Created By: GuesssWho on August 8, 2011 Last Edited By: Morgenthaler on May 9, 2016
Nuked

Loony Laws

When the law of the land was written by a lunatic

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Indices: Crime and Punishment Tropes, Madness Tropes

By royal decree, all citizens of the realm must make their clothing out of taffy and stand on their heads three times a day! Mondays have been outlawed! The color puce is an abomination!

In other words, this is when the lawmakers have gone insane. The usual result of your more literal cases of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. Might have been written by The Caligula, or put up by the Hanging Judge in a Kangaroo Court. Often Played for Laughs—and is usually Black Comedy even in more serious examples.

May involve a lot of Felony Misdemeanor or Disproportionate Retribution.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Cal passes a number of ridiculous laws during his insane term as Chief Judge, such as outlawing happiness. Sometimes he got more creative:
    Cal: "I have today passed a law to maintain public order! Deputy Chief Judge Fish will announce it!"
    Fish: "Bloop!"
    Cal: "You have heard the law. The penalty for disobedience is death!"

    Film 
  • Bananas:
    Esposito: From this day on, the official language of San Marcos [in Latin America] will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old!
    Fielding Mellish: What's the Spanish word for straitjacket?

    Literature 
  • In Monstrous Regiment, the god Nuggan has been reduced to this, with a list of Abominations that now includes babies, garlic, blue, rocks, ears and accordion players, although Vimes for one agrees with him on that last one.
  • There is at least one book devoted to this subject, You May Not Tie an Alligator to a Fire Hydrant: 101 Real Dumb Laws
  • Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake - Gormenghast has so many strange laws and rituals that by the time someone has become it's Earl they are probably quite insane themselves. So the laws and rituals become more insane. Gormenghast is the Crapsack World logical extreme of this trope.
  • Alice in Wonderland: The Queen of Hearts was defined by being a woman that had to be obeyed on every single little whimsical law she made on the spot, even the ones that make no sense, and every single crime, no matter how small, all had the same sentence: beheading. When Alice first arrives to her kingdom, she meets a group of guards that are rushing to paint every rose on the garden red (they were white), because she just woke up in the morning hating them being white (and made them illegal). During Alice's judgement later on the book, the Queen kept on making things Alice did while defending herself illegal on the spot (and, again, kept calling for her beheading for each transgression).

    Music 
  • The song "King of Spain" by Moxy Fruvous has a mild (and relatively benevolent) example:
    It's laissez-faire,
    I don't even give a care;
    Let's make Friday part of the weekend
    And give every new baby a chocolate eclaire

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: in the adventure X3 Curse of Xanathon, the title curse causes the Duke of Rhoona to proclaim several odd laws, such as "All taxes must be paid in beer", "All riders must sit backwards on their horses" and "Horses can only be fed meat".
  • Pathfinder: Mayor Barzillai Thrune's decrees at the start of Hell's Rebels include edicts to control rats and stray dogs, mandatory display of the queen's portrait, restrictions on the wear of embroidered clothing, a ban on drinking tea after sunset, and a ban on mint.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Insofar that it was a game mechanic. Judges oversee every battle to ensure that you don't break some arbitrary law that changes every other battle.
  • In the Feelies for Zork Zero, it is revealed that King Dimwit Flathead made every Thursday into "Birthday," on which everyone had to give him presents.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: There are two acts punishable by death in The Shivering Isles, attacking its ruler, Sheogorath, and attempting to grow a beard.

    Webcomics 
  • The Oglaf strip "Assorted Fruits of Wrath" has a crusading army get blown away by its own god for violating a scriptural law about not opening the wrong end of a banana (no mention of which end that is).

    Western Animation 
  • The post-apocalyptic New Quahog in Family Guy was briefly ruled by Peter, who, among other things, randomly assigned duties from a "job hat" and not based on expertise...
    "Oooh, village idiot! That's a good one! On Tuesdays you get to wave your penis at traffic!"
  • The Simpsons: In "Homer Vs. the 18th Amendment", the punishment for disobeying Springfield's prohibition law is to be launched out of the city by catapult.
  • Gravity Falls: The titular town was founded by (ex-) President Quentin Trembley, and his lunacy was reflected with such things as a law that allowed humans to marry woodpeckers and the "Finders Keepers" Law (which essentially meant that; as long as you have physical possession of an object, it is legally yours; and if someone else comes along and steals it, it is legally theirs—even if you could legally prove that they stole it from you, if you can't steal it back, then well... "losers weepers"). This latter one provides a pretty big source of drama during the first season finale.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: a quick Google search for "crazy laws" will inform you that it is illegal to forget your wife's birthday in Samoa, among other things.
  • When Oliver Cromwell came into power after the English Civil War, he introduced laws amongst others) that banned eating mince pies on the 25th of December and several other Christmas traditions.


Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • August 9, 2011
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Basic Dungeons And Dragons. In the adventure X3 Curse of Xanathon, the title curse causes the Duke of Rhoona to proclaim several odd laws, such as "All taxes must be paid in beer", "All riders must sit backwards on their horses" and "Horses can only be fed meat".
  • August 9, 2011
    Fanra
    • Real Life: Far too many laws. I won't go into them due to Rule Of Cautious Editing Judgment.

    • Bananas:
      Esposito: From this day on, the official language of San Marcos [in Latin America] will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old!
      Fielding Mellish: What's the Spanish word for straitjacket?
  • August 9, 2011
    kjnoren
    Cal: "I have today passed a law to maintain public order! Deputy Chief Judge Fish will announce it!"

    Fish: "Bloop!"

    Cal: "You have heard the law. The penalty for disobedience is death!"
  • August 12, 2011
    Bisected8
    • When Oliver Cromwell came into power after the English Civil War, he introduced laws amongst others) that banned eating mince pies on the 25th of Decemberand several other Christmas traditions.
  • August 12, 2011
    BraveHoratio
    Music

    • The song "King of Spain" by Moxy Fruvous has a mild (and benevolent) example:
      It's laissez-faire,
      I don't even give a care;
      Let's make Friday part of the weekend
      And give every new baby chocolate eclaire
  • August 12, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Insofar that it was a game mechanic. Judges oversee every battle to ensure that you don't break some arbitrary law that changes every other battle.
  • August 13, 2011
    Synchronicity
    Might have been written by The Caligula.
  • August 13, 2011
    Ryusui
    On the FFTA example:

    • On the upside, there is no Final Death wherever the Judges hold sway; downed characters are simply knocked out and revived at the end of battle. In the Jagd territories outside their control, however, anyone who dies on the field of battle stays dead.
  • August 14, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Also in FFTA, it's widely known (in-universe) that the Judges' rules of combat are chosen arbitrarily.
  • August 14, 2011
    yogyog
    Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake - Gormenghast has so many strange laws and rituals that by the time someone has become it's Earl they are probably quite insane themselves. So the laws and rituals become more insane. "Withdrawn and runinous it brooods in umbra: the immemorial masonry: the towers, the tracks. Is all corroding?" Gormenghast is the Crapsack World logical extreme of this trope.
  • August 15, 2011
    GuesssWho
    Possibly it could have a redirect from Caligulaws, just for the pun.
  • August 15, 2011
    benjamminsam
    The post-apocalyptic New Quahog in Family Guy was briefly ruled by Peter, who, among other things, randomly assigned duties from a "job hat" and not based on expertise...

    "Oooh, village idiot! That's a good one! On Tuesdays you get to wave your penis at traffic!"
  • August 15, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    ^^ I don't want to admit that made me laugh a little.

    I can see this trope as a vehicle for Author Appeal, (eg: using in-universe laws to enforce the author's ideals) unfortunately, that's just a theory with no examples to back it up.

    Might want to add Played For Laughs in the description so you don't have to include before half of the examples.
  • August 15, 2011
    benjamminsam
    Yeah this seems to be mostly a comedy trope, whether intentional or not.
  • August 16, 2011
    kjnoren
    Hmm.... we should made the article self-demonstrating and -referencing:

    By decree of the Administrator, all tropers must at all times carry a hat. All articles with titles starting with M may only be edited or created the first Tuesday after a full moon. All articles must from now on be self-demonstrating. Tropers must be naked to edit a works page.
  • August 16, 2011
    GuesssWho
    ^The draft does start with "By royal decree, all citizens of the realm must make their clothing out of taffy and stand on their heads three times a day! Mondays have been outlawed! The color puce is an abomination!" So Yeah
  • August 16, 2011
    kjnoren
    Yeah, but mine is TV Tropes-referencing, too :-)
  • August 17, 2011
    TBeholder
    Then why not Lunatic Laws?
  • August 17, 2011
    GuesssWho
    ^^True, but Im not sure if it's as funny. What does everyone else think?

    ^Could work, at least as a redirect.
  • August 17, 2011
    jaytee
    Examples abound in the Zork universe, once you start getting into the Flathead dynasty.

    I can't remember too many examples, so hopefully someone can flesh this out.
    • In the Feelies for Zork Zero, it is revealed that King Dimwit Flathead made every Thursday into "Birthday," on which everyone had to give him presents.
  • August 17, 2011
    TheMayorofNorthfield
    The Simpsons: In "Homer Vs. the 18th Amendment", the punishment for disobeying Springfield's prohibition law is to be launched out of the city by catapult.

  • August 19, 2011
    GuesssWho
    This seems ready to me. Should I launch it?
  • October 21, 2011
    jatay3
    There are also laws that were sensible at the time but no one remembered to repeal them. Some US cities still have regulations about where and how you can hitch a horse. Maybe that's not quite the same as you wouldn't want people to just anything with horse. But the point is some laws aren't mad; they have just outlived their usefulness.
  • October 21, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    I think we should probably stick a No Real Life Examples lable on this. Otherwise we might end up seeing both political sniping and the usual list of "strange laws" that often go around the internet with varying levels of accuracy.
  • October 21, 2011
    Antigone3
    There's some examples in the Elenium, in areas controlled by the Eshandists. Off the top of my head, there's "Killing flies is heresy" and "Sheep always have the right of way".
  • October 21, 2011
    elwoz
    How about "No Real Life Examples except we mention those columns of ridiculous outdated and/or 'why would you need to forbid that' laws that newspapers occasionally run"? Because some of those are hilarious.
  • October 23, 2011
    Bisected8
    Strictly speaking many of those laws were quite reasonable in context.
  • October 30, 2011
    TBeholder
    @ Bisected8 There may be a context in which these would be reaonable too. But a schizophrenic's inability to see how things look outside of one context to which he clings right now is the whole source of lulz here.
  • September 29, 2012
    GuesssWho
    I found this again and we still don't seem to have it, should I launch?
  • May 6, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    Since it seems the OP has forgotten about this one, I'll take up sponsorship.
  • May 6, 2016
    Arutema
    The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion: There are two acts punishable by death in The Shivering Isles, attacking its ruler, Sheogorath, and attempting to grow a beard.
  • May 6, 2016
    StarSword
    Please call this Caligulaws, just for funny.

    Webcomics example you can cut up for an image:
    • The Oglaf strip "Assorted Fruits of Wrath" has a crusading army get blown away by its own god for violating a scriptural law about not opening the wrong end of a banana (no mention of which end that is).
  • May 6, 2016
    Arutema
    • Pathfinder: Mayor Barzillai Thrune's decrees at the start of Hell's Rebels include edicts to control rats and stray dogs, mandatory display of the queen's portrait, restrictions on the wear of embroidered clothing, a ban on drinking tea after sunset, and a ban on mint.
  • May 6, 2016
    marcoasalazarm
    Gravity Falls: The titular town was founded by (ex-) President Quentin Trembley, and his lunacy was reflected with such things as a law that allowed humans to marry woodpeckers and the "Finders Keepers" Law (which essentially meant that; as long as you have physical possession of an object, it is legally yours; and if someone else comes along and steals it, it is legally theirs—even if you could legally prove that they stole it from you, if you can't steal it back, then well... "losers weepers"). This latter one provides a pretty big source of drama during the first season finale.
  • May 7, 2016
    DAN004
  • May 7, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    Updated to here. The Oglaf picture is already being used on Jerkass Gods.
  • May 7, 2016
    TimG5
    How about the title Loony Laws? Just for Added Alliterative Appeal.
  • May 7, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    ^ Oh, that's a good one.
  • May 7, 2016
    DAN004
    May be put up by a Hanging Judge in a Kangaroo Court.
  • May 8, 2016
    marcoasalazarm
    Alice In Wonderland: The Queen of Hearts was defined by being a woman that had to be obeyed on every single little whimsical law she made on the spot, even the ones that make no sense, and every single crime, no matter how small, all had the same sentence: beheading. When Alice first arrives to her kingdom, she meets a group of guards that are rushing to paint every rose on the garden red (they were white), because she just woke up in the morning hating them being white (and made them illegal). During Alice's judgement later on the book, the Queen kept on making things Alice did while defending herself illegal on the spot (and, again, kept calling for her beheading for each transgression).
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ijnznkgykg872p470h03cv92