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One of them is dark and poor
—Celtic Woman, "At the Ceili"
Marry him, or marry me
—Spin Doctors, "Two Princes"
One of the most common complications in the classic Love Triangle scenario. Two men (in most cases they're men — probably has something to do with a woman needing a man to "provide" for her) are vying for your affection. Who's the right one? It's hard to tell, but there's a good chance that one of them is considerably wealthier than the other, and he can provide security, glamour and the good life, while the other (who has a good chance of being an impoverished artist) can give none of the same. What are you gonna do?
Most of the time, it's going to be "go with the poor one," and the story will carry an Aesop that true love is worth more than material wealth. This makes sense if the rich suitor is a bad person or the woman is just not in love with him as she is with the poor person. When done poorly, however, the rich one often ends up as the Designated Villain. This trope overlaps considerably with Wrong Guy First and Disposable Fiance, but keep in mind that the rich suitor is not necessarily wrong, first or particularly disposable.
If the suitors are also a Betty and Veronica pair, the dynamic will typically be either "poor but nice suitor vs. rich but haughty suitor" or "poor but exciting suitor vs. rich but boring suitor", being obviously slanted toward the poor suitor in both cases. So much, in fact, that having the rich suitor win or even be a decent, likeable person is considered by many as a subversion of this trope — perhaps the trope name should have been "Poor Suitor Wins" instead?
Anime & Manga
- Maison Ikkoku: Yusaku Godai is the poor college student, Shun Mitaka is the rich guy who only coaches tennis as a hobby. Kyoko Otonashi spent six years choosing between them, thanks to a rash of Status Quo Is God. She chooses the Poor Suitor. The Rich one finds a girlfriend of his own and they're happy together, tho.
- Fushigi Yuugi: Miaka Yuuki is the Suzaku no Miko and main girl of the series. The rich suitor is Hotohori, the Emperor of Konan. The poor suitor is Country Mouse Tamahome. Miaka chooses Tamahome.
- Subverted in Hotohori's character novel and OAV, Suzaku Hi Den. His future wife and empress Houki is in the middle of the Love Triangle; Hotohori is the rich suitor, while his long-lost brother Tendou Shu is the poor suitor. This time, Hotohori wins. And Shu actually dies... in Houki and Hoto's arms.
- With a little bit of Shipping Goggles applied, Axis Powers Hetalia can be seen as having this in the form of aristocratic Austria and rough-and-tumble Prussia both being interested in Hungary. Atypically, Austria is canonly the victorious one, but the fanworks that emphasize this trope the most are the ones that believe Hungary would be better off with the "more fun and passionate" Prussia. And they often apply Die for Our Ship to Austria to "justify" why Hungary would dump him.
- For some fics, you can switch Prussia with Hungary's teenage-hood friend Poland and it's similar. Including the DFOS, sadly.
- The Greece/Japan/Turkey Love Triangle can also be viewed as this, considering Greece's Perpetual Poverty and Turkey's Bling of War and Greece/Japan being heavily favored in both canon and fandom.
- The Love Triangle among police officers in Detective Conan had "rich suitor" and local White Prince Ninzaburo Shiratori against "poor suitor" and middle-class Nice Guy Wataru Takagi, both pining for the local Action Girl Satou. Satou ultimately chooses Takagi, after quite a while of Can't Spit It Out. Shiratori eventually finds his first love, local Hot Teacher Sumiko Kobayashi, and she becomes his Victorious Childhood Friend.
- Rare female example in Kasei Yakyoku: the noblewoman Akiko Shouda and her maid Sara Uchida are this to Taka Itou, the male lead.
- In Hana no Ko Lunlun, a beautiful young woman chooses a French sea captain over a rich Italian count. That woman was Lunlun's Missing Mom. And 18 years later, Lunlun meets the man who could've been her father... who turns out to be a rather kind-hearted guy.
- Future GPX Cyber Formula has Asuka Sugo involved in a love triangle between the middle-class guy and her longtime friend Hayato Kazami (poor suitor) and the aristocratic rich guy Karl Lichter von Randoll (rich suitor). She eventually chooses Hayato, although it's almost pretty obvious on who she will choose.
- Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu has Nogizaka Haruka, the wealthy and popular High School student, who is the love interest of Ordinary High School Student Ayase Yuuto, the "Poor Suitor" (actually middle-class but, if you compare him to Haruka and the "Rich Suitor"), and Shute Sutherland, who demeans Ayase in any given opportunity. Ayase Yuuto's self-steem issues are more of an obstacle than Sutherland, who isn't even a regular character.
- Played for Laughs in Dokonjo Gaeru. Local Hot Teacher Yoshiko Yamanaka is pursued by her co-worker Yoshio Minami (hinted to be from a rich family) and Sakakubei (Hiroshi's Big Brother Mentor who works as a sushi chef), but she completely fails to notice their interest in her.
- Subverted in Voltron. Keith is a common man from Earth, while Lotor is a Prince. Both have eyes on Princess Allura, but she's absolutely repulsed by the latter and makes her affections for the former very clear. In the US-only second season, Keith and Allura are the Official Couple.
- In The Building by Will Eisner, Helen had a college sweetheart poet who loves her, but instead chose to marry the more stable, richer dentist - but ends up having an affair with the Poet because the marriage was ultimately loveless.
- In the early years of X-Men, Jean Grey had to choose between Warren Worthington, who was incredibly rich, handsome, charming and athletic, and had wings, and Scott Summers, who was a penniless orphan, skinny, massively introverted, and always wore giant nerd glasses lest he blasted someone's head off.
- An issue of What If showed what would have happened if she did choose Warren over Scott. Basically, Scott's edges would have been even harder had she not been there to soften them, and he was an even bigger antisocial Jerkass than he is in the normal continuity. So much, that Professor X named Beast as the leader of the X-Men since he had compassion and actually cared to endear himself to his teammates. This caused Cyclops to storm off and join the Brotherhood.
- Johnny and Neil in Dirty Dancing. Provided, it doesn't hurt that Johnny is incredibly attractive and an extremely good dancer, whereas Neil is more or less a Jerkass loser.
- A Knight's Tale: Jocelyn must choose between Count Ademar, the nobleman, and William, the squire disguised as a knight (and only a country knight of minor nobility at that, although his money situation improves as he keeps winning tournaments). Not a straight example because she thought they were both noble, but she was still willing to love William after she found out his true heritage.
- Moulin Rouge: Satine must choose between the rich Duke (that's his only name) and the young bohemian playwright Christian — or, more poetically, between her diamonds-are-a-girl's-best-friend materialism and her desire to be free to love. And of course the a show-within-a-show they're planning has the exact same love triangle.
- Pretty in Pink: Impoverished young Andie must choose between rich boy Blane and poor boy Duckie.
- Reality Bites: Lelaina must choose between successful businessman Michael and slacker/philosopher/asshole Troy.
- Michael is a particular case of Designated Villain. He treats her well and uses his influence to try to start her career, but because that career may involve making compromises rather than just letting her Dad pay for things the movie tells us that the guy who treats her badly but never asks her to grow up is the one to go with.
- Shampoo: Jackie must choose between the rich Lester and the blue-collar hairdresser George.
- Spartacus: Slave girl Varinia (and, in a way, slave boy Antoninus) must choose between high-ranking Roman general Crassus and rebel slave leader Spartacus.
- Titanic: Rose must choose between the wealthy businessman Cal and impoverished artist Jack. Leonardo Dicaprio won.
- Wayne's World: Tia Carrere must choose between lower-class Wayne and TV executive Rob Lowe.
- Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day calls this trope boring, and gives Delissia Le Fosse a choice between three suitors: charming club owner Nick, eager young Phil, or poor but passionate Michael.
- Sweet Home Alabama: Kind of.
- Shopgirl: Mirabelle must choose between a wealthy older man and a penniless younger man.
- Two Moon Junction: April must choose between her wealthy fiancee and her newly found fling, who is a carnie. In the end, she marries the rich guy, but ends up with the carnie, too.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Elizabeth must choose between her true love, penniless blacksmith Will or the older, wealthier Commodore Norrington. In a nice subversion, both guys are portrayed as good men and both genuinely love her. She chooses Will. Norrington accepts it and later performs an Heroic Sacrifice.
- Played with in Coming to America, where Prince Akeem portrays himself as poor so that his future queen will love him for who he is, rather than how much money he has. In his fight for Lisa, he is up against Daryl, the money-rich but personality-poor heir to the Soul Glo fortune. Of course, it comes out that Akeem is really a prince. Hilarity Ensues.
- Subverted in The Notebook as the rich guy is decent and very lovely.
- Played with in Just Friends in which Jamie must choose between her former high school best friend who is now a Jerkass, successful Casanova with a glamorous job in the music intustry and another former friend who has grown up into a nice, down to earth small town paramedic. Except in turns out the Jerkass Rich Suitor is really a Jerk with a Heart of Gold while the supposedly nice Poor Suitor is a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing deliberately looking to break her heart for not noticing his crush on her in high school.
- Gender Flipped in The Princess and the Frog, where Prince Naveen, cut off by his parents, chooses to marry the rich Charlotte LeBouffe for her money... before falling for her poorer friend, Tiana. It seems like he might have to marry Charlotte even after choosing Tiana, but Charlotte does away with that issue herself.
- Given a bit of a twist in Aladdin, where Jasmine falls in love with "street rat" Aladdin and doesn't much care for this Prince Ali who comes parading down the streets with an ostentatious display of wealth and possessions. The twist being, of course, that "Ali" is actually Aladdin who's been turned into a prince by Genie. Jasmine only begins warming up to him when she figures this out and he begins acting more like himself. And it was not like she knew she had a choice between the "two of them", since Jafar lied to her, claiming Aladdin was executed.
- The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas: Casino owner Chip Rockfeller and quarry employee Fred Flintstone are rivals for Wilma's affections. The movie twists the trope by having Chip needing to marry Wilma, who's from a rather affluent family as well, to be able to pay his debts and stay wealthy.
- A rare male version in Tyler Perry's Good Deeds. Wesley Deeds has to choose between his fiancee Natalie (rich) or a down-on-her-luck single mother who is a janitor in his office building.
- Played straight at the end of another Tyler Perry movie, Diary of a Mad Black Woman. when the main character Helen has to choose between her wealthy, disabled, but abusive husband (Charles) and a factory worker she meets, Orlando. Double subverted because she at first chooses Orlando, then when Charles is paralyzed goes back to him, then finally chooses Orlando.
- "The Choice" by Dorothy Parker is a poem about a woman who has a choice between a man who offers her lands and fine things and a man who charms her with his singing alone. She chooses the latter without a second thought--and then wonders afterward if there's something wrong with her head.
- In the book Holes, during Stanley Yelnats' great-great-grandfather's story, Elya (the grandpa) is the poor one and he's up against a fat slob rich guy who's significantly older. In a subversion, Elya loses and leaves the country for America.
- He actually doesn't lose. When he and the other guy both manage to bring an identical Bride Price, the girl's father decides to just let her choose which man she wants to marry. However, when she can't decide, it suddenly hits Elya that she doesn't care about him at all and he surrenders in depression.
- Even Elya faces this choice, sort of. In the old country, the girl he pursued was richer than he was but dumb as a brick. The one he ended up marrying in America, however, was a smart and capable farm girl.
- Deconstructed in James Thurber's fairy-tale parody short story "The Princess and the Tin Box", where a princess raised in luxury comes of age and is given a choice between many suitors. All but one are the "rich suitor", who present her with jewels in the hopes that she'll marry them only for them, the other having all the trappings of the "poor suitor", giving her only a tin box full of pebbles out of lack of anything else, which intrigues her because she's never seen anything like it before. The princess, after carefully considering everything...chooses one of the rich suitors. (The reader is admonished in the end that "All those who thought that the Princess was going to select the tin box filled with worthless stones instead of one of the other gifts will kindly stay after class and write one hundred times on the blackboard, I would rather have a hunk of aluminum silicate than a diamond necklace.")
- In Many Waters, a sequel to A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle, Yalith is pursued both by one of the nephilim, a powerful angelic being who promises her splendor and protection from the oncoming flood, and Sandy and Dennys, the twins from another time, who can't exactly promise a way to save her. However, she Takes a Third Option when she trusts in the seraphim, who takes her away to be with God.
- In The Great Gatsby, the backstory had Daisy being torn between common soldier Jay who's away at war and wealthy Jerk Jock Tom. She chose Tom, but it's implied that she regretted not waiting for Jay and loved him more than she loved Tom. And then this trope is deconstructed every which way when Jay returns even richer than Tom and begins successfully courting Daisy, only for Daisy to be ultimately too weak-willed and shallow to choose him over Tom and Jay to get shot for trying to cover up a death Daisy accidentally caused.
- In The Premature Burial by Edgar Allan Poe, there is a mention of a wealthy young woman named Victorine LaFourcade, who was involved with a poor journalist named Julien Bossuet. She caved under pressure from her family, though, and married a prominent banker, who abused her until she fell ill and (apparently) died. Julien comes to her grave with the intention of taking a piece of her hair as a memento of her...only to find that she had been Buried Alive! He took her home and nursed her back to health, and they left France for America together. Later, when they return to France and he's challenged by the banker, Julien legally gets to keep her as his wife, because of the unusual circumstances and the decades that had passed.
- In Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile, Linnet and Jacqueline are this to Simon Doyle. Linnet, the rich one, manages to steal Simon away from her poorer friend Jackie. Except that it turns out Jackie was the victorious one all along; Simon always loved her and married Linnet, who he saw as just a Clingy Jealous Girl, only so that he and Jackie could murder Linnet on a boat voyage over the Nile and inherit her money.
- Death on the Nile also has a "beta" case of "rich suitor, poor suitor." Cornelia Robinson, the poor relation of a rich woman on the boat, is being courted by both the scraggly Communist agitator Mr. Ferguson and the successful, famous Dr. Bessner. She chooses the poor suitor which turns out to be the doctor, who is comfortably well-off, but not spectacularly wealthy. Ferguson was actually a wealthy Lord, but Cornelia didn't care. She thought he was just as much of a Jerkass as an aristocrat as he was as a commoner.
- The second and third books in the Twilight series run on this trope, with Bella having to choose between Edward and Jacob. Edward wins.
- Which is actually a subversion, since Edward is the insanely rich, refined one, but he still wins. No opinions on which is the "nicer" one, please.
- The knight Palamon and the commoner Arcite for Emily in "The Knight's Tale" of The Canterbury Tales. Arcite wins the physical duel for Emily's hand but suffers fatal injuries when his horse throws him off during his victory celebration, making Palamon the winner by default. It's also worth noting that Emily prayed to Diana to either remain unmarried or become married to the man who loved her the most which implies that Palamon's love for her was purer than Arcite's, something that is usually not done with the rich suitor.
- Interestingly, one of the best-known classic romances is a deliberate and ruthless subversion of this trope with the heroine initially despising the rich Jerkass who calls her not pretty enough to dance with and liking the poor but charming suitor who treats her like a lady. The rich guy turns out to be a Defrosting Ice Queen who has a heart of gold underneath his aloof demeanor, and the poor guy turns out to be a slimeball who seduces a naive girl just so that he can mooch off the girl's family. Many should know know the title of this work already.
Live Action TV
- Full House: Donna Jo aka D.J. must choose between the abnormally rich Nelson and the flaky but sensitive guitarist Viper. She eventually chooses neither.
- Happens all the damn time in soap operas, usually with a blue collar leather-jacket wearing bad boy with a heart of gold vs. a smug, arrogant, suit-wearing bastard. The Poor Suitor almost exclusively wins.
- Happens so much that The Seventies comic Mafalda was already parodying it in one of their strips. Susanita's mother is replying to a phone survey about telenovelas and she starts blubbering about how she finds so horrible that the lead female ("a girl from such a high-class family, you see") is cheating on the rich suitor ("a lawyer, such a serious and nice boy") with the poor suitor ("that guy from the mechanic place, he may be handsome but he's a low-class worker - not that I have anything against workers, but...")
- A notable exception in Days of Our Lives was the creation of the quite unconventional Super Couple Jack and Jennifer. Jennifer (the classic girl-next-door type) had to choose between rich, arrogant, manipulative, snarky, corrupt, ex-rapist Jack Deveraux and sweet, caring, poor, leather jacket-wearing Emilio. Even though Jack was doing the typical Rich Suitor stuff like throwing his money around, demeaning the poor suitor and manipulating the situation to seem superior, he still got the girl and became one of the show's most popular characters for years to come while Emilio got cheated on and eventually fell off a roof and died.
- One episode of The Twilight Zone was about a woman who had to choose between a rich man she didn't love and a poor man she did love, and her future self pursued her on a horse to warn her not to choose the wrong man. The woman ultimately chooses to run off with the poor man. Unfortunately, he turned out to be the wrong choice her future self had tried to warn her against. The brilliant deconstruction was that the poor guy was predictably lousy at handling money and ran the farm they depended on into the ground.
- The poor country vet James Harriot vs. rich Richard Edmundson for the hand of Helen Alderson in All Creatures Great and Small.
- Happened in the book as well, and therefore, presumably, in real life.
- Early episodes of The OC had this in the form of Ryan (poor) vs Luke (rich) competing for Marissa's love.
- The first season of the Reality TV dating show Average Joe had a plain-looking guy who owned his own company and a good-looking guy who wasn't even out of school yet as the final two choices for the girl, and she ultimately chose the latter. In a twist, her choice of the "poor suitor" was actually blasted by most viewers who felt that she chose him solely because he was better-looking than the "average Joe".
- Subverted in Frasier: Niles leaves rich plastic surgeon Mel Karnofski for poor health care worker Daphne Moon, but he's already a wealthy psychiatrist so it was more about social status than wealth. Daphne herself leaves rich lawyer Donny for the equally-rich Niles — it leads one to wonder if the writers made sure Donny was wealthy so that when Daphne chose Niles over him, no accusations of gold-digging could be slung around.
- In Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Helen has to choose between her abusive but wealthy ex-husband Charles, who is disabled by the end of the story, and Orlando, a poor factory worker. At first she chooses her husband, because he is disabled, but then decides not to and chooses Orlando.
- Revenge has the main character Emily Thorne being pursued by the wealthy Daniel Grayson and the comparatively poor Jack Porter. Though in something of a twist for this trope, while Daniel is wealthy by any objective standards, Emily is even more so and could probably equal Daniel's entire net worth with the money she loses in her couch cushions.
- One of the stories in the Celtic Woman song "At the Ceili", as per the page quote.
- The Spin Doctors' "Two Princes" has the poor Prince (the singer) and the rich Prince (the guy with the diamonds and the rockets).
- "Now I ain't saying she's a gold digger..."
- The Billy Joel song "Uptown Girl", despite being vague about specific characters, makes numerous allusions to "high class toys" and refers to Billy Joel as a poor working-class Prince Charming, despite his commercial success.
- Patsy Cline mulls these over in her song "A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)".
- This is the plot of Verdi's Il Trovatore. The Rich Suitor is Count di Luna, the local White Prince; the Poor Suitor is an officer and troubadour with Roma blood named Manrico, and both are in love with the Spanish Queen's lady in waiting, Leonora. It ends in tragedy, not just because Manrico is executed and Leonora is Driven to Suicide... but because the Count later finds out that Manrico was his long-lost little brother, whose kidnapping by Roma drove him to hate them. Holy Ironic Hell.
- In Rent, Mimi is in a triangle with broke musician Roger and rich entrepreneur Benny (it didn't seem to matter that he was already married).
- In Songs for A New World the singer of "Stars and the Moon" has a choice between three suitors, two who were poor, one wealthy.
- Josephine in HMS Pinafore has two potential mates, the wealthy Sir Joseph Porter and the lowly Ralph Rackstraw. She even has a dramatic aria comparing the two, though at other times she obviously favors the tar over the lord.
- The Merchant of Venice: Almost all of Portia's suitors are rich (princes, dukes, barons, etc), and Bassanio, a "poor...gentlemen" is the exception. Needless to say, he's the only one she's really interested in. A lot of the plot revolves around the fact that he's borrowed money from his best friend Antonio in order to woo her.
- In "Fulgens and Lucres": the noblewoman Lucres must choose between two suitors: the thrifty but honorable Gayus or the filthy rich but depraved Cornelius. She decides to marry whoever is nobler, and has them both make speeches listing why they fit that description. Needless to say, the one who kept his speech short won.
- The legend of Flemeth in Dragon Age. The commonly-known story is that Flemeth was married to a wealthy lord named Conobar, but fell in love with a traveling bard named Osen and ran off with him. Flemeth's daughter Morrigan, however, relays a very different version of the tale, supposedly told to her by Flemeth herself: that Osen was her husband, and Conobar a jealous onlooker. According to this version, her mother offered to trade herself to Conobar, in exchange for his giving Osen wealth and power, which they both accepted; as Morrigan puts it, "love fades in the wake of hunger." Conobar, however, had Osen murdered so he wouldn't have to keep up his end of the bargain. Flemeth eventually found out, and summoned up spirits to kill Conobar...
- Choice of Romance plays this extremely straight with your main two suitors (not including the King/Queen) being wealthy but unattractive nobleman Torres and romantic but impoverished artist Mendosa. Picking Mendosa gives you a considerably happier ending where the two of you live a wild, love-filled life and eventually come into money too than if you pick Torres; while Torres is genuinely sweet and devoted to you, you never truly love him and wonder what could have been if you had followed your heart more.
- In the fighter's path in Baldurs Gate II, you become lord of a manor. One of the challenges is to decides who to marry a ward of the estate to, the rich suitor or the poor one.
- In the crossover between Superman: The Animated Series and Batman: The Animated Series, Lois fell in love with the wealthy Bruce Wayne and Bruce somewhat fell for her in return. Clark felt jealous especially after he found out that Bruce was Batman. But that ended when Lois dumped Bruce when she found out that he was Batman.
- Princess Yue in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Hahn is her seemingly well-off intended, while Sokka is a Country Mouse from the poorer Southern Water Tribe. She prefers Sokka, but can't bring herself to shirk her responsibility to marry Hahn. The triangle is rendered moot when she sacrifices herself to restore the Ocean Spirit, though she does kiss Sokka goodbye before she ascends.
- In Voltron: Legendary Defender, Princess Allura has two men interested in her. Lance isn't exactly a Poor Suitor, but his family isn't exactly super rich either (though they do have a more or less prosper farming business), and he's an everyday guy who lucked into his destiny as a Paladin of Voltron. Prince Lotor, the Rich Suitor, is a half-Altean/half-Galra exiled royal with magical abilities and a keen intellect. She does form a romance with Lotor, but it ends very badly when she discovers he's been farming Alteans for Quintessence behind her back. After taking time to heal from the betrayal, she chooses Lance.