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Fool for Love

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"I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it."

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.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: The pre-canon stories in this series normally present Mittens as being wary of settling into an established relationship given how often she has been burned by male cats in the past. In "The Clouds," however, she falls for Tom — and much against her better judgement. Not surprisingly, things do not end well for her.
    Mittens: C'mon, Mittens — get a hold of yourself. Quit swooning already. You know better than this. He's just another run-of-the-mill Olympian Greek god. A sawbuck a dozen.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Germany and Japan, who were both hardened and distrusting, couldn't help but fall in love with Italy. Not that they cared.

    Films — Animated 
  • 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.

    Films — Live Action 
  • 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 to 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.

  • Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi: Despite being an icy and cynical teenager that was resistant to the idea of getting close to anyone, Lan Wangji eventually became hopelessly in love with Wei Wuxian, to the point of fighting against his clan to protect him.
  • Riley Biers from Eclipse, who did everything in the name of his lover, Victoria. He was only a pawn to her.
  • Jamie Lannister in A Song of Ice and Fire. He may be the deadliest and most sarcastic knight in the Seven Kingdoms, but everything he's done he did for his special someone.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 The 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 doppelganger, 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 commitment-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.
  • Bates Motel: Sheriff Alex Romero is a dangerous, never-smiling policeman of very questionable morals who will not hesitate to kill if he deems it necessary, and at first glance doesn't seem to have a romantic or even somewhat soft bone in his body. He is also helplessly in love with Norma Bates, for whom he becomes a gentler, kinder person; he shows her incredible tenderness and would do anything for her. She is the only person in the entire series who ever makes him smile.
  • Kerr Avon from Blake's 7, a cold and distant Anti-Hero who repeatedly insists that Love Is a Weakness and that he only cares about his own self-preservation. However said self-preservation goes flying out the window when it comes to love, to the extent of being willing to let himself be tortured for days simply to get vengeance for The Lost Lenore. He lampshades it after said Lost Lenore turns out to have been alive all along, and The Mole: "of all the things I have known myself to be, I never recognised the fool." It's worth noting he behaves very similarly toward his Vitriolic Best Bud Blake, repeatedly going to absurd lengths to save his life while insisting he has no affection for him whatsoever, adding a lot of Ho Yay to the series.

  • "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've Got You Under My Skin"
    I'd sacrifice anything come what might
    For the sake of havin' you near
    In spite of a warnin' voice that comes in the night
    And repeats, repeats in my ear:
    Don't you know, little fool, you never can win?
    Use your mentality, wake up to reality
    But each time that I do just the thought of you
    Makes me stop before I begin
    Cause I've got you under my skin
    • "You Make Me Feel So Young".
    The moment that you speak
    I want to run and play hide-and-seek
    I want to go and bounce the moon
    Just like a big toy balloon
    You and I, we are just like a couple of tots
    Running along the meadow
    Picking up all those forget me nots
  • 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 love
    You've got to face it to let it explode
    You take the good along with the bad
    Sometimes you're happy and sometimes you're sad
    You know you love him you can't understand
    Why he treats you like he do when he's such a good man
  • Rod Stewart's "Maggie May", released in 1971, is a semi-autobiographical song about a teenage boy who's in a relationship with an older woman. Even though he wonders Am I Just a Toy to You?, and figures breaking up with her would be the smart thing to do, he's still crazy about her and couldn't leave even if he tried.
    You made a first-class fool out of me
    But I'm as blind as a fool can be
    You stole my heart, but I love you anyway
  • Joe Jackson's "Fools in Love" is at the far end of the cynicism scale... up until it becomes clear the singer counts himself among the fools:
    Fools in love
    They think they're heroes
    'Cause they get to feel more pain
    I say fools in love are zeros
    I should know
    I should know because this fool's in love again

  • Gretchen from Jasper in Deadland has a rather negative opinion of life itself, and often implies that she prefers being dead and doesn't care about her Loss of Identity or losing the memories of her life. Despite this, she's immediately intrigued by Jasper's love for his lost "friend" Agnes, and ends up guiding Jasper through Deadland because she's falling in love with him.

    Western Animation 
  • Samurai Jack: Jack is often wary of entering romantic relationships because he doesn't want anything holding him back, and because of the trouble that follows (considering one incident which involved Aku deceiving him). When Ashi entered the picture, he eventually couldn't help falling in love with her the more he had her around. Nonetheless, he still understood the risk that this would carry, and didn't want to put her in danger.