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Life Isn't Fair

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"Life is not fair. Get used to it."
Charles J. Sykes (commonly misattributed to Bill Gates)

"Life isn't fair. Deal with it." Fiction Isn't Fair and neither is Real Life. Another one of those Stock Phrases, usually particularly irritating to the character it's being told to. Another way of saying "deal with it". Sometimes used to respond to an accusation that the character wasn't fighting fair. Often said by a character guilty of going out of their way to make things unfair, as their way of Evil Gloating and rubbing the victim's nose in their plight.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Monster Rancher, Tiger tells Genki speech during their first meeting, while he and his Wild Pack are robbing the other Searchers;
    Tiger: You're a very brave, and very foolish little human. You rush in headfirst, not bothering to even think of the consequences. You don't understand that sometimes, bravery isn't enough. Life can be hard, little human, hard and unfair—and you must know this. Don't. Be. Reckless. You're young, brave, and you have a good heart—but in this world, that isn't enough. I know that better than anyone.
  • In Macross Plus, Isamu snaps at Myung's self-pity by telling her that sometimes life isn't fair and that she needs to deal with it, instead of feeling sorry for herself.
  • In the second season of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX (the dub only) Sartorious' henchman X tells Jaden this, telling him that you can't always get everything you want, emphasizing it by saying that when he was Jaden's age, he used to dream of being a pastry chef. (Of course, this sort of comes off as a Broken Aesop considering the type of person X is, and considering that he seems to love his actual job a little too much, that of an Amoral Attorney who is willing to use cruel and underhanded methods to crush the will of his opponent.)

    Comic Books 
  • In Transmetropolitan, when Spider meets with The Beast before the election, The Beast invokes this in spirit when Spider points out how unfair some of The Beast's views are.
    Spider: That's sick.
    The Beast: That's the way it is. Life sucks. Wear a hat.
  • A suicidal woman tells this to Superman in the Grounded storyline. Much to her surprise, Superman agrees with her, but then adds that it isn't "unfair" either.

    Comic Strips 
  • Lampshaded in Calvin and Hobbes
    Calvin's Dad: The world isn't fair, Calvin.
    Calvin: I know, but why isn't it ever unfair in my favor?
  • Played with in Beetle Bailey. Beetle complains that he's got kitchen detail again, and Sarge tells him that no one ever said that life was fair. Beetle points out that Sarge is the one deciding who gets put on kitchen detail, and Sarge tells him that no one ever said that he (Sarge) was fair, either.
  • Referenced in a Tom the Dancing Bug strip where Harvey Richards, Lawyer for Children, suggests an effective rebuttal to this argument in an advertisement:
    Harvey Richards: Does this exchange sound familiar?
    Kid: That's not fair!
    Parent: Well, life isn't fair.
    Harvey Richards: Simply answer:
    Kid: Well, perhaps not, but if we give up the struggle to make it as fair as we can, then surely we are giving in to the forces of inequity that we profess to abhor.

    Fan Works 
  • A line from the song "Empath's Ballad" in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf novel, sung by Empath about how unfair his life is.
    They say that life isn't fair.
    All I can say to that is I don't care.
    It's so easy when you took from me
    The things I can't get back from you in time.
  • In Kage, Miranda has this opinion (for a justified reason), as she tells Jade in the 12th chapter.
    Miranda: The only justice that I know is the one that people create and enforce. Everyone has their own definition of right and wrong, but only strength determines which set of rights and wrongs prevails.
    Jade: I don't believe in that. There is right, and there is wrong. As much as there is good and evil. It's how the world works.
    Miranda: Then you are as naïve as Elyon is. Or the Guardians and the Rebels, for that matter. There is no evil, just as there is no good. Life is cruel and ruthless, not wrong. Or right. It simply is.
  • This is Aizawa's main rationalization for his cruelty throughout Mean Rabbit: life is cruel, especially to the Quirkless, and he's simply preparing his students for the harshness of real life.
  • Steven from Pokémon Strangled Red invokes this to argue with those who tell him that he shouldn't resurrect his deceased Charizard:
    Steven: In a world that cheated me, why should I play fair?

    Films — Animated 
  • The Lion King (1994): Scar has this to say to a mouse he's caught:
    Scar: Life's not fair, is it? You see, I... well, I shall never be king. And you... shall never see the light of another day. Adieu.
  • Despicable Me: Shortly after Gru obtains the shrink ray back from Vector, Margo gets on his case for skipping all the cookie deliveries after Vector's house, to which Gru responds:
    Gru: Yeah, yeah. Life is full of disappointments... for some people.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Many times in The Princess Bride.
    "Who ever said life is fair? Where is that written? Life isn't always fair."
    "Life is pain, your highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."
  • Cozy Carlisle from Dead Again:
    Carlisle: Hey, thumbdick, I was a damn good shrink. Nineteen years I worked with a lot of people through a lot of shit. OK, I slept with a patient or two. It's not like I didn't care about them. I loved being a doctor. I used to not charge half my patients. Then the fucking state comes along, they send in some bitch undercover, and I'm fucked. Life isn't fair, is it?
  • Snape to Harry in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
    Snape: You and Black, you're two of a kind: sentimental children, forever whining about how bitterly unfair your lives have been. Well, it may have escaped your notice, but life isn't fair. Your blessed father knew that; in fact, he frequently saw to it!
  • The Incredible Jessica James: One of Jessica's students, Shandra, tells her that she's thinking of going to Six Flags instead of the writer's weekend. Jessica gets mad and tells her that she doesn't care what Shandra does. Shandra says that isn't fair, to which Jessica snaps that life isn't fair.
  • A variation in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Will complains that Jack only won their fight by cheating, and that he'd have lost a fair fight.
    Jack: That's not much incentive for me to fight fair, then, is it?
  • Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest:
    Davy Jones: Life is cruel! Why should the afterlife be any different?
  • Labyrinth:
    Sarah: (for about the seventeenth time since the film started) That's not fair!
    Jareth: You say that so often. I wonder what your basis for comparison is.
    • She learns it after that, however. When Hoggle seems to think it's different when it's unfair in her favor, she quickly reminds him.
  • Jason feels the need to bring this up to a recently orphaned girl in Mystery Team.
    Jason: Life isn't fair. If life was fair, I'd have gotten a new bike for Christmas, instead of a stupid car.
  • Shows up in the Hindi movie Lagaan, where the Captain Russell puts the natives in an impossible position - play a cricket game against an experienced team and win to avoid taxes for the next few years - or lose and pay three times that amount. His sister calls him out on it.
    Elizabeth: This isn't fair, brother.
    Russell: So is life.
  • Sky High (2005): Will has a surprisingly deep observation on the subject when Layla complains that the idea of Power Placement (where incoming freshmen to Sky High are sorted into "Hero" or "Sidekick" based on how cool Coach Boomer thinks their powers are) isn't fair:
    Will: If life were to suddenly get fair, I doubt it would happen in high school.
  • Dunkirk sees Alex telling Tommy that "Survival's not fair!" when he and his regiment try to throw Tommy and Gibson out of the trawler they’re using to escape.

  • Twilight:
    Bella: Hasn't anyone ever told you? Life isn't fair.
  • Anita Blake from Anita Blake Vampire Hunter:
    Anita: No, life isn't fair, but I try to be.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events:
    Count Olaf: (stuck in a cage, talking to the distraught Baudelaire children) Life isn't fair.
  • Many times in The Princess Bride.
    "Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something."
    "Life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all."
  • Discworld:
    • In Soul Music, Crusty Caretaker Albert explains that Susan is the only eligible replacement for Death, and being a typical teenager at heart Susan eventually resorts to complaining "It's not fair!". Albert retorts, dripping with sarcasm, that she can go explain that to the universe at large and see how far it gets her. This gets referred back to at the end of the book, when she's trying to save Buddy:
      Albert: You could say to the universe, this is not fair. And the universe would say: Oh, isn't it? Sorry. You could save people. You could get there in the nick of time. And something could snap its fingers and say, no, it has to be this way. Let me tell you how it has to be. This is how the legend has to go.
    • This is seen earlier in Mort when protesting the unfairness of someone's death.
      There is no fair. There is no justice. There is just me.
    • Also averted in Hogfather, in which Albert justifies not giving people everything they want with the reasoning that Life Isn't Fair. Death points out he is not life and Loophole Abuses this fact to great effect.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Carlton in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air combines this with a Shout-Out:
    Carlton: Life isn't fair, Will. I mean, was it fair when Bambi's mother died?
  • In one episode of Babylon 5, Marcus the Ranger expresses a rather enlightened outlook on the subject:
    Marcus: You know, I used to think that it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.
  • The Central Theme of Malcolm in the Middle. Hell, it's even stated in the theme song!
  • Life in Farscape pretty much sucks, as noted by Crais.
    Crais: There is much in life that is unfair. We are all proof of that.
    • And John expresses the sentiment later when Chiana is upset that she can't see her long-lost (and previously presumed dead) brother.
      Chiana: (pleading) I want to go to him.
      John: I know... But since when do people like us get what we want?
  • Blackadder the Third gives us this:
    Blackadder: But you know Baldrick, the world isn't fair. If it was, things like this wouldn't happen, would they?
    (smacks Baldrick around the head for no reason)
  • On Young Hercules, Hades knows of the special protection that Zeus grants Hercules. He expects Herc to be some kind of privileged son and is surprised to learn that the guy has never even met Zeus.
    Hercules: The Fates can be cruel. Look what they did to you.
    Hades: You're tellin' me. My brother, Zeus, gets to be king of all gods. My other brother, Poseidon, gets to be god of the sea. I get god of the Other Side, hangin' around for eternity with nothin' but dead people. Doesn't seem fair.
  • On Quantum Leap, the first part of "The Leap Home" sees Sam as his younger self at a time when his family has yet to endure assorted tragedies (the deaths of his father and brother, his sister marrying an abuser, etc.). Sam tries to do whatever he can to prevent these things, but his warnings just create strain and problems. Sam laments that it's not fair he can Set Right What Once Went Wrong for complete strangers but not the people he loves most. Conversely, Al thinks this situation is actually extremely fair; he says Sam is lucky to get to spend a few days with his family and that he would give anything to see his own father and sister again.
  • In one episode of The Brittas Empire, Tim goes up to Brittas to complain that the game they were playing was unfair (as he was getting worse off despite being sennsible with his money whilst Gavin was spending money like crazy and is still rich). Brittas, who is suffering from some personal issues (he has just been given a Sadistic Choice of keeping his job but seeing his wife get put in jail for taking petty money or resigning and taking the blame for something that his wife did) replies with this:
    Gordon Brittas: That's life for you, Tim. Life is not fair. It never has been. In real life, it doesn't matter how hard you work or what you believe in, it's all based on luck. You work hard, you give it everything you've got, but at the end of the day, all you actually do is roll a dice. You roll the right number and you succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Throw another number and it all goes down the sewers.

  • Young Jeezy in "Soul Survivor":
  • Relient K's "Be My Escape" uses the phrase to invert the message.
    And this life sentence that I'm serving
    I admit that I'm every bit deserving.
    But the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair
  • Papa Roach in "She Loves Me Not":
    I don't know
    If I care.
    I'm the jerk;
    Life's not fair.
  • The chorus of the Black Box Recorder song "Child Psychology" goes like this:
    Life is unfair
    Kill yourself or get over it.
  • Mitch Benn's plea to be abducted by aliens:
    People are stupid and life isn't fair,
    Doctor Who's finished and Boris is mayor!
  • Billie Eilish in her Bond theme "No Time to Die"
    You were my life, but life is far away from fair.
  • Green Day's "Homecoming" has it in the last verses:
    The time has come, and it's going nowhere
    Nobody ever said that life was fair, now.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • George Carlin had a bit in one his stand up routines where he not only expounded on how unfair life was, but also noted "Everyone who ever told me that life was fair died horribly before age 35."
  • A famous joke by Johnny Carson: "If life was fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead."

  • In Pokémon Live!, Giovanni says this to Ash in the climax.
    Ash: It's not fair! What kind of creature is that?
    Giovanni: Welcome to the world, Ash Ketchum!

    Video Games 
  • Tali's stance in Mass Effect 2 :
    Tali: I don't think life is about what you deserve.
  • In Zero Time Dilemma, this is Zero II’s catchphrase and entire worldview, which he goes to great lengths to enforce on the characters in his Decision Game, by presenting them with one Sadistic Choice after another. As it turns out, he has a really good reason for thinking this way.
    Zero II: Life is simply unfair, don’t you think?

  • Inverted in Something*Positive when Faye died:
    Doctor: I'm so sorry. I know this is hard and she was so young. Sometimes it just doesn't seem fair.
    Fred: Miss, I had almost forty years with the most amazin' woman in the world. If life is unfair, it was unfair in my favor.
  • Invoked and played with in this Arthur, King of Time and Space strip. To Arthur and his crew "life isn't fair" is a reason to work at making it fairer.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Lien, one of the last surviving paladins of the Sapphire Guard after the downfall of Azure City, takes this position in life, reasoning that there wouldn't be a need for paladins otherwise.
    Lien: When you consider that Yunji and and everyone else in the Sapphire Guard is dead but I'm alive - I think I may be the actual luckiest woman in the world.
    O-Chul: Many people in your position of having lost their homes and so many friends, would come to the opposite conclusion.
    Lien: Yeah. But it always seemed weird to me to get mad about things going wrong, as if everything turning out OK was promised to everyone, ever. There wouldn't need to be paladins if the world was, like, fair.
    O-Chul: Ah, so your optimism is a direct result of your relentlessly negative view.
    Lien: Ha ha, I guess so!

    Web Video 
  • Dimension 20's "Misfits and Magic" campaign has a rare example where this is said out of sympathy. Evan tearfully reveals to Nurse Stichnit that his powers have made his life a living hell, and he'd give anything to not have magic. Stichnit reveals that removing one's magic is totally possible, but urges Evan to really think about it before he decides, because if he has no magic, he'll be sent away from the wizarding world, and his friends, forever. Evan desperately tries to bargain, even offering to become a janitor at the school so he can earn his keep and stay, pointing out that, partially thanks to his powers' destructive tendencies, he has no family, no other friends, and nowhere he can go. Stichnit tells him it just isn't how things are done in the wizarding world, and Evan dejectedly points out that this just isn't fair. The nurse sadly agrees that it really isn't, but that life rarely is.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "What is Reality?", the Riddler's final challenge to Batman before his virtual world shuts down is: "If the planet were equitable, I'd still have my old job." This actually has a double meaning; since he previously had told Batman that his criminal career was a personal matter (in the previous episode he appeared in), he's saying if life were fair, his old employer would never have cheated and fired him. But it's also a riddle that tells the hero where he is: The sentence can be rephrased to say, "If the world was fair, I'd still have my ex-position", meaning he's at the World's Fair Exposition.
  • In Steven Universe, when Peridot starts to complain that she won the battle and is irritated that Pearl gets praised instead, she gets a variant of this from Garnet:
    Garnet: Welcome to Earth.
  • "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boatride", the fourth-ever episode of South Park brings this up when Mr Garrison gives Stan an A- for an incredibly half-assed oral report on ancient cultures (he literally made it up on the spot and said that "ancient cultures have plagued our fragile Earth for many years"). Cartman, who turned in an equally half-assed report but got an F, complains bitterly, and Mr Garrison says that Stan gets preferential treatment because he's the star quarterback of the football team.
    Cartman: That's not fair!
    Mr. Hat: Life's not fair, tubby, get used to it!
    Cartman: Stupid puppet...
    • This is especially ironic considering Cartman's Character Development in later seasons where he'll move heaven and Earth if he thinks he's been even slightly wronged.
    • Butters bitterly complains about this to himself in the episode "Professor Chaos", after he's been "fired" as the boys fourth friend, thinking about how he did all the humiliating, painful things they asked and they still rejected him. As such, he decides to take on the mantle of Tin Tyrant supervillain Professor Chaos (and is joined by the equally mistreated Dougie as General Disarray) as a way to take revenge on the world. Unfortunately for Butters, he really IS just as lame and and wimpy as the boys think, and all his evil plans just amount to pathetically minor acts of vandalism like switching around soup orders in a diner or trying to flood the world with a garden hose.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Life Is Unfair


Unfair Board Game

Tim is struggling with Brittas' board game and complains about it being unfair. Brittas replies that that is the point of the game - to teach that life is unfair.

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