Created By: randomsurfer on April 17, 2011 Last Edited By: randomsurfer on August 25, 2011
Troped

Punishment Box

A shed or box that prisoners are put in to give them extra punishment

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Page Type:
Trope
Needs A Better Laconic.

Our protagonist is in a Chain Gang prison and has violated one of the Corrupt Hick sheriff's rules. So they send him to the Punishment Box (more commonly, "The Box.") The Box is a small metal shed in the middle of the compound, exposed to sun. They put you in and you are tortured by sweating it out in 120 degree heat. Unless it's not a bright sunny day, in which case you probably have to survive the cold.

Examples:

Film:
  • 'The box' in Cool Hand Luke is probably the Trope Codifier here.
  • On Chicken Run, Ginger is put on a coal bin everytime she's caught trying to escape.
  • In Toy Story 3 it's the sandbox at Sunnyside.
  • In Hook, pirates who have failed are put into the "Boo Box", a chest which is also inhabited by several scorpions.
  • In Matilda, the sadistic headmistress is fond of (among other things) using the "Pokey," a closet lined with spikes, thus like an iron maiden in which there is just barely enough room to stand.
  • In Despicable Me, orphans who disobey Miss Hattie get put in the Box of Shame.
  • The Japanese prison camp in The Bridge on the River Kwai has a metal punishment box that stands outside in the sun. Prisoners don't get any water.

Literature
  • The StarCraft II prequel novel Heaven's Devils has a military penal mine with one of these.
  • Fablehaven has the Quiet Box, a magical sensory deprivation chamber.

Live Action TV:
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Paridise." A group of colonists who crash-landed on a planet 10 years ago use the Box as punishment for any transgression.
  • The Star Trek TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror" had one of these.
  • Kung Fu: Caine finds himself in a two-man Box, and teaches the other man in the box to meditate so as to avoid the torturous aspects of being in the box. The guards & other prisoners are amazed that they're able to leave under their own power instead of being carried out.
  • The Incredible Hulk episode "The Slam:" David gets put in one. Strangely enough, he doesn't Hulk Out. Another prisoner in the box next door tells him how to survive: find a rock to suck on, put your head in the least exposed place possible, and don't move around.
  • My Name Is Earl: Earl goes to prison to cover up the fact that Joy really did the crime in question. The prison there has a 2 person "Hot Box;" there's a chain link fence between the two sides of the box, but there's also a hole in the fence big enough to put your arm through.
  • In the Firefly episode "Jaynestown", Jayne's former partner is kept prisoner in solitary confinement, in a small (looks to be maybe 5 foot by 5 foot) box on stilts in the middle of a swamp.

Western Animation
  • King of the Hill: Bobby is put into one of these at a military school. It most assuredly does not break him.
    I've slept on a mattress. I've slept on cement. I'm a mattress guy.
  • On Recess the Box is just a square drawn on the playground floor. T.J. at first laughs it off, but eventually it breaks him.
  • In an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Batman becomes a captive of a forced labour camp made up of homeless people. The main punishment for failure to work is being placed in the box.
  • The "Fun Box" featured in some episodes of The Fairly Oddparents that is coincidentally closed with "fun locks".
  • In TaleSpin, Baloo stays at a Thembrian penal colony which he has mistaken for a fitness camp. He is frequently sent to what he calls a "solar powered sauna."

I'm not sure which category this goes in
  • Yu Gi Oh Abridged has a reference to it:
    (Tristan says something stupid)
    Joey: Do you want to go back in the box?
    Tristan: Please don't make me go in there!

Seen It a Million Times. Needs a Better Description.
Community Feedback Replies: 57
  • April 17, 2011
    foxley
    'The box' in Cool Hand Luke is probably the Trope Codifier here.
  • April 17, 2011
    SKJAM
    • King Of The Hill: Bobby is put into one of these at a military school. It most assuredly does not break him.
  • April 17, 2011
    TonyG
    ^-->I've slept on a mattress. I've slept on cement. I'm a mattress guy.
    • On Chicken Run, Ginger is put on a coal bin everytime she's caught trying to escape.
    • In Toy Story 3 it's the sandbox at Sunnyside.
    • On Recess the Box is just a square drawn on the playground floor. T.J. at first laughs it off, but eventually it breaks him.
  • April 17, 2011
    Generality
    • In an episode of Batman The Animated Series, Batman becomes a captive of a forced labour camp made up of homeless people. The main punishment for failure to work is being placed in the box.

    There are more extreme versions of this from time to time:

    • In Hook, pirates who have failed are put into the "Boo Box", a chest which is also inhabited by several scorpions.
    • In Matilda, the sadistic headmistress is fond of (among other things) using the "Pokey," a closet lined with spikes, thus like an iron maiden in which there is just barely enough room to stand.
  • April 18, 2011
    randomsurfer
    @foxley: I suspected as much, but since I've never seen Cool Hand Luke I wasn't 100% sure that they even had a Box.

    • Kung Fu: Caine finds himself in a two-man Box, and teaches the other man in the box to meditate so as to avoid the torturous aspects of being in the box. The guards & other prisoners are amazed that they're able to leave under their own power instead of being carried out.
    • The Incredible Hulk episode "The Slam:" David gets put in one. Strangely enough, he doesn't Hulk Out.
  • May 19, 2011
    Unknown Troper
    I believe the torturing room the Trunchbull from "Matilda" uses is called the "Chokey", not the "Pokey"
  • May 19, 2011
    amazinglyenough
    There was an episode of the X-men animated series where several characters were captured and forced to wear collars that prevented them from using their powers, and Storm (I believe) was put into the box as punishment. Perhaps somebody else remembers the details?
  • May 19, 2011
    jaytee
    I would call this A Night In The Box, maybe?

    I don't like the current title because it implies to me a literal box, which this trope doesn't necessarily need. "A Night In The Box" is a quote from Cool Hand Luke and is kind of the standard box punishment.
  • May 20, 2011
    randomsurfer
    I'd've called it just The Box but that's taken by a work.
  • May 20, 2011
    JonnyB
    In the Firefly episode, "Jaynestown", Jayne's former partner is kept prisoner in solitary confinement, in a small (looks to be maybe 5 foot by 5 foot) box on stilts in the middle of a swamp.
  • May 20, 2011
    Chabal2
    Yu Gi Oh Abridged has a reference to it:

    (Tristan says something stupid)
    Joey: Do you want to go back in the box?
    Tristan: Please don't make me go in there!

  • May 20, 2011
    Scooter007
    Might not quite count since it's a Noodle Implement, but one episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 had Dr. Forrester threaten Frank with "The Box!"
  • May 20, 2011
    Riddlewizard
    It's more of an exectuion box, but what about The Iron Maiden?
  • May 20, 2011
    LeeM
    The Japanese prison camp in The Bridge On The River Kwai has a metal punishment box that stands outside in the sun. And IIRC prisoners don't get any water.
  • June 25, 2011
    TechUnadept
    The Star Craft II prequel novel Heaven's Devils has a military penal mine with one of these.
  • July 13, 2011
    randomsurfer
    My Name Is Earl: Earl goes to prison to cover up the fact that Joy really did the crime in question. The prison there has a 2 person "Hot Box;" there's a chain link fence between the two sides of the box, but there's also a hole in the fence big enough to put your arm through.
  • July 14, 2011
    originalhobbit
    • The "Fun Box" featured in some episodes of The Fairly Oddparents that is coincidentally closed with "fun locks".
  • July 15, 2011
    qualitycontrol
    The Star Trek tos episode "Mirror, Mirror" had one of these.
  • July 15, 2011
    Topazan
    In Tale Spin, Baloo stays at a Thembrian penal colony which he has mistaken for a fitness camp. He is frequently sent to what he calls a 'solar powered sauna'.
  • July 15, 2011
    TonyG
    In Despicable Me, orphans who disobey Miss Hattie get put in the Box of Shame.
  • July 17, 2011
    Umptyscope
    The Great Escape had "The Cooler."
  • July 17, 2011
    Andygal
    Fablehaven has the Quiet Box, a magical sensory deprivation chamber.
  • August 15, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Updates have been rolled.

    Umptyscope, I don't think The Great Escape counts. This is not just solitary confinement, it's acutally physical torture. Hmm...perhaps Torture Box would be a better name?
  • August 15, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Page quote suggestion:
    Buzz: Prisoners sleep in their cells. Any prisoner caught outside their cell spends the night in the box. Roll call at dusk and dawn; any prisoner misses roll call? Spends the night in the box. Prisoners do not speak unless spoken to. Any prisoner talks back? Spends the night...
  • August 16, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^^ Do we have a trope for solitary confinement in general? Perhaps this should be expended to be about that. (There are different levels of tortuousness to different kinds of solitary confinement, after all, and it's more of a sliding scale than a clear distinction.)
  • August 16, 2011
    Damr1990
    On The Missadventures of trone bonne, some serbots sometimes can start not to obey you, when it happens Tron sends them to the punishment chanber(a minigame that basically is about applyying Video Game Cruelty Potential on the serbot
  • August 16, 2011
    Koveras
    You may add to the BTAS example that the worst thing about being put in the box was that you were left there for a whole day under scorching sun, effectively frying you alive.
  • August 16, 2011
    KamenZero
    another suggestion for a name: Isolation Box as the form of punishment is usually to be pure isolation, sometimes with no light or sound except for your own noises. might be too specific for this trope, though, since there are other boxes thatu se other forms of punishment in the examples
  • August 16, 2011
    GoldenDarkness
    A The X-Files Monster Of The Week episode starts with a guy being punished by going into small shed. The kicker, this was before a major tornado was about to hit. Of course, not only the guy survives, he somehow becomes an Intangible Man and murders the warden who put him in the shed.
  • August 16, 2011
    foxley
    Done in the Mad Magazine parody of Kung Fu (I don't know if this was reference to an incident in a specific episode of Kung Fu or not).
  • August 16, 2011
    Nocturna
    Various forms of this have been an unfortunate Truth In Television (see The Other Wiki page linked above for a few examples), which is probably where the trope originates from.
  • August 17, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Really, I think something about solitary confinement in general would be more fitting; there's different levels of cruelty to solitary (in some cases it's the relatively kind option) and I'm guessing there's different levels of cruelty to different varieties of "the box."
  • August 17, 2011
    jaytee
    Just Launch It Already

    Let the subtleties sort themselves out through Wiki Magic. We have plenty of examples to get an idea of the trope.
  • August 18, 2011
    Fanra
    In the movie Stir Crazy, Gene Wilder asks for an extra day in The Box when they come to get him out. He's just Too Kinky To Torture.
  • August 18, 2011
    AFP
    • Horatio Hornblower: In Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, Hornblower, while being held prisoner in Spain, is placed into a small hole in the ground covered by a grate. The hole has neither room to stand upright or lie down, forcing the prisoner to crouch uncomfortably while exposed to the elements.
      • The same hole appears in the Hornblower telefilm The Duchess and the Devil.
  • August 18, 2011
    Xzenu
    Video Games
    • Alpha Centauri has the "punishment sphere", which make the oppressed masses too frightened to ever riot no matter what. For some reason, constructing this city improvement is not on the list of atrocities that will turn the other civilizations against you.
  • August 18, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^^^^ Let's not launch it yet. We should be sure of the title first, since it's easier to change in YKTTW than after launching it, and we have to be sure of the subject to be sure of what title best reflects it.
  • August 18, 2011
    ChocolateChip
    In Dragon and Slave by Timothy Zahn, there are sheds that do this.
  • August 18, 2011
    somerandomdude
    I think the Fairly Odd Parents example deserves a page quote:

    Fun Box, oh Fun Box, small and square and dark, Fun Box, oh Fun Box, check out these cool fun locks! Yay!
    --Happy Peppy Gary and Betty, The Fairly Odd Parents
  • August 18, 2011
    jaytee
    ^^^I think the title's fine. A lot of people have suggested alternate titles, but not because the current one is bad.

    Expanding the trope to include any solitary confinement is a terrible idea. If you want a solitary confinement trope, make it and it'll be supertrope to this one, but the two are definitely separate. The punishment described here is a very specific one, very specifically referenced in media and has nothing to do with solitary confinement in general. I think the sheer number of very specific examples makes that quite clear.

    We've been working on this for four months. Let's get this thing on the wiki.
  • August 19, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^Well be fair, I've self-bumped it a lot, often with very little reply. It's only in the past couple of days that it's gotten a lot of attention and any hats. Will launch sometime soon...ish.
  • August 19, 2011
    Frank75
    German movie Das Experiment, based on the infamous Stanford prison experiment, recycled in Germany.
  • August 20, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Re the title. Should it be:
    1. Punishment Box
    2. Torture Box
    3. Hot Box
    4. The Box, and move what's currently on The Box to Film.The Box (and if so, is there a procedure to do that?)
    5. Or something else?
    (why isn't numbered list working properly? Don't tell me it just doesn't work in ykttw, I've used it here before.) (EDIT: OK, it's working now. Weird.)
  • August 20, 2011
    Nocturna
    I vote for Punishment Box. Not all of the examples involve heat, and while they are pretty much all forms of torture, Torture Box makes me think of the Iron Maiden or the like. The Box is likely to get incorrect wiks from the film, not to mention most people won't automatically associate a box with punishment.

    Oh, and someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure Yu Gi Oh Abridged would go under Web Original.
  • August 20, 2011
    TwoGunAngel
    Seconding A Night In The Box.
  • August 20, 2011
    MorganWick
    I think current policy is to move The Box to the Film namespace anyway.

    Maybe adding text under the list caused it to work?
  • August 21, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^OT: When I created the post with the list, it showed up as all zeroes. When I closed and then reopened the replies it displays OK, but when I edited it again it turned back into zeroes. I guess as long as it isn't freshly edited they show up all right.
  • August 22, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Punishment Box seems fitting.

    BTW, what do you think of my Toy Story 3 page quote suggestion?
  • August 22, 2011
    jaytee
    Personally, I think A Night In The Box should be the title, with Punishment Box set up as a redirect.
  • August 22, 2011
    nitrokitty
    • In the 'Boiling Rock' episode of Avatar The Last Airbender, the titular prison has "The Cooler," a small refrigerated cell designed to contain fire benders.
  • August 23, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^^^Isn't there a rule against having spoiler tags in pagequotes?
  • August 23, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^ Does it apply to obscuring the names of one of the characters involved in the dialogue?
  • August 23, 2011
    jaytee
    Here's the original quote from Cool Hand Luke:

    Carr:Them clothes got laundry numbers on 'em. You remember your number and always wear the ones that has your number. Any man forgets his number spends the night in the box.

    These here spoons, you keep with ya. Any man loses his spoon spends a night in the box.

    There's no playin' grab-ass or fightin' in the buildin'. You got a grudge against another man, you fight him Saturday afternoon. Any man playin' grab-ass or fightin' in the buildin' spends a night in the box.

    First bell is at five minutes of 8:00, when you will get in your bunk. Last bell is at 8:00. Any man not in his bunk at 8:00 spends a night in the box.

    There's no smokin' in the prone position in bed. To smoke, you must have both legs over the side of your bunk. Any man caught smokin' in the prone position in bed spends the night in the box.

    You'll get two sheets -- every Saturday. You put the clean sheet on the top and the top sheet on the bottom and the bottom sheet you turn into the laundry boy. Any man turns in the wrong sheet spends a night in the box.

    No one will sit in the bunks with dirty pants on. Any man with dirty pants on sittin' on the bunks spends a night in the box.

    Any man don't bring back his empty pop bottle spends a night in the box.

    Any man loud-talkin' spends a night in the box.

    You got questions, you come to me. I'm Carr, the floor-walker. I'm responsible for order in here. Any man don't keep order spends a night in --

    Luke: -- the box.

    Carr: [to Luke] I hope you ain't gonna be a hard case.

    It's a bit long, but you could probably cut out a few of the rules and still get the idea.
  • August 23, 2011
    jaytee
    Maybe like this:

    Carr: These here spoons, you keep with ya. Any man loses his spoon spends a night in the box. No one will sit in the bunks with dirty pants on. Any man with dirty pants on sittin' on the bunks spends a night in the box. Any man loud-talkin' spends a night in the box. You got questions, you come to me. I'm Carr, the floor-walker. I'm responsible for order in here. Any man don't keep order spends a night in --
    Luke: -- the box.
    Carr: [to Luke] I hope you ain't gonna be a hard case.
  • August 23, 2011
    kjnoren
  • August 25, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^^ Wow, I can't help but think the Toy Story 3 quote was based on that in light of how similar they are. I wouldn't have suspected it'd be that close. Yeah, go with that for the page quote, if only for being the one that led to the later one.

    But yeah, this is definitely ready to be launched; or do you want someone else to do that for you?
  • August 25, 2011
    Bisected8
    • "The hole" from Murder In The First is a solitary confinement cell with absolutlry no light sources what-so-ever. The prisoner accused of the titular crime spent three years in it.
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