Created By: lukebn on December 14, 2009

Teenage Wasteland

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Somehow, the social order has gone all topsy-turvy. Instead of the old having power over the young, the young are free to do as they will, and may even have power over the old. This is pretty much inevitably portrayed as a bad thing. The young in question might attempt to build some sort of new society, or they might degenerate into complete barbarism, or there might be a conflict between the former and the latter. The most famous example is Lord of the Flies, but it's not too uncommon, since it's a useful device to explain why teenagers are going on whirlwind adventures. Teenage Wasteland settings tend to be rather dark, since they often involve children and teenagers fighting for their lives, and quite possibly doing awful things to each other. Children Are Innocent has no place in a Teenage Wasteland.

There are a few ways this might come to be:
  • A group of teenagers are lost, stranded, or otherwise isolated from society (e.g. Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale).
  • Adults simply do not exist any more. They are gone, probably because of something that was Only Fatal to Adults (e.g. Gone, Shade's Children)
  • A society where the old nominally still hold power, but groups of youths have become too powerful to be truly controlled. (e.g. A Clockwork Orange).
  • A society where the young and the old coexist, but the young call the shots (e.g. Logan's Run).

This is not There Are No Adults. That trope is for when society is as it always was, and adults are still around in the background, but they don't interfere with the goings-on of the children protagonists.

More examples please?
Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • December 14, 2009
    In Larry Niven's "A World Out Of Time", most of the Earth was ruled by immortal children who kept a supply of grown-ups around as breeding stock. Every once in a while, they'd go to where they kept the grown-ups (who live, for the most part, free from interference as long as they don't try to escape confinement), select two or three children who met some preset requirement, and give them the immortality treatment.
  • December 14, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Just about anything by Brett Easton Ellis before AmericanPsycho?
  • December 14, 2009
    Amazingly Enough
    I could have sworn we had this, but I couldn't find it when I looked. I get the reference, but I think it needs a better name as it isn't always teenagers, and is actually more often seen with younger children.

    • Children Of The Corn
    • The first level of the PC game Sanitarium has a town whose inhabitants are creepy deformed children who have killed off all the adults, and are being controlled by an evil being which they refer to as "Mother".
    • In the second novel in the His Dark Materials series, Lyra visits a world where all the adults have been killed off by Specters, monsters that can only harm and be seen by those who have reached puberty.
    • The game Rule Of Rose features a society run by little girls.
    • Parodied in the South Park epsidoe "The Wacky Molestation Adventure", when the kids cause all of the adults in town to be taken away by social services by claiming they were molested. A couple then comes to the town and finds it in ruins and overrun by children. Later we find out that it's only been four days since the parents were arrested.
  • December 14, 2009
    For anyone else who doesn't, the title's a reference to Baba O'Riley by The Who (which tends to get called Teenage Wasteland by people who don't know better). I'm open to other suggestions, but I think it's mostly teenagers except in the Only Fatal To Adults subtrope, since teenagers are adult enough to keep a society running.
  • December 14, 2009
  • December 14, 2009
    • There was an early episode of Sliders where the young were in power and the mandatory retirement age was in the mid-20's. Adults were more or less homeless and drug use was rampant among the youngsters due to the pressures of having to succeed so early.
  • December 15, 2009
    The Tribe. An After The End world where The Virus is Only Fatal To Adults. It's been years since I watched it (and in retrospect, it SUCKED), but as I recall, The Virus doesn't actually KILL the adults - just drives them crazy, turning them into homicidal maniacs.
  • December 15, 2009
    @Amazingly Enough: we recently (within the last month) had a YKTTW very similar to this one.

    Note: There Are No Adults has the line "Sometimes caused by a catastrophe of some sort that was Only Fatal To Adults." This was probably added to account for all of the examples where there are no adults at all.

    If this trope is launched, all of the examples that fit this trope better can be moved over and the above line changed to a reference to this trope.
  • December 15, 2009
    The Girl Who Owned A City, 400 Boys, and Countdown are in the Only Fatal To Adults section.

    Apply this to a high school and you get an Absurdly Powerful Student Council.
  • December 15, 2009
    The Sliders landed on a world where Howard Stern had been elected president and lowered the voting age to nine. As a result, everyone over 30 was a second-class citizen.
  • December 15, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The Star Trek episode Miri.
  • December 15, 2009
    Indie tabletop RPG ''Misspent Youth'' is all about this, with the P Cs been children age 12 to 17 fighting against the Authority (whatever form it takes for your game). Adults either blithely let the Authority do what it wants, or are on it's side. The game actually mentions several of the already mentioned examples as inspiration.

  • December 16, 2009
  • December 16, 2009
    Deconstructed in Jimmy Neutron.
  • December 17, 2009
    The Vigils are type 3 in The Chocolate War. The Kids Next Door are... something.
  • December 18, 2009
    Does anyone else have an opinion on the title? I'd like to satisfy the Three Rules Of Three before launching.