Archived Discussion

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

The Mary Sue Society launched as MarySuetopiaDiscussion: From YKTTW

Working Title: The Mary Sue Society: From YKTTW

Prfnoff: Removed Nineteen Eighty-Four, since I disagree with "Oceania also manages to be far less corrupt and inefficient than its real world counterparts, to make the depiction all the more terrifying." There is poverty in Oceania; there is corruption, but obfuscating its existence is the job of people like Winston Smith. To quote:
"Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many had been produced, much less cared. All one knew was that every quarter astronomical numbers of boots were produced on paper, while perhaps half the population of Oceania went barefoot."
And as for Air of Mystery's YKTTW description of "absolutely nothing going wrong" in Oceania, many of the things that can go wrong in wartime do: buzzbombs continually blowing up houses, dilapidated buildings and infrastructure, shortages of goods, etc.
  • Schrodingers Duck: One of the points of the novel is that according to the Emmanuel Goldstein book, Oceania does all this intentionally - they deliberately keep people in poverty, they deliberately don't manufacture enough boots, and they even launch bombs against their own people just to keep them scared enough for the pointless "perpetual war" to keep going. The point of calling Oceania a Mary Suetopia is that it manages to maintain a perfect, precise level of corruption and inefficiency - in effect, Orwell wanted to give his very worst predictions for what a Stalinesque republic could end up like, regardless of whether of not it was plausible.
    • Narvi: The accuracy of the Emmanuel Goldstein book is to be doubted. Besides, your assumption is that they do it perfectly. It's not hard to screw things up.

Ununnilium: IMHO, it's a Straw Dystopia. It certainly comes across as unbelievably perfectly run in the book — The Trains Run on Time taken to its logical maximum. Really, it seems like the infrastructure would already be crumbling; the problem is, downtrodden masses don't work that efficiently, and neither do power-mad evil governments.
  • SteveMB: Not having such an obvious example on the list of Straw Dystopias looks like a glaring omission. Oceania is definitely inefficient at material production (whether by deliberate policy or simply poor management caused by valuing ideology over effectiveness is debatable); I agree with the comments that it's unrealistically efficient at putting up a false propaganda front and at avoiding corruption. There's probably a better writeup than the one that got memory-holed.

the only way to be properly happy is to reject it and live in a (perfect) Tribalistic reserve.
  • A perfect Tribalistic reserve? It's dirty, diseased and utterly primitive. Every main character who visits is repulsed by it, even the one who grew up in it. Not once in the book does anyone choose to live there. It is, by the Word of God, a horrible place to live but in the exact opposite way that the "civilised" people of Britain live, and is just as much of a straw dystopia.

Conversation in the Main Page. How's this?

  • In Fahrenheit 451, not only are books burned on sight, but the general public is shallow, vain, spends all day watching TV , drives too fast, and prefers Cesarean sections to natural births. In the author's mind, this is apparently enough to justify vaporizing the whole lot of them in a nuclear war. Meanwhile, a group of refugees outside the city endlessly memorize and recite the lost books, because classic literature is the most important thing in the world.

Oh come on. This isn't Complaining About Dystopias You Don't Like. It's never "This society is fucked up, therefore we should kill the bastards"; it just... happens. Likewise, literature isn't held up as Bigger Than Jesus And Delicious Chocolate, it's just something important that will be lost unless they take these extreme measures. —-

SteveMB: A couple factual corrections on the Brave New World entry — the Nine Years War wasn't "nuclear" (though bioweapons such as "anthrax bombs" were involved), and people typically die at about age sixty (not thirty).

  • Two words: The Giver.

You're gonna need a lot more words if you're gonna justify putting that in here. >>

Prfnoff: I incorrectly assumed it was too well known to need further explanation, since "perfect" is the first adjective applied to the world in most synopses. I've put in something better this time.

Does it really count if the author herself didn't intend it to be a utopia (at least as far as I can tell)? The whole book is about the protagonist's escape from said society!

Ununnilium: That's why it's in the Straw Dystopia list.

Unknown Troper: Deleted this better-fleshed out text describing The Giver,
  • The world of The Giver has eliminated war and suffering by controlling the course of everyone's life and keeping all but one or two ignorant of such things as colors, emotions and knowing what really happens when people are Released to Elsewhere.

I can't say that the Community of The Giver is a Straw Dystopia, for a couple of reasons. As a Mary Suetopia is a world that the writer creates by pasting together his/her very favorite social ideals without any regard to how well or how long that society would last, just saying "of course it's perfect because it embodies everything I believe in!", a Straw Dystopia (Villain Suetopia?) is a world that the author just creates without much real care or thought going into the process (emblematic of all Mary Sues, if you think about it...) a world made by pasting together everything that the author thinks makes society bad and not work, while not regarding how such a society would ever come into existence, let alone sustain itself (i.e. Brave New World is quite clearly a rather panicked backlash against mass-production.) The Community of The Giver is too carefully planned, and it seems to be a very sustainable way for a group of people to live. One can imagine a Community like that going on for as long as technology and resources to sustain it existed. If made-up societies can be considered characters, the Community is a pretty well-rounded supporting cast member of The Giver. Therefore, not a Straw Dystopia.

  • That last part is a rather misleading description. In Huxley's dystopian society, all individuals are psychologically conditioned to like the things associated with their pre-determined role and hate things that aren't, as well as enjoy activities that require spending money and dislike pleasures that don't, so that the economy never flags. This conditioning begins in infancy and involves mild electric shock as part of the aversion process, but no one actually tortures babies to make money.

The description in the book is anything but "mild". And honestly, the rest of this reads almost like an apology for said society. Yes, it's simplified, but pretty accurate, I think. Still, how's this?

  • Honestly though, with a post-scarcity economy courtesy of things like replicators, it would be impossible for poverty (or nearly any crime motivated by money) to exist. Still, this only raises further issues whenever poverty is depicted.
    • One could argue that while the Federation is not perfect, the existence of replicators, terraforming, high-tech medicine that can cure nearly any ailment, Vulcan philosophy and an advanced education means the utopian society (compared to the Klingons, or the Romulan police state, or...) at least makes sense. The tendency during the 1990s to inject corruption and poverty into the Federation society and the Trekverse in general to make it Darker and Edgier could be seen as an attempt to cater to an audience who was cynical and jaded by Real Life and regarded the Federation as "boring". Thus destroying the whole Gene Roddenberry premise that Mankind had evolved culturally.
    • The unspoken truth, of course, being that the Federation as a post-scarcity society is by definition a Technocracy, and any "democracy" seen in the Federation seems to be a kind of formality at best. Look at the Federation Council in Star Trek IV: half the council-members are wearing Star Fleet uniforms. Star Fleet is the real power behind the Federation: they have the most replicators, transporters, and competent professionals with the right qualifications and skills to be making all the decisions. Thus, the Federation is a Technocracy.

Conversation in the Main Page, and to a degree, Justifying Edit. How's this instead?

Gatomon41: Sorry about the earlier edit. I didn't see that the People's Republic of Haven was already up. I also want to point out that the Taxpayers in the CoDominium series are not a small elite. Privileged, yes, but the Taxpayers are simply those who actually work and pay taxes. Although, if I recall in the first half of Falkenberg's Legions, the Middle class was beginning to have trouble.

Ununnilium: That's okay. The main problem is that saying "Actually, this is wrong! And here's how!" makes the entire entry look ugly and amateurish. Far better to just edit the original.

Citizen: Since when is Shuffle a Mary Suetopia?

Trogga: I think the image just fits.


Conversation in the Main Page. And I'd disagree. An idea doesn't have to have a numbered guide to how to achieve it to be a good idea.

  • Earth in Larry Niven's "Known Space"/Ringworld 'Verse has conquered poverty, aging and all forms of violence; in an overcrowded planet of eighteen billion, a fist-fight makes the news, a murder makes headlines worldwide. The way this is accomplished is through retconned history, lifelong psychological conditioning, a touch of soft eugenics, an unelected shadow government who hides and hoards any and all potentially dangerous advances and regularly lies to the public, and drugs. Lots of pacifying drugs, delivered through the universally ubiquitous "autodocs". (When a dangerous alien race comes along, those with the last remaining "paranoid" warlike tendencies are switched to a different perscription.) Those who didn't care for the static Status Quo have all moved offplanet. Not sure if this one qualifies as a Utopia or a Dystopia!

The last sentence illustrates the reason this entry doesn't belong on this page; in the books, it's left up in the air wether this is a good thing or a bad thing, and different characters have different opinions.

  • Jerry Pornelle's CoDominium subverts this: the planet Sparta starts out as an attempt to create a Utopia, settled by political science majors who create a government that combines the supposedly best aspects of Meritocracy, Democracy, and Constitutional Monarchy. After an unsuccessful rebellion by the nonvoting lower class, it turns into a hereditary aristocratic dynasty and winds up as a flat-out militant empire of conquest (Though given Pournelle's politics, it's unclear if that's supposed to be a negative result or a positive one).
  • The CoDominium in the Falkenberg's Legion series by Jerry Pournelle, an extreme exaggeration of a Welfare State where the US's privileged Taxpayer workers support massive "Welfare Islands" where uneducated citizens receive an endless supply of free food and drugs.

So is this a subversion or a straight example? And which category would it go in?

Noaqiyeum: What's Brave New World a Straw Dystopia of, exactly? Because I'm not seeing it as straw, just dystopian.

Ununnilium: It's more that it's too perfect — too perfectly good, too perfectly bad. Of course, that might go better in The Trains Run on Time... as might 1984. Hmmmmmm.

Kalle: ... that huge white gap in the start of the article is bothering me :|

Janitor: Image cut, as it had nothing to do with the article.


A Take That! that's not really related to the subject of the page.

  • To be fair this is partly realistic- the Red Wall abbey was established to be a place of refugee, the populace and trade levels are so low that money might not be an issue and they don't have to work hard to get food, contributing to the general friendliness. Of Course, that doesn't explain why the bad guys act differently.

Ah, but it's not just the abbey, but any good-guy enclave.

  • If you think about it the "dystopia" happens to be more pleasant than most current societies. And they have a safety valve- the islands where they send the people who ask too many questions. So if the conformity drives you nuts you can always leave. Unlike most dystopia's, it is also capable of change and growth- and ironically enough features racism unlike most dystopias.

Ugh, Justifying Edit. And, um, no. It's a world where social roles are created before birth, for Pete's sake, where consumerism and neurosis are trained in. And I don't think they let people leave so much as occasionally force them to.

  • The author writes that Haven went through three stages to to Dystopia. At first, it was a fairly typical democracy with welfare programs. Then the welfare evolved into a Bread and Circuses system used by the political elite to keep the mob quiet. As is usually the case, the elite became a hereditary elite because they naturally wanted to provide cushy jobs for their own kids. Unfortunately, this made the economy totally dysfunctional, and they had to start conquering people and looting their economies to keep things going. But every planet they looted put them even more in the red, so they had to keep doing it over and over until they ran into someone big enough to stop them. This is the point where it got really dystopian. The real strawmanning lies between step one (democracy with welfare) and step two (oligarchy with bread and circuses).
    • At least Weber has the decency not to make the Havenites' enemies, the Star Kingdom of Manticore, into a true Mary Sue Topia. They're prosperous and they have civil rights, but they also have some nasty political types who wobble in and out of power thanks to their own hereditary aristocracy. And there's a fairly plausible justification for where all the money to run things comes from- they control a really important shipping nexus.

This is way too long, and explaining how the trope is justified in-story doesn't make it not an example. `.`
Kerrah: Removed the Sword of Truth example from Straw Utopias. The society ruled by the main hero is shown as having realistic flaws. I won't object to the Straw Dystopia example, though.

Nornagest: Cut the following from the Freehold example, on grounds of being partisan wankery on both sides. I might try to pare down the remaining material a bit, too; it's mostly relevant but definitely on the overlong side.

A specific example is the impact of widespread video cameras in England and London: to a significant loss of privacy has matched no decrease in crime - the specific amount of crime thwarted with the use of video cameras is negligible. A totalitarian state that watches 24/7 and is yet unable to stop rampant criminality is hardly a strawman.
**Present day England hardly counts as a "totalitarian state." The defining feature of totalitarianism is not that the government knows everything, but that it is allowed to do anything. Real-life totalitarian governments of the 20th century had far less video surveillance than present day London - for the simple reason that cheap, small video cameras had not yet been invented. And under those real-life totalitarian governments, crime really was almost completely eradicated - witness for example the almost complete lack of illegal drugs in Eastern Europe before 1990. Totalitarian governments are effective in stamping out crime not because they see everything, but because they pretty much arrest everyone who might possibly be guilty of something. If you live in a totalitarian society and you're a gang member (or the police thinks you're a gang member), they can deal with you without worrying about pesky things like "rights" or "due process." This is not the case in a democratic society, even a high-surveillance one.


Okay, here's the old version of the lead paragraph.

* The future UN from Michael Z Williamson's libertarian-tract Freehold novels (Freehold and The Weapon) has an example of a Straw Dystopia. Earth is an incredibly repressive police state where everyone is under constant surveillance, to the point that everyone has an implanted radio transmitter that monitors their every move. Despite this its military is made out to be an utter joke crippled by PC culture taken to the most ludicrous extreme possible (their soldiers are not allowed to engage enemies with lethal weapons without authorization from above, and they have quadraplegics serving in frontline artillery units, and are apparently serial rapists - although given what happens with UN soldiers these very days, it's more of a sickening example of Truth in Television), to the point where one might guess they probably wouldn't be able to successfully oppress a bunch of five-year-olds, let alone an entire planet worth of people. There are mitigating circumstances: first of all, the militaries of real-life dystopias (China, Cuba, Soviet Russia...) were and are not comparable to the biggest armies of, say, America; the whole dystopia specifically hinges on a population less oppressed and more lazy and truly believing that what they live in is true freedom, rather than being brainwashed into believing such. Earth's cities are a Clockwork Orange style nightmare ruled by brutal street gangs, which might make no sense, unless one knows of the the conservativist/libertarianist precept that the larger the state, the less freedom for those who abide the law, while those who run afoul of it risk little more than being slapped with more laws which they'll gladly ignore.

MZW deserves credit for trying to make his libertarian utopia realistically flawed, I think. In the end it's still not quite believable, but by the standards of its subgenre it's positively gritty — compare his setting to that of The Probability Broach, for example. Shame that the ideology and genre standards pretty much dictate that it comes off as a Mary Suetopia.

Peteman: Did anyone get this kind of vibe from Orb in Gundam SEED (not the sequel series though). It had tolerance for both peoples, was pretty wealthy, noble, and neutral in a global conflict. Basically, the only problems it had stemmed from enemies invading its idyllic and peaceful borders. It stood as contrast to the other two nations, who basically wanted to wipe each other from the face of the universe. You could tell it was the good one, because the protagonists were the ones who joined in

Kizor: Adding Draka natter here because it is interesting. Removed it from the article because shut up.
  • Sounds like Sparta. They managed to keep their system together more then a few centuries.
    • Thing is, the Spartans may have been able to hold on to the martial virtues (sneaky, tough, very strong... ah... bonding between soldiers, and so on). But they weren't a technological or economic powerhouse. Rather the opposite, in fact. Sparta would never have survived the Industrial Revolution.
    • In the books, they're able to somehow slowly take control of all of Africa and the Middle East with no one noticing up until the 1940's, and where instead of banding together to fight this new menace the countries of the world resort to selling themselves out to give themselves temporary peace against the Draka, despite the overwhelming fact that it's pretty obvious the Draka want world domination. Also factor in that the Draka somehow are able to have what are apparently modern battle tanks in the 1940's in a primarily agricultural society and win major battles against the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany quite easily thanks to having stupidly overpowered technology. Mary Dystopia indeed.

Rebochan: I pulled the BioShock example below:

  • In Bioshock, Rapture is an attempt of deconstructing an objectivist utopia that ends up more straw objectivist dystopia than anything. Not that this has stopped some Objectivists from interpreting Bioshock as being pro-Objectivist. This is what happens when your Objectivist villain is a Magnificent Bastard.

Because Ken Levine has said the game was not meant to be a critique on Objectivism itself, but on taking an ideology to a fundamentalist extreme. Levine himself actually believes in many values of Objectivism in his own words. The game's setting came about originally as a motivation for why someone would build a city underwater.
Joseph Leito: I have a quick question. Is this trope typically considered 'bad?' I'm writing a novel, and one of my nations fits almost perfectly into this.

Rann: Yes, it is. Partly because people find them just a little too sugary and perfect, and partly because... well, it's just so blatantly unrealistic. As noted in the description, a Mary Suetopia basically requires you to just turn a blind eye to all the reasons it wouldn't, which often comes off as vaguely insulting (notice how in later, more developed episodes of Star Trek they eventually introduced the concept of "Federation credits" to do a bit of a retcon on the Federation having done away with money... they did away with PHYSICAL money, because it was just so blatantly unrealistic to assume everyone got whatever they wanted for nothing). At best it requires you to do an MST3K Mantra, at worst it comes off as essentially an Author Filibuster about how the author's ideals are just so much more awesome than everything else in existence.