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To someone who has had a rough life, even the simple things are a big deal. The Woobie, the Butt Monkey, the Chew Toy, and other downtrodden characters tend to know better than to take them for granted.
In fact, when presented with simple kindnesses and conveniences, these characters will be completely overjoyed. The things that are utterly mundane to most people will feel like the most extravagant of luxuries to them. Our potato chips are their caviar. They react to simple fare from the local Burger Fool as if it were a five-star restaurant. And a simple shower will feel like a day at a fancy spa to them.
This trope is different from a Sense Freak, but there is some overlap. A Sense Freak gets their appreciation for mundane sensations from Bizarre Alien Biology, or the loss thereof upon assuming human form. Mundane Luxury comes not from a character experiencing such things differently than normal humans do, but from not having had a chance to experience them at allnote The technical term for this is "privation" (not to be confused with deprivation, where something's taken away rather than simply never experienced)., and it's not just physical sensations either. But the most important distinction is what the character's love of the mundane says about them. Sense Freak is used to establish characters as otherworldly and supernatural, while Mundane Luxury portrays them as downtrodden, illustrating the poor living conditions a character has suffered under, serving as an object lesson in appreciating what you have.
The Inverted Trope occurs when someone loses a Mundane Luxury. This might happen when one enters poverty, gets stranded on a Deserted Island, or becomes Trapped in the Past. One might miss toilet paper, or chocolate. Bamboo Technology might avert this problem.
Compare with Humble Goal (where gaining a Mundane Luxury is a major motivation for a character), Simple Yet Opulent.
Contrast with the Spoiled Brat, who is so used to luxury that normal living standards are like poverty to them.
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Nana from Elfen Lied. She refers to Kurama, the only one of the scientists experimenting on her to treat her with even basic kindness, as "Papa", and when she moves in with Kouta and the others, she finds great joy in a simple hot bath (compared to the cold hosedowns the scientists gave her), and gets extremely excited about the chance to eat somen noodles.
In Sailor Moon, Green Esmarude - your typical Vain Sorceress - strolls into a fancy shin-dig, causing heads to turn at her hot elegance - until she discovers the food table, in which she immediately matches Usagi dessert for dessert in stuffing her face. This causes her extreme embarrassment once she snaps out of it. This can actually be rather tragic, if you assume she is so wild about the food because there is nothing like it on the barren planet she comes from.
Likewise Konatsu the Kunoichi, for whom sleeping in a futon is pure heaven, and, while trying to poison Ranma's rice, realized that it was so clean and tasty-looking (what with Konatsu being forced to forage for food in trash cans and fight off stray dogs for scraps) that he abandoned his mission to eat the rice himself. Heck, when Ukyou hired him, he considered his 10-yen salary a fortune and a dry fish with rice "a luxurious meal".
Hayate of Hayate the Combat Butler deals with having found a job as the Sanzenin's butler as living in luxury in the beginning, having had to work extremely hard to barely survive on a meager living up to this point.
When Hayate was a child, he was so poor that he imagined the greatest luxury to own a small apartment (and not in the centre of Tokyo or anything — just anywhere would do), and thus made it his life's ambition to get rich enough to buy one. When he turned it into a presentation for his school, it drove his classmates and teacher to despair.
When he's given a million yen so that he can live outside the mansion for three days, he's told to spend all of it and spends the next few panels explaining that he could live in luxury for the next year with that kind of money. Of course, he's spent it all before he even finds a place to stay for the night.
Dorohedoro: The extremely poor Cross-Eyes Gang has taken over the Big Bad's mansion, but they don't seem terribly impressed by the baddie's riches until they come to his well-stocked pantries and supply closets.
In Attack on Titan, after Wall Maria falls, food supplies become strained and commodities like meat and milk are only rationed to people once in a while and are seen as very scarce and luxurious (unless you live in the interior wall).
When Black Canary took Sin away from her Training from Hell to be her generation's Lady Shiva, one of the first things they did when they got to the States was to go out for breakfast with the other Birds of Prey. Sin is driven to Tears of Joy after trying a pancake. This just makes Dinah even more determined to adopt her.
Having been brought to the present from the Crapsack World of 1907 New York City, Klara Prast of the Runaways is often delighted by such 21st-century things as videogames and television. But for real mundane luxury, she never looks so happy as she does on the few occasions when she's able to just lie on a patch of grass.
In Cultstuck, Tavros is permanently crippled and lives in a society that culls its weak and injured. When the titular cult gives him a wheelchair, he's touched to the point of tears.
You're brought back to reality by Havera awkwardly patting the top of your head. You peek at her over the towel; she's smiling at you as if you were crying over a slice of wriggling-day grubcake.
In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, Empath has been living in a society where not only emotions are forbidden, but also having anything to eat that actually has a taste to it, with the standard Psychelian cuisine being a bland "nutrient paste". In "The Grouchiest Friendship", during his first visit to the Smurf Village, Empath tries out a smurfberry for the first time and then suddenly begins to devour the entire basket of smurfberries in Greedy's kitchen.
"No chocolate? Not any? No chocolate cake or brownies or cookies or hot chocolate or Snickers bars or fudge or anything? You poor, poor people!"
In Home with the Fairies, Maddie misses so many things. From chapter 3 "Where Many Paths and Errands Meet",
Could I live in a place like this? Without plumbing (the outhouse was filthy), electricity, microwaveable food, the luxuries I was used to?
Maddie becomes homesick for 'soda, hamburgers, french fries, ketchup' in chapter 4, and a longer list of foods in chapter 6. Maddie can find one luxury in Middle-earth. In chapter 19, Maddie is happy to have butter.
In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fic Underdark Leonardo and Michelangelo are trapped in a huge underdark and have to make their way home in complete darkness getting hungrier, thirstier and dirtier along the way. All the way Mikey laments the lack of light and how he'll never take it for granted again, when they are finally make it home again Mikey is overjoyed being able to see his bedroom ceiling and thoroughly enjoys a meal of some plain toast and Gatorade.
At one point in Origin Story, Alex Harris is homeless and living in the re-purposed shell of a broken down school bus with her girlfriend, Louise. They're getting basic necessities like food and the occasional new piece of clothing from a convent, but otherwise are sleeping on a cardboard mat under scavenged blankets. Its so bad that a trip so the $6 Breakfast Buffet at the Sizzler is considered a treat.
Done in The Blind Side: When LeAnne shows Michael his new room, he says that he's never had one of "these" before. LeAnne thinks that he means his own room. Actually, he meant the bed.
Tom Hanks' character in Cast Away has trouble sleeping in a bed after spending four years sleeping in a cave. He is shown staring at clean bottled water, fresh fruit and boiled crab legs, but it's not clear whether he's marvelling at their easy availability or at the strange juxtaposition of seeing the things he's been eating to the exclusion of all else sitting side by side with a cornucopia of other food.
In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, the cursed pirates of the Black Pearl go on and on about what sensory experiences they've most missed during the curse, and therefore what they plan to glut on once they have their nerve endings back. Barbossa himself is almost obsessed with apples.
Audrey's song, "Somewhere That's Green" in Little Shop of Horrors is basically about this, with her dreaming of living in a tract-house away from Skid-Row with "a fence of real chain-link" and a disposal in the sink.
"No pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater... than central air." Azrael
There is a classical humorous short story by Ludwig Thoma, Ein Münchener im Himmel (A Munich Citizen In Heaven), about a train station porter from Munich who dies, goes to heaven, but gets fed up with his celestial duties and runs off back to earth, preferring to spend an eternity living his meagre earthly existence in Munich, boozing beer with his regulars in the Hofbräuhaus.
Discworld: Rincewind, after long and grueling privations and lots of running away, is teleported back to Ankh-Morpork, and is so overjoyed to be back that he eats four of Dibbler's sausages (inna bun). This act of suicidal happiness is almost one-upped a moment later when he is equally delighted to be beaten up by the Thieves' Guild.
Rincewind also has a deep and abiding affection for potatoes that came about when he was stranded on a desert island for ages without potatoes or female company. He got a few wires crossed there.
In Night Watch, the young Nobby Nobbs is overwhelmed by the prospect of owning his very own spoon.
When Harry Potter comes to Hogwarts, he is at first overwhelmed by the fact that he can eat food he really likes and no one is going to take it away from him. (When he was living with the Dursleys, Dudley would always eat everything Harry liked out of spite.)
This leads to something of an Establishing Character Moment: Left to his own devices on the school train with a pocket full of cash, the first thing Harry does is buy loads of food off the trolley and share it with the poor kid across from him.
Harry... had never had anything to share before or, indeed, anyone to share it with. It was a nice feeling.
Also Dobby in his first few appearances, of the "simple kindness" variation—he's been a maltreated slave all his life.
In The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King, Roland of Gilead comes from a Scavenger World and is completely overwhelmed by the taste of a simple tuna fish sandwich and some soda. He also initially assumes that heroin, that one of his companions is initially addicted to, is in fact the same thing as sugar, since he gets an extreme rush just from eating some raw sugar. He even wonders why anyone would need stronger addictives after that.
In the Ray Bradbury story The Fox and the Forest, time travelers can be easily detected because they immediately start sampling exotic foods, liquors, cigarettes and perfumes, which apparently aren't available in the future.
Likewise in the story The Long Rain several soldiers are walking through the eternal rain of Venus desperately searching for a Sun Dome; eventually almost all of them go mad and the only one who finds the Sun Dome finds the luxuries of hot chocolate with marshmallows, freshly made sandwiches, hot coffee and fresh towels to dry himself off with.
In the first Doom novel, Flynn Taggart runs himself ragged fighting against zombies and aliens and since he's not in a videogame he actually does get hungry, filthy, and tired. While it hasn't been that long since he entered the base, it feels like he has been fighting forever. He compares the shower he takes when he finds the medical ward heaven and the fresh towel the Garden of Eden. He is even able to enjoy eating the military MREs he discovers in the base.
In The Hunger Games young Katniss scrapes by with barely enough to eat; she says her favorite thing about the capital is the lamb stew she was served. Later Peeta presents to her a can of the same stew while they scavenge a meal.
Cordwainer Smith makes ironic use of this trope in his short story On the Gem Planet which takes place on Planet Pontoppidian, a literal gem of a planet; the narration states the people there were 'Too rich and too busy to have good food, open air or much fun. All they had were diamonds, rubies, tourmalines and emeralds'. Genevieve is amazed other planets have actual soil, when ordering drinks the Hereditary Dictator insists his niece will have real tea with lemon and Casher O'Neil is amazed they have coffee. (Casher is not native to Pontoppidian and apparently on other worlds coffee is extremely expensive.)
There was no soap, no matches, no looking-glass—except a metal one, about as powerful as a pail of water. And not a chromo [a color picture].... There was no gas, there were no candles.... There were no books, pens, paper or ink, and no glass in the openings they believed to be windows.... But perhaps the worst of all as, that there wasn't any sugar, coffee, tea or tobacco.
In the non-fiction How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, Slavenka Drakulić recalls the shortages of communism. In chapter 13, she shows 'one sanitary napkin and one Tampax' to an audience in New York, and explains that women in communist countries don't have them.
Chapter 7 "Foreward to the Past" is about toilet paper. When there was none, men and women would use newspaper or notepad paper. When Drakulić travelled with toilet rolls or tampons, friends asked her to leave those things in their homes.
Mags starts off the Collegium Chronicles as a mine slave. Once rescued, he has this reaction to a bowl of vegetable soup, a hot bath, and warm clothing.
Elli Friedmann's Real Life novelization of her experiences in "I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing up in the Holocaust" has the main character and her mother making it from Auschwitz to a labor camp where the operators were completely unaware of the death camps. The Jewish victims were reduced to tears when given their own soap and towels for taking showers, where they found it amazing that they could control the water.
Poor Charlie Bucket treasures his annual birthday present of a Wonka chocolate bar so much that once he starts actually eating it, he nibbles only a tiny bit each day.
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, after Odo is turned into a humanoid solid he becomes fascinated with food and drink, things he ignored as a changeling. In one episode, Sisko finds him in Quark's, listening to the carbonation in his beer.
Crossing over into a related trope, Neelix in Star Trek: Voyager is amazed and rather impressed that the Voyager crew has such efficient water recycling facilities that he can take a bath.
At first, Hunter from Queer as Folk has a hard time accepting that Michael and Ben are being nice to him (giving him a warm jacket, feeding him, paying his hospital bills, letting him use their shower and sleep in their guest room when he wants to, and things like that) because they want to and not because they have some sort of ulterior motive. Understandable, considering that he's a teenage prostitute who's been living on the streets for quite some time.
In Torchwood: Miracle Day, Oswald Danes, a convicted kiddy rapist/murderer released from death row, is seen filling a trash bag with food from a buffet. When questioned, he makes a good point about how he'll be unable to find work, and must collect food whenever he can.
In the Torchwood audio drama Asylum, Freda, a girl from the future, is totally amazed that people have real tomatoes on pizza.
In one of the First Doctor serials, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, an old member of Les Collaborateurs is given an orange as part of a reward. She tearfully observes it, admitting she hasn't seen an orange in years.
That was filmed in 1963. WWII wasn't that long ago, and rationing in Britain didn't end until some years after the end of the war. The bit with the orange may have been a reference to fairly recent times when many ordinary Britons might not have seen an orange for a long time.
Wolowitz: Just imagine...if he says yes, we'll have an entire summer without Sheldon.
Raj: We could play outside.
Wolowitz: We could sit on the left side of the couch.
Leonard: I could use the bathroom at 8:20!
Raj: Our dreams are very small, aren't they?
Seen on any given season of Survivor with the challenge rewards. The players really start getting excited about simple comforts after the first week or so of roughing it (approximately the third or fourth episode).
Da Ali G Show: While discussing "techmology" and whether it's good or whack, one of the guests (Kent Hovind) says he's been to the third world countries and that he's grateful for having flushing toilets.
The intro to Fringe displays pseudoscience-y things that may be possible in the future, e.g., psychokinesis, teleportation, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence... The intro changes depending on the season or sometimes the episode (for example, in a flashback episode that took place in 1985, the intro featured a retro version of the logo and listed things that would have been science fiction back then, like personal computing and in vitro fertilization). In the intro for the Bad Future episode "The Day We Died," among futuristic things the future hopes to have like cellular rejuvenation and thought extraction, it also lists water and hope. In the fifth season, which takes place entirely in a Bad Future (although a different one from the other episode; it's that kind of show), the intro lists community, joy, individuality, education, imagination, private thought, due process, ownership, free will, and freedom.
Gendry: I've never seen anything like any of this. Not in my life.
Melisandre: It's shocking, isn't it,the first time you encounter real wealth?
She's talking about a bed. He's referring to the entire room.
Little Shop of Horrors has Audrey — who has lived her entire life in poverty down on Skid Row — singing about her life-long dream of owning a tract house off the interstate which showcases such luxuries as a toaster, a fence of real chain-link, and a television with a "big, enormous twelve-inch screen!"
In the play's early 1950s setting, most sets were in the ten to fourteen inch range.
The short play Clean Up on Aisle 7 takes place in a crappy future where most organic food has been replaced by synthetic goo. The plot involves four people starting a gunfight over an orange.
Sigrun: Isn't perspective wonderful? You'd think people who are so tall would have more of it.
In The Last of Us Ellie, 14 year old girl born after the zombie outbreak, is obsessed with comic books, a rare find in the quarantine zone. She also flips out when told what an "ice cream truck" is.
Ellie: What is this? Sam: Oh this is an ice cream truck. Henry told me about these. They'd sell ice cream out of the truck. Ellie: What? No way. Joel? Joel: It is true. This thing would drive around and play real loud creepy music and kids would come running out to buy ice cream. Ellie: You're totally fucking with me!
The Left Behind expansion shows Ellie and Riley exploring an abandoned mall that still has some power on. They are amazed by a Merry-Go-Round and a picture booth (though they are very confused when said booth asks them if they want to upload their pictures to Facebook).
Tsukihime takes it to heart-wrenching lengths as Shiki slowly comes to realize that Arcueid treasures the simple act of speaking with another living being, having been deprived of such (and naturally, every other mundane luxury) for over a millennium.
Zelretch: For a life like yours, to open both your eyes and catch a single glimpse of light would already be ample satisfaction.
The video game This War Of Mine is all about this trope as survivors of a Civil War are trying to live by scavenging resources that are in limited quantities. Basic food is a luxury, a roll of cigarette is a luxury, any resource is very hard to come by in this game.
Played With in Bardsworth—when Mike first takes a shower at Bardsworth he thinks it's incredibly cool, causing his roommate to wonder if he's from a tiny dirt farm or something. It's actually just because the shower works by magic, which Mike (who's from our world) isn't used to.
In Irrelevator the blue stickman and green stickman give a breadcrumb and a paper to the red stickman on his birthday, this is of course something he's very happy about since they've been stuck in an elevator for so long.
PVT Murphy's Law once claimed soldiers had found treasure in Saddam Hussein's palaces; toilets.
Similarly, each time Murphy's unit rotates stateside after a deployment, their desire for beer is strong enough to cause the CEO of the Annheuser-Busch company to wake up suddenly from bed.
In Kickassia, the newly 3D'd Lee enjoys being 3D...by feeling up everyone he can get his hands on (including himself).
In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series 9-year-old Marik travels to the surface for the first time after a life living underground. He is blown away by the fact the market they visit has rags, claiming he's "always wanted a rag". He's also amazed to discover television: "Oooh, a shiny box! I must worship it!"
In Space Beasts there are many instances of this trope, but the ultimate example of this is when during Paradise 5 Mini-Arc where the Three Humanimal Gladiators are invited to have supper with the Fellowship crew. They've never eaten food that wasn't made from other sentient animals and are amazed by the sheer variety of food the Fellowship Humanimals eat, Splash Claw is amazed they have fruit on their ship "I've heard of fruit but I've never actually seen one" he says and sheds Tears of Joy after tasting of strawberry jam,
The Simpsons themselves experience this sort of thing all the time (in one episode, Bart refers to ordinary name-brand products as things rich people buy). Marge seems especially prone to it, particularly in later seasons where she sometimes displays more ditzy tendencies.
Gil once crashed his car into a tree to avoid hitting a cat and was happy at the prospect of using some of the insurance money to eat people food.
In one episode, the two cocktail waitresses Ned and Homer accidentally married in Vegas come back looking for their husbands. Ned's Vegas wife asks for moist towelettes to clean herself off, and is ecstatic when Ned tells her that she can use a real shower, upstairs.
Naturally Truth in Television. When a News Broadcast features a story about charity work being done in impoverished and disaster-stricken areas of the world, it won't be complete without a clip or two of the villagers/victims enthusing about the food and clothing they have been given.
When you've been to really big scout camps, living in a tent on field with 15,000 dirty people for two weeks, the simple act of being indoors feels heavenly. Not to mention having a shower, eating take-out and sleeping in a bed.
This is doubly true of aid workers, soldiers, etc, returning from deployment into third world areas.
Coming out of a spell in prison, a psychiatric hospital, or similar place where your liberty is restricted and doing anything. In fact this experience is so intense it often leads to Heroic BSOD and winding up right back in prison.
When concentration camps were liberated by the US Army, many released prisoners were found to have a mysterious sickness (among many). It turned out that they had gorged themselves in a mad burst of joyful gluttony on spare army rations handed out by well-meaning but medically untrained GI's and had overstrained their weak stomachs. This is known as 'refeeding syndrome' and can be fatal.
People who have dated across class lines have probably seen or experienced this trope (and its inversion) when the wealthier partner's family gathers.
According to an article in Reader's Digest David Milgaard, who spent years in prison before being cleared of the murder he was wrongfully convicted for, marvelled at finally seeing a sunset.
One award sometimes given for high performance in the US Navy is the right to take a soaking shower with the water running ("Hollywood shower") instead of the usual water-efficient "Navy shower" routine (turn water on, get wet, turn water off, lather up, turn water on, rinse, turn water off). In older times, when on-board desalination and purification was less efficient, the Hollywood shower could be given an extra layer of decadence by permitting the use of fresh water rather than sea water.
A good cure for First-World ennui is to invoke this trope. By deliberately depriving yourself of those non-important things that you like but have nonetheless grown bored with, you rediscover your appreciation for them. For example, a person who's given up Twinkies for a year will find that they taste like heaven upon eating them again.
Any person on a diet will reach a point where the slightest bit of excess sugar may be fully enjoyed and appreciated.
Crossing over a bit with Commonplace Rare, ever spent a year or so in a foreign country where something you eat or drink regularly is really hard to get hold of?
Pure bewilderment or even tears was the reaction of people from Soviet side of Iron Curtain seeing Western world for the first time. Full shelves in shops, for example.
During the Cold War, the U.S.S.R. would allow documentaries about poverty in America, thinking it would make a nice contrast to the equality of Communism. Instead, many Soviets were amazed to discover that in America, even poor people could afford luxuries like televisions in their home.
One North Korean defector described listening to a South Korean radio show, where the plot concerned two women fighting over a parking space. He was amazed that cars were so common in South Korea that people had to worry about where to park.