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Bath of Poverty

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Most apartments on TV or in movies are more or less the same size; it's often hard to tell the difference between a messy apartment and a rundown one. Showing that the shower or bath doesn't work or the water is cold is an easy way to make the setting more rundown and give it a more "rustic" feel. A way to avoid Informed Poverty and demonstrate Horrible Housing.

Subtrope of Shower Scene. Might employ the Flushing Toilet, Screaming Shower, in more modern works. Might also be used to set up a Do-It-Yourself Plumbing Project plotline in a comedic work. In Japanese works, may involve Drum Bathing.


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  • A State Farm commercial shows a married couple having just bought a new house, that requires a lot of work to be done with it to make it livable. One of the scenes is the man taking a shower by pouring a bucket of cold water over his head.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Priscilla Asagiri from Bubblegum Crisis has an Awkwardly-Placed Bathtub clumped into the semi-truck trailer that she lives in.
  • In the Excel♡Saga manga, they don't take hot baths in their apartment's tub because it costs too much money.
  • Near the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Asuka, who suffered a mental breakdown after being Mind Raped by an Angel and ceased being able to pilot her Eva, is found by Nerv personnel in a destroyed house sitting in a tub filled with nasty brown water. (Please let that have been rust...) Things just keep getting worse for her from there.

    Comic Books 
  • In an Archie Comics story set in ancient Egypt we see Queen Veronica taking a luxurious bath with slaves assisting her; we then cut to plebian Betty washing herself in a water puddle having to shoo out miscellaneous fauna.
  • A closeup shows Fray having a shower, then a wider shot shows she's standing halfway up a building under a broken water pipe with her feet planted on either side of an air shaft.

    Fan Works 
  • A Discworld fic by A.A. Pessimal sees a dirty, muddy, and disgruntled Angua von Überwald steeling herself to face a shower at the City Watch base on Pseudopolis Yard. Being a werewolf, she is not comfortable with the idea of any sort of B.A.T.H., which her colleague Sally von Humperdinck takes advantage of. And the shower itself is rudimentary: gravity-fed by water draining down from a tank on the upper floor. Angua's discomfort is intensified by the presence of a male bathroom attendant. Admittedly a male Troll, but still...

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Ant-Man when Scott Lang first activates the Ant-Man shrinking suit he stole from Hank Pym's house he does so in the bathroom of his really horrible apartment which has a grimy bath and shower to really illustrate the only place he can afford to rent as an out of work ex-convict (even one who was imprisoned for an honorable Robin Hood like white-collar crime) is not very nice at all.
  • Cry-Baby - when the title character's scroungy but good-hearted rockabilly family's home is visited, paterfamilias Iggy Pop is seen bathing in a little metal tub in the yard.
  • One of the more famous scenes in Gummo involves Solomon eating a meagre dinner in a bathtub full of nasty-looking water. It drives home how inescapable the poverty and squalor of his hometown is.
  • The film of the book Holes shows a cold open shower with the water shutting off halfway through. The context being that Stanley is at a juvenile detention camp in a desert, so the water only flows for 4 minutes. (In the midquel survival guide, it gets reduced to 3 minutes after a backfiring suggestion intended to make the showers last longer.)
  • K-20: Legend of the Mask: When Duchess Yoko is bathing in Genji and Kikuko's home, she keeps asking if they have a shower and shampoo, the sort of thing that the poor circus performers are not be able to afford. They don't even know what shampoo is.
  • In Kung Fu Hustle, the slum that most of the movie takes place in has a communal fountain that some residents have to use to clean themselves... when the water's even turned on, as the landlady is prone to turning it off on a whim.
  • Moonlight (2016): Early on, Chiron is shown heating water over the stove and using dish detergent for his bath because his mother can't afford hot running water or bath soap.
  • A downplayed example pops up in Quadrophenia when we see the protagonist going to a public bathhouse to rent a tub instead of bathing at home. This was common for working-class families in Britain until well into the 1970s.
  • Withnail and I has an extended establishing scene of the two Starving Out-of-work Actor main characters talking casually, while one is bathing and attempting to shave in a tiny, stained, and cracked bathtub in the middle of the floor. In addition to being a horrible and nonfunctional piece of bathroom furniture, it establishes that they don't even own a bathroom.

  • In Amagi Brilliant Park, Bathing Beauty Isuzu Sento's apartment doesn't have a bathroom so she had put a clawfoot bathtub in her kitchen that is filled by a hose connected to the sink so she can easily keep up with her 3 baths a day that keep her alive.
  • In Danny, the Champion of the World, a bath of poverty is described, and Danny thinks it probably gets him cleaner than a proper bath because he doesn't end up sitting in his own dirty water.
  • Harry Dresden of the Dresden Files isn't that poor — most of the time anyway — but he can't have a water heater because of his problem with electricity, so he has to make do with cold showers. He's grown used to this, but he occasionally really misses them. When she's living in his head, one of the things Lash does is manipulate his senses so he feels hot water.
  • In The Hunger Games at the Capitol there is a panel with more than a hundred options in the shower in comparison to what Katniss is used to: a bucket of water warmed up on the stove.
  • In Matilda, Miss Honey divulges that she doesn't have the space or money for a shower or bath in her tiny house, and must wash in the kitchen with a pot of water and a sponge.
  • In the Phryne Fisher novels, Phryne loves luxuriating in long hot baths. This is because in her poverty-stricken childhood, she often had to take what she refers to as 'cat baths': standing in a basin and wiping herself down with damp flannel.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Everybody Loves Raymond
    • The episode where the Barone family go to spend time with relatives in Italy: Raymond's growing frustration with Italian plumbing and the unpredictable trickle of water coming out of the showerhead is a running joke.
    • In "Shower Wars", Frank Barone botches the job of repairing Ray and Debra's shower and makes the problem ten times worse. That it ends up with Ray drenching Debra's top with directed shower water is probably incidental Fanservice.
  • Happy Endings. The apartment is big but the shower alternates between hot, cold, and brown water.
    Max: Dave, it's a shower bud, it's not that hard. Let the water run for six seconds, jump in, you got at least thirty seconds of decent temperate water, quarter turn yourself to avoid the initial rust blast, go back in for another thirty seconds. It's like he never showered before.
  • How I Met Your Mother: To highlight Lily's utterly abysmal apartment, the most notable part of the apartment was that the stove, oven, sink, and refrigerator (or "stovenkerator") were all one piece of furniture... and located next to the toilet and bathtub.
  • On My Name Is Earl, when Earl and Randy move into the trailer, they live in the kitchen. They are told that they have a "half bath" in the form of the sink. Not only that, but Frank uses the rinse hose on the sink to shower after working out by running in place because the shower is broken and he doesn't even have the money to buy a real treadmill, let alone get the shower fixed.
  • Inverted in Robin Hood when Much is temporarily made an Earl he gets to have a bath smelling of flowers.
  • Seinfeld In the episode "The Shower Head", low flow showerheads are installed to save money on water, driving Jerry and Kramer crazy.

  • Sunset Boulevard: Not having to deal with this anymore is Alisa and Anita wish for the coming year in the song "This Time Next Year":
    Alisa: Just an apartment
    With no roaches and no dry rot
    Anita: Where the hot water comes out hot
    Both: That's my Hollywood dream
  • The song "No More" from tick, tick... BOOM! has Jon and Michael listing things Michael doesn't have to put up with now that he's no longer poor and has moved into a nicer apartment:
    No more taking a shower in the kitchen
    While your roommate's eating breakfast
    And you're getting water on his cornflakes!

    Video Games 
  • In The Sims 3, the cheapest shower will sometimes lose heat partway through use, resulting in a "cold shower" negative moodlet.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney at the start of "Turnabout Goodbyes", Phoenix (who's law firm is portrayed as just getting by) suggests that Maya could take a cold shower as a substitute for Meditating Under a Waterfall. She accepts the suggestion, but comes back complaining that their shower's water pressure is non-existent.

  • In Freefall Florence's first shower scene is outdoors in a scrap metal stall, with Helix pouring a bucket of water over her. She resolves to fix the ship's plumbing next.
    Helix: The correct order is "lather, rinse, remove leeches, repeat".

    Western Animation 
  • Samurai Jack is shown to bathe in waterfalls whenever possible, since he's effectively broke and homeless. Doesn't make it any less enjoyable for him or us.
  • In Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, The Fleach family, who runs a failing, local amusement park are forced to bathe in the recycled water they use to cook hot dogs in order to save money. This causes the daughter, Marcie, to be given the nickname by her classmates, "Hot Dog Water", due to her distinct odor.

    Real Life 
  • People without time or access to a full shower will sometimes wet a towel and wipe down their most pertinent areas, such as "pits, tits, and naughty bits." This is sometimes called a "whore's bath" on the assumption that prostitutes will only take a few moments to freshen up before seeking their next customer.
  • Truth in Television: during World War II, British civilians were restricted to one bath per week in no more than five inches of water. This appalled American servicemen. Soldiers in North Africa had it worse: they were issued with three pints of water per day for all purposes. In order to conserve as much as possible for drinking, new recruits were taught that it was possible to have an all-over wash using a face flannel and a single mess-tin full of water — which was then collected and pooled and used to wash socks and underwear. This is still taught to recruit soldiers today — at least in some training barracks — as part of the softening-up procedure.
  • Right up until the 1950s and 1960s in Great Britain, many homes in industrial areas did not have bathrooms as they are known today. "Public Baths" were not just a place to swim. For a few pennies, they'd provide a bath or a shower with guaranteed clean towels at an extra price. Working-class Brits in dirty jobs would visit once or twice a week for a thorough scrub. Bathers were segregated by sex, but the bathtubs would have none or minimal screening from each other. Whole families tended to go together on the same night, seeing it as a family night out. Public baths, as such, declined in numbers and importance as living standards improved and bathrooms were built, as standard, into family homes. Some employers in really dirty jobs, such as iron foundries and coal mines, provided free bathing (communal) as a perk of the job.
  • In housing where a water heater is absent or unreliable, the best thing to do is warm a pot of water on the stove (assuming that's an option), wash with soap and minimal amounts of cold water from the faucet, then rinse with the water from the pot—from your head downwards, so you don't waste the warm water.
  • New York City still has a few surviving "tenement apartments" featuring a bathtub in the kitchen.