Hey Calvin, you want to play "house"? Calvin:
I don't know. How do you play? Susie:
Okay... first, you come home from work. Then I came home from work. We'll gripe about our jobs, and then we'll argue over whose turn it is to microwave dinner.
A game in which children take on adult roles, focusing on domestic matters.
Playing "house" is a common game among young children, trying on adult roles seen around their homes. As opposed to the more boisterous Cowboys and Indians
games, "house" revolves around day-to-day matters such as husband-and-wife negotiations, childcare (usually with dolls or pets in the "child" role), cooking (mud pies are the traditional fare) and tea parties. Stereotypically, this is a girls' game that boys are roped into with some degree of unwillingness. In Britain, this game is traditionally called "playing Mummies and Daddies."
In fiction, kids playing "house" can be evidence of a Toy Ship
(though often one-sided), demonstrate a childish misunderstanding of family life (either innocently or because their home is actually that twisted), or be a commentary on the goings-on of the adults who are the main focus of the story. A common "bit" is a young boy forced into a humiliating "baby" or "mommy" role by an innocently sadistic female playmate.
Sometimes Innocent Cohabitation
will jokingly be called "playing house" as the cohabitors fall into the roles of a married couple without the full benefits of same. It can also be used as a mocking euphemism for non-innocent cohabitation- the implication being that the relationship needs a legal marriage before it counts as real. (It's a more upscale version of the term: "shacking up")
See Promotion to Parent
for a much sadder trope related to this.
Not to be confused with what Hugh Laurie does for a living
, which in turn should not be confused with playing "doctor"
; nor with House Rules
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Anime And Manga
- In Shin-chan, Ai declares to Penny that she's pregnant because she and Shin kissed while playing house.
- Shizuru and Tomoe did this a few times near the end of Mai-Otome. When two grown women play house, it's not quite as innocent as usual. Shizuru X Natsuki shippers were not amused.
- Great Teacher Onizuka played house with Tomoko and discovered that she had a real talent for acting.
- In Doraemon, Nobita tried to use one of Doraemon's gadgets to get out of playing house with his younger cousin (as his friends were teasing him about how girly that was), but of course Hilarity Ensues.
- There's a variation in Jungle wa Itsumo Hare nochi Guu where Marie gets everyone in Hale's family to play house with her, but she's the child and it ends up being a ploy to be able to get parental affection.
- Yotsuba and Ena play house briefly in the second volume of Yotsuba&!, before being distracted by the prospect of cake. Yotsuba later sets up house, complete with kitchen, under her father's desk. And then there's the zoo of wooden blocks ...
- In an episode of Urusei Yatsura, Lum goes ten years into the past and finds Shinobu playing house with Ataru. Young Ataru has a little difficulty with the concept of "pretend."
- In the Animated Adaptation of Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!, Touka (in her mid to late 20s) and Yumeha (4 or 5) have been seen playing house with a divorce theme several times throughout the season.
- In episode 5, they were finalizing a divorce when Yuuta walks in. He's not very pleased with what Touka is teaching his little sister.
- Again in episode 10, when they're in a divorce lawsuit.
- Once more in episode 11 when Touka leaves and Yumeha asks if she'll be allowed to see the kids.
- In an OVA of Mikakunin de Shinkoukei, Kobeni remembers how she, Benio, and Nadeshiko played house as young children. Benio quickly put a stop to the game when Nadeshiko's setup outright states that Benio in the father role is unemployed after having been fired for sexual harassment.
- In Judy Blume's Iggie's House, Winnie Barringer and the three Garber children play house in a house that's being constructed in the neighborhood while they're on their way to a picnic near the end of the story.
Live Action Television
- Mad Men uses this subtly to portray Stepford Suburbia; at Sally's birthday party, when the kids are playing in her new playhouse, they can be heard saying things to each other like, "I like sleeping on the couch." Helen Bishop, the one divorced mother in the neighborhood, comes outside fresh from being hit on by a male adult guest and sniped at by several female ones, and says to Don, "Interesting crowd in there." Don replies, "Same crowd out here."
- Private Eye ran a cartoon in which we see a girl sitting on a blanket surrounded by dolls and a boy in the background escaping over a fence; the caption is "Playing Modern Mummies and Daddies" or somesuch.
- In addition to the page quote above, Calvin and Susie of Calvin and Hobbes play house a few times, once with Calvin refusing to accept Mr. Bun as their child, and another ending with him deciding to be a jungle man and running off in his underwear. For these sequences, the strip had an Art Shift to a Mary Worth style soap opera comic.
- Margaret always wants to do this with Dennis in Dennis the Menace.
- Rugrats did it a lot.
- Family Guy did a version of this with Stewie and Oliva but Stewie ends up getting angry over the lack of sex... whatever that is. Some sort of cake?
- Ralph Bakshi's 1967 short The Mini-Squirts took this to its logical conclusion by turning the situation into a soap opera.