Real Life, and fiction follows through by giving us an assortment of house hermit characters. They tend to come in three flavors:
- The self-imposed shut-ins who for whatever reason (typically agoraphobia) cannot bring themself to go outside, or simply do not want to do so.
- Those with a condition that prevents them from going outside. Extreme obesity, extreme photosensitivity, or being bedridden and likely near death are the most common reasons.
- Those who are kept against their will their entire lives, typically by family. Often ends up being a family's Dark Secret or Secret Legacy.
- Hikikomori: More or less the same as agoraphobic. Although the word has connotations specific to Japan, as a trope it effectively covers agoraphobia as a whole.
- Madwoman in the Attic: The tragic, non-consensual form of The Shut-In.
- Gilded Cage: Usually befalls a young person, almost Always Female, who is given a luxurious lifestyle but is otherwise denied any socializing outside of interactions with her servants.
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Film - Live Action
- Benchwarmers: Howie is terrified of the sun and of other people, so he lives in a very small room in his brother's house. He overcomes his fear by the end of the movie, however.
- The Dark Knight Rises: Eight years after the end of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne has spent most of those eight years as a complete recluse, not interacting with anyone but his butler, Alfred. The police finally got organized crime out of Gotham, so the city doesn't need Batman anymore — and Bruce is still too heartbroken over Rachel Dawes' death to interact with the world in his civilian persona. But Bruce Wayne's withdrawal allows Bane's agents to establish a foothold in the city; by the time Batman comes back out of retirement, it's almost too late.
- I Am Sam: Annie, the elderly neighbor who babysits Sam's daughter Lucy when Sam works, is an agorophobe who had not been outside in years. When testifying on behalf of Sam to his fitness as a father in his custody battle, her credibility is attacked with a lawyer bringing up this psychological condition.
- Nim's Island: Alexandra Rover is agoraphobic and never leaves her apartment. When Nim writes to her explaining her trouble, Alexandra forces herself to go out and find her.
- The Others: The kids cannot go outside because of a genetic disorder (Xeroderma pigmentosum), as they might be exposed to sunlight and die. Once they realize they are already dead, they get to enjoy sunlight for the first time.
- That Darn Cat!: In the remake, an elderly woman complains she never goes anywhere. We find out at the end that this is literally true. When her floor (someone else's ceiling) is destroyed, she falls through still in her armchair. She's happy, though: "I finally left my house!" Why she never leaves her house is left up to the viewer.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Charlie's grandparents stayed for twenty years without leaving their bed. Not the house; the freaking bed.
- Final Girls: In a PTSD sort of example, one of the main characters is unable to cope with leaving the house at all after the events they've been put through. They were essentially forced to live a horror movie.
- Great Expectations: Miss Havisham was jilted on her wedding day and spent the rest of her life shut up in her mansion, still wearing her wedding dress, as the house decays around her.
- Nero Wolfe: The titular character will only leave his brownstone if there is no other alternative. The reason: He's an extreme bookworm.
- Sherlock Holmes: Mycroft Holmes, elder brother to legendary detective Sherlock Holmes, appears in four of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. In every case, Mycroft seems to live his entire life at the Diogenes Club, despite having even greater powers of observation and deduction than Sherlock.
- Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note: Nanaki is this in the beginning due to the application of On One Condition — he's required to stay in his family mansion until 20 as a condition of inheriting the family estate. Unlike most examples of this trope, he doesn't see it too much of an issue, despite The Team found the whole idea appalling. Rendered moot eventually due to the bankruptcy of his father.
Live Action TV
- 30 Rock: In the episode "Gavin Volure", the eponymous character (played by Steve Martin) fakes being this trope. It turns out he's actually a white-collar criminal under house arrest.
- Barney Miller: In one episode, Wojo arrests a man after the man's landlord complains of non-payment of rent. The man hadn't left his apartment for 20 years; shortly after coming to the precinct, he dies.
- Better Call Saul: Jimmy McGill's brother Chuck suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, and at the beginning of the show, he is revealed to have been a complete shut-in for years, aided by his assistant Ernesto. At the beginning of the show, his house is merely devoid of technology and he wraps himself in a tin foil blanket. Throughout, he ventures outside a few times but sometimes falls back harder. Near the end of season 2, he converted his living room into a Faraday cage.
- Murder, She Wrote: In "Threshold of Fear", Jessica investigates a mystery involving her agoraphobic neighbor who has not left her apartment in 5 years.
- Seinfeld: In the pilot (but not the series) Kramer is said to never leave the building.
- Sherlock: While generally averted with Mycroft Holmes, whose character was changed considerably from the novel, he was portrayed as morbidly obese shut-in who was barely able to move in The Abominable Bride.
- Star Trek: In the Star Trek franchise, including the Expanded Universe, most emergency holographic personnel cannot leave whatever room they are designed to serve. This was the Emergency Medical Hologram's fate in Star Trek: Voyager, though later on an EMH Mk II was able to roam a prototype ship in the Alpha Quadrant, the Prometheus. Mobile emitters like The Doctor's grant holographic personnel true freedom.
- The Twilight Zone: The episode "Nothing in the Dark" featured an old woman who has refused to leave her apartment for years after seeing Death take a young woman. She believes that if she stays in the apartment that Death can't reach her. Unbeknownst to her, she was right, but she unwittingly invited Death in anyway.
- Jack (David Hopkins): Used very nastily in the story arc "Two For You". A loser is offered what looks like a sweet deal — free room and board in a premium-luxury apartment as an advertising promotion, "So well cared for that you'll never have to leave this apartment again!" Of course there's a catch: he's unwittingly sold his soul in exchange for a "Matrix"-type illusion, and then he loses even that.
- Family Guy:
- Brian has to do community service for a misdemeanor, so he's running Meals on Wheels, bringing lunches to elderly people who can't go out. He meets and falls in love with an old lady who used to be a great singer but got dissed in a review and hasn't left her house in years. He sings an Emmy Award-winning song to her, convincing her to leave her house — and she's immediately hit by a car.
- A one-episode gag involves Peter Griffin's unnamed hairless twin, kept in captivity by family his entire life. At the end of the episode, the twin escapes and unconvincingly tries to replace Peter.
- Gravity Falls: In the episode "A Tale of Two Stans", it's revealed that Stan refused to leave his brother's house for several days after he inadvertently shoved him into an interdimensional portal, until he ran out of food. When he went to buy food from a nearby store, the people there gave him the idea to impersonate his brother in order to make some desperately-needed cash by inviting them to the Mystery Shack, thus averting this trope.
- Kim Possible: Wade, a genius hacker who occasionally helps the main characters, never left his house during the majority of the series. He was only seen outside in late season 3 and season 4, and no reason for his prior status was ever given.
- King of the Hill: A one-off King of the Hill gag featured a ghoulish looking kid◊ who is homeschooled and never leaves the house, being plastered to his computer while awake.
- The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: In one episode, Piglet is too afraid to leave his house after getting carried away by the wind during a storm. The others try to get him to come outside again, but it takes Pooh getting caught in another storm for Piglet to snap out of it and go save his friend.
- The PJs: Juicy's parents can't leave their apartment because they're too obese to go through the door.
Real Life - General Examples
- The real life psychological condition known as agoraphobia can result in even young, otherwise healthy individuals never going outside, sometimes even with the aid of a friend or family member buying them food.
- Those who are bedridden to the point that they couldn't withstand being aided into a wheelchair and wheeled around outside are another tragic group of shut-ins.
- Those who are extremely photosensitive or burn with mere seconds of sunlight exposure tend to range between night owl and complete shut-in. Albinism is more known, and more often portrayed in media. (i.e. Heroic Albino and Evil Albino) Xeroderma pigmentosum is an extremely rare example which generally isn't indicated by skin pigment, but victims' ability to repair skin is compromised.
- Those who hold the record for obesity are invariably subjected to this fate.
- Those with severe video gaming addiction may never leave the house, especially if they have an enabler who buys them supplies. Overlaps with agoraphobia are common.
- While electromagnetic hypersensitivity is generally agreed to be the symptom of a mental illness rather than an actual physical ailment, the way sufferers handle it is very real. Self-treatment ranges from going outside with tinfoil linings to being a complete shut-in with one or more rooms converted into a Faraday cage.
- Extreme cases of perfume intolerance may cause sufferers to become a shut-in and/or move to out of the way places.
- There have been cultures throughout history (some lasting to this day) that prohibit girls who have entered puberty from going outside. As the role of women at the time (especially the higher class ones) is mostly to "be and look attractive", they're kept inside so they'll learn only from what the family would allow and preventing them from looking "filthy" by interacting with people outside, especially the commoners/working class people. Strong overlap with Gilded Cage.
Real Life - Specific Examples
- No living examples, please! However, exceptions may be made for shut-ins (usually former) who speak openly about their own situation.
- The Collyer brothers were compulsive hoarders who eventually gained fame. This fame led them to shut themselves in their houses until the first died in a freak accident, causing the second, dependent on his brother, to starve to death.
- Howard Hughes shut himself inside his Desert Inn suite for long periods of time. He purchased the Desert Inn writ large, along with a number of other casino hotels for often trite reasons...such as to remove a neon sign that shone through his drapes. After his nine year stay in said suite, his drapes were found to be rotten and never opened.
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