Normally, you'd expect a character known for being tough and cynical about people to also be wary of romantic love. They of all people know that Love Is a Weakness. It's dangerous sentimentality that clouds your judgement and makes you vulnerable to being manipulated or having your heart broken. But for every Confirmed Bachelor or Celibate Hero who scoffs at love, there's another otherwise hard-boiled character who can't help falling in love against their better judgement.
This type is vulnerable to The Dulcinea Effect and Because You Were Nice to Me, dropping their responsibilities and self-interest so they can stick their neck out for some person they just fell in love with. In all other respects they're a level-headed professional, or a Wild Card who doesn't trust anyone but themselves, which makes people who know them wonder why they only lose their head when there's romance involved. Maybe they're a Chivalrous Pervert who can't say "no" to a pretty guy or lady who asks for help. Maybe on the inside, they just want to be loved, or they're a Knight In Sour Armor who wants to find just one person in their rotten world who they can believe in. Maybe being a champion for someone is what gives their life a sense of meaning. Regardless of their reasons, if you ask them why they always fall for it even though they've been burned before, they'll straight up tell you, "I'm a sucker for romance," or, "I'm just a fool for love." In a way, they have the same attitude towards romance that the Knight In Sour Armor has toward heroism.
It's more common to see the male version, because of the stereotype that Men Are Tough, but a Broken Bird female can be a Fool for Love as well. If the Fool for Love is a guy, he'll often have a secret artsy or feminine side. He may seem like a gun (or sword or fist) slinging showboat, but when no one is looking he is reading and writing poetry. Or painting landscapes. Or just looking forlornly at the horizon, but real artfully. Conversely, a female fool for love may act "unladylike" most of the time, but turn out to be a Tomboy with a Girly Streak.
This has been a very common trope in popular music, and was particularly in vogue in The '50s. The idea is that for better or for worse, you have to be a fool to fall in love, but songs can portray it either idealistically or cynically.
This trope overlaps with Love Makes You Dumb, but it's fundamentally more of an idealism trope than an intelligence trope. The fool for love often knows from experience what they're getting into, and willfully ignores red flags instead of being too blinded by naivete or hubris to see them in the first place. In fact, the character's feelings don't even have to necessarily lead to real stupidity as long as they believe in their own head that their feelings are foolish. Compare Love Martyr, which is a character who stays loyal to a romantic partner who mistreats them. Such a character may be a Serial Spouse or a Serial Romeo.
Careful not to confuse the trope with the 1985 film Fool for Love.
- Sanji from One Piece is a self-confessed Slave to Love. Any moderately attractive woman can manipulate his chivalry, and any woman period is subject to his protection. Even if they're enemies.
- Harima Kenji from School Rumble fits the badass-in-love description to a T in his feelings toward Tsukamoto Tenma.
- A (maybe) platonic version of this is Kamina from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann initially appears to be a big, boastful, fearless meathead, but his bluster is both a cover for his inner doubts and a way to inspire courage in others, especially his Blood Brother Simon. He admits to Yoko in episode 8 that he'd have given into despair long ago if it were not for his absolute faith in Simon, and shortly thereafter goes on his first mission where he and Simon fight separately...and only Simon comes back alive.
- The typically caustic Chazz/Jun from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX always goes crazy in the presence of Alexis/Asuka and always tries to impress her, but always fails.
- A villainous, yet quite tragic, example in the Count. He was once a Knight Templar who fought pagans, but he maintained a family life with his wife and daughter. He loved his wife dearly, but when he found out about her unfaithfulness, his world comes crashing down and he ended up sacrificing her to the God Hand to become an emotionless demon in his moment of despair.
- Guts himself also qualifies for this trope. He's the most macho, most badass character in the story, but damn if he doesn't love Casca, traveling across treacherous terrain and battling unspeakable enemies all for her wellbeing. Even before things took a turn for the worse in their relationship, Casca was one of those few individuals whom Guts showed his softer, emotional, and even vulnerable side to. His situation is very much the dark and tragic example of this trope, because Casca goes insane and amnesiac after her traumatic experience during the Eclipse and ceases to remember Guts. Guts is not very happy for a long while.
- In Finder Series Asami Ryuichi is usually a cautious and very intelligent man. But when his lover Akihito gets kidnapped by an old enemy he makes several highly questionable choices to get him back. From embarking in a rescue mission with two still unhealed gunshot wounds to cutting deals with other criminal organizations.
- Gets referenced in Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz: when Heero immediately goes to rescue the kidnapped Relena, Duo quietly remarks "Anything and everything for the one you love..." (in the English dub) or "Heh, somebody's got a crush" (in the original Japanese).
- Wolverine sure seems like an uncaring loner until you look at the gaggle of one true loves he has loved and lost throughout the years.
- In Hercules, Megara ended up enslaved to Hades because she sacrificed herself for a boyfriend who didn't remain true to her. As a result she lost her faith in men, but when she finds herself falling in love with Hercules—whom she's supposed to be manipulating on orders from Hades—she sings a song called "Won't say I'm in love" in which her head is telling her to get a grip, but the Muses are telling her to listen to her heart.
- In Inception, professional extractor Cobb keeps a projection of his deceased wife Mal locked up in a level of his subconscious because he was never able to let go of her, even though the last thing she did before she committed suicide was frame him for killing her. Indeed, the reason he can't move on is that he blames himself for planting the idea in her head which made her convinced that the real world they had returned to was actually the dream (and vice-versa), and that the only way to return to reality was for them to kill themselves. When Cobb's projection of Mal gets out of control and starts trying to kill the members of the inception team during the operation on Fisher, his teammates reproach him for having hidden her existence from them when she posed such a danger to the mission, and for hesitating to Shoot the Dog when all their lives are at stake.
- Spike, from Buffy and later Angel. He may be the biggest Badass on the show (at least in the show's first few seasons) but he is always doing it for a very special lady, whether she be a psychotic vampire, a troubled slayer, a cute physicist or an elder goddess. He snarks and acts all tough but at the end of the day, all he wants is to watch out for his one true love.
- Sawyer from Lost definitely qualifies as one of these. He may be a rugged con man who insults anyone who will stand still long enough but his only two hobbies are reading and gazing forlornly at Kate.
- At least until Season 6, when he takes up listening to punk music and mourning Juliet.
- Damon from Vampire Diaries is definitely one of these, in the same vein as another snarky vampire. He spends 146 years searching for Katherine and falls for her doppleganger, Elena to whom he is just as loyal to, if in his own crazy way.
- Sherlock Holmes in Elementary is implied to be this. Joan deduces in the pilot that a big part of his motives from his Dark and Troubled Past has to do with his own lost lenore.
- Revealed to be true and then painfully subverted when it is revealed his lenore was never really lost and was playing him the whole time.
- Thomas Barrow from Downton Abbey is an incorrigible bastard most of the time, but whenever he falls for someone he goes to great lengths in pursuit of a (same-sex) relationship - a practice which is likely to get him thrown in prison if exposed, considering the time period.
- Chandler from Friends is typically a Stepford Snarker and committment phobic because of his difficult childhood. However in his few early relationships he's extremely devoted and romantic buying Janice a draw and spending days hunting down a childhood book for Kathy. When he gets together with Monica he comes up with romantic speeches that any guy would be proud of, let alone a cynic who claims all relationships are doomed. Ironically out of the three guys (both of which are viewed as better with women than him) he's the first to get married and actually make a relationship work.
- Simon from The Inbetweeners will do anything for the girl he happens to be in love with at the time. Him being one of the main characters and thus one of the universe's playthings, this usually ends badly for him.
- Neal Caffrey, so much so. This is the man that eluded the FBI for years. The only crime that they had enough evidence to convict him for was bond forgery when he also committed art theft, counterfeit, and assorted other crimes. This is also the man that only got caught because he prioritized finding Kate over logic, and the man that escaped from prison for her.
- The eponymous Galavant tried to defy this trope, saying that he came from a long line of passionate people, including his parents (who loved each other - sometimes violently) and wanted to avoid living the life that they did. However, he met Madelena, and fell hard for her.
Isabella: And Madelena?
Galavant: Well... She fell softer.
- "Earth Angel" (1954) by The Penguins, a more sweet and romantic take on it:
Earth angel, earth angel
Will you be mine?
My darling dear
Love you all the time
I'm just a fool
A fool in love with you
- "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" (1956) by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, which says that even if it puts you in a world of hurt, it's as natural as the birds singing and nobody can help it:
Why do fools fall in love?
Why do birds sing so gay
And lovers await the break of the day
Why do they fall in love?
Why does the rain fall from up above?
Why do fools fall in love?
Why do they fall in love?
Love is a losing game
Love can be a shame
I know, I'm a fool you see
For that fool is me
- "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley, a rather more optimistic version:
Wise men say only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you
Shall I stay
Would it be a sin
If I can't help falling in love with you
Like a river flows surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
Some things are meant to be
Take my hand, take my whole life too
For I can't help falling in love with you
- "Fool for Love" performed by Sandy Rogers for the 1985 film Fool for Love, is a rather wistful tune about a guy who was a fool for love since the day he was born. First he's with a girl when they're six and seven, and he goes through puppy love. As he grows up he stays foolishly optimistic, and the last time the narrator sees him alive he's trying to break up a wedding.
He grew up he didn't get much better
Tattooed underneath his sweater
L.O.V.E in blue
Seems he was never satisfied
Chasing girls like butterflies
Believin' every word they said was true
He's a fool for love
What he wouldn't do for love
He's a fool, a fool for love
Once a fool, you got to
Follow the rule, always a fool
A fool for love
- Frank Sinatra has two songs in this vein on Songs for Swingin' Lovers!:
I'd sacrifice anything come what mightFor the sake of havin' you nearIn spite of a warnin' voice that comes in the nightAnd repeats, repeats in my ear:Don't you know, little fool, you never can win?Use your mentality, wake up to realityBut each time that I do just the thought of youMakes me stop before I beginCause I've got you under my skin
- "I've Got You Under My Skin"
The moment that you speakI want to run and play hide-and-seekI want to go and bounce the moonJust like a big toy balloonYou and I, we are just like a couple of totsRunning along the meadowSnatching up all those forget to be nots
- "You Make Me Feel So Young".
- Lord Huron's song " Fool for Love" is about a man challenging a rival to the death for the hand of a girl he loves. He ends up losing badly and getting likely fatally wounded, and though he admits he was an idiot to challenge a bigger, stronger man, he argues that there was no other choice due to this trope.
- Ike and Tina Turner Revival's "A Fool in Love". A song about a woman questioning why she stays with a man who is rude and abusive to her. Becomes Harsher in Hindsight for obvious reasons, and ironically became one of the couple's biggest hits:
You're just a fool you know you're in loveYou've got to face it to let it explodeYou take the good along with the badSometimes you're happy and sometimes you're sadYou know you love him you can't understandWhy he treats you like he do when he's such a good man