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Mundane Afterlife

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Calvin: I wonder where we go when we die.
Hobbes: Pittsburgh?
Calvin: You mean if we're good or if we're bad?

Welcome... To Hell! I'm Old Scratch, and I'll be your waiter tonight. The only table we have is by the bathrooms, the specials menu only has food you're allergic to, there's a massive markup on the wine, and I'm afraid we're a bit busy at the moment, so the wait is... All Eternity!

This is a popular portrayal of the afterlife in comedies and Urban Fantasy: Heaven and Hell are much like our own universe, only flanderized to be either perfect (but often not totally perfect) or unbearable (but in a much more annoying than angsty way). For some reason, restaurants seem to be a popular depiction, as waiting for your food can feel like being stuck in purgatory.

It may be A Form You Are Comfortable With for souls who are still living who see or visit it, or an Afterlife Antechamber for those not yet ready to move on to a more mysterious Offscreen Afterlife.

May take form of a City of the Damned. Can overlap with Celestial Bureaucracy, A Hell of a Time, or Ironic Hell. Compare Cool and Unusual Punishment.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In 5 Centimeters per Second, Takaki has a recurring dream almost exactly like Heaven in The Great Divorce (see Literature below). The most salient feature is that he's with Akari. This may be something else, though.
  • Inverted in Amakusa 1637. At one point, the locals ask the time-traveling protagonists to describe the "Heaven" they believe they come from. When the protagonists comply, they are themselves shocked and moved when they realize the modern society they describe — one of electric light and heating, religious tolerance, rule of law, and ample food — is, in fact, Heaven for the medieval peasants. A paradise that they'd been taking for granted.
  • Japan's afterlife in And Yet the Town Moves is strikingly similar to everyday life. The Egyptian afterlife is the classical one, though.
  • In Angel Beats!, the afterlife for people (or at least kids and teenagers) is an idyllic boarding school, where they are expected to conform and become model students. Those who fall in line are eventually "obliterated", or simply disappear without a trace. The heroes are actively rebelling to fight against this. In fact, the school is for kids who've led hard or disappointing lives, and are at the school to enjoy their youth and ultimately let go of their negative feelings before they can pass on, and (presumably) reincarnate. While the main characters, and possibly the other students know it's the afterlife, the main characters all think being "Obliterated" is actually ceasing to exist.
  • In Bleach, not only is the afterlife medieval Japan complete with social classes but people are still born and die in it. Die in it in any manner that doesn't destroy your soul, and you reincarnate back in the living world. Note that Hell is separate from this setup, and we don't quite know how it works. Especially since we've only seen it maybe once, waaaay back around Episode 5. note 
  • The entire basis of Descendants of Darkness is a Celestial Bureaucracy, with plenty of this trope to go around. Simply put, even the dead have to do paperwork.
  • One episode of Galaxy Angel had everyone go to various domestic hells, acting out insanely boring jobs, after dying during a mission. Except Millefeuille, her version of the afterlife was an aversion of this trope, being a medieval castle.
  • Haibane Renmei apparently takes place in a mundane version of purgatory, where children and teenagers are purified from their sins before going to heaven.
  • In Hito Hitori Futari, those who die must go through a school to prepare for reincarnation.
  • In Love in Hell, Hell is a barren wasteland with cities made from rock formations scattered all over. Yukihiko theorizes that each of those cities are home to sinners from different time periods. The one Rintaro is in is for modern-day sinners and has what one would expect from a regular city, food, buildings, housing, businesses, etc... Demons without sinners have regular lives there and sinners, provided they can get a part-time job, can have a bit of normalcy from their torture...if they're not there for anything too bad. Rapists, murderers, and the like go to the Abyss, a more traditional Hell.

    Comic Books 
  • The Swedish comic book Herman Hedning has this both for Heaven AND Hell. Hell is still Fire and Brimstone Hell, but the tortures aren't particularly bad, other than the heat, and it's implied it's because The Devil Is a Loser. Heaven on the other hand, while pleasant enough, is still in its "beta stage", as shown in one storyline where the Almighty does a trial run of Armageddon and whisks off Gammelman and Lilleman to Heaven, which turns out to be fairly boring. You get a cloud, wings, and a cellphone to play with, and that's about it. After Herman helps the Devil draw in most of the heavenly souls in an infernal cellphone plan, God resets the system and goes back to the drawing board.
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac:
    • The comic depicts hell as the real world without the decent folk mixed in with everyone else. In heaven everyone is omnipotent, but content to sit on a chair doing nothing for eternity. Until Johnny pisses someone off.
    • It should be noted that Hell isn't much of a punishment, since the damned are too self-absorbed and stupid to derive much punishment from it. It's implied that the person who derives the most punishment in it is the devil, who's stuck managing the freakshow for all eternity with no one else to talk to. Christianity teaches that Hell was created as punishment for the Devil and the Fallen.
  • The graphic novel Numbercruncher features the In-Between, run by God, or rather, the Divine Calculator. It's not exactly an afterlife per se, since most souls go through Recirculation (reincarnation) for any sins that add negative values to their particular number. However, signing a contract with the Divine Calculator means that when you die again, you have to work at the Karmic Accountancy in the In-Between until someone signs a contract and replaces you. Yes, Karmic Accountancy; god's domain is an office job.
    Zane: There are golf carts in the afterlife. 'orrible little things — sound like a mosquito farting down a straw. "To allow employees a hasty transfer betwixt departments." S'what the handbook says. "Hasty." "Betwixt." This on a plane of existence conceptually untroubled by the likes of time 'n space. Stupid, innit? I popped one open, once. No engine — only this swirly lightshow bollocks made of mandelbrot patterns and bloody eighth-dimensional cosmohedrons — same as everything. Tells you a lot about the mind that runs this place, that. I mean, think about it — he could've made bleeding' ferraris. Or chariots, if you like. Laser-spaffin' nukecopters, fuckin' seraphim made of smoke 'n bile. He chose golf carts. My name's Bastard Zane. I hate it here.
  • In Poodles from Hell, a dead cartoonist communicates with a living one to explain aspects of the afterlife through illustrations. The first place you go when you die is a quite ordinary coffee break room. You can sit there and sip on a coffee or soda and think things over before proceeding.
  • In Second Coming, Heaven is basically just like Earth but without scarcity, death or disease. A subplot in the second volume involves a puritanical old man who spent his life avoiding anything fun in case it was sinful, who is outraged to find out how mundane Heaven is. On the other hand, there's no "Hell" in a pit-of-eternal-fire sense — Hell is the area of Heaven near the dump, so the inhabitants have to deal with garbage smells and seagulls. (A sight gag reveals that Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin are living there in neighbouring apartments.)
  • In Secret Six, Purgatory looks like an abandoned shopping mall. Sounds about right.

    Comic Strips 
  • The afterlife is never shown in Calvin and Hobbes, but its nature is pondered several times. As seen in the page quote, Hobbes once suggests Pittsburgh as the afterlife (Calvin doesn't know if it's heaven or hell), and once states that he thinks that in Heaven, you play saxophone for an all-girls cabaret in New Orleans. In one show-and-tell at school, Calvin claims that he momentarily died of boredom while doing his homework, and travelled to the afterlife, where he retrieved... a yo-yo... before returning. He says that it was boring there too.
  • Dilbert:
    • The afterlife is shown to be... an eternity in a cubicle. Next to Wally.
    • Dilbert is once sent to Heck, a lesser version of Hell for people that commit petty offences. Run by Phil, Lord of Insufficient Light.
  • The Far Side: Heaven is so boring that literally all you do is sit on a cloud. ("Wish I'd brought a magazine.")
  • There's a Gahan Wilson cartoon where Heaven is a slum and all the angels are alkies with cardboard wings and burlap robes. One of them happens to remark, "I always thought this place would be a whole lot classier."

    Fan Works 
  • Heaven in Final Stand of Death is just like this for the fallen of Celebrity Deathmatch. There's even a hotel, where some of the fallen had to redeem themselves while serving the new recruits of The Armies of Heaven.
  • Not Completely, Altogether Here: The afterlife in The Eternity Effect is pretty much like life, except that it goes on for eternity. After dying, Glinda and Elphaba even decide to continue their studies because they couldn't finish their courses at Shiz University.
  • According to Igor Karkaroff, a positive version of this trope exists in The Parselmouth of Gryffindor; aside from watching over the goings-on of the mortal world, the dead spend most of their time on hobbies. He, for one, likes to play poker with Emeric the Evil, a long-dead Dark Wizard. (Who cheats.)
  • The Death Note fanfic Second Chances takes place in an afterlife very similar to the "first world" that contains the living. Its sequel takes place in the "third world", where those who died in the "second world" move on to, whose only differences are that those who have passed through hell have a mark on their forehead and that the God of Hell has no jurisdiction there.
  • Animal Crossing in Slice of Heaven is an afterlife where Uplifted Animals live in a town until they can Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • The Discworld tale Strandpiel, by A.A. Pessimal, follows a young Witch into adulthood. One side of her family are hardy colonial adventurers in the Discworld's "Africa", with a long history of generating attitudinal fighting women on a tough war-torn frontier. The heroine of this story is the very first magic-user to be born into this family line. In a time of danger and crisis, she inadvertently triggers a situation where she gets a few spirit guides - the ghosts of those fighting women of past generations, who give her their fighting ability, and enable her to chop some Dungeon Dimension things into calamari. One of her deceased grandmothers says she is glad to help and to do something again, as you wouldn't believe how bloody boring it is to be dead. Her ancestors pop up here and there to give her support, not only because it's sort of expected, but also as something to do with their afterlives.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Beetlejuice:
    • Heaven, or at least part of it, is depicted as a large and rather mundane office environment. (Humorously, this is what is actually believed in Chinese Mythology.)
    • And if you kill yourself, you become a civil servant and must work there.
    • They do briefly mention a possible next life after a term served as ghosts is up.
  • The Bothersome Man invokes this trope flawlessly, depicting the afterlife as a consumerism urban life so normal it's devoid of all deep emotions and feelings (even the consumerist ones, including smell, taste, and alcohol highs), complete with absolute contentment and indifference of all the people around (even if you've just cut off your finger on an office cutter). Needless to say, it's vague about the city being Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory.
  • Cruel and Unusual: The afterlife takes a form reminiscent of a psychiatric hospital, with group therapy sessions led by facilitators over television screens.
  • In the Albert Brooks comedy Defending Your Life, the "in-between" plane is an idealized resort setting where the dead dine in fine restaurants and generally enjoy themselves until it's time to be judged (based on how fear governed or did not govern their actions), after which time they will either be sent "forward" if they're deemed ready to become "smarter" beings or reincarnated if the powers that be decide they still have more to learn on Earth. Their Judgment takes place in a courtroom setting, complete with lawyers and counselors. When it's time for the souls to go to wherever the powers have deemed they are to go, they travel there on trams like you'd see in Disney World.
  • We don't actually see Heaven in The Frighteners, though Frank finds it beautiful. But from what we hear from his former ghostly sidekicks Cyrus and Stuart, it's full of very nice but normal-seeming amenities like excellent libraries and cigars. And even a nerd like Stuart can get a date. Averted with Hell, which appears to follow the traditional lake of fire model.
  • Heathers: Apparently this was the case for Heather Chandler, at least in Veronica's dream, according to her.
  • The depiction of Hell in Highway to Hell. It includes a diner and a strip club.
  • In the film Liliom (and the Hungarian play it's based on), the eponymous character discovers after his suicide that Heaven is exactly like the police station he was in earlier in the film, from his treatment by the man at the desk to the sign on the wall that says "No Spitting".
  • In the movie Made in Heaven (1987), Heaven has a wide variety of places, but each one is pretty much Earth-like with a few extra abilities, like the ability to create objects mentally. The protagonist falls in love with a "new soul" who has not yet incarnated, and builds a house for her before she is incarnated to Earth, and the main plot begins (where he must incarnate to find her).
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life: Heaven is the cheesiest Vegas-style cabaret you could possibly imagine, complete with sub-Tony Bennett crooner and terrible dancers. And to make matters worse, it's always Christmas there.
  • In Parking (1985), the Underworld is a boring place full of hotels and galleries, with the general feel of an underground subway station.
  • The Rapture: The purgatory-like place Sharon ends up in is a vast empty, featureless desert.
  • R.I.P.D.: Heaven is a large, bustling police department... overseen by the Bureau of Eternal Affairs.
  • Wristcutters: A Love Story featured an afterlife for suicides where everything was exactly like the real world only depressingly drab, broken, and devoid of color or warmth. Also, you weren't allowed to smile. In other words, what severe depression makes life feel like.

  • Example from the Cold War: An American and a Soviet both end up in Hell, and are told that it's pretty much like their real life was except they have to eat a bucket of shit every day. After some time they meet each other again; the American, haggard, says "It wouldn't be so bad here being like home and all but man am I sick of having to eat shit every day." The Soviet, beaming, retorts "I love it here, it's just like home! The shit shipments are always late, and when they finally arrive, there's never enough for everyone!"

  • Another Note hints that the "Mu" afterlife spoken of in Death Note may be this. Specifically, the narrator Mello is writing a report on a long-since-closed case from beyond the grave. He gives up the clinical narration style in favor of one more like a live storytelling, on the chance that someone other than Near might read it.
  • The afterlife in The Brief History of the Dead is basically the same as the world of the living, except nobody ever ages and people spontaneously vanish when there's nobody left alive who remembers them.
  • Circle of Magic: In Briar's Book, Briar follows Rosethorn into the afterlife and finds her facing a huge, badly overgrown and disorganized garden... the sort of challenging project both of them could happily work on forever, being plant mages.
  • Discussed in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment: Svidrigailov speculates that maybe the afterlife is just a small, dark room with spiders in the corners.
  • Discworld: The book Eric involves a discussion of how, since most of the damned become numb to the physical torments of Hell, the demons have devised ways to inflict mental torments — namely, incredible mind-destroying boredom. There's a lengthy discussion of how such a Hell would be like a cheap hotel room with nothing to read and only one TV channel (in Welsh) and the ice machines not working and the bars not open for several more hours. Although the actual Hell is a distilled version of that boredom, it's the same kind of idea. For instance, the Sisyphus analog doesn't even get to try to push his rock up a hill. Instead he has to spend eternity memorizing the endless and ever-changing instructions on how to move objects safely.
  • The Divine Comedy: Limbo, the First Circle of Hell (reserved for goodly folks who still missed out on Heaven for various reasons) isn't really a bad place, in fact, it's rather pretty. It's still kinda lame compared to Heaven, and most of the inhabitants wish they were there instead.
  • Elsewhere is a novel centering on afterlife speculation. It has freshly-dead people go on a sort of boat together. Whatever killed them heals, and then they arrive in Elsewhere, where they are greeted by recently-dead relatives and friends. They age backwards then, and as newborns are taken back on the boat to be reincarnated. There's a society not unlike what the living have, and people tend to go for different jobs - Marilyn Monroe became a psychiatrist, for example. It's possible to pay to look at the world of the living and communicate through water, but that's generally frowned upon.
  • In Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven, before you can truly get to heaven, you have to meet five people to learn the meaning of your life. Afterward, you choose your heaven. Usually it is some place you liked or missed out on in life. It may even have people you loved in it. For example, Eddie's wife Marguerite's heaven is a constant stream of happy weddings, because she loves the magic of them.
  • In C. S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, Hell is a very drab city right after everything has closed for the evening. And your neighbors are jerks. (You are, too, but you're less likely to notice.) And it's raining all the time and there's nothing to do except bicker with the neighbors and make houses that don't even keep the rain out. All the interesting people are millions of miles away... and really aren't that interesting when you meet them. Heaven — at least the part closest to Hell — is a beautiful vibrant natural setting, with everything bigger than life and more real than reality. And that's before sunrise. The very natives glow with light. Unfortunately, if you're a visitor from Hell, it's hard to enjoy, even after you get past being a jerk — walking is painful, and lifting anything heavenly is almost impossible. If you stop being a jerk, though, you become more solid. Though at the very end, the narrator is carefully cautioned that he is only dreaming it and he must make it clear that it is a dream, with the implication that it was A Form You Are Comfortable With.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry sacrifices himself, Dumbledore is amused to learn that the in-between-life-and-death place he finds himself in resembles King's Cross Station. It's implied that it's this way because this is how Harry sees it (possibly meaning everyone gets their own mundane version of this in-between-life-and death place).
  • In "Hell is the Absence of God" by Ted Chiang, Heaven is very much like life except that you live it in your eternal body, which is your mortal body fixed up. Hell is like Heaven, except that you spend your eternal afterlife knowing that you made the wrong choices, and will never get out.
  • In Incarnations of Immortality, Purgatory is a posthumous Standard Office Setting where morally neutral souls are decanted into robot bodies and file paperwork until they make their way to Heaven or Hell.
  • In some ways, the afterlife featured in the J.W. Wells & Co. books by Tom Holt is not at all mundane, being an empty white expanse. However, considering the only activities that take place there are classes in basket weaving and intermediate Spanish, it probably counts.
  • In J.R.R. Tolkien's "Leaf by Niggle", Purgatory is a workhouse where you unlearn all your bad habits, the Earthly Paradise is where you get to finish your unfinished creative projects, and beyond that... well, the only people who know are those who go there, and they never come back.
  • In The Lovely Bones, each person has their own heaven, but they overlap if they meld together well. The narrator (a junior-high-age girl who was murdered) has a high school like the one in her hometown, but with swingsets, and she never has to go to any class except art. The other residents include teenage boys who play basketball on the blacktop and adult female athletes who use the sports fields for practice. She has a roommate and an intake counselor. They can get whatever they want in heaven (as soon as they specifically figure out that they want it), but this seems to apply only to mundane things, like dogs for the narrator or speaking English without a Vietnamese accent for her roommate.
  • In The Magician King the afterlife of Fillory is a big, dull room, with badminton courts, ping pong tables, card tables, and various other amusements. It does not take the dead very long to get bored of them, and most of them just sit around. One shade says that it's like someone tried to make it a nice place to hang out, but didn't put much thought into it.
  • Malarkoi: The Joes had a short, small, unhappy life in the slums of Mordew, so the Mistress makes them a Personalized Afterlife with humble comforts — an Arcadia where they have no physical needs, tending the land and befriending the animals for the pleasure of it, and can build households with the local denizens.
  • In Will Self's short story "The North London Book of the Dead", a young man is surprised to meet his dead mother walking down the street. She tells him that when you die, you just move to a less fashionable part of London and carry on as before.
  • In one of Mercedes Lackey's Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms books, the protagonist visits a local afterlife which is basically total apathy. People freshly arrived will work out of habit, making nets and cleaning clothes, or they will wander seeking answers, but the work never goes anywhere - nets never get bigger, the clothes aren't cleaner - and bit by bit they forget everything until they lie down and sleep. They can be roused, but not into interest, and if reminded that they are dead they will attack.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Baked into the (after)lives of the Reapers in Dead Like Me. They function fully in the real world, in addition to their grim duties, and still need to find mundane jobs to afford the necessities.
  • Forever (2018): A founding principle of the show. The afterlife is just hanging around on Earth as a ghost, squatting in vacant buildings, eating, sleeping, and doing most of the same things you used to do. June was bored doing the same things for her entire life, and now she's really got to decide if she can do them literally forever.
  • All throughout The Good Place: Most versions of the afterlife appear mundane. People arrive in heaven, called the Good Place, in a waiting room. The place itself looks like a quaint neighborhood and town square, staffed by identical beings that resemble flight attendants named Janet. There's a place called the Medium Place, which looks like an average, suburban home in the desert. While the Bad Place has fantastical tortures like monstrous animals, what we actually see of it is a mundane office where the torturer staff works. The afterlife also has angelic management that takes place in normal offices and courtrooms. Even when we see the "real" Good Place, it's still just as mundane as the fake Good Place. It's just actually designed to be pleasant rather than seem to be pleasant. However, it's outright stated that most things seen by humans is A Form You Are Comfortable With.
    Jason: Is there a gift shop?
    Michael: Jason, this is hell. Of course there's a gift shop.
  • Legends of Tomorrow:
  • In Lost Girl one part of the afterlife, Valhalla, is portrayed as a luxury hotel where you get unlimited room service, and access to movie sequels that don't exist on Earth (Sister Act 3 and a prequel to The Goonies are specifically mentioned).
  • In Preacher (2016), Hell is depicted as a giant prison where the condemned are made to watch visions of their worst days play out on a loop, forever.
  • In Scrubs, one of JD's fantasies has him going to Heaven and finding it's really a diner that doesn't serve flapjacks, making him briefly wonder if flapjacks are actually evil.
  • The Ancients' form of Limbo in Stargate SG-1 consists of a diner. Apparently, the food's quite excellent. It's heavily implied that the Ascended Plane looks like a diner because Jackson Cannot Grasp the True Form of it, so his mind substituted a diner instead, one he visited in his childhood.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • An honorable mention goes to the Q Continuum. It's not heaven or hell, of course, but as home to a race of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, it's certainly on par. To show why he wants to commit suicide, a Q philosopher shows the Continuum to Janeway as a tiny town on a dusty backwater road where nothing new ever happens.
    • When Janeway gets to visit, it's when two factions have gone to war. As such, it resembles the American Civil War.
    • In "Barge of the Dead", B'elanna goes to Klingon hell, and finds it to be an eternity on Voyager, but with no mission for the ship and no respect from her crewmates. Neither Klingon afterlife is quite analogous to Heaven and Hell. It's more like the Greek Hades (eternal boredom) for the dishonored dead and (of course) Norse Valhalla for the honorable. This may have something to do with the fact that Klingon legend states they killed the gods for being more trouble than they were worth.
  • Supernatural:
    • When Crowley becomes King of Hell, he changes it from Fire and Brimstone Hell into one giant queue that the damned are forced to wait in for all of eternity. The line moves at a snail's pace, and when you finally get to the front, you're just told to go all the way to the back again. His reason for making this change was because he noticed that a good portion of people sent to Hell were masochists who were Too Kinky to Torture with the traditional methods, but nobody likes waiting in line. Subverted (and possibly retconed altogether) in later seasons, however, as Hell is then depicted as a Medieval dungeon, with torture carried out by demons disguised as the damned's loved ones. Of course, this is where Bobby was kept, so it's possible that Crowley reserves this dungeon for people he personally dislikes and wants to see suffer, while everyone else gets the line.
    • Heaven itself is rather mundane to the human souls that end up there. Each soul gets its own version of Heaven, which typically involves something like their favorite place(s) or activity(ies) in life. One woman gets an endless concert, one man gets his favorite bar, while other people get their own mortal homes or parks, etc. The angels can visit the human Heavens, but there are other parts of Heaven that are exclusively for the angels. They also appear mundane, but since everything viewers can see is presumably A Form You Are Comfortable With for the humans watching, it's hard to know what anything really looks like. Angels themselves are Eldritch Abominations that generally cannot be comprehended by humans, and attempts to see their true forms mostly end poorly, so angels in Heaven manifest to the viewers as their current vessels.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "A Nice Place to Visit", the afterlife is indistinguishable from the living world except for the fact that everything goes the main character's way. He eventually grows bored with having everything he wants handed to him and tells his guide he'd prefer Hell over an eternity of boredom, at which point he learns that he's already in Hell.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • In "The Misfortune Cookie", based on a 1970 short story of the same name by Charles Fritch, a food critic gave a bad review of a Chinese restaurant before he ever ate there. When he came back on request to give them another chance, he was inexplicably ravenous, to the point of ordering everything on the menu and still not being satisfied. When he got his fortune cookie, it said "You're dead", over and over again.
    • In "Dead Run", the center of Hell is a dark, violent industrial complex. It is surrounded by the Outer Circles, which are indistinguishable from ordinary countryside.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? often played this for laughs with any depiction of Hell. It has televisions that play UPN, naked The Golden Girls, and Friends, the PA system constantly has Michael Bolton music on, and Drew is down there. When asked to come up with "a vision of Hell that does not involve fire or brimstone", Greg came up with driving eternally in Mississippi.

  • The Eagles' "Hotel California" could be seen as a metaphor for addiction or for Hell, although Word of God is that it's about the music industry.
  • Billy Joel's "Blonde Over Blue" dwells on this idea:
    In Hell there's a big hotel
    Where the bar just closed and the windows never open
    No phone so you can't call home
    and the TV works but the clicker is broken
  • The video for "Run On" by Moby has the main character die and go to Heaven, where Angels help employees over telephones and have "Employee of the month" awards. The main difference is that, unlike on Earth, things work as they should (The coffee is actually nice and the copier works), the coworkers are friendly and the main character quite enjoys it.
  • "The Afterlife" by Paul Simon, encapsulated the refrain, "you've got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line"... until the last verse, when the narrator finally meets God.
  • According to Talking Heads, heaven is a bar with a party, where the band plays your favorite song all night long—a place where "nothing ever happens." This was in part due to frontman David Byrne's stress with the hectic touring schedule before the release of Fear of Music, where he just wanted to unwind.
  • The Rock Opera A Passion Play by Jethro Tull describes a Heaven so mundanely good that the dead main character is bored of it, wishes to live in Hell, then finds Hell equally mundanely evil. He decides neither is his cup of tea and that he is better off on Earth, neither aspiring to be entirely good nor evil.
  • According to Word of God, The Weeknd's Dawn FM depicts purgatory as a giant traffic jam in a long highway tunnel, with nothing to do but sit in your car and listen to the radio.
  • In "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Everything You Know Is Wrong," the singer ends up in Heaven, where St. Peter gives him "the room next to the noisy ice machine — for all eternity." This is after the singer barely avoids being turned down for violating the dress code with his Nehru jacket.

    Myths & Religion 
  • A number of mythologies have a rather blah, dreary afterlife. The Mesopotamian version with vulture heads and all the dust comes to mind. And in Greek Mythology, if you're not heroic enough to be in Elysium or bad enough to be in Tartarus, you wander the mists as a shade.
  • One of the traditional Chinese views of the afterlife can be summed up as "exactly like your previous life, but with worse lighting". The dead have the exact same needs as they did in their mortal life, and so must be provided offerings of (fake/paper-mache) food, cash, houses, servants, etc. Another variation is the concept of the Celestial Court. Complete with judges, advocates, prosecutors, bailiffs, and clerks, all set to judge every single soul that comes through. Said court is infamously slow to pass judgment and in keeping with the concept of the dead needing material goods in the afterlife, fake "hell bank" money is burned to ensure that the deceased can afford good advocates and to possibly grease the wheels if needed, otherwise it's going to be a long wait. Yes. The Chinese afterlife explicitly expects bureaucracy and corruption.
  • There's an allegorical story, often used in Jewish or Christian sermons, regarding the nature of heaven and hell. A man is shown hell in a dream: it consists of a tall table set with an unlimited feast. The damned are given extremely long-handled forks with which to reach the food, which would otherwise be unreachable. Unfortunately, this also means that they are able to effortlessly block one another's access to the choicest foods (and can't bring the forks to their own mouths), meaning that everyone goes hungry. The man is then shown heaven, which is identical except that everyone cooperates and so there is enough food for all. The Aesop: the only difference between heaven and hell is the company. In some versions of the story, the man decides to go to hell, to try and teach the people there how to help each other.
  • In Egyptian Mythology, unless you were a pharaoh or other high-status person, you would have to toil in Osiris's fields for eternity (much like what you'd done in life). Royalty and nobility got around this by being buried with tiny statues called shabti, which did the work for them.
  • Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in Hell, and instead teach that bad folks will simply cease to exist after death. As for good people, a select few will go to Heaven, while most will stay on Earth, which will become a paradise after the apocalypse.
  • Judaism has been famously vague on the afterlife. The Tanakh calls the afterlife "sheol", but it is unknown if this was merely meant to be a metaphor for an unknown afterlife or the afterlife itself. Regardless, in modern times Judaism sticks to the standard heaven/hell model, with "sheol" being used to describe the afterlife as a whole as opposed to a specific form.
  • According to Principia Discordia, bad people (but not jackasses) end up in the Region of Thud. Christians call it "Paradise".
  • In Church of the Subgenius mythology (such as it is), there's a section of Hell called "West Heck", that's just like the living world, only more dreary and depressing. The implication being that you could be there right now and not even realize it; you just think that your life sucks.

  • In Past Division, the astral plane (which is basically the afterlife) takes the form of a combination hotel and mall.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Nomine has a Hell with multiple parts, including Fire and Brimstone Hell and Hell Is War, but Shal-Mari is basically just a demonic version of Las Vegas. Sure, you pay with your spiritual essence, the bordellos and casinos are run by demons and the only things in theaters are Black Comedy films about humans getting tortured, but it's still the most normal and hospitable part for human souls.

  • Discussed in Guys and Dolls. In "Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat", Nicely-Nicely Johnson makes up a dream of being on a boat to Heaven to please the Save-a-Soul Mission chairwoman. Any attempts to sin, such as gambling, would cause the sinner to fall off the boat and be dragged under to Hell. Despite being a fake dream, it actually convinces Nicely to become a missionary in some versions of the show.
  • The City Circle from Jasper in Deadland is mostly treated as a normal city. The deceased citizens have jobs and homes, the monsters that guard the entrance and exits act more like civil servants than beasts, and several famous figures from ancient mythology are there working at nightclubs and arcades.
  • Sartre's No Exit features a version of hell that looks like a rather mundane hotel room with three couches and a mantel with a large ornament on top (the only real supernatural parts are that no one can blink or sleep, and the main characters get visions of life without them on Earth). The punishment comes from how all three roommates can't stand each other and will torture each other via social shenanigans forever since they're locked in. Well, they're not actually locked in, but their flaws and insecurities keep them from exploiting any opportunities to leave.

    Video Games 
  • Afterlife has an impressive selection of really quite creatively unpleasant punishments in Hell, though there are also a number of punishments that are simply exaggerated versions of everyday annoyances (like subjecting Gluttonous SOULs to never-ending bad parties, forcing Envious SOULs to listen to the music they hate the most, or stranding the damned on an island with nothing but nigh-immortal "yappy dogs" for company). And the flavour text for many of the various heavenly rewards make it sound like spending eternity in an upmarket retirement home next door to a highly sophisticated yet slightly tacky theme park. It actually sounds like it would get really, really boring after a while. Oddly enough, this trope actually forms the basis for a game mechanic; you have to build structures to siphon "Ad Infinitum" from the various rocks scattered about the map, (which the rocks are a source of because they're infinitely heavy) and thus can keep all of Heaven's rewards and Hell's punishments perpetually novel.
  • Fairly common in Interactive Fiction; examples include Beat the Devil and Perdition's Flames. Both are heavy on the suburban dreariness and light on the fire and brimstone.
  • The various Netherworlds depicted in the Disgaea series are far from mundane, but the fate of sinners possibly is; you are stuffed in a penguin suit and forced to do manual labor for low pay. Eventually you will earn enough to be reincarnated. About the only time this fate is truly hellish is if you wind up working for Etna. Celestia (Heaven) seems to just be a more pleasant version of this. While very good or evil people may become angels or demons, for the vast majority of the populace the afterlife is a penguin suit, a job, and eventual reincarnation. The main difference is that the work in Celestia is less arduous and violent and mostly consists of doing good deeds.
  • In Grim Fandango, the Eighth Underworld is shown to be pretty much like life, with towns and jobs you can do to pay off your misdeeds and earn entry to the Ninth Underworld. The Ninth Underworld is implied to be the equivalent of Heaven, though the game ends before we can see what happens there. There is a Hell, but you have to get caught cheating your way into the Ninth Underworld to earn a trip there.
  • In Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space: What's New, Beelzebub?, Hell is a rather dull and drab office where it's always 4:59 p.m. on a Monday, the coffee is always cold, and the refrigerator is room temperature.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, the Game Over sequence shows that the dead have to wait in an extremely long line for millennia. This is actually an aversion, though, since the line is actually the line to get into the real afterlife, which is described as The Nothing After Death followed by reincarnation. Or you can just give Charon some of your Macca to skip all of this and restart the fight where you died. This is a subversion, as the reason the line is so long is that the Apocalypse happened, and Charon is taking bribes because he doesn't want any more workload than he already has. If you can't pay him back, or choose not to, he buries you in bureaucracy so heavy the parable about the bird that flies across the universe is used.
  • Hell in Hell Pie is portrayed like a giant office building, their access to the living world (and Heaven) available through elevators.
  • Invoked in The Outer Worlds. A few characters (mostly the Spacer's Choice cannery workers of Edgewater) beleive they'll have the same job in the afterlife as they do now, just "in the Sky." Vicar Max mentions that Scientism teaches of no afterlife at all, however.

    Web Animation 
  • Hellaverse:
    • Hazbin Hotel: Pentagram City is more or less just a normal city, except the world's Sinners are turned into demons and can indulge in whatever sin they want, creating a barely tolerable Urban Hellscape. In fact, the Pride Ring is often so overpopulated that Heaven annually sends specialised angels called Exorcists to purge the population.
    • Helluva Boss expands a little on Hell's layout, showing it to be structurally similar to Dante's interpretation of Hell in The Divine Comedy; it's apparently organized by ringsnote  with each one themed after a Deadly Sin, such as the Wrath Ring being a rural yet hostile territory which holds annual "Pain Games" on every Harvest Moon, and the Lust Ring, which hosts what is best described as what would happen if Walt Disney and Jimi Hendrix got together and opened a strip club. Furthermore, Hell is shown to have equivalents to basically all real-world concepts, including the internet and social media, divorce lawyers, antidepressant drugs, etc. which one wouldn't normally expect to find in Hell.
  • There's a silly animated video on the Web, about a man who farts in his cubicle, gets sealed inside, and lights a match to read the pink slip he's been given (and farts again). When he goes to Heaven, he winds up in a cubicle.

    Web Comics 
  • In Achewood, Hell consists of a dreary town with a KFC and a small eatery with toilets that lead back to Earth. Everyone drives a 1982 Subaru Brat, and there are telephones that allow you to call home, but change your side of the call into a telemarketing pitch.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Purgatory is a restaurant with poor service — it takes literally centuries to be served since there's only one waiter. And the only things on the menu are your sins in life ("roast baby potatoes sprinkled with lied to your mother about brushing your teeth"). You're free to move on once you finish all the items on your menu.
  • In DDG if you are not good enough for heaven, or evil enough for hell, you end up in Off World, which contains diners, cinemas, and television shows where you can pay off your karmic debt doing deeds for other souls. Our Heroine Zip is doing just that as the co-host of a game show.
  • In Hell(p), Hell is depicted as a sprawling Vice City ruled by demons. Apart from them and people with occasional Bizarre Human Biology, there's nothing exceptional about it on the surface. Inconveniences sure exist but seem to be the result of poor/uncaring governance rather than malice.
  • Helvetica has people appear in the afterlife as skeletons, where they are then clothed, housed, and can take up a job or apply for university. None of them have any of their memories, however, and Detective Lucy states that they will all return to dust in the valleys they came from (although it's not known whether or not his claim is true; Good Heavens seems to have been there for a long, long time).
  • Jack presents Purgatory as essentially a suburb where no one can die, though the residents can leave and be reincarnated at any time. But very much averted by Hell and Heaven.
  • Heaven in minus. is depicted as being just like real life — except everyone's immortal, has ghost tails instead of legs, can fly, and everyone feels too good to be mean to each other. It's briefly handwaved that the afterlife is mundane because the mundane is what people like to do.
  • In pictures for sad children, Hell is a hotel somewhere in Central America. There's nothing preventing you from leaving, and the punishments are poorly-implemented attempts at ironic punishments. For example, for an internet addict, the only punishment is that the wi-fi is slow and costs money. Also, Wikipedia is replaced with a message that whatever trivia you were looking up is stupid, but the rest of the Internet works fine. Furthermore, it seems to be that you can escape into the bodies of the dead by climbing through the ceiling tiles. Somehow.
  • The Secret Knots: Downplayed in "Erwin and the Method Demons". While demons are just as grotesque as they're depicted in classical works and have armless human slaves hauling carts, demonic society is pretty similar to that of humans: Erwin is shown living in an ordinary house, going to night clubs, studying finance, teaching acting classes, and going on demonic talk shows.
  • The Ring of the Slightly Damned — where people who have no place in Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory go—is an afterlife filled with pretty much only piles of brown rock.

    Web Original 
  • In Kevin Guilfoile's web mystery series, Madalyn Murray O'Hair in Hell, the part of Hell Madalyn lives in (the City of Dis) resembles a dingy city where movies are dubbed into languages no one can understand and the only thing on television are shows from 1978. Originally it was part of a Fire and Brimstone Hell, but the residents made some tentative improvements and, when no one punished them for doing this, they began renovating Hell so that it eventually resembled a somewhat tolerable Crapsack World.

    Western Animation 
  • One of the early episodes of Brickleberry ends with Steve getting accidentally shot by Woody and end up in Heaven where God tells him he's managed to earn his way in. Unfortunately, due to the events of the episode, Steve thinks God is black (due to a scam by his black friend Denzel), and attacks him, thinking the real God is an imposter. Enraged, God damns him to Hell... which just transports him right back to Brickleberry. Steve isn't the least bit surprised.
  • In the Dilbert series, the title character becomes disillusioned when he finds out (temporarily) that the afterlife is an office, much like the one he works in. Also, the people who worship Wally believe the dead spend eternity with him. When Dilbert returns to the afterlife later in the episode, it's the same as before, but Wally's sitting in the next cubicle.
  • Family Guy apparently has both regular Fire and Brimstone Hell, and this kind of hell as seen in Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story. When Stewie briefly dies after getting crushed by a lifeguard chair, he finds himself in a drab, crappy motel room with Steve Allen. Purgatory is depicted once in a cutaway gag; it's a blank white void, which the Griffins describe as "so-so".
  • An episode of The Mask has The Mask ending up in Hell after Stanley accidentally sells his soul to the Devil, or "Bob" as he's known here. Rather than the traditional Fire and Brimstone Hell, this underworld is instead focused on excruciating, mind-numbing tedium. There's TV, but they only show daytime talk shows, there's food but the only food served is liver, lima beans, and rice cakes, and everyone is forced to wear polyester clothing. Naturally, Mask is horrified and ends up challenging Bob to a dance contest to get out.
  • The Simpsons: In the Bible Stories episode, Hell consists of a barbecue, except that they're out of hotdogs, the coleslaw has pineapple in it and they have German potato salad.
  • South Park portrays Purgatory as an airplane on the runway waiting for its turn to take off, with the Fasten Seatbelt and No Smoking signs active and no indication of how long the wait will be. Some depictions of Hell also makes it look quite mundane, although Satan does his best to liven it up with the occasional luau. By way of contrast, Heaven is mostly Fluffy Cloud Heaven but full of a particularly straight-edge group of Mormons doing arts and crafts projects and putting on plays about how much it hurts to lie. Apparently, the rules for getting into Heaven have been temporarily altered by allowing a wider array of people to go there when Satan decided to invade Heaven. It's not clear if the rules were changed back after Hell's defeat.


Video Example(s):


The Cubicle

Dilbert finds out what the afterlife is like. It's just an office cubicle.

How well does it match the trope?

4.9 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / MundaneAfterlife

Media sources: