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.
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.
- Used in Katekyō Hitman Reborn!, where Longchamp Naito has a different girlfriend in every appearance. Played with in the sense that they're all hideous, so it's not like the writers are even pretending that they have a chance.
- Yuuichi Aizawa of Kanon is often joked to attract girls with psychological problems or on the verge of death. The one normal girl in his harem? Her mother gets hit by a car.
- Train from Black Cat doesn't seem to be able to attract very normal love interests. It would be rather interesting to know if he would still choose to be a Celibate Hero and appear to be asexual if a halfway decent and semi-normal woman would come into his life. His (possibly) blooming feelings for Saya (the most normal of his love interests) is cut very short by... a certain very jealous person. Rinslet is a very manipulative thief who constantly takes advantage of him and tricks him into doing things for her. Kyoko is too much of a borderline Yandere who is overly aggressive and a Stalker with a Crush. And that's not even mentioning Creed, who is the most insane and obsessive pervert when it comes to Train, and is the one responsible for what happened to Saya.
- Sakura Gari: Every one of Souma's lovers are shown to have horrible endings. He even notices and mentions it himself. Of course, this doesn't stop him from continuing to take lovers.
- This trope is what Terry Bogard in the OVA and animated movie adaptations of Fatal Fury becomes. At the point in time in which they were made, Terry did not have a canonical love interest (indeed, The One Girl existing in the games proper at the time was/is crushing on Terry's younger brother), so a pair of Canon Foreigner girls were added in to amp of the drama:
- The first OVA gives us Broken Bird Lily McGuire who is practically a slave to the Big Bad, Geese Howard, and in fact was partly responsible for an incident in which Geese killed Terry's father, which emotionally broke her. Regardless, the two fall for each other, and just as Lily has made her High-HeelFace Turn and agreed to finally leave Geese to be with Terry, Geese Reppuukens her through a window to her death. His failure to protect Lily haunts Terry for the remainder of the trilogy.
- In The Movie, Terry meets Plucky Girl Suila Gaudemus who as luck would have it, is the Crazed madman Laocorn Gaudemus' little sister. Terry spends the movie trying to keep himself from getting too close to Sulia because of what happened to Lily, but just as he's coming to terms with his feelings, Laocorn becomes a godlike being, and Sulia makes a Heroic Sacrifice that allows Terry to beat him.
- Denpa Teki na Kanojo: Juuzawa Juu, a Troubled, but Cute Delinquent picks the interest of a lot of girls. Only Fujishima Kanako was sane. The other ones are a Serial Killer Stalker with a Crush (who killed Fujishima and tried to kill him), a Manipulative Bastard, (who tried to kill him) a Tsundere who proposed him Sex for Solace and a girl who claims to be his Magical Girlfriend. Also, because All Girls Want Bad Boys and therefore Evil Is Cool, The Bully is obsessed with destroying his life. Fortunately, the girl who believes herself a Magical Girlfriend will protect him, but Juu could not have a relationship with her because she is, obviously, Crazy Sane and he is Above the Influence.
- Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion. This being a Crapsack World filled with Dysfunction Junction, it's not unexpected but Shinji seems to be the only one attracted to actually evil non-humans. Rei turns out to be a clone of his mom and Lilith and the key to jumpstarting the Apocalypse. Kaworu is actually Tabris, an angel. Asuka's the most normal and that's saying a lot.
- Seraph of the End: Guren has Mahiru as a girlfriend who just so happens to be willing to do anything up to including betrayal, researching cursed weapons, putting innocent people's lives in danger, and becoming a demon in order to be with Guren.
- Full Metal Panic!: Sousuke attracted Gauron's ''attention'' without even trying. Unfortunately for Sousuke, Gauron is a Ax-Crazy Psycho for Hire, and a man.
- Tokyo Ghoul: Sasaki/Kaneki seems to have a knack for attracting admirers of the Villainous Crush variety Tsukiyama, Nico, Roma, and Eto are all fascinated with him to one degree or another.
- And now Mutsuki who shows increasing worrying distructive behaviors and mental instability towards himself and others makes it explicity known that he has feelings for Sasaki/Kaneki.
- Mutsuki is the unfortunate target of a crush by Saeki/Torso and Ayu/Nutcracker expresses attraction to him at one point via licking and kissing his face when she was in the process of trying to sell him into slavery.
- Ai no Kusabi: Riki. Most of the people that want him have very serious issues to work out and he always ends up paying for it.
- School Days: In the anime, Makoto is in a Psychotic Love Triangle and is The Casanova to boot and ends up paying for it at the hands of his love interests.
- Kurenai Sanshiro: Whenever the titular character meets a Girl of the Week, the girl gets in trouble or already was knee deep in problem. At least one of them dies.
- Berserk:Guts has gotten a lot of unwanted sexual attention over the course of his life. Like Casca, he got bought as a Sex Slave as a child when a pedophiliac mercenary named Donovan noticed him and asked Gambino Guts' adoptive father if he could have him for a night (Guts killed Donovan the next day as revenge for that, by the way). Things got worse for Guts as Griffith became attracted to him and refused to let him go and went crazy when Guts eventually left. There's also Slan, the sole female member of the Godhand, who lusted after The Hero the moment she met him and even pursued him after the Eclipse, dragging him into a Pocket Dimension where she could molest him. And even Rosine, who seemed to be strictly into her friend Jill, flirted with him and called him hunky before attempting to kill him. Also, Farnese was attracted to the sight of his scarred muscular torso after giving him lashes, and had repressed sexual desire for him which was released and exacerbated upon after a demon from the group following Guts possessed her and made her undress and act overtly sexual towards him in an ominous manner. Before she changed for the better she was also a pyromaniac, who got off from torturing people with fire.
- 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 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Smallville plays this to ridiculous levels.
- Clark Kent is, of course, a textbook example of Doom Magnet, as Chloe and Lana could attest, and they both have been attracted to him for years. Clark himself may become a danger whenever he comes in contact with red kryptonite, or possessed, or mind controlled. For short term Love Interests, Kyla turns out to be a shapeshifter who accidentally killed the Victim of the Week and Alicia tried to kill Lana, not that anyone wanted Clark to stop her doing just that.
- Chloe has very little luck with love even not counting Clark. Sean turned out to be a murderous psycho, Justin turned out to be a murderous psycho, Ian turned out to be a murderous psycho, Davis turned out to be a murderous psycho, and the marriage between Jimmy and her ended with tears.
- Lana also attracted a bunch of freaks of the week.
- 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.
- And, considering her husbands included a religious zealot bent on utter domination of the galaxy and a cook who couldn't make pie he was kind of a step up for her too.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Abby from Grossology has had the misfortune of falling for three different supervillains over the course of the show — V.K. (a Jerk Jock who planned to infect all of his rivals with a serious case of foot fungus), Lance Boil (back when he was a handsome fellow grossologist and not a mad scientist with a boil for a head), and Chester/Kid Rot (who actually reciprocated, but unfortunately the fact that he was taken over by a Superpowered Evil Side and (seemingly) killed later put a damper on that relationship).