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Cut-and-Paste Suburb
Sometimes, someone tries to make his home distinctive.

"The houses in the outskirts were all exactly alike, small square boxes painted gray. Each had a small, rectangular plot of lawn in front, with a straight line of dull looking flowers edging the path to the door. Meg had a feeling that if she could count the flowers there would be exactly the same number for each house."

After World War II the veterans came home, married and bred creating the Baby Boom in the United States. Houses were needed. Lots and lots of houses. Entire neighborhoods were built with houses only slightly different from each other. Minor variation in detail from house to house only accentuated the similarities and made each neighborhood hopelessly dull. The yards are also uniform. One common tactic to make them look different is flipping the blueprint, as if having the garage on the left instead of the right would create visual interest.

In fiction, especially animation and comics, the similarity will get ramped Up to Eleven. The houses, gardens, cars will be identical. The lives of the residents may be identical or the point may be that their lives are different, even if their houses are the same.

Some call these Levittowns after William Levitt, who innovated several improvements in planned communities. (Wikipedia uses this as the official term, but it is not to be confused with actual towns named Levittown.) Others use the term "tract housing" because a whole line of them is built at once. Nowadays the most common term is "development."

Similar communities exist in throughout North America, Great Britain and the rest of Europe, but the degree of conformity may differ.

Contrast with Stepford Suburbia, a subdivision or town where everyone appears to be happy but is hiding a dark secret.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Lampshaded in Astérix. When in Britain, Asterix and Obelix walk down an endless row of absolutely identical houses, and Asterix says, "Good thing we have the house number. Its description might not have been enough."

    Film 
  • In the opening action sequence of Minority Report, John Anderton is chagrined to find that he can't identify the house the murder will take place in because of the identical look to everything in the housing complex. (It's only because of the open door he is able to find it.)
  • Harry Potter - Harry's relatives the Dursleys also live in one of these neighborhoods in the movies. Identical cars are present as well. Product Placement or trope emphasis?
  • Edward Scissorhands also contains one of these.
  • The Russian film The Irony Of Fate involves a man, having been put on a plane while drunk, ending up in an apartment in Leningrad all but identical to his Moscow apartment, even down to having the same lock on the door. As entire standardized districts of USSR show, the phenomenon of copy-and-paste housing is not limited to suburbs.
  • Pleasantville. No difference and no color.
  • A Serious Man is largely set in such a suburb in the 1960s.
  • The Big Hit features a uniform suburb where all of the inhabitants go about the same chores in unison.

    Literature 
  • In the Homer Price stories by Robert McCloskey, the local millionaire decides on a whim to build a new suburb for Centersburg. One hundred identical houses with her mansion in the center. Hilarity Ensues when said mansion is moved away accidentally, and the hundred-and-first house put in its place. Did I mention that the road sign guy got into the hooch buried under said mansion and has yet to start putting up the street signs?
  • MAD once had an article about road signs they'd like to see, and one of them was "Ugly Tract Housing Development Ahead." It showed a picture of a driver asleep at the wheel driving past identical houses.
  • An early Animorphs book has an alien getting confused at the sight of two identical houses. His human companions must explain the concept to him.
  • The chillingly homogenous neighborhood in Kamazotz, used to great effect in A Wrinkle in Time. All the houses are the same, as are the yards, everyone does everything exactly the same or else they are penalized...
  • Trude in Invisible Cities is a Cut and Paste city which is implied to have covered the Earth. You can't leave.
  • Where Pete lives in The Lost Thing, right down to the oddly-shaped chimneys.
  • Dave Barry once joked that one should build a house by taking the prefabricated unit out of a big (no kidding!) box and just drop it onto a big hole.
  • Erma Bombeck wrote of moving to such a neighborhood in the early postwar years in The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank:
    -"...every time we leave the house, we'll have to leave a child on the front lawn as a landmark..."
  • In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet novel Invicible, they find such a planet, inhabited by sentient herbivores that have annihilated the entire ecology except for what they need and built undifferentiated homes, like a vast planet covering herd.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of Angel uses a dimension full of this sort of housing as a holding area.
  • Weeds - even uses "Little Boxes" as its theme song (see Music)

    Music 
  • Malvina Reynolds' song "Little Boxes."
    There's a green one and a pink one
    And a blue one and a yellow one
    And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
    And they all look just the same
  • The song "Pleasant Valley Sunday" by The Monkees.
    Another Pleasant Valley Sunday (Sunday)
    Charcoal burning everywhere
    Rows of houses that are all the same
    And no one seems to care
  • The Rush song "Subdivisions" deals with the conformity of suburban life.
    Sprawling on the fringes of the city
    In geometric order, an insulated border
    In between the bright lights and the far unlit unknown
    Growing up, it all seems so one-sided
    Opinions all provided, the future predecided
    Detached and subdivided in the mass production zone
  • The storyline in the Rays' song "Silhouettes (on the shades)", later covered by Herman's Hermits, depends on this trope.
  • "Shangri-La" by The Kinks:
    And all the houses in the street have got a name
    'Cause all the houses in the street all look the same

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Richard Thompson's Cul De Sac takes place in such a neighborhood in a Washington DC suburb.

    Theatre 
  • Used in Little Shop of Horrors to highlight how little Audrey wants.
    It's just a day dream of mine. A little development I dream of. Just off the interstate. Not fancy like Levittown. Just a little street in a little suburb. Far, far from urban Skid Row. The sweetest, greenest place where everybody has the same little lawn out front and the same little flagstone patio out back. And all the houses are so neat and pretty, 'cause they all look just alike.

    Web Original 
  • Parodied in The Onion's Our Dumb Century, with an article about post-war housing headlined "Ant-like Conformity Now Affordable".
  • In Homestuck, the majority of Act 1 takes place in one, as can be seen in pages like this and this.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Schoolhouse Rock short "Energy Blues" the sameness of the houses even extend to the identical puffs of smoke coming out of the chimneys.
  • Classic Disney Shorts are full of these neighborhoods. Donald Duck and Goofy in particular enjoy the lifestyle.
  • The film Over the Hedge. The homeowner association makes sure that nobody is different.
  • The Incredibles. Similar cars in the driveways as well.
  • Oggy and the Cockroaches - Oggy and company live in such a suburb. Oggy's house has its roof of a different color.
  • Gru's lair in Despicable Me is located in the middle of one of these. With its dark colors, larger architecture and dead lawn, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
  • The abandoned house in the "Valse Triste" segment of Allegro Non Troppo is surrounded by featureless pre-fab houses.
  • Particularly in earlier seasons of The Simpsons, most of the houses in Springfield looked largely the same.
  • In Recess, Menlo lives in a neighborhood like this.
  • The Sponge Bob Square Pants episode "Squidville", where Squidward moves to a squid-only closed community called Tentacle Acres, where everyone lives in an Easter Island head, which is identical to his old home.
  • Dexter's Laboratory is set in one such suburb. Dexter's home is identical to the others on the outside, since his laboratory is underground, but his neighbor and archnemesis Mandark has a massive aboveground lab that looms over his house.

    Real Life 
  • In the Netherlands this conformity is enforced by local government. Remodeling must be approved by the community.
  • Truth in Television : Homeowners societies can often times enforce this trope in the real world by putting restrictions on what can be done to the outside of a home. This is usually done with the intent of keeping property values up, but in especially high-end neighborhoods the rules can seem quite draconian.
  • Another Truth in Television : There are some housing projects that will have anywhere from 4 to 30 of the same style house, apartment complex or townhouse in the same area. This is because the land owners had sold the rights to one contractor, and the contractor can get the materials pre-cut in bulk at a cheaper cost for one floor plan as opposed to three or four various plans. This also means they can do things in "waves": They can pour all the foundations at once, then put in the foundation timbers, etc.
    • An Enforced Trope in Britain from the immediate aftermath of the Second World War until well into the 1960s; faced with a desperate shortage of housing courtesy of the Luftwaffe and an equally desperate shortage of money after half a decade of all-out war, aesthetics had to take a back seat to getting houses built as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
  • Subverted with terraced housing, e.g. in London. Each house is identical (often in symmetrical pairs), yet as part of a greater whole, they are very beautiful. Also each terrace is different with infinite variety in the details.
  • While William Levitt's houses were the Trope Maker for this in the United States, the Ur Example was Doelger City in the western neighborhoods of San Francisco, which Henry Doelger started building at the end of the 1920s. One of Doelger's later projects, the Westlake community in suburban Daly City, was the inspiration for the song "Little Boxes" (mentioned above).


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alternative title(s): Cookie Cutter Neighborhood
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