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Table Space

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Could you pass the salt?

"The comic convention, when two people are dining at a table designed to accommodate twenty, is that they sit at either end."

Two people, surrounded by wealth and opulence, sit down to dinner at a table that is long enough to seat an entire NFL team. Rather than doing the sensible thing and sitting close together, they sit at the far ends of the table.

Often just a visual gag, but in more serious uses it becomes Symbolic Distance, where the table is used to illustrate the emotional distance between them, especially if this is a result of their opulent but hollow lifestyle. Also often overlaps with Formal Full Array of Cutlery.

It should be noted, most residences that are opulent enough to be able to house such a table also have multiple dining rooms, with a more simple and intimate room and table being used for everyday dining.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Rebuild of Evangelion: Gendo Ikari having dinner with Rei; it's not surprising she comes out of her shell enough to ask him to come along to Shinji's dinner party instead.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins: Grudge of Edinburgh features a scene with Meliodas, Elizabeth and their son Tristan sitting at a table like this. Then subverted when they dismiss the servants and then take their plates to a side table more appropriate in size for a dinner for three.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Subverted by Selina Kyle in Dark Victory. She and Bruce sit down to eat Thanksgiving dinner in this fashion, but after Alfred is finished serving them, she drags her rather large chair to the other end of the table to sit next to Bruce (and eat off his plate).

    Fan Works 
  • Subverted in Harry Potter and His Saving Theo Thing. When Harry first sees the Nott Manor dining table, which he estimates must've taken sixteen trees to build, he sits next to Theo.
  • In Harry Potter and the Hidden Threat Draco and his father eat a quiet dinner at opposite ends of a 20- or 30-foot table. Draco thinks to himself that a graveyard with a table would have more life to it.
  • In An oath of truth after Lucius and Narcissa have an argument, they sit at opposite ends of their 30-foot table.

    Film — Animated 
  • Beauty and the Beast: Subverted during "Beauty and the Beast" song. Belle and Beast exchange warm looks over the table and in the end of the dinner she rushes to pick him and drag him to the ballroom, so she'll teach him to dance.
  • The Grinch (2018): Grinch and Max frequently do this for breakfast. Going in hand with the Grinch's Adaptational Nice Guy, this helps to highlight that Grinch's self-imposed exile is not exactly satisfying him.
  • If Anything Happens I Love You: The opening shot shows the parents glumly eating dinner in silence at opposite ends of a table. They have been driven apart by grief after their daughter was killed in a school shooting.
  • The Incredibles has Bob and Mirage dine at opposite ends of a table after Bob neutralizes the Omnidroid. It does a good job at setting up the opulent but ultimately empty life that Bob Parr is about to enter with his new job. Also, judging from what Mirage says, the great size of the table, coupled with its placement right next to a wall of lava, stems from her boss (Syndrome)'s obsession with power.
  • A variation in Shrek: one of the many Match Cuts during the "Hallelujah" scene has Shrek at home with his meager wooden table and Fiona alone in the castle's banquet hall. The transition is lined up to briefly give the appearance of them dining together, which, reversing the typical usage of this trope, shows that they are still very much on each other's mind.
  • Superman: Red Son: As Premier of the Soviet Empire, Superman has set up the perfect utopian dictatorship that dominates the entire world. He's shown entertaining a foreign ambassador with both of them at the ends of a long table, and Superman asks the man to say what he honestly thinks of him. After babbling out some sycophantic praise, the ambassador eventually admits that Superman terrifies him.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Burnhams in American Beauty have a fairly large dinner table in their living room. The increased space is symbolizing the estrangement between the family members when they dine together.
  • When you're making a silent film in 2011 you need non-verbal clues to get the characters' emotional states across, so The Artist uses this to demonstrate the emotional gulf between George Valentin and his wife.
  • Done in the Winona Ryder version of The Crucible to emphasize John and Elizabeth Proctor's emotional estrangement.
  • The first Batman movie does it. Bruce even makes a nice joke about it. The table's huge, the mansion's huge, has he even been in this room before? They decide to move into the kitchen with its much smaller table.
  • Cinderfella: Jerry Lewis plays the titular stepson, who eats at the opposite end of a very long table from his stepmom and her two sons... and they keep ordering him to pass them things that are within their arms' reach.
  • Citizen Kane puts him and his wife further and further apart as their tables get bigger. To make this even more effective, it's only shown at the end of a montage showing their marriage breaking down. The final clip is a Reveal Shot showing the now long dinner table, with the previously loving couple sitting far apart and ignoring each other.
  • Parodied in Coming to America: the king and queen sit so far away from their son Akeem that he must talk to them through an intercom. He eventually gets frustrated and just walks to the other end of the table, much to the dismay of the others.
    King Jaffe: How long have you had a mustache?
  • In Dark City, when a poor couple is "turned" into a rich couple by Reality Warping aliens, their modest four-seater table extends out into one of these while their apartment expands into a lavish mansion.
  • In Dune (2021), Baron Harkonnen is shown feasting at the head of an extremely long table while Duke Leto — who has been captured, immobilized, drugged, and stripped naked — lies in a seat at the far end. Justified as the table would have been constructed for formal banquets hosted by a man who ruled an entire planet.
  • At the end of Rodney Dangerfield's Easy Money, the family is eating at a long dining table with Rodney at one end.
  • Used for a gag in Swedish film Fanny and Alexander. As the very rich extended Ekhdahl clan is having dinner, Helena beckons to a maid and says "Tell the children they may leave the table." The maid then walks down the long, long table to a second maid, and delivers the message. That maid then walks down to a third maid, who goes to the other end of the table (which might as well be in Finland) and tells Fanny and Alexander they may leave.
  • In Forbidden Zone, the king and the queen are at such a table, with a human chandelier dangling over them.
  • In If Looks Could Kill Augustus Steranko forces Michael Corben to have dinner with him and they both sit at opposite ends of a very long dinner table. Following an Ironic Echo at Michael's expense, he tries to launch himself down the table at Steranko, but its length allows Steranko's Mooks to grab him before he can reach his target.
  • JFK: During the interrogation scene with Clay Shaw and Jim Garrison, Clay Shaw lampshades the trope both in the dialogue and the Flashback sequence.
  • Losing Ground: Sara is not happy at all about Victor bringing his sexy model to the house. This is demonstrated in a scene where Victor and Sara are eating dinner at the opposite ends of a long table, with the camera swiveling back and forth as she fires questions at him.
  • A different version occurs in Midway (2019) where there's a conference with the Imperial Japanese Navy officers seated at one table, with another separate table opposite with the Army officers facing them. It perfectly symbolises their adversarial relationship at a time when they should be cooperating to fight the Allies. There's an empty chair at the end of the hall, presumably symbolising the emperor. Prime Minister Tojo, who should be mediating between the two, is seated with the Army (he's a general) and naturally takes their side.
  • MirrorMask has one such scene featuring an enormous dining table, with the Black Queen at one end and Helena at the other; at this stage, Helena has been brainwashed into replacing the Queen's runaway daughter, and the length of the dining table is pretty symbolic of the Queen's neglectful attitude. The only point in the meal when the two of them are remotely close is when Helena shakes off the brainwashing just long enough to remind the Queen that this charade is entirely pointless - AND THEN THE QUEEN'S FACE IS RIGHT THERE YELLING AT HER.
  • Done in Rebecca (1940). The table isn't quite as oversized as some examples, but the rich newlyweds do sit on opposite ends.
  • In Richie Rich, the live action movie of 1994, telephones are involved so they can communicate. In this case, Richie sat at the other end on purpose seeing as he didn't like their dinner guest Lawrence Van Dough.
  • In Robin and the 7 Hoods, Robbo is invited to dinner by the wealthy heiress Marian. They are the only two people seated at her lengthy dining table, and they are seated at opposite ends.
  • The Spy Who Loved Me. Billionaire shipping magnate Karl Stromberg is introduced dining at the end of a long table while his Sexy Secretary has her meal down the other end, presumably to convey the psychopathic self-isolation of a man willing to destroy the world. Later he invites Bond to take a seat at the far end, and it's revealed he has a very long barreled weapon under the table; Bond narrowly avoids being killed.
  • Used to nightmarish effect in the 2010 movie Victim where the Mad Doctor has dinner with his "daughter". In actuality she was a man who beat his real teenage daughter until she was rendered brain dead, and whom the doctor kidnapped and subjected to various medical procedures and MindRapes to turn into a new version of his daughter as an elaborate form of Karmic Revenge.

  • The Brothers Cabal: The Ministerium conspiracy holds a fancy dinner for six at a twenty-five-foot-long table, which is itself dwarfed by the gigantic, almost entirely empty dining hall. The net effect is described as being somewhat absurd.
  • Discworld:
    • Magrat and King Verence are seen doing this in Lords and Ladies, because Verence has to sit at the head of the table, and Magrat sitting at an angle to him makes conversation almost as awkward as sitting at the other end. It's made awkward on several levels, not just because they're trying to have a conversation during dinner, but because they're engaged to be married. Magrat eventually gets fed up with Verence having to shout so she can hear him, and gets the butler to move her chair to the other end. It gets lampshaded, with Magrat noting that she's heard about this sort of thing but always thought it only happened in stories until it happened to her. The trope is then further parodied by Granny insisting on dramatically Sweeping the Table despite the "acres" of empty space she could have used.
    • Discussed in Making Money, but the narration then adds "Moist and Adora Belle didn't try it, but instead huddled together."
    • Lampshaded in Unseen Academicals: "It is a regrettable fact that when two people are dining at a very large and impressive dining table they sit at the opposite ends of the long axis [...] even Lord Vetinari and Lady Margalotta had apparently signed up to the idea." Given all the rumors (both in- and out-of-universe) that the two are more than friends, or at least FriendlyRivals, this may put a lie to them.
  • In the Lord Peter Wimsey book Thrones, Dominations, Harriet Vane, newly married to Lord Peter, is still getting used to some of his eccentricities, including "the passion for ritual that set ten feet of mahogany between husband and wife at a solitary meal."
  • Alluded to in the Redwall story The Pearls of Lutra when one of the riddles that hide the location of the titular Pearls involves a table. Apparently some minor aristocrat had got so fed up with this trope and all its drawbacks that he'd decreed that the huge table in the dining hall was to be used for special occasions only and had a much more manageably-sized one made for everyday use. One of the Pearls was hidden in a secret compartment built into it.
  • Septimus Heap: Jenna alludes that Sarah and Silas Heap infrequently occupy the main table of the Palace at opposite ends, so that they have to communicate by hand signs, and leaving Jenna to sit somewhere uncomfortably between them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Altered Carbon: When Takeshi Kovacs and his sister Reileen decide to join the Quellist rebellion, Falconer and her Envoys are shown seated down a long table, then there's a gap before another long table with Kovacs and Reileen seated at it. (A later shot shows them seated amongst the other Envoys.)
    Kovacs: (narrating) We lived alongside them. Or, somewhere near them anyway.
  • Arrow: A subtle version takes place in the pilot episode, when Oliver Queen returns home five years after the yacht he and his father was on sunk. One change he doesn't like is that his mother has gotten remarried to his late father's business partner Walter Steele. Oliver is seated down one end of the table with his best friend and kid sister, and his mother Moira and her new husband are seated down the other while Oliver studies them coldly.
  • The "Marmalade" sketch in A Bit of Fry and Laurie parodies this trope: the husband (played by Fry) and the wife (played by Laurie) sit at opposite ends of a giant table at breakfast. The husband has a hilariously hard time understanding his wife's requests to pass the marmalade. And that's just where it starts...
  • Used for comic effect in the first series of Blackadder: King Richard is discussing the murder of Thomas Becket with the Queen, but she can't hear him from her end of the table, prompting Richard to repeatedly bellow the quote "WHO WILL RID ME OF THIS TURBULENT PRIEST?", which is overheard by some knights who think Richard is referring to his son and current Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Book of Boba Fett. In "The Streets of Mos Espa" we see a table full of all kinds of fancy dishes, enough food to feed ten people (or the late Jabba the Hutt), yet the only people present are Boba and his master assassin Fennec. The latter is down the far end of the table with her feet up on it, chowing down on a hunk of meat and trying to get her stoic boss to enjoy some of the perks of being a crime boss. Boba's having none of it and tells the droid to stop bringing more.
  • Daredevil (2015): In season 1, Wilson Fisk has a huge narrow table in his penthouse's dining room that highlights his luxurious but lonely life. At one point, he shows his strength by Flipping the Table in a fit of rage. It's in that same episode that Vanessa moves in with him, and in a Morning Routine montage we see the table restored to its position and Vanessa hugging him and taking a seat to his immediate right.
  • In ER, Carter tries to relate to del Amico by going along with her assumption that he is poor. A later scene has them sitting at opposite ends of the former's lavish dining room table to highlight the awkwardness of his lie falling through.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Used for the Small Council table in Season 3 "Walk of Punishment". While the other councilors scramble to sit as close to Lord Tywin Lannister as possible, his son Tyrion deliberately positions himself (with much hilarious chair-scraping) at the far end, yet directly opposite his father, showing their adversarial relationship.
    • At a dinner table in "Valar Dohaeris", the Tyrell siblings are seated next to each other, while Cersei and her son Joffrey are positioned at the opposite ends. (To maintain symmetry, Margaery and Loras would normally have been placed across from each other.) Guess which family gets along harmoniously and which one is dysfunctional.
  • In one of the Gilligan's Island TV movies, after the castaways make it back home, Mr. and Mrs. Howell are shown to dine like this.
  • Gilmore Girls: S04E15 ended with Emily and Richard Gilmore seated at the opposite ends of their large table in their luxurious dining room, and they struggled to keep their conversation going. There was no background sound but loud ticking. It showed emotional estragement creeping into their relationship. Prior to this, they have been a stable, Happily Married couple.
  • The Goodies: Tim's wealthy uncle dies, so he inherits his country seat and makes his former friends work as servants. This includes a gag of them trying to feed him from the opposite end of a long table, pumping coffee down a tube and serving eggs with slingshots. Eventually Bill loses patience and declares he's going to belt Tim, only he can't walk that far. Graham hands him a tricycle which Bill rides down the table, falling through it after Tim blasts at him with a hunting shotgun.
  • The Heavy Water War: When one character is suddenly promoted to the directorship of the plant producing heavy water for the German occupiers, he's given a 22-bedroom house with servants. His wife is shown to be uncomfortable with the sudden change in their lifestyle, and when seated at the far end of the table she moves down to her husband's end.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "...After the Phantoms of Your Former Self", "A Vile Hunger for Your Hammering Heart", and "The Thing Lay Still", Daniel Molloy conducts the interview with Louis de Pointe du Lac in the latter's dining room, and they sit at opposite ends of a long table while eating their meals. The distance between them is symbolic of Daniel being naturally wary of a vampire who nearly drained him to death 49 years ago for merely being a Vampire Vannabe while high on drugs.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Prince Durin is invited at a diner by king Gil-Galad to discus political matters, to which they are joined by Elrond, Celebrimbor and other three unnamed Elves; Durin and Gil-galad both are positioned at the opposite ends. The entire scene is tensioned and filled with subtle suspicions thrown at each other.
  • Done several times in Merlin (2008), most often between Morgana and Uther to highlight the increasing emotional distance between the two.
  • In Murdoch Mysteries, Table Space between Dr. Julia Ogden and her husband Dr. Darcy Garland is used to emphasize the emotional distance between them during their argument. Julia fights for women's rights to use contraceptives, which is illegal and threatens Darcy's possible promotion. At one previous scene, they were comfortably sitting very close on a sofa.
  • In NewsRadio, when Lisa goes over to Jimmy James' mansion, he had just bought a very long table that he insists she sit at the end of. They have to yell at each other to talk.
  • Red Dwarf: The guys once discover they can use old photos for time travel. Lister influences the track of time and becomes filthily rich. He has a huge mansion, and his attractive young lady-friend and he are sitting at opposite sides of a very long table when they're having dinner.
  • Appears in the Scrubs episode "My Cold Shower", when Kelso has an Imagine Spot about what it'd be like being married to Elliot. The gag is used to show how loveless that marriage would be; Elliot notes how much she hates Kelso and he emotionlessly replies "I know" before returning to his dinner.
  • In Sex and the City, when Samantha dates a millionaire who is in his seventies, they sit in his huge house by a huge table. It is used just for fun to emphasize his wealth.
  • Strike: Robin's interview for a new job in The Cuckoo's Calling takes place with her at the end of an overlong conference table with the three people interviewing her on the other end. This isn't because the interview's intimidating—she's offered the job—but to demonstrate Robin's discomfort as she's realizing she doesn't actually want the job. She prefers to continue working at the detective agency for Strike.
  • In "Colossians 3:9-10" from Warrior Nun, Lilith and her mother sit together at opposite ends of a long table as they have a fraught discussion regarding Lilith's appearance and her being "passed over" for the Halo.
  • The X-Files: A rare example from a professional setting happens in "Fallen Angel" when Agent Scully and then Agent Mulder have a responsibility hearing with Section Chief McGrath. The FBI has never liked their little department investigating paranormal cases.


  • One Gibson Girl print showed this trope with the Gibson girl, her titled and otherwise odious husband, and her dream of a happy marriage where she, her husband, and the children would be romping on the lawn.

    Video Games 
  • Deadly Premonition uses one in York's first breakfast at the hotel, a scene that's as long and drawn out as the table itself. Since York is the only guest at the formerly bustling hotel, it's just him and the elderly innkeeper, and she insists on seating them at opposite ends of the dining table. She's also hard of hearing, so both that and the table's length pretty much kills any conversation between the two.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "dreamail", Strong Bad's dream e-mail includes a sequence where Strong Bad and The Cheat have dinner sitting at opposite ends of a long table (made from an autographed reproduction of the front door from 227, no less).

  • SF Debris: In his review of The X-Files episode "Fallen Angel" mentioned above, SF Debris says that Scully obviously has a hearing at the FBI's Super Long Table Division.

    Western Animation 
  • Done in an episode of Arthur, when D.W. imagines what it would be like if her parents never spoke to each other again.
  • In Donkey Kong Country, DK and Candy do this in an attempt of DK's to treat Candy to a formal lunch. Naturally, they're so far apart that they have trouble speaking to each other. DK soon gets annoyed with this and moves closer to Candy so they can talk.
  • A scene in The Flintstones has Fred and Barney conversing at either end of a long dining table, including this exchange:
    Barney has just made some remark, Fred replies: Oh.
    Barney: What'ya say, Fred?
    Fred: I SAID "OH!"
  • One episode of the Looney Tunes, "From Hare To Heir", had Bugs Bunny promise Yosemite Sam (who is short on money) a million pounds provided he keep his Hair-Trigger Temper (get it) in check. What follows is Bugs deducting bit by bit with each outburst. In one scene, as Bugs and Sam are eating at different ends of a very long table, Bugs frequently asks for various things, forcing Sam to walk all the way down to the far end of the table. Each time as he's walking all the way back to be seated, Bugs calls back for another item. This causes Sam to lose his temper, prompting Bugs to reduce 300 pounds (which makes Sam go into a rage-inducing fit, taking away 400 pounds more).
  • In an episode of the George of the Jungle revival, George wins a booby-trap filled mansion and forces Ape to live there with him. This trope is put in play at dinner time, where Ape sits at one end with a sullen look while George nervously sits on the other far end. When George asks for the salt, Ape slides it down the table, where it is quickly destroyed by said booby-traps.
  • Goldie Gold and Action Jack: Goldie's dinner table is so long that Jack quips that the food will get cold by the time anyone passes the salt.
  • Justice League: In "A Better World", in an Alternate Universe where the Justice League has taken over the world in an enforced utopia, Superman and Lois Lane are shown at opposite ends of an (albeit normal-sized) dinner table, to show her disapproval of his actions.
    Superman: It's cold.
    Lois: It's gazpacho — it's meant to be cold.
    Superman: I don't mean the soup.
  • The Looney Tunes Show: Happens in "The Shelf" when Daffy is having dinner with Tina. The kicker is that it isn't even Daffy's house; it's Porky's and he is forcing Porky to act as his butler. It ends with Daffy flinging bread rolls at Porky and Tina storming out.
  • Downplayed example in one episode of Seven Little Monsters, where the family moves into a Big Fancy House for a day. While there are seven of them (plus their Ma), the table is still big enough that they need to use a loudspeaker to ask for the salt.
  • The Simpsons:
    • When Mr. Burns tries to adopt Bart as his son in "Burns' Heir", they dine like this even though it's not all an intimate way to eat.
      Mr. Burns: Oh? Your milk's gone cold. I'll ring for the maid...
      [He hits a button on his intercom, and Bart's chair snaps back a few feet while simultaneously binding his arms, legs and mouth with metal straps that emerge from the chair.]
      Mr. Burns: Oops! Wrong button.
    • "The Mansion Family" has the family house-sitting Burns' mansion and having dinner at the incredibly long table.
      Lisa: Mom, Bart's making faces at me... [peers through opera glasses] I think.
  • The Venture Bros.: In "Love Bheits", villainous dictator Baron Underbheit dines with his forced bride-to-be (actually Dean Venture in drag). They sit at opposite ends of a table so long that Dean can't hear anything the Baron says. The Baron drags his chair closer so they can talk. In this example, closing the distance makes the atmosphere more uncomfortable.

    Real Life 
  • The state of affairs between Consuelo Vanderbilt and her loathed husband the Duke of Marlborough (he was the first cousin of Winston Churchill). Because etiquette dictated that they must at least dine together, they made the best of it by eating at the opposite ends of a room-length banquet table; the table also had an 100-pound silver centerpiece placed in the middle to prevent the couple from accidentally making eye contact.
  • The Paris Peace Accords that negotiated the withdrawal of US forces from Vietnam were held up by a debate over the shape of the conference table.
  • In 2022, people began noticing Vladimir Putin using long tables to maintain a distance between himself and others, including foreign dignitaries, like Emmanuel Macron, as well as his own advisors.


Video Example(s):


High-class table space

Spoofed by the Simpsons who sit at an extremely long table for dinner at Mr. Burns' mansion. They can hardly hear or each other over the distance.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / TableSpace

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