Most apartments on TV or in movies a more or less the same size; it's often hard to tell the difference between a messy apartment and a rundown one. Showing that the shower or bath doesn't work or the water is cold is an easy way to make the setting more rundown and give it a more "rustic" feel to it.
It's also used to lampshade American perceptions that anywhere outside the USA, all you will get are third world standards of hygiene.
A way to avoid Informed Poverty
Subtrope of Shower Scene
Anime & Manga
- Near the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Asuka, who suffered a mental breakdown after being Mind Raped by an Angel and ceased being able to pilot her Eva, is found by Nerv personnel in a destroyed house sitting in a tub filled with nasty brown water. (Please let that have been rust...) Things just keep getting worse for her from there.
- In an Archie Comics story set in ancient Egypt we see Queen Veronica taking a luxurious bath with slaves assisting her; we then cut to plebean Betty washing herself in a water puddle having to shoo out miscellaneous fauna.
- The film of the book Holes shows a cold open shower with the water shutting off halfway through. The context being that Stanley is at a juvenile detention camp in a desert, so the water only flows for 4 minutes. (In the midquel survival guide, it gets reduced to 3 minutes after a backfiring suggestion intended to make the showers last longer.)
- In Kung Fu Hustle, the slum that most of the movie takes place in has a communal fountain that some residents have to use to clean themselves... when the water's even turned on, as the landlady is prone to turning it off on a whim.
- Cry-Baby - when the title character's scroungy but good-hearted rockabilly family's home is visited, paterfamilias Iggy Pop is seen bathing in a little metal tub in the yard.
- Withnail & I has an extended establishing scene of the two Starving Out-of-work Actor main characters talking casually, while one is bathing and attempting to shave in a tiny, stained and cracked bathtub in the middle of the floor. In addition to being a horrible and nonfunctional piece of bathroom furniture, it establishes that they don't even own a bathroom.
Live Action TV
- In The Hunger Games at the Capitol there is a panel with more than a hundred options in the shower in comparison to what Katniss is used to: a bucket of water warmed up on the stove.
- In Matilda, Miss Honey divulges that she doesn't have the space or money for a shower or bath in her tiny house, and must wash in the kitchen with a pot of water and a sponge.
- Harry Dresden of the Dresden Files isn't that poor — most of the time anyways — but he can't have a water heater because of his problem with electricity, so he has to make do with cold showers. He's grown used to this, but he occasionally really misses them. When she's living in his head, one of the things Lash does is manipulate his senses so he feels hot water.
Myths and Folklore
- Inverted in Robin Hood when Much is temporarily made an Earl he gets to have a bath smelling of flowers.
- Happy Endings. The apartment is big but the shower alternates between hot, cold, and brown water.
Max: Dave, its a shower bud, its not that hard. Let the water run for six seconds, jump in, you got at least thirty seconds of decent temperate water, quarter turn yourself to avoid the initial rust blast, go back in for another thirty seconds. Its like he never showered before.
- Everybody Loves Raymond
- The episode where the Barone family go to spend time with relatives in Italy: Raymond's growing frustration with Italian plumbing and the unpredictable trickle of water coming out of the showerhead is a running joke.
- In "Shower Wars", Frank Barone botches the job of repairing Ray and Debra's shower and makes the problem ten times worse. That it ends up with Ray drenching Debra's top with directed shower water is probably incidental Fanservice.
- Seinfeld In the episode "The Shower Head", low flow shower heads are installed to save money on water, driving Jerry and Kramer crazy.
- How I Met Your Mother: To highlight Lily's utterly abysmal apartment, the most notable part of the apartment was that the stove, oven, sink, and refrigerator (or "stovenkerator") were all one piece of furniture... and located next to the toilet and bathtub.
- On My Name Is Earl, when Earl and Randy move into the trailer, they live in the kitchen. They are told that they have a "half bath" in the form of the sink. Not only that, but Frank uses the rinse hose on the sink to shower after working out by running in place, because the shower is broken and he doesn't even have the money to buy a real treadmill, let alone get the shower fixed.
- An urban legend: A poor man's shower is done by homeless people using a sink to wash their hands, feet and face.
- Truth in Television: during WW2, British civilians were restricted to one bath per week in no more than five inches of water. This appalled American servicemen. Soldiers in North Africa had it worse: they were issued with three pints of water per day for all purposes. In order to conserve as much as possible for drinking, new recruits were taught that it was possible to have an all-over wash using a face flannel and a single mess-tin full of water - which was then collected and pooled and used to wash socks and underwear. This is still taught to recruit soldiers today - at least in some training barracks - as part of the softening-up procedure.
- The song "No More" from tick, tick... BOOM! has Jon and Michael listing things Michael doesn't have to put up with now that he's no longer poor and has moved into a nicer apartment:
No more taking a shower in the kitchen
While your roommate's eating breakfast
And you're getting water on his cornflakes!
- In The Sims 3, the cheapest shower will sometimes lose heat partway through use, resulting in a "cold shower" negative moodlet.