“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.
open/close all folders
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).
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, TsubasaKurenai 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.
In 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.
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 Yuujin Chou: 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...
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.
The female lead and her love interest in The Fault in Our Stars are so Genre Savvy that they put her old swingset for sale on the Internet specifically to avert this trope.
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?"
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 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.
In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin once did this at school recess after the bully made him give up his toy truck. There's some Lampshade Hanging from another boy next to him: "Hey, kid, are you going to use that swing or what?"
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.
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.
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!