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First-World Problems

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Rachel: We were just talking about me not going to Ross's wedding, it just might be too hard given the history and all that...
Phoebe: This reminds me of the time when I was living on the street and this guy offered to buy me food if I slept with him.
Rachel: How is this like that?
Phoebe: Well, let's see, it's not really like that. Because, you see, that was an actual problem, and uh, yours is just like, y'know, a bunch of, y'know, high school crap that nobody really gives, y'know...

Some problems are universal and basic: death, torture, disease, hunger, pain, madness, etc. These are part of the human condition and could happen to anybody.

This trope is about other problems. Minor problems. Problems of the prosperous and comfortable — problems that are only significant if you've already got the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and sanity down. It's not that you can't get food — they took your favorite sandwich off the menu down at the golf club, the best Philly cheese-steak in town, and that's terrible. Or maybe your mobile phone service is cheating you on its internet plan — which costs you more money than it should, yes, but thirty years ago there was no such thing as mobile telephone service and twenty years there was no civilian internetwork. Or your $600USD mobile telephone is broken — again, not great, but when you can buy a perfectly good one for $20USD...

Note that the existence of trivial problems treated seriously is not the intent of this trope, it is when those problems are contrasted with things such as food, clothing, shelter and basic safety. First World Problems is not a criticism of the writingnote . Despite the name, it is not exclusively a contrast between entire countries and the cultural expectations, but you will see some heads turn when a Spoiled Brat complains about having last years' fashion while their friend shops at a thrift store. And both First World and Third World cultures enjoy consuming media and will relate to it in some fashion. Even people who are still struggling with more fundamental problems can, if they have time and access, get some enjoyment out of characters dealing with them—sometimes schadenfreude, sometimes for escapism.

Keep in mind that a key aspect of the Third World is not merely how the majority are impoverished: it's how vast numbers of the the impoverished live in proximity to a small number with outrageous wealth (think Mobutu Sese Seko for example). While in the US and the like, usually the differences aren't so extreme, whatever your politics it's likely you can at least imagine a few gated communities buffeted by a ghetto or a trailer park, and class conflict is a common theme in all fiction.

The Trope Namer is a Twitter hashtag that became a general meme. Twitter is an excellent platform for short moanings about daily life and our miserable existences by people who are generally well-enough off for this sort of problem. The trope itself is older than this, though: an older memetic quote on the same lines is parents responding to children refusing to eat vegetables with, "There are children starving in Africa!" (or "China" in The '30s).

Examples shall be limited to works that notably concern themselves with Third World themes. If we had to list all the episodes of television shows where the main conflict isn't starvation, we'd be here all day.

Compare Pottery Barn Poor, Angst Dissonance, Misery Poker.

Becomes the nastiest type of Misery Poker when used to claim not that a trivial problem only seems serious to someone whose life is basically pretty good — but that any problem suffered by a "First Worlder" is by definition trivial.

Notable Works that try to avert First-World Thinking:

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     Comic Books  

  • Iron Man: One 90s story had Tony feeling depressed and considering selling off Stark Industries to a rival company. Pepper Potts talks him into visiting the home of one of his workers, then points out to him that the rival doesn't care about the company. The rival just wants the patents that are owned by Stark Industries so if Tony sells, that worker and everyone else that works for Tony will be out of a job. Tony gets the message and chooses not to sell his company.
  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me: Freddy muses on how the lack of homophobia in her community comes from generation after generation of gay activism for equality, and remarks ashamedly that it’s all led up to her being disappointed by her girlfriend.
  • Persepolis: After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Marjane and her father watch a television broadcast (really Iranian propaganda) featuring Westerners being worried that they might be invaded next. They both burst out laughing, noting that those people probably have so few actual problems that they're scared of wars happening thousands of miles away. Iran itself had just fought a decade-long war with Iraq after the latter invaded the former. However, Marjane's mother points out that the film was meant to show Westerners in a bad light.

     Comic Strips  

  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin lives a very cushy life and rarely encounters any real problems. Despite this, Calvin causes trouble and slips into a fantasy world to escape dreaded boredom. Calvin chronically rants, whines, and complains about things that don't really matter, and is occasionally put into place by the other characters. For example, here, when Calvin yells at his dad about the toaster.
    Calvin: "Look at what this dumb toaster did to my toast! It didn't cook it enough the FIRST time, so I pushed it down AGAIN and now ONE side's BURNED and the OTHER'S hardly singed! That toaster ruined my toast!"
    Calvin's Dad: "And yet... somehow... life goes on."
    Calvin: "Beneath that larger perspective is a guy who doesn't want to spring for a new toaster."
    • Or here, where Calvin is yelling about being made to take out the trash.
      Calvin: I've been disempowered! My centering, self-actualizing anima has been impacted by toxic, co-dependent dysfunctionality!
      Calvin's Mom: You've been temporarily inconvenienced. Take out the trash.
      Calvin: Are you saying there's a difference?!
    • Calvin has the same "it's just a first world problem" retort to people's overwrought reactions to his rather mild antics, "I haven't KILLED anybody. See, that's good, right? I haven't committed any felonies. I didn't start any wars. I don't practice cannibalism. Wouldn't you say that's pretty good?"
    • And once, Calvin himself was on the other end. While reading about world hunger, Calvin laments that some people never get enough to eat:
      Hobbes: "Boy, I know what that's like..."
      Calvin: "No, you don't."

     Fan Works 

     Films — Live-Action  
  • City of God, taking place as it does in the ghettos of Rio De Janeiro, and how one of the few chances people have for escape is self-destructive crime. One of the turning points for the main character is how he simultaneously loses his virginity while taking the first hot shower he's ever had.
  • In Accepted, Lewis Black who was working as a shoe store employee tried satisfying a spoiled bratty boy wanting "pump" shoes which the store hasn't got, brings up the situation that child labor workers in Asia sew those shoes together just to provide one bowl of rice for their families.
  • The Edge: Bob makes cracks about how sad it is that Charles's wealth makes it hard for him to tell when people are sincere with him. While Charles does have trouble connecting with people. this seems to be more because of his personal quirks, and he tells Bob never to feel sorry for someone who owns his own plane.
  • The film Snowpiercer takes place entirely on a mile-long train which serves as the last bastion of humanity after Earth has frozen over. The poor live in unimaginable squalor in the hellish, ghetto-like tail cars, while the first class passengers they meet as their rebellion travels to the front cars complain about comparatively meagre inconveniences.
  • The first daylight scenes in Poltergeist establish that the soon-to-be-haunted suburb is a bastion of middle-class life with only the pettiest of First-World Problems, like TV-remote duels with neighbors, bratty kids tripping up a man's bike with their radio-controlled toy cars, or small pets happening to kick the bucket on a day when the kids aren't in school.
  • Under the Silver Lake: The Cult is full of wealthy people who believe that since they have everything and still feel unhappy, they should ascend to some mystical plane of existence rather than try to make the world a better place.

  • Alexandria of Africa: Alexandria is a Rich Bitch who regularly steals out of boredom and uses her money and influence to get out of it, until she gets sentenced to community service in Africa and realizes some people live far worse than she could ever imagine.
  • Fun Jungle: In the first book, Summer complains about how being followed everywhere by paparazzi is the worst thing imaginable, but has an Actually Pretty Funny Touché reaction to Teddy saying that he'll be sure to tell that to all the people he knows in the Congo being killed by wars or disease.
  • The Great Gatsby: The carelessness of the rich, who have no fundamental problems, is contrasted to the "hot struggles" of the poor such as George Wilson, who constantly is reminding Tom to sell him a car so he has the money to survive.
  • The Hunger Games: A major theme of the series is the stark contrast between the excesses of the Capitol and the hardships in the Districts, where there is a very real chance of starving to death. Katniss Everdeen was once inches away from death by starvation, and even Peeta Mellark's family struggled, despite running a bakery. While Katniss mostly writes off the privileged complaining of her prep team as harmless or just ignorant, she and Peeta are horrified during a feast in the Capitol, when they learn about the common practice of forced regurgitation just so people can stuff more food in.
  • Jeeves and Wooster: In “The Aunt and the Sluggard,” Upper-Class Twit Bertie is forced to spend a few nights in a hotel apart from his valet Jeeves, and is driven to reflect for the first time on "the frightful privations the poor have to stick." He is sobered to contemplate that there are many poor benighted souls in the world who have to go through life with no full-time gentleman's personal gentleman to pour their tea, press their trousers, and tie their white ties.
  • Monk & Robot: Discussed. Dex has a life most would consider enviable; their family loves them and they get along great, they have a job they're very good at and provides an important service to the community, the world they live in has No Poverty, pollution, or discrimination, and there's no shortage of whatever they may need or want. However, Dex still struggles with an innate sense of ennui, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness, and they feel deeply guilty about it to the point of never talking to anyone about it. The way they see it, their life is objectively great, so what right have they to be anything less than content? Mosscap thinks this is partially because they've been taught by society to feel fulfilled by their work and to make it their purpose, so when that didn't do the trick for them, they spiralled.
    Dex: It doesn't bother you? The thought that your life might mean nothing in the end?
    Mosscap: That's true for all life I've observed. Why would it bother me?

     Live-Action TV  
  • Firefly: The technology is there if you can afford it, but Mal and his crew constantly have to deal with basic human needs like food and medicine, the corruption of the Alliance, worlds run by petty despots, and the constant threat of violence.
  • The Wire: Taking place in the ghettos of Baltimore, one of the main themes of the series is how institutional dysfunction creates the Third World conditions of the inner city, feeds into criminal organizations, and inevitably aligns consumer culture with addiction culture.
  • Friends:
    • Invoked Trope by Phoebe. At first, her mother's suicide and teenage homelessness were occasionally played for Black Comedy, but later became part of her Character Development.
    • One episode brought up an issue where Chandler, Monica and Ross all had decent jobs while Rachel, Joey and Phoebe were generally more cash strained. So when one of the first three wants to celebrate they go to an expensive restaurant that causes the other three some frustration over their tighter budget. Joey was prepared to bring up the issue, until Monica gets word mid-dinner that she was fired and they all instead cover for her.
    • While Rachel is worried her relationship with Joey is fractured due to the complicated feelings between each other, Monica and Chandler are having an issue with their music CDs not being in the right case, annoying Rachel to no end:
      Rachel: OH MY GOD, you guys have SUCH problems, I feel so terrible for you!
  • The Walking Dead: Sasha's gets really angry when an Alexandrian tells her how "worried" she is that she'll accidentally cook something Sasha can't stand. Sasha was in the middle of having some hella PTSD flashbacks involving her dead lover, her dead brother, and the numerous zombies that have tried to eat her by this point.
    Sasha: You're "worried?" THAT'S what you worry about? (storms off)
  • Boy Meets World: One episode has Mr. Turner assign his English class The Grapes of Wrath and promise the class he won't give them a test as long as they all read the book and participate in a discussion at the end of the week. However, Mr. Feeny does not approve of this and forces Turner to give them a test. Cory and Shawn, furious at this, decide to take a page from the book and go on strike by ditching class and occupying the cafeteria until Feeny backs off. They think Mr. Turner will be proud of them because they were able to apply the book to their lives, only for Turner to tell them that they clearly didn't learn anything from the book. The characters in the book went on strike because for them it was the only way to ensure they didn't go hungry or homeless. The kids on the other hand have comfortable lives and were just throwing a hissy fit over a trivial school assignment. Reflecting on this, they admit to Feeny that they were wrong to act out and Feeny, satisfied that they comprehend the material, allows Mr. Turner to continue with his method.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Raj complains he hated living in India, a Third World nation, which he describes as hot, loud, overpopulated and void of beef consumption. While living in Pasadena, California, Raj complains just about the entire day with his friends how terrible it is to live in India, but also delves into Stan Lee giving all his characters alliterative names or his friends not coming to congratulate him for appearing on People magazine. Additionally Raj's family was very wealthy so even when he lived in India Raj wasn't exactly hard up.
  • The Good Place:
    • Because Tahani is a wealthy Brit, she's rather out-of-touch. In the first season, she mentions her Bad Place torture would be being forced to wear a knockoff handbag and drink tap water. In the second season, she thinks her version of the Bad Place would be an eternity spent in the Swiss Alps during the off season, emphasizing "off season" as if she was disgusted. Chidi (in the first instance) and Eleanor (in the second) react with disbelief.
      Chidi: That's what you think Hell is?
    • In the second season, the demons torture Tahani by asking her to throw a party, then throwing a much better party themselves. Tahani is horrified when she realizes that even though she was warned about exactly what would happen ahead of time, it still worked.
  • The "posh people" sketches in The Catherine Tate Show revolved around a rich, upper-class family being frightened by anything that could disrupt their perfect little world — everyone in a school egg race running for their lives when Tate's character realizes the eggs are non-organic is one notable example.
  • You Me Her: Izzy calls other thirds' complaints about such things as being given very expensive vacations they didn't want by their partners this after hearing them vent while at the polyamory support group.


  • "Weird Al" Yankovic:
    • "First World Problems" is about a rich guy whining about how much his life sucks because of all the horrible problems he has. Problems like buying too much food to fit it all in his fridge, his house being so big that his WiFi signal can't reach everywhere in it, not being able to take a shower because his maid is currently cleaning the bathroom, forgetting his gardener's name, not being able to find where he parked because he forgot which one of his multiple cars he was driving, his laptop having a single dead pixel in the corner, having to buy an extra item from Amazon that he didn't want in order to qualify for free shipping, and the most horrifying injustice of all: someone actually called him on his cell phone instead of communicating exclusively through texting like a normal person.
    • During an interview early in his career, when asked if he had any hardships in his life, he immediately burst into tears over not selling enough copies of his most recent album to make "platinum" status, leaving him only enough money to purchase "the medium-sized hot tub!"
    • Al's "Don't Download This Song" does something similarly.
      Don't take away money from artists just like me
      How else can I afford another solid gold Humvee?
      And diamond-studded swimming pools, these things don't grow on trees
      So all I ask is everybody please
      Don't download this song...
  • Peter Schickele's "Classical Rap" is sung from the perspective of a man who lives on the (upper-upper-upper) West Side of New York. It even contains the rap trope where the singer mentions the hardships he's been through, only for this song you get such gems as "Zabar's was out of chocolate croissants".
  • Daniel Amos's "It's Sick" (from Vox Humana): The first two verses describe, in turn, a far-off war and racism. Then verse three covers the sort of problems that rich Americans face. And then the lyrics dig a little deeper, revealing that first-worlders did face real problems—the possibility of nuclear holocaust (the song was written in 1984)—and that the trivial problems were just a way of distracting from the big ones.
    Our trial is which car to buy
    Temptation is that extra dessert
    In the land of orange juice
    You're better off with the right kind of shirt
    But take away the naïveté
    Expose the sources of our fears
    We'll run to missiles if we're pushed that far
    Proceed to blow it all away!
  • Shania Twain’s "Honey I’m Home" details a "hard day" full of such earth-shattering catastrophes as breaking a nail, her hair going flat, a visible panty line, and getting a run in her stockings. Now she's thoroughly stressed and demanding that her partner immediately drop everything and pamper her.
  • Subverted by Taylor Swift's song "Champagne Problems" from evermore: The phrase is used to described this trope, and the song certainly started out with a heartbreaking but relatively minor problems: The girl rejected her boyfriend's proposal, but the song also heavily alluded to the societal judgment of the girl for not wanting marriage and think she is "fucked in the head".

     Visual Novels  
  • Played for laughs in Daughter for Dessert with the temporary closure of the diner. Mortelli is so broken up about it that he breaks into the protagonist's apartment to get the toast and coffee that he’s so fond of.
  • A couple of times in Double Homework:
    • Amy feels stifled by her status as a princess, so she asks her parents to treat he more like a normal teenage girl. She even touts her Twitch streaming as a “real job.”
    • Especially in Rachel’s epilogue, the protagonist can’t help being a little bit jealous that Rachel is competing in the Olympics rather than himself.
  • In Melody, the title character’s friend, Daphne, cancels on her when they’re supposed to see a concert together. Melody invites the protagonist instead to avoid going to the concert alone.

  • Bug Martini: In this strip Bug laments how his head will literally explode if he has to make another username and password. Then the coroner would just list his cause of death as "first world problem".
  • C-Section Comics: In "First World Problems" a woman in Africa tells her malnourished child who is missing an arm that at least he doesn't have to worry about real problems like getting your name spelled wrong at Starbucks or missing an episode of your TV show.

     Web Original  
  • CollegeHumor: This trope is played with in this video. A group of Millennials whine about Ben Affleck being cast as Batman and the new intro for The Simpsons as ruining their childhood while other diners (and one waiter) comment on the catastrophes (sister raped, abusive father, Holocaust, racism, Vietnam War, polio, etc) disrupting their youth.
    • They did a separate skit about how they were "So broke!" that they couldn't afford luxuries, intercut with people complaining about the lengths they went to just to get a pittance so they afford basic necessities.
  • This commercial spoof offers support for people with the debilitating affliction known as FWP, the side-effects of which include such soul-crushing misery as "the thermostat is at 72 degrees and I need it at 73" and "I bought too many groceries and now I have to make two trips". It also asks for donations.... which are used to tell these people to stop complaining, in humorous ways.
  • The Onion:
    • One article focused on "suburban decay". Laments include school sports uniforms that are a few years old, a 2% rise in youth loitering, and a small handful of houses in the neighborhood not having hedges.
    • Stan Kelly, the site's main political cartoonist, makes a habit of this. He tends to treat anything that inconveniences or annoys him as a major, universal issue worth doing a cartoon on—all the way down to a pizza place mistakenly giving him regular crust instead of stuffed crust. Even when he does cover major political issues, his reason for supporting a given side is always for as shallow and self-centered a reason as possible, such as being against marijuana legalization because he thinks it would take business away from his preferred liquor stores.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd spends all of his time freaking out about old video games to the point that he has to self-medicate with alcohol. The man behind the pocket protector has explained he feels this is where a lot of the charm of the character comes from, and is why he's made a conscious effort to avoid ever discussing politics or current events or anything "important", as you can just turn your brain off and enjoy this caricature of a nerd overreacting to badly made video games made decades ago.
  • The Nostalgia Critic likes to call out works for failing to avert this way of thinking, like the movie Airborne that constantly has the main character complaining about having to move from California to Cincinnati for a few months:
    Mitchell: ...I need traffic, smog, heat waves, a decent burrito for god's sake, I need the ocean, I can't take it anymore man...
    Critic: Yeah... if High School has taught us anything, its that it is very very difficult to be a beautiful white athletic male.
  • While talking about Aladdin, Honest Trailers jokingly pointed out that the Rebellious Princess trope is pretty much the ultimate first world problem.
  • The Jolly Roger Telephone Company is an Internet-based company which provides bots that are designed to talk to telemarketers and other unwanted callers. Recordings of these calls are sometimes posted on YouTube.
    • One of the bots, Salty Sally, has a routine about not being able to figure out her "new cable thing" and how she's missing her shows. This plays particularly entertainingly against telemarketers and scammers who are calling from a third-world country and clearly cannot empathize at all, nor help her when she asks "do you know about all that stuff?"
    • The Jolly Jenny bot, New Year's version, says that she's getting ten hours of sleep a day and wants to try to get more because she doesn't think it's enough. As founder Roger Anderson points out in his text commentary, this isn't something that agents in foreign countries struggling to stay awake trying to meet their quota on just a few hours of sleep are likely to appreciate.
  • Lampooned in Screen Rant Pitch Meetings during the pitch for The Nightmare Before Christmas when discussing Jack's motivation:
    Screenwriter: So basically he's the Pumpkin King and he works like one day a year but he's bored of it y'know? He feels something's missing.
    Producer: And people are supposed to empathize with him, like he's the main character?
    Screenwriter: Yeah! People love hearing privileged people complain about their privileged lives!
    Producer: You make a good point! My maids love hearing me talk about wealth management problems.
    Screenwriter: I get it, that sounds amazing!
    Producer: Yeah it is!
  • Dan of Game Grumps is known to call people out on this if they complain about things that simply aren't a real issue:
    • During their one-off of the otherwise excellent Mega Man 11, Arin explains how the one major complaint about the game is Mega Man can't "jump" through doors anymore: while older games would hang him in the air in his "YEAH!" jump pose as the door opened and he moved into the boss room, 11 simply drops him to the ground and has him run through. When Arin shows it off:
      Dan: Oh! I mean, it's basically The Holocaust! Have people ever had it any worse than this?!
    • Played for Laughs during the The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword stream when Dan shows Arin a YouTube video: Arin laments his "sad" plight of having to sit there and play Skyward Sword and Dan, amid laughter, firmly scolds him:
      Arin: These guys are fucking living life over there, doing what they fucking want, and what am I doing?! I'm playing fucking Skyward Sword! I hate this shit—
      Dan: You are the luckiest bastard in the frigging world! You whore! Oh my god! Like, how dare you? You're like Scrooge McDuck diving into his money pit and being "These coins are hard!"

     Western Animation  
  • South Park:
    • Later seasons have gotten absolutely merciless with spoofing various First World Problems by treating them all as Serious Business within the story, such as everyone going into a depression without at least one computer or iPad with Wifi, movies not living up to expectations, and safe space management on social media getting outsourced to children in developing countries.
    • "Fatbeard" confronts this head-on. Cartman, thinking that recent news reports of pirates in Somalia is a return to the days of 16th century swashbucklers, leads a bunch of the kids there so they can live a pirates life. Eventually, one of the real pirates asks Butters and Ike why they left America in the first place and they tell him how crummy their lives were with school and being disciplined by their parents. The pirate then reveals such a life is a dream for him and that he was forced into piracy because of his family's poverty and spends every moment afraid of getting killed or his family dying if he can't support them. Hearing this, the two realize they all took their lives for granted and decide to go home.
      Ike: I feel like such an asshole...
    • As does "The Worldwide Privacy Tour" which utterly brutalizes Harry and Meghan, accusing them both of being nothing more than a duo of whiny, self-absorbed, attention whores who desperately play the victim card to get attention.
      Interviewer: So you've lived a life with the royal family, had everything handed to you, but you say your life has been hard and you've written all about it in your new book "Waaagh."
  • Robot Chicken: After the show gets cancelled, Seth Green meets up with Seth MacFarlane and asks him whether he had any work available for him. MacFarlane points out that Green already provides the voice of Chris on Family Guy.
    Seth Green: You expect me to live on hundreds of thousands of dollars a year? C'mon, I depended on Robot Chicken.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: One episode has Shake angsting over having to get a job at a fast food restaurant and deliberately invoking this trope, screaming to Frylock "These are third world problems! And I am from the FIRST!"
  • Blue Eye Samurai: Part of Akemi's character arc. While the restrictions she lives under and the threat of being married off to a domestic abuser for her father's wealth are far from trivial, the women of Madam Kaji's brothel live far worse lives and tell her they'd trade places in a heartbeat. She later hires them as her ladies-in-waiting, both because she needs people she can trust and to thank them for helping her.


"Weird Al" Yankovic

Exactly What It Says On The Tin.

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