Giving clues to a person's personality through the decor of their bedroom, particularly wall posters.
A quick way of giving hints about a person's personality without spending a lot of time on exposition is to show their bedroom. This is particularly true from late childhood to college age, when people tend to have very idiosyncratic decorating tastes. (Before that, the child's parents/guardians tend to choose the decor, and as people mature, many of them feel less compelled to "mark their territory" quite so fiercely. And if a couple is sharing a room, it will tend to blend their tastes to an acceptable medium.)
The posters and other decorations of a bedroom can often convey such information as gender and approximate age, hobbies, religious affiliation, the region the story takes place in, approximately what year the story takes place, and the tolerance level of the parents if any (parents, that is
). A change in posters can indicate a similar change in the inhabitant's interests or maturity level. (And whether they're torn down or gently put away tells the audience a lot about the feelings of the character.) If the set designers are careless, they can oversell the clutter effect, or create a false impression by putting all the things that were cool when they
were kids on a contemporary teenager's wall.
For a twist, sometimes the posters will reveal the "true face" of a character, such as a burly Jerk Jock
's room being plastered with unicorns and rainbows
, while the Girl Next Door
has decorated her room in Frazetta barbarian posters with black curtains and pagan symbols.
There are a number of poster stereotypes. For example, posters of Einstein, Che, Jim Morrison or some kind of Monet in a college student's dorm room. On the other hand, expect a Scarface
poster in a gangsta-wannabe's room. In addition, a boy's room will nearly always be rather messy and will have at least one swimsuit model poster, while a girl's room will nearly always feature posters and magazine cut-outs of her favorite singers (heart scribbles optional), plus a vanity with mirror and cosmetics.
This trope is usually found in visual media, although print media will sometimes describe a bedroom's decor — and the conclusions the narrator draws from it.
Compare with Environmental Symbolism
. If the poster gallery contains one person, the room can double as a Stalker Shrine
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Anime & Manga
- Great Teacher Onizuka: Tomoko's room is decked out with Otaku paraphernalia, including posters. (Most, if not all of them are a Shout-Out to other Shonen Jump titles.)
- In Kimagure Orange Road, Akane had a poster of Cool Big Sis (from her perspective) Madoka on the ceiling above her bed.
- Ranma ˝: Tatewaki Kunō has pictures of Akane and the Pigtailed Girl in his room. For a time he replaced them with Nabiki pictures, then all three of them at once.
- Otaku Surrogate Konata of Lucky Star naturally has a room covered with many an anime and H-Game poster, amongst other miscellaneous anime-related products. This includes various Suzumiya Haruhi merchandise, natch.
- Ohno from Genshiken has posters of bald, muscular, middle-aged men in her bedroom, much to her public embarrassment.
- Futana, the title character's sister from Futabakun Change, has a bedroom filled with posters of naked and half-naked women.
- Hilarious example from Dick Tracy: one storyline introduced a scary-looking "goth" kid. Eventually, we see his room, which has posters of Goths. As in Visigoths. As in burly bearded men in fur armor wielding axes. Almost certainly intentional, as the storyline was (unusually for Dick Tracy) about not judging by appearances.
- Raina's bedroom in Blankets was filled with posters of alternative rock bands: Nirvana, Radiohead, Bjork, Jane's Addiction, etc.
Films — Animation
- In Toy Story, the Western posters and decor in Andy's room shift to space-themed items after the arrival of Buzz Lightyear, much to Woody's dismay. Even the bedspread changes! Also consider the Darker and Edgier decor of the troubled Sid's room.
- In Toy Story 3, this comes up again when we are shown a fairly wide shot of Andy's room—and how it's changed since his childhood.
- Rapunzel's tower is filled from top to bottom with paintings that she drew the whole 18 years she was there. The growing lack of space is lampshaded in her "I Want" Song and it's even a plot point, since her bedroom is filled with subconsciously drawn versions of the sun symbol that is the kingdom insignia and alerts her that she is the lost princess.
Films — Live-Action
- The original The Parent Trap. Susan's bed at camp has photos and magazine clippings of 1960s teen heartthrobs. Sharon isn't so cool, so she has no idea who Ricky Nelson is. "Oh, your boyfriend." Susan gasps in disbelief. "I wish he was! You mean you never heard of him? Where do you come from, outer space?"
- The walls in Aimee's room in The Spectacular Now are plastered with posters related to her interests - i.e. sci-fi and manga.
- The little brother's room in Just One of the Guys is covered with Playboy centerfolds pinned up. It's hard to tell this when you watch it on TV — the censor blurs obscure essentially the entire room.
- Jesminder's room in Bend It Like Beckham, mostly pictures of David Beckham himself.
- We can tell Ferris Bueller is cool (as if there was ever any doubt), because he has a Cabaret Voltaire poster.
- In Labyrinth, Sarah's room has posters of Broadway musicals, books of fairy tales and girls sent to magical worlds, and something foreshadowing nearly every event in the film.
- The titular character of Juno has one of these rooms. Covered from wall to wall with band posters, toys, etc.
- Not covering all the walls, but hilarious: In The Lost Boys, the first thing Sam does upon moving into their new room is hang up a poster of a shirtless Rob Lowe.
- In Troll 2, Holly's room has posters of Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp. Joshua's room is a veritable treasure trove of Product Placement.
- In The Forbidden Kingdom, the teenage protagonist's room is covered in kung fu movie posters and cut-outs. He even has a kung fu movie playing... when he wakes up in the morning.
- Kat's bedroom in 10 Things I Hate About You is plastered with posters of alternative girl bands. Her sister Bianca's room is rather juvenile in floral and white.
- In the song "Kickapoo" at the beginning of Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, JB's ultra-religious father, after a vigorous spanking, begins tearing down about a dozen rock and metal band posters from his bedroom walls, forgetting the Dio poster on the door. The poster immediately sings to JB to tell him to go form a band.
- In Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, the babysitter stumbles into the teenage boy's bedroom and reacts in horror at all the heavy metal posters on the walls. In fact, it gives her a fatal heart attack and kicks off the plot!
- The kid in C.R.A.Z.Y. is a big David Bowie fan and his walls tell.
- Chris' bedroom in Rock Star is covered in posters of his favorite band, Steel Dragon.
- In the first Wayne's World film Garth's bedroom is shown in one scene. As should probably be expected, it's covered in posters of hard rock and Heavy Metal bands.
- Harry Potter: Ron's room is entirely orange due to Chudley Cannons Quidditch posters, bedspread, etc., and even more chaotic than usual because, of course, all the players are moving. Similarly, Sirius Black's teenage bedroom was primarily red and gold (for Gryffindor), broken up by muggle pin-up girls on motorcycles. Meanwhile, his brother's room was festooned with Slytherin banners and newspaper clippings for a "Death Eater Youth League" vibe.
- Luna Lovegood painted her bedroom ceiling with portraits of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Neville linked together with the word "friends" repeated a thousand times in gold ink, which is edging into Room Full of Crazy territory but somehow comes off as more poignant than unsettling.
- In Isabel Allende's novel The House of the Spirits, Alba Trueba was granted permission to paint the walls of her room as a little girl, and she uses them as a journal of sorts until she is well into teenagehood. The last thing painted is a little heart, meaning that she has fallen in love for the very first time. Given that she eventually is revealed as the writer/narrator of the whole story, this is kind of prophetic.
- In Moving Pictures, Victor discovers that Ginger has decorated her bedroom with posters for the "clicks" she's starred in.
- In other Discworld novels, some characters are conversely described by how neat and impersonal their bedrooms are. Malvolio Bent's room is entirely plain, simple and undecorated except for a closet containing a dark secret, exactly like himself.
- Juliet's bedroom is mentioned as having everything painted pink with little yellow crowns, except for the beer crates holding up the bed in Unseen Academicals. As the color scheme and decorations were picked by her late mother, it seems to indicate that Juliet has not yet truly entered adult life.
- The lodgings of Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street had a number of frequently mentioned decorations, including pictures of General Gordon and Henry Ward Beecher, and VR written in bullet holes, which all give clues to the personalities of the residents.
- Don't forget the Reichenbach landscape over the fireplace
- Or the stuck-to-the-mantlepiece-with-a-knife correspondence.
- Or the chemistry set in the corner.
- Or the insane amounts of papers from various cases he has lying everywhere. (At one point, Watson even gets annoyed with this one)
- In the Alex Rider book Point Blank, students are encouraged to decorate their rooms. So that the Big Bad can impersonate them better.
- Subverted in Everworld: when David sees Senna's room he's frustrated that it provides no clue about her personality; the only decorations look like they came from an interior designer, the only books she owns are for school, etc.
- No More Heroes: Travis Touchdown, another Otaku, also has many posters plastering his walls and shelves full of plastic figurines.
- In Metal Gear Solid 2, in one of their many codec conversations, Rose complains to Jack about how bare his bedroom is, there's "not even a poster". Jack had been little more than a tool of his controllers up to that point. He claims to remember little of his past.
- In Bully, Jimmy's room changes over time, gaining a new wall ornament for each major mission he completes.
- Super Paper Mario: Fort Francis. Okay, sure, if you want to get technical, it's more of an entire fortress than just a bedroom, per se, but still...
- While not much detail has gone into it, the interior of Anna Chase's room in Survival of the Fittest is implied to be this on a few occasions. It's mentioned that she has a lot of posters and figurines in her bedroom, of course relating to her interests (horror media and anime). In post-game, it's revealed that before she came home that her parents removed her posters and figurines from the room, out of a concern that she would be triggered by them, much to her mild annoyance.
- In MSF High Forum, pretty much all the PCs are encouraged to do this, in part because the bedrooms are meant to be reflections of the chars. Mitchell's characters especially tried to invoke this, even with the beds! (Israfel has a bed that looks good, but is bad under the covers, Jess has a military bed, Michelle's is just a bunch of sheets, and Seram's is a large black bed with a curtain)
- The Angry Video Game Nerd has a variation-his game room is covered in video game posters culled from his issues of Nintendo Power. The two-part review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III also displays posters of Transformers: The Movie and Army of Darkness prominently in the beginning.
- Both Spoony and Obscurus Lupa (who even used her wall as the background for title cards before hiring an artist).
- The Simpsons: When Homer re-enrolled in college, he briefly turned his bedroom into a dorm room with the use of cinder block bookshelves and the poster of Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue.
- Tiffany's room is covered with poster-sized pictures of herself, showing exactly how narcissistic she is.
- Daria, on the other hand, has a poster of Franz Kafka and another that seemingly portrays a human skeleton protruding from the earth. Perhaps an archeological dig? Her room had very few posters besides that one, since it was formerly occupied by someone psychotic and still had the padding on the walls, which she probably thought was cool enough by itself.
- Played straight in Code Lyoko. Jérémie, the computer geek, has the obligatory Einstein poster in his room*. Ulrich, the martial art jock, has pencak silat posters on his half of the dorm he shares with Odd. And Sissi, the Alpha Bitch, has fashion models and girl bands poster in her bedroom — along with the aforementioned vanity with mirror and cosmetics.
- In South Park, Kyle has the classic "Einstein sticking his tongue out" poster, and sometimes a poster of the Jewish rapper Matisyahu. Stan has a poster for Street Warrior, an obvious knock-off of Road Warrior. Cartman's room sometimes has a pin-up of Mel Gibson in his Braveheart costume (Cartman admires him for his anti-Semitism). Wendy is seen to have a pin-up of Russell Crowe in her bedroom or bathroom.
- On Young Justice, Beast Boy's rooms (in Qurac and Mount Justice) are decorated with pictures of animals (including dinosaurs) and superheroes (including Aqualad and Martian Manhunter).
- The ubiquity of this trope with students is why universities around the world hold regular poster sales. College/university dorm rooms are often extremely dull and institutional-looking, and housing rules usually prevent students from making permanent modifications to the room like painting the walls or nailing up proper paintings, mirrors, wall hangings, or picture frames. Posters, which can be taken down at the end of the year or semester, serve as a substitute for the ability to really decorate. Sometimes annoyingly pointless in British universities, where many halls of residence will prohibit the hanging of posters, flags etc. In this regard, blue painter's tape is a university student's best friend because it can be used to hang lots and lots of posters without damaging the walls in any way.