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Table Space
Could you pass the salt?

The comic convention, when two people are dining at a table designed to accommodate twenty, is that they sit at either end.

Two people, surrounded by wealth and opulence, sit down to dinner at a table that is long enough to seat entire football teams. Rather than doing the sensible thing and sitting close together, they sit at the far ends of the table.

Often just a visual gag, but in more serious uses the distance between the two is used to illustrate the emotional distance between them, especially if this is a result of their opulent but hollow lifestyle.


Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Rebuild of Evangelion. Gendo Ikari having dinner with Rei; it's not surprising she comes out of her shell enough to ask him to come along to Shinji's dinner party instead.

Comic Books
  • Batman: Subverted by Selina Kyle in Dark Victory. She and Bruce sit down to eat Thanksgiving dinner in this fashion, but after Alfred is finished serving them, she drags her rather large chair to the other end of the table to sit next to Bruce (and eat off his plate).

Film — Animated
  • The Incredibles has Bob and Mirage dine at opposite ends of a table after Bob neutralizes the Omnidroid. It does a good job at setting up the opulent but ultimately empty life that Bob is about to enter with his new job. Also, judging from what Mirage says, the great size of the table, coupled with its placement right next to a wall of lava, stem from her boss's obsession with power.

Film — Live Action
  • When you're making a silent film in 2011 you need non-verbal clues to get the characters' emotional states across, so The Artist uses this to demonstrate the emotional gulf between George Valentin and his wife.
  • Done in the Winona Ryder version of The Crucible to emphasize John and Elizabeth Proctor's emotional estrangement.
  • In Dark City, when a poor couple is "turned" into a rich couple, their formerly modest four-seater extends out into one of these.
  • The first Batman movie. He makes a nice joke about it. The table's huge, the mansion's huge, has he even been in this room before? They decide to move into the kitchen with its much smaller table.
  • Citizen Kane puts him and his wife further and further apart as their tables got bigger. To make this even more effective, it's only shown at the end of a montage showing their marriage breaking down. The final clip is a Reveal Shot showing the now long dinner table, with the previously loving couple sitting far apart and ignoring each other.
  • In Richie Rich, the live action movie of 1994, telephones are involved so they can communicate. In this case, Richie sat at the other end on purpose seeing as he didn't like their dinner guest, Lawrence Van Dough.
  • Parodied in Coming to America: the king and queen sit so far away from their son, the prince, that he must talk to them through an intercom. He eventually gets frustrated and just walks to the other end of the table, much to the dismay of the others.
    King Jaffe: How long have you had a mustache?
  • MirrorMask has scene featuring an enormous dining table, with the Black Queen at one end and Helena at the other. Helena says something, to which the Queen takes offense. Close-up of Helena's face AND THEN THE QUEEN'S FACE IS RIGHT THERE YELLING AT HER.
  • Done in the Alfred Hitchcock film Rebecca. The table isn't quite as oversized as some examples, but they do sit on opposite ends.
  • At the end of Rodney Dangerfield's Easy Money, the family is eating at a long dining table with Rodney at one end.
  • Used to nightmarish effect in the 2010 movie Victim where the Mad Doctor has dinner with his "daughter". In actuality she was the man he kidnapped who beat his real teenage daughter until she was rendered brain dead, and who subjected him to various medical procedures and mind rapes to make him look and believe he was his daughter as an elaborate form of karmic revenge.
  • Stromberg has Bond sit down at one of these in The Spy Who Loved Me. Of course there's a lethal surprise underneath in store for 007 that he narrowly avoids.
  • JFK: During the interrogation scene with Clay Shaw and Jim Garrison, Clay Shaw lampshades the trope both in the dialogue and the Flashback sequence.
  • In If Looks Could Kill Augustus Steranko forces Michael Corben to have dinner with him and they both sit at opposite ends of a very long dinner table. Following an Ironic Echo at Michael's expense, he tries to launch himself down the table at Steranko, but its length allows Steranko's Mooks to grab him before he can reach his target.
  • Cinderfella: Jerry Lewis plays the titular stepson, who eats at the opposite end of a very long table from his stepmom and her two sons...and they keep ordering him to pass them things that are within their arms' reach.

Literature
  • Discworld:
    • Magrat and King Verence are seen doing this in Lords and Ladies. It's made awkward on several levels, not just because they're trying to have a conversation during dinner, but because they're engaged to be married. Magrat eventually gets fed up with Verence having to shout so she can hear him, and gets the butler to move her chair to the other end.
    • Discussed in Making Money, but the narration then adds "Moist and Adora Belle didn't try it, but instead huddled together."
    • Lampshaded in Unseen Academicals: "It is a regrettable fact that when two people are dining at a very large and impressive dining table they sit at the opposite ends of the long axis [...] even Lord Vetenari and Lady Margalotta had apparently signed up to the idea." Given all the rumors (both in- and out-of-universe) that the two are more than friends, or at least friendly rivals, this may put a lie to them.
  • Septimus Heap: Jenna alludes that Sarah and Silas Heap often occupy the main table of the Palace at opposite ends, so that they have to communicate by hand signs, much to Jenna's annoyance.

Live-Action TV
  • Done several times in the BBC Merlin, most often between Morgana and Uther to highlight the increasing emotional distance between the two.
  • In NewsRadio, when Lisa goes over to Jimmy James' mansion, he had just bought a very long table that he insists she sit at the end of. They had to yell at each other to talk.
  • The Goodies. Tim's wealthy uncle dies, so he inherits his country seat and makes his former friends work as servants. This includes a gag of them trying to feed him from the opposite end of a long table, pumping coffee down a tube and serving eggs with slingshots. Eventually Bill loses patience and declares he's going to belt Tim, only he can't walk that far. Graham hands him a tricycle which Bill rides down the table, falling through it after Tim blasts at him with a hunting shotgun.
  • A furniture-building how-to show with a humorous angle ended with the two hosts at the ends of a massively long table like the cold distant couple in Citizen Kane, then segues directly into doing a scene from Jerry Lewis's Cinderfella where Lewis goes up and down the length of the table to pass the salt, jabbering incessantly.
  • In one of the Gilligan's Island TV movies, after the castaways make it back home, Mr. and Mrs. Howell are shown to dine like this.
  • Appears in the Scrubs episode "My Cold Shower", when Kelso has an Imagine Spot about what it'd be like being married to Elliot. The gag is used to show how loveless that marriage would be; Elliot notes how much she hates Kelso and he emotionlessly replies "I know" before returning to his dinner.
  • The X-Files: A rare example from a professional setting happens in "Fallen Angel" when Agent Scully and then Agent Mulder have a responsibility hearing with Section Chief McGrath. The FBI has never liked their little department investigating paranormal cases.
  • In ER, Carter tries to relate to del Amico by going along with her assumption that he is poor. A later scene has them sitting at opposite ends of the former's lavish dining room table to highlight the awkwardness of his lie falling through.
  • In Murdoch Mysteries, Table Space between Dr. Julia Ogden and her husband Dr. Darcy Garland is used to emphasize the emotional distance between them during their argument. Julia fights for women's rights to use contraceptives, which is illegal and threatens Darcy's possible promotion. At one previous scene, they were comfortably sitting very close on a sofa.
  • Red Dwarf: The guys once discover they can use old photos for time travel. Lister influences the track of time and becomes filthily rich. He has a huge mansion, and his attractive young lady-friend and he are sitting at opposite sides of a very long table when they're having dinner.
  • Used for comic effect in the first series of Blackadder: King Richard is discussing the murder of Thomas Becket with the Queen, but she can't hear him from her end of the table, prompting Richard to repeatedly bellow "WHO WILL RID ME OF THIS TROUBLESOME PRIEST?", which is overheard by some knights who think Richard is referring to his son and current Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Sex and the City, when Samantha dates a millionaire who is in his seventies, they sit in his huge house by a huge table. It is used just for fun to emphasize his wealth.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Used for the Small Council table in Season 3 "Walk of Punishment". While the other councilors scramble to sit as close to Lord Tywin as possible, his son Tyrion deliberately positions himself (with much hilarious chair-scraping) at the far end, yet directly opposite his father, showing their adversarial relationship.
    • At a dinner table in "Valar Dohaeris", the Tyrell siblings are seated next to each other, while Cersei and her son Joffrey are positioned at the opposite ends. (To maintain symmetry, Margaery and Loras would normally have been placed across from each other.) Guess which family gets along harmoniously and which one is dysfunctional.

Print
  • One Gibson Girl print showed this trope with the Gibson girl, her titled and otherwise odious husband, and her dream of a happy marriage where she, her husband, and the children would be romping on the lawn.

Video Games
  • In Donkey Kong Country, DK and Candy do this in an attempt of DK's to treat Candy to a formal lunch. Naturally, they're so far apart that they have trouble speaking to each other. DK soon gets annoyed with this and moves closer to Candy so they can talk.

Web Original
  • SF Debris: In his review of The X-Files episode "Fallen Angel" mentioned above, SF Debris says that Scully obviously has a hearing at the FBI's Super Long Table Division.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons:
    • One episode has the family housesitting Burns's mansion and having dinner at the incredibly long table. "Mom, Bart's making faces at me... I think."
    Homer: "LOOK HOW LOUD I HAVE TO YELL!!!"
    • When Mr. Burns tries to adopt Bart as his son, they dine like this even though it's not all an intimate way to eat.
      Mr. Burns: Oh? Your milk's gone cold. I'll ring for the maid...
      (He hits a button on his intercom, and Bart's chair snaps back a few feet while simultaneously binding his arms, legs and mouth with metal straps that emerge from the chair.)
      Mr. Burns: Oops! Wrong button.
  • Done in an episode of Arthur, when Arthur imagines what it would be like if his parents never spoke to each other again.
  • A scene in The Flintstones has Fred and Barney conversing at either end of a long dining table, including this exchange:
    Barney has just made some remark, Fred replies: Oh.
    Barney: What'ya say, Fred?
    Fred: I SAID "OH!"
  • One episode of the Looney Tunes, "From Hare to Heir", had Bugs Bunny promise Yosemite Sam (who is short on money) a million pounds provided he keep his Hair-Trigger Temper (get it) in check. What follows is Bugs deducting bit by bit with each outburst. In one scene, as Bugs and Sam are eating at different ends of a very long table, Bugs frequently asks for various things, forcing Sam walk all the way down to the far end of the table. Each time as he's walking all the way back to be seated, Bugs calls back for another item. This causes Sam to lose his temper, prompting Bugs to reduce 300 pounds (which makes Sam go into a rage-inducing fit, taking away 400 pounds more).
  • The Looney Tunes Show: Happens in "The Shelf" when Daffy is having dinner with Tina. The kicker is that it isn't even Daffy's house; it's Porky's and he is forcing Porky to act as his butler. It ends with Daffy flinging bread rolls at Porky and Tina storming out.

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