Fairy Godmother: I beg to differ. I do it all the time!
Ah, the Love Potion. Not since the Eskimo Freezer was patented has there ever been such a useless invention. Not that love potions are ineffective, mind you; it's just that they rarely ever work as intended, to the point where one wonders why a character would even bother to use them at all. When you see someone employ a Love Potion these days, you almost expect it to fail. It should be a Discredited Trope by this time, but for some reason, characters continue to use Love Potions, with said potions continuing to cause far more trouble than they're worth.
If the plan for using the Love Potion is actually well thought out and shouldn't go wrong, expect some Contrived Coincidence to ensure that it does.
The Love Potion comes in three general forms:
- Love First Person Sighted potion
- Love Only Person X (often containing a hair or other piece of Person X) concoction
- Get In Touch With Your Wild Side aphrodisiac
Of course, no matter which type of potion is used, the chances that the right people will actually drink the potion are less than .00001% on average. Even if the potion is put into a drink that's placed directly into the hands of the people for whom it's intended, some kind of mix-up is always bound to occur. For instance, if the Love Potion is given to the princess in an attempt to get her to fall in love with the hero, you can bet your life savings that she'll slip and fall, causing the potion to splash up into the open mouth of the hero-hating Tsundere. When folks imbibe a "drink it and fall in love with the first thing that you see" type of potion, then despite how miraculously good they always seem to be at avoiding children or family (on the rare occasion where this sort of Fridge Horror is even addressed, that is), it is virtually guaranteed that the first face the hero will see upon sipping the mixture is that of his own horse or that of his Plucky Comic Relief Sidekick. Even if it's only an aphrodisiac, a lot more people than expected are going to unknowingly chug it and engage in activities that put the raunchiest teen parties to shame.
Villains don't usually have all that much luck with Love Potions either, as they're often all-too susceptible to being rendered ineffective through that annoyingly pesky "Power of True Love" thing. No matter how strong a Love Potion might be at first, it will almost invariably fail once the entranced heroine sees her True Love lying bleeding and battered on the floor, seconds away from doom. In most cases, this will lead to a tearful reconciliation between the heroine and their Love Interest and to the hero picking herself up and kicking a lot of ass (as well as to the villain wondering just where he can get a refund on that stupid wonky potion). An even more chaotic backfiring is when the villain her/himself accidentally drinks said potion. Hilarity Ensues.
Villains may employ other means besides potions for winning someone's love (spells, brainwashing, illusions, and the like) but these usually have a comparable success rate (i.e., none). If it's particularly potent, it might cause Love Is in the Air and affect not just the intended drinker but everyone.
Even on occasions where a love potion works exactly as intended (most often in the case of Love Only Person X), with the right target falling for the right person, the whole thing has a tendency to work a little too well. The user will find, to their chagrin, that being obsessed over to the point of absurdity either destroys what they found attractive about the love interest in the first place or is simply too much to handle. Or they might come to realize that they'd rather their love remain unrequited than be artificially requited, thus learning a valuable Aesop.
Every once in a blue moon, you get a Shipper on Deck type who wants to use a love potion not for their own benefit, but on behalf of two people who would be "so perfect together", if only they just had a little nudge towards each other. But even the purest of intentions can lead to disaster, and it's a safe bet the would-be matchmaker will be desperately scrambling to undo their handiwork in short order.
The morality of magically forcing someone to fall in love or have sex with another is often overlooked, but occasionally explored. Use of these things has the potential to make consent rather dubious if the story goes beyond PG-rated shows of love. It's becoming more common for a Magical Society to have declared love potions illegal because of this.
Frequently comes as a perfume rather than a drinkable. In these cases simply replace "drinks" with "gets sprayed with", as all the same mishaps tend to happen.
See also Living Aphrodisiac when this trope is someone's superpower (often a villain unconcerned with that "consent" nonsense). Compare Slipping a Mickey, Hypno Ray and Hypno Trinket. Contrast Hate Plague. Subtrope of Magic Potion.
- Anime & Manga
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- Films Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
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- Western Animation
- Helga tries to rekindle the love of Hägar the Horrible twice. (They've been married for years, so this is less creepy than many examples.) Once, she puts a love potion in his soup, and he immediately shouts how he loves... the soup. Another time, she puts an amulet of love under his pillow. He falls in love with the pillow.
- Defied in Aladdin: Genie states that one of his rules is that he can't make people fall in love. Young children watching might think this is just a lame cop-out to keep from resolving the plot too easily, but older viewers will understand that this would be rape, plain and simple. Later, when Jafar has the lamp, he wishes for Jasmine to fall in love with him. Just as Genie tries to explain that he can't do that, Aladdin sneaks in to steal the lamp back; Jasmine sees him and suddenly begins to flirt with Jafar as a distraction, to Genie's complete confusion.
- Secret Magic Control Agency: Ilvira force-feeds the king cookies laced with a potion, so that he falls in love with her and makes her his queen.
- Shrek 2 has one of these. (If you look carefully, you'll see that the bottle has "IX" written on it, a Shout-Out to the song, "Love Potion #9") However, the love potion is treated very seriously as a creepy breach of the target's free will, and becomes what ultimately leads to Harold's HeelFace Turn as well as the motivation for the climax. Fiona's fairy godmother orders the king to pour it into Fiona's drink so that she will fall in love with Prince Charming instead of Shrek; the potion causes the drinker to fall in love with the first person who kisses them. It doesn't work, because the king decides not to give Fiona the potion-laced drink after seeing how much she loves Shrek and how truly unhappy Fiona is with Charming.
Fairy Godmother: (furious) HAROLD! You were supposed to give her the potion!
King Harold: (smugly) Well, I guess I gave her the wrong tea.
- The main conflict of Strange Magic is formed around a love potion. Making one is incredibly difficult since you need a petal from the primrose flower, which only grows on the border of the Dark Forest and is constantly being cut down by the mooks of the Bog King. Also, the only one who can turn the petal into the potion is the Sugar Plum fairy, who is imprisoned by the Bog King. He really, really doesn't want there to be love potions. He's got practical concerns, since it can and does lead to chaos, but his real reason is that the love potion failed to work for him since true love overpowers the potions.
- The song "Love Potion #9" (recorded first by The Clovers and then The Searchers, among others) plays with this trope, illustrating why, if you ever get your hands on a love potion, you should not test it on yourself.
- In the song "Funky Cold Medina" by Tone Loc, the singer attempts to test the eponymous substance on his dog. If he'd paid proper attention to the results, he would have realized that it doesn't work exclusively on the opposite sex rather than having to figure that out the hard way. He continues using it anyway until he finds out that some of the people he's using a Love Potion on will react by wanting to marry him in addition to having sex with him.
- In the music video for Jennifer Lopez's song "Papi," J-Lo plays a woman who eats a magic cookie that she is told will bring her absent lover back. The next day, every man in town that sees her falls madly in love with her, causing a lot of chaos throughout.
- Winter used one on Angelina Love that resembled a bokor's hoodoo zombie drug better than most actual depictions of Hollywood Voodoo (including TNA's early stint with Roxxi Laveaux). Love eventually snapped out of it, but decided she still loved Winter anyway.
- The first episode of AstroLOLogy, "Scent-o-logy", is about Aquarius creating a love potion with the intention of spraying it on Sagittarius so that she'll fall in love with him. He ends up spraying Taurus, Capricorn, and Leo instead by accident.
- Averted in The Spider Cliff Mysteries: Katherine Sprawling's use of a love potion on Thomas Elkwood hit the correct person and resulted in a 30 year marriage. Annabelle's attempt at using a potion appears to have failed due to the intended target being forewarned about the exact mode of delivery.
- Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers:
- In "Peachosal Love", after Mario's final attempt to get Peach to love him fails thanks to "gay Bob-ombs", he attempts this with help from Merlon. Unfortunately, it turns Peach into a raging monster.
- In "Awkward Weddings", Mario and Luigi get a love potion from the Rock Wizard so that Peach and Daisy would fall in love with them. Unfortunately, they fail to hear the warning about the first person in the drinker's sight being their love (because an old man in a bathtub ran over the wizard); as a result, it backfires horribly, with instead SMG4 and X being the first people Peach and Daisy see, which almost results in them getting married. Thankfully, Ruffman8890 (the Rock Wizard's crazed assistant), who was demanding to know who used all of his toilet paper at the time, farted, breaking the spell.
- The story thread "Lust Dust" on the Anime Addventure features a powerful aphrodisiac that makes a mess of many, many relationships.
- In Receiver of Many golden arrows shot by Eros are very potent in igniting love and desire. Even being close to one can make someone aroused against their will. Being simply scratched by the arrow causes Hades to obsess over Persephone. If it has actually reached its target — his heart — he would probably be driven mad with need and snatched her away and had sex with her the moment he found her.
- Critical Role has one pop up in its 109th episode. Taryon had intended for Vax to slip it to Grog, but Vax thought better and let Scanlan have it (giving it to the player who gave it to him, even). Scanlan proceeded to fall in lust with Percy, which greatly vexed Vex, and shenanigans ensued for about 40 minutes of playing. Making it even better, it was an episode with a live audience, so there was instant feedback on how great it all went.
- In the SuperMarioLogan episode "The Love Potion!", Cody invents a love serum for Bowser Junior to inject into Britknee, the newest student, to get her to fall in love with him. However, there are two catches; once injected, she falls in love with the first person she sees (who happens to be Jeffy), and after a few hours, the serum turns her into a dragon.