"Technically, Utopia shouldn't have much use for a detention facility... but if you do business as long as I have... well, you learn to pick a brand name from the writin' on the wall."You live in a place that can only appear in the most beautiful dreams. The world is perfect, all is well, everyone is happy... ... or so you think. Your cozy little world is not as perfect as it seems. It never was. You just havenít noticed yet. A False Utopia is a place, town, or even a world that seems or at least is supposed to have no faults, while in reality it just hides them very carefully from its inhabitants. Many False Utopias are Dystopias in disguise (addressing the 0% Approval Rating aspect of Dystopia Is Hard), but not all; it's enough to try or pretend to be perfect, but always fall short, simply because perfection isnít part of real life. There is a reason why 'Utopia' means 'Nowhere'. A False Utopia can manifest itself in these ways:
— Augustus Sinclair, BioShock 2
- The world is obviously flawed or even a living Hell, but its people donít know it (whether because they are lied to and kept in the dark, Conditioned to Accept Horror, or are just stupid) and donít even notice their happiness is fake.
- It looks perfect at first, then after a while living in it, the protagonist discovers that it isnít, and often, the means that brought the Utopia to life are questionable. Often a big sign is finding out the truth about someone who's been Released to Elsewhere.
- The whole utopia is too good to be true. So good it is not true: itís only a dream, an illusion, or a scam.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- One Piece:
- Skypeia is probably the most peaceful place in the manga, made of clouds with nice people. But they worship an Evil God who is merely using (and planning to kill) them for its own ends.
- Dressrosa, despite being ruled by Donquixote Doflamingo, seems like a fantastic place to live, with good food, wealthy people, gladiator fights, and Living Toys. Said toys were originally humans now enslaved by a Devil Fruit user on Doflamingo's payroll, and the gladiators in the Colosseum are prisoners who are forced to fight until they die. One such prisoner describes Dressrosa as a place where everything that would make the kingdom look bad is simply swept under the rug. When the plot causes Doflamingo's control of the island to unravel and he decides to Kill 'em All, he tries to guilt trip Luffy for ruining the peace, to which Luffy points out that the "peace" was nothing more than a facade.
- No. 6 in the novel-turned-anime No.6. The utopian town of No.6 uses its citizens to revive Eliurias and to control her. Most who get wasp eggs implanted in them die in a fashion resembling rapid aging.
- As if that wasn't bad enough: genocide! The higher-uppers of No. 6 wiped all of the People of the Forest, save for Nezumi, who escaped.
- And, every year, armed forces of No. 6 use sonic weapons to flatten all the slum-type houses of the West Block and captures its inhabitants, only for them to be killed by being dropped in a HUGE corpse pile.
- Psycho-Pass is all about this. Japan in this dystopian future is forced to always be calm and content, by having machines constantly scan their brains to see if anyone would think of doing anything bad. Those who would think of doing cruel things are sent to therapy, locked in psych wards or outright killed. Of course, this is hidden from the populace as no one is supposed to think of doing anything bad. Making everyone calm all the time has all kinds of negative effects as well, such as removing stress from society to the point where people losing the will to live and having no ambitions has made many give up on living. Shogo Makishima despises the Sibyl System, the computer or collection of sociopathic human brains controlling society and will do anything to bring it down, even replace the ordered but dystopic society with societal collapse.
- The civilization in Cross Ange is presented as such: a post-scarcity world wherein everyone has access to a magic power called "The Light of Mana", which has enabled a world without conflicts or suffering. There's only one flaw in it: the presence of "Norma", rare (and exclusively female) people born without the ability to use the Light of Mana, and who destroy it on touching it. Norma are rounded up and "quarantined" by the government upon discovery, and are considered subhuman monsters. In actuality, the Light of Mana is an energy field generated by an imprisoned Dragon from another universe, and her children are invading in order to rescue her. The invasions are being covered up by the governments, and fought exclusively by Norma. Oh, and the godlike being that set everything up this way is planning on annihilating all life on the planet and starting over, because the Mana civilization doesn't meet his criteria for a true utopia.
- Magi Ė Labyrinth of Magic: The University. It's an elitist culture where you have to be strong in ALL stats, but contains many caring individuals and cooperative guilds. Then Aladdin finds the slave pens, who the headmaster declares "are in their place, and even better off than before". And later on the slaves are used to create a titanic Eldritch Abomination made of black Rukh, which is basically hate in the form of sprit ravens.
- Death Note: Sure, there are no more wars or acts of terrorism, and crime is low...but that's because the death penalty applies for even the most minor infractions, including violations of Japanese Politeness, and there's no such thing as "due process" or "fair trial by a jury of one's peers." And even things like laziness (by Japanese standards, of course), or adultery, are considered capital crimes. People go by fake names as a matter of course, because they're so afraid of having their real identities revealed to Kira; even husbands and wives don't know each others' real names. The world is ruled by a large Cult who views Kira as The Scourge of God, or (more accurately) as God Himself. If you don't like someone or their lifestyle, or they've wronged you in some way, or they're your rival, or you feel that they've brought shame to your family, just reveal their real name and picture to Kira, and he'll take care of them for you...and beware that you could be next. Young children are brainwashed into accepting Kira and his definition of justice, and threatened by their own parents with being killed by Kira for misbehaving or getting bad (or even just mediocre) grades. No one can trust anyone else; parents are turned against children, children against parents, friends against friends, lovers against lovers, and spouses against spouses.
- Woodsbury in The Walking Dead, along with several other towns. There simply cannot be peace in a world filled with zombies, and even worse, other survivors.
- Doctor Doom has created Latveria, among other False Utopias, through the years. He often makes his people trust and worship him, even though he is an outright dictator. Note that he does try to bring peace, but with force.
- It may be played with, as well...when he actually gets to take over the world, he does a pretty good job of it!...by robbing people of their free will and making them slavishly devoted to him.
- Genosha, another fictional Marvel state that appears mainly in the X-Men comics, is a rare subversion of this trope. When they first appear, they are presented as a little model democracy with a super-advanced economy and public health care, like a stereotypical Sweden on steroids. Then, however, it turns out that the country secretly implements a super-harsh Super Registration Act that basically reduces its mutants to state slavery. But then the story takes pains to explain that the country really is a paradise for everyone else except the mutants—And with a few hundred of them in a country of ten million, this makes them easily the smallest oppressed underclass in history. The Genoshan government also get to justify their harsh measures by appeals to national security, arguing that if not kept under strict control, the super-powered mutants will quickly destroy their democratic way of life. And they are actually proved right by the story, as the X-Men, not buying this, free the mutants—Who then proceed to turn Genosha into a Super Supremacist People's Republic of Tyranny that purges the majority population and is objectively far worse than the old regime in just about every way.
- Incredible Hulk: In one of the comics, Bruce Banner has a dream where all his biggest wishes are true: married to Betty, friend to her father and other former enemies... This is an illusion from his inner monster, the Devil Hulk, in which Bruce could be trapped if he let the devil take over his body. Bruce turned down the offer.
- Earth-10 in Mastermen #1, an Earth established on the Nazi Party's dogma. It's a very stagnant world as reflected by the architecture. There's no variety, no art of any kind, the cities are literally covered in grossly extravagant eagle statues and swastikas are plastered on everything. This isn't even getting into the rampant racial, religious, and sexual persecutions that have been going on since the 1940s.
- The Rainbow Factory, from a notorious My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan fiction.
- A major theme of the Pretty Cure fan fiction Utopia Unmade is that the Precure Kingdom is not as perfect as some of its residents make it out to be. Love and Miki in particular mock the idea of it being a paradise.
- The golden Smurf Village version of Elysium that Empath visits in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Smurfed Behind: Smurfing In Heaven" is this, given that it is actually an illusion created by Ares the god of war, who created it in order to seduce Empath into becoming his god of conquest.
- Utopia in Royal Heights which on the surface seems like a perfect paradise that holds the greatest school in the Universe that constantly rebuilds itself every year thanks to the Elite. But it's the ongoing events of an Eternal Recurrence and its ability to spring back from it that makes it supposedly perfect.
- In Children of an Elder God, this is Gendo and Yui's plan, to harness the power of Great Old Ones to create a paradise for humans. This takes the form of a peaceful pocket universe (or something) where everyone is content, dead loved ones are back (most prominently Kaji), and peaceful First Contact is on the horizon. Unfortunately, the power source corrupts everything, creating disasters that Gendo and Yui have to put increasing amounts of time into fixing, and the resurrected people are just puppets. Ultimately, the Children notice something's wrong with the world and rebel.
Film — Animated
- Toy Story 3 has Sunny Side. Lotso presents it like the best place any toy would dream of, where they will be played with forever. What he didn't say is that some unfortunate toys are forced to get chewed, brutalized and put in pieces by children too young to know better. And whether you like Sunny Side or not, Lotso and his minions make sure you stay forever.
- In Wall E, humans all live in a space ship where they can eat, drink, chat through computers, and have virtually nothing to do. So why is it a false utopia? For the reasons mentioned above... the humans are bored out of their minds, but are so complacent they don't think to try anything new. Not only that, but years of living in micro-gravity while being pampered by robots have left the humans so fat they're almost completely dependent on machines. Worst of all, the Earth is completely polluted, but the humans havenít ever noticed because they were in their safe ship for centuries.
- Bambi's forest. Seriously. At first it seems like it is a wonderful dream land: all the animals are cute and nice and nature looks like a paradise. Then the humans arrive. Bambi's mom dies. And as the fawn grows up he fights more and more for survival.
- Pinocchio has Pleasure Island, where children can go crazy: smoking, drinking, vandalism, everything is allowed. The Coachman simply "forgot" to mention that acting as a jackass on this island turns you into an actual donkey. Then you go serve in the salt mines, with no hope of going back to your family.
- The Other World in Coraline. It seems like a perfect fantasy world, but that's just an illusion meant to entice Coraline into staying long enough to be devoured.
- The world of Sugar Rush in Wreck-It Ralph. This Crapsaccharine World is full of sugar... too bad all its inhabitants apart from Vanellope are jerks and the King is outright evil, and his machinations are a major reason why the other inhabitants are jerks. Plus, all the sweetness Tastes Like Diabetes.
- The King and the Mockingbird: The kingdom of Tackycardie is very luxurious and pretty, with lots of art. But why is the king the only one to appear on the paintings? Because nobody but him is happy. His people hate his dictatorship, and most of them live under the kingdom in a sombre town where they can't even see the sun. It is a utopia for the king only.
Film — Live Action
- Demolition Man: The futuristic town shown in the movie has its people think they are safe from harm, that violence has been erased from the world, and the tiniest thing like swearing is forbidden, but you barely get tickets for that. Apart from the fact that this world is completely boring to live in, it is anything but safe: a single psycho is enough to ruin its peace. And he was thawed out to take out a small community of people who wouldn't comply to the city's standards. And why the hell did these people keep working weapons and ammo in a museum with nothing but glass to keep them out of the wrong hands?
- The Truman Show: Truman lives in a nice little town, ignoring that (unbeknownst to him) it is the biggest studio in the world and that his life is a TV show. Christoff justifies that he wonít free Truman because while in his studio, where everyone protects him and give him an easy life, he will be safe from the evil of reality.
- Equilibrium: A medicine is invented to rid people of emotion. War is over, the world is in peace. The price? People feel nothing, are incapable of empathy, and emotion-triggering activities like art are forbidden. People who even try to express or feel emotion get executed.
- The ending also reveals that the leaders of Libria are themselves sense-offenders.
- Brazil: In the end, Lawry leaves the hellish town with Jill. Except he doesn't: he lost his mind and got trapped in his dream world.
- Metropolis is a town where the rich live in luxury, while the working class in the undertown struggle to survive.
- The Matrix gives a subversion: Neo didn't live in a utopia, but when you look at what reality has become the Matrix ends up looking like a safe world that would be hard to let go. Some characters are shown to think this illusion is much better than reality to the point of one of them betraying the Resistance because of it.
- There were said to be previous versions of the Matrix that were supposed to be heavenly, but no one bought it.
- Hot Fuzz Nicholas Angel gets transferred to the little town of Sandford, which is crime free, and everything seems perfect. But a small cabal of the town's inhabitants secretly control everything, and they kill people they consider would ruin the town's image.
- Pumzi: The Maitu Community uses 100% sustainable energy by recycling all water and producing electricity with exercise machines. However, no one can ever go outside and everyone must take dream suppressants that restrain creativity and free will.
- Logan's Run: The domed city is highly advanced; everyone has everything they need. But when someone turns 30, they are killed, either through a phoney "renewal" ritual called "Carousel", or (for the few who try to escape, called Runners) hunted down and shot by the Sandmen.
- Captain Kirk spent a lot of his time on the original Star Trek deconstructing these on one planet after another, often ending with the lesson that it is necessary for our strength of character for us to have to struggle a little, and so a bland and cloying "perfect" world might not even be desirable, even if it were achievable.
- Brave New World is one of the most notable examples of the False Utopia genre.
- Animal Farm. Napoleon keeps telling Blatant Lies and the animals are just happy to be free from Farmer Jones. But slowly, bit by bit, Napoleon becomes no different from Jones, and the farm turns into an even worse hell than it started out as, with the other animals only finding out when it is too late.
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has some elements of this in general. Having spent his first ten years with the Dursleys, he is more than happy to attend Hogwarts and is amazed by the magic world. At first, it appears that everything there is better than the Muggle world. However, as the books grow Darker and Edgier, the Wizarding World's flaws become more and more apparent. The second book shows that it has racism and slavery. The third that it has horrible creatures like the Dementors in it and they're used by the government to run the Hellhole Prison. The fourth gives us a racial supremacist cult and Barty Crouch. The fifth has Umbridge, who turns the school into a dictatorship. Looks less magical now, doesn't it?
- Talking about the fifth book, Cornelius Fudge tells everyone that Harry and Dumbledore lied about Voldemort's return. Nothing is wrong.
- In the last book of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaires end up on an island ran by Ishmael, who presents it as an idealistic society, free from the evil of the outside world. But it is intensely conservative; the chief pretends that he doesn't force anyone to do anything when in fact he does, and it hides several secrets. While the Baudelaires needed some place to avoid justice, the book clearly states they don't like living on the island, though it could have been worse.
- In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you have a near-magical place that produces the best candy in the world, and being its owner would be a Happy Ending. But if youíre too careless or greedy on the path towards that ending, you might drown in chocolate, get turned into a giant blueberry, be thrown into trash, or be shrunk — then elongated. While the bad kids are at least implied to survive in most versions (an exception is the 2013 stage musical), they certainly aren't the same people they were when they went in. This factory manages to be both Sweet Dreams Fuel and terrifying. It was worse in the original draft of the book, where Willy Wonka outright admits that the bad kids are actually part of the candy recipes! Not too surprising this was edited out for the final version...
- In the Uglies series, everyone over sixteen is beautiful, and anyone who has just turned sixteen has a few years of non-stop partying. But the operation to become a Pretty involves having brain implants to make you vapid and shallow. Justified, as the brain implants were meant to stop people becoming as destructive as the Rusties, the race of humans who destroyed the world with their stupidity.
- In Somtow Sucharitkul's Inquestor series, the man characters serve as Utopia Hunters, elite and near immortal maintainers of galaxy order who investigate all so called utopias and then, having found the hidden flaw, bring the entire edifice down.
- Cowslip's Warren in Watership Down is a peaceful haven where food is provided by the Man and the rabbits are safe from all predators except the Man himself. Just don't mention the wires.
- In "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", Omelas is a beautiful city where everyone is happy except for one child whose suffering is somehow linked to Omelas' prosperity. And everyone in Omelas is made aware of this at some point. The title refers to the people who believe their "utopia" isn't worth it and abandon it for parts unknown.
- The Community from The Giver is a society of perfect order. Except when someone decides not to follow it, then they get killed. Also, there are no emotions or colours.
- The Kindar of the Green-Sky Trilogy are a psionically-gifted, Perfect Pacifist People where elaborate ritual and extensive social training have made violence unthinkable, and even two-year-olds squabbling over a toy is considered a shocking display of poor parenting. They have sexual freedom, gender equality, and are completely vegetarian. However, abuse of the sacred narcotic berry is widespread, their inborn psychic abilities are fading at younger and younger ages, and the ruler-priests of the Ol-Zahaan have been sitting on more than a few dark secrets. Subverted in the end, though. The High Priestess's elaborate Batman Gambit pays off, the Erdling exiles are freed from their underground prison (and are almost as pacifistic as the Kindar), and while they have a few bumps in the road, the society is well on its way to becoming a true utopia at the end of the third book, and more so at the end of the tie-in game.
- Meta-Example, Veronica Roth has stated that she only realized after she had started writing that Divergent was her own personal utopia, and then later realized that her "utopia" was a horrible place to live.
- In the Discworld story Witches Abroad, Lilith has made Genua into a fairy-tale kingdom with herself as the Good Fairy Godmother - except she does this by forcing Genua's people into their stereotyped roles. Cooks who are not plump and cheerful and toymakers who don't whistle and tell the children stories are either imprisoned and "re-educated" or simply disappear.
- Also, a Fairy Godmother still needs problems to solve, so Lilith will, for example, have a girl's parents killed to better 'prepare' her for the Cinderella role. She also doesn't care if her happy endings actually make anyone happy...
- Gordon Eklund's novella Three Comedians has Felix, a sociopathic assassin who grew up in an Earth colony in a Polynesia-like environment on an isolated paradise planet called Eternity. The earth people mingled freely with the natives, including intermarriage, and all was beautiful. Felix leaves to meditate before proposing to his native sweetheart. When he returns, every human in the colony is dead, dismembered and arranged in neat piles. Every once in a while, the chief explains, the gods demand human sacrifice. Rather than killing their own people, they slaughtered the humans, none of whom had converted to the native religion. Felix is banished from the village and spends the next several weeks amid the rotting bodies, trying desperately to operate the radio to call for help.
- Robert Sheckley's short story "A Ticket to Tranai" tells of a human colony that is touted as a utopia for humanity as it really is. The protagonist goes there (it's a very remote planet) and, at first, he starts believing it to be perfect. He gets a good job, marries a beautiful woman, and lives in a nice house, all without paying any taxes. Then he starts discovering the problems with the world. First of all, instead of paying taxes, the government has legalized mugging. Muggers wearing black masks are tax collectors. And yes, muggers kill people as well, although that's a small percentage of cases. He finds that the Tranai officials are easygoing and don't want to change much. The reason? Any citizen can express his disapproval with an official by pressing a button in a special booth... which blows up a medallion that each official must wear. Additionally, any official can shoot any suspected murderer (by definition, anyone who has killed at least one but less than ten people) without arrest or trial. He also finds out that it's common for men to keep their wives in a Pocket Dimension of sorts, while they're at work, since all housework is done by robots, and they don't want women to be bored alone (they're in stasis while in there). The protagonist finds that wrong and refuses to keep his own wife in stasis. One day, he comes home to find another man with his wife. They explain that she has grown resentful of him refusing to keep her in stasis (women of Tranai actually want to do that and to, eventually, inherit everything from their husbands, who die much earlier than they; the idea is that men and women want different things: men only want to deal with their wives at certain times and for their wives to always remain young, women want to avoid the routine and the housework, see only the highlights of the marriage, and become young widows to start enjoying life) and has hooked up with a guy she met once. Upset, the protagonist offers her a divorce, but her lover explains that there are no divorces on Tranai before taking out his gun. The protagonist barely manages to escape the planet alive. He then spends his days drinking in a bar, telling everyone how great Tranai is, keeping his new wife as a house slave, and working to disenfranchise women.
- In Phoenix in Shadow, the protagonists go to explore a region that's been turned dark and twisted by a Leaking Can of Evil, and unexpectedly find that at its heart there is an area that's seemingly immune to the evil and is occupied by an apparently utopian community which has developed without any outside contact for centuries. They're certain there must be some catch, and they turn out to be right.
- In the webserial Sanctioned, independent Scotland is said to be a perfect utopia without homelessness, poverty, bigotry, or pre-meditated crime.
- It seems they cut the crime numbers by legalising all drugs.
- Ashleigh thinks that some people will always end up homeless, due to bad luck and crappy circumstances. She wonders if the homeless are dragged into unmarked government vans.
- Delaney has a theory that the superhero Glorious was murdered on the orders of the Scottish government because she was regularly meeting a known English spy for kinky sex.
- Faction Paradox has the City of the Saved: a galaxy-sized city at the end of time where every human and human-descended individual is resurrected in immortal invulnerable bodies and can live forever in the closest thing the setting has to paradise... unless they're only part-human, in which case they're second-class citizens and are generally thought of as lucky to have got in. In addition, humans and posthumans with non-human friends and lovers tend to be tragically disappointed when they realise their loved ones didn't make it into this human-supremacist heaven. House Halfling, the pressure group for part-human rights, explicitly pointed out that the City's culture will stagnate much faster with only human influences and that it is at present a rather unsatisfactory endpoint of history. Fortunately that probably won't matter any more, as someone figured out a way to turn off the immortality, a civil war broke out, and one group's attempt to end it summoned an Eldritch Abomination from the universe after this one. So that's alright then.
- In Victoria, the Republic of Azania has shades of this. A majority-female society, they are a generally peaceful, economically and technologically advanced nation in an otherwise largely post-apocalyptic setting, which welcomes women and homosexuals fleeing the reactionary neighboring states. However, it is also a semi-totalitarian dictatorship that practices eugenics, bans natural childbirth and heavily discriminates against men.
- Tomorrow Town is supposedly a technologically-advanced community-of-the-future. The devices they invent are Cool, but Inefficient, the community only survives on government subsidies, and the social system is inherently sexist. The outside world has long surpassed Tomorrow Town in social and technological advancement. No-one dares complain about these obvious facts until after their founder is murdered.
- The Stars Are Cold Toys: The Geometers live in a highly-advanced post-scarcity society, raised by Mentors to be productive individuals, who love their jobs. Their ships are sleek, fast, intelligent, and completely unarmed. Everybody's cheerful, no one has to worry about money (since it doesn't exist in their world), and they are dedicated to making every alien race out there their friends. Then you look under the surface and realize that making aliens friends means first infiltrating their society and reducing their civilization to a primitive one, so that Geometers can remake it in their image. Everyone is cheerful partly due to having been brainwashed since they're little (all Geometer children are raised in boarding schools) and partly due to all their food and drink being laced with tranquilizers (i.e. they're all a little stoned). Anyone who disagrees with their philosophy is deemed mentally ill and placed in a "sanatorium", which is basically a forced labor camp with alien guards, who kill escapees. Oh, and those "unarmed" ships? A single Geometer scout ship is capable of obliterating dozens of dedicated warships of the militant Alari using "repurposed tools", which include things like powerful force fields, laser cutters, and seismic probes (multi-kiloton nukes). In addition, Geometers are masters in designing Synthetic Plagues.
- Doctor Who uses this trope often, especially in the revived series. In the year 5 billion, the world looks perfect and evolved. But the Doctor discovers a hospital that uses thousands of humans as test subjects to fight illnesses.
- A season later, he goes back there, and it has become a Crapsack World. Most of the population is dead due to a deadly virus, and the rest are stuck in traffic for many years. An example of The Extremist Was Right— the Cat Nuns had talked about this, and their reasons for using humans were the exact same reasons humans use animals (though if you're studying disease in humans, it's much more effective to study it in humans rather than rats. So again, the Cats were right.)
- In GARO The One Who Shines In The Darkness Vol City is an Utopia city he has low-cost living and low taxes, and schools and hospitals are free. Turns out to be a False Utopia as Crimes and violence are denied by news reports and Horrors are in such mass here that one can eat enough to be stuck in a building. Furthermore Horrors are in control of the city's infrastructure, able to create more of their own that are nearly undetectable by the means of Makai Knights or Priests, and are powerful enough to negate most protection that said Priests and Knights can give as seen in ep 7 and are basically creating a massive feeding ground for their kind. Basically Vol City is a Utopia of sorts, but only if your are a Horror.
- The Flipside of Dominick Hide: At first glance, the future looks pretty good, with the recreational time travel tours, the holograms, the computers attending our every whim. However, it is also a pretty sterile world, with everyone living in a Stepford Suburbias, no one allowed any intense feelings, and as it turns out, most of the world outside was poisoned in an unspecified holocaust at the end of the 20th Century.
- In The Good Place, the titular Good Place turns out to be this. It appears to be a bright and pleasant Heaven, but it's actually a Bad Place designed to look like a Good Place and induce the four humans living in it to unknowingly psychologically torture each other for eternity with help from the place's other too-good-to-be-true inhabitants who are actually demons. It's also very good at offering what seem to be ideal pleasures but actually aren't, like how all its stores serve frozen yogurt instead of ice cream.
- The Escape episode "The Return" has a man who wishes for a life without struggle. A mysterious beggar sends him to a village where everything is perfect, and there is no struggle. Anything he wants to do automatically succeeds, and the same is true of all the Perfectly Pacifist People in the village. He eventually realizes that perfection requires absolute conformity, and breaks down. When he returns from the village (through a one-way exit), he thinks it was All Just a Dream as he's back in the exact spot. But when he meets an acquaintance, it's revealed that as much time has passed as he experienced in the village.
- Eberron brings us Zilargo, the country of the gnomes. It's a happy, peaceful place where crime is unheard of... because not only are many things that would be considered crimes mere games to the gnomes, the Trust, a nigh-omnipresent organization of secret police, exists to warn people away from anything more serious — or, if they don't listen, make them "disappear" before they can take action. Zil culture considers privacy a small price to pay for their peace.
- Touvette in Pathfinder is a country surrounded by pirates, brigands, and assassin-happy kleptocracies. It boasts the highest literacy rate in the world, finds jobs for everyone, and takes genuine care of all citizens. It does this because it has an essentially North Korea-like level of policing, where being on the wrong road is considered trespassing, and trespassing is punished by a gruesome death.
- Tianjing is an idyllic mountain paradise whose people are literally angel-blooded and beautiful. They live hundreds of years and are generally saint-like in their virtue. They're also dedicated to blocking off the maw to the Abyss which sits under their realm, and so all their secretive efforts are holding back a demonic incursion into the world.
- Alpha Complex, of Paranoia fame, is an absolute utopia. Any rumors of secretive societies or mutants who run things are treasonous slander. Any tale of Friend Computer being an insane, idiotic machine hacked at will by mysterious "Ultraviolet" citizens is pure vile enemy propaganda. Claims that fully 85% of the population exist in a drug-induced haze are simply demonstrably false. The casualty rate for Troubleshooters does not exceed 89.238%. All food in Alpha Complex is real food. Please report to Room 101 for Brain Scrub, Happy Fun Time Bubbly Medication, Much Joy Orange Chocolate Salmon Nutrient Paste, and a nice massage.
- Rapture in BioShock: supposedly a utopia where no constraints of any sort will hinder the "bright and powerful", it devolves into tyranny and anarchy that leads to a Civil War even before the populace start degenerating into psychotic, hideously deformed mutants as a result of city-wide addiction to Psycho Serum. The Little Sisters see Rapture as a beautiful palace like city, the interiors are white and bright and the floors are filled with toys, and beautifully dressed people wander the halls, but the truth is anything but pretty.
- Sequel BioShock Infinite has Columbia, whose quaint Americana facade is quickly revealed to be hiding a violently racist and xenophobic cult of personality. Things get even worse when the locals discover Booker is the "False Shepherd" their leader has been warning them about.
- Fallout 3 has Tranquility Lane, a virtual reality where everybody lives happily in the 1950s, safe from the devastated wastelands outside. Unfortunately, it's run by a scientist who takes pleasure in repeatedly mutilating, torturing and murdering the other inhabitants - and then resetting the chirpy simulation to do it again, keeping every victim trapped in torment but unable to escape or die, forced to maintain their smiling pantomime forever.
- In The Walking Dead video game, the group finds a farm with welcoming people and plenty of food, as well as an electric fence to protect from the dead and the bandits. Then Lee discovers that the farmers keep their guests locked up, cut them into pieces while they're alive, and eat their flesh. The zombies look a bit nicer now, don't they?
- Back to the Future: In the alternate 1986, Doc Brown became the leader of Hill Valley and turned it into a totalitarian place, closed from the world, with people dressed in identical suits, forced or even brainwashed to be good, and watched 24 hours on 24. Doc actually wants his citizens to be happy, but his wife, Edna, is so obsessed with discipline that she makes him annihilate all freedom in the town.
- New Pork City in MOTHER 3, exemplified by the fact that its musical theme is titled "You Call This A Utopia?!". It's made out to be the best place on earth by the people from outside of Tazmily Village, but when you actually go there towards the end of the game, it's readily apparent that it's a stretch to even call it a city, with almost all of the "buildings" just being wooden stand-ups. Some of the Tazmily Village folk are able to see this, while others have become so deluded by the influence of the outsiders (who are implied to have been brainwashed) that they really do believe it to be a utopia. It turns out that it's meant to simply be a stage from which everyone will witness the end of the world, so putting effort into making it a passable place of residence would've been a waste.
- Even Tazmily Village itself at the beginning of the game is an example, though in a different way, and it's not as obvious. At first it seems to be a real utopia, since everyone is happy, but it later becomes clear that their perfect social order is derived from self-brainwashing-induced naivety, rather than wisdom, and when things actually go wrong in their perfect little world, no one knows how to handle it, and when interlopers from outside try to corrupt them and pull them into their own Porky-worshiping cult, they have such an easy time of it that it's almost absurd. Their seemingly perfect little society had some things very wrong with it from the beginning. Porky even calls out the villagers for thinking that their plan would even work in the first place.
- Given the importance given to the concept of utopia in Shin Megami Tensei, it isn't odd to see this trope popping every now and then. Shin Megami Tensei I has Ikebukuro, in which Belial and Nebiros have resurrected the entire town to serve as Alice's playthings, Shin Megami Tensei II has Arcadia, which the Archangels are running as a mind control experiment by hooking the residents into machines controlled by their lackey Gimmel, and in Shin Megami Tensei IV, the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, which features brutal classism, an increasingly Corrupt Church, Witch Hunts, demons hidden straight under the capital's palace, and worse.
- Wellington Wells in We Happy Few. The town sure looks bright and colorful, and everyone seems happy, but that's only because everyone is drugged up on Joy, and if they don't act happy and cheerful they might be on the wrong end of the law, or an angry mob. The town is surrounded by ruined buildings infested with the Wastrels, moody and miserable outcasts who were driven out of town and left to fend for themselves because of their immunity to Joy. On top of all that, it's implied food supplies are running low and Wellington Wells' "perfect" society is on the edge of collapse. All the more reason for the protagonist to become a Downer and plot his escape.
- In Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: U.T.O.P.I.A.", Chester traps Number 1 in a virtual reality where his personal paradise is an island with no adults, and all kids live happily and carefree.
- In a Justice League Unlimited episode, Superman receives a strange plant from Mongul that forces him into a dream world. He lives on his birth planet, and has a wife, a son and even a dog. When he realizes that none of this is true, and leaves the perfect dream world, Mongul tells Superman that it must have been like tearing his own arm off.
- Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkgirl, and Martian Manhunter got blasted to an alternate world which everything seems nice, and its filled with some Silver Age type superheroes and supervillains. But it is all an illusion created by a mutant kid who gained his powers from a nuclear war which happened a long time ago.
- An alternate version of the Justice League - calling themselves, the Justice Lords, took over their world after assassinating President Lex Luthor in response to the murder of their Flash, and the world pushed to the brink of World War III. Their world shows that even Gotham, which in the League's world is a cesspool of corruption and crime, is a splendid place to live and Arkham Asylum looks like a regular mental hospital. However, elections are banned, protests are met with the Justice Lords appearing, journalists are placed on house arrest and you could get arrested for having an argument over the price of tea in the restaurant. Oh, and that nice Arkham Asylum? It has supervillains alright. Even reformed them...if you consider lobotomisation to be 'reforming' them into productive members of society.
- In a Buzz Lightyear of Star Command episode, Buzz wakes up in a future where most of his enemies are defeated and he is worshipped as a hero. It was all a scam Zurg made to fool him.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, there is a huge city, called "Ba Sing Se", which is made out to be a perfect world, but it is really hiding a huge underground operation to control the Earth King, and not mentioning the war with the Fire Nation within the walls of Ba Sing Se.
Dai Li Agent: There is no war in Ba Sing Se.
- At the beginning of the fifth season of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic the main cast heads to a small town in the middle of nowhere where everyone everyone is sincerely happy and the community is welcoming and kind, despite their creepy smiles and conformist attitude. However, in order to live there they've all had their special talents stripped away and have been brainwashed into thinking that this is a good thing. A few ponies miss what they've given up, but are too conditioned to accepting this as the One True Proper Path To Friendship that they don't seriously consider doing anything about it. The town's ruler seems to genuinely believe in what she's doing, but she's paranoid, unstable and hides that she's kept her own cutie mark so that she can continue forcing more and more new ponies to join.