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The Mall

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The perfect mall for speed shopping.
"Every day's great at your Junes!"
Junes Theme, Persona 4

A stock setting for any work set in suburbia, the Mall can be seen as the modernized version of the Main Streets that populate Everytown, America. Stores lined up along clean(ish) hallways populated by teenagers, parents with kids, and elderly people who have little better to do than walk around the mall all day. Will usually have a movie theater, a central meeting place (often with a fountain), boutiques and department stores that are out of the price range of the working class but still not luxe enough to be considered "classy", the occasional video game arcade and a food court. A job at a mall store is usually treated as second only to working in fast food in the hierarchy of Most Humiliating Jobs for Teenagers. (Bonus points if they work at a fast-food restaurant located in the food court.) The security guards are all guys who washed out of (or were rejected from) basic training or the police academy, have an inflated sense of entitlement, and have nothing better to do than harass our heroes over trivial matters.

Like its close cousin, suburbia, the sterility of malls has often been used for the purposes of social commentary, satirizing the corporatization and consumerism of American society, and has frequently been employed as a symbol of mainstream conformity (especially in youth-focused works) and the destruction of the "little man" by big chain stores.

In older works or in early-mid 20th century period pieces, a department store is likely to serve the same purpose, albeit in a somewhat more idealized fashion (Nostalgia Filter and all).

The natural habitat of the Valley Girl, Zombies and, come Christmas time, the Mall Santa, and the destination of choice for a Shopping Montage. This setting is best portrayed in The '80s, when malls were at their zenith, since many malls have since gotten rid of the neon and fountains that were featured in that decade. Although there are still plenty of successful malls that have undergone multi-million dollar renovations to stay on top of the heap, very many are in declinenote  (so-called "dead malls") with competition from "big box" stores and online shopping — to say nothing of poor urban planning, a bad economy and a new generation moving back to the cities in droves. Regardless of their current state, the mall is increasingly looked upon with a sense of nostalgia, and as such, films that either focus on a mall setting, or feature a mall prominently, are beginning to be seen as period pieces.

Compare and contrast Bazaar of the Bizarre, Predatory Business.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • School-Live!: Miki Naoki and her friend Kei Shidō got stuck at a mall when the zombies first appeared. They and the other survivors holed up in relative comfort due to the abundance of nearby resources, but a new outbreak of zombification among the survivors forced the two girls to run into an even smaller emergency shelter room. Miki is left alone when Kei gets tired of spending all her days trapped inside. The School Living Club spends the second volume on a resource-gathering mission at this mall, where they rescue Miki and take her back to Megurigaoka Private High.
  • In the Turning Red spinoff 4★Town 4★Real, the chapter focusing on Aaron T. mostly takes place in a mall which is likely specifically the Toronto Eaton Centre.

    Comic Books 
  • American Flagg! is set in the Chicago PlexMall, a 20 Minutes into the Future Mall-turned-Arcology.
  • Frequently seen as a setting in Ultimate Spider-Man comics. At different points, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson both have sucky mall jobs.
  • Robin (1993): Tim and Ariana spend some time at malls while dating. One of the many signs their relationship is doomed to fail is how uninterested Tim is in averything Ari wants to do there and how he mentally notes he'd rather hang out with Ives and Callie when they run into them there. Ives also gets a job at a Suck E. Cheese's in a mall.
  • The Mall (2018): The main setting of the series is, of course, a mall. Specifically, it's set in the Royal Palm Mall, where Diego, Lena, and Dallas each inherit a store from their father... and get caught up in the criminal underworld.
  • Marvel 2099: One story in Hulk 2099 featured "the biggest mall in America," a bloated, sprawling building the size of a city inhabited by deformed mutates.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Mittens is inadvertently abandoned in the title venue by Penny and her mom in “The Mall.” Other stories in the series reference Penny and her mother being away shopping at one.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Dueling Movies Observe and Report and Paul Blart: Mall Cop were about mall security guards.
  • The original Dawn of the Dead (1978) used its mall setting to compare American consumers to zombies. The 2004 remake does the same, but since everybody knew what malls were like by then, there is less Scenery Porn and it plays a smaller part in the story.
  • Part of the plot of Eight Legged Freaks revolves around the mayor having a useless shopping mall built in the town. Part of the climax takes place in said mall, culminating in the entire place getting blown up.
  • Bad Santa is about a crooked Mall Santa and his elf assistant who rob malls every Christmas.
  • In Night of the Comet, what is one of the first things that Reggie and Sam decide to do now that civilization has come to an end? Go on the ultimate mall shopping spree!
  • The Roger Corman-produced sci-fi / slasher flick Chopping Mall, in which the robotic security system at a mall malfunctions and starts killing the people who snuck in after-hours. Interestingly, stars one of the girls who led up Night of the Comet.
  • Clueless: The mall is featured prominently in the movie, as the main characters, Cher and Dionne love going there and shopping.
  • Mallrats. New Jersey (Kevin Smith's home) was and still is the capital of American mall culture (though the film was actually shot at a mall in Minnesota).
  • Shows up in Mean Girls. Janis works at a Bath & Body Works-type place, and Cady compares the behavior of the teens hanging out at the fountain to that of the wild animals she grew up alongside in Africa.
  • Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure has a scene in the "San Dimas Mall", actually Phoenix's (now dying) Metrocenter.
  • The Blues Brothers drive through a mall, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. This was a real mall (Dixie Square Mall) that closed in 1978 because it was in a high-crime, low-income suburb — becoming one of the first "dead malls" despite being just over a decade old at the time of its closure — and the producers set up fake storefronts in it. 30+ years later, the vacant building was still (barely) standing before finally getting torn down in 2012.
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High, as befits a major teen film of The '80s, used the Sherman Oaks Galleria as a major setting. Declining sales and the 1994 earthquake led to its partial demolition, but it does still exist as an open-air center.
  • The Freshman has a scene where the rare Komodo dragon the main character is transporting gets loose in the children's fun fair at a suburban New York mall (actually the Fantasy Fair at Toronto's Woodbine Centre).
  • The Hot Chick: The titular hot chick, Jessica Spencer, visits an African-themed store inside a mall when she and her friends go shopping, where she steals a pair of earrings that's not for sale, which later causes her to accidentally switch bodies with a male criminal.
  • A scene in Jingle All the Way has Arnold Schwarzenegger's character seeking the film's Cool Toy at the Mall of America.
  • Logan's Run: Most of the Crapsaccharine World domed city looks and feels like a futuristic mall (indeed, the city scenes were primarily filmed at the Dallas Market Center), and almost all the inhabitants act like hedonistic mall-goers who shop, drink, and entertain themselves without a care in the world.
  • The first scene of the 1983 horror short film Possibly in Michigan was set in a suburban shopping mall. Contrary to the film's title, it was actually shot in Ohio, at the still-thriving Beachwood Place in Greater Cleveland.
  • A key scene in the Talking Heads film True Stories celebrates the suburban shopping mall.
  • Valley Girl, the early Nicolas Cage triumph about his character's infatuation with a valley girl, features the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, CA standing in for the Sherman Oaks Galleria in Van Nuys. Unlike many other 1980's-era malls (see above), the Del Amo Fashion Center is still thriving as of 2020.
  • The Russian film A Man with a Guarantee has a mall (well, a hypermarket) security guard living at the mall and being everybody's best friend (except the mall manager, employees of a rival chain, and wannabe pickup artists). He ends up being the target of The Bet between the female owner of the mall chain and her Friendly Enemy rival (she either marries a regular joe at the mall without revealing who she is in a few weeks, or she loses everything). The guard even makes sure to stay as legal as possible. He only eats food that has just passed its expiration date or has a friend of his bring him food. He sleeps in beds at the furniture store and makes them presentable in the morning. The reason for this is (besides saving a fortune on an apartment in Moscow) because someone, likely a woman, hurt him once, and he has been afraid to leave the safety of the mall and be vulnerable again. He did buy himself an expensive sports car with all the money he saved.
  • Wonder Woman 1984 is set in The '80s and has an action scene set in a mall. Quite appropriate given the era.
  • True Stories has a sequence set in one, culminating in an Impossibly Tacky Clothes fashion show.

  • Animorphs: A nearly-Once an Episode occurrence, at least until the final books. The kids often hang out at the mall, whether to keep up appearances, infiltrate the Yeerk Pool, or just because Rachel loves shopping. Hell, the very first scene in the series is them all leaving the mall at night.
  • The first book in the Bone Chillers series was "Beware the Shopping Mall," about a mall built over a swamp where three teenagers died many years prior. Main character Robin Fagin discovers the three teenagers have returned as ghosts who're slowly sucking the life out of all the children inside the mall so they can come back to life permanently, turning them into mannequins in the process.
  • The primary setting of Long Hot Summoning, although it's significantly weirder than most malls since it's slowly being turned into a portal to another dimension.
  • The Neil Armstrong Shopping Centre, Blackbury in the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, where the main characters hang around while complaining that Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here. Also the location of the ARNCO store that replaced Arnold Bros Department Store in the Nomes Trilogy.
  • The novel No Safety in Numbers is about a suburban mega-mall in Westchester County, New York that is quarantined after a biological weapon is released inside, trapping thousands of shoppers.
  • In Somtow Sucharitkul's Mallworld stories, the barJulian family is insanely rich because they're descended from the man who held title to the region of space where Mallworld (a giant space station -cum- mall) was built. Most of the workers live in nearby space habitats and commute in, though there are semi-feral tribes of young people who live in the maintenance spaces of the mall itself. If it's not obvious already, most of the stories were written in the 1980s.
  • The Dresden Files short story "It's My Birthday, Too" takes place in a real-life Chicago suburban mall after closing hours. Harry visits Thomas, who's playing a vampire LARP game in a bistro with his employees, only to find them under attack by real vampires. By the time it's over, one wing is up in flames.
  • In Discworld novel Reaper Man, a nightmarish version of a mall appears as a parasitic lifeform which preys upon cities.
  • A reoccurring setting in Fear Street is the Division Street Mall, where the protagonists either shop in or work in depending on the book. The maxi-series Fear Street Seniors reveals Trisha Conrad's family own the mall, and Fear Street Nights is about the burnt remains of the Fear Mansion being torn down so a mall can be built over it.
  • The One and Only Ivan is set in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall And Video Arcade for the bulk of the book.
  • Seven Stars: In the chapter "The Dog Story", set in a crapsack future, there's a throwaway joke about London's new corporate overloads turning Pall Mall into a shopping precinct because they were tired of explaining to American tourists that it wasn't that kind of mall.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Robin's song "Let's Go To the Mall"note  on How I Met Your Mother, which she promoted by touring Canada's malls (a reference to Tiffany; see below). She cites this as the reason she has an aversion to malls, mentioning how she spent a year living on a diet of Orange Julius and Wetzel's Pretzels.
  • In the New Zealand show The Tribe had most of the lead characters live in a mall and many plots would be about them defending themselves and their knew home from rival tribes. The tribe's name who lived inside the mall? The Mall Rats, of course.
  • Kickin' It revolves around a karate dojo located in a mall.
  • Married... with Children has several episodes which take place in the (fictional) New Market Mall.
  • The Righteous Gemstones: One of the storylines of the show's first season is the titular Gemstones who just opened one of their churches at a mall, inside a former Sears store.
  • Roseanne had a season one episode, "Mall Story" that really looked at malls in-depth, highlighting a lot of their most bizarre quirks of malls and the culture surrounding them, with Roseanne saying, "Ya know, I love can live, die, and learn to play the organ, all under one roof!"
  • Scream Queens (2015): In one episode, The Chanels went shopping on Black Friday at the mall, where they would also later get attacked and trapped inside by Red Devil on their way out.
  • A major setting on the third season of Stranger Things is the Starcourt Mall, newly opened in the town of Hawkins, Indiana, with Steve and Robin working at the Scoops Ahoy ice cream parlor in embarrassing sailor uniforms and barely able to muster up any enthusiasm for the ad. In keeping with the show's rooting in '80s nostalgia, the stores prominently featured include a number of now-defunct mall-based chains indelibly associated with the decade, such as Waldenbooks (selling Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October), Sam Goody (selling Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A.), Radio Shack, and Wicks 'N' Sticks, as well as still-around '80s chains like The Gap, Claire's, and Jazzercise. Early in the season, it's highlighted that the opening of the mall has devastated Hawkins' Main Street shops, reflecting how many real-life malls often fueled suburbanization and the hollowing out of traditional downtowns and Main Streets, with a scene of Hawkins' shop owners protesting the mayor who had it built. It turns out that the shell company that built the mall was owned by Soviet spies, who use the mall as a cover for an Elaborate Underground Base to conduct research into the Upside Down. The mall is trashed by the Mind Flayer during the finale, and is stated to have been closed down afterwards.
  • In the early 3rd Rock from the Sun episode "Truth or Dick", Tommy spent the whole episode struggling with how to be a teenager. At the end of the episode, he discovers that hanging out at the mall is where teenagers "belong" in society.
  • Young Sheldon: Sheldon, Missy, and Paige go here in "Body Glitter and a Mall Safety Kit".

  • The derisive term "mallcore" is often used to describe any genre of metal music (such as Nu Metal, metalcore and deathcore) that is perceived as being "too mainstream."
  • Throughout The '80s, the mall concert circuit was a thriving one. Used by several independent and national promoters to increase artist visibility in the youth demographic, Tiffany was the most famous artist to come into the mainstream this way, but she was by no means the only one. Watch any given teen/family sitcom from the '80s long enough, and eventually you'll find an episode featuring a fleetingly popular pop act throwing a concert a mall.
  • British singer Just Jack's biggest hit Starz In Their Eyes discusses media exploitation of naive wannabe pop star. It contains the lyric "remember they said you'd show them all, emphasised the rise but not the fall, next thing you're playing a shopping mall", suggesting that this is the unwanted musical destination of a short-term star.

  • Mall Fight takes place in a magic mall that is big enough to be an alternate universe all its own. It has whatever store the Fighters wish it to have, as well.

    Video Games 
  • The first two Dead Rising games are set primarily or partially in malls, as an homage to George Romero.
  • The second stage of Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia takes place in a mall, complete with a Shout-Out to Dawn Of The Dead:
    "I think there's a metaphor for something in all this."
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (which is set in The '80s) has two of them. Tommy Vercetti has to kill a French secret agent and get his MacGuffin in the smaller one, and intimidates the shop owners of the bigger one of Vice City into paying him a tax. When they refuse to pay, he comes at them and destroys the glass of their storefronts. Later, he puts a bomb inside the mall's café.
  • The "JAYSUUUNNN!!!" level in Heavy Rain.
  • The Left 4 Dead 2 level "Dead Center" is partly set here. The final chapter involves filling up the gas tank of the fictional Jimmy Gibbs Jr.'s stock car to escape while hoards of Infected try to stop you. (And you might even run into a zombified Gibbs himself!)
  • Civilization:
    • The mall is the unique building for the Americans in Civilization IV. It replaces the supermarket, providing a gold bonus and extra happiness from hit movies, singles, and musicals in addition to the supermarket's food and health bonuses.
    • In the Rise and Fall expansion for Civilization VI, the Shopping Mall can be built by all civs in Neighborhood districts, providing tourism and amenities. The Civilopedia entry for the building jokes that, after the modern mall was invented in Wisconsin and Sweden, "frozen yogurt stands would follow not too long after."
  • Dead Space 2 has the Concourse, a mall-like section of the Sprawl.
  • Knight Eternal: Gabenport used to sell their goods through tents in Knight Bewitched and regular buildings in Finding Light. In this game, they upgrade to a multi-story mall using technology from Scitech.
  • Mall Tycoon is a Sims-like game that allows the player to develop "the ultimate shopping mall"... if they can overcome the awkward camera controls and UI, for which it was widely panned in reviews. Someone must have enjoyed the game in spite of that, however, because it got two sequels and an Enhanced Edition of the second installment.
  • In Nicktoons Racing, the Rancid Raceway track takes place at the Nearburg Shopping Mall.
  • There are many areas in Second Life that are basically huge malls.
  • The second level of The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants takes place at the Springfield Mall. In order to complete the level, Bart must steal enough hats so that the Aliens can't use them to build their ultimate weapon of destruction. The boss is Mrs. Botz, A.K.A. The Babysitter Bandit.
  • Top Shop has players buying properties in many different malls.
  • The ever-reappearing Mall level in the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, appearing in games such as the first one, American Wasteland, and Pro Skater HD.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: The final stage is set in a highrise whose first few floors are taken up by a shopping mall. Despite the Rank 4 battle set on the roof of a place sometimes called "Guans Shopping Mall," it's actually a supermarket, and the game calls it on the map as a supermarket.
  • Coconut Mall on Isle Delfino from Mario Kart Wii, returning in Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart Tour, as well as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe as Downloadable Content.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey has Sector Carina (and by extension, part of Sector Grus), a labyrinthine shopping mall that symbolizes Human Greed and Gluttony. In particular, overuse of natural resources to produce luxuries.
  • Zombies Ate My Neighbors has three levels that take place at a shopping mall; "Level 3: Terror in Aisle Five", "Terrifying to the Bone! Level 13: Chopping Mall", and "Huge Discounts on: Level 25: Look Who's Shopping".
  • The second level in Emo Game 2 takes place at the Mall of America, and involves blowing up its central core in order to destroy every mall in the country and liberate America from yuppie consumerism. The entrance to the mall overtly resembles a cathedral, with stained-glass windows and messages that treat shopping as a holy sacrament, while the stores inside include an Asian Store-Owner's cell phone kiosk (the subject of a Boss Fight), clothing stores where teenagers go to become slaves to fashion, a music retailer run by Soundwave that sells nothing but Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake CDs, and a New-Age Retro Hippie shop inhabited by the ghost of Jerry Garcia (another boss) and a bunch of people nostalgic for a decade they never lived through. In the parking garage, you get into another boss fight with Tim Allen driving a Hummer while ranting about how his lifestyle is worth more than the environment. You also run into Becky and Enid from Ghost World, wondering what happened to the soul of Middle America; later on, you find that the mall was literally built atop an old Middle American Main Street, whose abandoned, boarded-up shops are now the home of "underground" music.
  • It's possible to visit a dying shopping mall at one point in Night in the Woods, which helps remind Bea and Mae of more carefree times.
  • Featured in one level of Skate or Die 2, where your character makes "deliveries" of some kind from store to store to make money to build a skate ramp.
  • Choice of Games has Choice of the Zombies, which is about a Zombie Apocalypse. One of the places your group of survivors can hole up is, perhaps inevitably, in a shopping mall.
  • The Christmas Episode of The Darkside Detective is set in a shopping mall, as the protagonists go Christmas shopping and wind up Saving Christmas.
  • Persona 4 has Junes, a department store in Inaba that's managed by Yosuke Hanamura's dad. It acts as the Investigation Team's meeting point throughout the game, and they use the TV at the electronics section to access the TV World. Which, a little strangely for a role playing game, means you aren't allowed to shop there except for a non-interactive cutscene or two.
  • In River City Girls, a mall is one of the parts of the city that Misako and Kyoko go looking for their boyfriends. Naturally, all they find there are a bunch of juvenile delinquents to beat up.
  • Luigi's Mansion 3 has the Hotel Shops on the third floor of the Last Resort. It has two levels of escalator-accessed shops such as a clothing store and a barber shop, and Luigi has to fight an overweight mall cop ghost at the end.
  • Riot inexplicably has a shopping mall as it's second stage, when the rest of the levels are military or jungle-themed, or otherwise set outdoors like in a valley, an army train or in some desert ruins.
  • Lucky & Wild is a console arcade game by Namco from 1992 that combines a driving hazard simulator with a light-gun shoot-'em-up, ideally as a two-player game. At one point, the fleeing criminals drive into a shopping mall, where the lighting is minimal. The player characters remain in pursuit, presumably because any shoppers hit by the criminals are too far gone to save.
  • Wipeout has had three courses set in gigantic malls. The Mega Mall from 3 had a bit of a Greco-Roman theme, the Ubermall from Pure was more outwardly futuristic, and the Queens Mall track from 2048 had a segment running through an urban shopping center.
  • Kirby and the Forgotten Land has stage 4 of Natural Plains, "A Trip to Alivel Mall," which is an abandoned mall full of enemies and captured Waddle Dees. The stage following it is also where you fight Gorimondo. Another one appears as the third stage of Originull Wasteland.
  • Karen Sees: The game is set in the Pacific Palm Mall, where Bob the night guard has to collect all the pieces of paper containing complaints left by a Karen, while also having to avoid said Karen who broke into the mall with a knife.
  • The setting of the first (and longest) levels of Barbie (1991) is a mall, where you have to clear through a boutique, a toy store, a food court, and even the mall's water fountains.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Melody, the title character gets an appreciation present for Amy at the local mall.

    Web Animation 
  • DSBT InsaniT: This is the setting of episode 5, "Store Story".

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • 6teen has the Galleria Mall as its chief setting. It's one of those enormous super-malls with almost every kind of shop, restaurant, and business imaginable operating inside, including an indoor theme park. It's based on the real-life Toronto Eaton Centre and West Edmonton Mall, two of Canada's largest malls.
  • The Animaniacs short "Survey Ladies" features the Warner siblings at their local mall finding their therapist Dr. Scratchansniff a birthday gift while being constantly interrupted by two survey women.
  • The Daria episode "Malled" revolves around Daria's economics class taking a field trip to the "Mall of the Millennium" thanks to Daria pointing to the mall as a representative example of supply and demand in action.
  • Oh No! It's An Alien Invasion has Swell-Mart, a mall in which S.W.E.E.T.'s made their base of operations.
  • A recurring location in The Simpsons is the Springfield Mall. One episode, it's shown to be deserted (apparently because Mayor Quimby's nephew got shot there).
  • The South Park episode "Something You Can Do With Your Finger'' mostly takes place in here; the Mall shows up in later episodes, most notably the "Black Friday/Game of Throne" three-parter.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures has a short entitled "Going Up" in which baby Plucky learns how to push buttons on an elevator...and gets carried away.
  • Since the three main characters of Totally Spies! love going on shopping sprees, many of their non-mission activities take place at the mall, with Beverly Hills Mall in the first two seasons and The Groove later replaced it as the hangout mall in later seasons. (Both are based on real-life L.A. shopping malls, Beverly Center and The Grove.)


Video Example(s):


Coconut Mall

Isle Delfino's resident shopping mall with food and store venues for racers to drive past, complete with a parking lot.

Credit to GamerJGB on YouTube.

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