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The Mall

A stock setting for any work set in suburbia, The Mall can be seen as the modernized version of the Main Streets that populate Everytown, America. Stores lined up along clean(ish) hallways populated by teenagers, parents with kids, and elderly people who have little better to do than walk around the mall all day. Will usually have a movie theater, a central meeting place (often with a fountain), boutiques and department stores that are out of the price range of the working class but still not luxe enough to be considered "classy", and a food court. A job at a mall store is usually treated as second only to working in fast food in the hierarchy of Most Humiliating Jobs for Teenagers. (Bonus points if they work at a fast-food restaurant located in the food court.) The security guards are all guys who washed out of (or were rejected from) basic training or the police academy, have an inflated sense of entitlement, and have nothing better to do than harass our heroes over trivial matters.

Like its close cousin, suburbia, the sterility of malls has often been used for the purposes of social commentary, satirizing the corporatization and consumerism of American society, and has frequently been employed as a symbol of mainstream conformity (especially in youth-focused works) and the destruction of the "little man" by big chain stores.

In older works or in early-mid 20th century period pieces, a department store is likely to serve the same purpose, albeit in a somewhat more idealized fashion (Nostalgia Filter and all).

The natural habitat of the Valley Girl and, come Christmas time, the Mall Santa, and the destination of choice for a Shopping Montage. This setting is best portrayed in The Eighties, when malls were at their height, since many malls have since gotten rid of the neon and fountains that were featured in that decade. Although there are still plenty of successful malls that have undergone multi-million dollar renovations to stay on top of the heap, very many are in decline (so-called "dead malls") with competition from "big box" stores and online shopping — to say nothing of a bad economy and a new generation moving back to the cities in droves. Regardless of their current state, the mall is increasingly looked upon with a sense of nostalgia, and as such, films that either focus on a mall setting, or feature a mall prominently, are beginning to be seen as period pieces.

Compare and contrast Bazaar of the Bizarre, Predatory Business.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comicbooks 

    Film 
  • The Dueling Movies Observe and Report and Paul Blart: Mall Cop were about mall security guards.
  • The original Dawn of the Dead used its mall setting to compare American consumers to zombies.
  • The Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake was set in a mall however as it was the 2000's and everybody knows what malls are like there is less scenery porn and it plays a smaller part in the story.
  • Part of the plot of Eight Legged Freaks revolves around the mayor having a useless shopping mall built in the town. Part of the climax takes place in said mall.
  • Bad Santa is about a crooked Mall Santa and his elf assistant who rob malls every Christmas.
  • In Night of the Comet, what is one of the first things that Reggie and Sam decide to do now that civilization has come to an end? Go on the ultimate mall shopping spree!
  • The Roger Corman-produced sci-fi / slasher flick Chopping Mall, in which the robotic security system at a mall malfunctions and starts killing the people who snuck in after-hours. Interestingly, stars one of the girls who led up Night of the Comet.
  • Clueless.
  • Mallrats.
  • Shows up in Mean Girls. Janis works at a Bath & Body Works-type place, and Cady compares the behavior of the teens hanging out at the fountain to that of the wild animals she grew up alongside in Africa.
  • Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure has a scene in the "San Dimas Mall"
  • The Blues Brothers drive through a mall, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. This was a real mall (Dixie Square Mall) that closed in 1978 because it was in a high-crime, low-income suburb (becoming one of the first "dead malls" despite being less than a decade old at the time of its closure), and the producers set up fake storefronts in it. 30+ years later, the building was still (barely) standing before finally getting torn down in 2012.
  • A scene in Jingle All the Way has Arnold Schwarzenegger's character seeking the film's Cool Toy at Mall of America.
  • A key scene in the Talking Heads film True Stories celebrates the suburban shopping mall.
  • The Russian film A Man with a Guarantee has a mall (well, a hypermarket) security guard living at the mall and being everybody's best friend (except the mall manager, employees of a rival chain, and wannabe pickup artists). He ends up being the target of The Bet between the female owner of the mall chain and her Friendly Enemy rival (she either marries a regular joe at the mall without revealing who she is in a few weeks, or she loses everything). The guard even makes sure to stay as legal as possible. He only eats food that has just passed its expiration date or has a friend of his bring him food. He sleeps in beds at the furniture store and makes them presentable in the morning. The reason for this is (besides saving a fortune on an apartment in Moscow) because someone, likely a woman, hurt him once, and he has been afraid to leave the safety of the mall and be vulnerable again. He did buy himself an expensive sports car with all the money he saved.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Robin's song "Let's Go To the Mall"note  on How I Met Your Mother, which she promoted by touring Canada's malls (a reference to Tiffany; see below). She cites this as the reason she has an aversion to malls, mentioning how she spent a year living on a diet of Orange Julius and Wetzel's Pretzels.
  • In the New Zealand show The Tribe had most of the lead characters live in a mall and many plots would be about them defending themselves and their knew home from rival tribes. The tribe's name who lived inside the mall? The Mall Rats, of course.
  • Kickin' It revolves around a karate dojo located in a mall.

    Music 

    Videogames 
  • Both Dead Rising games are set primarily or partially in malls, as an homage to George Romero.
  • The second stage of Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia takes place in a mall, complete with a Shout-Out to Dawn of the Dead:
    "I think there's a metaphor for something in all this."
  • The "JAYSUUUNNN!!!" level in Heavy Rain.
  • The Left 4 Dead 2 level "Dead Center" is partly set here.
  • The mall is the unique building for the Americans in Civilization IV. It replaces the supermarket, providing a gold bonus and extra happiness from hit movies, singles, and musicals in addition to the supermarket's food and health bonuses.
  • Dead Space 2 has the Concourse, a mall-like section of the Sprawl.
  • Mall Tycoon is a Sims-like game that allows the player to develop the ultimate shopping mall; a sequel, Mall Tycoon 2, also exists.
  • There are many areas in Second Life that are basically huge malls.
  • The second level of The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants takes place at the Springfield Mall. In order to complete the level, Bart must steal enough hats so that the Aliens can't use them to build their ultimate weapon of destruction. The boss is Mrs. Botz, A.K.A. The Babysitter Bandit.

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 
  • The Daria episode "Malled".
  • 6teen has the mall as its chief setting.
  • A recurring location in The Simpsons. One episode, it's shown to be deserted.
  • The South Park episode "Something You Can Do With Your Finger''.


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