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An area of strip joints, brothels and other seedy locales. Very much based on reality.
Generally portrayed in one of three ways in fiction:
The liberal version: Drunk happy people, women waving down from balconies. The protagonist gets to have a good time, or gets made fun of for being unable to. The most friendly take on the district.
The pitiful version: Drunks collapsed in the gutter, battered strung-out prostitutes. The protagonist is probably here on business. Possible location in a Wretched Hive. Very common in cop shows and Anti-Hero comics. You're most likely to see this side of the district in the grey light of the morning.
The hostile version: The drunks will pick a fight with you, the women will rob you or knife you in an alley. Possible location in a Wretched Hive. The protagonist is either lost or hopelessly naive, and will be wishing he'd found version 1 before the end of the night. Also common in cop shows, particularly in the first five minutes when they're showing the soon-to-be victim.
Compare Band of Brothels.
- Fruits Basket - One of Sohma Ayame's high school stories involves him defending a student who got caught going to the red light district. Ayame's solution? To make himself the object of the male students' lusts.
- Seen in Monster in relation to one of Johan's more hideous moments. Which, as you know, is saying something.
- In Samurai Champloo the main characters Mugen and Jin spend their night in one of these when they get some money. It's almost a Once Per Episode trope.
- Jiraiya from Naruto is known to frequent the Red Light District. Many of his contacts from his Intelligence network are found there.
- In one scene in Evangelion 1.0, Shinji wanders past one. He is so lost in his own depression (also his SDAT player) that he's largely oblivious.
- The Yoshiwara district of Tokyo is mentioned from time to time in Ooku. Shogun Iemitsu downsizes the Inner Chambers and restocks the decaying pleasure district with desirable men after a Gendercide plague destroys the market for female prostitutes and leaves only dregs of men. The Reverend Kasuga earlier hired a few women from there for a plot.
- Downplayed in Heat Guy J. Kabuki Road does have (or is implied to have) brothels, strip clubs, etc. but there is other entertainment, too.
- Yoshiwara is the center of the action in the Josei manga Oiran Chirashi, and the protagonist Haru Hanamori has to make her living as a Hooker with a Heart of Gold there. It's is shown as a Crapsaccharine World - it seems to be a liberal site where beautiful women service their customers and can potentially make it big, but there's lots of cruelty and abuse.
- Old Town from the Sin City series.
- The Meta-Baron Universe feature Cities containing a "red ring" in the center and act like the local red light district.
- The East End in Gotham City, where Catwoman made her home during the run of her book and Batman himself considered it a lost cause.
- All of "Hell" Valley
- Total Recall: Venusville in Sector G on Mars. Features "The Last Resort" bordello and psychic mutant children.
- The Red Light District of New Orleans in the early 1900s is heavily featured in The Meq, though it doesn't really fit into any of the above three categories because it's shown so realistically.
- The city of Ankh-Morpork in the Discworld books has an area known as the Street of Negotiable Affection, which is maintained by the Seamstress's Guild.
- Renamed from "The Whore Pits" after much representation from said Guild.
- Huntsdale, the city Wicked Lovely is set in. Aislinn apparently prefers in to the bright, shiny, happy places because it has more iron, and so keeps The Fair Folk away....except when it doesn't.
- George Alec Effinger's Marid Audran series takes place in the Budayeen, a 23rd century Red Light District in a Cyberpunk Muslim/Arab city.
- The caravanserai area of Vorbarr Sultana in Barrayar. By the time of the later books in the series it has been cleaned up and gentrified (but you can still get into trouble in some of its back alleys.)
- The 1975 Barbary Coast TV series, starring William Shatner. It took place in 1870's San Francisco's Barbary Coast district.
- The Toy Dolls wrote a song called Caugt Up The Reeperbahn about the infamous red light district of Hamburg.
- Porcelain and the Tramps produced a song that's actually called "Redlight District." You look it up if you want.
- The city of Sharn in Eberron has three red light districts -- a tacky and tawdry one, a middle-of-the-road one with the biggest changeling influence, and an arguably tasteful one.
- In Exalted, the Demon City has a gold light district. This is because gold is seen as an obscene color in hell due to its association with the sun. Also, the district is a very powerful demon in her own right.
- Most such locations in Exalted are blue light districts, the colour chosen to honour the Maiden (ahem!) of Serenity. In fact, the Maiden of Serenity's office is one of these, as it's modeled after the first whorehouse in Creation and still serves as a bar, whorehouse and opium den while also serving as a divine government building.
- The musical Tenderloin features a historical example from the Big Applesauce.
- The musical Les Misérables features the song Lovely Ladies, which involves prostitutes singing about their occupation and is set in what is meant to be one of these. Starts off as the "happy" version and gradually segues into the "pitiful" version.
- Dragon Age II: Kirkwall has the fantasy equivalent of this, the "Red Lantern District". It contains the Blooming Rose Brothel. Therein lies a apostate mage (or as Isabella calls her, an 'Apostitute') that uses mind control on Templars.
- FFVII's Wall Market in Midgar is mostly the liberal version, with a dash of hostile. It's a lot more inviting than the rest of the slums, and the girls at the local sex hotel don't seem like they're suffering from much psychological damage (the player even gets to read what they're thinking). However, the district is run by a crime lord, and it's heavily implied that women get kidnapped and forced into prostitution on a regular basis. On your first visit, one of the NPCs even suggests Cloud to sell his companion Aerith off to the Don. And why are they there? To rescue an apparently abducted Tifa, who turns out to be in a Dirty Harriet deal instead...
- Grand Theft Auto III starts in the Red Light District.
- Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army has one. It's important all of one time, then it's only good for dialogue collecting. Oh, and some careless person left a whole clip of fire bullets in front of the giant lamp.
- The Futurama video game has a level in the Red Light District.
- Would you believe there's one of these in Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box? Layton and Luke catch the owner of the Molentary Express, Mr Beluga, walking into a cabaret and attempt to converse with the woman standing outside. Not only is she one of the show-runners, but she hits on Luke (who's only twelve) after hitting on Layton.
- Nar Shaddaa, the Wretched Hive in Knights of the Old Republic II, has a Red Sector
- Duke Nukem 3D Episode 1 Level 2 is called Red Light District. It contains a porn shop complete with private video booths, a bar, and a strip club.
- Left 4 Dead 2's DLC The Passing has some Red Light influence, in fact, the song that plays during the intro is called Dead Light District
- Circuits Edge, the 1989 CRPG, was based on George Alec Effinger's Marid Audran novels (see Literature, above), and like them is set in the Budayeen, a Red Light District.
- Shall We Date?: Ninja Shadow:
- One of the two RLD's in the old Nagasaki, Maruyama, is very important in-story since the Vigilantes often have to face criminals there and sometimes take up jobs per request of the prostitutes who work there (often not per choice).
- The Big Fancy House that hosts the most luxurious Maruyama brothel is vital in the routes of the initial "bad boys" in the cast, Toru and Tsubaki, who pretty much live there. Tsubaki was actually raised in the place itself by his prostitute mother and now he is the "working girls's" physician.
- There are many allusions to Yoshiwara, the RLD of Edo. In some cases, Nagasaki girls are abducted and sold into prostitution there so Saori has to crossdress to lure the pimps out and stop them from doing so. It's also said that the most beautiful and popular High-Class Call Girl from Yoshiwara is a woman from Nagasaki, and she still cries herself to sleep every night for the son that she had to leave behind...
- This panel of Goodbye Chains has Banquo revisiting the whorehouse of his youth. Banquo enjoys himself thoroughly; Colin, well... not so much.
- In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer is asked to take the dog to the vet to be neutered (after the dog had fathered a litter of puppies in an episode parodying 101Dalmatians), but he feels bad for Santa's Little Helper. So Homer takes SLH to the Red Light District of Springfield, which has not only porn theatres, prostitutes, etc. for the human men, but also for dogs to enjoy. Homer even pays to play air hockey with a prostitute while SLH has some "fun" with her dog.