"One swing set, well worn but structurally sound, seeks new home. Make memories with your kid or kids so that someday he or she or they will look into the backyard and feel the ache of sentimentality as desperately as I did this afternoon. It's all fragile and fleeting, dear reader..."A popular way to illustrate that someone suffers from a trauma of some sorts is showing him or her sitting alone at a children's playground, usually on the swing, often at dusk or night. In most cases, the trauma in question is related to a childhood experience, although the person in question can be of any age (child or adult). If the person is a child, it may imply parental abuse or other family troubles; if done with adults, it can show how they still suffer from said childhood experiences. It's common for another character to come out and offer some words of consolation while sitting on the other swing. Not strictly related to Swing Low, Sweet Harriet, which usually occurs during positive times.
— Free Catch All ad placed by Hazel and Augustus, The Fault in Our Stars
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Anime and Manga
- The End of Evangelion: Came up in flashbacks of Shinji's childhood. It is also used in a scene during Asuka's extended Mind Rape sequence in the Director's Cut version of episode 22. Asuka is sitting naked in the Troubled Fetal Position in front of a swing set and is confronted by a younger version of herself clutching a Creepy Doll (which she has a phobia of).
- The swing motif in the film is a little more bizarre than that: it shows up repeatedly during several of the more psychedelic sequences, and the jury is still out on what exactly it means.
- Naruto sometimes uses a swing to illustrate Naruto's lonely childhood, especially when he sits on it, watching all the graduates get congratulated by their parents while he was the only one who failed. Gaara is also shown sitting on a swing in his childhood.
- Ranma 1/2: After being conclusively rejected by Ukyou, Tsubasa Kurenai is found on a swing, disguised as/inside a trash can for good measure. Female Ranma tries to comfort Tsubasa, saying that there'll be someone else... an act of kindness that makes Tsubasa fall for Ranma instead.
- CLANNAD: After his father goes to prison, Tomoya and Nagisa sit on the swings while Tomoya vents about his hatred for his father and for his home.
- Mai-HiME: Mai does this after she discovers she's destined to fight and kill her friends in order to save the world, has a fight with her best friend, and finds out that the sickly brother she has worked so hard to take care of has realised how dependent he is on her and doesn't want that anymore. On top of all that, while she's sitting on the Trauma Swing, the boy she likes and the Clingy Jealous Girl walk by and kiss in front of her (although he does not know she is watching). The end of the episode shows her lying in bed, realizing, "I've lost everything." And things still found room to go downhill from there.
- There's a shot of Haruhi Suzumiya as a child sitting on a swing while she is telling Kyon in the present day why she acts how she does.
- In Slam Dunk, Sakuragi and Ryota are seen sitting on swings in an empty playground at night, discussing their love problems.
- In Chobits, Shimbo finds Takako Shimizu sitting on a swing, lonely and desolate after her husband has locked her out of their house.
- Hayate the Combat Butler:
- Young Hinagiku is shown to be alone on a swing in an image after her parents have abandoned her.
- Although he's not on the swing in the scene, Wataru is shown to be standing in front of a swingset when receiving the papers that will allow him to skip grades with his friends from Sakuya.
- Kotonoha has one of these towards the end of the School Days anime.
- Hino does this in episode 16 of the Kin'iro no Corda anime.
- One of the Dark Spore children is first shown alone on a swing, while other chidren play nearby, in Digimon Adventure 02. Arukenimon and Mummymon are also shown hanging out on a swing set when they begin questioning Oikawa's motives and their own existence, since Oikawa created them using his own DNA ("I can't help but remember that conversation with BlackWarGreymon. He's a Digimon, and Oikawa's a human, so what are we supposed to be?")
- Natsume's Book of Friends: Natsume does this in one of his flashbacks. The loneliness and isolation of being the only one to see Youkai and being dismissed as a Creepy Child and passed around from family to family, none of whom really want him...
- In Daily Lives of High School Boys, Mitsuo did this in High School Boys and Mitsuo-kun's Worries, when he has a BSOD after his parents discovered his Porn Stash.
- Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Minmay is shown swinging in a playground at night shortly after Kaifun deserted her.
- In Card Captor Sakura, Sakura tells Syaoran about Yukito rejecting her Love Confession when she's sitting on a swing. She then says that even when she does not regret wishing Yukito well and encouraging his feelings for her brother Touya, the whole deal still stings, and then she starts crying...
- In Sailor Moon R, episode 84, Chibiusa is sitting on a swing in a battle-damaged playground and reflecting on traumatic memories of the attack on Crystal Tokyo by the Black Moon Clan when she's approached by Wiseman.
- Minako broods by herself on a swing in an S episode when thinking of quitting her life as a Senshi
- The Sixth Sense: The surviving daughter of the Munchausen's-Syndrome-by-Proxy mother is shown on a swing during the funeral.
- Little Children: Ronald McGorvey (Jackie Earl Haley) does this at the end.
- Children of Men: Kee, about to have the first baby after all women have become sterile, uses the swing on an Abandoned Playground, not knowing whether her baby will survive or how it might change things after she gives birth.
- In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World Scott sadly sits on the swing set he and Ramona visited on their first date.
- An eerie variation appears in Serenity, in which the staging of a scene shows River framed by a swing engulfed in flames.
- Toy Story 3 has Big Baby sitting upon the playground swing staring at the moon.
- Chasing Amy: Holden is seen alone on a swing set following a huge argument with Alyssa. (The same swing set they had the "what is sex" discussion on earlier in the film.)
- Super 8 opens with the kid hero sitting alone on a swing mourning his mother's death.
- Inverted in Ikiru: Watanabe dies at night, in the rain, sitting on a child's swingset. But the mood of the scene is peaceful and even a little bit triumphant: he is enjoying being in the park he dedicated his last days to building.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: After an argument with the Dursleys, Harry retreats to one, brooding on his PTSD-driven nightmares, scar pains, and the lack of anyone to talk to or real information from his friends.
- The Sugar Skull: Scout is rather perky while visiting the local playground and spending some time on the swings, but her backstory gives the visit elements of this. She tells Eve that she remembers her mom pushing her and her younger brother on the swings, but also admits that it might have been a scene on television instead. Considering she spent most of her time caring for her younger brother, who had an unspecified developmental disability, then ran away after years of rape at the hands of her mother's boyfriend, it probably wasn't an accurate recollection of her childhood.
- In Battle Royale, Mitsuko sits on a swing after disposing of her mother's dead body.
- In The Fault in Our Stars, Gus is so attuned to the traumatic symbolism of Hazel's depressing old swing set that he helps her sell it on the internet.
- In The Stand, Larry Underwood eats his supper while sitting on a swing in an Abandoned Playground.
Live Action TV
- Arrested Development had a depressed Buster and GOB sitting on swings at the local playground. Then GOB started half-heartedly pushing Buster on the swing and Buster got really into it.
- Supernatural: Bella is seen sitting on a swingset after being molested by her father. A demon in child form exploits this low moment to offer her a Deal with the Devil.
- In Treatment: Oliver does this after running away from the therapist's office, and asks the therapist if he can come live with him instead of his parents.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- "Ted"; Buffy is seen sitting on a swingset after her problems with mother's new boyfriend.
- "I Was Made To Love You"; Warren's luv-bot dies while sitting on swing. Just about as sad as it gets.
- Oddly, both of these are in episodes involving Human-like robots.
- A different take on this trope occurs after Dawn finds all her memories of the past are false. Walking through a playground at night, she has a memory of her sister pushing her on the swing.
- Degrassi: The Next Generation: The episode "Standing In The Dark" has Darcy break down and tell Manny about being raped on a swing.
- About once a month, someone angsting in EastEnders chills out at the playground to sulk until they're found.
- This PSA against child abuse shows scenes of a playground while a narrator talks, and at the end a child is shown on a swing.
- In a Comedy Central Presents stand up special, one comedian mentioned a woman had approached him at a bar because she said he looked like the loneliest person she'd ever seen. He incredulously asked the audience, "What, was I sitting alone on a swing set?"
- The Sarah Jane Adventures series 1 " Warrior of Kudlak" after thinking he caused a classmate to run away Luke runs off Clyde finds him later sitting on a swing
- Castle In the Season 4 finale "Always", Kate Beckett is seen sitting on a swing in the rain after surviving an attempt on her life, and being suspended/resigning from the force
- This same swing is featured in the Season 4 premiere "Rise", where Beckett explains to Castle the wall she had placed around her heart after her mother died, making this a bookend, as the scene in "Always" is when the wall finally comes crashing down.
- The swing is revisited in the Season 5 finale "Watershed" and the Season 6 premiere "Valkyrie", as the site where Castle and Beckett become engaged.
- The swing has become a favorite spot for Castle and Beckett; they are seen on the swing again in the Season 7 finale "Hollander's Woods", when Beckett tells Castle that she had aced her captain's exam, but Keith Kaufman wants her to run for the State Senate.
- Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Balance/Tenbing Gold is sitting on a swing while mulling over the earlier events, mainly his best friend Naga betraying the team for the dark side and the fact he (Balance) needs to nearly kill him if he wants to get him back. The scene wouldn't be any sadder if robots could cry.
- The video for the Blue Öyster Cult's "Joan Crawford Has Risen From the Grave" uses imagery derived from Christina Crawford's autobiography about living with her allegedly psychotic mother, Mommie Dearest. The video ends on a teenage girl playing the Christina role, sitting crying and despondent by the swimming pool; the scene is shot in muted washed-out light with autumn leaves swirling around and landing in the water, conveying the idea that summer is gone, it is cold, she is alone, innocence is dead and symbolic of emotional and physical abuse: this visual image conveys exactly the mood of the Trauma Swing using a different analogy.
- F.E.A.R.2: We see Alma do this.
- Silent Hill: Shattered Memories' cover has an odd example where Cheryl is not only shown on a swing but literally frozen.
- But That Was Yesterday. This happens to the guy after his girlfriend leaves him.
- Lux-Pain has Yayoi Kamishiro in this classic pose when the protagonist finds her again in episode 7, her mind having succumbed to a Silent infection. She was actually going to kill herself there if Atsuki hadn't shown up in time.
- Tales of Xillia has this happen to Alvin, with Elize coming to cheer him up. It was likely the very same swing he used to play on as a kid, considering the location.
- In Tsukihime, when Shiki meets Arcueid for the second time (the first one involved killing her and dismembering her body), she sits on a swing at an empty playground. Later on, it becomes apparent that despite being Really 700 Years Old (and a vampire, to boot), Arcueid is more or less a child at heart, plagued by the fact that the game's Big Bad corrupted her and made her kill the entire rest of her vampiric race.
- One Hundred Yard Stare: Episode three has a scene with a trauma swing.
- Ask That Guy with the Glasses has done this twice, once when he was miserable over his marriage to the GPS falling apart, and the second time was when he mourned his pipe that snapped in half.
- Since the location that came along with her to Ink City includes a swing, Ichigo has done this a few times, such as after her best friend Dot suddenly vanished from the city.
- Showed up in a few Rugrats episodes.
- As Told by Ginger: Whenever Ginger was troubled over something, or just lost in her thoughts she would sit on the swing set in her backyard.
- The Simpsons:
- Jesus is shown sitting on a lonely swing in heaven, traumatized by what the "people down there" did to him.
- In an earlier episode, Homer and Ned sit on the backyard swings and talk about how Ned Never Got to Say Goodbye to his recently-deceased wife.
- Subverted, a new girl comes to school, and everyone is already doting at her that she won't fit in. She is then sitting on the swings alone, Lisa comes in and offers to be friends with her, then the girl slugs her!
- Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue": Ace is shown like this. She's dying of a brain aneurysm from overusing her powers. Batman then sits down on the swing next to her to comfort her until she passes away peacefully.
- Truth in television. Children who're bullied, ostracized etc. will commonly be found by the swings, because it's the only activity on the playground that doesn't require a playmate.