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Dystopian Edict

A Mary Suetopia, Crapsack World or Planet of Hats oftentimes has a single, not very realistic law (with other laws existing to shore up that law) which, often contrary to common sense defines that society. The penalty for breaking the Dystopian Edict is usually draconian in nature — death or imprisonment are the most common, but worse punishments exist, particularly in speculative fiction.

This edict must never have existed in any past or present society (nor, in many cases, could it), and probably couldn't be enforced in the real world for more than two minutes.

Dystopias with a variety of different laws and rules, no matter how draconian, don't count. (E.g. The Giver.)

See also The Evils of Free Will for what most of these Dystopian Edicts ultimately boil down to. Common Dystopian Edicts include:

Contrast Fascist, but Inefficient and Dystopia Is Hard.

As mentioned above, this trope is by its nature not applicable to real life.


Examples:

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     Anime And Manga  

  • AKB0048 with the Entertainment ban. Depending on the area, it is either grudgingly accepted (things like radio and TV and classic music) to being completely banned with the threat of siccing State Sec on the offender.
  • Ai no Kusabi has "No Sex Allowed" for the ruling class of Elites. So they just keep "Pets" for voyeuristic purposes.
  • The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye has the "Technos Taboo." Enforced by the ruling elite known as the Third to prevent the most advanced of technology from being used outside of their control.

     Comic Books  

  • The comic City Of Dust, where every fiction (starting with religion) is outlawed.
  • The "It is illegal to be unhappy!" variety seems pretty common. It also appears in a Mickey Mouse cartoon, where Mickey and Donald Duck have fallen through the Bermuda triangle into a fantasy kingdom. Everybody is smiling like crazy. At one point, the king orders his guards to arrest a gardener, seemingly at random. When Mickey protests that the man wasn't being unhappy, the king replies: "Well, now he is! I'm a great believer in preventing crimes."
  • The Dark Judges in Judge Dredd come from a parallel dimension where it was decreed that, because all crimes are committed by the living, life itself is a crime, punishable by death.
  • In Buck Godot: THERE ARE NO LAWS IN NEW HONG KONG. SO WATCH IT.
    • Unlike most examples this was done to prevent a bunch of Lawful Stupid robots from taking over. However there are a lot of unspoken traditions that are enforced by everyone else.
  • No emotions! (The Doctor Who Magazine comic City of the Damned and the IDW Doctor Who story The Whispering Gallery)

     Film  

     Literature  
  • The Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov. Euthanasia for everyone who is 60.
  • No untruth of any kind, including misleading statements, exaggeration or fiction. (The James Morrow novella City of Truth.) That law is enforced by brutal conditioning in a procedure known as the "brainburn." It's not only illegal to lie in Veritas (the city of the title), it's impossible once one's received the burn.
  • Doctor Who novel The Stealers of Dreams, where even thinking about anything untrue is a sign of insanity. However, it is justified by the evil mind aliens that make anything you imagine become "real" as a hallucination.
  • No books! (Fahrenheit 451) Deep thought in general, though not as incredibly illegal as books, definitely does get you in trouble.
  • The third child of a couple must die or go to jail! (Shadow Children) The third son of a Drow house must be sacrificed at birth to Lolth. (Drizzt Do'Urden avoids this fate only because one of his brothers assassinates the other before the sacrifice takes place, "promoting" him to second son.)
  • Take anti-arousal pills! (Welcome to the Monkeyhouse by Kurt Vonnegut)
  • No laws of any kind! (An inversion of course, Enid Blyton's Land Of Do-As-You-Please; still a kiddy version of a Straw Dystopia, though).
  • Nobody is allowed to be better at anything than anyone else. (Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut)
  • In The Court Of The Air, true believers in a hyper-communistic ideology volunteer to be maimed, disfigured or lobotomized if they realize they're too fit, attractive or smart.
  • In the Mr. Men/Little Miss story Little Miss Sunshine, the titular character visits Miseryland, where the inhabitants are kept miserable simply because of a sign stating the laws: "No smiling, no laughing, no chuckling. Giggling forbidden by order of the king." Naturally, Miss Sunshine is able to turn the kingdom around by simply changing the wording of the sign.
  • Robert Silverberg's "To See The Invisible Man" (which was adapted as an episode of The Twilight Zone). A future society requires everyone to be friendly and warm to each other at all times. Anyone convicted of being "cold" must spend an entire year with a mark on their forehead that warns everyone else not to acknowledge their existence in any way.
  • Ray Bradbury's short story The Pedestrian. A man goes out walking at night, which no one else does anymore — they're all watching TV. He's stopped by the police and hauled off to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies.
    • A throwaway line in Fahrenheit 451 reveals that the pedestrian of the title is likely Clarisse McClellan's uncle.
  • Discworld
    • In Witches Abroad, Lily Weatherwax has created the ideal fairytale kingdom. To aid this, by law, toymakers must sing as they work, butchers must be red-faced and jolly, and everyone must smile all the time. Violators will be taken away to an uncertain fate. This is an interesting approach to the Theory of Narrative Causality, which elsewhere on the Disc is treated more as a physical law than a statutory one. It could be a case of Wrong Genre Savvy — she's applying the rules of kiddyfied nursery rhymes to a world that runs on more cynical rules.
    • Fiction is illegal in Interesting Times's Agatean Empire.
  • In the book Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, the one and only rule in The Town is "no shadows", as in they cut off your shadow before you're allowed in. Of course this also takes away your mind so they really don't need any other rules to maintain order.
  • In the very first Sword of Truth book, the Evil Overlord and Big Bad outlaws fire. In a quasi-medieval society, just as winter's about to set in. This stems from when he was horrifically burned by Wizard's Fire as a child, but that doesn't make it any less crazy. One wonders how they make bread and smith metal in his kingdom.
  • No chocolate! (Bootleg by Alex Shearer, which was also made into a TV series, a manga and an anime.)
  • A Star Trek: The Next Generation novel called "Gulliver's Fugitives" had a planet that banned all fiction, with very elaborate cleanup measures including Laser-Guided Amnesia. Unlike many examples, this one makes it very clear just how incredibly hard it is and how much of the society's resources are needed to maintain the "quarantine" against imagination.
  • And a Star Trek: Enterprise novel "A Secret of Fazi" features a society where any spontaneity is regarded as barbaric. Justified because they share the planet with Hipons, a Giant Spider race whose thoughts alone can Mind Rape you and the only protection is to have your mind as orderly as possible.
  • Everything not forbidden is compulsory! (The ant colony in The Once and Future King.) It's an allegory to Communism.
  • Ayn Rand's Anthem is set in a collectivist society where the words "I, me, my, mine," and "ego" are forbidden. Speaking those words is a crime punishable by death.
  • Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged gets increasingly dystopian as various laws are passed, eventually revealed to be designed to allow a handful of leaders of various fields to get an ever-tightening grip on personal freedoms and and the flow of business, hoping to get more power and wealth. This eventually culminates in the passing of Directive 10-289, which: prohibits any nonapproved scientific research (allowing only one institution, which had a hand in it); makes it illegal for people to quit or be hired without approval by a board (which are controlled by a union-organizing-gangster, who had a hand in it); and demands all prices and production be fixed at the level it was when the directive was passed (controlled by underperforming businessmen, who, yes, also had a hand in it). In the end, the directive only accelerated the social decay and collapse, and backfired spectacularly on the people who passed it.
  • Averted by Fordian Society from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World who do not pass any singular edict or unpleasant law in order to forge their dystopia but instead are conditioned culturally to not doing anything alone, being incapable of a long term relationship, consuming a drug called Soma when you are not happy, and all number of things in order for you to be "happy" and not disturb the social order, if you don't follow even one of this rules of behaviour they banish you to a island far away so you won't disturb the social order, but is stated at one point that is not as a punishment as it may look as there they're able to coexist with persons who share similar belief and live their own way. After all, "Everyone belongs to Everyone Else".
  • The Handmaid's Tale plays this trope ridiculously straight, with their society strictly regulating the lives of women and men alike. Men are forbidden from marriage until they have served in the military [and even the is implied to be a rather small number], Women are divided into strict ranks where they must either be housewives, concubines or, if they're infertile, either made prostitutes or shipped off to radioactive colonies with malcontents to die [the average lifespan of one of these colony workers once shipped out is given as three years].
  • In Unwind by Neal Shusterman, the government has decided that to please both sides of the abortion debate, abortion is illegal but people can chose to have their children "unwound", which means they are taken apart and used for organs.
  • In Dan Wells' Partials, the Hope Act demands that all women 18 and older must be pregnant as often as possible since all infants since 'The Break' have not survived and the politicians figure that sooner or later an infant will be immune if they keep at it long enough.
  • The Proscriptions of Jwo-Jeng serve as this in Safehold. They are the rules the Church of God Awaiting originally crafted to make sure Safehold remained in a state of Medieval Stasis, and one means by which the current regime stays in power. They limit all technology to only devices which are wind, water, and muscle powered. The protagonists aren't at a point where they can outright violate the Proscriptions, but a little creativity (and, later, an ally who can provide Loophole Abuse) goes a long way.
  • In Delirium, love has been declared to be a mental illness called amor deliria nervosa. At the age of 18, all citizens are required to have a surgery that removes from them the capability to love.
  • In Piers Anthony's Tarot novels, miscegenation laws prohibit anyone on Earth from marrying within their own racial group. Ostensibly intended to end racism once and for all, they're actually a population-control mechanism, as millions of people in racially-homogeneous regions can't find anyone suitable to marry.
  • In Coda, everyone is required to listen to the Corp's music once they hit a certain age. This causes an addiction to it that never goes away.
  • In Christian Nation, the Fifty Blessings are considered this.

     Live Action TV  

  • Not a country, but an episode of The IT Crowd has the company CEO Denholm Reynolm declaring a war on stress, with anyone showing any signs of stress to be fired. Of course, the threat doesn't help things.
    • He shows a similar attitude to a lack of teamwork, once firing an entire floor because they weren't working together as a team. And then ordering the security team sent to make sure they all left the building fired because he suspected they weren't working as a team.
  • It doesn't get more absurd than the half-hour episode of Six Dates with Barker starring Ronnie Barker, about a world in which everybody has to laugh at old music hall routines.
  • No unhappiness! (Monty Python's Princess Mitzi Gaynor of Happy Valley sketch. Violators are hanged by the neck until they cheer up.)
  • No unhappiness! (The Doctor Who serial The Happiness Patrol)
  • In the Star Trek episode "A Taste of Armageddon" two planets are at war with each other, but have set up a system where, instead, of actually dropping nuclear bombs on each other, they have computers calculate how many people would be killed if one of them dropped a bomb on another. Anyone the computers determine would have been killed by the hypothetical blast have 24 hours to report to a disintegration chamber and let themselves be killed. Apparently, in the 500 years the war had been going on for, no one had ever refused to let themselves be disintegrated until Captain Kirk came along. It's implied that this orderly and clean system of war is actually what has kept the conflict going for so long when the horrors (and physical cost) of a real war would have had both sides crying for peace centuries ago.
  • One early episode of Stargate Atlantis used the Logan's Run premise, but dropped the age to 25, in order to keep the planet's population small enough to be contained within their anti-technology defense field.
  • The people of Kaelon II are required to commit ritual suicide at age sixty according to Doctor Timicin in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Half a Life." The intent of the almost two-thousand-year-old "resolution" is to allow people to face death with dignity instead of dying slowly from natural causes (it also relieved pressure on Kaelon II's health care system), but Lwaxana Troi finds it barbaric and convinces Timicin to seek asylum on the Enterprise, nearly causing a diplomatic incident. When his work is threatened (his people will not allow him to publish his work on restoring their dying sun if he receives asylum), Timicin agrees that his people are more important than his life and Lwaxana accompanies him to his resolution ceremony.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place has The Contest (all wizarding families with multiple magical children force all those kids to compete to see who gets to keep their powers, as a family may only have one wizard per generation, with the losers stripped of their magic)

     Radio  

     Tabletop Games  

  • No pop music in 2084 in the Tabletop RPG Starchildren.
  • "Happiness is mandatory. Unhappiness is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution. Are you happy, citizen?" - Friend Computer, Paranoia
  • Nobilis and the Windflower Law. "Thou Shalt Not Love." Really, the main point of the Windflower Law is the simple fact that very nearly everyone violates it. The one who enacted it may actually hate love as much as he claims, but the MAIN point is that it gives him a ready excuse to punish anyone at his convenience. The fact that violations are usually ignored, BUT cruelly enforced at Entropy's whim, is arguably scarier than consistent enforcement.
  • People in Risibilos, a now-defunct Ravenloft domain, had the "laughing law", by which every statement had to be accompanied by "ha ha ha". Not laughter, just the bland recitation of "ha ha ha".
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the two closest equivalents to "good guy" factions that the 40k universe has are dystopias. The Imperium considers new technology to be heresy, creative thought is heresy, and lots of other things are heresy. The Tau require everybody to work toward the "greater good" (which apparently involves concentration camps for dissenters).
  • Exalted: This is the hat of the Yozi Cecelyne the Endless Desert. A good chunk of charms she teaches to her champions also have something to this effect.
    • Lunars are social engineers that aim to create a society that doesn't depend on the Exalts. Unfortunately, due to combination of personal deficiencies, ineptitude, inexperience, and sometimes just plain old human nature, their societies often end up having to be ducktaped with this kind of edict lest they falter.

     Theatre  

  • In Urinetown, you have to pay in order to pee.
    • Given the increasing number of pay toilets in large cities like New York, Philadelphia, London, Paris, etc., this particular example borders on Truth in Television. The musical was actually inspired when the writer, living on limited resources in Paris, had to choose one morning between a pay toilet and breakfast. (He chose the latter.)
  • In We Will Rock You, the Queen musical, rock is not allowed. It was really probably the only way to get any kind of a plot out of The Power of Rock.

     Video Games  

  • Perhaps the Ur Example in gaming is Lord Blackthorn's proclamations in Ultima V. Here, he twists the enlightened virtues of Ultima IV into draconian laws, such as "Thou shalt not lie, or thou shalt lose thy tongue".
  • In order to ensureprevent revolution, the Orbs in the Manhunter games do this: Humans are not permitted to speak to each other under penalty of death. On the other hand, since the Orbs took over, everything is under penalty of death.
    • Which isn't to say that humans don't communicate. They just don't speak (figuring out what someone is trying to tell you is a puzzle in itself).
  • Played to amusing effect in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Joker declares over the public address that there is a new rule in place. Penalty for breaking this rule is death, no ifs, ands, or buts. The best thing about this rule? It's a secret!
  • In Tropico the relatively annoying DJ announcer states when you pass the anti-litter ordnance- "El Presidente has passed a new anti-litter ordnance. Remember, violators will be shot on sight, so watch where you throw that bubble gum wrapper, kids."

     Webcomics  

  • The "everyone must be happy" variety shows up in Sluggy Freelance with 4U City. Anyone found being unhappy is either filled full of drugs until they are happy, or they get deported to another dimension via the "Judgement Chutes."
  • No poker! Don't even mention the word!

     Western Animation  

  • Do not mention the 100-year war in Ba Sing Se. (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
    • More specifically the edict is that "There is no war"
      • There being such an edict tells you how well the war is going. There being such an edict and knowing how well the war is going, tells you how it turns out.
      • Applying the rule to the ruler as well as the people didn't help. It's hard to run a war your advisers insist isn't happening.
  • Everyone must dance to Bananarama! (American Dad!. Roger takes over as dictator of a small Caribbean island)
  • In the Tomorrow Boys episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Jimmy and his friends, Sheen and Carl, were testing his time machine and finds a city under Libby’s control. Under this, the people are required to watch many dance programs at certain time. The boys discovered Libby was given the Megalomanium by mistake on her birthday and must go to the future Jimmy and get him to rethink about science after marrying Cindy.

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