Happiness Is Mandatory

From Copper.

"The Computer is your friend. The Computer wants you to be happy. Happiness is mandatory. Failure to be happy is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution."

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 about.

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.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece: If Koala's Stepford Smiler nature in the flashback is any indication, the Tenryuubito appear to force their slaves to act happy.
  • Psycho-Pass: The government of Japan go all out to ensure its citizens are happy, and if somebody isn't happy, he/she's a criminal and must be arrested for reformation—or exterminated on the spot in extreme cases. Mandatory Happiness is even the name of a Psy-Pass game for the PlayStation 4/Vita.

  • In the Fables spinoff comic Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love, Cinderella's fairy godmother decides she'd conquer a world, and force people to act happy until they became happy.
  • Played with in a The Wizard of Id strip. The King is showing a visiting noble around, and the noble asks a peasant how things are for him, and gets the reply, "I can't complain." The noble says that's nice and asks why, and is told, "It's forbidden."
  • In one Mickey Mouse story, Mickey and Goofy meet a deranged monarch who explains that he has no unhappy subjects, because if they are unhappy they are imprisoned. Then, to demonstrate, he asks a random peasant whether he is happy. The peasant grins maniacally and seemingly sincerely and says that he is happy... and the king promptly orders him thrown into jail.
    Mickey: But he was happy!
    King: Yes, but he is sad now—and I aim to prevent crime before it happens!
  • The people of Doctor Doom's country Latveria have the highest standard of living in Europe. Or else.
  • Judge Dredd: Inverted when the insane Judge Cal, among his long list of ridiculous decrees, outlaws happiness and mandates that all items which could cause the emotion among Mega-City One's citizens be destroyed immediately.


  • 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: Be happy... Otherwise, you'll be 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 Nineteen Eighty-Four, 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.
  • 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.
  • The Green-Sky Trilogy by Zilpha Keatley Snyder is all about this. She goes into great detail exactly how in the Kindar society, Joy is not just a desirable spiritual state, but a moral obligation.

     Live Action TV  
  • Black Mirror has this situation on the episode "Nosedive". The episode shows a world where one's place in the society is dependent of one's ratings in a social network (the elite being composed of people above 4.5 ratings, who can even have preferential health care). Because of that everyone has to be, or at least pretend to be happy, sweet, loving and nice all the time in order to not get downgraded by others.
  • In Doctor Who, this is the the entire point of the Happiness Patrol in the serial of that title.
    Happiness through acceptance. Productivity through happiness.
  • The fairy-tale kingdom of Happy Valley from Monty Python's Flying Circus. The subjects were always happy all the time because, by royal decree, anyone who wasn't happy would be put to death. One subject whose wife had just died is seen being arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to hang by the neck until he cheers up.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) TOS episode "It's a Good Life", based on the Jerome Bixby short story. A mutant 6-year-old child with incredible powers requires that everyone be happy around him. Anyone who isn't gets "sent to the cornfield".
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 has "Lawgiver Day", wherein, as described by poor Professor Bobo, "all are ordered to make merry and be light of heart, under pain of horrible lingering death."
  • A few of the serial killers on Criminal Minds are sick enough that the only way for their victims to keep from making them angry is to pretend to be happy with them.
  • Diend's World in Kamen Rider Decade. Failure to be kind and helpful is met by being grabbed by the giant cockroaches from Kamen Rider Blade. You're taken to have your brain injected with cells from Jashin 14, a monster fought in the Blade movie who is now reimagined as an Eldritch Abomination with ideas of how to "benefit" humanity. You'll be cheerful and happy and helpful like everyone else once he's done with you.
    • A Kamen Rider Drive movie has a villain with a similar idea. Bringing about peace is good. Creating magic feather-things that with repeated use will permanently destroy the part of the brain capable of rational thought so being happy and loving everyone are the only thoughts and feelings left to you is not how to go about it.
  • The Office (US): This is page one of Michael Scott's management handbook and the prime reason why Dunder-Mifflin is such a soul crushing workplace.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Seven of Nine is this whenever she is in a social situation.
    [to the Borg children] "Fun" will now commence!
  • Dead Ringers: Deal Or No Deal maintains its atmosphere of importance by making sure anyone who doesn't enjoy or care about being on the show is beaten to death by the other contestants with their "Happy Sticks" (i.e. baseball bats).

  • 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.

  • R.E.M.'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.
  • "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.
    He used a straight razor
    'Cause he's a face-raper
    And there's nothing he hates more than a stick-in-the-mud
    If he tells a joke
    You'd better laugh until you choke
    At the Straight Razor Cabaret!
  • 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.

     Tabletop Games  
  • The Trope Namer is the Dystopian Edict of Alpha Complex from Paranoia: "Happiness is mandatory. Unhappiness is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution. Are you happy, citizen?" Inverted in Alpha State, where morbid depression is mandatory.
  • 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.

     Video Games  
  • 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.
    Grelod: Constance!
    Constance: 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: 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 lie to snap Sora out of an incoming Heroic B.S.O.D., 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.
  • Just Cause 2: President Panay believes the happier his people are, the better he feels; the better he feels, the people will be even happier.
    "So... (threatening voice) BE HAPPY!"
  • Wellington Wells in the indie game We Happy Few. After the Very Bad Thing the people of Wellington Wells did to drive off the German invasion and occupation of England, the populace rebuilt their town into a drugged-up futurist False Utopia. Any "Downers" caught not taking their Joy are either forced to take their medicine if they're lucky, or beaten to death by the townsfolk if they're not.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Treehouse of Horror II", when Homer, Bart, and Lisa all have nightmares, "Bart's Nightmare" 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.
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror V" story "Time and Punishment", 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.
    • In "Pokey Mom", Homer injures his back at a prison rodeo and is sent to its infirmary. When asked how he's feelingly, he 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 The 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!
  • Wakfu: The heroes overthrow a dictator who was overtaxing his town by releasing the man and woman he sealed in some rings, the latter of which was the previous governess who returns to power. In the closing seconds of the episode, right after the heroes leave, she reveals herself to ALSO be an iron-fisted dictator, but obsessed with everyone being happy. She gives a New Era Speech about planting a bunch of flowers and forcing people to sing songs, to her fiancee's discomfort.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The season 5 premiere "The Cutie Map" takes place in a village run by a Well-Intentioned Extremist who has magically replaced everyone's cutie marks with equal signs. The denizens seem to be happy, but the Mane Six quickly discover that they're not.

    Real Life 
  • A common saying among the lower ranks of enlisted men in the U.S. military is "The beatings will continue until morale improves!"
    • A specifically naval variation is "There will be no liberty until morale improves."
      • Events hosted to boost morale and which have required attendance (particularly on what would otherwise be a day off) are called "Mandatory Fun" events.
    • This saying can also be found tacked to many a cubicle wall in Corporate America.
  • Dave Barry had a column about Walt Disney World with a similar description:
    "You can't not have fun at Disney World. It's not Allowed."
    • He claimed that if you're seen not having fun, you get abducted by the staff "and then it's into the Goofy suit."
  • This is not an uncommon vicious cycle in psychologically abusive situations, where the abuser uses the pain they inflict as an excuse to lash out again. The abuser may perceive their victim's misery as ingratitude, or they may simply be enraged by the evidence of their own actions.
  • The early days of the service industry saw a lot of companies making this trope a major policy. Happy staff tend to make customers feel more at ease even if the system is inefficient, so directors would mandate that employees smile and show as much courtesy as possible regardless of personal problems or mental state. Experts eventually realized that genuinely happy staff made customers happier but it's easier to require employees to fake happiness than genuinely inspire it, so this will always exist to some extent.
  • North Koreans are required to love whichever Kim is currently in power. After Kim Jong-il's death, the government gave six months of hard labor to anyone whom they considered to not be upset enough, which is kind of an inversion.
  • After the collapse of the January Uprising against Tsarist Russian rule, Poles and Lithuanians were demonstrating their feelings by wearing mourning clothes. The Tsarist officials' reaction? All people who wanted to mourn were required to apply for a special half year permit, pay a fee and in their application point out which relative they were mourning.
  • Being a Disney employee. They're called cast-members for a reason.
  • Applies to most prostitutes, as johns usually buy the illusion that the prostitutes like having sex with them and will complain if the prostitute looks as bored and/or unhappy as she really is.
  • There are some religious sects (that will not be named here) that view any expression of unhappiness as a sign of lacking faith, non-commitment (or inadequate commitment) to the faith, wanting to deviate from divinely-ordained roles and expectations, rebellion, etc. Especially when it happens in public view.
  • Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich wrote an entire nonfiction book detailing her experiences encountering this sort of ideology in, of all places, a support-group for breast-cancer patients, and lampshades its Unfortunate Implications in that book and in this video.
  • A 1954 Time magazine article described then-North Vietnam as Indo-China: Land of Compulsory Joy. This "joy" apparently mostly consisted of men with megaphones patrolling the streets to tell people how joyful they were at all hours.