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Where they cut down all the trees and name the streets after them.

"Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same."
Malvina Reynoldsnote 


The place where the Dom Com usually lives.

People live in houses that, while not exactly palatial, are still a lot bigger than they ought to be. Most of the houses look alike, having been built according to the same two or three plans. Instead of a Main Street like most small towns, a suburb will have The Mall, be it a big, enclosed shopping center or a strip mall with a Walmart. You can walk or ride a bike to a few places, but not most of them, so plots involving the availability of a car (such as the Very Special Episode about drunk driving) are possible.

Depending on the genre, Suburbia may also be home to a ragtag band of kids, talking animals, and cool Elders; sometimes, all three may be there together! In less satirical examples (see below), Suburbia may be the staging point for a City of Adventure, especially if it borders The Big City.


A deep well of satire and (often not very affectionate) parody, especially from disaffected youth. In the middle of the 20th century, the American intelligentsia were obsessed with attacking the actual and perceived shortcomings of suburbia. By the nineties, the idea of satirizing suburbia was so ingrained in American culture that it was itself satirized. The fact that we have an entire trope about this, Stepford Suburbia, speaks volumes about the way many Americans view the suburban lifestyle.

Suburbia in TV has three distinct flavors:

  • The Coastal Regions, which is essentially The City, except that people have yards. Most people are college educated, middle-class, and at least slightly liberal. If not California, then the Northeast is readily available.
  • The Midwest, which is more rural. Family Values often abound. Frequent forays into the Quirky Town and the Town with a Dark Secret. Poorer and less educated than their coastal brethren, and somewhat more likely to be conservative. Often, these portrayals stray far from real life and enjoy an undercurrent of hypocrisy (the respectable church-goers are all sleeping with each other), partly to add color, but mostly because the Midwest is just slightly less alien than Mars to most of the folks who write TV.
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  • The gated community. Entrance to this neighborhood is restricted to residents, mail and delivery men, cops, and visitors, with a guard booth at the road in and out. Often shares the conservatism of Midwestern suburbs, with the residents of the community hoping to create a idyllic life for themselves, just like in those Fifties sitcoms, free from "those people" outside. There's also a big element of snobbery and class warfare — these people bought their way into Sunnyside Estates, thank you very much.

For examples in fiction where all of the houses look basically alike, see Cut-and-Paste Suburb.


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  • Edward Scissorhands derives a contrast from the gothic castle Edward is from and the friendly, pastel mid-century suburb at the foot of the town. The townsfolk are friendly, if a little insensitive to his condition, at least until Edward's situation begins deteriorating.
  • The Family Man: Jack spends much of his glimpse trying to get used to life in the suburbs. After Kate rejects his efforts to relocate the family to The City, he finally makes peace with their New Jersey home.
  • Fright Night (2011): Most of the movie is set in a new middle-class residential development, a little island of identical houses surrounded by desert. Aerial shots at the beginning emphasize the homogeny of the homes and the banal, wholesome ambiance of the neighborhood.
  • Halloween (1978) takes place in an ordinary Midwestern suburb (although it was actually filmed in the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena), and was one of the first horror films to utilize the familiar suburban environment and a key contributor to the "suburban Gothic" sub-genre.
  • Stepmom: Anna and Ben divide their time between Luke and Isabel's apartment in The City and Jackie's house in suburban Englewood, New Jersey.

  • Disclosure has the Coastal Regions variant: Tom and his family live on Bainbridge Island, a bedroom community within a 40-minute ferry ride of Seattle.
  • In the Alternate History of Malê Rising, suburbia emerges in the US a decade ahead of schedule thanks to the Great Depression not happening, as well as a left-wing Farmer-Labor government in the '40s that supported heavy infrastructure development to boost the economy, the single-family tract housing of the suburbs being one of their more famous accomplishments. As a result, suburbia sees critics emerge on the right wing as well as the left, seeing suburbia as a symbol of the left's desire to pave over tradition and replace it with soulless development. Since the civil rights movement had been accomplished early, black professionals follow their white counterparts into the suburbs as they become middle-class (often to get away from their new immigrant neighbors) rather than being redlined into ghettoes. (There are exceptions to this, though — in those former Jim Crow states that went down kicking and screaming, suburbia is still badly segregated, with only the city centers being mixed-race.)
  • The Order of Melkizedek: Sonya's house is in a spanking-new Makati planned subdivision, either for the Nouveau Riche upper classes or the aspirational middle classes. It's modelled on a very American, midcentury-modernist style, with a wide-open lawn, flat-roofed profile, wide property footprint and low fence. Adela, too, lives with her husband Santiago in a similar suburban-style house.
  • Ordinary People: The wealthy suburb of Lake Forest (and the Jarretts' unhappiness within it) is contrasted with the peace Calvin and Conrad find in Evanston (technically a city – and referred to as such in the novel – but still a suburb of Chicago). Calvin and Conrad move to Evanston at the end of the novel.
  • The Power Broker: The parkways Moses built so that the increasing amount of city dwellers with automobiles could get to the state parks he built on Long Island help turn Nassau County from potato-farming country into today's suburban sprawl after World War II.
  • In The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, Mikey describes where he lives as "a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of a city that takes about a hour to get to."
  • Rally Round the Flag, Boys! is set in the nice, typical suburban village of Fairfield County, Connecticut and is about the lives of the townsfolk disrupted by a new missile installation.
  • The Wednesday Wars: The whole book takes place in the nice town of Camillo, Long Island. Everyone knows each other and most of the kid's parents are pretty well-off, except Doug's and Mai Thi.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The topic of the Adam Ruins Everything episode "Adam Ruins...The Suburbs". Urban Segregation divided 20th-century neighborhoods into "red" and "green" zones. Modern suburban residents are descended from the those who lived in "green" zones, where mostly white residents were allowed to borrow money from banks and buy houses. This was discouraged and very difficult in "red" zones."
  • The Nuclear Family at the center of The Dick Van Dyke Show lived in suburban New Rochelle.
  • Maude was set in the affluent real-life NYC suburb of Tuckahoe, New York.
  • My Family and Me: The show stars a Nuclear Family in the suburbs of Cloverdale, California.
  • The Wonder Years chronicles a teenager growing up in a suburb somewhere during The '60s.

  • Pet Shop Boys' "Suburbia" is a critique of suburban life.
    Suburbia: where the suburbs meet utopia
  • Some of The Stooges' early songs are about just how boring Ann Arbor suburbs were in The '60s. No news on how boring it is today though...

    Video Games 
  • The setting of Eagle Eye Mysteries. At Richview's north end is a farm area; northwest is the local Buccaneer Beach; downtown has two jewelry stores and a bank; and most of the map's lower half is residential.
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 3: Tranquility Lane, a computer simulation, is modeled after 1950's suburbia with cheerful background music, neat and clean houses, perfectly manicured lawns, and white picket fences: a complete contrast to the wrecked and rotten neighborhoods of the surface world. It turns out to be a Stepford Suburbia, however.
    • Fallout 4: Sanctuary Hills, Massachusetts, is a 1950's style suburb where the Happily Married player character lives at the beginning. It seems to be a surprisingly nice place to live, especially considering the broader milieu of 2077 with resource problems, urban riots, and a war between America and China. Then the bombs drop, and Sanctuary Hills becomes a mutant-infested ruin for the next two centuries. You can work with the Minutemen to make it a safe settlement once again, albeit no longer as this trope.
  • Though the neighborhood of Fatty Bear is never shown, both the interior and exterior of their house has the generic suburban structure.

    Visual Novels 
  • Cause of Death: The gated community's conceit of being a haven from all things nasty takes a beating in the Domestic Disturbance dyad. Even apart from the psycho killer who just got activated, Natara discovers that just about every adult in the walls is cheating on their spouses. The sole exceptions that she noticed? The two swingers.
  • Dream Daddy: The setting is a peaceful cul-de-sac in a friendly neighborhood.
  • Melody:
    • At the beginning of the story, the protagonist, Bethany, and Tim appear to live in the suburbs of a major city.
    • In both the Good Ending and the Family Ending, this is where the protagonist and Melody eventually settle down. They have their little detached house with a manicured lawn for themselves and maybe a little one.

    Western Animation 
  • Katie and Orbie: The main characters live in a nice, friendly suburb, apparently far from a major city. When they visit their grandparents in the big city, it's like visiting a new world.

Alternative Title(s): Suburban Sprawl