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Fatal Attractor

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Harry Kim: [after telling Tom he's in love again] I know what you are gonna say...
Tom Paris: No, no. Actually, I was gonna congratulate you. I mean, she's not a Borg, she's not a hologram, and she's not dead. Looks like you might have finally found yourself the perfect woman.
Star Trek: Voyager, "Drive"

Some people are just unlucky in love. Others seem to have done something to personally piss Cupid off and are spending the rest of their lives paying for it. The Fatal Attractor is a character whose Love Interests always end up having some sort of critically serious flaw, be it personality, physicality or just a maniacal urge to destroy the universe, which ultimately precludes any kind of long-term relationship.


By making sure that the relationships are doomed via the use of flawed love interests, the writers are able to make sure that Status Quo Is God without having legitimate love interests Stuffed into the Fridge. The trouble is, when it's done to a character several times over the course of a long-running series, they end up coming off as either having really bad taste in love interests or being a magnet for psychotics. Or both.

For this reason, long-running series characters are the main ones to run into this problem, especially ones who use Girl of the Week or Monster of the Week format (usually the two end up being combined). Usually only males suffer this problem, but that has more to do with the fact that Most Writers Are Male than any inherent quality of this trope.

Interestingly, this usually only happens to secondary characters — leads tend to have more functionally sane love interests. In any case, all of them suffer from the Cartwright Curse.


Like everything else that he can't catch a break with, the Butt-Monkey is usually the most common victim of this trope.

See also: Dating Catwoman, Fatal Attraction, Romantic False Lead.


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    Anime and Manga 

     Comic Books 
  • More superheroes than can really even be counted. The lucky ones (Superman, Spider-Man, etc.) at least have a single canonical love interest, but most of them just end up in an endless revolving door of doomed relationships.
    • Daredevil is the king of this trope. He's had several girlfriends who have been insane (Milla Donovan) or misguided or evil (Lady Deathstrike, Typhoid Mary, Echo).
      • Even one who was mostly one of the good ones, Karen Page, became addicted to drugs for a time and sold his secret identity to the Kingpin.
    • Batman, who is generally attracted to Anti-Heroines if not outright villains. His most enduring loves are Talia Al Ghul and Catwoman. His penchant for bad girls once convinced him that his girl of the week was evil due to her being a bit too vanilla.
    • Nico Minoru of Runaways. Her first boyfriend, who she still hasn't completely gotten over after his death, turned out to be The Mole and she ended things with her second boyfriend because he fell for another girl. She also made out with a vampire at one point.
    • Tony Stark of Iron Man fame. To put things in perspective, his best romantic relationships have been with Pepper Potts-Hogan (who was married to his best friend most of the time) and with Rumiko Fujikawa, who jerked him around for her own amusement and cheated on him with one of his crazier enemies, Tiberius Stone, before getting killed by a supervillain. Apart from them, Tony has dated supervillains (Madame Masque), plants hired by his enemies to conduct psychological warfare against him (Indres Moomji), other businessmen/women who were only trying to take advantage of him (Sunset Bain, arguably Tiberius Stone), one night stands who may arguably have date-raped him (Heather), and creepy possessive stalkers who tried to kill him (Kathy Dare, the Living Armor).
  • The title character from Ms. Tree. Most of Michael's boyfriends since the death of her husband have turned out to be killers.
  • From what we see of his various exes (and he's had several), Morpheus from The Sandman is really bad at relationships. In fairness, just about all of them are just as much due to his own flaws as his lovers': Being an Anthropomorphic Personification of dreams and fantasies Morpheus is really adept at the 'seducing' part, but his pride and sense of duty means he's downright rotten at working to keep a relationship going.

    Fan Works 
  • A Small Crime: Artie. The first girl he loved thinks that he's a loser. The second girl he loved is supposed to kill him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This was lampshaded in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, where the Angels confirm a character is an assassin by asking Drew Barrymore's character whether she found him attractive.

  • Bertie Wooster of Jeeves and Wooster attracts—and is attracted by—girls who turn out to be either complete weirdos or just terrible people.
  • Chiao Tai, former highwayman turned Judge's assistant in the Judge Dee mysteries is an ancient Chinese poster boy for this trope. One girl turns out to be an enemy agent who tries to kill him. Another woman is a husband killer and his true soul mate is not only a dancer-courtesan but a murderess.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Smallville plays this to ridiculous levels.
  • Harry Kim, from Star Trek: Voyager, who is described in the quote at the top of the page, fairly accurately sums up this trope. And for those of you who were wondering, the person being discussed in that conversation turned out to be an alien saboteur who was trying to start an interstellar war. Poor Harry just can't catch a break in the romantic department.
  • Neither can Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who in addition to his past relationship with Cordelia and his unrequited crush on the title character, always seems to end up with murderous non-humans. (Except for the murderous non-human who transformed into a law abiding human). Fan Fic likes to make this go Up to Eleven and a source of constant Lampshade Hanging.
    • Buffy herself doesn't fare much better. Her three boyfriends (counting Spike, but not her one-night stand) were, respectively, an Ensouled Vampire who lost the soul after her night with him, a Super-Soldier, and an Unensouled Vampire who proceeded to get a soul and whose relationship with her was quite an unhealthy one.
    • Lampshaded in Season 1. At the end of an episode, Willow is depressed because it turned out the "boy" she had a crush on and that seemed interested in her was in fact a robotic demon. Buffy and Xander tries to cheer her up by pointing out that Buffy's current boyfriend is a vampire and that Xander was recently attracted to a She-Mantis. It doesn't quite work, as they ALL end up depressed.
    • On Angel, Cordelia ends up with a similar problem, combined with mystical pregnancies.
  • Ah, the poor characters on NCIS. Somebody's new girl/boy friend turning out to be evil happens just about once a season, to the point that fans instantly suspect anyone's new love interest. There was an undercover Mossad agent, an identity thief, two serial killers, the daughter of an international arms dealer, and a freaking South African assassin. McGee ends up having the aforementioned assassin try to kill him, and she ends up shot and dying in his arms, prompting him to mumble, "I swear I'm joining a monastery." Tony has sexual tension with (probably over) half the female killers on the show. Abby's ex-boyfriend stalked her and intended to kill her and a make it look like a suicide. Even Ducky got in on the action by dating a serial killer. It makes Gibbs look kinda normal, though he's gone out with a few (yes, literal) killers over the course of the show.
  • Daniel Jackson of Stargate SG-1 only ever seems to get a reprieve from this when his Cartwright Curse kicks in. The lecherous, amoral starship thief whom he only ever had a committed relationship with in an alternate universe was actually a step up for him.
  • Justin in Wizards of Waverly Place. First there was the werewolf, then there was the vampire...
  • Supernatural: Sam Winchester. His love interests have included a kitsune, a werewolf, a demon (twice!) and multiple arachne (they were turned into monsters after Sam slept with them but still). Even girls he simply befriends turn out to be monsters or evil (like Meg or Ava). In "Sex and Violence", Dean uses this trope to deduce that the girl Sam is sexing up is the current monster of the week. Surprisingly, he's wrong.
    • Dean has attracted some female demons as well, the most dangerous being perhaps Abaddon. Also, in a later season he attracts the Darkness, often called by another name, Amara, who is a supremely powerful primordial entity who has existed since before the beginning of time, predating both God and Death, who were of similar age.
  • Jonathan Creek and his boss, Adam Klaus, both have a tendency to date girls who end up being that episode's murderer.
  • One of the principal tropes of Seinfeld. Jerry, George and Elaine have all routinely dated people only to break up with them over one minor character flaw or another.
  • Oliver Queen from Arrow has this on top of his Cartwright Curse. Helena Bertinelli, he mentored until she Jumped Off The Slippery Slope and Oliver had to put her in jail. Sara Lance is a member of the League of Assassins, who while an ally, is much more ruthless than he. Isabel Rochev turned out to be the Ravager and working with Slade. Lampshaded in season 3
    Oliver: Last girlfriend? She's in the League of Assassins. My girlfriend before that shot my girlfriend before that. Not exactly a catch at the moment.
  • CSI: NY's Stella Buonasera has been attracted to someone who turned out to be a murderer at least thrice.
  • In Series/The Sentinel both Jim and Blair have attracted unsuitable women—thieves, assassins, stalkers, serial killers, and general nutcases. Fanfic writers have Flanderized this.
  • Gotham: Jim unintentionally attracts a laundry list of admirers, male and female, most of whom are Ax-Crazy. At last count they include: Penguin; Nygma; Barbara; Sionis; and last but not least Theo Galavan who genuinely planned to have Jim at his side when he took over Gotham but due to Jim's refusal to bend to him finally orders him killed.
  • Rizzoli & Isles: Jane unfortunately seems to be a psycho magnet, in that she attracts the attention of Serial Killer Charles Hoyt and a delusional man who kidnaps her while insisting she's his wife.
  • In Scream: The TV Series Emma just has worse luck in love - 1. Will, whose first time with her was on a dare, 2. Kieran, who turned out to be the season 1 accomplice and season 2 killer, and 3. Alex a.k.a. Tom, who murdered a whole bunch of people for Emma because he's in love with her, thinking they're the same.


  • Classical Mythology makes this one Older Than Dirt, when Aphrodite got pissed off at Pasiphae, the wife of King Mino of Crete, so she made her fall in love with the Cretan Bull, which would attack and kill anything that got close to it. Well anything except the royal cattle, thus leading to Pasiphae disguising herself as one of these cows and conceiving the Minotaur.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Jon before he started going steady with Liz was like this with pretty much ANY girl he dated.

  • In Ctrl+Alt+Del, all of Lucas' ex-girlfriends are crazy or wanted to harm him in some way. It got to the point where he wore a bulletproof vest on his latest date. As for how that one turns out, it's a loveless relationship where the other party allows him to essentially use her for sex and companionship in the hopes that he'll reciprocate her deeper feelings, and they are both fine with this.
    • Until Lucas DOES reciprocate her feelings and walks in on her taking advantage of the open nature of their relationship... with another man.
  • In Something*Positive, Davan's girlfriends usually turn out to have something very wrong with them. The sole exception left him (with his blessing) because her dream job required her to move. His current relationship with Vanessa seems to be working out okay, though she has her little quirks.
  • Justin from Wapsi Square described himself as a crazy chick magnet. It turns out that there's a little bit more to it than that. He doesn't just attract crazy women, he attracts crazy paranormal women, many of whom want to do things that he is uncomfortable with.

    Web Original 
  • In Red vs. Blue, most of the woman Church knew were this, which includes his girlfriend Agent Texas and his daughter, Carolina. Lampshaded by Tucker.
    Tucker: Church, the more important question here is: do you know any girls who aren't complete bitches, that won't sleep with me?
    Church/Epsilon: Sorry, dude. That seems to be all I have in my life.

    Western Animation 
  • Hadji from Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures. His two main love interests over the run of the show were:
    • A succubus-like monster who was using him to get to Jessie so it could consume her life force, and
    • The daughter of his adoptive father's terrorist arch-enemy. After this particular Reveal, Hadji's friend Jessie lampshaded his status as one.