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Small Town Boredom

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"Just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world.
She took the midnight train going anywhere."
Journey, "Don't Stop Believin'"

A teenager growing up in a small rural town wants to get away from it all, to the big city, or abroad, anywhere but the boring old Small Town. Characters that come from this background, such as the Country Mouse and Farm Boy, generally Jump At The Call. If they don't, expect the Call to come looking for them anyway.


Compare and contrast with Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here and Hated Hometown. Related to Grass Is Greener, which is about someone in bad conditions dreaming of going to a better place. Often seen in stories set in Dying Towns, perhaps ones with Small Town Rivalry.

Often, however, leads to An Aesop about Home Sweet Home and appreciating what you've got. A common subtype is leaving the Close-Knit Community and finding that Apathetic Citizens are much worse.

When this happens in a musical, expect a Somewhere Song or a Wanderlust Song.



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    Fan Works 
  • Captain Kanril Eleya of Bait and Switch grew up in Priyat, a small town in Bajor's Kendra Province. She enlisted in the Bajoran Militia at the earliest legal age because she didn't want to be a town maintenance worker like her parents. In the prequel From Bajor to the Black it's further revealed that A) she felt the town was dying (half the population just lives there because it's close to Kendra City) and B) she'd get a scholarship after mustering out. (She wound up going to Starfleet Academy afterward instead.)
  • Amy enters through the interdimensional Rift in Traversal in hopes of escaping this.
  • Mei from Kyoshi Rising yearns for a chance to move away from the small village she lives in and see the world, in contrast to the title character (her younger sister) who is quite happy living in isolation but is forced to leave due to being the Avatar
  • Daisy begins the plot of Doctor Who Regenerated intensely disliking her boring hometown. Then the Doctor comes around.

    Films — Animation 
  • Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast: "There must be more than this provincial life!"
  • Ariel from Disney's The Little Mermaid. She's an odd example, though, in that in her case the "small town" is actually the ocean.
  • The titular heroine of Moana lives on an island and has a strong desire to sail the ocean. Unfortunately, everyone on the island is forbidden from sailing past the reef, so she never gets the opportunity to explore the ocean. A Downplayed Example in that she does not dislike her village and is going to be their future chief. A part of Moana's character development involves her reconciling her love for her people and the strong draw of the ocean.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The DCOM Stuck in the Suburbs.
  • Luke Skywalker in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope who's stuck in his family's moisture farm on the planet Tatooine.
    C-3PO: I'm only a droid and not very knowledgeable about such things, not on this planet, anyway. As a matter of fact, I'm not even sure which planet I'm on.
    Luke: Well, if there's a bright center in the universe, you're on the planet it's farthest from.
  • The Swedish movie Fucking Åmål is a teenage Coming-Out Story set in the titular Åmål, which Elin thinks is the most boring place in the world.
  • Popular Music From Vittula takes place in the northern Swedish town of Pajala in the 60's. A lot of the youngsters talk about moving away the moment they turn 18. In the end, Niila is the only one to actually do anything, as he hitchhikes out and becomes a rock star.
  • George Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life wants nothing more than to leave Bedford Falls forever. Life intervenes.
  • Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz is a girl who hates living on her small farm in Kansas. This is a reason why she dreams up Oz.
  • The main character in Big Fish.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, while Clarice Starling is interviewing a girl in Belvedere, Ohio, the girl asks her:
    Girl: Is that a good job, FBI agent? You get to travel around and stuff? I mean, better places than this?
  • In The Last Starfighter, Alex Rogan really wants to get out of the boring trailer park where he lives.
  • Rusty James is stuck in Tulsa, Oklahoma in Rumble Fish, which leads him to become quite angry and seeking out fights... if you interpret the movie that way.
  • In the rarely seen De Laatste Zomer (The Last Summer), the character Tim often vents about wanting to escape to somewhere different.
  • Janie in Another Time, Another Place is fed with living in her village, but she acknowledges she'll never be able to break away from it.
  • In Dodsworth, Fran is around 40 and must have been unhappy for a number of years. Staying with her much older husband in a small town was suffocating to her and she wanted a totally different life before she was too old to enjoy it. That's why she plans a trip for them both to Europe, where she meets fancy people, derailing her marriage completely.
  • Theodora Goes Wild. The reason why Theodora began writing her racy stories—to have some excitement in her humdrum life in a small town. She also gets to visit the big city whenever she meets her publisher. Eventually, she does move to the big city, and into another man's apartment, no less.
  • I Vitelloni: Five young men in an Italian small town chafe against boredom and think about getting out. Only one of them does.
  • The titular character in Anna and the Apocalypse feels this way about her small town, and had plans to head for Australia after graduation instead of going to university. "Had" being the operative word here.

  • Corrie Swanson in the Agent Pendergast novel Still Life with Crows.
  • The book The Dark Side of Nowhere starts out with the protagonist thinking like this. Then he discovers that he and most people in the town are actually a race of aliens gearing up for a full-scale invasion.
  • The mother in the novel Anywhere But Here.
  • In the novel Dandelion Wine, one of the characters is complaining about just this when the Lonely One returns.
  • The main reason Zoë in Saving Zoë decides to try to become a model. It leads to her death.
  • Rusty, the first protagonist of Warrior Cats, decides to give up place as a housecat and join the Clans because of this.
  • In Devon Monk's Dead Iron, Rose wants to leave and go somewhere where even a girl can make devices. (It doesn't help that they all think she's touched in the head.)
  • Jeeves and Wooster: Bertie Wooster ruminates on this in the short story "The Ordeal of Young Tuppy":
    You know how it is in these remote rural districts. There’s nothing much to do in the long winter evenings but listen to the radio and brood on what a tick your neighbour is.
  • This is one of the many, many reasons why Joe from The Tenets of Futilism left his home for Boston. Of course, Boston doesn't end up being that amazing, either.
  • In Michael C. Bailey's Action Figures - Issue One: Secret Origins, Carrie observes that other people have this problem, but she thinks she will love living in this small town.
  • Bo and Agnes from Run want to escape the town of Mursey partly because of this, though they both have deeper reasons for fleeing as well.
  • The source of Indira's ambivalence toward the town where she was raised in Alien in a Small Town.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, this is Petyr Baelish's backstory in a nutshell. His family keep is on the smallest of the Fingers (peninsulars on the eastern coast), technically being petty lords beholden to the Lords of the Eyrie and... they aren't exactly highly populous. Most people in the Seven Kingdoms won't ever think about them much, beyond "pirates and invasions from Essos very occasionally land there". About the most you can do on any of them is fish and look after goats or sheep. He went from that to the capital of the Riverlands (a bustling Danelaw Expy and trade hub), Riverrun, and back though no real fault of his own as a kid, thanks to a debt Lord Hoster Tully felt he owed Petyr's father. There, the young boy rubbed shoulders with the likes of Tullys and Lannisters — and received his rather mean-spirited nickname, to boot. However, Hoster withdrew Petyr's invite the minute he realised just how badly smitten Lysa was with the young nobody from a fishing hamlet not even beholden to Riverrun. No wonder Littlefinger has issues.
  • Pocket Monsters: The Animation goes into depth on this in the Pokemon anime's 'verse. Many people end up becoming trainers in order to leave their towns, but many of these people end up failing their journey. A lot of them refuse to come home deadbeats. Ash's father and even his maternal grandfather ran off on journeys and never came back.
  • Emma:
    • Downplayed with Emma's feeling about Highbury, her home village (almost town) in Surry. She's a bright young woman who has lived there her entire life and takes care of her elderly father. She enjoys being the first lady in the Highbury society, but considers others to be rather inferior (with the exception of Mr and Mrs Weston and Mr Knightley). When Emma meets Frank Churchill, he speaks of Highbury so handsomely, that Emma begins "to feel she has been used to despise the place rather too much". Emma's desire to travel is hinted at, e.g. when she jokingly complains that she's the only one who has never seen the sea.
      "I must beg you not to talk of the sea. It makes me envious and miserable;—I who have never seen it!"
    • Frank Churchill grew up in a secluded Big Fancy House and once he's adult, he's travelling in England (e.g. he visits Weymouth, a popular spa town) and he has a great desire to travel abroad.
      Frank: As soon as my aunt gets well, I shall go abroad. I shall never be easy till I have seen some of these places. You will have my sketches, some time or other, to look at—or my tour to read—or my poem. I shall do something to expose myself.
      Emma: That may be—but not by sketches in Swisserland. You will never go to Swisserland. Your uncle and aunt will never allow you to leave England.

    Live Action Television 
  • Motivation for Joey on Dawson's Creek.
  • This is a good portion of JJ's backstory on Criminal Minds.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Ruby (Red Riding Hood's counterpart) suffers from this. She actually tried to leave town prior to the show, but the curse gave her grandmother a heart attack, forcing her to stay in Storybrooke.
    • Milah is often seen at the town's tavern and is bored of being a wife and a mother, so she fakes being kidnapped by Captain Hook to run away with him and his crew, abandoning her husband and young child. But when Rumpelstiltskin finds out the deception, it does not end well for her.
  • In an episode of The George Lopez Show, George is considering taking a new job and moving the family to a small town in Colorado. He believes that it will be a better place for the kids instead of L.A. However, when they go there to look around, they see that the kids that live there have literally nothing else to do but smoke, drink, and get into trouble (a little girl encourages Max to steal for little more than the fact it's a cheap thrill.)
  • An episode of That '70s Show has Hyde use this trope as an explanation for why the gang stole the drive-through sculpture of Fatso The Clown from Fatso Burger.
  • This Country. Set in a tiny village in the Cotswolds, and following the lives of two of its bored young residents, the sitcom pretty much is this trope.
  • Daredevil (2015): In a season 3 flashback showing Karen's backstory, we see Karen dealing with this. It's prominent enough that her father and brother can see it, and it's implied that this (plus her father's inability to handle his money) is the reason she's shagging a drug dealer named Todd Neiman.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: both Greg and Valencia see West Covina as this, and it's the subject of one of the series' most surprisingly earnest songs, "What'll It Be?" Contrast Josh, who loves how peaceful and uncomplicated it is, or Rebecca, who tries to convince herself it's something amazing and special to justify why she moved there, because it DEFINITELY wasn't because Josh lives there.
    Greg: Hey West Covina, why won't you let me break free? Am I doomed to stay here pouring my high school friends beer for the rest of eternity?

  • The Garth Brooks song "Nobody Gets Off in This Town"'' — referring both to how nobody gets off the bus here and to the lack of entertainment opportunities.
  • Dexter Freebish - "Leaving Town" (I know you've been talking about leaving / You've lost all your feelings for this town.)
  • Kelly Clarkson - "Breakaway", which is all about wanting to break away from the small town where she grew up.
  • "Subdivisions" by Rush.
    • Even more so "Middletown Dreams".
    • Experienced by the protagonist of Clockwork Angels in "Caravan".
  • Much of Big Black's work, such as "Cables" and "Kerosene", deal with how people alleviate this trope.
    • "Kerosene" by is a particularly dark example. It's about someone who decides the only cure for his boredom a combination of sex and fire.
  • "Dry County" by The B-52s, on the album Cosmic Thing.
  • "Midnight Girl/Sunset Town" by Sweethearts of the Rodeo.
  • The song "Small Town" from Lou Reed and John Cale's eulogy for Andy Warhol, Songs For Drella.
  • "Texas in My Rearview Mirror" by Mac Davis. He inverts the trope in the final verse, though, realizing that he was happiest in the small town.
  • "Thunder Road", Born to Run... Basically, a lot of stuff by Bruce Springsteen.
  • "Face the Promise" by Bob Seger.
  • "Every Day Is Like Sunday" by Morrissey, about a seaside town they forgot to close/bomb down.
  • "Something To Do" by Depeche Mode. The singer, living in a factory town, is "going crazy from boredom" and says "it's a wonder this town doesn't sink".
  • "Cool Enough" by Nicole Atkins.
  • "Black and White Town" by Doves.
  • Taylor Swift, particularly in "White Horse".
  • While the song itself isn't about it, but the song "White Kids Love Hip-Hop" by mc chris has a spoken-word monologue by Andy Merril along these lines.
    Aw man, there's nothing to do in this stupid town. Rope swing's busted, stinkin' cops always kicking me out of the park, manager of the 7-11 always saying 'Get off my curb, you good-for-nothings!'. All the girls already know I'm a bad kisser so they won't come anywhere near me. I dunno how many times I've been to T.G.I.F; a kid can eat an Onion Bloom only so many times. Bowling's boring, the skating rink's been taken over by twelve-year-olds. There ain't no good movies out. Blockbuster never has any good games in. I don't want to play Bombad Racing! I mean, what the heck is that? I'm sick of all my records but any time I go to the record store, I forget what I want to get! And there ain't nothing on TV! Not a stupid thing! There ain't nothing to do but take naps, and wait patiently for death!"
  • Sara Evans' "Bible Song;" after the narrator's cousin commits suicide to escape, she gets out before she goes the same way ("so no one would sing some Bible song over me").
  • Steve Earle's "Someday".
  • The Band Perry's "Independence".
  • "Stuck" by Ash Bowers.
  • The aptly-named "Small Town Bringdown" by The Tragically Hip.
  • "Whistle Down the Wind", from Bone Machine by Tom Waits, is about someone who feels this but can't make himself leave. It's implied that he's contemplating suicide.
    I can't stay here, and I'm scared to leave.
    • "Burma Shave" from Foreign Affairs by Tom Waits deals with a girl who runs away with a handsome out of town stranger in order to escape this. Again, it ends kind of darkly.
  • "Small Town Saturday Night" by Hal Ketchum.
  • John Mellencamp's "Small Town" is one of the more notable aversions of this. Its narrator was born, lives, and will "prob'ly die" in the same small town, as is perfectly okay with that.
  • "Down Home" by Alabama. The narrator couldn't wait to get out of his home town when he was young. But now that he's older, he appreciates how peaceful and friendly the town is and he wants to raise his family there.
  • Stevie Wonder's "Living For the City" from Innervisions tells the story of various people living in poverty who are "living just enough for the city". However the song, especially the album version, implies that the city isn't much better than their current lives.
  • The Kinks' "Village Green" from The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society is a deconstruction. The narrator left his small town years ago while seeking fame. Returning he's not only dismayed by how much the town has changed but also feels responsible.
  • The character Jesus of Suburbia from Green Day's American Idiot. The eponymous track on the album (which is actually a medley of five fairly short songs) tells of his tiredness of his conformist life in the suburbs (hence the name "Jesus of Suburbia"), so he announces his plans to leave home and go to the city to become a punk. His family tries to stop him by taking him to some therapy sessions and trying to help him, but they let him go anyway. After the song, JOS quickly goes from having the time of his life to becoming lonely and depressed. He briefly finds love in Whatsername, but she breaks up with him, leading to him deciding to return home.
  • The narrator of "Big Time" from Peter Gabriel's album So does not think highly of the small town he's from or the people who live in it, since "they think so small, they use small words" and he considers himself to be smarter than that. He spends the rest of the song singing about moving to "the big, big city" and listing off the different "big" things he'll do and see there.
  • The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" is about spending time in such a town before playing a gig... even if the city that inspired it was London, back when it closed down during Christmas.
  • Referenced in "Hello" by Adele.
    Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happens?
  • The aptly named "Small Town" by Kero Kero Bonito:
    And I would like to fly away
    Around here everybody knows my name
    And they all think I am so strange
  • "Hardware Store" by "Weird Al" Yankovic opens with the narrator lamenting that "Nothing ever ever happens in this town". Apparently his hometown is so dull he regards the grand opening of a hardware store as cause for celebration.
  • "Cruising For Burgers", "Centerville" and "Wind Up Working In A Gas Station", among others, by Frank Zappa.
  • Samantha Fish's song "Cowtown" is about someone who has finally made the decision to leave the dead-end life in the small "cow" town.
  • "My Little Town" by Simon & Garfunkel:
    In my little town I never meant nothing
    I was just my father's son
    Saving my money
    Dreamin of glory
    Twitching like a finger on a trigger of a gun
    Nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town
  • "Shit Towne" by Live.
  • Dexys Midnight Runners' "Come On Eileen" is about a boy who wants to leave his boring town with his crush.

  • The setting for the Cool Kids Table game Creepy Town is the town of Nowhere, Kansas, which is this in spades. The school motto is "Going Nowhere Fast".

    Stand Up Comedy 
  • On his album Werewolves And Lollipops, Patton Oswalt talks about growing up in Sterling, Virginia, and "The Test Of The Small Town". You pass the test when you say "I'm leaving before I kill everyone and then myself!" You fail it when you say, "I'm gonna get a job at the Citgo and fill my truck up for free!"

  • Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters.
  • Natalie from the musical All Shook Up.
  • "Blow Wind Blow" from Frank's Wild Years
  • The title character in Evita.
  • The Golden Apple begins with Helen dejectedly complaining that "nothing ever happens in Angel's Roost." Ulysses is also enticed by the thrills of city life, despite his promise to stay home with Penelope after returning from the war.
  • This trope is what starts off the plot of American Idiot.

    Video Games 
  • Persona 4: Said boredom is such that it drives someone to murder. This was also a key point in Shadow Yosuke and Shadow Yukiko's dialogues. Shadow Yosuke taunts Yosuke about how boring the town is to him, while Yukiko's shadow mentions how much she hates the town and just sits on her ass waiting for her prince to come rescue her from it. It should be said that the whole town's leisure facilities basically amount to one small diner, the shrine, the river, and if you're really desperate the food court of the local supermarket. That is literally it.
    • It ultimately turns out that Yukiko doesn't think about Inaba as boring, as she pointedly disagrees with a reporter describing it that way. Her main problem was the belief that she had to stay there and inherit her family's inn, but after getting past that, chose to do so for the sake of her family and all the people who worked for the inn who treated her kindly. As for Yosuke, while he admits that Inaba is boring, he also says that all his friends are there.
    • It also comes up in Eri Minami's Social Link. She, a woman who married an Inaba man who had a son, finds the town somewhat boring, with TV and the Internet as her only forms of entertainment. It doesn't help that she has no friends among the other mothers who come to the daycare center, at least partly due to their looking down on her as an outsider and second mother.
    • In the fan-made musical of Persona 4, the very first song is 'Small Town Blues' which completely tears down any pretense of fun and excitement. It used to be called 'Everything's Boring In Inaba'.
    Inaba our town, where nothing ever happens,
    Where a superstore's enough to throw our homes out of whack
    Department store JUNES showed up here last December
    And proceeded to devour all our economic slack
  • Kingdom Hearts has this on a planetary scale. After Kairi falls from the sky and appears on the Destiny Islands, Riku becomes obsessed with learning what's out there. Several games later, it turns out that Terra and Aqua dropping by a year before that is what first planted the idea, and that the franchise's uber-villain started out the exact same way.
    "This just too small."
  • Mikasalla in Golden Sun: The Lost Age. The locals even tell you that if you're looking for someone, the best place to look is somewhere else.
  • Lieutenant Kyona, the tactical officer of the USS Enterprise-F in Star Trek Online, said that she grew up in an agricultural community on Cait and initially joined Starfleet because it was the most exciting career she could think of.
  • One official source states that Sonic the Hedgehog only began exploring because he was bored with his birthplace, Christmas Island.
  • This is a recurring theme in Harvest Moon, as the games take place in rural towns:

    Web Comics 
  • In Bob and George, George jumps universes to escape.
  • The Back Story of Lars from Girl Genius. He was a cheesemaker's apprentice and left with the circus because life was boring in his home.
  • Pacem's situation in the prologue of Lucid Spring. Repa is a small and uneventful town, but Pacem stays there on orders from her father.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: This shows up in both Tuuri and Reynir's backstories. The Plague that has been around for ninety years results in those who are not The Immune to be greatly discouraged from leaving whichever place they were born in, and the Depopulation Bomb resulting from the initial outbreak has made just about all settlements small (sometimes very small) towns. Tuuri has lived in two of those small settlements during her childhood, the second implied to be significantly larger than the first, but still yearns for more. Reynir lives in the only known entire country to have been secured, but his great-grandfather who was alive during the initial outbreak reacted to the cirscumstances by intentionally moving to a small town.

    Western Animation 
  • Touched on sometimes in King of the Hill, specifically the episode where Hank worries about losing Bobby to a more exciting place... like Wichita Falls, home of the Dallas Cowboys training camp. Hank tries to campaign to have the training camp moved to Arlen, with disastrous results, but in the end Bobby says that he would never move to Wichita Falls—because to be a prop comic you need to go to New York or Los Angeles.
  • The title character from Katy La Oruga begins her adventure because she considers the safe cherry tree where she and her sisters live to be "ever so boring."

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: This can even happen in good-sized cities that aren't as huge as others.
    • Some states, such as Indiana and Iowa, have problems keeping up job rates because college grads and other people of age immediately flee to larger cities such as Chicago or LA to seek gainful employment.
    • Oklahoma has successfully documented the "Great Brain Drain", a finding that 50% of all university graduates leave the state for any state which has both better odds of employment and appears less boring to their university-educated eyes. One consequence of this finding has been reluctance for Oklahoma parents to allow their children to attend university because they fear that a university education will take their children away from them.
    • It gets worse in the Great Plains states, where this trope, combined with industrialized agriculture outcompeting small farmers, has been causing "rural flight". Small towns are being abandoned as nobody shows up to replace the young people who leave, and the latest Census survey holds that some areas now have a lower population density than they did in 1890, the year that the frontier was declared to be closed. There have even been calls to bring back the Homestead Act (which was repealed in 1976) in order to resettle the Plains states.
  • Some of the farm-country and Lovecraft Country areas of New England.
    • Similarly, the party in the middle of a cornfield depicted in Freddy vs. Jason? They're rather common in rural areas (though some areas might be in orchards instead).
  • Inverted in some areas of the Rust Belt, particularly Michigan, where young inner suburbanites and city dwellers go from universities in the bigger cities to high-paying jobs in the exurbs. The fastest growing towns in the state are all boring bedroom communities 45 minutes from anywhere of import.
  • In general, this trope can be inverted by people who actually enjoy the fact that small towns seem sleepy and boring. These people can find large, vibrant cities to be too loud, too suffocating, or what have you, and very much prefer the slower pace of life that occurs in smaller communities. What others would call boring and dull, they would call peace and quiet.
  • Hawai'i residents may experience "Island Fever," which is basically this trope applied to whichever island they happen to live on, since there's only so much to do on any given island, and they may rarely (or never) have the opportunity to visit other islands or visit the mainland due to the relative expense of doing so and the high costs of living in Hawaii.
  • Overall, the Western world has undergone (at the very least) one major cycle of this over the last two hundred years or so. When the industrial revolution came, many people left behind their small towns and villages for jobs in the city. Sure, they had No OSHA Compliance, you lived on the Wrong Side of the Tracks, but it still beat being stuck in a dead-end agricultural job, same as your ancestors all the way back to the Stone Age. Later on, the Railroad, the Streetcar, the bicycle and then the Automobile enabled people to move "further out" and still work in industrial jobs, which would one day result in "drive till you qualify" suburbs in some places. Jobs would also move out and ultimately people would live in one place, work in another, play in yet another and drive everywhere. Some jobs even allowed working from home. Ultimately all the effects of this trope hit hard, and starting some time in the 1980s, 1990s and picking up steam with the great recession, more and more people - particularly young, childless folk, are flocking back to cities.