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Poverty Tropes

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An index for tropes dealing with lower-class people living in squalor and/or struggling with debt, bankruptcy, unemployment, homelessness, or just an overall lack of wealth or fiscal standing. Almost never positive.

Contrast with Rich People and Luxury Tropes. See also Class Relations Index for how lower class people interact with other social classes.


Tropes:

  • Bankruptcy Barrel: When the character is wearing a barrel to show that they are poor.
  • Barefoot Poverty: Some people are so poor that they can't even afford to buy a new pair of shoes.
  • Basement-Dweller: A grown man still lives with his parents, because he's a chronically unemployed NEET (or works a crappy low-wage job), and thus can't even afford his own house.
  • Bath of Poverty: Bathing isn't a good experience due to being unable to afford proper plumbing.
  • Advertisement:
  • Beggar with a Signboard: Hobos hold up signs requesting money, food, or other things.
  • Bindle Stick: A homeless person carries all their belongings tied up in a bundle at the end of a stick carried over their shoulder.
  • Broke Episode: One episode has the characters run out of money and have to find a way to make ends meet.
  • Cardboard Box Home: Homeless people live in cardboard boxes.
  • Choosy Beggar: They may be in need of a handout, but Everyone Has Standards.
  • Crazy Homeless People: Homeless people are often depicted as being mentally ill, as mental disorders can be both a cause and effect of homelessness. Bonus points if their mental state is being affected by a drug addiction.
  • Credit Card Destruction: Someone who maxes out their credit card has it cut up by a shopkeeper.
  • Cutting Corners: Making do with cheap substitutes to save money.
  • Advertisement:
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Prostitutes and strippers tend to be at the very bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, thus making them easy prey for serial killers and rapists.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Most people don't really notice or care about what happens to homeless people, which makes them easy targets for kidnappers and murderers.
  • Dublin Skanger: A stock character in Irish media who's usually working class and extremely violent.
  • Dying Town: Small towns with severe economic hardships.
  • Empty Fridge, Empty Life: Poverty is a fridge with empty or near-empty shelves.
  • Even Beggars Won't Choose It: A handout is such terrible quality that even the most hard-up people have no use for it.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: A person desperate for money will take on a job that they, and society, sees as unglamorous and/or undignified.
  • Financial Test of Friendship: A much-poorer person helps their once-wealthy friend in a time of need, proving that their friendship is genuine.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: Having little money means having little experience in wealth management, so poor characters who acquire riches often just lose it again.
  • Forgot to Pay the Bill: This can happen if someone just doesn't have enough money to pay for their important bills.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Realistically, a character does not earn an income to justify such ample lodgings.
  • Gangbangers: These street-level gangsters are often seen in low-income areas.
  • Hobos: Stereotypical homeless people.
  • Hobo Gloves: Dirty, tattered, often fingerless gloves associated with severe poverty.
  • Homeless Pigeon Person: Hobos with pet pigeon birds.
  • Horrible Housing: A character lives somewhere crappy to emphasize their bad living situation.
  • Informed Poverty: A character is allegedly poor, but are apparently richer than they've claimed to be.
  • Inner City School: Education tends to be abysmal in poor urban neighborhoods.
  • Jobless Parent Drama: A family faces financial difficulties because one or both parents are now unemployed.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: A thief who steals from the rich and gives to the poor.
  • Kill the Poor: The poor are killed in an attempt to eliminate poverty.
  • King of the Homeless: The self-appointed leader of a homeless community.
  • Land Poor: A person owns a large house or vast estate, but much of their money is invested in the upkeep of said property.
  • Lint Value: Offering far too little money to buy something, often because it's all they have.
  • Lives in a Van: They live in a vehicle because they can't even afford a house.
  • Lower-Class Lout: A jerkass who is poor.
  • Mock Millionaire: A lower-class or middle-class person pretends to be upper-class.
  • Ms. Red Ink: A character (almost always female) puts the family in debt with extravagant, wasteful purchases, often on credit.
  • Mundane Luxury: A common, widely available item will be considered an extravagant treat by anyone who can't afford to buy it on an everyday basis.
  • NEET: Someone who is Not in Employment, Education, or Training. In other words, an adult who is not currently a college student and is also unemployed.
  • No Budget: A creative project obviously didn't get much funding or resources.
  • No Poverty: A society where poverty and squalor are nonexistent.
  • Pauper Patches: A character's tattered, patched-up clothes indicates poverty.
  • Penny Among Diamonds: A less-well-off character finds themselves in an environment full of very wealthy people.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Despite having little money, these people always have just enough supplies and resources to survive.
  • Pottery Barn Poor: Despite barely scraping by, a character's home is furnished with items that they could not afford without sacrificing food or rent.
  • Poverty Food: Because food that's both healthy and tasty is out of their budget.
    • Dog Food Diet: Someone eats pet food, because people food is too expensive.
  • Poverty for Comedy: Being poor is Played for Laughs.
  • Poverty Porn: Depictions of people living in extreme poverty in close detail to bring attention to them.
  • Prince and Pauper: Two identical strangers, one upper-class and the other one lower-class, decide to switch lives and disguise themselves as each other.
  • Rags to Riches: A poor person becomes wealthy.
  • Rich Language, Poor Language: Rich and poor characters are distinguished by their accents and/or dialects.
  • Rich Sibling, Poor Sibling: One sibling is poor, the other is rich.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Someone has two love interests of vastly different economic backgrounds.
  • Riches to Rags: A wealthy person becomes poor.
  • Secretly Wealthy: A rich person pretends to be poorer than they actually are.
    • Slumming It: A wealthy person pretends to be poor because they're curious about what life is like for the less fortunate.
  • Shopping Cart of Homelessness: Like Bindle Stick, but with a shopping cart.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: The eternal struggle between the rich and the poor.
  • Starving Artist: An artist who doesn't make any money off their works.
  • Starving Student: A student who's struggling to finance their education.
  • Street Musician: A destitute person tries to get money from people by playing a musical instrument on the streets.
  • Street Urchin: Homeless orphans and street children.
  • Streetwalker: Prostitutes, who probably wouldn't be selling sex for money if they had a better source of income.
  • Struggling Single Mother: She's having a hard time raising her kid(s) with no father and little money to spare.
  • Too Desperate to Be Picky: As the saying goes, beggars can't be choosers.
  • The Tramp: A romanticized vagrant who is usually homeless and lives hand-to-mouth, but is generally honorable.
  • Trashy Trailer Home: Trailers are portrayed as the most horrible places to live, seething with poverty and violence.
  • Unconfessed Unemployment: Someone won't admit to their own friends and family that they've lost their job.
  • Wallet Moths: Moths fly out of wallets or pockets to indicate the character has no money.
  • War Refugees: Civilians who have been rendered homeless by the chaos and destruction of war, fleeing for their lives by staying in refugee camps or migrating to safer countries.
  • Wisdom from the Gutter: A homeless person has nothing left but their wisdom, which they'll gladly share with you.
  • Work Off the Debt: If you can't pay, you'll have to work for the business until you've earned the money required to pay.
  • Working-Class Hero: The protagonist is a member of the lower-classes of society.
    • Homeless Hero: The protagonist lives a nomadic lifestyle for some reason.
  • Working-Class People Are Morons: Poor people are depicted as being dumb and ignorant because of their lack of education.
  • Working-Class Werewolves: Werewolves are often depicted as being poor, at least compared to vampires.
  • Wretched Hive: Urban ghettos, slums, shantytowns and the like are not pleasant places to live in, because of the rampant poverty and crime.

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