At Sunnyside, Lotso
will make sure you stay forever.
Talk! What's going on in this candy coated heart of darkness?!"
A setting which, at first sight, looks
nice and cute. The world is full of cheery colors, people are smiling, happy and helpful, and you're probably thinking you've just stepped into a Sugar Bowl
that seriously Tastes Like Diabetes
. Suddenly, you notice something wrong
, and upon investigating, you realize that every single thing
below the surface is horribly wrong and dysfunctional
. Maybe the society is Powered by a Forsaken Child
. Maybe the cheeriness is maintained by totalitarian rulers
that dole out horrible punishments for the slightest infractions
. Maybe the bright and shiny part isn't the only part, and the more traditional Crapsack World
is kept hidden from the public eye. Maybe it's just a manufactured atmosphere
or even reality
. Basically, this is a Stepford Smiler
on the scale of an entire setting, where behind the colorful appearance it's really a Crapsack World
Compare with False Utopia
, when one of the main points of the story is the contrast of how perfect the world looks and how imperfect it truly is, Town with a Dark Secret
, Peace & Love, Incorporated
, Light Is Not Good
, and Stepford Suburbia
. Often involves Fridge Horror
, Sugar Apocalypse
, Grotesque Cute
, and Glurge
. A Type B cynical portrayal of The Promised Land
that isn't a used-up and barren wasteland is likely to be one of these.
See also City in a Bottle
, where Crystal Spires and Togas
meets Government Conspiracy
, and Soiled City on a Hill
, which can be a former Shining City
that retains its shiny exterior even though its heart has become corrupt and rotten. Urban Segregation
can result in this if the viewer is initially shown only the utopian parts of the setting. A child-oriented Adventure-Friendly World
is prone to being this.
Contrast with Sugar Bowl
, the (usually) non-ironic version of this trope. Compare and contrast Vile Villain, Saccharine Show
and the similar Uncanny Village
wherein a would become a perfectly ordinary Sugar Bowl
if its horrifying villain were removed, whereas a Crapsaccharine World is fundamentally rotten to the core. Contrast People's Republic of Tyranny
, Fauxtivational Poster
, and A World Half Full
, where it looks like a Crapsack World
, but it can
get better. Happiness Is Mandatory
can be this, but often fails to create even a pleasant veneer over things.
Note that this trope is about a setting. If the art style clashes with the mood of the work, that is Art-Style Dissonance
As this trope involves the revealing of a world's true nature, expect spoilers ahead.
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Anime & Manga
- In Berserk, an already dark and depressing series, we meet Rosine, a Dark Magical Girl who transformed a crater's valley in a realm for elves filled with birds, butterflies, flowers and evergreen meadows. But, for being young and apparently harmless, Rosine is an Apostle. And before long, we see that her elves' favorite hobbies includes playing war. And not only do they happily slaughter one another, they also like to use their insect-like appendages to skewer one another in the ass. And that's not even mentioning the way they are created.
- Chirin No Suzu has a great example of this trope. The first half of the story starts out with a world where everything is great and everyone is happy. However, events in the second half reveal that the world has a dark side to it, and that the world presented in the first half was probably not that great to begin with.
- Dai Mahou Touge opens with a Tastes Like Diabetes Sugar Bowl for the Magical Land Punie comes from. It's later revealed to be a brutal despotism run by an Evil Overlord who rose to power through a smear campaign against the old monarchy and is more than willing to commit mass slaughter to keep the people in line. By comparison, Earth itself is a more traditional Crapsack World.
- In the first chapter of Daily Life with Monster Girl, a newsreporter claims that the Exchange program was a huge success and that the world hasn't changed much from the integration of monsters into society. It's interesting that all of the girls shown are barely monstrous. The world's view on our protagonists is much, much harsher.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00 lampshades this early on, after the Time Skip. The world now run by the Earth Federation seems to be better off than in Season 1, and it commented on multiple times that lots of people genuinely believe this. However, Celestial Being, Katharon, and anybody else capable looking beyond the surface know the truth: The world looks that way because the obscenely brutal State Sec are doing their best to make sure that's what the majority of the public believes, partially to squelch any potential insurrection as a reaction against Celestial Being in Season 1.
Sergei Smirnov: Information control... This is all fake.
- Higurashi: When They Cry is a Double Subversion. Hinamizawa seems to be a Town with a Dark Secret, Watanagashi is presented as a Fête Worse than Death, Oyashiro-sama a Religious Horror, and the girls a Themed Harem of yandere and Cute and Psycho. Sure, the series is a Psychological Horror and every arc starts with happiness and fun and ends with horrors. However, the answer arcs (which are still creepy; Meakashi-hen, Shion's arc, may possibly be the most disturbing fragment of the series) show that the people of Hinamizawa really are all good at heart (yes, even the Yakuza family we're initially led to suspect is behind everything, they have nothing to do with the recent deaths and disappearances), Watanagashi's sordid roots have been seized upon to hide the opportunist Big Bad's conspiracy, Oyashiro-sama is an adorable moeblob who suffered more than anyone else in the series, and the Hate Plague isn't limited to the girls nor are they in themselves crazy. The last few arcs, where the Games Club forges a stronger bond and resists the insanity, have them resort to nonlethal and sometimes even nonviolent tactics to protect the village and their friends. Oh, yeah, and there's a happy ending.
- Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit takes place is a time where Japan has extremely low crime rates and high prosperity and wealth. This is because of a system where students entering the first grade receive a vaccination. One in every one thousand of these contains a nano-capsule that will kill the recipient sometime between their 18th and 24th birthday, regardless of how they're lived their life up until now, in order to teach the people the value of life. And if anyone speaks out against it, they are deemed 'social miscreants' and get injected with the nano-capsule. Yeah.
- Karneval definitely has shades of this, along with a good deal of Art-Style Dissonance. Those colorful, happy, whimsical circus shows that get put on from town to town? Those are apologies to the people from the government for disrupting town life by pursuing dangerous criminals in the area. The performers are essentially super soldiers and assassins whose job is to locate and destroy a race of Humanoid Abominations, the result of one crime organization's ongoing foray into immoral genetic experimentation.
- The Tokyo of The Roaring Twenties is described as such in Kasei Yakyoku. From a fansub group:
"At this moment in time, the city is a mixture of extremes: past and present, rich and poor, good and bad. This is a city where we see both horsecarts and motorcars, swords and pistols, lords and businessmen..."
- More or less every town, city and other form of population concentration points in the world of Kino's Journey feature this trope. For example, the nation Kino visits in episode 12 boasts about its peaceful nature, having abandoned the war machines it used in past wars with its neighbor and its citizens living happily and in harmony. However, how the two nations reached this lasting peace becomes known later on, as Kino witnesses small but well armed forces from both nations slaughter unarmed civilians that belong to neither. These civilians are castaways, no one cares about them, so the wars of the past were replaced with a competition where both nations kill these outcasts as much as they can in a set time limit. At the end the bodies are piled up on a weight meter and the side that killed more "wins the war", after which both return to live in peace.
- The Ryugu Shelter in 7 Seeds is a gorgeous, beautiful underground amusement park that includes comfortable bedrooms, all sorts of entertainment ranging from sports to music to arts and crafts, and you even have some celebrities and entertainers to enjoy! It's also a shelter for the people to live in when a meteorite brings about The End of the World as We Know It. And then things got worse.
- Gundam AGE: it turns out to be a False Utopia managed (to a degree) by a State Sec more concerned with maintaining public image than their citizens' welfare.
- Naruto has an idealistic setting with the bad guys falling before The Power of Friendship or inspiring speeches, but the world it takes place in is pretty dark. Trained assassins are raised from childhood in villages run by other trained assassins and are hired out to anyone with enough money. The good guys are apathetic at best, the bad guys are all incredibly powerful, not only capable of but more than willing to kill anyone who looks at them funny for no reason other than because they can. The governments and agencies that are supposed to deal with this sort of thing are largely self-absorbed and not likely to put any real effort into pursuing anyone who tries to defect from their village (which seems to happen quite a lot), which is just as well because no one whose job it is to get rid of rogue ninjas is capable of defeating 14 year old children, much less city destroying badasses. Finally, before the start of the series, said ninja villages were constantly embroiled in various wars against each other (and themselves), with several major world wars and they always picked unaffiliated countries to stage their wars in, meaning lots of innocent people are caught in the crossfire. After the series starts, you've got villains who instigate a war because they were passed over for leadership of their home village, villains who are willing to destroy cities just to prove a point, villains who subjugate the souls of the dead and force them to fight against their loved ones, and the Big Bad wants to mind rape everyone on the planet because he got friend-zoned by the girl he was in love with while the Bigger Bad just wants people to treat him like the god he thinks he is. Most importantly, there is Fantastic Racism against the people who house the 9 most powerful beings in the world, who are "demonic" in the first place because of people treating them as nothing more than sources of power and as destruction-seeking monsters. The titular character lives his early life with this.
- Skypiea and Dressrosa in One Piece. Gorgeous cities, lush landscapes, people seemingly happy with their lives, loved/respected monarchs. But under the vernish you find slave labor, and if you ever displease the authority your very existence will be erased. Skypiea improved a lot after Luffy beat Eneru, to be fair.
- One Piece in general, arguably. From the beginning it is never portrayed as an especially safe world (being that it is a story about pirates and, bar the protagonists and some others, they are NOT The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything). But at the same time this status quo is portrayed as idealistic and romantic in its own way: it's a world of adventure where men and women can take to their ideals and live free on the sea, and there are lots of wondrous, fantastical things to see in the world. It gets less sunny when we witness the upper echelons of the World Government, how they condone slavery on a massive scale, Fantastic Racism against non-human species, and have committed genocide in order to preserve some dark secret. Per-arc the illusion is shattered as well (as mentioned with Dressrosa and Skypiea), where a magical island will have dark histories of racism, war, or infiltration by government agents.
- No matter how idealistic or romantic a world may be at first, once the corruption of the World Government became prominent in the storyline, One Piece struggled really hard to not cross the Crapsack World line. First came Smoker's unearned promotion to cover up the fact that a rogue privateer of theirs was defeated by pirates, something that really pissed Smoker off because of its Medal of Dishonor nature. Then came Robin's backstory, wherein she gained a huge bounty at the age of eight for no other reason than that she could read the Poneglyphs, effectively ruining any chance of her living a normal life and forcing her on the run for twenty years. Though those can be (weakly) justified and one could accuse the World Government at the very least being mildly corrupt (or at least, no more corrupt than Real Life governments today). Then came Sabaody, which introduced the Celestial Dragons, the descendants of those who created the World Government, and the "rulers" of the world. Once they came into the picture, one can honestly say the World Government is evil. They blatantly disregard the law, shooting people who even slightly irritate them, parading their slaves around with batting an eyelash, when slavery was supposedly abolished two hundred years ago, and giving no other excuse for their actions than simply having the blood of the "creators" of the world, which supposedly makes them divine by nature. The sad part is that they are completely outside the law, meaning their actions cannot be punished, and worse yet, attacking them is considered to be a crime of the worst sort — enough that if they so desire, they can send an admiral after you.
- With two exceptions any Pretty Cure movie will have the heroines visiting some far off fantastical land that's incredibly sweet and innocent-looking... until something causes them to look a little bit deeper and find the movie's Big Bad ready to show up and give the girls hell.
- Sekirei takes place in one of these. The capital city of Teito is a prospering metropolis Twenty Minutes into the Future, benefiting greatly from the heavy investments of MBI and generally a fantastic place to live. Some lucky residents even get to meet one of the 108 Magical Girlfriends just waiting to form an everlasting bond with them. Expect tons of Fanservice and harem comedy. The downside is that There Can Be Only One and participation is not optional, with anyone that attempts to escape being hunted down by the Discipline Squad. Over time, the private military owned by MBI takes over the capital and enforces increasing levels of martial law to force the Sekirei to kill one another. Oh, and that amazing Magical Girlfriend? She's a Red Shirt and you're Blessed with Suck. Minato, the hero of the series, is determined to Screw Destiny because the idea that only one person gets a happy ending is unacceptable to him.
- Shitsurakuen becomes this for girls when you realise that only the guys have it easy in Utopia Gakuen, girls are nothing more than commodities to be traded and fought for and as we later find out, some of the boys themselves HATED the rules yet they could do little to change them.
- So Ra No Wo To takes place for the most part, in a lush, incredibly beautiful mountain village where people live fairly happy lives. As the series goes on however this is revealed to be one of the few places still like this, with most of the world being rendered uninhabitable due to a past war that was so devastating that it apparently killed off all life in the oceans and humanity technologically regressed to early twentieth century. To make things worse, the handful of major nations left are fighting for what remains and that shrinks every year as the remaining habitable land is undergoing irreversible desertification. Nobody seems shocked at all to have teenage girls enlisting in the army.
- Hong Kong as depicted in Haou Airen. A bright, shining city full of prosperity and fun things to do... while gangsters train children like the Bastard Boyfriend male lead as assassins in a shadow war filled with rape, murder, and suicide.
- Lady Jagara's city in Wolfs Rain is implausibly neat, clean and sterile, and all of the inhabitants seem to be walking around in a trance, pretending that everything's hunky dory and will be forever (it won't). However, it does have an undercity which more accurately reflects the crappy state of the world outside.
- Zalem turns out to be this in Gunnm. You can ask for assisted suicide (the grisly "End Joy," which turns out to be full of blood) and all inhabitants HAVE A FREAKIN' CHIP FOR BRAINS. Also, if you learn about the previous spoiler, a "special team" is going to take care of you immediately. Everybody who doesn't fit or threatens order in any way is eliminated, frequently via being dumped down the floating city's giant garbage chute. In the sequel we learn that the Solar System at large is probably a worst Cold War parody imaginable, the children are outlawed and exterminated (or simply eaten by the Organic Technology-obsessed Venusians), Earth Sphere, despite its idyllic appearance, is run by a fascistic dictatorship that imposes involuntary Mind Control, real Neo-Nazis run rampant on Mars, Jovians, the most sympathetic major faction, is a Soviet Union parody that'd give Robert A. Heinlein nightmares, and the most popular entertainment is to watch a bloody tournament where cyborg martial artists kill each other messily for sport (and, maybe, some political rights). All of this is a massive improvement.
- Outbreak Company takes place in an amazing fantasy world with magic, dragons, lizard people, and elves. But most people are illiterate, masters regularly abuse their servants, and non-humans are 2nd class citizens.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica takes place in a Shining City where Magical Girls battle in secret against Monsters of the Week, granted wishes by their cute sidekicks. The city's on the brink of destruction, the girls are opportunistic liches, the Monsters of the Week are Fallen Heroes who forcibly underwent a monstrous transformation, the wishes never turn out well, even when not twisted, and the cute sidekicks are deceptive Starfish Aliens who treat both normal humans and their charges as little more than cattle.
- The Movie plays with this. It seems to take place in an idealized Magical Girl paradise, but it's actually Homura's witch labyrinth. And yet, as Sayaka points out, it really is a perfect world, even if it's an illusion, since one isn't secretly doomed to horrific fates or anything like that. The ending has Homura take control of the real universe so she can make it exactly like the labyrinth. But this time, it's considered evil, mostly because it was a conscious decision (the first time around, Kyubey tricked her into doing it). Whether this outcome is Crapsaccharine or just Saccharine is seemingly left up to the audience.
- Kotoura-san... Good grief. The people are literally living in lies and ignorant bliss. Practically everyone has No Sympathy, and Haruka is among the rare few who realizes what's wrong with this society thanks to her Telepathy and innocently exposing everyone's true feelings to their denial, disbelief, and chargin even though she can't help it. Worse, her once "Childhood Friends" then outcasted "the monster" (Haruka) so disgracefully, the insult haunts her for much of her life afterwards.
- In No Game No Life: The world is peaceful because crime and war etc. are forbidden by God, and all bets are enforced by Magically Binding Contract, and so such agreements must be honored. However, this means that skilled cheaters are the most dangerous people in the world, capable of dooming even countries in a single game. Also, the sentient species are ranked by magical ability, which means humans are at the bottom of the barrel and dying out as a result.
- How Hieronymous Bosch's masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights portrays the world. Everything seems bright and cheery and people of every race seems happy and content but everywhere are grotesque situations and bizarre creatures representing sin and immorality.
- Discussed in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye when the crew visit the aptly-named planet Hedonia. Rewind mentions that every outwardly pleasant civilization must have a less pleasant side, which he then sets out to find. As it turns out, Hedonia's actually pretty tame compared to the other examples he lists off— though they are some of the galaxy's foremost suppliers of high-end weaponry.
- A thief in The Unwritten finds himself turned into a rabbit and transported into a magical Winnie-the-Pooh-like forest setting with other Talking Animals. His life there consists of escape attempts and nervous breakdowns. He eventually meets the author of the books in her fictional avatar as a young girl and tries to tear down her image of innocence and expose her as a middle-aged fraud desperately clinging to childhood innocence. She reveals she's rather well-adjusted, in fact, but that means keeping all her adult fears hidden in the world of her books. Mr. Rabbit learns the hard way what this means. He got out, and corrupts every world he touches ever since. The next place he ended up was a slightly less idealistic Talking Animal land and a lot more straight example of this trope, where he became an Evil Overlord in all but name, just his "subjects" (or at least the narrator) were too naive to notice. It's chilling to read the overly optimistic narration while as reader understanding the horror of it all.
- A strip by Argentinian cartoonist Quino depicted a tourist first arriving to a foreign country, who is first delighted when he sees that everyone from the cab driver, hotel employees and people on the street are always singing a merry tune... until policemen, The Men in Black and government agents surround him suddenly, and menacingly observe that he is not singing.
- The Unfunnies, full on.
- The world Scott Pilgrim lives in. Sure, everyone has superpowers, and everything is incredibly awesome, but there seem to be no repercussions for challenging someone to a fight and beating them to death.
- Before Superman arrived on the scene, Metropolis was a Crapsaccharine City. It's a bright and shiny metropolis... that was being ruled by Evil Overlord Villain with Good Publicity Lex Luthor.
- Woodbury in The Walking Dead. It promises salvation from the Zombie Apocalypse but is ruled by the despotic Governor.
- Corona from Pk2, the sequel of Paperinik New Adventures, is an alien planet that managed to obtain a perfect balance between technology and nature and an incredibly high level of life. It is also a place where kids are raised in a flat-out abusing way, being a member of the government requires you to be emotionally stunned, and anyone that isn't 100% behind this is treated as a criminal. In fact, Everett Ducklair is a fugitive from it.
- Gothtopia has the normally dark and melancholic Gotham City become a bright and sunny paradise. Crime is low, people are living their lives, and the Batfamily is operating in the daylight and wearing bright, inspiring costumes. However, suicide rates are unusually high and the heroes start to figure out what's really going on.
- How Overman views the utopia he built on Earth-10 in Mastermen #1, disliking the fact that it was built on the brutal deaths of so many.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- In Running Scared, the home of the torturing, murdering pedo couple, decked out like a kindergarten playroom. Video
- Any City in a Bottle on film. Logans Run, Æon Flux, The Island, etc.
- Or other Gattaca-type setting: A.I., for instance.
- The Truman Show, where the whole world in which Truman Burbank lives is a giant television studio situated in Hollywood and he is the main character (and its only inhabitant who isn't an actor) of an incredibly epic reality show. He grew up in that world, which is portrayed like a mix of the modern age and the stereotypical 1950s American suburban society, but is "On air, unaware" the whole time. He starts finding out when things begin to fall apart; first a flood light falls from the sky, then he accidentally discovers a make-up room for the actors behind the doors of a fake elevator. Then he notices he can't leave his hometown, ever: all flights out are full, every bus out of town he tries to leave on breaks down, and when he tries to leave the city with his own car, the local nuclear power plant coincidentally has a meltdown and the whole area is sealed off. He finally manages to get out by sailing away and crashing into the horizon.
- Demolition Man could be considered a crapsaccharine answer to Robocop's Crapsack World.
- Coruscant in the Star Wars prequels. Although the films mostly show the glittering, affluent urban paradise of the top level, the Revenge of the Sith novelization mentions that the sublevels of the planet/city can be "worse than Nar Shaddaa," a notorious crime hub.
- This is established before the prequels, in the form of an essay written by an Imperial propaganda minister, who cheerfully describes the planet's technological wonders, mentions in passing that crime is being wiped out, and points out the magnanimity of the Emperor in granting aliens designated housing areas regularly patrolled by Stormtroopers, to better protect them from any intolerant locals. Said author was a nonhuman himself.
- Harry S. Plinkett also notes in his review that daily life on Coruscant is busy, bright, and chipper, even when the most traumatic and horrific war to ever be fought in the galaxy is going on. Coruscant is filled with the Republic's ultra-wealthy and privileged elite, and emblematic of the decadent and corrupt society that was the Republic in its final days. And, Harry notes, it's still going strong after 20 years under Emperor Palpatine, whose most redeeming quality was, apparently, being smart enough not to shit where he ate.
- The future setting in The Purge seems like a utopia, and actually, it almost is. The only catch is, you have to be able to survive the 12-hour period once a year where the government lets the citizens do anything without any legal repercussions. (Of course, it's actually worse than that. If you survive being attacked by someone you thought you could trust, like the protagonists, did, you'll never trust them again. It's also hinted that the biggest reason for this event is the government's way of weeding out the poor and the weak. Worst of all, the movie portrays humanity itself in a very grim way, showing that, if given the opportunity to commit murder and get away with it, most will take advantage of the opportunity, simply because they can.
- Hot Fuzz: "Statistically, Sandford is the SAFEST village in the country!" Tell that to the castle crypt filled with the corpses of every minor nuisance to step foot in Sandford.
- Serenity shows a failed version to attempt one of these, the Alliance's professed vision of the civilization they want to create and the means that they are willing to employ to reach it, because Utopia Justifies the Means. Only the aftermath of the creation of this "perfect world" is seen, and all that remains is abandoned buildings, corpses of people who became so docile that they laid down and died, and Reavers.
- This is the plot of the Norwegian movie, Den Brysomme Mannen (The Bothersome Man). A man steps off a bus in a desert and is taken to a city where everything seems nice on the surface. He gets a nice house, a pretty girlfriend and almost anything he desires, but there is one catch. Turns out that the place is a dystopia where emotions are nonexistent, food and drink is flavorless and there are no children anywhere.
- The Gotham City of The Dark Knight Saga seems more prosperous and optimistic than the Gotham of the older Batman films, but we learn rather quickly that at the ground level crime is eating the streets whole while the upper class just chooses to ignore it, wrapped up in their own success. The citizens of Gotham do care enough to take some action to rebuild their city, and thanks to the Bat himself corruption and crime are taking a beating and the Police Are Useless mantra is cut down, and Earn Your Happy Ending is in full effect.
- The first film of the saga reveals that the League of Shadows are partly responsible for the current state of Gotham, having tried to destroy the city, which they perceived as a Wretched Hive, using economic means. Which mostly just make it more wretched.
- Most of the films of Tim Burton run on this in one form or another. Pee-wee's Big Adventure begins with a typical day of breakfast and a bike ride to the shopping mall— and ends with Pee-Wee's bicycle being stolen and his becoming so distraught that he slowly goes deranged. The Deetzes and their rich friends in Beetlejuice think it would be fun to conduct a séance with the dead... and the fun suddenly stops when the ghosts they resurrect begin to crumble into dust before their eyes. The Joker holds a parade in downtown Gotham City to celebrate the town's 200th anniversary, showering 20 million dollars on the streets to lure the crowds in... so that he can gas them all to death. And in Edward Scissorhands, the neighbors who are so kind to Edward in the beginning turn violently on him once they suspect (incorrectly) that he's a burglar. And his version of Alice in Wonderland isn't exactly set in a proper Wonderland. This may be former Disney animator Burton's way of demonstrating that "Disneyland" isn't all it's cracked up to be - especially since his more realistic movies (Big Fish, for example) depict worlds that are neither wholly good nor wholly bad.
- The city from Metropolis is well-maintained and prosperous on the top, but the entity maintaining that façade is the proletariat living underground.
- The United States in Harrison Bergeron, inspired by the short story of Kurt Vonnegut. A world where everyone is finally equal - by lobotomizing the overtly talented, if needed.
- The Untouchables director Brian De Palma deliberately made Chicago crime lord Al Capone's surroundings very lavish and sumptuous:
"My image of The Untouchables
is that corruption looks great. It's like Nazi Germany
. It's clean. It's big. Everything runs smoothly. The problem is all the oppressed people are in some camp somewhere and nobody ever sees them. So the world of Chicago is a slick world. A world that's run by money and corruption and it looks fabulous
- The Finnish science fiction film Ruusujen aika (Time of the Roses). The future Finland of 2012 where class differences have been eliminated, diseases eradicated, wars are history, everyone is finally chemically happy, world is ruled by scientists and civil servants instead of politicians - and under the surface everything is horribly wrong.
- The Italian film I'm Not Scared features this, largely due to the fact that the main character is a naive young boy. His quiet little rural village seems nice enough, but most of the villagers (including the main character's parents) are involved in the kidnapping of a young Milanese boy.
- Neo Seoul in Cloud Atlas has all the features.
- Eden Parish in The Sacrament initially comes off as a self-sustained utopia where people can live together regardless of the race or background. It's only until later that we find out that the people aren't allowed to leave, and those that disobey the rules are severely punished.
- The titular town in Pleasant Ville is an example of this. There is no poverty, serious illness, or hostility. All the residents go through their lives seemingly constantly being "pleasant". Even the laws of physics seem to conform to "pleasantness" as there are no fires, and roads out of Pleasantville only ever lead back into town. But as the protagonists soon realize, the fictional lives of the Pleasantville townsfolk are shallow and devoid of meaning. Their society lacks any form culture, depth, genuine emotion, sexuality and even color. People are only capable of performing the tasks they are specifically shown doing on the show and lack the knowledge to do anything else. Furthermore, as changes begin to set in, the previously "pleasant" townsfolk, react in fear by destroying all forms of cultural expression such as books and paintings, imposing fascist laws, and implementing segregation.
- On Angel, Lindsey and later Gunn were at one point trapped in a hell dimension that appeared to be an idyllic peaceful suburban neighborhood superficially, but had them living in a home that had a demon in the cellar that would rip their heart out every day, only to have them heal and relive the same thing the next day. And if anyone interfered or tried to upset the status quo all the residents would mindlessly shoot at them with machine guns.
- Jasmine's utopian Los Angeles in the previous season, where everyone is happy and fulfilled, but at the cost of mind control (and Jasmine eating people). Yet despite that Jasmine's way is incredibly attractive, even after people have been removed from her influence; all of the main characters at some point or other talk about how they miss Jasmine's love and the feeling that everything was finally good, to the point that after Jasmine's death, representative of demonic law firm Wolfram & Hart Lilah shows up to congratulate the main characters on ending world peace.
- Bates Motel: Pines White Bay is seemingly idyllic town...whose wealth comes from drug dealing, sex trafficking, and all the dangerous criminals that follow this trade, a corrupt sheriff's department. And that's without getting into the family of Norman Bates...
- The Charmed double episode "It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World." The heroes team up with their evil counterparts from a Mirror Universe introduced in the same episode, causing "a shift" in both worlds when they perform an act of good in the other world. Their world turns into a manically happy world, complete with an anthropomorphic cartoon sun that never sets, where minor infractions are punished severely; Phoebe is shot by a police officer for having parked illegally, and the hospital is mainly in the business of amputating the limbs of lawbreakers—and those of people who violate hospital rules. The Charmed Ones from the mirror world reveal that the opposite has happened to their already-evil world; mutilation is now the standard punishment for exhibiting a minor kindness like saying "Gesundheit" if someone sneezes. After Leo commits an act of "great evil" in the main narrative world by killing the Elder Gideon—ostensibly a good guy but who is actually the antagonist of the season arc—both worlds regain their respective status quos.
- The UnSub's house in "The Uncanny Valley" in Criminal Minds.
- To go into further detail, the UnSub in this episode is a childlike woman named Samantha who loves to play with toys and has set up a perpetual tea party for herself and her favorite dolls. The problem is that the "dolls" in question are actually adult women who Samantha kidnaps and paralyzes with an IV-administered drug, locking them into complete immobility while totally conscious of everything going on. To make matters worse, the victims eventually die from severe dehydration, and Samantha has to go out and collect another "doll" to replace the broken one. In other words, the women are being forced to watch their own slow, painful death, all while wearing pretty dresses and makeup and sitting at a bright pink table. Granted, Samantha has an extremely good reason for her insanity, but that doesn't make her personal play-world any less creepy.
- Doctor Who has done this several times.
- "The Celestial Toyroom", a Pocket Dimension ruled over by the Celestial Toymaker, though even at first glance it shows its evil aspects.
- In 'The Macra Terror", a society fashioned after a holiday camp.
- "Paradise Towers", in which the titular condominium has crumbled into a Judge Dredd-style Dystopia After the End, though some still put on a cheery facade.
- The setting of "The Happiness Patrol", where the government has made good cheer mandatory, although, largely because of the direction and production design, this comes off more as an Informed Attribute.
- Morphoton in "The Keys of Marinus" is also an example.
- In The Savages there is the advanced and idyllic society of the Elders. It is revealed this is maintained by draining the life force of savages living outside the city for the Elders.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus played this with their usual flair in the "Fairy Tale" sketch:
- Both the modern-day town of Storybrooke, Maine and the Fairy Tale kingdoms of Once Upon a Time are this. The fairy tale realm is littered with corrupted rulership, thieves, and dark magic. Prince Charming's kingdom is flat broke. Cinderella's kingdom is suffering from a drought. And no matter where you look, Rumpelstiltskin is cutting deals. The town of Storybrooke looks like a quiet, idyllic community, but everyone's been ground to submission under Mayor Mills's stiletto heels and Mr. Gold owns everything through a Chain of Deals like he did as Rumpelstiltskin.
- The Prisoner. Ohhhh boy. To put the setting simply, it's a panoptic prison disguised as a seaside resort.
- Played for comedy in Suburban Shootout, where a picture-perfect English village is dominated under the surface by rival gangs of upper-middle-class housewives.
- One Sliders alternate dimension is a world where everything looks great, and there's a great big lottery which they enter. Wade wins. However, she may have wanted to read the fine print: the lottery does give the winner anything you could ask for, but also requires you to give up your life shortly. It's a voluntary population-reduction program, and the real benefit is mainly to the next-of-kin.
- In Stargate SG-1 episode "Revisions", SG-1 finds a small idyllic village. It looks like a perfect town until people start disappearing, and everybody but SG-1 forgets they ever existed.
- An episode of Stargate Atlantis had the team come across a seemingly beautiful world untouched by the Wraith and with no crime. It turns out the worst criminals were originally sent to an island where the Wraith would devour them. This was so effective crime virtually stopped, so standards became a lot more lax. One man who had been wrongfully convicted of murder was sent there, and a woman who tried to tell the Atlantis team about it was sent to the island for treachery.
- Star Trek has done plenty of "planet where everyone is happy and everything is perfect, except it turns out everything is really horrible" stories.
- Landing on one of them which is filled with beings empowered by human imagination is the only crime that still is punished by the death penalty in the Federation.
- One example is the Changeling homeworld in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a planet of islands, beautiful gardens, and monoliths. Most of the planet is covered by the Great Link, a sea of liquid Changelings living in constant, blissful union with each other. Did we mention that it's the base of operations for the Dominion, and that the Changelings Founders are cruel tyrants who want to stamp out freedom in the Alpha Quadrant?
- The Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life", from the Jerome Bixby story of the same name. Small town USA with everyone bright and happy about to celebrate the birthday of a 6-year-old boy with lots of presents and love. Until we find out that the 6-year-old boy (played by Billy Mumy of Lost in Space and Babylon 5 fame) is a telepath who requires everyone to be bright and happy all the time, otherwise he kills them in rather horrible ways. Everyone constantly mumbles to themselves about how happy they are, otherwise they die. Or worse — if they are people he loves, he might try to help them.
- The backdrop of Weeds.
- Wonder Woman TV Series: Queen Hippolyte claims Paradise Island is an Utopia because is a Lady Land. (No men means no wars, no greed, no barbaric... masculine behavior). They also are an Advanced Ancient Acropolis of Immortals. Once Princess Diana has seen a man for the first time, she dares to disagree: Paradise Island is a Crapsaccharine World because the very same reason.
- The X-Files episode Arcadia is set in a seemingly pleasant gated community. The community has some very strict rules enforced by a horrible monster that kills anyone caught breaking them.
- The "Paradise" in Xena: Warrior Princess season 4 looks like Eden inhabited by a guru who will teach anyone techniques on how to achieve complete peace but he's actually a parasite who feeds on people's goodness and lack of that will turn one to stone. The ones who are immune are eventually driven mad by their own demons.
- Devo's "Beautiful World". It starts off talking about how great the world is. Then it becomes apparent that this is someone else's opinion and that the narrator of the song doesn't agree with it. The idea is that the person who says the world is beautiful has been conditioned to believe it is and doesn't know about the bad things. The video makes this apparent.
- Definitely exemplified in the song "Handlebars" by the Flobots (by extension, this song makes an example out of Real Life). The first half is well enough off, describing the good that we people can do. It's "good to be alive" in a world where we can do anything. However, the song takes a sharp turn in the middle:
I can hand out a million vaccinations
Or let them all die in exasperation
Have them all healed of their lacerations
Have them all killed by assassination
- Hotel California by The Eagles.
- REM's "Shiny Happy People" is sometimes interpreted as a parody of Communist Chinese propaganda machinery, despite Word of God indicating that it is supposed to be straightforwardly cheerful.
- The PV and lyrics of the Vocaloid song "Hello, Planet".
- Lily Allen's song "LDN" about London and how everything looks exciting and wonderful at first, but when you take a second look... Indeed, most of Lily Allen's songs come across this way due to the musical style they use and the sound of her voice. "Smile" and "The Fear" come to mind.
- "The Future Soon" by Jonathan Coulton starts out about a nice and sweet song about unrequited love, but soon takes a sinister turn into escapism, cyborgs, and kidnapping.
- Dmitri Shostakovich's 5th and 9th Symphonies are portrayals of this trope.
- In the video for Travis cheery tune "Flowers in the Window", the band drives into a small town in the middle of nowhere that is inhabited solely by beautiful pregnant women. After about four minutes of the band wondering how this could be, Fran Healy wanders to the outskirts and comes upon a solitary shackled man in a pen, screaming and presumably begging Fran to free him. Fran and the boys, fearing a similar fate, high-tail it out of there.
- The Mastodon music video for "Deathbound" depicts an eclipse making the inhabitants of the puppet world of Magicland Ax-Crazy. Played for Laughs.
- There Is No Depression in New Zealand, by 1980s New Zealand rock group Blam Blam Blam. The song is told from the viewpoint of the Government of the day, which maintained a façade of civil order while public unrest was threatening to boil over.
- The Dean Martin song "Do You Believe This Town?" is about a town that, on the outside, seems like Mayberry, but is actually brimming over with greed, corruption, and bigotry.
- Corey Hart's Sunglasses at Night comes across as this, after record label executives wanted a more romantic context to the song.
- Suggested in Peter Schilling's "(Let's Play) U.S.A." with this line:
"Did you hear the master plan? One nation under Disneyland."
- Paranoia. "Happiness is mandatory, Citizen. Are you happy?"
- Bretonnia in Warhammer. A bucolic feudal kingdom ruled by knights in shining armor - where peasants are bound to turf with 90% taxation rate and knights may kill their serfs for merely laying a gaze on the knight's pegasus.
- When Warhammer 40,000 introduced the politely expansionist, harmonious Tau Empire, many fans cried foul for the newcomers not fitting in with the crapsackiness of the setting. Subsequent fluff, however, has offered hints that its peaceful society is the result of mind control, and that rather than being dissident-free, dissidents are instead quietly taken out of sight, resulting in something closer to 1984 than a true paradise.
- Inverted with Nurgle. Falling in with the worshipers of the God of Decay may look pretty atrocious, but in truth Father Nurgle's children are just as Affably Evil as their patron. In the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, at least these guys are happy with their lot in life.
- The ultimate proof that this trope is relative to the setting is the world Q'sal in Black Crusade. On the outside it is in constant progress through dazzling inventions, full of people locked in the prime of their life and has a completely negligible crime rate. The downside of it all? The entire operation is led by people whose faith in the God of Hope drives them to fuel their welfare with thousands of damned souls. That is in fact the currency on the planet. Souls. Is there no other alternative? There is, Q'sal uses only a bare minimum of its gathered souls to actually drive its various enterprises. Rather, the Q'sallians gather souls to torture for their sheer amusement. ...Taking THIS into account, Q'sal sounds like one of the best places to live in the 41st Millenium
- The First Age in Exalted. A Crystal Spires and Togas paradise filled to the brim with life improving magitech and ruled over by three hundred divinely empowered god-kings singled out for just how awesome and special they are. Only said god kings are hard-wired to become more unstable as they become older and more incredibly powerful. After a thousand years, they're willing to do anything for amusement and to prove their excellence, from starting wars for fun, to creating life to capricious and random murder. And although they don't admit it, most of them don't consider ordinary mortals real people. Have fun.
- There is nothing inherently wrong with Lorwyn in Magic: The Gathering. The plane itself is a perfectly nice place; not all of its citizens are, though. Oh, and don't stick around there when the Aurora comes (every fifty years or so), because it turns into Shadowmoor, where you don't want to end up.
- Ravnica counts while you're at it. It looks like an okay place to live, then you realize everyone is trying to kill you, rob you, kill you, steal your identity, kill you, and generally screw you over. Even the "good" people. And you don't get any rest after death.
- Parodied in this Copper comic. (Former Trope Image)
- Kevin & Kell. A cute, quirky world of Funny Animal characters... where fangs are more powerful than ideals and savage instinct triumphs over reason and empathy. By the world's local ethos (its ok to kill as long as you eat it) ethnic cleansing could just be another name for a BBQ. Perhaps even worse, a Ripped from the Headlines storyline reveals that there is an organization dedicated to opposing this - WikiBeaks, which publishes confidential data that has the potential to cause the predators some serious harm: They post which species are targeted, confidential hunting areas, that sort of thing. Sounds nice? Too bad they are being directly persecuted by the government. That's right, if you're a prey species, there's nothing out there to protect you, and the only effective organization that even tries is acting illegally.
- 4U City in the recent Sluggy Freelance dimension-hopping arc TRIES to be this... It's referred to as a 'Utopia', and everybody is mandatorily happy - any sign of unhappiness results in being immediately pumped full of 'Happy drugs', while any serious departure from the accepted happiness-standard gets you thrown down the 'Judgement Chute', never to be seen again. However, despite this, it fails MISERABLY at looking like a utopia at first glance, because it's always raining.
- Also, the "Dimension of Lame," whose inhabitants are so pacifist that they embrace the invading demons and readily offer to sacrifice the one person who has any chance of saving them, all in the name of preventing more bloodshed.
- Fabuland Housewives is a Stepford Suburbia with extremly cute Lego Funny Animals.
- Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures , like Kevin & Kell, remains lighthearted and happy only because everyone's used to the utter savagery of their world. Here rather than the normal food chain, the majority of sentient creatures of all species, "Beings," are hunted for food and sport by stronger races, protected only by vigilantes (including the eponymous Dan) who themselves are nearly all guilty of Van Helsing Hate Crimes against those of those races (a category that also includes the eponymous Dan) who don't take this attitude. Meanwhile, the whimsical, godlike fae (like the eponymous Mab), while not aggressive in the same way, treat everyone else as playthings, with all that entails. Although the ramifications are treated more seriously than Kevin & Kell, a little bit of Moral Myopia in this world goes a long way.
- Girl Genius, as pointed out in its YMMV page. Yes, the world is full of cool Steam Punk tech, which is almost Magitek in its sheer scope (for example, genetically engineered lifeforms created via alchemy), there's a noble, chivalric attitude, and the people seem to be genuinely content. On the other hand, actual scientific process has ground to a halt. For similar reasons, at least the entirety of Europe is trapped in a functionally Victorian cultural level, albeit with some more "modern" attitudes like women's rights and anti-racism. The aristocracy is exclusively reservered for Mad Emperor Scientists who can cause incredible harm and destruction by virtue of the fact that the Spark genuinely drives them mad. The world is crawling with all manner of highly dangerous monsters, diseases and rogue devices that want to kill everything in sight, courtesy of the abundance of Mad Scientists who tend to lose control over their own creations more often than not.
- The Order of the Stick: While the the Empire of Blood is Obviously Evil and Elan is just too happy to be with his father to notice, this trope is played straight within small sections of the empire. For example, Elan plays in a child's ball pit, only for the comic's wide angled shot shows that there are several skeletons at the bottom.
- Homestuck: Beforus, if one reads between the lines of Kankri's Holier Than Thou babbling, falls under this heading. Instead of being killed, lowbloods and the defective are placed under the care of highbloods, which sounds very nice until one realises this is mandatory, and they are never permitted to do anything useful or fend for themselves. It's mentioned that Latula, who lacks a sense of smell but is otherwise healthy, would have had this happen, and would probably have preferred death.
- Mokepon is based on the idea of deconstructing the basic setting of Pokémon, resulting in a world that is shiny and happy on the surface, but violent and depressing underneath.
- Snarlbear: "If you happen to like lurid hell holes, this place is a magical wonderland"
- The Nostalgia Chick's BFF Nella's My Little Pony story thing crosses very quickly into this, involving loveless marriages and a Hooker with a Heart of Gold pony.
- Inverted by Mortasheen. The setting is a sprawling continent-sized toxic urban wasteland of twisted science and sorcery that is home to degenerate humans and hundreds of species of horrific bloodthirsty monsters (many created by the humans as living tools or weapons) where life is either nasty, brutish and short or agonizingly drawn out for far too long... and yet most sentient beings who live there cheerfully take it all in stride, and behave like you'd expect if this was a standard happy-go-lucky Pokémon-like world instead of a hell-world that could otherwise give Warhammer 40,000 a run for its money. However, all the horrible monsters are still nice to their trainers, including the Devilbirds, the Unknowns and the Wormbrains
- Natsumi Step! is a cute, relaxing flash video about a girl on an adventure in a magical place, where she meets cute animals has a lot of fun. She seems to have suffered some heartbreak and depression in the past, but that's all better now, and she gets a happy ending! But there's something... off about it. She kills her boyfriend, possibly with a crowbar, then kills herself. She's in purgatory, and is on her way to Hell at the end of the video. "Natsumi Step!" is meant as "Natsumi stepping" down a train station platform and killing herself.
- Facebook, given how many people treat it as Serious Business. Parents and grandparents watch your every move, and companies are sure to go straight to facebook to see if you are worthy of hiring.
- Heaven in The Salvation War. The Eternal City is filled with temples, covered with jewels from a thousand worlds, and all designed to praise the almighty God, made to wonder the angels with it's beauty. The humans, however, get to live in slums as serfs, constantly living in fear of offending the insane God who is to blind to see that humanity is on the brink of destroying them. The city itself, as noted by several characters, has many cracks and structural problems below the jewels and artificial beauty.
- Combined with Fridge Horror, here is a Cracked list of 6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes
- nana825763 is a master of this on YouTube. When she isn't producing just straight up Nightmare Fuel, she's hiding it underneath sickeningly sweet content that's like a mix of Tastes Like Diabetes meets Silent Hill. Even her relatively benign videos about an ant farm has her throwing in random shots of creepy, bloodstained dolls. And that's when she's not inverting the trope to mess with people, like the video with one of the aforementioned bloodstained dolls and utter Mind Screw...that's about cooking.
- Welcome to Night Vale is about a small town in an Eldritch Location suffering all sorts of oddities as a simple fact of life and part of the daily grind. In The Sandstorm we meet Night Vale's rival town, Desert Bluffs, and its radio announcer Kevin, who seems much nicer and more cheerful than Cecil, Night Vale's announcer. Then the creepiness starts to set in as Kevin describes the mysterious Strex Corp. that controls Desert Bluffs — despite having no clear purpose, business plan, or mission, beyond being a sinister Mega Corp. with tendrils in every aspect of Desert Bluffs — and how they manipulate everything. It still seems like a slightly better place to live than Night Vale though — there seems to be a lot less random death and sinister supernatural forces. Until Cecil shows up and sees what's actually going on...
- Gets both barrels in Episode 47, where Desert Bluffs finally takes over all of Night Vale. The episode is hosted by Kevin and a representative of StrexCorp, who are both happy, cheerful, and friendly, and want to celebrate the recent decision by awarding everyone with a big company picnic! Even those who don't work for StrexCorp, because now everyone works for StrexCorp! And when you get there, you must make sure to check in with the Picnic Overseers - y'know, the friendly chaps with the gas masks and night sticks - and take care not to touch the electrified "volleyball nets" that keep you in there. And everyone's going to stay at the picnic now, "until the work is complete."
- When you get right down to it, Neopia's a pretty depressing place to live, what with the countless wars, attempted genocides, and multiple fates worse than death. The only reason none of the inhabitants have lost hope is that they have enough Badass Knights In Shining Armor/Lovable Rogues/Noble Demons to deal with them.
- Rotten.com: The site shows the world as a frightening and, well, rotten place. Several articles in the Rotten Library talk about cruel rulers and conquerors, corrupt politicians and religious leaders, execution methods, torture devices, massacres, natural disasters, diseases, weapons, racist ideologies, yet they also have fun with it, by keeping an ironic style. Apart from the worst atrocities in mankind's history the Rotten Library also offers articles about more amusing and less nihilistic topics.
- Void Of The Stars seems to be normal aside from the fact that the Equestrians seem to be a Mary Suetopia, but the backstory has an entire universe destroyed and all galaxies aside from the Milky Way devoured by invaders. The Triarian Collective routinely wipes the memories of their citizens, there are two species that want nothing more than to consume everything, and one species that is literally from hell. Even the Equestrian Empire has dystopian elements.
- The Simpsons has three in-universe examples:
- South Park was like this until season 5 came along, and at that point it just became a textbook example of a Crapsack World.
- Moral Orel: a seemingly nice suburban town full of depressed, miserable, and extremely disturbed souls trying their damnedest to appear wholesome and normal. Seasons 1 and 2 played it for laughs. Season 3... not so much.
- On The Fairly OddParents, the planet of the Giggle Pies, the cute things that come in Invader-Os cereal already mentioned in Sugar Apocalypse.
- Futurama, the world of the future looks exactly as we envisioned; flying cars, jetpacks, lazers and a cure to everything. Except that everybody's too poor to afford anything, war is fought on a bigger scale than ever, and everything everywhere is run by idiots. As the creators put it, it's present day Earth with a thousand years of technological advancement.
- From Justice League:
- One episode has several of the characters end up in an Alternate Universe which was almost exactly like the Silver Age Superhero comics the Green Lantern used to read as a child. On first glance, the world looked like a stereotypical wholesome and child-friendly '50s superhero setting. Upon closer inspection, the world turned out to be a post-nuclear war landscape whose survivors were forced to live in a psychic Masquerade generated by the mutated Kid Sidekick of the original heroes of that world.
- There are other hints of the slightly crappy nature coming through as well, in the form of Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Hawkgirl doesn't take too kindly to having the only other female superhero suggest they make cookies for the menfolk, and Green Lantern doesn't know how to take a white superhero calling him "a credit to [his] people."
- At a cursory glance, the world the Justice Lords created might look like this. All the super villains are caught, Gotham City is actually clean, and crime has been so thoroughly eradicated that police are reduced to settling disputes over restaurant bills. The saccharine side of things is really paper-thin, as it's no secret that the reason for all of this was because the League went Knight Templar on the world and took to ruling it with an iron fist as the Justice Lords.
- Adventure Time started off like this, with the cheery adventures of A Boy and His Dog, and a literal Sugar Bowl in the Candy Kingdom, hiding that it was an After the End setting filled with dangerous threats and brutal monsters. Then it started delving deeply into various horrible backstories and the Dysfunction Junction of the cast, ultimately showing that while there are plenty of nasty things out there The Land of Ooo is still overall a pleasant place to live.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Ba Sing Se. A giant, bustling city that is efficient and pleasant to live in (at least for the middle and upper classes), but the world war with the Fire Nation is kept secret (even from the Earth King) and those who try to reveal the truth find themselves spirited away and brainwashed by the Dai Li (their Secret Police).
- Things have hardly improved by The Legend of Korra since many people in the Outer Ring still live in poverty. One could say things are worse since they are the result of the oppressive, kleptocratic Earth Queen who conscripts airbenders into her army in secrecy.
- In ThunderCats (2011) this is quite deliberately employed as the premiere's opening minutes treat the viewer to a gorgeous aerial Epic Tracking Shot of a Shining City, the Catfolk kingdom of Thundera, while a soothing narrator tells of the kingdom's "peace and prosperity" and its ruler's "just heart." Less than a minute after the narrator finishes speaking, the camera tilts downward from a bright, painterly city vista to dark, miserable slums where "Alley Cats" are violently beating a hapless Dog.
- In The Powerpuff Girls, the city of Townsville. It's frequently shown to be a friendly big city with people that are willing to help, but it's always attacked by monsters and is inhabited by all sorts of criminals and villains. The Movie Prequel reveals that Townsville was actually MUCH WORSE then it is now, a straight-up crime-ridden Crapsack World until the Professor created the girls and they became its resident superheroes.
- In Motorcity, Detroit Deluxe is a state-of-the-art, clean, efficient, and nearly-crime free metropolis ran by Corrupt Corporate Executive Abraham Kane. The price of admission to live in Detroit Deluxe is the revocation of one's personal liberties. Old Detroit is the exact opposite, with many Motorcitizens, including the Burners, being defectors to Kane's regime.
- The Disney universe, in Family Guy. It's a happy, musical, funny land of enchantment, but... well, it turns out it was created (and is apparently enforced) by the Walt Disney of popular legend, so as soon as a Jewish character shows up, he is promptly ripped to shreds by everyone else present.
- Bacchus' paradise in The Smurfs episode "Paradise Smurfed" is an example of this. A globe from an Atlas statue breaks through a wall and reveals a dark castle in which a chef is given a menu for preparing "souffle a la Smurf". Fortunately, this ends up being All Just a Dream.
- Invader Zim: The Skool Facility that Zim attends is just like the metropolis he also lives in, modern, technological, and fair on the exterior, but cruel, mean, evil, fascist and totalitarian from within.
- Men In Black: In "The Worm-Guy Guy Syndrome", the planet Kalifadik is an extremely Lawful Stupid society where all crimes, no matter how minor, are punishable by life imprisonment in their gulags. When Agent J asks why aliens would still travel there, Agent K and a captured Kalifadik enforcer answer "The beaches".
- An episode of Happy Tree Friends usually starts out all bright and cheery... then all the cute little animorphic animals start dying horrifically left and right.