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Supernatural Angst

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"Being a vampire is excellent, but I'm getting really down about this nocturnal lifestyle. It means I miss either Richard And Judy or Kilroy. I used to tape Kilroy while watching Richard And Judy, but now, because I can't get up during the day, I have to choose to tape one or the other... being a Lord Of Darkness is not without its issues."

A Sadness Trope which depends on the supernatural, the paranormal, the fantastical or the otherwise entirely fictional in order to generate angst for the characters. Whether being turned into a vampire, made immortal, suffering from some kind of curse or the like, the cause of the angst is something that is impossible to duplicate or generate outside of a fictional world.

Supernatural Angst is often used by fantasy and science fiction writers to engage with metaphor and place a fantastic spin on Real Life problems and issues and examine them from an unusual angle; the burgeoning superpowers that the character may need to keep hidden may be used as a metaphor for homosexuality, for example (see Applicability). However, if not used well, the metaphor can be strained or unconvincing, or perhaps not even there.

For added irony, a character suffering from Supernatural Angst may be Cursed with Awesome or Blessed with Suck — however, in many cases there's no such irony; there's no awesome side effects to the curse, it just sucks.

This trope is a key cause of Angst Dissonance — metaphor or not, the very fictional nature of this angst can make it difficult for the reader to fully sympathise with the character, as the cause of the angst is often something that readers will have no experience of and never will. Okay, being a vampire, immortal or cursed to switch gender every time you sneeze may indeed suck royally, but as it's also something that your reader is almost certainly never going to experience first-hand, it can be difficult to tolerate your character complaining about the subject. This is particularly the case if the character is Cursed with Awesome — if the Supernatural Angst stems from something that is actually pretty cool, with very few negative drawbacks, and that your readers would love to be able to do, then they're unlikely to react well if all your character does is whine about it. And of course, this trope can lead into Wangst or Deus Angst Machina like so many others.

Oddly, the ones most prone to this besides supernatural creatures, are the people that fight them. Fighting monsters is not good for your mental health, after all.

Related tropes include Blessed with Suck; Can't Have Sex, Ever; Cursed with Awesome; I Hate You, Vampire Dad; What Have I Become?; Who Wants to Live Forever?. Contrast with Cursed with Awesome and Living Forever Is Awesome. Compare and contrast with Fantastic Angst, which is when the Angst is caused by something which does happen in real life, but that thing is caused by something fantastic.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In All Fall Down, heroes and villains experience this after losing their powers and suffering various physical and/or emotional trauma as a result.
  • Superman, Depending on the Writer and medium. He's a veritable demigod that balances his heroics as Earth's protector with trying to blend in with humanity. Smallville had this out the wazoo (seeing as the character started out as a teenager), and Superman Returns dealt with some of this after he took five years off to look for Krypton.
  • The X-Men often suffer from this trope as a result of their superpowers (and the fact that as victims of Fantastic Racism they are hated and feared because of it).

  • The Dresden Files: For Harry Dresden, being a wizard has not been fun times for him, seriously. But except on rare occasions when it just gets to be too much, the reader is more likely to be crying about what he's been through than Harry himself is.
  • Remus Lupin from Harry Potter is quite bitter about being a werewolf, what with it being a metaphor for AIDS.
  • His Dark Materials:
    • It's mentioned early in the first book that one human never touches another's dæmon, ever. Later on, Lyra's dæmon is seized by another human, and the incident is described in terms very similar to sexual assault. It renders Lyra, the indomitable, high-spirited Lyra, practically catatonic for a decent chunk of time.
    • In the second book, we meet Spectres, which are only visible to adults and can only hurt adults. Once a Spectre attacks, its prey is left absolutely without energy or any sort of interest in the world. Will Parry (from a world without Spectres) even draws parallels between Spectres and depression or mental illness.
  • Pact has Evan Matthieu, the ghost of a child who died of exposure while fleeing a goblin, who later gains the ability to shapeshift into a sparrow with magic lockpicking powers after becoming a wizard's Familiar. He expresses that he's kind of glad that he died (being hunted by goblins is hellish), but he doesn't want to move on to the afterlife-he died while running from the inevitable, so it's not in his nature to really accept dying.
  • The Twilight Saga: Edward Cullen often crosses the line into Supernatural Wangst, although Stephanie Meyer's somewhat idiosyncratic take on vampirism does not count as Cursed with Awesome.
  • In Unseen Academicals, Mr. Nutt picks up some angst about being an Orc, which were infamous, dreaded, Always Chaotic Evil Super Soldiers. He gets over this when enough people remind him that he is also, first and foremost, Mr. Nutt.
  • Louis of The Vampire Chronicles is constantly in a state of despair over his existence as a blood drinking, undying vampire. In theory, vampirism in supposed to be a metaphor for the human condition, but this often fails and he and the rest of the characters end up pulling this trope.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Being Human (UK) — whose three leads are a vampire, a ghost, and a werewolf — is built on this trope. Interestingly, although the grounds for the vampires' and ghosts' angst remains largely the same in the U.S. version, it's handled a bit differently with the werewolves. In the U.K. version, George's issues with being a werewolf seem to stem largely from personal neurosis (not to discount the monthly nigh-unendurable pain). In the U.S. version, the external downsides are made clearer. Josh, George's counterpart, is given a more defined relationship with the family he left behind, and the "vampire Jim Crow" issue is made more explicit.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel often use Supernatural Angst; Buffy's abilities as the Slayer (and the demands this places on her life) and Angel's cursed-vampire-with-a-soul are the two main reflections of this, but the other characters often felt the effects.
  • The new series of Doctor Who often touches on this trope, with many of the Doctor's key reasons for angsting — the loneliness of immortality, being the last Time Lord in the universe and the guilt of having committed genocide against the other Time Lords, the paralysis of knowing that some things in history cannot be changed — being things that, while certainly sad, can able be difficult to fully appreciate if you don't happen to be a near-immortal time traveller who is the last of his species because you blew up the rest of them in a devastating intergalactic time-spanning war.
  • Supernatural: It long ago hit the limits of real-world levels of angst (murdered loved ones, survivor's guilt, abandonment issues, family drama, tragic and sucky childhoods, etc.) Of course, it's set in the world of the supernatural, but a lot of its early angst was fairly normal, even if the root causes were supernatural (e.g. a murder committed by a demon). As time went on, the only way to increase the angst was to use supernatural angst. A good example: Plain old post-traumatic stress vs post traumatic stress from being tortured for three decades before finally turning torturer for a literal hell. Yeah.

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Jacob's inability to fully understand and control his Time Master power causes him stress, which in turn makes his power even more unwieldy, leading into a spiral that chips away at his mental health.
    • Jenna's main source of angst is her power transforming her into a walking mass of insects. While it's a problem that's deeply sympathetic, it's also not about to be applicable to anyone in real life.
    • Jessica experiences great angst over the fact that she's now an unusual shade of purple, and also that she can't speak without thinking lest she risk abusing her newfound Compelling Voice.
    • Much like Jenna above, Katheryn's issue of being turned into a sentient mass of ink is something that can be sympathized with, but not really related to.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chronicles of Darkness: So, so much:
    • Vampires are animated corpses, forced to stay partly human to resist the urge to tear everyone apart, which often makes them feel more and more guilty about being parasites on the living.
    • Werewolves may have to take terribly violent steps to prevent even worse things happening to the world.
    • Prometheans are unnatural mockeries of humanity, desperately trying to become more human... which always involves creating another Promethean to suffer as they do. They also have to keep moving to keep ahead of the Hate Plague that surrounds them.
    • Hunters have had their eyes opened to just how horrible the world is, and either destroy themselves fighting it or destroy their morality as they begin to enjoy the hunt more and more.
    • And arguably the worst: Changelings have been abuse victims in a realm of pure nightmare. A possibly-psychotic clone of them has taken their place, and they are forever threatened with the possibility of a return to slavery and torment.
    • Demons must do their best to conceal their true natures, passing for ordinary humans, for fear of being destroyed — or reclaimed — by the God-Machine they once served. They can never be certain who among their fellows they can trust, and who might be working against them.
    • There are a couple of glaring aversions though:
  • The Old World of Darkness loves this trope. Aside from Mage: The Ascension, the angst dial is cranked up to 9 or 10 for most games.
    • Vampire: The Masquerade: You're a bloodsucking reanimated corpse. Your unlife will henceforth be controlled by the dictates of inhuman elders. Your only chance to survive long-term is to become like them. A monster you are, lest an even worse monster you become.
    • Werewolf: The Apocalypse: Your race is going extinct, the whole world is going to be destroyed in the worst way possible, and there's almost nothing you can do about it. Just making the End less terrible requires constant violence. You are a rage-filled, barely-controlled, inhuman danger to your loved ones, and the remainder of your short life will be spent fighting mightmarish horrors with a very real ability to make you one of them.
    • Kindred of the East: You sinned, you died, and you went to Hell. Hell sucks. Eventually you dragged yourself out of the torture chambers and back to Earth, but now you're a bloodsucking reanimated corpse trying somehow to attain enlightenment and rejoin the karmic cycle.
    • Wraith: The Oblivion: When you died, you learned that all your beliefs about the afterlife are wrong. The Underworld is a nightmare land of despair and casual atrocities, ruled by a brutal dictatorship, and the only way forward is down. You have three options: give in and become an inhuman spectre helping destroy the others; succumb to Oblivion; or spend every ounce of your being fighting to keep what little you have left for just a bit longer.
    • Changeling: The Dreaming: You're a creature of imagination and dream in a mortal shell. Unfortunately, this means that things that erode imagination and dream also erode your existence, making you forget who you are, until in the end you are completely undone, unmade. If you're lucky, you'll die before that happens, and reincarnate. If you're lucky.
    • Hunter: The Reckoning: Your eyes have been opened to the horrors infesting the world, abusing and preying upon humanity. Some force from on high has empowered you to fight back... except it didn't bother to give you the tools you actually need to succeed. Assuming you survive appreciably long, you'll slip closer and closer to insanity, and you can't even be certain you're on the right side.
    • Demon: The Fallen: God may well be evil and doesn't seem to care about humanity. You rebelled, hoping to make a better world for everyone, and ended up in Hell. Hell sucks bigtime, and you are not the angel you used to be. Eons later you clawed your way out, only to discover that God apparently deliberately broke the universe out of spite and is now missing, the world is utterly ruined and literally falling apart, and humanity is going down the crapper.

    Video Games 
  • Zig-zagged in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion with vampirism. Count Hassildor was turned and basically went back to business as usual. His wife ended up comatose and eventually dead because she couldn't cope and refused to feed. Vicente the assassin is an Affably Evil gent who cheerfully mentions that after being dead for two hundred years he's quite the social pariah. Finally, when the Arena Champion Agronak learns that his long-lost father was a vampire, he falls to depression and lets himself be killed in his next fight.
  • One of the Suikoden series's main themes is what some fans have termed "Rune angst"—the suffering that comes from being the bearer of one of the True Runes, semi-intelligent artifacts that grant the bearer godlike power and immortality at the price of a constant struggle for control over their own fate and against the inherent side-effects of the Rune. Which you will have to live with for the rest of your life. Which, unless you pass it on to some poor sap who's going to have to suffer in your place, will be forever.
  • Touhou is chock full of supernaturals in the form of little girls, some of whom are or were humans. Most of them think it's kickass to be a supernatural, but the angsting ones are more notable:
    • Yuyuko Saigyouji used to be a fairly normal Shrine Maiden who was tasked to seal the power of a cherry tree that lures people to their death. When that power began to taint her and she became able to kill people just by willing it, she was Driven to Suicide. These days, she largely gets over the angst and enjoys eating and drinking (despite being a ghost).
    • Fujiwara-no-Mokou doesn't take being an immortal too well. She cuts off contact with everyone and lives alone in the wood. She gets a bit better after the player team laid the smack upon her and figuring out that Keine is worth everything for her. Still a Tall, Dark, and Snarky Bifauxnen, though.
    • Suika Ibuki (and the onis in general) is a rather Sad Clown. She would like to be drinking and fighting with humans like in ancient times, too bad humans no longer believe in the supernaturals. Doesn't matter (too much), has friends and infinite booze.
    • Medicine Melancholy finds that being an animated doll —and the power that animates her is magical ultra-lethal toxin— is a miserable state of existence. She hates everyone, but mellows a bit after she finds acceptance amongst the folks of Eientei (who themselves are a bunch of screwed-up people).
    • Sanae Kochiya was marginalized for having miraculous power in a world where supernaturals supposedly no longer exist. Then she was transported to Gensokyo because her Goddesses need prayer badly, and suddenly she found a lot of people to match wits against.
    • Koishi Komeiji is widely despised by fellow youkai due to her natural power to read minds, and she closed her magical third eye while keeping up a cheerful appearance. She become more open to others after a chance meeting with Marisa.
    • It's unknown whether Byakuren Hijiri had a period of angst after she was ostracized by her former-fellow humans due to learning the dark arts.

  • Several characters (Jareth, the Erlkönig, James Norrington, etc.) in Roommates angsted on the futility of fighting their story. To explain they are self-aware fictional beings, so they tend to be painfully aware that their choices are severely limited (if not outright dictated) by the Theory of Narrative Causality and the whims of the storytellers.
  • In Unsounded, Duane suffers terribly over the fact that he's an undead being with a soul, in contrast to the magically animated Plod corpses. In his understanding, the only explanation for such an impossibility is that his God rejected him from the cycle of Reincarnation for some terrible sin.
    Duane: Self-slaughter's forbidden. To rot is forbidden. Each day I must choose how I will sin.