Created By: BlackDragon on March 15, 2013 Last Edited By: BlackDragon on March 23, 2013

Living in an Empty Room

A traumatized or just plain crazy person lives in a barren, empty room.

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There wasn't anything in your room - only a bed and a small desk. It looked like a prison cell. No television set... no family pictures... not even a poster. A lifeless room... almost like your empty heart.
That's why I tried to keep you out.

There's a certain, undefinable quality about a room that makes it feel 'lived in'. Lacking this is what makes some visual media sets look like the characters are Living in a Furniture Store - because they're lacking that certain quality. But it's possible to take it a bit further than that - a room, a home, which is completely barren. There's a bed there - or maybe just a mattress on the floor. Whatever lightsource there is, will be bare and utilitarian. There's nothing there that doesn't serve a clear purpose. It gives a chilling impression, because no normal human being would deliberately choose to live like that.

And that's a key to this trope - it has to be a deliberate trope. Nobody can really blame the inmates of your average Prison for having barren rooms (though even there, creative prisoners usually find a way to spice things up a bit), nor can a homeless or destitute man be blamed for sleeping on a dirty mattress on the floor. These characters are different from this. They have the means to live normally, they just don't want to, for whatever reason.

  • Parker from Leverage turns out to sleep on a bed in the middle of a vast, empty storage-room. When the rest of the team go there (by necessity), they comment that while creepy, it's... not really unexpected, where Parker is concerned.
  • As mentioned in the quote at the top, Raiden/Jack from Metal Gear Solid, due to his traumatic past as a Child Soldier
  • Patrick Jane, the main character of The Mentalist, is living in a rather nice, big, fancy house... but his bedchamber is completely empty except for a mattress on the floor. The only splash of color is a smiley-face painted in blood over it... left behind by the serial-killer who murdered his wife and child in that same room.

Seen it... well, a bunch of times, if not quite a million. I just can't recall any of the other offhand. In fact, if anyone has watched Leverage more recently than I, some sharpened details on the example from that one would be appreciated.
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • March 15, 2013
    Sometimes not so much insane, but driven: prior to marrying Sybil, Captain Sam Vimes, in the Discworld Watch books, is revealed to live in such a rented room, empty except for a bed and an equipment box. It is described as a room not so much for living in as for sleeping in.
  • March 15, 2013
    in an episode of Teen Titans where Starfire is transported to a Bad Future where the team has broken up, the older (and obviously disturbed) Raven lives in a blank white room.
  • March 16, 2013
    Dunno if it counts but...

    • Shurf Lonli-Lokli, a legendary stoic in Labyrinths Of Echo, prefers to hang out in enormous empty rooms. E.g. his office is more spacious than all of of his colleagues' offices combined but has almost no furniture or other contents in it.
  • March 16, 2013
    Live-Action TV

    On Babylon 5, when Lyta begins working for Kosh II/Ulkesh, he orders her to empty her quarters of all furnishings, telling her they'd distract from her work. He allows her a mattress on the floor due to the human need for sleep.
  • March 16, 2013
    Subtrope of Ascetic Aesthetic.
  • March 17, 2013
    In Stephen King's Needful Things, Leland Gaunt lives in a completely empty apartment, which doesn't even have a bed. This is because he isn't a human being, but a demon.
  • March 19, 2013
    On My Name Is Earl one of the people on Earl's list is an adult bagboy who Earl (and a bunch of other people) stole from while he was away at a bagging championship. When Earl returns what he stole, he finds the man living in the same empty house everyone stole from, with no replacement stuff.
  • March 19, 2013
    • In the Dragaera novels, the Necromancer lives in a room that appears to be an empty closet. Subverted in that her otherworldly senses perceive it as much larger, in dimensions other than the usual three.

  • March 19, 2013
    • One Wolverine story had a cop follow him to his apartment, completely empty save for the pile of old newspapers he was using as a mattress. He doesn't mind, but the cop certainly took it for this trope.
    • One Dumbing Of Age character equates "no posters on the dormroom wall" to "Serial Killer".
  • March 19, 2013
    Empty Room Psycho!

    /me raises his fists toward the sky

  • March 19, 2013
    Leela's apartment from Futurama is, in her words, "a little under-furnished". Consider that Leela herself grew up as an orphan, was ridiculed by other kids, and spent most of her live unaware of her true heritage (she thought she was the last of an alien race).
  • March 20, 2013
  • March 20, 2013
    There's a piece of Glurge about a veteran (originally Vietnam, these days Gulf War/Afghanistan) who lives in an empty room because he's having trouble making the adjustment back to civilian life. Unfortunately I don't have it on hand.
  • March 23, 2013
    In the 80' Twilight Zone episode "Something in the Walls", Sharon Miles refuses to leave her all-white room in a sanitarium except for meals and counseling because she sees faces in patterned walls and believes that those faces want to hurt or kill her.