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Loser Protagonist

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"Why can't the world just die?!"
Al Bundy, utterly despising his life as usual

The loser protagonist is a Sister Trope to the This Loser Is You, but unlike that trope, the Loser Protagonist is not necessarily meant to be relatable or is objectively a failure in every single aspect of life, it's just that they may be considered a loser by the standards of their society. (Obviously, this is greatly subject to Values Dissonance.) This character is generally subject to Character Development throughout the narrative to make them more sympathetic or interesting. This character may have underdog status, assuming they aren't so much of a "loser" that the audience thinks they should pull their socks up and get over themselves. If they have someone who is a fan of them, then they are Fans Of Underdogs.

Compare Straw Loser, a character who may be similar in many ways but has quite different narrative reasons for his loserdom. See also the Character Flaw Index and Acceptable Targets.

    Traits a loser protagonist may have 


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Choujin Sensen: Tomobiki Rinji can't seem to have anything his way, whether it be gambling at Pachinko stores, finding a better job, or having a girlfriend. Not only do his parents seem to ignore his presence, but his little sister also pesters him about her friends making fun of her brother adds insult to injury.
  • The signature storytelling style of the short stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi.
  • Sailor Moon: Usagi/Serena, while not really an outcast, has many loser qualities: she is clumsy, lazy, ditzy, a crybaby, a very poor student, and gluttonous; but she is still the incomparably powerful Sailor Moon.
  • The man that saves a woman from an assault in Skyhigh.
  • Ataru Moroboshi from Urusei Yatsura, mainly because of his lechery and other human faults. He was born on the most unlucky day of the year in Japan. His own parents often say how much they wish he wasn't born. He's unpopular with most of the boys and almost all the girls at his high school. Even when the beautiful female alien, Lum, comes into his life, he's still unlucky because of all the baggage she brings with her.
  • Keiichi Morisato of Ah! My Goddess is a put-upon member of the motor club and pushed around by the guys at his dorm and he never gets a date due to his short stature. This is later subverted when Belldandy points out that he has qualities that make him rather desirable, such as the way he cares for antiquated junk that has no value to other people.
  • Satou from Welcome to the NHK is a hikikomori who does nothing but stay in his house all day, has never attended college due to a nervous breakdown on his first day, and acts like a jerk.
  • Chainsaw Man:
    • Denji is a teenager who's spent his entire life as a slave to the yakuza, working for pennies while never receiving any form of education whatsoever. Just the idea of eating something other than plain bread seems like a luxury to him, and after his First-Episode Resurrection and becoming a Devil, the other Devil Hunters look down on him for his less lofty goals like eating good food or getting with girls.
    • Asa Mitaka from Part 2 of the manga may be even worse. Compared to Denji, her childhood was fairly normal, but she's an uptight, neurotic bore who habitually trips, falls, and breaks something important at crucial moments. While she has devil-granted powers like Denji, neither she nor the devil possessing her are able to use them effectively, and she spends the first several arcs stumbling through traumatic situations only to come out alive through sheer luck and the intervention of other parties.
  • Kimba/Leo started out as a weak coward that everyone makes fun of in the 2009 TV-special of Kimba the White Lion.
  • Bamboo Blade's Sensei is a protagonist who mooches off his students and receives food parcels from his parents.
  • Tomoko from No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! is a dating sim-obsessed introvert who doesn't have any friends in her high school and is completely socially inept. The series is about her trying various ways to improve her popularity, which she either spectacularly screws up or is unwilling to learn from her mistakes and try again.
  • Kagerou Daze: Shintaro, our protagonist, is a high school drop-out shut-in with no company aside from a Trolling Tsundere computer program named Ene, no life outside of his bedroom, and as of the first chapter, not even a computer due to an accidental soda-spillage. And when he does eventually venture out into the world, he's literally the only cast member without a superpower. His backstory drives it in further; in middle school, he was an Insufferable Genius, and his only friend was Ayano, a Book Dumb Manic Pixie Dream Girl who was trying desperately to help him open up. Right until she jumps off the school roof. After that, he became the bitter, self-loathing shut-in who we see at the beginning of the story, and in one possible timeline where he never goes outside, he kills Ene, has a mental breakdown, and then kills himself.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari can't get a break. Not only is he introduced as a whiny and spineless Useless Protagonist, he hardly gets any respect from anybody even after he regularly saves the day. His love interests are either indifferent toward or hate him, most of his friends are killed, and his "job" involves dealing with the Eldritch Abomination of the day, which abuses him to hell and back both physically and mentally, just to ensure that he will only get worse and worse. By the time of End of Evangelion, the kid's had enough. However in the Continuity Reboot Rebuild of Evangelion he gets better.
  • Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi. She's Book Dumb, rather naive and ditzy, gluttonous, said to be kind of fat and average-looking in-universe, trouble always seems to find her, and her parents are divorced (which carries a big social stigma in Japan).
  • Isao from Inside Mari is a friendless, spineless hikikomori with a perma-stubble who lives off his parents' money, while they still think he's a college student. His crush is a high School Idol, which may or may not make him even more of a Loser Protagonist. He ends up in her body and slowly screws with her life.
  • Makoto from Happiness is bullied into buying food for the popular kids on a regular basis.
  • Taichi from Yuureitou is a homely, socially awkward NEET in his late 20s. He meets the charming, attractive Tetsuo and ends up becoming useful but he's still a cute dork.
  • Punpun from Goodnight Punpun, especially in high school and just after graduating. He thinks of himself as so pathetic that he once decided to kill himself if he didn't improve within a year. Compared to other examples he's also a lot more malicious.
  • Inverted and then subverted in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War. Kaguya and Shirogane are both brilliant individuals who can expertly debate highly complicated and intricate subjects like philosophy without blinking an eye and are adored by the school they go to as model students by both the faculty and the staff. Despite this, both of them are repeatedly mocked by the narration for their simplistic views of romantic relationships and their inability to confess to one another, which turns them from intelligent chessmasters into bumbling idiots.
    • Played much straighter with the Tritagonist, Ishigami, who is an unlucky, depressed cynic who is actively despised by everyone at school after he gets Wrongfully Accused of being a violent stalker when he beats up a girl's boyfriend to protect her. He even winds up becoming a Silent Scapegoat when the boyfriend threatens to hurt his girlfriend again if Ishigami tries to refute his new reputation. As such he pulls a Zero-Approval Gambit to redirect persecution and humiliation onto himself to protect others, making him an active pariah with the worst reputation in the school, with only his friends in the student council knowing the truth.
  • Naruto starts out as one. Friendless, talentless, actually hated and shunned by the whole village for something he doesn't even know about. He lives alone and barely graduates last in his class. Things gradually change as he learns about his past, learns how to control the power sealed inside him, and proves himself to the point of becoming the Hokage.
  • In My Hero Academia, Izuku Midoriya starts like this. He's literally Born Unlucky as one of the few people of his generation to be born without a superpower of his own. Timid, scrawny, and a social pariah, the mere idea of having friends is a novelty to him. He spent the last ten years dreaming of becoming a superhero without a Quirk as he's laughed off, beaten up, and scorned by his peers. It culminates in him meeting his lifelong idol, All Might, who flatly tells him to give up on his dreams and face reality. It's only after Izuku proves he has the heart of a hero that things look up for him, as he earns the sacred torch of One For All and becomes the world's greatest hero.
  • Tsuna from Reborn! (2004) is this from the start of the story. Nicknamed as Dame-Tsuna or No-good Tsuna by everyone, even his mother, he's an unmotivated middle-schooler that is spineless and has No Social Skills. He's pathetic enough that that little dogs scare him and he fell in love with the only girl who bothered to talk to him in 12 months. Reborn's job is to shape him up to be the Tenth Vongola Boss, as he is the only worthy heir left. And Reborn has to go to the extremes just to beat the loser status out of him and turn him to a mafia boss that everyone will respect.
  • Gintoki from Gintama is a financially poor Manchild that loves to spend his money on pachinko machines instead of paying his rent. He's also unmotivated and loves to slack off reading Shonen Jump to the point where the kids he is looking after are more mature than him. Hell, the only reason that he is not a full-time loser protagonist is that he is the White Demon, one of the legendary Joi Rebels back from the Joi war. But he'd rather forget that part of him.
  • Deconstructed and eventually inverted with Naofumi in The Rising of the Shield Hero. As the Shield Hero, Naofumi is heavily mistreated by pretty much everyone around him, to the point of being falsely accused of a crime he didn't commit just after arriving in the world. By being labeled as a Loser Protagonist and never being given a reason why, he ends becoming an Anti-Hero who embraces the negative attitude thrust onto him and turns to only finding trust in people who are similarly mistreated by society. It grows worse when he starts to become stronger than the other heroes, and both the kingdom and the Church of Three Heroes start to take notice. They actively do everything in their power to stop him from getting strong to ensure that he remains a loser, from trying to take away his only means of fighting properly (Raphtalia) from him in an unfairly rigged duel to legally forbidding him from using Melromarc's Dragon Hourglass to remove his and his party's level restrictions, and finally trying to frame him for kidnapping Melromarc's second princess partly to deny him of any potential allies. Ironically, the end result is that by the time Naofumi's name is cleared, he's done a lot more than the other heroes combined (including solving troubles that they themselves had caused) and everyone sees him as a greater hero, thus inverting the trope.
  • Played for Drama in Boy's Abyss. The protagonist Reiji is a 17-year-old whose family lives in Perpetual Poverty as a result of various factors. He's relentlessly bullied by his former Childhood Friend and lives in a perpetual state of Small Town Boredom. The entire plot revolves around his desire to be Together in Death with a toxic Love Interest who floated the idea by him with no resistance on his part whatsoever.
  • In It's Tough Being Neeko, Nemuko "Neeko" Nito is a NEET who still lives with her parents, and whose social anxiety is so bad that her job search doesn't go anywhere.
  • KonoSuba is, effectively, an archetypal Heroic Fantasy story where the noble heroes have been replaced with a bunch of pathetic losers who succeed mostly by accident. Their ranks include a selfish douchebag, an incompetent goddess with delusions of grandeur, a delusional and overspecialized Child Mage, and a disturbingly masochistic knight with horrible aim.
  • Rikuo, the protagonist of Sing "Yesterday" for Me, begins the story as an aimless college grad who has fallen out of touch with most of his friends and is living a dead-end life as a convenience store clerk, a big no-no in Japan, where holding a salaried position is highly valued. Over the course of the story he gets his act together somewhat and starts pursuing his dreams.
  • Lala from Star★Twinkle Pretty Cure is a rare example of this in a Pretty Cure series. She's already out of place on Earth as an Alien Among Us, but on her home planet Saman, she's among the lowest class of her people — basically the equivalent to a trash collector. Though she's able to operate a rocket and other alien technology with more competency than her human friends, she doesn't work well with the advanced tech commonplace on Saman, such as AI and hoverboards. When she returns home, her parents sing the praises of her more accomplished twin brother Lolo, who gets an award ceremony for finding a Star Color Pen. Meanwhile, Lala is unable to tell them about her secret identity as Cure Milky, having found several Star Color Pens. Since Saman is a Terminally Dependent Society, the situation changes when the villains hack the Mother AI and leave the Samanians helpless to fight back; Lala's independence allows her to save the day along with her friends. Though she's forced to reveal she's a Pretty Cure, her family doesn't mind at all, and are actually proud of her for finding her calling. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue shows that she manages to turn things around on Saman, and 15 years later, she has a much more respectable job as an interplanetary ambassador.
  • Osomatsu-san: The Matsuno brothers. Brash, egotistical Manchildren with no plans of getting jobs or helping out their parents, their issues put them on the bottom of the social order. This is also enforced: they'd hinder a brother's chances of success purely out of jealousy, and in cases where they do actually try to pull their weight around for once, the plot itself won't let them.
  • Who Decided That Blues Had To Be Cool!? stars Azusa Gunjou (aka the Magical Girl Azurite), a rather dorky girl with bad grades and no friends, whose personality is at odds with the "cool" nature of the "blue" Magical Girl archetype.
  • Accel World stars Haruyuki Arita, a short, overweight boy who's the target of bullying, doesn't get especially good grades and has no friends apart from Takumu and Chiyuri (whom he's trying to distance himself from due to his issues). After meeting Kuroyukihime and joining Brain Burst, he starts getting better, but suffers from severe self-esteem issues.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, the Lemony Narrator and protagonist of the fic is considered to be a loser, as she's too caught up in her arrogance and conspiracy theories and is looked down upon by many. She even reflects upon this after she gets rejected by the homeless pony she had a crush on, saying that once you get rejected by the homeless, you know your life has gone from bad to worse.
  • In Danganronpa: Last Hurrah, Nao Hisoka achieves the dubious honor of being the Ultimate NEET- that is, he's the best in his age group when it comes to not working or going to school. Compare Makoto and Hajime, who got in through sheer luck and were an ordinary student, respectively. Near the end, Nao reveals that the Ultimate NEET isn't even a real Ultimate title, and was just an excuse to get him into the program.
  • Cameron from Jessica is obsessed with Pokémon and mentally ill.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Assassination of Richard Nixon: Sam Bicke is a dark example of this trope.
  • Broadway Danny Rose: He's a Nice Guy with Undying Loyalty, but ends up being an Extreme Doormat, which is why he can't hold good clients. At the end of the film, his business is failing, but at least he gets the girl in the end.
  • The King of Comedy has Rupert Pupkin, a delusional aspiring stand-up comic who wants fame at any price, as its unsympathetic protagonist.
  • Paul Blart: Mall Cop is overweight, lives with his mother, works as a mall security guard, stalks the women he likes via cameras and to quote Film Brain "He has a really creepy way with food"
  • Simon Pegg plays this in at least five movies, How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, Shaun of the Dead, The World's End, Hector and the Search for Happiness, and Run Fatboy Run. The jury's still out on why he even got the role of the protagonist of the latter movie, because he's not even, well, you know...fat.
  • Ricky Gervais also plays this in The Invention of Lying. In a world where lying doesn't exist and therefore everything is believed by everyone, his character is put down for being a talentless, overweight loser, and the girl that he wants rejects him on the grounds that their kids might look like him. Though shown to be kind of a jerk at times, his conscience ends up winning out, the viewer is expected to empathize with the hopeless underdog and root for him getting the girl in the end. The female lead eventually learns that being fat with a "snub nose" doesn't make him a bad prospective husband.
  • Jack Black's character from School of Rock is a deadbeat who's behind on his rent, got kicked out of his band, his only friends feel sorry for him, he has no girlfriend, he's got no qualifications, and he looks like a slob to boot.
  • Honey Baby has both Tom and Natascha as has-beens who only succeed in fantasies, and whether they can be successful or even happy in real life is something the film explores and repeatedly denies. Even the happy ending has them giving up on their dreams and going home.
  • John Cusack as Rob Gordon (Rob Fleming in the book, but the film plays it up much more) in High Fidelity. He lives on his own, but he's a hermetic record collector, obsesses about exes to the point of ridicule (one ex even made him drop out of college), and goes off the rails when his most recent ex gets a New-Age Retro Hippie boyfriend. Something that's especially clear in the book is that he feels his life has stalled at this point, and that somehow the transition from adolescence to adulthood passed him by.
  • Rocky is this in the first film: a poor, uneducated, aging has-been of a mediocre boxer, who has to turn to mob jobs to pay the bills for his grungy, ill-kept apartment. Played for Drama.
    Rocky: Took ya long enough to get here. After ten years ya come to my house. What's the matter, you don't like my house? My house stink? That's right, it stinks! I didn't ask no favors from you! Don't slum around me! Talkin' about your prime, what about my prime Mick?! At least you had a prime! I didn't have no prime, I didn't have nothin! Legs are going, everything is going, I didn't earn nothing. Guy comes up, offers me a fight, big deal, wanna fight the fight? Yea I'll fight the big fight. I'm gonna go in and fight the big fight and ya know what's gonna happen to me?! I'm gonna get that (punches door) and I'm gonna get that! (punches door again) And you wanna have a ringside seat?! Do ya?! You wanna help me out!!? Do you wanna see me get my face kicked in?!! Legs ain't working, nothin's working, think I'll go out and fight the champ! Yeah I'll fight him....and get my face kicked in. Ya come around here, ya wanna move in here with me?! Come on in it's a nice house! (punches door again) Real nice, come on in and move, it stinks! This whole place stinks!
  • Taxi Driver is a character study of Travis Bickle, an unstable social outcast driven to extreme violence by his sense of alienation and isolation.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past: Past Charles Xavier is the central figure, and he has been a totally unproductive member of society in between 1963 and 1973 because he's clinically depressed. He's a heavy drinker and substance abuser.
  • Private detective Rock Slyde uses positive online auction feedback to boost his self-esteem. And that's not the half of it.
  • Allan Mann in Monkey Shines, who is left quadriplegic thanks to an incompetent surgeon, and pretty much everyone in the film abuses him or takes advantage of him, or both. Deconstructed, since his repressed rage over this leads to his mutated pet monkey killing everyone who slights him.
  • Jack from A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a coward who is afraid of everything.
  • Evelyn from Everything Everywhere All at Once is a reconstruction. Her loser status is how she's able to become the protagonist, since it puts her in proximity to the maximum number of alternate dimensions.

  • In The Wall and the Wing, one of the main characters can not fly and is classified as a "dead weight" in a world where most people can fly and flying is revered. This is a bit of a subversion as it turns out she has the power to camouflage herself to blend in with her surroundings
  • Ignatius Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces, to hilarious effect, although at times it's hard to tell who is more of a loser, him or everyone else around him.
  • Most of Fyodor Dostoevsky's angst-ridden intellectual social outcasts are of this type, most notably the narrator of Notes From The Underground and Raskolnikov in Crimeand Punishment.
  • Many of Kurt Vonnegut's protagonists fit this trope, in combination with Cosmic Play Thing. Notable examples include Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five and Rudy Waltz in Deadeye Dick
  • Austin from Hollow Places. He's an amputee, half-blind janitor with no biological family left alive and whose foster family had to let him go.
  • Charlotte from ghostgirl is so unpopular at her high school that not even her teachers remember her name and she is almost always ignored by everyone. She is a Butt-Monkey, is Hollywood Homely, gets teased by the popular girls whenever they acknowledge her, and is a mild Stalker with a Crush for Damen. Charlotte also has the very Undignified Death of choking on a gummy bear alone in a classroom. The only reasons kids turned up to her memorial was because it meant leaving school early. They didn't even stay long, plus the Alpha Bitch Petula took the spotlight away from her death by crying to the cameras about how she could have died eating gummy bears instead of Charlotte. Charlotte has better luck in the afterlife.
  • Scarlet Winters from "The Point" starts off like this. She only ever did the bare minimum in life and has no ambition after graduating high school. Until she is recruited to the point and her brother dies.
  • At the start of the Journey to Chaos series, Tasio the Trickster Mentor sees Eric Watley as a fixer-upper because of his weak spine and lack of personal drive.
  • Bastian from The Neverending Story starts out this way He was described as overweight, being hopeless at physical activities and a dunce in the classroom. Carl Conrad Coreander even muses that the boy is a failure "all along the line". It's this powerlessness that drives Bastian to such opposite extremes as a conquering hero once he arrives in Fantastica.
  • Initially, John Rumford in the military thriller Victoria: a military veteran with trouble adjusting to civilian life, failed farmer and smart but oddball and on the whole rather lonely unemployed man obsessed with arcane political ideas and half-baked schemes. Then he joins/takes over the Christian Marines veterans' group, and begins his rise to glory.
  • Lilith from Unforgiven by Lauren Kate. Comes from a poor family, cannot afford stuff, has no friends at school, Rich Bitch and her Girl Posse regularly pick on her. Justified, as in fact her "reality" is a tailor-made Hell for her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ryohei Arisu in Alice in Borderland was a Broken Ace, being the Brilliant, but Lazy Smart Guy of the group who lived as a NEET prior to entering the Deadly Game. It's implied he developed emotional issues as a result of his mother's death before dropping out of college to play video games all day, making him the Black Sheep of the family with his father considering him a disappointment and his younger brother calling him a leech.
  • Everybody Hates Chris. He lives in a house where both his father and mother don't pay much attention to his needs over his little brother and sister. Speaking of which - his Big Little Brother is handsome and most girls his age and even adult women fall for him the moment they see him. This is especially sad, because most of the girls Chris has a crush on during the show, end up falling for his younger brother in the end. His little sister constantly torments him and gets away with it. Worst case scenario: Chris will get in trouble, even if it's obvious his little sister was in the wrong. He goes to a prominently white school where he is bullied by racist students. He gets no help from the teachers who project their own racial prejudices on him - especially his homeroom teacher who thinks he's a welfare case, despite being raised in a hard-working two-parent home. And worst of all: Whenever Chris tries to do anything meaningful, it always backfires on him by the end of the episode. This theme is played till the series end, Where Chris doesn't finish high school, so he takes his GED test. Before the results of the test are announced, the show suddenly ends, taking a cue from The Sopranos. Of course, it's assumed that things work out pretty well for him in the end when he inevitably becomes a successful comedian.
  • George Lopez was essentially a Mexican Al Bundy, with the show often carrying An Aesop of Misery Builds Character as he manages to build a good life for himself and his family despite his frequent misfortune. He had a Hilariously Abusive Childhood compounded by the fact that he can't get his abusive mother out of his life, his wife's entire family tried to pressure her to leave him, he had a lowly job as a factory line worker before being promoted to manager, and like most sitcom parents he's saddled with a Bratty Teenage Daughter and Dumbass Teenage Son. In one episode, after a series of unfortunate events his wife breaks down crying, asking him if he cut off a gypsy in traffic. His Straw Loser Best Friend Ernie is overweight, unmarried, has no kids, lives with his parents, and is so lame that he can't keep a girl to save his life, and on one occasion he says that if George never married Angie he would've ended up just like him.
  • Hank Zipzer: Hank has learning disabilities, gets poor grades, and is disliked by his teacher and the principal.
  • Dobie Gillis from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis was one of the first examples in television. He lives with his parents throughout the entire series and has little money. He is lazy and aimless. He is considered to have below-average intelligence and average looks. His only friend Maynard G. Krebs is an even bigger loser than he is. He chases after girls who often have no interest in him. And the only girl that likes him is Hollywood Ugly.
  • Al Bundy in Married... with Children fits this trope because he's a forgotten high school football legend, works at a shoe store paraded by fat women, his family is dirt poor, he lives with a wife who wants nothing but nonstop sex and to watch Oprah forever. This is without mentioning that she's a Cordon Bleugh Chef (when she even cooks), his son is a Chivalrous Pervert and his daughter is a full-cylinders Dumb Blonde, he lives with two of the most annoying next-door neighbors you could ask for, a dog arguably smarter than the whole family combined, times two, and worst of all, his mother-in-law is the size of a circus carousel. He's also beaten up frequently, waging a futile war against womankind, humiliated at every beck and call, is the Butt-Monkey in any situation, and lives every day realizing it won't get better until he goes back to sleep. In fact, poor Al has thought of divorce and suicide so much it's almost exclusively Played for Laughs. Sometimes, he even has near-death experiences that convince him to go back to being miserable! Once he actually went to Hell after a Deal with the Devil only to find it on par with his actual life. Another time, he learns he's genuinely useless to society and his death is actually the greatest improvement to the world. Finally, he discovers that he will die miserable at age 65 of a fatal disease. Even so, Al has become virtually immune to the misery around him- he accepts it and embraces it, somehow finding ways to love the hand fate dealt him- even if the cards are useless. When Al does win at life, it's a rare victory that deserves a standing ovation. Also, Al Bundy is the former Trope Namer of Jaded Washout.
  • Adam Young of Mr. Young, despite being a genius, otherwise qualifies for this trope; he is the subject of constant mockery by everyone else in the show including other loser characters for his comical physical weakness, social awkwardness, and seeming inability to get the attention of a woman.
  • The Muppet Show has the whole troupe continually belittled and insulted as entertainers by not just Statler and Waldorf, but also by outside characters and are also threatened by Scooter's Uncle.
  • Josh of Man Seeking Woman. He works an unsatisfying temp job, has trouble landing dates and actually keeping a girlfriend, and all of his friends and family members are very brutally honest in how they regard him and his life as an utter mess.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The entire main cast is this, in varying levels. They’re self-centred, petty, ignorant alcoholics working in a crappy dive bar. Most of them are living on the cusp of poverty, and any attempt they make at improving their lives is inevitably thwarted by their own stupidity and selfishness.
  • My Name Is Earl: Earl Hickey is a high school dropout, has no job, and lives in a motel with his Fat Idiot brother Randy, barely sustaining himself via a $100,000 lottery prize. And that's after he turns his life around after discovering the concept of Karma. Before that, he was a petty thief living in a trailer that belonged to an old friend who went to prison, driving that same friend's car, married to a trashy slut named Joy who was pregnant with another man's baby that turned out to be Earl's son after all then she had a Chocolate Baby with Darnell Turner (who's actually not the father after all) while she was still married to Earl. And Randy still lived on their couch. Earl actually tries to make a better life for himself in season 2 after he was denied approval for a credit card. He and Randy got their GEDs, jobs at an appliance store and an apartment. Then all that was lost after Earl confessed to a crime Joy committed and went to prison.
  • Never Have I Ever: Devi is nerdy and unpopular. She shows hints of Cool Loser, though, as she's pretty; is smart; and is attractive enough for Paxton to be fully on board with having sex with her.
  • The Outlaws: Greg is a truly pathetic and pitiable man whose wife has left him, is unsuccessful at his job, and ended up being arrested and made to do community service for frankly quite embarrassing reasons.
  • Gi-hun Seong in Squid Game is a middle-aged gambling addict and divorcee living with his mother while dodging his creditors. The entire reason he ends up in the Deadly Game is because he's already lost everything, so he might as well risk what little he has left on one last gamble.
  • Hyun-Su Cha in Sweet Home (2020) is a depressed hikikomori whose entire family died in a car accident caused by the infected, after which he has a breakdown at the funeral cursing his father for not leaving him enough money to live on indefinitely. The series opens with him preparing to jump off his apartment building, and The End of the World as We Know It doesn't help matters but he finds the resolve to put himself at risk to help others anyway.

  • The titular protagonist of Electric Light Orchestra's "The Diary of Horace Wimp" is, as his name suggests, a rather ineffectual, shy and awkward nebbish who's pretty much on track to die alone. The song involves him developing some confidence, asking a pretty girl out and eventually marrying her basically after The Voice yells at him to sort himself out.
  • Nick Lutsko is a deranged Conspiracy Theorist who lives in his grandma's basement, is thousands of dollars in debt, and has a bizarre obsession with Gremlins and Dan Bongino. Not to mention the heavy implications that he's a murderer, or at least involved in some sort of illegal activities.

    Music Video 
  • Vic in David Bowie's long-form video/Short Film Jazzin' for Blue Jean. In the London of the story, this working-class, clumsy, dateless man (played by Bowie) with limited funds and little sense of style is the Straw Loser to everybody else — in particular "Dream", a woman he falls in Love at First Sight with, and British Rock Star Screamin' Lord Byron (also Bowie), whom he tells a Celebrity Lie about to woo her. The bulk of the story has him trying to see the lie through, with much foolishness and humiliation ensuing. But by the end, "Mr. Screamin'" is revealed to be rather less cool than the image he projects, and Dream is revealed to have cruelly strung Vic along from the start. Vic can't help but look slightly better by comparison, and the story ends with Bowie breaking character to object to Vic not getting the girl.

  • Death of a Salesman: Willy Loman is a hapless aging traveling salesman who hasn't made a successful sale in quite some time and has a troubled family life. His situation in life goes From Bad to Worse.
    • The lives of his sons, Biff and Happy, are also going nowhere fast.
  • Inadmissible Evidence: John Osborne's play is the story of a self-described mediocrity of a divorce attorney Bill Maitland whose marriages and other romantic relations have all failed, who by his own admission has equally failed to form lasting friendships with anybody, and whose children despise him. Eventually even his law practice starts to fall apart as his clerks and secretaries leave in disgust over Maitland's obnoxious and unethical behavior.
  • The Iceman Cometh: Hickey, the lead character, is an alcoholic, compulsively womanizing salesman who we find out has lost his mind and murdered his wife. At the end of the play, he's taken away by two police officers. The other principal character, Larry Slade, and most of the supporting characters, are even more severe alcoholics who are unemployed and have no prospects of ever being employed.
  • Jasper in Deadland starts with a montage of Jasper's parents, teachers, classmates, and almost everyone else in his life chastising him for Skipping School, being Book Dumb, missing his chance to become a Scholarship Student, having a Junkie Parent, and his only friend being way out of his league.

    Video Games 
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the protagonist Junpei is explicitly stated not to have friends after elementary school. He makes up for it with his puzzle-solving skills.
  • You get to play a loser protagonist in Deponia. Rufus is a loser who mooches off his girlfriend. Doesn't have a job. Steals other people's stuff to do crazy experiments. Is very arrogant, self-centered, and has delusions of grandeur. Everyone in town dislikes him for one reason or another, even his seemingly best friend, Wenzel.
  • Disco Elysium plays this to an absurd degree: your character is an alcoholic, drug-addicted overweight detective that, while in the middle of an investigation, went into a manic spiral of self-destruction, ending with him drinking himself to such a stupor to cause himself brain damage and amnesia. No matter what route you take with roleplaying as him, he will always wind up at least somewhat cooky, and all of the political ideologies - including centrism - you can adopt are very obviously only appropriated as horrible coping mechanisms or for the pure aesthetics of it. The one saving grace is that the detective is surprisingly good at cracking cases despite being a horrendous failure of a human being.
  • In Space Quest the player character, Roger Wilco, is a bumbling, lazy janitor who constantly gets the short end of the stick, either through his own lack of foresight or simply because he's an unlucky bastard.
  • Mike Dawson becomes one in Dark Seed II, being a whiny and cowardly manchild who still lives with his mother. Granted, he moved in after having a nervous breakdown in the first game, but he's been there for a year and she's not too fond of this fact.
  • In Always Sometimes Monsters, your hero is $500 behind in the rent and about to get kicked out of their shabby apartment, has lost their Love Interest, and is generally completely down on their luck. A major theme of the game is exploring just how far you're willing to go to turn your life around.
  • Mae Borowski, main character of Night in the Woods, is an unemployed college dropout whose untreated neuroses catapult her back to her parents' house in her hometown. The very next day, she manages to throw up on her ex-boyfriend at a party. While it's initially played for laughs, it becomes increasingly clear that she genuinely needs help...and being the main character of a Ghost Story (or rather, a Cosmic Horror Story ) only makes things worse for her.
  • The protagonist of Welcome to the Game is an avid Deep Web lurker who is trying to find a Red Room livestream for reasons unknown, but can certainly be chalked up to either morbid curiosity or just plain sadism. One of the alternate endings released in the 2.0 build confirms that they're looking it up for sexual pleasure. In fact, it's actually Lydia, one of the antagonists of Rides With Strangers.
  • The Protagonist of Sunset Overdrive fits this trope pretty well; at the beginning of the game they work for the Mega-Corp Fizzco in a dead-end job, stuck with the crappy job of being custodian to the massive party Fizzco is throwing to celebrate the release of their new energy drink, Overdrive, but not actually able to take part in the festivities. This actually turns out to be a good thing for you, since not moments after the party reaches its peak, people start turning into mutants...
  • Clarence's Big Chance: Clarence. If you play your cards right, you can land him a promotion to executive and a hot girlfriend, pulling him out of this trope.
  • Leisure Suit Larry revolves around Larry, a Lounge Lizard Casanova Wannabe who at the start of the first game is a forty-year-old virgin on a Quest for Sex. No matter how many successes he has with women, the next game has him end up right back where he started.

    Visual Novels 
  • The protagonist of Daughter for Dessert is an unmarried single dad with a failing business and nothing else to his name.
  • The protagonist of Double Homework is an athlete suffering from PTSD who has developed a video game addiction.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • The unfortunate Ava of Ava's Demon fits this trope. She is often considered insane because of the frequent possessions caused by the Demon Wrathia and has lost her one and only friend because of it. Because of her demonic possessions, she often gets in trouble at school (through no fault of her own) and is eventually expelled to a "Special Needs" child containment planet.
  • Luigi is this in It Sucks to Be Weegie!. The world is always out to make his life miserable.
  • Park Hyung Suk in Lookism couldn't catch a break until a weird miracle happened. He has a low-paying part-time job, is poor, does not have a love interest, is fat, was the lowest of the low on the Popularity Food Chain, didn't have any friends, lacks any fashion sense (mainly due to not being able to afford many clothes), was unmotivated... After some much-needed Character Development, he decides to not rely on the miracle alone anymore and decides to change himself.
  • The titular character of Matchu has no friends, lives in a crappy apartment with his underpaid brother, is immediately assigned as a janitor when looking for a job, and the universe denies him any sort of happiness to the point where a UFO lands on top of him before he can say anything when his Love Interest actually shows him some acknowledgement.
  • Jolee in WooHoo! is, at the start of the story, penniless and friendless in a new city. Her terrible money-management skills are to blame.
  • Darwin of Darwin Carmichael Is Going to Hell has a job he hates as a loan officer, he lives in a crappy apartment with roommates that bother him, and he hasn't had a date in a long time. Oh, and everything in his life always goes wrong for him because he's doomed to Hell for having the worst karma in the world.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation