Human Furniture Is A Pain In The Tail

Spike: Hey, picked up a tail...
Demon!Giles: Yes, just a little, uh... Hurts when I sit.
Spike: I mean someone's following us!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "A New Man"

People Sit on Chairs — except when those chairs are really uncomfortable.

This is when one species has trouble with furniture made for another species due to differences in anatomy or culture. A common example would be a Winged Humanoid or Lizard Folk (with their thick inflexible tails) having trouble sitting properly in chairs built for human use — or, for that matter, vice versa!

A sister trope to Operator Incompatibility.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Centaur no Nayami: While averted for humans as of yet, the many fantasy races of the series have many diffrent ergonomic needs being met by thorough World Building.

    Comic Books 
  • Not strictly furniture, but in the French Comic Fuzz & Fizzbi, humans having expropriated dwarves from their houses have frequent problem with too-low doors. Ouch.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Far Side strip: two stegosaurs are leaving another dinosaur couple, the (giant but recognizeably designed-for-humans) chair cushions still embedded on their back plates and spikes, with the wife telling her husband that's the last time said couple visits.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Averted in Monsters, Inc.: Sulley's chair has a hole in the back of it to fit his tail.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • There's an examples of humans running into this in Forbidden Planet, where Morbius and the captain have difficulty with devices designed for the Krell, the aliens who once lived on the planet. Notably, it looks like their cranium were much wider.
  • In Return of the Jedi, Chewbacca growls at the seats in the Imperial shuttle, and Han responds, "I don't think the Empire had wookies in mind when they designed her, Chewie."
  • The seat in the space ship in Flight of the Navigator originally didn't fit the young male protagonist, and the ship had to make adjustments.
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, an Enterprise crewmember is suspected of murdering Klingon Chancellor Gorkon because of gravity boots found in his locker... and then immediately cleared, because the boots are designed for human feet and his feet are short, webbed, and nearly circular in shape.
  • In both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Yoda is depicted as having a visibly smaller lightsaber handle than Jedi who are of more human proportions.
  • In The Dark Crystal, the wisest Mystic is seen resting on a "bed" configured for his low-slung, long-tailed form, complete with a small wooden platform for his head.

  • X-Wing Series
    • In Rogue Squadron, the first book of the series, Wedge becomes apprehensive when he learns that his Verpine crew chief has "tinkered" with his brand new starfighter, as he remembers horror stories from other human pilots of ships optimized for Verpine ergonomics. His X-Wing turns out to be fine, however.
    • The novel series as a whole tends to Hand Wave how Twi'lek and other nonhuman pilots can fit their appendages inside flight helmets. It's averted in the comics, however, where nonhumans are depicted as having helmets with the proper ergonomics for their species.
  • The Lizards in World War have trouble sitting on human chairs that don't accommodate their tails.
  • Invoked in the last book of the Mage Storms trilogy: two characters realize an ancient desk was used by a hertasi (a lizard-like creature) because the stool next to it was backless and had a cutout to accommodate a tail.
  • In the Garrett, P.I. series, Garrett has a special chair made for his ratgirl apprentice, Pular Singe, who has a long tail.
  • In Chorus Skating, the turtle wizard Clothahump uses a chair with a deeply-concave back, built to fit neatly around his shell.
  • At one point in the Animorphs series, the heroes steal a Yeerk fighter with the intent of blowing the invasion's cover by landing it in Washington, D.C. The Token Nonhuman Ax mans the gunner's "chair", which is actually more of a long stool since it's built for the centipede-like Taxxons. It fits Ax better than normal chairs since his species, the Andalites, are basically centaurs. Andalite ships are very uncomfortable for human passengers due to their lack of seating at all.
  • Dinotopia has pictures of furniture built for dinosaurs. Apart from sometimes being much bigger than human furniture, it tends to take the form of cushioned benches to support the dinosaur's midsection rather than chairs.
  • In the Heechee Saga; the chairs on the Heechee ships abandoned at Gateway asteroid all have V-shaped seats which are incredibly uncomfortable. Until humanity finally manages to meet the Heechee (halfway through the series), speculation runs rampant as to what Heechee hindquarters actually look like.
  • Thranx, an insectoid race from the Humanx Commonwealth Verse, use form-fitted couches they can rest their thorax and abdomen on.
  • Sholan Alliance features an inversion. Sholans often use bowl shaped chairs which Carrie finds slightly difficult to use due to her smaller size. Also, later in the series, a visit to a popular restaurant involves a small stack of cushions.
  • In Christopher Anvil's Pandora's Planet setting, there are two main intelligent species: Centrans, who have tails, and Earthmen. The human protagonist General Towers avoids Centran revolving chairs, because the user needs a tail to be able to adjust them safely.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 has an example where humans run into this trope, when Sheridan and Ivanova try to sleep on a tilted Minbari bed.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: The Enterprise crew has at one point to commandeer an Insectoid Xindi ship. Besides having trouble with the controles, which are rather alien, they also mention how much the seats are uncomfortable.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Inverted and played seriously in Earthdawn. The blood elves have thorns growing from all over their bodies; all the things they manufacture are enchanted to adapt, opening and closing holes as needed, but foreign furniture... suffers.
  • Marc Miller's Traveller supplement Aliens Archive. The following alien species were specfically noted as having problems with human furniture due to their anatomies: Asym, Controlled, Denaar, Hana Saka, Newts and Tekundu (when engorged after drinking lots of water).

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The chairs in the eponymous train of Dinosaur Train don't accommodate the dinosaur's tails, but the issue is never touched upon.
  • In Futurama, a family of newly-arrived alien immigrants sets up a pizza parlor near Planet Express. The mother expresses concern about the U-shaped chairs they're using, since she heard that human knees bend down instead of up. The father assures her that if anyone complains, he can bend their legs the other way for free.
  • On Dinosaucers, the control seats on the various spacecraft and bases were designed with a shoulder-height backrest supported on only one side, leaving room for the operator's tail to slide in.

    Real Life 
  • Joseph "The Elephant Man" Merrick had an armchair built for his unique body shape. He really, really needed a comfortable chair because his disability made it impossible for him to lie down, so he had to sleep in his chair.