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Giving clues to a person's personality through the decor of their bedroom, particularly wall posters.
A quick way of giving hints about a person's personality without spending a lot of time on exposition is to show their bedroom. This is particularly true from late childhood to college age, when people tend to have very idiosyncratic decorating tastes. (Before that, the child's parents/guardians tend to choose the decor, and as people mature, many of them feel less compelled to "mark their territory" quite so fiercely. And if a couple is sharing a room, it will tend to blend their tastes to an acceptable medium.)
The posters and other decorations of a bedroom can often convey such information as gender and approximate age, hobbies, religious affiliation, the region the story takes place in, approximately what year the story takes place, and the tolerance level of the parents if any (parents, that is). A change in posters can indicate a similar change in the inhabitant's interests or maturity level. (And whether they're torn down or gently put away tells the audience a lot about the feelings of the character.) If the set designers are careless, they can oversell the clutter effect, or create a false impression by putting all the things that were cool when they were kids on a contemporary teenager's wall.
For a twist, sometimes the posters will reveal the "true face" of a character, such as a burly Jerk Jock's room being plastered with unicorns and rainbows, while the Yamato Nadeshiko Girl Next Door has decorated her room in Frazetta barbarian posters with black curtains and pagan symbols all over the place.
There are a number of poster stereotypes. For example, posters of Einstein, Che, Jim Morrison or some kind of Monet in a college student's dorm room. On the other hand, expect a Scarface poster in a gangsta-wannabe's room. In addition, a boy's room will nearly always be rather messy and will have at least one swimsuit model poster, while a girl's room will nearly always feature posters and magazine cut-outs of her favorite singers (heart scribbles optional), plus a vanity with mirror and cosmetics.
This trope is usually found in visual media, although print media will sometimes describe a bedroom's decor -- and the conclusions the narrator draws from it.
Anime & Manga
- Great Teacher Onizuka: Tomoko's room is decked out with Otaku paraphernalia, including posters. (Most, if not all of them are a Shout-Out to other Shonen Jump titles.)
- In Kimagure Orange Road, Akane had a poster of Cool Big Sis (from her perspective) Madoka on the ceiling above her bed.
- Ranma ½: Tatewaki Kunō has pictures of Akane and the Pigtailed Girl in his room. For a time he replaced them with Nabiki pictures, then all three of them at once.
- Otaku Surrogate Konata of Lucky Star naturally has a room covered with many an anime and H-game poster, amongst other miscellaneous anime-related products. This includes various Suzumiya Haruhi merchandise, natch.
- Ohno from Genshiken has posters of bald, muscular, middle-aged men in her bedroom, much to her public embarrassment.
- Futana, the title character's sister from Futaba-Kun Change!, has a bedroom filled with posters of naked and half-naked women.
- Hilarious example from Dick Tracy: one storyline introduced a scary-looking "goth" kid. Eventually, we see his room, which has posters of Goths. As in Visigoths. As in burly bearded men in fur armor wielding axes. Almost certainly intentional, as the storyline was (unusually for Dick Tracy) about not judging by appearances.
- Raina's bedroom in Blankets was filled with posters of alternative rock bands: Nirvana, Radiohead, Bjork, Jane's Addiction, etc.
Films -- Animation
- In the first Toy Story movie, the Western posters and decor in Andy's room shift to space-themed items after the arrival of Buzz Lightyear, much to Woody's dismay. Even the bedspread changes! Also consider the Darker and Edgier decor of the troubled Sid's room.
- In Toy Story 3, this comes up again when we are shown a fairly wide shot of Andy's room--and how it's changed since his childhood.
- Rapunzel's tower is filled from top to bottom with paintings that she drew the whole 18 years she was there. The growing lack of space is lampshaded in her "I Want" Song and it's even a plot point, since her bedroom is filled with subconsciously drawn versions of the sun symbol that is the kingdom insignia and alerts her that she is the lost princess.
Films -- Live-Action
- The original The Parent Trap. Susan's bed at camp has photos and magazine clippings of 1960s teen heartthrobs. Sharon isn't so cool, so she has no idea who Ricky Nelson is. "Oh, your boyfriend." Susan gasps in disbelief. "I wish he was! You mean you never heard of him? Where do you come from, outer space?"
- This is updated for the Lindsay Lohan version with Leonardo DiCaprio.
- The little brother's room in Just One of the Guys is covered with Playboy centerfolds pinned up. It's hard to tell this when you watch it on TV -- the censor blurs obscure essentially the entire room.
- Jesminder's room in Bend It Like Beckham, mostly pictures of David Beckham himself.
- We can tell Ferris Bueller is cool (as if there was ever any doubt), because he has a Cabaret Voltaire poster.
- In Labyrinth, Sarah's room has posters of Broadway musicals, books of fairy tales and girls sent to magical worlds, and something foreshadowing nearly every event in the film.
- The titular character of Juno has one of these rooms. Covered from wall to wall with band posters, toys, etc.
- And nametags, don't forget the nametags. One of which reads "Hello I'm Drunk".
- Not covering all the walls, but hilarious: In The Lost Boys, the first thing Sam does upon moving into their new room is hang up a poster of a shirtless Rob Lowe.
- In Troll 2, Holly's room has posters of Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp. Joshua's room is a veritable treasure trove of Product Placement.
- In Forbidden Kingdom, the teenage protagonist's room is covered in kung fu movie posters and cut-outs. He even has a kung fu movie playing... when he wakes up in the morning.
- Kat's bedroom in Ten Things I Hate About You is plastered with posters of alternative girl bands. Her sister Bianca's room is rather juvenile in floral and white.
- In the song "Kickapoo" at the beginning of Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, JB's ultra-religious father, after a vigorous spanking, begins tearing down about a dozen rock and metal band posters from his bedroom walls, forgetting the Dio poster on the door. The poster immediately sings to JB to tell him to go form a band.
- In Don't Tell Mom the Babysitters Dead, the babysitter stumbles into the teenage boy's bedroom and reacts in horror at all the heavy metal posters on the walls. In fact, it gives her a fatal heart attack and kicks off the plot!
- Harry Potter: Ron's room is entirely orange due to Chudley Cannons Quidditch posters, bedspread, etc., and even more chaotic than usual because, of course, all the players are moving. Similarly, Sirius Black's teenage bedroom was primarily red and gold (for Gryffindor), broken up by muggle pin-up girls on motorcycles. Meanwhile, his brother's room was festooned with Slytherin banners and newspaper clippings for a "Death Eater Youth League" vibe.
- Luna Lovegood painted her bedroom ceiling with portraits of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Neville linked together with the word "friends" repeated a thousand times in gold ink.
- That's getting into Madness Mantra territory.
- Luna Lovegood painted her bedroom ceiling with portraits of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Neville linked together with the word "friends" repeated a thousand times in gold ink.
- In Isabel Allende's novel The House of the Spirits, Alba Trueba was granted permission to paint the walls of her room as a little girl, and she uses them as a journal of sorts until she is well into teenagehood. The last thing painted is a little heart, meaning that she has fallen in love for the very first time. Given that she eventually is revealed as the writter/narrator of the whole story, this is kind of prophetic.
- In Moving Pictures, Victor discovers that Ginger has decorated her bedroom with posters for the "clicks" she's starred in.
- In other Discworld novels, some characters are conversely described by how neat and impersonal their bedrooms are. Malvolio Bent's room is entirely plain, simple and undecorated except for a closet containing a dark secret, exactly like himself.
- Juliet's bedroom is mentioned as having everything painted pink with little yellow crowns, except for the beer crates holding up the bed in Unseen Academicals. As the color scheme and decorations were picked by her late mother, it seems to indicate that Juliet has not yet truly entered adult life.
- The lodgings of Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street had a number of frequently mentioned decorations, including pictures of General Gordon and Henry Ward Beecher, and VR written in bullet holes, which all give clues to the personalities of the residents.
- Don't forget the Reichenbach landscape over the fireplace
- Or the stuck-to-the-mantlepiece-with-a-knife correspondence.
- Or the chemistry set in the corner.
- Or the insane amounts of papers from various cases he has lying everywhere. (At one point, Watson even gets annoyed with this one)
- In the Alex Rider book Point Blank, students are encouraged to decorate their rooms. So that the Big Bad can impersonate them better.
- Subverted in Everworld: when David sees Senna's room he's frustrated that it provides no clue about her personality; the only decorations look like they came from an interior designer, the only books she owns are for school, etc.
- This trope was used in a programme on Channel 4 about puberty, where we see the a boy age from being 8 years to his teens (as though it were time-lapse footage) in his bedroom. When he becomes a teenager, his posters suddenly change to those of girls.
- Max's room in Danis House illustrates that he's a young boy and thus has loads of posters of stuff boys his age would be interested in, such as Duel Masters and Doctor Who.
- Clarissa, from Clarissa Explains It All, was both cool and brainy, as evidenced by her They Might Be Giants poster.
- Doogie Howser was obviously a genius, but was also funny and a bit cynical. He has a Save the Humans poster on his door. He also has posters of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein, among others.
- Paris Gellar of Gilmore Girls has a poster of Noam Chomsky on her wall, and Rory has a couple of similar smarty-pants posters as well.
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Freshman", in which vampires were grabbing college students and making it look as though they'd just dropped out. They'd run a sweep to determine whether the poster left behind should be Claude Monet's "Waterlilies" or Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss"; the two are the most common prints in real-world college dorm rooms.
- Played for laughs in a series of sketches on The Fast Show, where the posters plastering a teenage girl's room kept changing to whichever famous person she "really loved" at the moment.
- Charmed: When Leo and Paige travel back in time, Paige's room as a teenager reeked of this trope.
- Seth Cohen's room in The OC.
- Jackie's bedroom in That 70s Show had posters of 1970s bands. Eric's bedroom has Star Wars and Planet of the Apes posters and, most notably, the iconic Farrah Fawcett red swimsuit pin-up.
- Jake on Two and A Half Men decorated his room at Charlie's house with pin-ups. This is not what bothers Charlie; what bothers him is that he nailed them on the wall. His father, Alan, expresses disappointment with the fact that to make way for them Jake tore down his formerly precious (but now uninteresting to him) Harry Potter posters. It turns out Jake hasn't quite grown out of it though.
Jake: (dons Harry Potter glasses and toy wand, smiles at posters) 'Ello ladies, I'm 'Arry Potter.
- Used as a minor plot point on Skins when Katie, faced with her twin sister Emily's blossoming homosexuality, has a good look at Emily's side of the room comparing it to her own: While Katie's side has posters of hot boys, including Daniel Craig, Emily's side is covered in art and photos of women, including Audrey Hepburn, possibly Fergie, and a particular focus on a Blondie poster. With a wall full of chicks, Katie finally has the physical evidence that yes, Emily's gay. Astute viewers may notice that Emily's posters have actually changed from the first appearance of their room in the first episode, when they was more musical (the most prominent poster was the Plain White Ts).
- One of these appeared at least once on The Muppet Show, perhaps most notably when Joan Baez sang "Honest Lullaby". Posters included John Travolta and (maybe) Luke Skywalker.
- Played with on Chuck. All through the series, the Hollywood Nerd main character has a Tron poster on his wall. We get it: he's a nerd, and very, very rarely has women in a position to see his bedroom. Then, in the last few episodes of season two, he takes it down for the first time and we see that on the back of it he's been drawing a web of notes this whole time about the Intersect, Bryce, Fulcrum, etc. He's been taking a proactive role in his life despite appearances to the contrary, he's been prying into the world of espionage he's so scared of, he's been watching the details of everything that goes on around him... and he's been hiding all that in the one place none of the people spying on him would notice, because it's just part of the scenery.
- In the Criminal Minds episode "Elephant's Memory" the spree killing youth is partially profiled by the stuff in his room, which included things like a mirror painted black and posters relating to James Dean (Reid notes its kind of disturbing how the killer had more posters of the car accident that killed Dean than Dean himself).
- Benji is introduced with a tour of his room, which includes such oddities as a Scarface picture, kickboxing trophies in a cluttered mess, a cross, and gym equipment which he is currently using.
- No More Heroes: Travis Touchdown, another Otaku, also has many posters plastering his walls and shelves full of plastic figurines.
- In Metal Gear Solid 2, in one of their many codec conversations, Rose complains to Jack about how bare his bedroom is, there's "not even a poster". Jack had been little more than a tool of his controllers up to that point.
- Not to mention he claims to remember little of his past at that point.
- In Bully, Jimmy's room changes over time, gaining a new wall ornament for each major mission he completes.
- Super Paper Mario: Fort Francis. Okay, sure, if you want to get technical, it's more of an entire fortress than just a bedroom, per se, but still...
- This Narbonic strip.
- Rets' room in Mistakes of Youth, in which every inch of the wall has been taken up by anime posters, most of which display little girls.
- Given a chance by StrikerS Sound Stage X to portray the room of Nanoha Fan Girl Subaru, the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Fan Web Comic StrikerS Nano took the obvious interpretation.
- Gunnerkrigg Court. Antimony's dorm room is rather spartan. Kat's is decorated with posters (and action figures) reflecting her interests: Metal Gear Solid, The Goonies, Lobster Johnson and the techno band Orbital.
- The lack of any such personal touches for the protagonist teenaged girl's bedroom in Transcerebral is the first big clue that most of her purported background is false.
- The first panel of this strip from The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob gives a good indication of Molly's eclectic tastes and indeterminate age.
- Character introductions in Homestuck are typically handled with a wide shot of the character's bedroom accompanied with a short biography. Naturally, many of the rooms are of this nature.
- The most extreme example is almost certainly Jake English's room. That room is so plastered by movie posters you can't see the wall.
- While not much detail has gone into it, the interior of Anna Chase's room in Survival of the Fittest is implied to be this on a few occasions. It's mentioned that she has a lot of posters and figurines in her bedroom, of course relating to her interests (horror media and anime). In post-game, it's revealed that before she came home that her parents removed her posters and figurines from the room, out of a concern that she would be triggered by them, much to her mild annoyance.
- In MS Fhigh Forums, pretty much all the PCs are encouraged to do this, in part because the bedrooms are meant to be reflections of the chars. Mitchell's characters especially tried to invoke this, even with the beds! (Israfel has a bed that looks good, but is bad under the covers, Jess has a military bed, Michelle's is just a bunch of sheets, and Seram's is a large black bed with a curtain)
- The Angry Video Game Nerd has a variation-his game room is covered in video game posters culled from his issues of Nintendo Power. The two-part review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III also displays posters of Transformers: The Movie and Army of Darkness prominently in the beginning.
- The Simpsons: When Homer re-enrolled in college, he briefly turned his bedroom into a dorm room with the use of cinder block bookshelves and the poster of Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue.
- Tiffany's room is covered with poster-sized pictures of herself, showing exactly how narcissistic she is.
- Daria, on the other hand, has a poster of Franz Kafka and another that seemingly portrays a human skeleton protruding from the earth. Perhaps an archeological dig? Her room had very few posters besides that one, since it was formerly occupied by someone psychotic and still had the padding on the walls, which she probably thought was cool enough by itself.
- Played straight in Code Lyoko. Jérémie, the computer geek, has the obligatory Einstein poster in his room. Ulrich, the martial art jock, has pencak silat posters on his half of the dorm he shares with Odd. And Sissi, the Alpha Bitch, has fashion models and girl bands poster in her bedroom -- along with the aforementioned vanity with mirror and cosmetics.
- In South Park, Kyle has the classic "Einstein sticking his tongue out" poster, and sometimes a poster of the Jewish rapper Matisyahu. Stan has a poster for Street Warrior, an obvious knock-off of Road Warrior. Cartman's room sometimes has a pin-up of Mel Gibson in his Braveheart costume. Wendy is seen to have a pin-up of Russell Crowe in her bedroom or bathroom.
- The ubiquity of this trope with students is why universities around the world hold regular poster sales. College/university dorm rooms are often extremely dull and institutional-looking, and housing rules usually prevent students from making permanent modifications to the room like painting the walls or nailing up proper paintings, mirrors, wall hangings, or picture frames. Posters, which can be taken down at the end of the year or semester, serve as a substitute for the ability to really decorate. Sometimes annoyingly pointless in British universities, where many halls of residence will prohibit the hanging of posters, flags etc.