it will?

The step-up of this trope is the Dysfunction Junction, where the whole cast will have one of these and suffer from it, too (and don't expect them to get better). If the afflicted character is in a law enforcement profession, see Standard Cop Backstory. When paired with a Nice Guy or gal with a happy upbringing, you can expect...interesting results. See Deus Angst Machina.

Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • The X-Men's Wolverine, who also had a Mysterious Past and, thanks to his amnesia, had it remain that way for a looong time. Further complicated by implanted memories; as if forgotten trauma wasn't bad enough, how about a helping of trauma that didn't actually happen? Not to mention the pain of wondering if his few happy memories were real or not.
  • Magneto, in spades. His entire birth family was killed in the Holocaust, his daughter Anya died in a fire because he didn't know how to use his nascent powers to save her, and his wife (who was also his childhood sweetheart) called him a monster and fled after he — literally — exploded in rage and killed the villagers who'd prevented him from either concentrating on said powers or going after Anya by normal means. Later, he joined an American government agency to pursue Nazis, and agents killed his girlfriend because he had pursued one of the "wrong" Nazis. No wonder the guy has a deeply cynical attitude toward humanity.
  • Gambit was not merely an orphan whose parents may or may not be dead—or may simply have deliberately abandoned him—but was taken in by a creepy old man/possible pedophile, then turned out onto the streets of New Orleans to fend for himself until the age of ten, then was adopted, fell in love, witnessed his younger cousin's drowning (at age 13), further witnessed the retrieval of said cousin's body(!), accidentally killed his fiancee's brother in a duel, and accordingly was exiled from the only home he ever knew. To make matters worse, his powers raged out of control and in exchange for help fixing them he was tasked with—unbeknownst to him-leading a murder-squad against a group of fearful, helpless mutants, only managing to save the life of a single child. Oh, and the girl he loves he can't even kiss because she'd suck the life out of him.
  • Cyclops was thrown out of a crashing plane with the only parachute and his baby brother when he was a young boy, which, when the parachute caught on fire, ended with him in a coma for a year with brain damage that permanently removed his ability to control his powers. During that time his brother was adopted to make him more vulnerable. He spends the next few years in an orphanage where he is bullied, belittled and experimented on while any attempt for him to be adopted is quelled by the Mad Scientist running the place. He finally gets away when his power activates and he almost kills several people, and when running he is taken in by a man. The man is an abusive criminal who beats him and treats him as more of a gun than a teenage boy and Scott is eventually forced to atomize him by Professor Xavier.
  • Batman's parents got murdered by an unknown mugger before his very eyes.
    • The two-issue miniseries The Ultimate Evil actually tried to defy the use of this trope, with social worker Debra Kane having a discussion with Batman on the concept of a person being born bad, or becoming a criminal because of childhood abuse. Debra asserts that it is not an excuse at all, on the grounds that all people have a choice, and that excusing or sympathizing with criminals who were victims of abuse is an insult to all of the other victims who suffered similar or even worse abuse and did not imitate their abusers.
  • Post-crisis Martian Manhunter has probably the most extreme example in comic books, and that's saying a lot. His evil twin brother created a plague which destroyed the entire green martian race, including his wife and child, leaving him to wander aimlessly among the ruins of his dead race until he was teleported to earth.
  • Spider-Man has his (which already includes losing both parents) tying in with his greatest failure, with Peter Parker refusing to stop a bad guy who would then go on to kill his beloved Uncle Ben. Not that things would get much better afterwards...
  • DeadpoolHey! Why don't you go watch the fight between me and Deathstroke right here!
  • Incredible Hulk: Bruce Banner and his mother were regularly abused by his father, Brian. Brian eventually killed his wife, in front of Bruce.
  • V from V for Vendetta was tortured and experimented on in a concentration camp, transforming him into an embodiment of anarchism.
  • Ah, Thug-Boy from Empowered. The general criminality is how he met the love of his life, and she knows the basic outline of the whole 'Witless Minion' scam (although the detail about their last employer/victim still searching for the only survivor has apparently been glossed over). But then there is San Antonio. Cape-killing terrorist anyone?
  • Sin City protagonists usually have one, even if we never get their full backstory. This comes in vague references to past events; Dwight apparently had a criminal past and Wallace likely had an abusive childhood, for instance. Marv was tied to a tree in the middle of the woods and left overnight once, was in prison, and once made a reference to being in a war.
  • Grimjack has probably one of the worst cases of this trope. Abused and abandoned by his family, he spent his childhood fighting for his life in a gladiatorial arena. He eventually escapes and finds peace in another dimension, only for everyone in the dimension, including his true love, to be slaughtered by demons. Then there was all the crap he went through during the comic.
  • Starfire from Teen Titans (and elsewhere) had spent most of her life as a slave to the Citadel, after being sold into it by her own sister. She mentions some experiments done on her too, which were all likely horrific.
  • X-23, hoo boy. A clone created by mixing Wolverine's genetic material with that of her human "mother" to be a living weapon, Laura was raised in a padded cell, beaten, abused, had her Healing Factor forcibly activated by exposing her to lethal doses of radiation as a child, had her claws surgically removed to be coated in adamantium one at a time with no attempt at anesthesia whatsoever, was trained and conditioned almost from birth to be an assassin and racked up an impressive body count before she was a teenager, and was made to kill the only people during this time who ever showed her any kindness by means of an olfactory trigger that she was conditioned to enter an Unstoppable Rage whenever she was exposed to it. One of them was her mother, right as she planned to help Laura escape. After getting away, she was forced to cut off contact with the only other family she had to protect them from her Ax-Crazy abusive handler, and spent time on the streets as a child prostitute specializing in cutting her clients. The worst part about all this? While Logan lost most of his memories about the really shitty stuff that's happened to him, Laura remembers everything.
  • Villains can suffer these as well; as a child, Doctor Doom had to watch both his parents die and grow up an orphan among persecuted Romani in Latveria.
  • Runaways loves this trope:
    • Chase Stein was regularly physically abused by his father, to the point where he makes up lies about things that he did to try and justify this abuse.
    • Molly Hayes' parents constantly used their psychic abilities on her to make sure she never acted up.
    • Xavin was trained as a Super-Skrull from a young age so that he/she could be deployed to serve as a Child Soldier in the pointless war that his/her parents started with Majesdane.
    • Klara Prast was married off at age 11 to an alcoholic pedophile who physically and sexually abused her and forced her to work in dangerous factories to earn money that he spent on booze.
  • Superman and Supergirl's entire home planet was destroyed when they were just a baby and a little child respectively, and they're the last of their kind.
  • Dark Annisia of Red Sonja was a fighting slave alongside Sonja herself, but where Sonja endured Annisia slid toward madness due to hallucinations of the people she'd killed.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Cars, Doc Hudson used to be a race car until 1954 when he crashed violently during a race. After getting repaired, he was replaced with the next rookie in line and never raced again.
    • Also Cruz Ramirez from Cars 3. She wanted desperately to be a racer just like Lightning McQueen and took up classes with much bigger cars, but by the time of her first race when the other cars were starting, she simply left the race behind and lost her only chance.
  • Kovu from The Lion King II: Simba's Pride was raised by his vengeful mother to become Scar's successor and trained to be a hateful war machine so he can kill Simba.
  • Manny in Ice Age: his wife and son were slaughtered by human hunters, which is why he's so grumpy and cynical. Even after he falls in love with Ellie in Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, he becomes overprotective of her in Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs for the exact same reason. And after Peaches' birth in said threequel, he becomes EXCEEDINGLY overprotective of her in Ice Age 4: Continental Drift for the same reason as well.
  • Marlin in Finding Nemo: his wife Coral and all of his eggs, except for Nemo, were eaten by a barracuda, which is why he's so overprotective of him.
  • Megara in Hercules: she sold her soul to Hades in order to save her boyfriend, and he dumped her shortly after that. Also, it's hinted that she probably had more problems to face in life besides that.
  • Spoofed in Wreck-It Ralph: Sergeant Calhoun "Was programmed with the most tragic back-story ever."
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, it turns out that Po of all people has one, though he doesn't learn about it in full until just before the climax. It involves the attempted massacre of his entire species by Lord Shen and his birth mother sacrificing herself to save him.-Tigress can also be an example. She was left by her parents in an orphanage, called a monster by adult and child alike and was not shown any signs of parental love by her foster father, Shifu.
  • In The Snow Queen (2012), The Snow Queen's backstory shows her as a girl whose natural sorcerous powers were so strong that she was rejected and mocked by her people.
  • In Frozen, Queen Elsa goes through her greatest failure as a child. She strikes her sister Anna in the head with her icy powers, causing her to fall unconscious. The trolls remove Anna's memory of all the events and her sister's magic, but she still comes out with a white stripe in her hair, thanks to the ice magic. In case you thought that seeing your sister's white stripe of hair and being reminded of your largest mistake wasn't bad enough, her parents decide to separate the two sisters to allow Elsa to gain control of her powers. Then, when they grow older, their parents die, which finishes off their Trauma Conga Line.
  • In Trolls, the reason why Branch lost his colors, refuses to sing, is a bit of a Grumpy Bear, and is massively (but rightfully) paranoid of the Bergens attacking is because when he was a kid, his singing attracted a Bergen, and Branch's grandmother got eaten when she tried to save him.
  • The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning reveals how King Triton's beloved wife Queen Athena was accidentally struck to her death by the ship's hull, which led to him banning music from Atlantica and the merpeople from going up to the surface in grief. After the incident, King Triton became a Grumpy Bear (until the end of the prequel) and displays his racism towards humans for his wife's death.
  • In Quest for Camelot, Garrett reveals to Kayley in the past, he accidentally blinded by one of the horses that he was rescuing from the stable fire. Thankfully, Sir Lionel still believed in him and taught him to adapt. Unfortunately, his situation worsened when he heard of Sir Lionel's death, prompting Garrett to go into self-exile into the Forbidden Forest.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Michael in The Blind Side: crack mom, disappeared dad, virtually no schooling, homelessness, etc.
  • The eponymous Max Payne had one, his family was killed in a mysterious robbery. Made extra saccharine thanks to the Flash Backs being in a warm ember tone compared to the rest of the film's drab winter blues and grays.
    • To be even more specific, in the game the movie is based upon, his family got killed by V-head junkies as part of an attempt to silence Max's wife for knowing too much about Project Valhalla. Tragically, Max's wife didn't have a clue what the memo meant and wanted to talk to Max about it, but he didn't listen to her because he had to go to work for the day.
  • The emotional turmoil brought on by the childhood abuse of Tim Robbins' character is the main crux of Mystic River.
  • Gabriel in Van Helsing also has Wolverine Amnesia, it's implied by Dracula they both share "a history" together, and even hints at Gabriel being an immortal "tripped" angel or the like, but nothing concrete ever comes of it. Sequel Hook?
  • Star Trek (2009): Captain James T. Kirk lost his father just minutes after his birth. He was frequently abused by his stepfather while his mother was working off-planet, his brother ran away when he was still young, and he was already a repeat offender long before enlisting in Starfleet. It is also possible that he survived Tarsus IV (if future movies keep with the original series).
  • Johnny Guitar's main characters Vienna and Johnny "Guitar" Logan have dark pasts dealing with their former lives as a prostitue and a ruthless gunslinger.
  • O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill lost both of her parents to vicious Yakuza gangsters at the age of seven and then getting her revenge just four years later.
  • The main character of Hoosiers, Norman Dale, moves to the small town of Hickory, Indiana to take one last shot at redemption as a basketball coach after ruining his coaching career many years earlier when he lost his temper and punched one of his own players.
  • The Strange Love of Martha Ivers: Martha killed her Evil Aunt (her parents being dead, leaving her aunt as her guardian), and Walter witnesses it when they were kids.
  • Subverted in The Dark Knight, where the Joker likes telling stories about his Dark and Troubled Past to explain his scars...but every story is different.
    • This is a tribute to Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, wherein The Joker has the following line; "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another...if I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!"
  • The first five minutes of The Descent kill off the main character's husband and young daughter, leaving her traumatized and sometimes hallucinating. A big part of what fuels her trip into Ax-Crazy, particularly if the monsters don't really exist.
  • The Terminal: Gupta explains to Victor why he is so obsessed with keeping his janitor job: he was a poor tobacco dealer in India who was shaken down by a corrupt police officer. Eventually, Gupta stabbed the bastard in the chest after several days of extortion, and fled India and his family to not be charged with assault. By working as a janitor, he can remain off of anybody's radar. Dixon threatens to have Gupta deported if Viktor doesn't leave.
  • The first five minutes of the Prom Night (2008) remake feature the protagonist coming home to find her father and brother dead, and watch her mother get killed, all because the killer was looking for her. For her character, this doesn't really come into play much for the rest of the movie, even when the killer comes back.
  • Princess Leia from Star Wars. She remembers her (presumably adoptive) mother always being unhappy when she was young, saw her homeworld destroyed as a You Said You Would Let Them Go, has seen one son KIA and the other do a Face–Heel Turn — his twin sister was forced to kill him.
  • Given that the main characters in The Way Back are seven gulag escapees and an orphan, this is something of a given. None of the men will tell each other their stories, but they all tell the girl, who, in turn, passes them on to the others. When she asks why they don't talk to one another, she's told that, in the gulag, the less you say, the better off you are.
  • Will in Snow White A Taleof Terror still has nightmares about the events that led to his banishment and scars.
  • In the 2011 film Warrior: Why Tommy left Iraq.
  • Jack/Kyra during the Time Skip between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick. She ran away to search for Riddick and signed up with a bunch of mercs, only to be enslaved, with a heavy implication as to what kind. Made worse in that she was only twelve at the time! Riddick is understandably pissed to learn this, as well as furious at her for ignoring his single instruction when they parted ways;
    Riddick: I told you to stay on New Mecca. Did you not listen!
  • Something that happened "in Chicago" to Lucien Carr in Kill Your Darlings is repeatedly alluded to, much to his displeasure.
  • Both Eddie and Sarah in The Hustler have this; she even lampshades it when they first meet.
    Sarah: Eddie, look, I've got troubles... and I think maybe you've got troubles. Maybe it'd be better if we just leave each other alone.
  • In Sidney Lumet's The Pawnbroker (1964), the main character is traumatized by what happened to him and his family in a WWII Nazi concentration camp. He hasn't been able to work through his issues, which causes those unpleasant memories to regularly flood his mind.
  • In The Hunger Games Katniss' father died when she was 11 in an accident that she suspects the government to have orchestrated. Without the father's income, the family starved and Katniss nearly died.
  • The Wolfman (2010): You've had quite a nice little messed up childhood, haven't you, Lawrence? What with witnessing your mother's death and all, and being sent to a mad-house where you underwent all sorts of nasty treatments and then shipped off to live with a distant relative in America.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • Magneto. "Holocaust survivor" is about as dark and troubled as it gets. He eventually settles down with a wife and daughter, only for them to die as well. It's no surprise Erik isn't exactly a ray of sunshine these days.
    • Wolverine's past history of fighting in the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, and his past work with Team X. How much of it still happened after the Cosmic Retcon is unclear, but we do get to see him escape from the Weapon X project in a flurry of adamantium and rage, so it's clear that the Broad Strokes of most versions of his origin still stand, and it ain't pretty.
    • In The Wolverine, Yukio’s first premonition was her parent's death, and after she was forced to watch it come true, she became a street urchin scavenging for food until Ichiro Yashida found her and adopted her under his wing.
  • Jack, of Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, had his family killed in front of him by a monster when he was a child. He ran, the only thing he could do, but it's eaten at him ever since, fueling his Unstoppable Rage and inspiring him to step up to become a hero.
  • In The Lazarus Effect Zoe survived a fire that killed many people in her apartment complex. She's had recurring nightmares of it for years. Turns out she set it.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eggsy's father died in action, and his mother remarried a jerkass domestic abuser who liked to beat the crap out of Eggsy and his mom. At some point, Eggsy resorted to drugs and petty crimes. By extension his half-sister Daisy has this too, despite not even being old enough to speak yet: her own father is the domestic abuser and her own mother nearly killed her during the Valentine's Day Massacre.
  • Assassin's Creed (2016): Callum Lynch's father killed his mother according to the Creed to preserve the secret of the Eden Apple of Granada as modern-day Templars led by Alan Rikkin were coming for them. Little Cal didn't know any of that so he grew up an orphan hating his father and drifted in and out of correctional facilities.
  • In The Magnificent Seven (2016), several of the Seven have dark things in their past.
    • Chisolm was a USCT in the Civil War and became a bounty hunter after witnessing his mother and sisters being raped and killed by Borge's hired men.
    • Jack Horne had a wife and children but lost them in an unspecified event. It's hinted that their deaths were related to him hunting and killing Indians for a government bounty.
    • Vasquez is wanted for a Texan ranger but no details are given except Vasquez suggesting he had it coming.
    • Goodnight is a former Confederate sharpshooter suffering from PTSD and survivor's guilt.
    • Billy is a Korean immigrant who was an indentured servant who killed his masters and ran away.
  • In Manchester by the Sea, the protagonist Lee was once a cheerful and outgoing, if somewhat irresponsible, father and husband. Then, while he was high and drunk one night, he accidentally started a fire that burned down his house and killed all of his children. After being questioned at the police station, he attempted suicide, forcing him to leave town and become a recluse. As a result, he's been reduced to a shell of a man and a jerkass woobie by the start of the film, unable to forgive himself.
  • In Death Grip, Kenny and Mark lost their mother in a house fire. They both have unresolved guilt over it. The fire was started when Kenny was playing flammable material outside and the mother died because Mark locked the door behind him due to his Ambiguous Disorder, trapping his mother in the burning house.

  • The Patient from The Black Parade is implied to have had a violent past, in which he committed many misdeeds.
  • Pink from Pink Floyd's The Wall. His father died in the war, his mother is over-protective, he was tortured by sadistic wonder that, when his marriage collapsed, he isolated himself from the rest of the world and became a fascist dictator in his own imaginary world. What's more, Pink was strongly based on Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters and his similarly-troubled life.
  • Luca Turilli uses this trope whenever he can.
    Lord Of The Winter Snow: Back again to my tragic past
    Demonheart: Shocked again she opened the gates / of her tragic past and bloody images / came back to her mind
    Dargor; Shadowlord of the Black Mountain: For his tragic past he disowned the sunlight
    Legend of Steel: Break the chains of the past forever
    Black Dragon: Had to fight the reputation of his bloody past
    Dawn of Victory: Shades of a past not so far to forget... / the rise of the demons from their bloody Hell!
    • Bloody Hell! He couldn't break the chains of this reputation.
  • The protagonist from The Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash", which has him born and raised in an abusive household and abandoned at some point in his childhood. It's hinted in the chorus that he's gotten over it, albeit not in one piece, given the nature of the song.
  • A lot of great musicians have had dark and troubled pasts. John Lennon had serious issues with the way his parents treated him, which he only started dealing with after he met Yoko Ono. Neil Young similarly had a chip on his shoulder about his parents breaking up (leading him to support Ronald Reagan under the guise of his 'strengthening the family' rhetoric, although he soon became disillusioned). John Cale was unable to have a conversation with his father until he was seven years old (at his mother's insistence, he was raised speaking only Welsh; his father only spoke English). Then he was molested by at least two older men in his youth, giving him issues that fed into his later substance abuse.
  • Dr. Light, as told by The Protomen. His father died in a mining accident, leading him to build robots to do the work instead and "take the death away". Unfortunately, things do not improve from here.
  • Almost the entire cast of the Evillous Chronicles. Venomania was locked in a basement and horribly bullied because of a small deformity, and then the only person who accepted him turned on him; Conchita's mother was abusive; Riliane's parents died and she was forced to ascend the throne while still a little kid; Margarita's true love completely ignored her, which sent her over the Despair Event Horizon; Lukana's family died in a fire; and Gallerian's family was killed by a Giant Octopus possibly by MA or Nemesis while Nemesis never knew her father, Gallerian, was abandoned for sometime by her mother, and later was forced to kill the man she loved by her boss. No wonder they're all so fucked up. And that's only a few of them.
  • The conjoined twins from Evelyn Evelyn had their mother die in childbirth, their father killed, and their doctor killed all within minutes of birth. They were kidnapped by a chicken farmer who raised them in a cage amongst chickens. When he died a few years later, they ran of but ended up picked up by a brothel masquerading as an orphanage. At age thirteen they were given to a circus due to being "too old" for the men. At the circus they were abused and harrassed, until they ran away a few years later.

  • It's mostly played for laughs in Sequinox, but Sid claims to have come from a town where the only thing they celebrated was surviving the winter, and it's very possible she's killed someone.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution the book states that there is a correlation between manifestation of psionic talent and childhood trauma, although no causal link has been established. It also specifies that most espers have pronounced emotional problems.

  • In Chess, Florence's father disappeared during the 1956 Budapest uprising.
  • The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera was used as a circus sideshow freak until he escaped.
  • Mary in Vanities has an alcoholic mother and runaway father; she sings about her desire to get away from it all in "Fly Into the Future".
  • In Pokémon Live!, Ash's mother Delia Ketchum used to go out with the head of Team Rocket, Giovanni.
  • Siegfried in Richard Wagner's Ring Of The Nibelung: An orphan, with additional guilt-inducing bonus of knowing that his mother died giving birth to him, raised by Mime to be used to kill Fafner for his hoard and the ring. Although he doesn't know it yet, his parents Siegmund and Sieglind were siblings, and his scheming grandfather Wälse alias Wotan also wanted to use Siegfried as a pawn in a longterm project and Wotan's enemy Alberich also would like to get rid of him. Sieglind saw her mother killed and was kidnapped and forced into a loveless marriage, then had to witness her brother and lover killed (which was also due to Wotan's intervention). Small wonder that one of the leitmotifs is called the Wälsungen suffering motive (Wälsungenleidmotiv).

    Web Animation 
  • Arguably, every character in Card Players. Nuff said.
  • One of the De Noirs from Dusk's Dawn gives us an Info Dump about how his father is missing and how "illusions can't help."
  • All four main characters in Broken Saints, despite coming from vastly different backgrounds, all have less than pleasant life stories:
    • Shandala was orphaned at infancy, and although her life among the Fijian Islanders is peaceful, when she was a young girl, her adopted mother was horrifically mutilated and murdered by white men under the direction of—and possibly including—her biological father.
    • Oran's father was killed during a bombing assault on Baghdad during the first Gulf War.
    • Kamimura was taken from his home at a very young age to become a monk, leaving his family behind to be killed in the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki in World War II.
    • Raimi has arguably the most mundane, but no less heartbreaking. After his father left, his mother died from what is implied to be cancer.
  • Arguably, Church from Red vs. Blue. While he doesn't remember it for the most part, the original Church is what you get when you brutally torture an AI into splitting into pieces, even to the point of using parts of its own mind against it (Gamma and Omega). The result is a constantly angry person who doesn't even understand why he's so angry all the time. Epsilon!Church probably remembers more about the torture, but chooses to suppress it to keep from going crazy.
  • Considering that one of RWBY's themes is War Is Hell, the majority of the cast have their burdens from the past to shoulder.
    • Blake was born a Faunus, and abused by humans who routinely discriminated against Faunus. She joined the White Fang at a very young age, where her mentor became an abusive, anti-human, murderous psychopath. She ran away from the White Fang when she could no longer take their violence.
    • Weiss grew up under the thumb of an emotionally abusive father, who regularly took his anger out on her and tried to force her to abandon her own dreams and ambitions. She'd watched family members and friends die at the hands of The White Fang.
    • Ruby lost her mother, presumably while fighting, when she was a very young child, and was raised by her father, and half-sister.
    • Yang's birth mother abandoned her for reasons unknown, her stepmother presumably died, and her father suffered a prolonged Heroic BSoD following these events, leaving Yang to raise herself and Ruby. She'd nearly gotten herself and baby Ruby killed trying to find her birth mother.
    • Nora was a street rat in Ren's hometown, the two orphaned when the Nuckalavee Grimm destroyed it, killing everyone save the two.
    • Emerald was a street rat, resorting to thievery in order to survive, and had nobody to care for her or love her.
    • Mercury grew up in an abusive household, with no mention of a mother, and a father who beat him. He'd ended up killing his own father prior to aiding the main villain.
    • Ozpin admits to Ruby that he's made more mistakes than anybody in Remnant, though it isn't specified what he's actually done (until Volume 6, that is).
  • DSBT InsaniT: Martha was abused as a child by a man with a whip, as explained in the Special Info Episode.
    • Killer Monster wasn't always evil, but after being banished to a fiery realm for 10,000 years, he became the killer monster he is now.

    Web Original 
  • Tasakeru's primary characters, the Outcasts, are shining examples of this trope, it's pretty much a prerequisite for being one. One is a runaway Samurai suffering from Survivor Guilt, one was thrown out on the streets with her mother as an infant and grew up in poverty, and one was disowned by her family for being a mage. And that's just the ones we know about...
  • Due to Darker and Edgier attitude of Neo Pokeforum, it's unsurprising that it has a lot of characters like this, such as the Crow and Ardus, Tom Allen, Leonard and Mahariel.
  • Most characters from MSF High Forum own this. It's also their motivation to become heroes. Also, there are monsters created out of this.
  • When you put them all together, even though they're played for dark laughs, a lot of bad things have happened (that weren't actually his fault) to The Nostalgia Critic. Abusive Parents, hiding in the cupboard when he got scared, breaking up with someone three times and getting stalked for it, pitied by his classmates for acting like a brat, date-raped on his prom night, and that's just what we know so far. No wonder he's a weepy Psychopathic Manchild with issues.
  • The Nostalgia Chick had a judging mother and an emotionally distant father who both were alcoholics and yelled at each other constantly, had an uncle that molested her, got bullied at school for being the awkward dork, became an alcoholic herself and somehow got fixated on guys she could fix and control to do whatever she asked of them.
  • Ithalond. An Elf from Imladris, he was pulled into the infamous fic Celebrian. Need I say more?
  • Touhou: a Glimmer of an Outside World has many, many indications that Yuuka wasn't quite as mentally stable as she is in the roleplay in the past. Like a basement with a room full of torture equipment.
  • The Gungan Council has this as a staple trait for characters. As the saying goes, "Slavery is a totally original backstory!"
  • In Guts and Sass: An Anti-Epic, Efeddre was captured and tortured for nine years, and ended up a Jerkass Woobie.
  • any of the Organization's Agents in LIS DEAD count, considering what we've learned of the Organization so far.
  • The Opening Narration of Doom House explains how the wife of the main character, Reginald P. Linux, had died long ago and that this had left a severe depression weighed heavy on his soul.
  • Jeanette of Funny Business is revealed to have this in the flashback. It turns out that having omnipotent power from a young age can do a number on one's psyche.
  • A lot of AkaiChounokoe's characters have these, so here's a few
    • Toki's past and if they are to be believed started is this, particularly so when she tried to runaway from them and, as Brownie put it She was once sweet and only wanted to be loved. Lets see? Here they are:
      • She was abused and then neglected causing her to almost die of leukemia, during the events of Flashbacks I, something that caused something in her to drive her insane in the next incident (see below)
      • She returned to the place where she was once abused so she can get hold of the inheritance money but went insane during the events of Insanity and Resentment and has had issues eve since.
    • Frailine (the one Toki abused) is also an example as per these statements:
      • She was imprisoned for being criminally insane after the events of Little Girl's Revenge when she almost killed Toki and damaged the border between this world and the next. Kind of a Disproportionate Retribution, compared to what Toki did to her (abused her and then, sometime afterward, she sent to Alaska attached to a bus by a magnet with no means of getting home)
      • Sometime after being imprisoned, she almost kills herself twice and is never seen again, as per stated, in Diary of a Borderline Schizophrenic, driving Toki into more self-hate because of it.
    • Bunny and Madgie's parents died in an accident when Bunny was twenty and Madgie was nine.
    • Doki was seperated from her twin sister Toki at when both were going on thirteen and was sedated and frozen.
  • Before leaving his home planet on the Dionysian, Fiearius Soliveré of "Caelum Lex" worked as an assassin for the dubious government organization the Society, potentially murdering many innocents. This culminated in an event that caused both his wife and four year old son to be killed
  • Par for the course in Fallout Is Dragons. Granted, it's set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but thus far two player characters are former raiders, one was abandoned by his mentor after nearly damning a filly, one was physically and psychologically tortured by his own "teacher", one was forced to kill his own brother for no other reason then to amuse the Big Bad, and one lost his memory, leg, and EYES in an explosion.
    • And that's not even factoring in the NPC backstories....
  • Madiha Nakar from The Solstice War is an amnesiac orphan and is hinted at having done a lot of horrible things as a child during her country's revolutionary war, where she fought on the socialist side.
  • The crew of captain Icomb's ship in Skies Unbroken has: two former Sky Pirates (including the good captain himself), one not-so-former Sky Pirate who joins later, a soldier whose side lost The War Just Before, and a Waif Prophet. It's their passenger's Dark and Troubled Past that is, however, most frequently (if vaguely) alluded to.

    Real Life 
  • Joseph Merrick, "The Elephant Man", never told Treves a single detail about his family, even that his mother was dead, because the whole family situation was a Dark And Troubled Mess. Dead mother, a classic case of Survivor Guilt over his dead four-year-old brother, crippled sister, abusive father, Wicked Stepmother, and step-siblings who were, as he put it, "more handsome". This may actually have been the source of the misnomer "John" — his father was also named Joseph, and he may have wanted to separate himself as far from that as he could, possibly out of paranoia of having to go back home.
  • Kelsey Grammer: His entire life has been one tragedy after another. His father was murdered. His sister was murdered. Two half-brothers were killed in a diving accident. His longtime friend and Frasier producer David Angell was killed in the 9/11 attacks. Another longtime friend was murdered in an inheritance scheme. He was abused by two ex-wives, one of whom attempted suicide while pregnant and killed their unborn child. Seriously, someone give this man a hug.
  • Russell Brand. Childhood Bulimia? Check. Traumatic incidents involving a tutor, and then a babysitter? Check. Self-harm? Check. Mother with cancer that reappeared four times? Check. Evil stepfather? Check. Bipolar disorder? Check. Misguided attempt by his father at bonding, involving a trip to Thailand and prostitutes? CHECK.
  • Axl Rose: read the biography "Guns And Roses: The Band That Time Forgot" for the full details. Needless to say, it's no wonder he's such a Jerk Ass sometimes.
  • Richard O'Brien. Born abnormally small, bullied at school, and then growing up genderqueer in what amounted to a conservative country town in the 1950s/60s...ouch. And then his baby flopped in cinemas.
  • Janice Dickinson, one of the world's first supermodels. She was thoroughly traumatized and damaged not just by her father's emotional and physical abuse of her, but also his sexual abuse of one of her sisters. And then in 2015 she claimed that in 1982, she was one of the victims of Bill Cosby's date rapes.
  • Charles Bukowski, a German-American novelist and poet. His childhood was a long episode of school fights, child abuse and social rejection. This depression later bolstered his rage as he grew, and gave him much of his voice and material for his writings.
  • James Ellroy
  • Scott Hall suffers from PTSD as a result of killing a man in self-defense, developed a serious drug and alcohol addiction to treat it, had most of his friends abandon him because of it, and is in a serious amount of pain constantly
  • Edgar Allan Poe. His biological father left, his biological mother died of tuberculosis along with his brother and both loves of his life, and his foster dad was an abusive jerk. No wonder he wrote what he did.
  • Michael Jordan had to watch his friend drown trying to save him when he was a teenager, and then had his father murdered later during his career.
  • Manu Bennett was a bullying victim, then lost his mother and brother in a car accident. He stated in an interview that he found peace through acting.
  • Charisma Carpenter had a near-rape experience, as she and two of her friends were the final victims of a serial rapist back in 1991.
  • Tyler Perry was constantly beaten by his father, Emmitt Brown Sr., to the point that he once attempted suicide to get away from him, and was molested by a friend's mother and three other men as a child. He changed his name from Emmitt Brown Jr. to Tyler Perry, and eventually discovered that Emmitt Brown Sr. actually wasn't his biological father.
  • Evan Rachel Wood revealed that she's been raped twice in her past, and suffers from these experiences. In 2018 she gave testimony before a US Senate subcommittee about this in support of a proposed law.