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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.

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 killed off. 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, Criminally Attractive, Romantic False Lead.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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-Heel–Face 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.
  • Four Knights of the Apocalypse: The two women most attracted to Lancelot come with several issues that cause him to not be happy about their romantic attention. First, Guinevere is only twelve when they first meet and her foresight causes her to act like she and Lancelot have been a couple for a long time, but from his perspective, she's a random stranger who forced a kiss on him without even telling him her name first. The second one is even more problematic; Jericho is Lancelot's big sister figure and teacher, so he's disturbed to find out she has been repressing her lust for him since he was a preteen. To make it worse, Jericho's obsession with Lancelot has driven her to side with Arthur because the latter will create a fake reality where she can keep an older Lancelot as her lover.
  • In Kanon, Yuuichi Aizawa is often joked to attract girls with psychological problems or on the verge of death.
  • Kurenai Sanshiro: Whenever the titular character meets a Girl of the Week, the girl gets in trouble or already was knee-deep in a problem. At least one of them dies.
  • 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.
  • Used in Reborn! (2004), 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.
  • Sakura Gari: Every one of Souma's lovers is shown to have horrible endings. He even notices and mentions it himself. Of course, this doesn't stop him from continuing to take lovers.
  • 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.
  • 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 destructive behaviors and mental instability towards himself and others makes it explicitly 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.
  • In Urusei Yatsura, Shinobu Miyake has such awful luck with guys she even goes to the local miko to ask if she's under some kind of curse at one point. Her First Love was with her childhood friend, Ataru Moroboshi, who was a raging lech and Unlucky Everydude who accidentally betrothed himself to a beautiful Alien Princess. Then she spent months chasing the hand of handsome, wealthy conglomerate heir Shutaro Mendo, only to finally realize he had no feelings for her and he was as big of a pervert as Ataru under a thin veneer of charm. She was intermittently stalked by a strong but incredibly stupid and ugly teen delinquent. Finally, she found reciprocal love in Inaba, a genuinely nice, courteous and respectful guy... who just happens to run around in a rabbit suit and lives in another dimension.

    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.
    • Batman: Batman 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.
    • Daredevil: Matt Murdock 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.
    • Iron Man: Tony Stark. 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).
    • Runaways: Nico Minoru. 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.
  • Ms. Tree: The title character. Most of Michael's boyfriends since the death of her husband have turned out to be killers.
  • The Sandman (1989): From what we see of his various exes (and he's had several), Morpheus 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.
  • Scott Pilgrim: Ramona laments that of all the people she's dated, only Scott is a Nice Guy (and he goes through quite a lot of Character Development himself). The rest were jerks at best and Evil Exes at worst.

    Fan Works 

    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.


    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Xander Harris, 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 to the point he becomes engaged to a murderous non-human after she transformed into a law-abiding human. It reaches the point that not only was Willow unsure if a coded message he sent meant "I'm getting some don't bother me for a while" or "help a demon is eating my head", not only do his friends launch a rescue mission assuming the latter is more likely, but also they're absolutely correct in doing so. Fan Fic likes to make this a source of constant Lampshade Hanging. In the episode "Something Blue", some careless words by Willow after casting a spell that made herself a Reality Warper turn Xander into a literal demon magnet.
    • Buffy herself doesn't fare much better. Her three main boyfriends were, respectively, Angel, an ensouled vampire who lost the soul after her night with him, Riley, a Super-Soldier who ended up leaving her, and Spike, an un-souled vampire who ended up getting a soul for her... then died.
    • Lampshaded in "I Robot, You Jane". Willow is depressed because it turned out the "boy" she had a crush on and that seemed interested in her was in fact a demon inside a robot. Buffy and Xander try 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, so their love lives are all clearly doomed as long as they live on the Hellmouth. It doesn't quite work, as they ALL end up depressed.
    • Spike doesn't fare much better; his first love (Cecily, aka Halfrek) was a stuck-up Victorian lady, who either became or was all along a vengeance demon. His second love was his Mad Oracle vampire sire Drusilla, who cheated on him constantly for over a century then dumped him once she foresaw his incoming infatuation with Buffy. Then he shacked up with newly-turned-vampire Harmony, whom he never cared much for and was mostly just a shallow fling. Then he got in with a newly-resurrected and suicidally-depressed Buffy. In the comics, Xander calls him out for seeking out only doomed relationships thanks to his Inferiority Superiority Complex and pushes him towards a much healthier relationship with a more well-adjusted Buffy.
    • On Angel, Cordelia ends up with a similar problem, combined with mystical pregnancies.
  • CSI: NY's Stella Bonasera has been attracted to someone who turned out to be a murderer at least twice her ex-boyfriend/stalker Frankie Mala and Mac's 333 stalker Drew Bedford.
  • In Game of Thrones, poor Sansa has horrible luck when it comes to men.
    • Her first betrothed Joffrey puts up a Prince Charming façade for a while but is actually The Caligula, who cuts her father's head off in front of her, has her beaten and publicly humiliated, and repeatedly threatens to rape and/or kill her.
    • Her second husband Ramsay Bolton is quite possibly even more of a psycho than Joffrey, who abuses and rapes her and tries to torture and kill anyone she loves or who shows compassion to her.
    • Littlefinger has a very obvious crush on her and is a Manipulative Bastard old enough to be her dad; he's also technically her uncle by marriage and was obsessed with her mother, whom she strongly resembles. It's all but stated he intends her to be a Replacement Goldfish for Catelyn and he's not above trying to force physical affection on her. He's also the one who arranged her marriage to Ramsay, and tries to alienate her from her surviving family.
    • Sandor Clegane is implied to have a bit of a crush on her; although he treats her much better than Joffrey, Littlefinger or Ramsay, he's still a deeply twisted and violent individual and there are implications he once considered forcing himself on her, though he could just have been saying this to get a rise out of her sister Arya, and he never actually touched her.
    • Out of all the men she's been 'involved' with, hard-drinking Chivalrous Pervert Tyrion Lannister (whom she was forced to marry) is by far the nicest. Her crush Loras Tyrell is nice to her too... but she doesn't realise he's gay, bless her, and the plan for them to get married was scuppered when the Lannisters found out about it and made her marry Tyrion.
  • 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.
  • Jonathan Creek and his boss Adam Klaus both have a tendency to date girls who end up being that episode's murderer.
  • NCIS: Somebody's new girl/boyfriend 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 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.
  • Psych: Juliet's mother has a really bad track record when it comes to men. Her first and second husbands were a con artist and gambling addict, respectively. She has also dated an embezzler, an alcoholic pickpocket, and a man who sold defective above-ground pools.
  • 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.
  • In The Sentinel both Jim and Blair have attracted unsuitable women— thieves, assassins, stalkers, serial killers, and general nutcases. Fanfic writers have Flanderized this.
  • Smallville plays this to ridiculous levels.
  • Daniel Jackson of Stargate SG-1 only ever seems to get a reprieve from this when his Cartwright Curse kicks in. Vala Mal Doran, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 doctor Sam is sexing up is the current monster of the week. Surprisingly, he's wrong. The siren is actually the male cop whom Dean has been bonding with.
    • Dean has attracted some female demons as well, the most dangerous being perhaps Abaddon. Also, in a later season, he attracts the Darkness, also known by the 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.
  • Teen Wolf: Derek Hale has infinitely awful luck when picking romantic interests. His first love, Paige, dies after rejecting a wolf bite from a rogue Alpha. His second, Kate, turns out to be a werewolf hunter who is simply using Derek to get to his family. Her manipulation results in the death of nearly Derek's entire family and triggers the events of series one. Furthermore, Kate enjoys physically and psychologically torturing Derek whenever she can and does so across the series. Derek's next love interest is Jennifer Blake who is also manipulating him and turns out to be an evil druid who is responsible for a series of human sacrifices for increased magical power. Derek's most "normal" love interest is Braeden and she is more of a friend with benefits with whom he hooks up when she's in town with no expectation of contact when she's out of town.
  • Twice on Torchwood, Toshiko Sato's love interests have turned out to be manipulative alien baddies; Mary in "Greeks Bearing Gifts" and Adam in "Adam". And these have been her only love interests on the show other than a WWI soldier, who had to go back to his time and be shot for "cowardice" due to shell shock, and her hopeless crush on Owen.
  • The Tribe character Bray turns girls yandere. No, we don't mean that the girls were always yandere. We mean that there have been girls in the cast who were perfectly kind and decent (some of them even go on to have healthy relationships with other boys, later), but the moment they fall for Bray, their sanity goes out the window unless and until they let go of their feelings. Even weirder, Bray is fully aware of this fact; it's why he insists on travelling alone despite living in an incredibly dangerous Wretched Hive. Only Amber is immune to the effect- and it's implied she's deliberately holding it back- which is a big reason why they get married.
  • Justin in Wizards of Waverly Place. First there was the werewolf, then there was the vampire, then the angel of darkness masquerading as a guardian angel (at first)...

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

    Visual Novels 
  • Monster Prom has Joy Johnson-Jojima, whose previous sexual relationships have consisted of pretty much every Big Bad she's fought. So far, we've met five of them (two of them in the first game, three in Monster Camp): Dmitri, Axarax, Salomé, Gerard, and Liam.

  • 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.
  • Lampshaded and discussed in Joe vs. Elan School, as the title character pursues a dangerous relationship with a drug-addicted college classmate named Eva. Joe reflects he may have been subconsciously attracted to self-destructive women due to his Elan School brainwashing causing him to subconsciously think that he could "save" them.
  • 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 women 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 
  • Garfield and Friends: Jon's tendency to flirt with any woman with a pulse has led to several instances where the woman in question turns out to be a criminal or someone otherwise trying to take advantage of him (e.g. "The Great Getaway" has him fall for a pickpocket who tries to steal his wallet, and "Rainy Day Dreams" sees him date a woman who uses his attraction to try and sell him insurance). Their schemes usually get foiled by Garfield (either intentionally or accidentally), leading to Jon figuring out the truth by the episode's end.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, the sanest girl who's ever been interested in Adrien once impulsively cut down a tree because she saw someone kissing him on the cheek. You can imagine what the rest are like, which has led to accusations that the writers are misogynistic. Unusually for the trope, Adrien is no stranger to jealousy himself.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series: Felicia Hardy dated Michael Morbius, who became a vampire. She was also engaged to Jason Philips, who was actually the Hobgoblin and was only marrying her because of her beauty and her money. She is also in love with Spider-Man, whose duties as a superhero also make them starting a relationship difficult. No wonder she felt like a black cat when it comes to relationships. A later episode implies that her interest in mysterious men is in part because her father was an infamous professional thief.
  • The Venture Bros.: Although the most common flaw in Rusty Venture's love interests is a complete lack of interest in him, some women are crazy enough to reciprocate his feelings. None of them come across like the best examples of mental stability, and one of them is actually screwed-up to the point she's hauled off in handcuffs, treats cats like her children, and ends up in an insane asylum.