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"Eleanor Rigby died in a church
—The Beatles, "Eleanor Rigby"
So, you have this character that's important to the story. Maybe a Tragic Hero, or a family member or friend, The Rival, or a major antagonist. They're Killed Off for Real, and there's a funeral. With three people attending. For added pathos, it may be raining. Seems only the True Companions care enough to be there.
This can be used to show how the person had pushed everyone away until he had a Zero-Percent Approval Rating, or how trivial and shallow his life was, or how fair-weather his so-called-friends were, or how Hero with Bad Publicity lasted after death, or What You Are in the Dark resulted in his death with no one knowing the truth.
Compare Dying Alone.
Anime and Manga
- In Code Geass, Suzaku's grave is visited only by the cat Arthur. As some blogger put it, "if the cat is the only person at your grave, you must have really sucked in life." Of course, that scene happened long after the actual funeral and he is Not Quite Dead but still.
- It signifies how, in the end, everyone saw him as a traitor. To everyone.
- Sherry's funeral in Gungrave was attended only by Harry mostly because all of their friends and family are dead.
- In one of the first issues of the modern JSA series, at Wesley Dodds' funeral, Wildcat remarks that when Madam Fatal died, the only people who came were the cast of the local production of La Cage aux Folles (Madam Fatal was a male actor who fought crime in old-lady drag, and had been all but forgotten). This may have been sparked by the fact that the only people present were JSA, though the topic at the time was mortality in general, and Wildcat was also wondering how, or if, he himself would be remembered.
- And in Kingdom Come, nobody came to Dodds' funeral at all.
- Watchmen: Only a handful of mourners turn up to The Comedian's funeral. As Ozymandias observes earlier in the story, "The Comedian made a lot of enemies, even amongst his friends." Aside from the small number of fellow vigilantes who attend the funeral, the only other mourner is one of The Comedian's arch enemies.
Rorschach: "Is that what happens to us? No time for friends, only our enemies leave roses? Violent lives ending violently."
- During the events of the miniseries Fifty Two, Booster Gold appeared to have been killed; no one came to his funeral (even the heroes who carried his coffin were a bunch of Super Zeroes who were paid to do it.) Turns out he had faked his own death as part of a plan against a villain; whether the funeral was part of that or really represented the regard people had for him is unclear.
- However, in Booster Gold's case this trope has special meaning: He needs his time-traveling life to be a Stable Time Loop, which means he can't be remembered after death, because he knows he wasn't famous in the future. If he had a lonely funeral, it's because he spent his whole life ensuring it'd be that way.
Films -- Live-Action
- In Charade, there is a funeral scene that is minimally attended, mostly by people making sure the corpse was actually dead.
- Parodied in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. A crowd of people show up for Junebug's funeral. When they realize they're at the wrong funeral, they all leave, taking all of the funeral decorations as they go. The only people left are Junebug's immediate family.
- Predicted in Goldeneye. Being a James Bond film of course it didn't happen but the prediction still holds true. When Bond finally does die, Moneypenny will probably be the closest thing to a friend in attendance.
- Although after the reboot, Felix Leiter could come as well. But that still makes two.
- This is interesting to think about, considering they seemed to have dropped the Moneypenny character after Pierce Brosnan was done being Bond. Coincidence?
- Although after the reboot, Felix Leiter could come as well. But that still makes two.
- Subverted in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming and Tear Jerker in Milk- Harvey Milk's close friends wonder why so few people are attending the funeral service until they step outside and see the street packed with mourners holding a candlelit vigil.
- In The Bad and The Beautiful, Jonathan Shields' father had plenty of mourners at his funeral, but only because he willed the last of his money to pay for them to attend.
- A Carol Christmas had Carol's aunt Marla who had only her niece and her work partner there. Later on, Carol saw her funeral with only her assistant and her friend there.
- Gatsby's funeral from The Great Gatsby. Used to show how fair-weather all of his friends were. Except Nick, and the owl-eyed man from the library.
- Terry Pratchett's Guards! Guards! opens with a copper's funeral, with only his three squadmates attending, to show just how little regard the Night Watch is held in. The sequel Men At Arms has something similar happen to Edward D'Eath's father, which helps send him off the deep end.
- Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: In Turn Coat, Morgan had no mourners at his funeral, owing to the story they put out, but they engaged in To Absent Friends.
- Mercedes Lackey's Alta: Prince Toreth. Given an insultingly extravagant state funeral that not even his own parents attended, only his brother and the other jousters of his wing
- In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is shown in the Bad Future that he will die alone and unmourned if he doesn't repent.
- Supernatural: When John Winchester dies, the only people who attend his funeral (being burned in a field) are Sam and Dean, possibly because most other hunters hated him.
- Extremely unlikely they invited anyone to said field or even put out death notices through the community. It presumably got around by word of mouth eventually that Winchester was out of the game.
- Pastor Jim and Caleb would have come, if given the opportunity, if they hadn't been murdered by demons half a season before so the Winchesters would have nowhere to run.
- Nip Tuck: There was a recurring character who blackmailed one of the main cast into giving her more treatments, beyond the point of reason. Eventually, he was asked to give a eulogy at her funeral and was the only one there: she had alienated her whole family.
- The funeral of "Jeremy Bentham" in Lost.
- This is also true of the fake funeral of Locke's father in a season 2 flashback.
- On That 70s Show, Red has a near death experience and has a dream of nobody attending his funeral, a side effect (according to Kitty) of "calling everyone a dumbass."
- On ER, when Dr. Romano dies, the only person who attends his memorial service was Dr. Corday.
- Sanctuary: When Ashley died, only the core cast attended her funeral. The nature of work at the Sanctuary lends itself to people without many attachments, so this makes sense.
- The Shield: Gilroy's funeral only has attendees beyond immediate family because Mackey is trying to help the widow shield her children from what Gilroy really was.
- One of the corpses of the week on Bones has only his mother coming to his funeral. Or would have, if Brennan, Booth and the team hadn't shown up.
- In the Season 4 Finale of Psych, Mary, the expert on the Yin-Yang duo only Shawn, Gus, and an old woman (presumably his mother) attend his funeral.
- Leverage, subversion: Sophie apparently gets killed by an IED sent by the villain of the week, and we cut to her funeral, where Eliot is giving her a speech...until he gets to her name, at which point he stutters out one of her aliases. Cut to the crowd, which is actually pretty big.
- Dexter: Due to the fact that everyone assumed him to be the Bay Harbor Butcher (instead of Dexter) Sergeant Doakes has a funeral attended only by his mother, his two sisters, and his former partner. Emphasized when the former partner suggests starting up a memorial fund in his name, and everyone looks at her like she's high.
- Stargate SG-1: The US Air Force's First Contact SG1 make up the majority of the attendees at a rather unpleasant minor character's funeral in "Between Two Fires." They find out that A) he only would have wanted people he respected there and since he was pretty harsh no one really liked him and B) he arranged for SG1 to be there in order to solve the mystery of his death.
- In Numb3rs, Charlie went to a funeral of a colleague of Larry's only to see that Larry was the only one there.
- Six Feet Under: One of the people that died was a con artist who had swindled a lot of money. The only one who showed up was his wife who didn't know about it until after he died.
- Get Smart: Max was pretending to be dead; the only people who showed up to his funeral were himself (in disguise), 99, the Chief, and acouple of KAOS agents.
- Spooks: After Ros dies while attempting to rescue the Home Secretary, only the rest of Section D attend her funeral, which causes Harry in particular a great deal of grief. Noteworthy in that of the many, many, people who have died during the course of the show, she is the only one whose funeral is shown in any depth.
- On True Blood, only Sookie and Tara attend Eggs' funeral.
- A less serious example that soon turns to comedy is on Chuck. Casey pretends to play dead and have a funeral to lure his trio of former teammates out, and agents are supposed to be hidden among the guests attending, but Chuck points out that the only people there are him, Sarah, and the agents.
- All in The Family: In "Edith's Final Respects," Edith -- to her surprise -- is the only one to attend her Aunt Rose's funeral. (This is a twist on the trope, as Aunt Rose was fairly well respected. However, Rose is also very aged and had few surviving close friends or family that were able to attend the funeral, a reflection of real life.)
- The first time Lancelot dies on Merlin he gets an elaborate memorial service. The second time (after Morgana brainwashes him into seducing Guinevere and then ordering him to kill himself) Merlin is the only one who attends his Viking Funeral.
- "Eleanor Rigby" by The Beatles. The lonely title character dreams of someday being married, but ultimately dies, her funeral service attended only by the equally lonely Father McKenzie.
- In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman's funeral is attended only by his wife, his sons, Charley and Bernard. He wasn't mourned by half as many as the man who inspired him to become a salesman (and was the subject of the Title Drop).
- In LA Noire, Cole Phelps' funeral is sparsely populated due to making several enemies in the Marines and the police force. What's worse is that half of those are crooked cops who put him on the path leading to his death, with the guy who ruined his life delivering his eulogy. Only his former company sergeant, his ex-wife and kids, lover and handful of ex-partners are really there for him. And then there's that guy from outside that bar.
- In Fable 2, Hammer's adopted father, the head priest of the Temple of Light is killed trying to protect Hammer. You, Hammer, and three monk's attend the funeral. Nobody from the town who's prosperity is given to them by the Monk's holy tree, attends. To make matters worse, the monks depart immediately after the prayer, ignoring Hammer as she calls them out for their callous nature and the callous "business as usual" way the world is treating the death of this man.
- In Final Fantasy Tactics, the ending shows a funeral for Ramza attended by a handful of elderly people, who were merely mourning the extinction of the noble Beoluve family. An example of a Hero with Bad Publicity.
- That wasn't Ramza's funeral. He was considered a heretic and the Church refused to give him so much as a marker, much less a ceremony. The funeral was for his sister Alma, which makes it almost worse: aside from the elderly there to mourne the end of a family, not Alma, the only other two visitors were there as a proxy funeral for Ramza, not her. Thankfully neither Alma nor Ramza are actually dead, though only Olan saw this.
- The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater? The only person who bothered to visit her grave and pay respect to her was Big Boss (Naked Snake). Well, at least he consistently did it, and even during her final moments, he was there. Possibly done to show how shallow the other higher-ups were, and how they didn't really care about her sacrifice. Also, due to the nature of her final mission, she was never even given a proper funeral. She is buried as an anonymous soldier.
- The B Movie Comic: The first victim of the alien invaders in the second "movie".
- In the Ciem Webcomic Series, Eric and Patty Levens are never shown or depicted. (They are in the books.) Denny and Angie's dual-funeral is attended by Eric, Patty, Candi, and Donte in the books. But only by Candi and Donte in the comic with one minister present. Justified in that too large a gathering of Flippos or Levenses at any event could draw in Hebbleskins like flies. Attendance of the public to such an event could also lead to blacklisting; and fear of Arfaas assassinating someone's cousin just because of that someone having sympathy on an already-targeted family is quite strong in a town recently ravaged by doom ships and supervillains. But also played to show that the community in Viron is spiteful and will do anything to make Candi's life suck.
- In Sinfest, Monique's death wish is trumped by her desire to avoid this.
- The Simpsons
- In "The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace," Homer imagines himself dying: In Homer's imagination, the gates to the Graveyard of the Future open, where his funeral is taking place. Ned Flanders does the ceremony, while a suited Lenny and two bodyguards, Barney Gumble with his arms full of Oscars, as well as a robot and Heckle and Jeckle, stand by.
Ned: No, Homer wasn't a great man, nor even an adequate man. And he certainly never accomplished anything. Uh, President Lenny, do you have anything to say?
- When Bleeding Gums Murphy died, the only person who went to the funeral was Lisa. Marge and Homer didn't even actually attend the funeral, they just waited for Lisa at the edge of the cemetery, Homer buying hot dogs. Reverend Lovejoy didn't even get his name right.
- In "The Curse of the Flying Hellfish", Mr. Burns and Abe Simpson are the only people attending the funeral of Asa Phelps. The only reason they're there is that they've entered a Tontine over a set of priceless German paintings that they stole from the Nazis during World War II.
- Which is subtly brilliant, when one notes that Reverend Lovejoy’s eulogy for Asa Phelps suggests that he was a very boring person.
- At the very beginning of Up, the now widowed Carl Friedricksen is actually the only mourner attending his late wife Ellie's funeral.
- The funeral is never shown - we see Carl alone with the casket, but that may be intended to underscore how alone he is without Ellie.
- In There Will Be Brawl, Red's funeral was only attended by Leaf, Samus Aran, K.K. Slyder, and Barbara the Bat. Subverted by the fact that many other people loved him, but didn't attend his funeral because they were out avenging his murder.
- Chris' funeral in A Girl Who Brought Down the World. Nobody comes at it.
- Composer Sergei Prokofiev had the misfortune to die in Russia on the same day that Stalin died.
- Subverted by Peter Sellers- due to his reputation, he expected nobody to come to his funeral. Hundreds did.
- A well known Urban Legend involved an old woman who needed to use the bathroom in a funeral home, so she wrote her name on the list of people attending to a funeral of some old man. She was the only guest. Later we find out said man was very rich and conflicted with his family to the point he wrote in his last will that all his money will be inherited by people who attended his funeral.
- American founding father Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, a pamphlet frequently seen as among the influential publications of The American Revolution, had a whopping six people show up at his funeral. Why? He had written a thesis (The Age of Reason) promoting deism and damning Christianity, which was...not a popular opinion at the time.
- There are conflicting accounts of what happened to the body of Harold Godwinson. The most romantic one was that after it was located by his mistress on the battlefield he was unceremoniously buried under a pile of rocks by the coast in an attempt to degrade him but his grave looking out toward the sea makes it appear as if his ghost guards England ever after though he failed in life. In any event he died a lonely death for a king and given that it was worth a man's life to say anything good about Harold, only his most devoted friends and family would have attended. And a lot of those were dead themselves.
- In the archdiocese of Louisville, there is a "Joseph of arimathea society" designed to prevent this. They provide flowers and grave side prayers for bodies left unclaimed in the morgue.
- Sometimes, funerals of very aged people – particularly, those who were not well known within their community – with very few surviving close friends or family who are able to attend (for example, a 100-year-old man who never married or had children, and whose siblings/sibilings-in-law/cousins have all preceded him in death, and was unknown to most outside his circle) will be attended by a very small number of people. This is absolutely not a reflection of how well liked/disliked the decedent may have been, but simply reality: virtually all of the most important people in his/her life (or those who knew him and were sufficiently close to him) have also died, are in poor health or otherwise unable to attend services.
- Conversely, sometimes a very aged person who may have been well known in his community and have many survivors could conceivably still have a large funeral. Again, this is absolutely not necessarily an indication that the centerian who isn't so fortunate to have such a large turnout (i.e., only the number of fingers on one hand is what the number of mourners are) was hated, but simply the fact that the less well-known decedant may have lived a private, anonymous life and was not well known outside his circle of friends and family.
- It's not so much a lonely funeral, but sometimes funerals that are "private" -- that is, the service is attended by only those who are specifically and explicitly invited to come -- have decidedly few people in attendance than ones that are "public." The reasons for private funerals vary, but one common reason is that the survivors want a simple funeral with only the most important people from the decedent's life attending, or the person is of such notoriety that it is best to keep the funeral "closed."
- When the American author F. Scott Fitzgerald died, hardly anyone turned up, not even his own wife. The service was actually horribly reminiscent of Jay Gatsby's funeral, even down to one of the few mourners calling him a "poor son of a bitch".