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Retail Therapy

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Katara: I know something that's going to make you feel better!
Sokka: You do?
[scene change]
Sokka: Shopping!

A character, who is almost Always Female, is depressed or unhappy and goes shopping to make herself feel better. A variation involves the character getting a makeover for the same reason. Shopping may even be a part of said makeover.

Retail Therapy often accompanies a Shopping Montage, although to demonstrate that a character is truly depressed and in a really bad spot, she may be grimly and desperately shopping alone. Alternatively a group of friends may decide that a particular friend is being too mopey and take her shopping in an attempt to cheer her up. Depending on the character, this can be met with mixed success.

Usually this occurs after experiencing rejection or turbulence in a romantic relationship, but Retail Therapy can be a response to all sorts of trauma, ranging from things like having a bad day to losing a job. A sympathetic character generally won't use Retail Therapy to cope with the death of pets and/or other characters, as this implies the character attaches a monetary value to lives. Male characters who use exhibit this trope often carry connotations of being effeminate or extremely materialistic.

Can overlap with Credit Card Plot if the character in question incurs massive credit card debts because of the excessive purchases made during Retail Therapy. The character is often (but not always) Ms. Red Ink.

This is Truth in Television for a very large number of people. Even men (even if they deny it).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Re-Al's robot assistant tries to take her shopping to keep her out of trouble early in Ergo Proxy.

    Comic Books 
  • In an issue of The Avengers, Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) follows Janet van Dyne's (Wasp) advice and tries to shop herself into a better mood. She collects an impressive heap of packages, but doesn't feel any better. Clint Barton (Hawkeye) who followed her to help carry said packages, suggests what he does for therapy: find someone and fight them! Wanda declines.
  • Supergirl: At the beginning of Adventure Comics #397, Linda Danvers -as well known as Kara Zor-El, alias Supergirl- is feeling gloomy and depressed, so she goes shopping to cheer herself up. After trying some new clothes she feels better right away.
    Linda: Poo! This is for the birds! I've gotta get over this feeling! And when a girl feels this way — some new clothes are in order!

    Fan Works 
  • Mean Time To Breakdown: Iwanako's mother uses this to try and cheer her daughter up, and succeeds at first. Unfortunately, when she tries applying it again after her daughter lands back in the hospital after another brush with death, it's considerably less effective.
  • Asuka takes Rei out clothes shopping in Doing It Right This Time, after finding out just how her fellow Pilot had been living thanks to Commander Ikari. A Justified Trope in this case as she didn't have any clothes except her school uniform beforehand.
  • Once More with Feeling: After arriving at Tokyo-3, Asuka often takes Rei and Hikari to shopping to cheer herself and her friends up.
  • The Second Try: Invoked when Asuka angrily explains Rei that the point of going shopping and buying clothes isn't sufficiency but making yourself feel better.
    Misato: Ah, hello Rei. What brings you here?
    Rei: I am in need of new socks.
    Asuka: Figures. The devil will probably visit the Arctic to spend a holiday in the warmth before you'd buy yourself some new outfit.
    Rei: The clothes that were supplied by the school are sufficient for me.
    Asuka: Sufficient, sufficient. This is not a matter of sufficiency. You should do it to feel more comfortable, to show the world that you have another life than school and duty. And most importantly to make you feel better!
  • Thousand Shinji: After finding out that NERV cheated her out of her combat pay, Asuka goes shopping together with her fellow pilots and friends to calm herself down.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Cher from Clueless goes shopping whenever she's feeling down. This is actually used as a joke at one of the more serious parts of the movie, as she's mulling over how much of a mess she's unintentionally made of things while walking past a store.
    Cher's Inner Monologue: Oh, and this Josh-and-Tai thing was wiggin' me more than anything. I mean, what was my problem? Tai is my pal. I don't begrudge her a boyfriend, I really—ooh! I wonder if they have that in my size.
    (Cut to Cher walking home with a shopping bag, her monologue picking up as if nothing happened)
  • The makeover variant happens in Legally Blonde whenever something bad happens to Elle.
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic the character Rebecca has shopped herself to debt, through her constant spending.

  • Becky Brandon of the Shopaholic series, who has issues with overspending during her Retail Therapy.
  • Jody from Bloodsucking Fiends when she's upset about Tommy having friends over during the day.
  • The first Undead And... book has Betsy getting a pedicure to feel better about the whole "now a vampire" business. Sadly, vampiric bodies revert to the way they were at death the next time the vampire sleeps. Seeing the pedicure undone reduces Betsy to tears.
  • At the start of Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday, Emma is upset to learn her husband of ten years has kept his real name and title from her, and after Lori tells her that Bill has secretly been her noble father-in-law's attorney for three months, Emma says, "I'm tired of boys' games. Let's go shopping." Lori notes, "We spent the next week buying clothes." It seems to work; after getting a newly becoming haircut at a salon, Emma stops scolding Lori for addressing her as Viscountess.
  • Animorphs - Rachel, unsurprisingly, believes in this.
    "There are few emotional problems that can’t be made better by shopping Old Navy and Express."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Victor, from the Canadian TV series Student Bodies. He was rich and he usually dealt with negative emotions by going out and buying something expensive.
  • Lily Aldrin from How I Met Your Mother does this on a regular basis. It gets her into trouble after she maxes out a huge stack of credit cards doing it; she then goes on another shopping spree because she's depressed about her huge credit card bill.
  • Rachel indulged in this in the first episode of Friends and often after she got a better paying job. Jill, Rachel's sister, did something similar after getting cut off by their father (having memorized all his credit card numbers). When Rachel find out she... keeps all the purchased items for herself. To teach Jill a lesson.

  • The Barenaked Ladies song "Shopping" is about this. ("Everything will always be all right/when we go shopping!")
  • Queensr˙che's song "Retail Therapy" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, though it's about a male character who gets his jollies from buying electronic gadgets and downloading apps.
    "I've got 62 apps to keep me happy.... but what about tomorrow?"
  • Pink Floyd deconstructs this time and again, first with "Money" from The Dark Side of the Moon and also with "Empty Spaces / What Shall We Do Now?" from The Wall.
  • Is an actual musical piece written by Stewart Copeland, and performed at SummerFest in 2009.
  • In Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style," the woman in the song goes on an expensive shopping spree at Neiman-Marcus with two of her friends...and her soon-to-be-ex's credit card. This is because she found out that her husband/boyfriend/fiance cheated on her. The shopping spree makes her feel better not only in the usual way, but because she's trying to clean the soon-to-be-ex out before leaving him as revenge for cheating.
  • Compulsive shopping is the titular bad habit in Imelda May's "Bad Habit" (on the album Life Love Flesh Blood).

    Puppet Shows 

    Web Comics 
  • In Think Before You Think, Becky's response to other people's misery is to take them shopping.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, Doc Bunnigus takes Elf shopping as retail therapy to help her get over a combat-stim addiction, and explains the theory behind it.
  • Subverted in a Sarah's Scribbles strip (which provides the page image) in which the therapy doesn't really do anything.

    Western Animation 
  • Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender loves to go shopping, and on occasion when he's feeling down, his friends will be more than happy to oblige him. It's more for stuff like weapons, though.
  • On The Simpsons, Mr. Burns says this is the only way he knows how to cope with defeat.
  • On Beverly Hills Teens Bianca Dupree in one episode says this always cheers her up, since she didn't get a leading role in her high school's soap opera— yet right after she said it and bought tons of things, she still feels "as miserable as ever".
  • Lampshaded in Metalocalypse when the band gets rid of their insane therapist who got them hooked on banana stickers by simply buying a bunch of stickers themselves.
    We won't be needing your banana stickers! We have found out that you can just, you know, buy psychological validation, so...

    Real Life