Empathic Environment

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Woah, is it me, or does the sky look really dark and ominous? As if it's foreshadowing events which will have a negative impact on our lives."
Phineas, Phineas and Ferb

The sun and sky, wind and clouds, ocean and rain, the very earth itself will echo the mood without prompting or control. They feel it.

If a character needs to look pensive and tragic, there will be a hair-whipping wind...even inside. If there's an important funeral being held, there will be rain, or at least the dimming of the sun. The Mother of All expresses her sympathy for the strife of an epic battle with violent thunderstorms, chasms spontaneously opening in the earth—even horrifying holes ripping the very fabric of reality!

And, when it's all over, the Empathic Environment responds with calm. The air stills and the clouds part...at the same time. The sun shines down as the people turn their faces up, and the rain stops just as the tears of joy start to flow.

On a larger scale, the Ill Girl's case often worsens in the autumn as the leaves start to fall, and spring brings about courtship not only among birds but among humans.

It's known in literary criticism as the pathetic fallacy, and is well-explained by this strip of Dinosaur Comics.

See also Fisher King and Environmental Symbolism. For a living, even sapient environment see Genius Loci.

Examples of Empathic Environment include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Rurouni Kenshin describes the increased wind during Kenshin's fights as "the swordsman's spirit" affecting the environment. Appropriately, when Shishio gets intense, any nearby flames respond in a similar way.
  • At the end of Trigun, Vash's defeat of Knives seems to allow Meryl and Millie to finally strike water, resulting in a reasonable facsimile of rain.
  • Episode 9 of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Starts out cloudy in response to Kamina's death, then the sun comes out when Nia turns up.
  • Averted yet invoked in Fullmetal Alchemist with Hughe's funeral. It takes place on a bright, sunny day, yet Mustang tells Hawkeye, "It's raining." When Hawkeye remarks on the contrary weather, Mustang insists, and that's when she realizes that he's crying.
  • The Naruto-verse is pretty much an empathic universe. It's many instances of Dramatic Wind aside, if it's overcast or starts raining in the otherwise perpetually sunny Fire Country, it usually means someone we're supposed to root for is either dead or being mourned.
  • Bleach is practically made of this trope. So much so that rain has become an integral part of the fandom.
  • In Hare+Guu, it starts raining whenever Hare has a breakdown.
  • .hack//Sign has one of these which starts out as a "sanctuary" for the protagonist, and changes with his state of mind.
  • Being set in a Crapsack World, the environment of Claymore is almost always cloudy, complexions ranging from gray to even sickly gray-green.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • During the "Brief Lives" story arc, Neil Gaiman's Sandman series shows the protagonist being mopey after the end of his latest romance, and his kingdom—the Dreaming—responding to his mood by raining for weeks on end. He's so entrenched in his misery that he fails to notice the flooding of his subjects' homes.
    • Lampshaded by Marv the Pumpkinhead when he says "And here comes the rain, right on cue."
  • Storm of the X-Men quite literally has an empathic environment; the weather shifts based off her moods due to her power over weather. In fact, she has to control her moods in order to prevent them from affecting the weather adversely.
  • The best way to tell if things are getting dramatic in Sin City, is if it begins to rain.
  • In Scott Pilgrim, it rains the whole time that Envy is in Toronto, and the rain ends the moment she gets on the cab to the airport.


Fan Fiction[edit | hide]


Films[edit | hide]

  • German Expressionism, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari revel in this Trope.
  • Disney is notorious for this in their animated canon. It happens in every one of their films! Seriously!
  • Hard-boiled detective stories are almost contractually obliged to feature at least overcast skies and/or thick fog, if not oppressively unceasing rain.
  • In The Crow, the rain in Detroit only abated after Eric finally takes Top Dollar down and returns to his grave.
  • Occurs in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, as a thunderstorm and maelstrom form during the battle between The Black Pearl and The Flying Dutchman. Justified, because the sea-goddess Calypso had been freed from her human shell immediately beforehand, and everyone was expecting her to be angry over her imprisonment.
  • Popular in the Western genre, particularly The Proposition.
  • Literally in Men in Black II when K is giving The Reveal to the female lead.

Agent K: [Ever notice] when you get sad it always seems to rain.
Laura: Lots of people get sad when it rains!
Agent K: It rains because you're sad, baby.

  • Roy Batty's famous death scene in Blade Runner. For most of the movie (a.k.a. the Director's Cut; let's ignore the kitschy tacked-on happy ending of the cinematic version), it's always night time in Los Angeles of 2019, the city is appropriately dark, grimy and rainy for a Cyberpunk setting. However, after Roy Batty's moving death speech, the clouds break open overhead and the rain stops, and the dove flies up into sunlight.
    • Special effects failure, btw. That sky was supposed to be as grey as everything else in the movie. Restored in certain movie versions, and YES a several second difference in special effects can change your understanding of the movie entirely.
      • Keep in mind it isn't just the rain is stopping, but Roy and Will were fighting at dawn. It's finally daylight out when the rain stops.
  • In Shane, during the confrontation between Shane and Star is a perfect example of this trope—and all done without any special effects.
  • In the Aubrey-Maturin film Master and Commander, as soon as Captain Aubrey finishes the ceremony to bury Driven to Suicide Midshipman Hollom at sea, the wind picks up and the ship can finally get going again. Depending on your interpretation, either Hollom's spirit has forgiven the crew for shunning him, or driving him to suicide removed the curse he was on their luck.
  • In Kung Fu Panda, when Shifu faces Tai Lung, it's all dark and gloomy and there are storm clouds as far as the eye can see. When Po shows up two minutes later the clouds and lightning are gone, replaced by a warm ambient glow and the usual bright and cheery colors of the rest of the movie.
    • In the sequel, when we are shown the Kung Fu Council training, it is a normal warm sunset outside. Then Lord Shen walks in, and the sky near-instantly turns blood-red, like it is prone to be around him in general.
  • Justified in The Matrix, where the final fight takes place in the Matrix taken over by Agent Smith, under a torrential, green-filtered thunderstorm. Once Agent Smith is destroyed, cue the Mega City awakening in a shiny, colorful dawn, painted by one of the resident "free programs".
  • In The Incredible Hulk (with Ed Norton), right as Betty gets knocked out by a helicopter crash, it starts raining.
  • Played very straight in 2003's Peter Pan, in which Neverland would directly correspond to Peter's moods and emotions - when he's sad, it snows, when he's happy, the aurora lights up the sky. It goes so far that when Captain Hook notices that the sun is shining after a long spell of rain, he leaps up and cries: "he's back!"
  • When Rob is dumped by Charlie in the film version of High Fidelity, he falls apart, and the weather matches his breakdown with heavy rain and thunder.
  • The lights in the Facebook office in The Social Network began to go out when Mark found out about Sean's arrest.
  • Played for laughs in The Wizard of Speed and Time: when Mike and Brian are filming the "Time" segment of the film-within-the-film in Mike's garage, all manner of things -- all the way up to an incipient earthquake -- seem to happen in response to Mike and his comments.

Mike: It could be worse: we could be trying to film this in an earthquake.
(The set begins to shake.)
Mike: Or calm weather! Perfectly calm...
(The shaking stops.)


Literature[edit | hide]

  • It is a trope essential to Gothic literature and the Romantic movement. You can find it in all sorts of works, from Caspar David Friedrich's bleak, moody landscapes to Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher.
  • Some Stephen King novels have a tendency to display fearsome weather patterns that parallel the steady build towards whatever climactic conflict will finish off the story. Examples include the cataclysmic thunderstorms of IT and Bag of Bones and the blizzard in The Shining.
  • The Discworld country of Überwald is noted for this. Experienced residents pause before saying portentious words to give thunder time to roll or wolves to howl mournfully.
    • To balance this out, whenever Lord Vetinari wants to demonstrate the Wonders of Urban Development and other benefits of living in Ankh-Morpork, there is either thick fog blocking the view or a pissing dog, graffiti, or a drunken dwarf nearby. Apparently this man generates an anti-Emphatic Environment field—when he is being assaulted, it's either a beautiful day or merely a little cloudy.
    • Also, in The Truth, Otto Chriek, Vampire (but he swore off the sticky stuff and now much prefers a mug of cocoa and a singsong, my vord yes.) mourns this fact—he always makes dramatic pauses, used to Uberwald's environment, but Ankh-Morpork does not care. When it does, however, he uses it whilst it lasts and is overjoyed. Vat a big... castle Yes! Vunce more mit feelink!
    • Granny Weatherwax's ire is known to cause any and all natural noises to stop in their tracks and can, indeed, cause empathic weather on top of it. Even though Granny's a witch, these events seem to occur without her consciously making them so. (Being skilled in headology, that's just what she wants you to think.)
    • There's also the "gnarly ground" mentioned in Carpe Jugulum, a patch of magically-altered land in the Lancre mountains which actually changes its appearance to match the mood of visitors. A person who's in a nervous mood will see the small field as a brambly moor, the stone over a brook as a flimsy stone bridge over a deep canyon, and the hollow in the side of the mountains as a system of deep caves.
  • If there's a heat wave (or other unpleasant weather pattern) at the start of a crime wave, it will be relieved when the crime is solved.
  • Subverted and Lampshaded in the Warcraft novel Rise of the Horde, in which the protagonist Durotan, who is about to take an old friend as a hostage, contemplates on how the weather is all sunny and the land is so lush when it so utterly fails to reflect his inner conflict and sadness.
  • In Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, Jennifer complains of the lack of this: when Prince Rupert observed that Parliament might order him executed, it was in a raging storm, but the next morning is a bright sunshiny day, although he is still in mortal danger.
  • The final battle of David Eddings' The Belgariad took place under a storm. As the same band of True Companions approaches the climax of the sequel series, The Malloreon, Lovable Rogue Silk notices the clouds gather and wonders aloud why these things can't be allowed to happen when it's nice out.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Fulgrim, the dying Solomon Demeter watches the sun setting and explicitly feels as if the world was marking his passing.
  • As the ten characters are whittled down by the murderer in And Then There Were None, the worsening weather coincides with the worsening situation on the island.
  • Used in The Great Gatsby, where the climax between Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby takes places on a brutally hot day, but the chilly weather on the following day represents the end of Gatsby and Daisy's romance.
  • In A Night In The Lonesome October, a non-stop thunderstorm lingers above the Good Doctor's farmhouse, and only goes away after the place burns down. Lampshaded when Snuff notices how soggy the ground there has gotten, thanks to a month's constant drenching. Note that this must be the Empathic Environment at work, not a result of deliberate occult weather-control, as the Good Doctor isn't really a Player and has no magical skills.
  • In the Shadowleague books, the weather in Callisoria mirrors the state of the Curtain Walls, which the heroes are trying to save. Hence, it ends up mirroring their moods almost exactly.
  • In John C. Wright's The Phoenix Exultant, Daphne is in a Red Manorial room when her Laser-Guided Amnesia is revoked. It is specifically designed to do this. The entire room goes dark with her misery, flowers wilting. When she manages to turn off the feedback loops that exaggerate her woe, she ends up with a Tearful Smile because she, and it, look so ridiculous.
  • In the Star Shards Chronicles, this is applied rather literally: Michael's superpower is that he can actually control the weather based on his emotions.
  • Used frequently in Raymond Chandler's works. (The rain in The Big Sleep, the wind in "Red Wind", etc.)
  • In the Warrior Cats series, the night sky tends to cloud over and become stormy at Gatherings when there is arguing. The cats believe that their warrior ancestors are controlling the weather and expressing their displeasure, but one medicine cat does point out that sometimes a storm is just a storm.
  • In Count and Countess, during one particularly harrowing but cathartic scene, it begins raining when a teenage Vlad Dracula has just escaped a grueling life as a child soldier and is on his way home for the first time in years.
  • Played entirely straight for most of The Dark Is Rising series, with the rising of the Dark accompanied by blizzards and cold, a tornado, and a great deal of storms, shadow, and lightning in general. But on at least one occasion, this is subverted—the day on which the harp must be played to wake the Sleepers, when the power of the Grey King is at its height and crushing Will with his malevolence...it's the most beautiful, peaceful, sunny day you could imagine.
  • The rain at the end of Someone Elses War.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In Red Dwarf, "Terrorform", a psi-moon that Rimmer and Kryten crash into latches onto Rimmer's personality and emotions, creating a world with frogs that croak "useless", places that have names to run away from really fast, beasts named after his negative attributes... not to mention a graveyard for certain of his positive attributes. Rimmer's colleagues have to put him in a happy and self-confident state, which is then reflected in the environment, long enough for them all to escape -- after which they cheerfully admit that they were lying about how likeable he was.
  • In an episode of Hannah Montana when Miley lost an anklet her mother gave her, the weather in Hawai'i promptly turned sour. When Robbie Ray gives a speech telling her how her mother is always with her, anklet or no, the weather promptly turns gorgeous again.
  • Justified in an episode of Stargate SG-1. While the team, having recently lost Daniel (again) stood around looking pensive and sad, an odd, comforting wind blew past. They were inside. They all agreed that it must have been a malfunctioning air vent, but we (and O'Neill) know better...
  • Soap operas LOVE this one. The best example would be All My Children had a tornado occurring on a day when about six major storylines came to a climax.
  • The Downer Ending of Doctor Who episode "The Pandorica Opens" takes place at night, with no visible stars above.
  • A classic episode of The X-Files had Mulder and Scully investigating a swindler who claimed to be able to make it rain (and sold this skill to drought-struck communities). Soon enough, they discover the man's ex-wife believes she has a sort of antagonistic version of this trope in effect (the sky seemed to cry on her wedding day, and the clouds laughed at her when she got divorced) and that is behind her ex-husband's apparent abilities. In fact, she has a nerdy secret admirer who actually has this relationship with the weather, it reflected his moods when she married another man and when she finally left that guy. He had been affecting the weather for her ex's business out of guilt.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In the Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 Manual of the Planes, one of the dream realms described in the appendix is literally this way. This permanent dream realm held a child who was eternally young, and the land responded to her desires, turning bright and sunny when she was happy, stormy when she was angry, windy and wet when she was sad, etc. The only other permanent resident was a large dragon who knew the truth: the girl was the last survivor of a doomed space colonization effort. Her ship had crashed, and her stasis pod was left running on the surface of some unknown, airless, alien world forever. Or at least until the power fails.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • The play 12 Angry Men begins with all but one juror agreeing to a guilty verdict on a very hot day in a courthouse with no air conditioning. But as the show goes on the environment becomes more and more bearable finally culminating in a rainstorm when the jurors decide on a not guilty verdict.
  • The script of Little Shop of Horrors calls for a dramatic sunset to add "Wagnerian splendor" to the scene in which Seymour feeds Audrey's dead body to the plant. Further environment empathy is implied by the line "Feel the sturm und drang in the air" in the title song.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The sky in In Famous takes colour depending on your karmic path. Good gives you a nice sunny day, evil results in Red Sky, Take Warning.
  • The action of Max Payne happens during one of the worst snowstorms that New York City has ever seen, a storm that only abates after Max takes down the one behind the murder of his family.
  • Kingdom of Loathing opens a boss battle with this as part of the narration:

"Very well, then," he says. "It'll be a fight to the death for control of the island. But don't you think the weather's a little inappropriate for a climactic battle royale?" He gestures as if to encompass the bright, clear day, chirping birds, and humming insects.
"Oh, yeah, man, you're right," Wisniewski says. He glances at a nearby Elder Shaman who isn't quite dead yet. She closes her eyes and chants.
Storm clouds fill the sky, roiling and churning. The landscape grows dark, illuminated only by near-constant flashes of lightning, as rain pours from the sky in improbably quantities.
"Much better," the Man says. "All right, you little commie, let's get to it."

  • World in Conflict multiplayer maps have a sort of Empathic Environment: if the match goes for too long (and especially after the teams exchanged a few nukes), all colors become dull and grayish, the clouds gather and the sunlight dims slightly.
  • In Katamari Damacy, all of the cutaway scenes when you haven't made a big enough katamari feature rain and thunder coming down as the dejected prince kneels before the King Of All Cosmos. Justified because, well, he's the King Of All Cosmos, and in one of these sequences he even mentions that he's making it rain to make his speech about how disappointed he is in you more dramatic.
  • Shing kicks off the second half (the actual plot) of Tales of Hearts with a somewhat justified Heroic BSOD, which only deepens when he meets the next Mr. Exposition. The outside world is still fairly bright and sunny, but after Kohak snaps him out of it, another character tries to shoot him (long story). Shing uses his sword to deflect the projectile, and with a flash, it flies into the distance, and right there, the game's heroic theme starts up, and the clouds part, revealing the sun.
  • Mitsumete Knight loves this trope. Going on War Battles? Welcome to an arid setting with gloomy and sinister weather! Fighting the fearsome leader of the Enemy Generals at the end of the game? You'll be met with a hurricane which is even more violent, with rain pouring hard and strong Dramatic Wind, when fighting him in his unmasked version! Going on sinister-looking places for dates, such as the Ruins, the Catacombs, or the Sieger Cannons? Cue the lack of music and Dramatic Wind!
  • At the end of Mass Effect 2, If you choose to destroy the collector's base, the giant glowing globe behind the Illusive Man's office will glow blue {Paragon}, but if you decide to hand it over to him, it will glow red {Renegade}.
  • The sky is dark and overcast for the last few missions of Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, which looks odd because it's supposed to be about noon. Of course, this being a flight simulator, and the first mission of said sequence pitting you against an elite squadron, it's possible and almost expected for the player to fly above the clouds and witness a beautiful blue sky once more, right before you have to fly underground.
  • Played with in Touhou Fighting Game Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, where characters begin manifesting localized weather that represents a poetic interpretation of their personality.
  • The very minute the Shadow Queen in Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door is revived the entire world instantly becomes night, even above the clouds. Same thing happens with the Dark Star in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, ominous blue/purple storm clouds form over the castle and a creepy fog descends over the battle field.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • In this strip of Erfworld, watch the color of the sky in the panels that isolate a single character.
  • Inverted in Gunnerkrigg Court: most of the plot occurs in a dark, drab school, but the two tearjerker scenes (Annie crying over her mother's death, and Kat's final minutes with Alistair) occur in bright, sunlit environs.
    • Going one further, the character Zimmy projects some sort of reality-warping field as a result of Power Incontinence which gives her a ghastly appearance and subjects her to constant, nightmarish hallucinations which at their worst may even supplant reality, pulling her and those around her into her personal Dark World. So, when is the one time when her power cools off, she starts to look like a normal human being, and she appears to experience genuine happiness? While getting soaked to the skin, standing in the pouring rain during a thunderstorm at night.
    • Subverted by "Power Station". The titular experiment creates an artificial rain, and Zimmy stops suppressing her power, but the rain doesn't suppress it. "It's not workin'... it's not workin'!" By the way, Zimmy's internal world is dark and drab, but the area where Gamma waits for her is brighly colored and lit with sunshine.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob-- Galatea experiences her lowest emotional point and eventual redemption while caught outside in the rain at night.
  • Bob and George X agrees to try ice cream -- the panel flashes to darkness
  • Wooden Rose: When they kiss, roses sprout from the ground and flower. Given that he's a god of the forest, probably justified.
  • In El Goonish Shive there is a running gag of a crack of thunder (and lightning if the character is near a window) whenever someone says something particularly ominously as can be seen here, here and here.
  • In The Cyantian Chronicles whenever Vincent feels sad (fairly often) it rains, when he found out his mother had died it poured for days. Turned out to be because he has latent weather control powers, first confirmed when he got angry and fried the Big Bad and two mooks with lightning
  • Pitch Black parodies it with this weather report.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In the episode "Mysterious Mare-Do-Well" of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash is moping over being upstaged by the titular superhero by lounging around on one grey cloud in the middle of a sunny day. Justified in that moving clouds around is actually Rainbow's job, and she presumably found a raincloud and dragged it into place just to mope on.
    • Another episode, "Hearth's Warming Eve", features a literal Empathic Environment - the mysterious blizzard is created by giant horse-creatures called Windigos that feed off of anger and hate.
  • Parodied with Native American John Redcorn in King of the Hill. Whenever he starts talking about his culture, his hair moves as if there's wind, even when he's inside.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • In his Life of Marius, 21.4, Plutarch writes: "And it is said that extraordinary rains generally dash down after great battles, whether it is that some divine power drenches and hallows the ground with purifying waters from Heaven, or that the blood and putrefying matter send up a moist and heavy vapour which condenses the air, this being easily moved and readily changed to the highest degree by the slightest cause."
  • People often feel sad when it rains but if they have grandiose delusions, will believe that their mood is affecting the weather.
  • People with Seasonal Affective Disorder will become intensely depressed during winter. In other words, they'll feel like inside them is a dark, frigid, frozen wasteland, not unlike the environment outside of them, the difference being that at least inside them there are no little people running around in a frenzy of feigned good cheer.