An oppressive regime requires
its citizens to "be happy"
. Of course, this doesn't actually
make them happy; it only gives them one more thing to fear.
The regime may be small scale. For example, it might be a parent or boss. When the regime actually controls the world, it's a Crapsack World
. Often without added saccharine
, since "be happy, or else" doesn't actually make the world look like a happy place; in fact, it's more likely to simply highlight the depressing atmosphere even more.
Why does the regime do this? Well, maybe it is simply insane or enjoys toying with its underlings For the Evulz
, or they may be trying to paper over the fact that Dystopia Is Hard
. The regime is perhaps trying to combat The Evils of Free Will
through Stockholm Syndrome
. Or through Insane Troll Logic
, because beating is so effective to control the population, it can be applied as well to emotional states. Either way, the demands for happiness tend to underscore the regime's 0% Approval Rating
If this trope was inverted
, it would be much easier for the citizens to follow - since the law itself would already give them something to be unhappy
See also Stepford Smiler
, which this trope tends to make people into, as well as Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul
, where people actually do
become happy whether they like it or not (such as through Government Drug Enforcement
). Compare and contrast Finger-Forced Smile
when the intent of making people smiling isn't as sinister as this trope.
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Anime and Manga
- One of the Villages of the week in Kino's Journey enforces operations on its 12 year olds so that they're happy regardless of what they're doing. It's where the protagonist comes from.
- Apparently the case for slaves of the Tenryuubito in One Piece, if Koala's Stepford Smiler nature in the flashback is any indication.
- In Naruto, the Big Bad's goal is to create a new world in which everyone will be happy, through forcing them all into an endless illusion.
- In Flash Gordon during Ming's wedding scene, a ship flies over head with a banner reading "ALL CITIZENS SHALL MAKE MERRY," followed by another one with "...ON PAIN OF DEATH."
- Brave New World: Distributing affordable drugs in large quantities makes it a borderline case with Government Drug Enforcement. In a variation, those who aren't happy aren't blamed— it's considered a failure of government conditioning, not a personal fault— and are given the choice between voluntary exile or joining the ruling class, since only those with some degree of dissatisfaction have the motivation to lead.
- "It's a Good Life"...otherwise, you're sent to the cornfield.
- In Witches Abroad, Lady Lilith is an evil fairy godmother that turns Genua into a knock-off of Disney Land, where everyone is cheerful and and happy... because the ones that aren't, disappear.
- In 1984, people are required to love Big Brother and be happy about it.
- In Slave World, this is used as an addition to Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: The slaves are biochemically altered for certain kinds of happiness, and they get punished if they try to resist the effect.
- Inverted in the Mr. Men Little Miss Sunshine (not the movie): 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.
- In Hard to Be a God, at one point the freshly established theocracy punishes people for "non-ecstatic way of thinking".
- In The Giver, it's more like "Quiet Contentment is Mandatory", since excess emotion is discouraged in the dystopian society.
- In Coda, the Corp's mandatory music can create artificial highs. Anthem uses this aspect of it frequently.
- Gary, the protagonist of Clocks that Don't Tick, mentions that Thralls (immortal slaves to oligarchs known as the Bosses) are supposed to appear happy while in the public's eye.
Live Action TV
- A 1954 Time magazine article on North Vietnam invoked this with its title: "INDO-CHINA: Land of Compulsory Joy." It was, unsurprisingly, about life under the regime of Ho Chi Minh, which the citizens were coerced to be happy with, starting off with the description of megaphone-wielding men patrolling the streets of Hanoi telling people their "joy is indescribable." Given the virulent anti-Communism of that era's Time and its willingness to slant its reporting accordingly, there's no telling if this is true.
- REM's song "Shiny Happy People" was a parody and a deconstruction of Chinese government propaganda following the Tiananmen Square crackdowns, which essentially ordered everyone to be happy (and be compelled to disregard what had just happened). The song's lyrics become darker once this all sinks in.
- Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony. He tacked on a happy ending to his symphony so that Joseph Stalin (who was seriously considering imprisoning or executing Shostakovich) would think he is writing music to glorify the regime. In fact, many of his works essentially embody this trope.
- "The Straight Razor Cabaret" by Voltaire is about a macabre vaudeville show whose master of ceremonies mutilates the faces of anyone he thinks isn't enjoying his show enough.
- If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. Just try to get away with not clapping.
- The Vocaloid song Kochira, Koufuku Anshin Iinkai Desu (Translated as 'We are the Public Health and Peace-of-Mind Committee' or 'We Are The Happiness and Peace of Mind Committee'). The call-and-response chorus involves the spokeswoman for the titular committee reminding everyone that happiness is, in fact, a duty, and cheerfully recommends that those who aren't happy choose their preferred option from a list of violent execution methods.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's album titled Mandatory Fun has Al on the cover standing in military dictator garb with an army at his beck and call.
- Paranoia has this as a major part of its base premise. See the page quote. This game is also the Trope Namer.
- Inverted in Alpha State, where morbid depression is mandatory.
- One of the many facets of the 2056 juncture from Feng Shui.
- One of Ravenloft's lesser domains was home to a king who had no sense of humor, who'd clumsily tried to simulate one by requiring all citizens to laugh with every sentence they spoke. As he couldn't tell a real laugh from a forced one, this resulted in people who weren't particularly happy or amused saying "ha ha ha" after each statement.
- In the DarkSun setting, the three Mind Lords of the Lost Sea insist on this. Being powerful telepaths, they can even make you happy (but usually prefer a messy disintegration instead).
- In the video game Floyd (also known as The Feeble Files), the Omnibrain demands happiness. Solving one of the early puzzles in the game gets an innocent civilian executed on the spot for being unhappy.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Grelod the Kind has quite a way with children.
Yes Grelod? Grelod:
Hroar's crying is keeping me up at night. I'll give you one chance to talk the tears out of him, or he's getting the belt.
- World of Warcraft contains a Shout-Out to the Trope Namer, Paranoia. The Arcane Constructs patrolling Silvermoon will occasionally say "Happiness is mandatory, citizen", as part of the theme being built around the Blood Elves (mostly during Burning Crusade) that, while everything is beautiful and perfect on the surface, if you look a little deeper things aren't so nice.
- Ultima V has this as a major plot point. Where in Ultima IV, your aim was to demonstrate the eight Virtues (e.g. honesty, humility, and compassion), the dictator that has sprung up in part five enforces all of them on pain of torture. "Thou shalt help those in need... or thou shalt suffer the same need!"
- Inverted in Normality. Nobody in Neutropolis is allowed to show any signs of happiness, lest to be taken away to be "normalized".
- Kingdom Hearts has Donald stating that the Gummi Ship only functions when the pilots are "Smiling". This could've been a Blatant Lie to snap Sora out of an incoming Heroic BSOD, and we rarely see the pilots inside the ship, so who knows? The manga leaves no room for doubt, though: You HAVE to be smiling when aboard the damn thing.
- In The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" story, Homer's time traveling creates a dystopian present in which Ned Flanders rules the world and requires everyone to be happy all the time. Those who don't comply are given a "re-Neducation" culminating in a lobotomy.
- Another example from The Simpsons is the episode where they all have nightmares. Bart's dream is all about having psychic powers and everybody in Springfield walks around thinking "happy thoughts" so as not to displease him and be turned into something weird in a spoof of It's A Good Life.
- Also a rule in Springfield Prison (the infirmary there, anyway). Homer injures his back at a prison rodeo, and when asked how he's feelingly sheepishly replies "I can't complain" while pointing at a large "NO COMPLAINING" sign. Right afterwards, an orderly says it only applies to inmates, so he is free to complain.
- In Fairly OddParents, Timmy's time traveling caused his father to turn into a power hungry dictator whose main rule is 'Be Happy... Or Else!'
- In Coraline, the Other Mother becomes dissatisfied with the Other Wybie's tendency to not smile, so she sews his smile in place.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the government officials of Ba Sing Se seem unable to do anything but smile due to brainwashing.
- Inverted in The Smurfs episode "Happy Unhappiness Day To You", where unhappiness among the Smurfs is mandatory for one day. Strangely, this means that Grouchy can't be grumbling for one day! Possibly played straight in "A Hug For Grouchy", where hugs are mandatory for each Smurf on Hug-A-Smurf Day, and if you don't want a hug, some Smurfs will come and hug rape you!
- This happens at the end of an episode of Wakfu, right after the Brotherhood of Tofu deposes a ruthless tyrant. Meet the New Boss anyone?
- In the Hearth's Warming Eve episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the reenactment of the founding of Equestria reveals that too much bitterness and hatred among ponies will cause the Windigos to come to power and bring about a new ice age.
- There will also be an episode based on this concept in season 5.
- Care Bears is all about this, as the eponymous bears appear wherever children are sad or upset about anything and try to cheer them up, sometimes through the use of their MindRapey Care Bear Stare.
- Latter installments of the franchise have been better about this, though. For example, in "Down to Earth" in Adventures to Care-a-Lot, Funshine Bear helps a boy who's feeling lonely after moving to a new neighborhood by actually empathizing with his feelings, actually being a friend himself, and offering constructive suggestions on how to make friends in his new neighborhood. Welcome to Care-a-Lot has "Sad About You," in which the bears help a girl named Joy who is upset about her friend moving away again by empathizing with her feelings, rather than simply urging her to "be happy."