Mundane Luxury

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search

To someone who has had a rough life, even the simple things are a big deal. The Woobie, the Butt Monkey, the Chew Toy, and other downtrodden characters tend to know better than to take them for granted.

In fact, when presented with simple kindnesses and conveniences, these characters will be completely overjoyed. The things that are utterly mundane to most people will feel like the most extravagant of luxuries to them. Our potato chips are their caviar. They react to simple fare from the local Burger Fool as if it were a five-star restaurant. And a simple shower will feel like a day at a fancy spa to them.

This trope is different from a Sense Freak, but there is some overlap. A Sense Freak gets their appreciation for mundane sensations from Bizarre Alien Biology, or the loss thereof upon assuming human form. Mundane Luxury comes not from a character experiencing such things differently than normal humans do, but from not having had a chance to experience them at all, and it's not just physical senations either. But the most important distinction is what the character's love of the mundane says about them. Sense Freak is used to establish characters as otherworldly and supernatural, while Mundane Luxury portrays them as downtrodden, illustrating the poor living conditions a character has suffered under, serving as an object lesson in appreciating what you have.

Compare with Humble Goal, where gaining a Mundane Luxury is a major motivation for a character.

Contrast with the Spoiled Brat, who is so used to luxury that normal living standards are like poverty to them.

Examples of Mundane Luxury include:

Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

  • When Black Canary took Sin away from her Training from Hell to be her generation's Lady Shiva, one of the first things they did when they got to the States was to go out for breakfast with the other Birds of Prey. Sin is driven to Tears of Joy after trying a pancake. This just makes Dinah even more determined to adopt her.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Done in The Blind Side: When LeAnne shows Michael his new room, he says that he's never had one of 'these' before. LeAnne thinks that he means his own room. Actually, he meant the bed.
  • Tom Hanks' character in Cast Away is shown staring at things that are mundane for everybody, and were to him before his time on the island, such as clean bottled water, fresh fruit and boiled crab legs. He even has trouble sleeping in a bed after living four years in a cave.
    • Actually, he was staring at the objects you mention because they are EXACTLY what he's been eating for the past four years while stranded. Crab legs, fresh fruit and water. These supposed luxuries being served were even more mundane to him.
    • When looking at the crab legs specifically, the look on his face seems to show surprise at how big they were, sort of like, "I've been eating tiny crabs for four years, where did they find these big suckers?"
  • In the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, the cursed pirates of the Black Pearl go on and on about what sensory experiences they've most missed during the curse, and therefore what they plan to glut on once they have their nerve endings back. Barbossa himself is almost obsessed with apples.
  • In History of the World, Part I, Spike Milligan's character is given a box of matches. "So rich!", whispers Spike.
  • Audrey's song, "Somewhere That's Green" in Little Shop of Horrors is basically about this, with her dreaming of living in a tract-house away from Skid-Row with "a fence of real chain-link" and a disposal in the sink.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Discworld: Rincewind, after long and grueling privations and lots of running away, is teleported back to Ankh-Morpork, and is so overjoyed to be back that he eats four of Dibbler's sausages (inna bun). This act of suicidal happiness is almost one-upped a moment later when he is equally delighted to be beaten up by the Thieves' Guild.
    • The Auditors of Reality get a fatal dose of this in Thief of Time after assuming human form. Myria LeJean almost barely survives the sensory overload of eating some dry toast, leading to the adoption of chocolate as an anti-Auditor weapon.
  • When Harry Potter comes to Hogwarts, he is at first overwhelmed by the fact that he can eat food he really likes and no one is going to take it away from him. When he was living with the Dursleys, Dudley would always eat everything Harry liked out of spite.
    • Also from Harry Potter, Dobby in his first few appearances, of the "simple kindness" variation.
  • In The Dark Tower by Stephen King, Roland of Gilead comes from a Scavenger World and is completely overwhelmed by the taste of a simple tuna fish sandwich and some soda.
  • In the Ray Bradbury story The Fox and the Forest, time travelers can be easily detected because they immediately start sampling exotic foods, liquors, cigarettes and perfumes, which apparently aren't available in the future.
  • In the first Doom novel, Flynn Taggart runs himself ragged fighting against zombies and aliens and since he's not in a videogame he actually does get hungry, filthy, and tired. While it hasn't been that long since he entered the base, it feels like he has been fighting forever. He compares the shower he takes when he finds the medical ward heaven and the fresh towel the Garden of Eden. He is even able to enjoy eating the military MREs he discovers in the base.
  • In The Name of the Wind, Kvothe spends his young days so poor eating regularly is a luxury for him.
  • In Treasure Island, when Ben Gunn is rescued, it turns out that the thing he misses most about civilization is cheese.
  • Meat in House Of Stairs

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Charlie Crews from Life is obsessed with fresh fruit, since he couldn't get any when he was in prison.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, after Odo is turned into a humanoid solid he becomes fascinated with food and drink, things he ignored as a changeling. In one episode, Sisko finds him in Quarks, listening to the carbonation in his beer.
    • Neelix in Star Trek: Voyager is amazed that the Voyager crew has so much water he can take a bath in it.
  • At first, Hunter from Queer as Folk has a hard time accepting that Michael and Ben are being nice to him (giving him a warm jacket, feeding him, paying his hospital bills, letting him use their shower and sleep in their guest room when he wants to, and things like that) because they want to and not because they have some sort of ulterior motive. Understandable, considering that he's a teenage prostitute who's been living on the streets for quite some time.
  • In Torchwood: Miracle Day, Oswald Danes, a convicted kiddy rapist/murderer released from death row, is seen filling a trash bag with food from a buffet. When questioned, he makes a good point about how he'll be unable to find work, and must collect food whenever he can.

Manga and Anime[edit | hide]

  • Nana from Elfen Lied. She refers to Kurama, the only one of the scientists experimenting on her to treat her with even basic kindness, as "Papa", and when she moves in with Kouta and the others, she finds great joy in a simple hot bath (compared to the cold hosedowns the scientists gave her), and gets extremely excited about the chance to eat somen noodles.
  • In Sailor Moon, Green Esmarude- your typical Vain Sorceress strolls into a fancy shin-dig, causing heads to turn at her hot elegance - until she discovered the food table, in which she immediately matches Usagi dessert for dessert in stuffing her face. This caused her extreme embarrassment once she snaps out of it. This can actually be rather tragic, if you assume she is so wild about the food because there is nothing like it on the barren planet she comes from.
  • Canon Foreigner Sasuke in Ranma ½ lives such a miserable life as the servant of the Kunou family that a full bowl of rice is cause for Tears of Joy.
    • Likewise Konatsu the Kunoichi, for whom sleeping in a futon is pure heaven, and, while trying to poison Ranma's rice, realized that it was so clean and tasty-looking (what with Konatsu being forced to forage for food in trash cans and fight off stray dogs for scraps) that he abandoned his mission to eat the rice himself. Heck, when Ukyou hired him, he considered his 10-yen salary a fortune and a dry fish with rice "a luxurious meal".
  • Hayate of Hayate the Combat Butler deals with having found a job as the Sanzenin's butler as living in luxury in the beginning, having had to work extremely hard to barely survive on a meager living up to this point.
    • When he's given a million yen so that he can live outside the mansion for three days, he's told to spend all of it and spends the next few panels explaining that he could live in luxury for the next year with that kind of money. Of course, he's spent it all before he even finds a place to stay for the night.
    • This trope could also be used to explain why he doesn't realize that he has at least a half-dozen attractive women throwing themselves at him.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Mass Effect 3, you and your team visit a monastery for Ardat-Yakshi, Asari with a rare genetic condition that makes any mating fatal for the other partner, and generally leads to sociopathic tendencies if left unchecked. As an alternative to simply killing the Ardat-Yakshi, monasteries are set up where they are isolated and secluded, and that includes not allowing them access to the extranet or entertainment media. While exploring the monastery, you can discover a message from one young woman to another discussing how somebody managed to smuggle in a copy of the vid Vaenia, and how they are going to meet up at night to watch it. Despite the fact that everybody reacts as if Vaenia is some sort of porno, dialogue in Mass Effect 2 revealed that it was essentially just a love story between two Asari. The young women of the monastery are giddy with anticipation, and risking solitary confinement if they are caught out at night, all in order to watch a romance film.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Bud of Wapsi Square is quite excited when someone shows her kindness without fear or ulterior motives.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob, Galatea is very slow to accept that anyone might be genuinely kind to her, and she reacts to pizza as an unimaginable luxury.
  • Played With in Bardsworth—when Mike first takes a shower at Bardsworth he thinks it's incredibly cool, causing his roommate to wonder if he's from a tiny dirt farm or something. It's actually just because the shower works by magic, which Mike (who's from our world) isn't used to.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • PVT Murphy's Law once claimed soldiers had found treasure in Saddam Hussein's palaces; toilets.
    • Similarly, each time Murphy's unit rotates stateside after a deployment, their desire for beer is strong enough to cause the CEO of the Annheuser-Busch company to wake up suddenly from bed.
  • In Kickassia, the newly 3D'd Lee enjoys being feeling up everyone he can get his hands on (including himself).
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series 9-year-old Marik travels to the surface for the first time after a life living underground. He is blown away by the fact the market they visit has rags, claiming he's "always wanted a rag". He's also amazed to discover television: "Oooh, a shiny box! I must worship it!"

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Simpsons, "Homer's Enemy": Frank Grimes spent his whole life struggling to get by, so he's shocked when he discovers that Too Dumb to Live Homer lives in a two-story house, which is palacial compared to his place (an apartment above a bowling alley and below another bowling alley). Grimes is also flabbergasted that he's dining on lobster (which, to be fair, he was just serving it that once to impress Grimes) and that he went to space and met President Ford (the last two were just odd coincidences).
    • The Simpsons themselves experience this sort of thing all the time (in one recentish episode, Bart refers to ordinary name-brand products as things rich people buy). Marge seems especially prone to it.
  • In one of the Futurama "Anthologies of Interest", Bender is turned human and becomes obsessed with such common pleasures as eating and drinking, leading him to become incredibly obese and eventually dying from it.
    • Zoidberg gets this pretty frequently. "A floor? We live like kings!"

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Naturally Truth in Television. When a News Broadcast features a story about charity work being done in impoverished and disaster-stricken areas of the world, it won't be complete without a clip or two of the villagers/victims enthusing about the food and clothing they have been given.
  • When you've been to really big scout camps, living in a tent on field with 15 000 dirty people for two weeks, the simple act of being indoors feels heavenly. Not to mention having a shower, eating take-out and sleeping in a bed.
    • This is doubly true of aid workers, soldiers, etc, returning from deployment into third world areas.
    • Seen on any given season of Survivor with the challenge rewards. The players really start getting excited about simple comforts after the first week or so of roughing it (approximately the third or fourth episode).
  • At the 2004 Scout Jamboree in Australia, we had eleven thousand kids and the only food that was available was what the sponsors gave us, so the main snack was a cheese version of Tiny Teddies that Arnott's were testing out to see if they'd sell (Tiny Teddies are little biscuits). Eventually a group of kids took the radio station hostage with a demand for pizza, vegemite and the normal chocolate Tiny Teddies. That was all they wanted.
  • When concentration camps were liberated by the US Army many released prisoners were found to have a mysterious sickness(among many). It turned out that they had gorged themselves in a mad burst of joyful gluttony on spare army rations handed out by well-meaning but medically untrained GI's and had overstrained their weak stomachs. This is known as 'refeeding syndrome' and can be fatal.
  • People who have dated across class lines have probably seen or experienced this trope (and its inversion) when the wealthier partner's family gathers.