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A popular way to illustrate that someone suffers from a trauma of some sorts is showing him or her sitting alone at a children's playground, usually on the swing, often at dusk or night. In most cases, the trauma in question is related to a childhood experience, although the person in question can be of any age (child or adult).
If the person is a child, it may imply parental abuse abuse or other family troubles; if done with adults it can show how they still suffer from said childhood experiences.
It's common for another character to come out and offer some words of consolation while sitting on the other swing.
Not strictly related to Swing Low, Sweet Harriet, which usually occurs during positive times.
- TheEndOfEvangelion: Came up in flashbacks of Shinji's childhood. It is also used in a scene during Asuka's extended Mind Rape sequence in the Director's Cut version of episode 22. Asuka is sitting naked in the Troubled Fetal Position in front of a swing set and is confronted by a younger version of herself clutching a Creepy Doll (which she has a phobia of).
- The swing motif in the film is a little more bizarre than that: it shows up repeatedly during several of the more psychedelic sequences, and the jury is still out on what exactly it means.
- Naruto sometimes uses a swing to illustrate Naruto's lonely childhood, especially when he sits on it, watching all the graduates get congratulated by their parents while he was the only one who failed. Gaara is also shown sitting on a swing in his childhood flashbacks.
- Ranma 1/2: After being conclusively rejected by Ukyou, Tsubasa Kurenai is found on a swing, disguised as/inside a trash can for good measure. Female Ranma tries to comfort Tsubasa, saying that there'll be someone else... an act of kindness that makes Tsubasa fall for Ranma instead.
- Mai-HiME: Mai does this after she discovers she's destined to fight and kill her friends in order to save the world, has a fight with her best friend, and finds out that the sickly brother she has worked so hard to take care of feels burdened by her. On top of all that, while she's sitting on the Trauma Swing, the boy she likes and the Clingy Jealous Girl walk by and kiss in front of her (although he does not know she is watching). The end of the episode shows her lying in bed, realizing, "I've lost everything." And then It Got Worse.
- There's a shot of Haruhi Suzumiya as a child sitting on a swing while she is telling Kyon in the present day why she acts how she does.
- In Slam Dunk, Sakuragi and Ryota are seen sitting on swings in an empty playground at night, discussing their love problems.
- In Chobits, Shimbo finds Takako Shimizu sitting on a swing, lonely and desolate after her husband has locked her out of their house.
- In Hayate the Combat Butler, Young Hinagiku is shown to be alone on a swing in an image after her parents have abandoned her.
- Although he's not on the swing in the scene, Wataru is shown to be standing in front of a swingset when receiving the papers that will allow him to skip grades with his friends from Sakuya.
- Kotonoha has one of these towards the end of the School Days anime.
- Hino does this in episode 16 of the Kiniro no Corda anime.
- The Sixth Sense: The surviving daughter of the Munchausen's-Syndrome-by-Proxy mother is shown on a swing during the funeral.
- Little Children: Ronald McGorvey (Jackie Earl Haley) does this at the end.
- Children of Men: Ki, about to have the first baby after all women have become sterile, does this, not knowing whether her baby will survive or how it might change things after she gives birth.
- In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Scott sadly sits on the swing set he and Ramona visited on their first date.
- An eerie variation appears in Serenity, in which the staging of a scene shows River framed by a swing engulfed in flames.
- Toy Story 3 has Big Baby sitting upon the playground swing staring at the moon.
- Harry Potter: Harry Potter starts this way.
- The Sugar Skull: Scout is rather perky while visiting the local playground and spending some time on the swings, but her backstory gives the visit elements of this. She tells Eve that she remembers her mom pushing her and her younger brother on the swings, but also admits that it might have been a scene on television instead. Considering she spent most of her time caring for her younger brother, who had an unspecified developmental disability, then ran away after years of rape at the hands of her mother's boyfriend, it probably wasn't an accurate recollection of her childhood.
- In Battle Royale, Mitsuko sits on a swing after disposing of her mother's dead body.
- Arrested Development had a depressed Buster and GOB sitting on swings at the local playground. Then GOB started half-heartedly pushing Buster on the swing and Buster got really into it.
- Supernatural: Bella is seen sitting on a swingset after being molested by her father.
- In Treatment: Oliver does this after running away from the therapist's office, and asks the therapist if he can come live with him instead of his parents.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- "Ted"; Buffy is seen sitting on a swingset after her problems with mother's new boyfriend.
- "I Was Made To Love You"; Warren's luv-bot dies while sitting on swing. Just about as sad as it gets.
- Oddly, both of these are in episodes involving Human-like robots.
- Degrassi the Next Generation: The episode "Standing In The Dark" has Darcy break down and tell Manny about being raped on a swing.
- About once a month, someone angsting in Eastenders chills out at the playground to sulk until they're found.
- This PSA against child abuse shows scenes of a playground while a narrator talks, and at the end a child is shown on a swing.
- In a Comedy Central Presents stand up special, one comedian mentioned a woman had approached him at a bar because she said he looked like the loneliest person she'd ever seen. He incredulously asked the audience, "What, was I sitting alone on a swing set?"
- In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin once did this at school recess after the bully made him give up his toy truck. There's some Lampshade Hanging from another boy next to him: "Hey, kid, are you going to use that swing or what?"
- F.E.A.R.2: We see Alma do this.
- Silent Hill: Shattered Memories' cover has an odd example where Cheryl is not only shown on a swing but literally frozen.
- But That Was Yesterday. This happens to the guy after his girlfriend leaves him.
- Lux-Pain has Yayoi Kamishiro in this classic pose when the protagonist finds her again in episode 7, her mind having succumbed to a Silent infection. She was actually going to kill herself there if Atsuki hadn't shown up in time.
- In Tsukihime, when Shiki meets Arcueid for the second time (the first one involved killing her and dismembering her body), she sits on a swing at an empty playground. Later on, it becomes apparent that despite being Really Seven Hundred Years Old (and a vampire, to boot), Arcueid is more or less a child at heart, plagued by the fact that the game's Big Bad corrupted her and made her kill the entire rest of her vampiric race.
- One Hundred Yard Stare: Episode three has a scene with a trauma swing.
- Ask That Guy With The Glasses has done this twice, once when he was miserable over his marriage to the GPS falling apart, and the second time was when he mourned his pipe that snapped in half.
- Showed up in a few Rugrats episodes.
- As Told by Ginger: Whenever Ginger was troubled over something, or just lost in her thoughts she would sit on the swing set in her backyard.
- The Simpsons:
- Jesus is shown sitting on a lonely swing in heaven, traumatized by what the "people down there" did to him.
- In an earlier episode, Homer and Ned sit on the backyard swings and talk about how Ned Never Got to Say Goodbye to his recently-deceased wife.
- JusticeLeagueUnlimited episode "Epilogue": Ace is shown like this. She's dying of a brain aneurysm. Batman then sits down on the swing next to her to comfort her.