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Individuality Is Illegal
In suspended animation my childhood passed me by
If I speak without emotion, you'll know the reason why
Now I'm to begin a life that I'm assigned
A life that's been lived before a thousand times
The Who, 905

In any given society that works via a collective or Hive Mind, the introduction of individuality into a single member can have one of several consequences.
  1. The individual is destroyed or removed, either by the other members of the collective or by some internal mechanism such as an Assimilation Academy. This individual is deemed dangerous and therefore not a part of the social order.
  2. The society is destroyed, since the structure itself is so finely balanced that the introduction of a different element into it proves catastrophic. This can lead to chaos or genocide.
  3. Something crucial that the collective protects or maintains is destroyed, which can be anything from a single structure to the known multiverse.

See also Assimilation Plot, where individuality isn't just illegal, it's physically impossible. See also The Evils of Free Will, where this is also illegal, or at least someone wishes it was, but not really a problem thanks to Mind Control and Mass Hypnosis. All of the Other Reindeer is also somewhat related to this trope, and also the "Aliens as Communists" section of Scary Dogmatic Aliens. If individuality is frowned upon instead of being illegal, see Loners Are Freaks.

See also Loss of Identity, the consequence of this on former individuals.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • The premise of Dead Leaves is this. People who show signs of individuality who don't conform with society are considered to be mutants and sent to a prison up on the moon. Most of the prisoners literally are mutants though.

    Comics 
  • In Infinite Crisis, the Monitor/Anti-monitor dichotomy is fractured into multiple Monitors, one per remaining alternate Earth. During much of Countdown to Final Crisis they are too busy arguing to stop the events that are destroying the remaining 52 worlds. As Linkara put it;
    Monitor A: "We should do something!"
    Monitor B: "Should we do something?"
    Monitor A: "We should do something!"
    Monitor B: "Should we do something?"
    Monitor A: "We should do something!"
    Monitor B: "Should we do something?"
    Monitor C: "We're CHANGING!"
    Monitor A: "We should do something!"
    Monitor B: "Should we do something?"
    (ad infinitum)
  • This is the driving force of Adam Susan's philosophy in V for Vendetta although he gets better. Then...

    Fanfiction 
  • Empath: The Luckiest Smurf: In Psychelian culture, personal pronouns are forbidden, thus all Psyches must refer to themselves as "this one". Empath, being raised in Psychelia, eventually has "this smurf" as his personal Verbal Tic.

    Literature 
  • 1984, iconically.
  • Anthem by Ayn Rand has a society where collectivism has become so extreme that first-person singular pronouns are banned. In fact, all the novels of Ayn Rand feature this trope as the ideal of the villains.
  • In the sci-fi mystery short story "The Barbie Murders" by John Varley, the investigators are hard-pressed to investigate a murder in a colony of "Conformists", all of whom are surgically altered to look exactly the same (thus nicknamed "Barbies") and who all receive news simultaneously, not distinguishing between themselves ("this body") and others. Individualists within the colony are seen as outsiders at best (as with the investigators) and perverts at worst (as with the murder victim, who was a converted Barbie who still engaged in individualist practices).
  • Played for laughs with the motivational posters in Captain Underpants.
  • Not illegal, but the Dark Nest Trilogy has Hive Mind insects called the Killiks, who have several species, each with its own slightly different Hive Mind. Killiks can force people of other species to join the Hive Mind, at which point they still answer to their names and have their abilities, but are wholeheartedly in support of Kilik conquest, and are referred to as Joiners. A Jedi Joiner, serving a species that's not the same hive that conscripted her, finds her Joiner-ness fading, less information coming to her through the Hive Mind, and her individuality creeping back. As a Joiner, this horrifies her.
  • The Auditors of the Discworld are creatures of pure law and order, who loathe individuality so much that any Auditor who uses the personal pronoun "I" tends to spontaneously vanish, to be replaced by another, identical Auditor. In Thief of Time, a number of Auditors take human form, and their excursion to the Discworld ends in chaos and bloodshed, with the only survivor driven hopelessly insane and committing suicide in a vat of chocolate.
  • Lois Lowry's The Giver comes to mind immediately.
  • The titular character in Harrison Bergeron is one who can cast off the oppressive laws of an "egalitarian" state where the strong are forced to carry heavy weights and the smart must wear earphones that distract them every few seconds by loud noises.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche implied that the human society in general works as a hive mind and invented the concept of ‹bermensch who had enough individuality not to bend backwards. This idea was immediately dubbed "villain morality".
  • This is how the ants are portrayed in The Once and Future King by T.H. White, when Merlin takes Wart into an anthill.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire
    • It is a rule in The Guild of the Faceless Men. You have to be 'no one'. They will ask you. They will know if you lie.
    • The Unsullied are an army of slave soldiers who have been trained to obey any command and lack any personal desires. They are each given a new (generally humiliating) name every day, which is picked randomly.
  • D-503 in We is actually horrified to find himself developing an individual personality.
  • One of the main characteristics of the clone society in Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang.
  • In A Wrinkle in Time, the inhabitants of Camazotz are subjected to extreme, enforced conformity, ruled by an entity known as IT. All houses, yards, and trees are exactly the same, and deviation from the regular, psychic rhythm of IT results in harsh punishment and reconditioning. At one point, Charles Wallace, who is demonstrated to be psychically sensitive, willingly enters the mind of IT and becomes cold and sociopathic, ultimately only recoverable by his sister's love.

    Live Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) has an interesting take on this. All humanoid Cylon models have personalities attached to their models. They also have a limited form of memory sharing/collective consciousness. Despite these, however, every single humanoid Cylon is an individual. The catch? They don't realise they are individuals. Word of God says it is the slow realisation of individuality that puts Cylons into an increasingly fractured state until it finally blows.
    • In addition, different models have different opinions on how "individual" a Cylon should be from his/her model. Ones (Cavils) believe in complete uniformity, Sixes believe in individuality but draw the line at opposing their model and Eights seem almost eager to break it and find their own identity at the cost of everything else.
  • A prominent theme in the Village in The Prisoner, especially in the episode "A Change of Mind". Unmutual!
  • The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Return of the Archons" had a civilization mentally controlled by a mad computer. Anyone who escaped control was brainwashed into rejoining "The Body". Anyone unaffected by the brainwashing was killed. The uncontrolled members helped the Enterprise crew destroy the control computer.
  • The Borg seem susceptible to such monkey wrenches. One such individual named "Hugh" (from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "I, Borg") comes to mind...
  • An episode of The Twilight Zone centered on a world where once every person comes of age, they are forcibly given plastic surgery and a personality change to make them beautiful and identical to everyone else. The protagonist is a slightly plain faced girl who desperately wants to be herself.

    Music 
  • On the album The Adversary by Ihsahn, several if not all songs seem to deal with the idea that the "genius" is unappreciated and rejected in human society.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: She Who Lives in Her Name, otherwise known as the Principle of Hierarchy, believes that free will and individuality are horrible mistakes that ought to be corrected, and has Charms that help to make this trope a reality. Ironically, she herself has free will, something she abhors with her entire being and tries to stamp out through absolute and loyal service to her King, Malfeas.
    • When the defeated Primordials surrendered, ending the Primordial War, She Who Lives in Her Name was willing to acknowledge, submit to, serve, and loyally take her place in a new hierarchy with the Incarnae and Exalted at the top. The victors decided to imprison her in Malfeas anyway and, in a fit of rage, she unleashed The Three Spheres Cataclysm.
  • In the game Zero, the PC's are former members of the Equanimity, an underground hive mind revolving around Queen Zero. They must escape from their now-hostile former comrades.

    Video Games 
  • Unusually a positive example of this trope appears in Mass Effect 2. The geth, the main enemy from the first game turn out to be a mostly peace-loving species with a 5% minority who are hostile to the organic races; they represent the most individualistic, "rebellious" part of their highly collectivist culture (justified by the fact that as individuals the geth aren't even sentient), and effectively brainwashing them to return to the collective is the good decision to make (as opposed to blowing them up). Of course they were Hoisted By Their Own Petard, since they were planning to do exactly the same thing to the main collective.
    • Legion (your geth Team mate) is out right terrified by the ideal of the geth becoming individualistic, when you try to claim its a good thing.
    • All this may be justified by the geth's true nature: the geth are AI's, and become more intelligent when linked together. This is why there are always many geth in one platform (robot). To the geth, individuality means mental regression, so they despise it.
    • And yet, in Mass Effect 3, one of the options regarding the geth is to upgrade them to full-AI status, which would mean that they are now individual programs instead of conglomerations of semi-sentient programs. But that way, you upgrade the strength of the programs themselves. Earlier, individuality would be like each program having a different mind; since they are in one platform, it wouldn't work. But if they are all full AIs and work as such, individuality would most definitely work.
  • In Penumbra: Black Plague a failed attempt to assimilate you into the Hive Mind results in one of the members being stuck in your head. "Clarence" hates it so much that will try to lead you to your death in order to die with you or reintegrate. When you finally manage to transfer him into another body, he is quickly destroyed by other members of the Hive Mind as he's become too unique during the time he spent inside you.
    There cannot be one. There can only be us all. There cannot be one. There can only be us all...
  • In Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne Hikawa's goal is to create a society based on this trope. And another one.
  • The Zerg of StarCraft zigzag this. The vast majority of Zerg are non-intelligent animals, acting as one and guided by higher intelligences. However, the "controllers" of the Zerg (Cerebrates, Brood Mothers, Kerrigan, etc) all possess some amount of individuality and opinion, though most of them lack true free will and are subservient to the Overmind. This doesn't stop one of the Cerebrates from questioning the Overmind in the first game on its decision to leave Kerrigan most of her free will, thinking that was unwise. The Overmind reassures the Cerebrate that while she does retain some individuality, she cannot disobey its orders.


Immortal Procreation ClauseOtherness TropesInformed Wrongness
Incriminating IndifferenceAdded Alliterative AppealInfant Immortality

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