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Ironic Hell
"Gluttons can't eat or drink in Hell because they ate and drank so much in life. And they are trapped in putrid soil because they produced nothing but garbage in life. And they are being torn apart constantly by Cerberus's three sets of bloody teeth, because Dante is one sick motherfucker."

Most depictions of Hell involve some form of eternal punishment for the damned souls who are sent there. In Ironic Hell, they get a more personal service. Each sinner gets a punishment that is an ironic reminder of the sins of which he or she is guilty. A glutton might be force-fed something unpleasant for eternity (a common version is that they're fed something they enjoyed - ceaselessly, becoming wholly sick of it, for eternity), or might be prevented from eating ever again.

Many examples of Ironic Hell are references to Dante's Inferno (Book 1 of The Divine Comedy), which depicts Hell in this way. It was published in 1314; however, the basic idea goes back even further, to Greek myths of Tartarus, for example with Tantalus.

It may be worth noting that, despite Dante's work being mainly a sociopolitical statement and not supposed to be taken as a literal journey through the afterlife, people still presumed that he knew what he was talking about and have used his often sanctimonious depictions of Hell, what acts are sinful, and how sinful they are, taken directly from his writings.

Your Lit professor would probably call this "Contrappasso", Italian for "counter-suffering", which means "the punishment fits the crime."

Often coupled with Self-Inflicted Hell and/or The Punishment Is the Crime.

Examples

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    Anime 
  • Dragon Ball: When Goku returned to the land of the dead during the Buu Saga, he asked King Yemma if Dabura (aka King of Demon Realms) had shown up. King Yemma smugly told Goku that since Dabura was a demon, he'd fit well in hell; thus Dabura was sent to eternally suffer in peaceful paradise heaven! Of course, this ignores the last-minute Heel-Face Turn Dabura made, and a later episode showed that it really wasn't much of a punishment at all. Of course, that episode was Filler, so who cares?
  • Galaxy Angel has an episode with the Gold Digger stuck as a housewife, The Ojou as an apartment manager, The Gunslinger working a till, The Stoic running a failing business, and The Pollyanna riding unicorns in Ironic Heaven. Bonus points for the off-key recorder.
  • Several of the banishments in Hell Girl as well as some of the torments shown as Ai ferries her victims through the gates of Hell are ironic. For example, a banishment during season three has a victim being chased through a city by a 'Kaiju' sized Ai and then shrunk to the size of a bug in the boat to Hell. This victim had previously said the he would "become a big man and throw (his) weight around."
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Soryu Kyoku Zeppelin abandons her daughter and hangs herself and a doll she'd been pretending was her daughter. So naturally she's in her daughter's Evangelion unit, protecting her for all time.
    • It should be noted that she had been driven insane from a failed attempt to sync with Eva, and it is suggested that the part inside Unit 02 was the sane, daughter-loving part.
  • One Piece has Sanji, the womanizing cook, stranded on an island of not-very-convincing and conventionally-unattractive cross-dressers who are really into him. Anytime he brings up the island, he refers to it as "Hell".

    Art 

    Comics 
  • Subverted in Hack/Slash, specifically the crossover with Chucky the Killer Doll. Strawman Religious Laura Lochs puts Chris, Lisa and Skottie Young in her own Hell House, though the punishments just seem randomly chosen and have nothing to do with the characters.
    Recording: You shall not lie with a man as with a woman. It is an abomination! If a man lies with a man as a woman, both have committed an abomination, and both shall be put to death.
    Skottie Young: (while getting whipped) Ow! Goddammit! I'm not even fucking gay!
    • Shortly afterward done much straighter with Six Sixx's fate after failing the Neflords.
  • In the Garth Ennis comic The Chronicles Of Wormwood, the protagonists make a visit to heaven. They meet an Islamic martyr who had gone to heaven, and actually received his 72 virgins. So for eternity, he now must feed and clean up 72 babies left in his charge.
  • Scott McCloud's three-part improvisational comic Meadow of the Damned (1, 2, 3) features a variety of people whose afterlife is a pleasant meadow, with a variety of small, eternal annoyances; the minor demon in charge of their case assures them that yes, this is Hell. It turns out that Hell has much worse torments, but those are reserved for people who were much more ... effective sinners.
  • House of M: After "M-day", the Scarlet Witch removed the powers of nearly the entire mutant race, her father included. Magneto's ironic hell is to live....as a normal human being.
  • Decidedly surreal version in Nextwave, in which the punishment for telling your kids to get a proper job is - to be used as a bucket by giant weasels dressed as cheerleaders. No, we don't know what Warren Ellis was taking either.
  • Used in The Far Side, when its shown that hell for dogs is to work as mailmen. And that Charlie Parker has to listen to Kenny G. for all eternity. And skiiers get cooped up in stifling hot tubs and have to read ski magazines. And a maestro gets introduced to a room full of banjo players... It comes up a lot.
  • In Secret Six, Catman's abusive father is repeatedly eaten, then reconstituted, by his wife in the form of a lion. It should be noted, this is also his mother's Heaven.
  • This is what the big bad is shown in Johnny Dynamite: Underworld by Collins and Beatty. Singers have to sing all the time. Alcoholics have to drink but they never get drunk. He is promised a place at the devil's right hand if he does get killed. It doesn't work out so good for him.
  • Calvin and Hobbes: After dozens of nights after having to read Hamster Huey over and over again, Calvin's dad muses:
    Dad: Architects should be forced to live in the buildings they design, and children's book authors should be forced to read their stories aloud every single night of their rotten lives.

     Fan Fiction 
  • In the Good Omens fanfic Its Own Place, the angel Aziraphale's personal Hell turns out to be Heaven. The real kicker is that he doesn't even realize he's actually on Hell's torture roster because its version of Heaven is exactly as he remembers it, and he expected to be lonely and miserable there After the End (because Crowley isn't th--er, because Heaven is mind-numbingly boring compared to Earth), which makes this overlap with Self-Inflicted Hell.
  • The short Evangelion story The Case of Lorenz Kihl starts off from the last moments before Instrumentality where Kihl finds himself facing a metaphorical inquest of sorts where he justifies his plans to force human evolution the way he did and thus he only has to head towards the city which represents the final goal he has longed for. The twist is that the very qualities he has in such rich quantities prevent him from ever being able to enter Instrumentality, leaving him alone forever. He took the ironic situation quite well.
  • When My Immortal had its author's account hacked, the hacker uploaded a chapter where Enoby died after being shot by the Snap-posessed James/Samoro. She was promptly sent to hell... and decked out in preppy clothes.
    • A sporking of said fanfic made two endings. The second featured Egogy ending up in hell, condemned to spend eternity as arch-prep Justin Bieber's girlfriend.
  • The Darker and Edgier Redwall fanfic It Makes Me Happy That I'm Not Them inflicts these on a few of the Big Bad characters, as well as the OC lead. We hear mention of Gabool being trapped among constantly-ringing bells, similar to the hallucinations which drove him insane in canon, and the Narcissist Ublaz being rendered "furless". The punishment of the canon character we see onscreen is rather less intense; Swartt Sixclaw, who was, among other things, an abusive husband and father, is effectively forced to become a Stepford Smiler.
    "Swartt Sixclaw, the best father. Absolutely the best."
    His family beamed at him.
    "How is that?" Keinruf asked. "Surely there isn't somebeast else who's - "
    "Oh, no. They can't be, I'm sad to say. I have to be the best. Absolutely the best."
    Keinruf raised his brow.
    "It's his sins, you see," Bluefen said. "Rather, his punishment for them. He has to be good to us. Not just good - the best."
  • In the Pony POV Series, it's revealed that Dark World is this for Dark World!Discord. He gets to reign over the world for all eternity, his defeats always get undone, and the consequences of his actions are always erased...always, for eternity. It eventually got to the point where trying to save his daughter from death is the only reason he even tries to achieve anything. Ironically, by the time we this is revealed, he's actually had a Heel Realization, but the mastermind of the loops won't let him act on it until Rancor throws things so far out of whack she can't overwrite it.
  • Directly referenced in Sonic X: Dark Chaos. Venus the Seedrian prayed to Maledict for the power to defend the Seedrians from Tsali. He answered by giving her nearly divine power... and cursing her to slowly transform into a robot so she's just like Tsali.

    Film 
  • One example of a combined Ironic Hell and Self-Inflicted Hell is in What Dreams May Come, clearly based on Dante. The protagonist's wife committed suicide, and reflecting the selfish nature of the act, she is essentially trapped in a state of depression, unable to connect with others. Perhaps even more ironic, for the protagonist, he would rather be trapped in her Hell than his heaven without her. His doing so, however, makes her hell...not. Freeing both.
  • One of (at least) two possible explanations for the events of Jacob's Ladder is that "If you're frightened of dying, and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. If you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the Earth."
  • The film Between Two Worlds posits that everyone goes to the same place when they die, and whether it's hell or heaven depends on whether they're the kind of person that would be happy living a pleasant, wholesome existence. Except for people who committed suicide, who are doomed to staff the cruise ship that carries the rest.
  • An unnecessary extra scene in the 1970 musical Scrooge which is certainly not taken from the book (and is, in fact, inconsistent with it) depicts Scrooge apparently temporarily going to a hell where he is doomed to play Bob Cratchitt to an as yet unseen Satan in an office as cold as his heart. Oddly enough, this scene is Played for Laughs.
  • The Spanish movie Sin noticias de Dios features a hell where everything takes on a reddish hue, but apart from that, the main punishment is your social standing being inverted. One of the characters is a notorious mobster who has been consigned to spend his life in Hell as a waitress. Oh, and the national language of Hell is English.
  • Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey featured this when the boys accidentally wind up in hell and locked in a maze like corridor featuring their worst fears. (For Bill: It was getting kissed by old granny. Ted: Being chased by the Easter Bunny for stealing his brother's easter basket as a child. For Both: Having to deal with a Military General pushing them to the brink (which was a reference from the first film). Luckily, challenging Death bails them out.
  • Star Wars features this with Darth Vader. He betrayed the Jedi to learn how to prevent death. His death is prevented, in the most painful way imaginable.
    • Also Rule of Symbolism: As Anakin Skywalker, his greatest flaw was his impulsiveness. His emotions pretty much dictated his actions and almost always led to tragedy. As Darth Vader, he is more machine than man. Punishment for letting his emotions run wild is to be turned into an emotionless robot.
      • Possibly worse: he still has emotions, it's just that the dominant one is self-hatred. He even gets an almost Ravenloft-worthy effect where he can use the Dark Side to temporarily recover his ability to breathe unaided - but the momentary pulse of joy he feels as a result disrupts his concentration far enough that his condition immediately reasserts itself. Yet more reasons to be glad you're not Darth Vader.
  • Daughter, a short film by Eduardo Rodriguez (which was good enough to nab him a three picture movie deal from Miramax.) To say anything about the film plotwise would be a major spoiler but the most terrifying moment of the film arguably comes at the very end, when you realize the doomed mother isn't alone and there are literally millions of people in sealed rooms suffering ironic punishments based on their life crimes just like she is.
  • In Wristcutters: A Love Story, everyone is a suicide trapped in an afterlife that is a slightly more drab copy of Earth, and their lives are just slightly worse than the one they left behind. Nobody is willing to so much as seriously contemplate suicide again out of fear they'll wake up in another world that's just another tiny step worse.
  • Cast Away contains a fairly subtle example. The first act of the film establishes that, as a dedicated Fed Ex employee, Chuck is completely obsessed with punctuality and time, though it's suggested that he actually enjoys this. After he's marooned on the island, he has nothing but time.

    Literature 
  • A humorous example from the Discworld books is the punishment given to the villain Mr. Pin near the end of The Truth. When he and his (somewhat more sympathetic) partner, Mr. Tulip, are trapped in a burning cellar, he kills Mr. Tulip to use his body as a stepping-stone to escape - "I wasn't born to fry!" - and for good measure steals the potato that Mr. Tulip wears as a talisman, believing it will guarantee him reincarnation instead of eternal punishment. When he meets his own death, Mr. Pin is reincarnated - as a potato, of a variety noted as being good for frying. (Meanwhile, the antique-loving Mr. Tulip is also reincarnated, thanks to his "potato of the mind", as a woodworm, living an idyllic life in an antique desk.)
    • Eric also played with this one. Hell has recently come under new management, so the traditional punishments get scrapped in favor of mind-numbing eternal boredom. The Sisyphus stand-in has to read a book on the correct manner of rolling rocks up hills, for example. A book consisting of at least 10,000 tomes. Even the demon carrying out the punishment feels sorry for him; in fact, the majority of demons eventually conspire to have the current ruler of Hell Kicked Upstairs into a powerless job because they're sick of inflicting the new punishments.
      • Ironically, the lost souls couldn't feel any pain in hell as they had no bodies, leading to a friendly rapport being developed with the demons.
    • In Maskerade, a rat catcher is killed, and discovers that he is due to be reincarnated - as a rat. He doesn't even believe in reincarnation, but it's made clear that reincarnation believes in him.
  • An example found in poetry that refers to a real-life person, the first verse of Vachel Lindsay's The Congo: A Study of the Negro Race (it's exactly what it sounds like) contains the line, "Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghost, / Burning in hell for his hand-maimed host. / Hear how the demons cackle and yell / Cutting his hands off down in hell." Leopold II, King of Belgium, was the colonizer of the Congo whose occupation and forced labor amounted to a massacre of the natives of that area. Among his laws was that his soldiers had to present a [black] human hand for every bullet they fired as proof of an "enemy" killed. Because it can take more than one bullet to kill a man, somehow it evolved that chopping off a bystander's hand to save one's own skin was preferable to wasting a bullet.
  • Tom Holt's Only Human showed us someone who ended up in hell as a result of being a jerk to authors (complaining that their newer stuff wasn't as good as their old stuff, to every author) being forced to read a book that may well be The Colour Of Magic over and over again for the rest of eternity. No matter how good Terry Pratchett is, that's gotta suck.
  • Referenced in Twilight: Edward believes he is dead, and at first believes it to be Heaven, since Bella's there...then comments that she smells the same, so it might be Hell.
  • In I.L. Peretz's short story Bontsha the Silent, a court in Heaven argues about the disposition of a dead man's soul. The defending angel praises his unending meekness, describing how he was subjected to great injustice and never complained. The prosecuting angel declines to make a case, so Bontsha is admitted to Heaven and told he may have anything he asks for. Of course, Bontsha is far too meek to ask for much of anything...
  • In A Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley's ghost is doomed to wander the earth carrying the chain of cash boxes, ledgers, etc. that he "forged in life, link by link and yard by yard. In the 2004 film musical, the wandering spirits accompanying him have suffered even more ironic (and creepy) fates, including one who was "mean to the bone", another who "never had a heart", another who "never lent a hand", and a last who "wanted to get ahead".
  • In Fablehaven, the Big Bad's punishment is to be made into an immortal Barrier Maiden that essentially keeps the gates of Hell shut. Since the Big Bad's goal was to essentially literally to unleash Hell, they can never complete their goal without taking their own life, and thus cannot rule over Hell like they wanted.

     Live Action TV 
  • Night Gallery did a short skit where a hippie-type (memorably played by John Astin) arrives in Hell, eager to experience the flames. The Devil instead seals him in a room which is sort of a horrific cross between a 50's malt shop and a backwoods country store circa 1910. As he departs, the Devil idly comments that there is a room just like it up in Heaven.
    • The story "Certain Shadows on the Wall" has a man resent having to constantly tend to his ill sister, including having to read Dickens to her. He eventually murders her by giving her a dose of lethal tablets. Soon afterwards, her shadow appears on a wall of the house. His surviving sisters realize what he did and [literally] give him a taste of his own medicine. The final scene shows that his shadow has joined his sister's on the wall, with him having to read her Dickens for eternity.
  • One Tales from the Crypt episode featured a high powered female lawyer (who used her lawyering skills to keep greedy corporations wealthy to the detriment of ordinary people) arrested for a minor offense in a small backwards town. She's placed on trial and the lawyer assigned to defend her is a badly dressed nebbish whom she looks down on and despises. The nebbish loses the female lawyer's case but "wins" the chance to escape from the Mysterious Sealed Town in the Middle of Nowhere—by sitting in an electric chair and getting fried to death. The female lawyer then has to take the place of the nebbish, adopting his clothing, hairstyle and horribly crappy job as public defender. (At least until she too is presumably allowed to die.)
  • The Twilight Zone episode "A Nice Place to Visit" uses this trope. Rocky, an armed robber, is shot and killed by a policeman; upon recovering awareness, he is accompanied by a "guardian angel," Pip, who gives him anything he asks for. Money, women, success at gambling are all his for the taking. After a while, Rocky grows bored of "Heaven"'s perfection and the lack of any challenge in his afterlife, and asks to be sent to "the other place," whereby Pip responds that "this is the other place."
    Man: A slot machine? I won! This must be heaven!
    plays again and wins
    Man: A casino where I'm always winning? That's boring, I must be in hell!
    • Probably the most famous of Twilight Zone episodes, "Time Enough at Last", has bookworm Henry Bemis finally left alone to read all the books he wants, only to break the thick glasses he needs to be able to read.
      • At face value, there is no literal hell in the episode, but if you think about it, Bemis is about to kill himself since everyone else around him is dead, but then sees the library and considers it bliss. The eventual breaking of his glasses transforms it into an ironic hell for Bemis. What if he had committed suicide, then seen the library fully intact just before dying? A literal hell for Bemis.
    • From the 1985 revival:
      • "The Misfortune Cookie" features a cruel food critic and a Chinese restaurant whose fortunes turn out to come true. After receiving the fortune "You're Going To Die", he storms out and finds himself surrounded by Chinese restaurants, but perpetually hungry. Eventually, he receives another fortune: "You're Dead".
      • In "Kentucky Rye", a man dies in a drunk-driving accident that he caused, and ends up in a deserted bar where all the bottles are empty.
      • And in "Take My Life... Please!", a self-centered comedian who knowingly stole material from a young, starving colleague winds up in a hell where he is forced to recount all the most horrible things he has ever done to an audience that will only laugh at his flaws and crimes, not his jokes.
  • VH-1's short-lived Twilight Zone-esque series Strange Frequency features a story about two Metal-heads who die in a car crash. They go to Hell, expecting it to be incredibly metal, as it's described in Black Sabbath songs. Instead, they are forced to spend eternity in a '70s Disco. However, one of the two is revived, giving him a second chance at life.
  • Rowan Atkinson has a skit in which he appears as the Devil introducing people to Hell. Among the newcomers are the French and the Germans, who are placed together, and the adulterers, who are instructed to line up behind "that small guillotine".
    • "Atheists? Right over here, please. *smirking* You're feeling a right bunch of nitwits, aren't you?"
  • In the fifth season of Eureka, Beverley Barlow traps Senator Wen in what remains of the computer simulation she had trapped the Astraeus crew in. All that was left was a single room, with no one else.
  • On American Horror Story: Coven, Delphine LaLaurie, a notorious serial killer and torturer, is forced to watch her Arch-Enemy Marie Laveau torture her and her children for all eternity. It doubles as an Ironic Hell for Marie as well, as she herself is being forced to torture them, thus destroying her sense of moral superiority.
    • For the "Seven Wonders", one of the tests is to go to Hell and back, and so all of the girls pay temporary visits to their own ironic Hells. Madison is forced to star in an awful network TV adaptation of The Sound of Music (and she didn't even play Maria!), Queenie must work the counter in a fast-food restaurant that she regards as the worst period of her life, Zoe must watch Kyle break up with her over and over, Misty is sent back to middle school to repeatedly vivisect and revive a frog, and Cordelia is constantly told by her mother Fiona that she's worthless. Misty is the only one who fails the test, and her "temporary" trip to Hell becomes eternity.
    • Finally, Fiona's Hell is being forced to spend eternity in a loveless marriage with the Axeman, living in a smelly shack that's a far cry from the luxury she enjoyed in life.

    Mythology 
  • Tantalus, who fed the gods his own chopped-up son for dinner, was chained to a rock and cursed with unending hunger and thirst; a bunch of grapes hung just above his head, and he stood in waist-deep water, but whenever he tried to reach for these, they would move out of his grasp. (From this, we get the word "tantalizing".)
  • Sisyphus was the trickiest Greek, so much so that several times he managed to trick the incarnation of death and/or the gods of the Underworld to avoid dying. When finally taken off to the Underworld for good, he was given a task he couldn't trick or think his way out of: to roll a heavy boulder uphill every day. And at the end of every single day, when he'd finally managed to do it, the boulder would roll back downhill and he'd have to start all over again. The gods might as well have just said "Okay smart guy, try thinking your way out of this one!" (In case you're wondering why Sisyphus doesn't just stop trying to do the impossible, it's stated that his hubris prevents him from admitting defeat.)
    • Another version of this myth states that if Sisyphus could manage to push the boulder all the way to the top of the hill, he would be freed from Hades' domain, but the boulder always slips and rolls back down just before the top.
    • The famous nihilist Albert Camus wrote an essay on the topic and came to the conclusion that while at first it might seem like an eternal punishment, from a nihilist perspective, Sisyphus should be happy because he has a clear purpose and direction. Since he always has a goal, he is thriving on the hope and anticipation of achieving it. For example, one is happier anticipating when they're going on vacation than when the day actually arrives.
  • A religious parable of unknown origin has the protagonist shown a vision of Hell in which everyone is eternally seated at a table filled with delicious-smelling food. However, none of them can eat a bite because they can't bend their elbows (or, in another version, their forks are far too long to reach their mouths). The protagonist then sees a vision of Heaven where the same banquet and same anatomical (or cutlery) restrictions apply, but everyone is feasting happily. Why? Because unlike the people in Hell who think only of themselves, the people in Heaven feed each other. (Depending on your sensibilities, this is either a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming or a Tastes Like Diabetes Golden Moment.)

    Radio 

     Table Top Games 
  • In the Soul Yards of In Nomine, the demons of Hell divvy up new arrivals based on whose Word they most fulfilled in life. (With some cheating and stealing, of course; this is Hell.) So war criminals go to the battlefields of Gehenna, media drones to the mindlessness of Perdition, and those who obsessed over technology become experimental subjects in the labs of Tartarus, for exemple.
  • The Ravenloft Campaign Setting takes place largely inside a series of Ironic Hells (called "domains" with the condemned being a "darklord"); the Powers That Be of the setting seem to take delight in this. For instance, a bloodthirsty conqueror is trapped in a world where he finds every attempt to expand thwarted. A wizard-king who committed unspeakable crimes in order to live forever so he could master all magic did indeed achieve lichdom... but can't learn any new spells. A wererat who murdered her grandfather and intensely distrusts her family also suffers from monophobia: Preferring to keep even enemies around rather than being alone, etc. etc.
    • An interesting case would be Lord Soth; Ravenloft apparently just gave up on him and ejected him. Why? He had become so apathetic that his torments just didn't matter to him anymore.

     Theater 
  • If Mary Poppins really did send Miss Andrews to Hell (as opposed to a fiery room beneath the Bank's house) in the stage version of the Disney musical, then it makes sense that before she went, the evil nanny had a dose of her own nasty Brimstone and Treacle that she had fed to the children and ended up stuck in a birdcage for eternity after she had caged that lark for so long. She even got a more angelic singer to echo her nasty song as she went.

     Video Games 
  • In Afterlife, Hell has Fate Structures which condemn SOULs for the strongest of their Seven Deadly Sins. Most are ironic — for example, the Lust ones remove any sex from the lives of the damned, and the Gluttony ones punish them with eating, from Taco Inferno (where even the beverages are hot) to Bahb's All-U-Must-Eat. Several of the equivalent Heavenly Fate Structures reward SOULs with what their virtues denied them — for example, the Humility ones heap fame and praise on visitors, while several of the Temperance structures are restaurants full of Impossibly Delicious Food.
  • In the Overlord expansion pack Raising Hell, you encounter some of the Fallen Heroes and their minions you defeated in the course of the regular game in the Abyss levels, suffering appropriate punishments. Some examples:
    • Melvin Underbelly, the King of the Halflings, is forced to eat food until he literally explodes, only to be later reincarnated and forced to do it all again. His halfling servants are trapped in a world with killer pumpkins and sheep.
    • Goldo Golderson, the Dwarven King, is turned into a living statue of gold for his sin of greed. He's also physically beaten by his once-loyal subjects, and he can't die.
    • Oberon Greenhaze, the Elven Ranger, is trapped in his tree form and forced to watch a play detailing the genocide of the Elven race, which he failed to stop due to his tiring of battle, for all eternity. Oh, and the acting is really bad.
  • In Season 2 of the TellTale Sam and Max games, Sam is tricked by Satan into going to his own personal hell, where he would be forever deprived of Max's company, and forced to endure the company of Peepers the Soda Popper. In addition, numerous methods of killing Peepers could be seen, but none could actually be utilized, further tormenting Sam.
  • Every Malefactor in the original The Suffering that's a specific, discernible figure from Carnate's history is going through an undead Ironic Hell - the soldiers who executed innocent men under the dubious suspicion that they were spies are now a Body Horror-riffic living Firing Squad; the slave traders who ran their ship aground and left their "cargo" to drown or be eaten by rats are now bloated, drowned corpses filled with exploding rats; the girls who levied false accusations of witchcraft that got people burned at the stake are now eternally burning charred corpses. This continues into the second game as well - the Gorgers appear to either be the Depression-era Reverend who fed his followers human flesh when the food ran out, or the soup kitchen attendees so desperate for food they didn't question where it came from until it was too late. Either way, they're now ravenous beasts, capable only of devouring anything - or anyone - they come across.
  • The Path has Grandma's house become this if your character strays from the path and meets her wolf.
  • Silent Hill is speculated to be one of these. The second game, especially adds to this interpretation, but there are hints throughout the series that suggests that the town personalizes itself for the people there, preying in their specific fears and guilts, but it applies to James in particular, who is tormented by Pyramid Head, the physical manifestation of his guilt and anger at himself, who repeatedly butchers his perfected image of his dead wife, Maria.
  • To deal with Rage Quitters In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the devs implemented a system that pairs frequent rage quitters with and only with other rage quitters.
  • This is a possible interpretation of the intentionally ambiguous Spec Ops: The Line. The Villain Protagonist, Captain Walker, is a war criminal. Word of God is that it is perfectly valid to believe that he died or was mortally wounded during the in media res introductory sequence and that the game actually takes place as a horrific Dying Dream or as an Ironic Hell, Self-Inflicted Hell, and Journey to the Center of the Mind. The game marks all hallucinatory cut scenes with a fade to white, as opposed to fade to black for all real events. All the endings fade to white.
  • If you try to play a pirated copy of Video Game Tycoon, your business will quickly start losing money thanks to in-game piracy.

     Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night presents us with a variation of this trope, in form of EMIYA (aka. Servant Archer), whose attempts to fulfil his dream of becoming a hero brought him into a situation where he only killed people "for greater good", without ever saving anyone, and incapable of ending the cycle. He doesn't take it well.
    Rin: The boy who stated that he just doesn't want to see anyone cry... could only see crying humans forever.

    Webcomics 
  • In 8-Bit Theater, Thief is killed by Berserker at one point though we later learn that he wasn't actually dead, just very grievously injured and probably only hallucinating. He ends up in his own personal Hell... which possesses every last bit of money, gold, and whatnot in the entire world. Thief is at first elated to be in this predicament, until a Trickster God that had been commissioned to revive him points out the one downside to Thief's situation: He owns everything, so now there's nothing left to STEAL. Thief immediately starts begging the god to get him out of there.
  • Much like the Dragon Ball Z example above, when Casey and Andy die yet again, Andy is forced to go to Heaven because he is dating Satan and would therefore find Hell no punishment. This is ignoring another death scenario where Satan puts Andy through torture anyway, but...
  • Dresden Codak has a two-part piece in which it is revealed that there is a "secular Heaven", which as its name states is a secular humanist idyll populated by people who refuse to believe in the anthropomorphic deity running the place. Meanwhile, "religious Hell" is populated primarily by fundamentalists of all faiths; when a character notes it makes no sense, the comment is made that God is powered by irony.
  • The Furry Webcomic Jack, which is set in both heaven and hell (along with the living world), features this trope prominently. In its Hell, the people who end there are given punishments reminiscent of the way they lived or died, and are often denied memories from their past, making their ironic punishments even more cruel. The titular character is, at the same time, The Grim Reaper and the Anthropomorphic Personification of Rage with Laser-Guided Amnesia, whose job, tag and amnesia are all punishment for his former sins from when he was alive. In fact, all the malevolent Anthropomorphic Personifications became that way as a result of their acts and are punished in a way symbolic of the sin(s) they personify; save for the protagonist, they all prefer to see The Punishment as more like a Cursed with Awesome, even if it obviously does not work that way. The whole basis for Hell in Jack seems to be a case of Be Careful What You Wish For and Literal Genie: A person who desperately wanted to believe his life was beyond his control suddenly found that it was; the embodiment of Lust found an endless supply of people to rape, but can't feel any of it... and, of course, the titular Jack wanted, more than anything, power over life and death, so he became the type of Reaper who has no control over who is reaped.
  • In The Order of the Stick, a choir appears to sing dramatically when a character makes a Deal with the Devil (and The Demon and The Yugoloth). The fiends identify these singers as the damned souls of pedophiles, whose high-pitched singing voices are a result of repeated castration. (Souls continually reform to match their image of themselves in accordance with their attitudes.)
  • When Paul finally ends up in Hell in pictures for sad children, he is continually frustrated at its failure to provide tailored ironic punishments. The closest it comes is that Hell's version of Wikipedia just lists things that you meant to look up, and when you click on them, it says "This information is unavailable and a waste of time." (You can just Google it, though.)
    • He then realises the truth[1]
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has Atheist Hell and Ironic Ironic Hell.
  • Subnormality is known to play with this one. On one occasion a misfile causes a guy to be signed up for the wrong ironic punishment, which is immediately corrected when he takes offense to being buried in dog feces (having always made it a point to clean up after his dog, even if he did kill and eat five people). In another one, Hell's latest tenant frustrates the demon assigned to him for orientation because here, yet again, is some dipshit who thinks a single lifetime of being a dull little guy has given him the guile to outwit millenia-old beings who have honed the craft of eternal suffering; then his attempt to prove his point ends up seriously screwing his pooch.

     Web Original 

     Western Animation 
  • Invader Zim's depiction of hell is just an empty room with a moose eating walnuts.
  • In the fourth Halloween special of The Simpsons, Homer spends a day in Hell. In the Ironic Punishment Division, Homer is force-fed "all the doughnuts in the world", but much to the annoyance and confusion of the demon torturing him, Homer enjoys the experience.
    "I don't understand it. James Coco went mad in fifteen minutes!"
    • In the German dub, it's Luciano Pavarotti!
    • The doughnut sequence is a reference to the early Looney Tunes short Pigs Is Pigs, where a young pig who steals a slice of pie dreams he's force-fed to the point of explosion.
    • In another episode, Disco Stu gets a vision of Heaven, which is essentially Studio 54 on Earth. Frank Sinatra is there, much to Stu's surprise, where he says, "For me, this is Hell! Ya dig?"
    • In a living example, Homer Simpson finds himself in an alternate time period after he ends up going back to the past. His family is well-off, Bart is respectful towards him, and Patty and Selma are both deceased. However, when he asks for donuts, his wife does not understand what a donut is, and he immediately heads back in the past. This is then subverted when it is revealed that donuts rain frequently in said time period.
  • In one episode of Kevin Spencer, Kevin finds out his own personal room in hell is a family room, where he'll have to make polite conversation with his parents for all eternity.
  • Futurama's famous "Robot Hell" musical sequence from the episode "Hell is Other Robots" featured Bender going through several instances of this trope for the various sins he'd committed. For example:
    Robot Devil: (singing) Cigars are evil, you won't miss 'em.
    We'll find ways to simulate that smell;
    What a sorry fella,
    Rolled up and smoked like a panatella,
    Here on Level One of Robot Hell!
  • Family Guy has it Played for Laughs in one of its cutaway jokes, where a dog is in hell, but instead of devils taunting them with pitchforks, they are using vacuums. See it here.
    • Peter predicts that when Quagmire dies he will be reincarnated as a condom. Used by a gay couple.
    • One Manatee Gag has a suicide bomber go to heaven and get his 72 virgins... with said virgins being all males who are Trekkies, LARP players and various other nerds.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Miseryville is usually a very straight (if not somewhat tolerable) depection of Hell. But in "Best Prank Ever", it's turned into the Tastes Like Diabetes Smilesville as part of the ultimate prank on Lucius, resulting in a short tern Villainous Breakdown.
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "To Heck and Back", Heffer chokes on a chicken bone and goes to Heck, and is forced by Dark Lord Peaches to sit in front of a TV (which has no remote) to watch the effects of his gluttony on others (more specifically, his best friend Rocko).
  • In Total Drama All-Stars Mike tries to seal away his evil personality Mal by hitting himself on the head with a large rock. He ends up giving Mal complete control of his body and is trapped in his own head, chained to the rock he hit his head on and forced to listen to Mal's Evil Gloating.

    Other 
  • There's a joke: Joe lived a wild life, so he wasn't surprised to die and go to hell. He finds himself in a nightclub with no exit. The music is lousy, but he notices all the other patrons have a bottle of booze and a blond gal for company. He comments on how great this looks, and the guy at the next table says 'Don't be so happy; the bottle has a hole in it; and the blond doesn't!'
    • A similar joke (which has multiple variations) has a guy go to the afterlife and witness other men being manacled to hideous women for all eternity. When it's his turn, he finds that he's being manacled to a beautiful blonde instead. The punchline is that it's punishment for her, not him.
  • Another one has Bill Gates asked to choose between Fluffy Cloud Heaven and A Hell of a Time. He takes the latter, but two weeks later he's in Fire and Brimstone Hell. "That was Hell 1.0. This is Hell 95." (Or: "This is the real Hell. That was just the demo version.")
    • Or "the screen saver". Bill Gates really attracts this kind of thing.
    • Another variant featured a politician, with the initial form being campaigning, and the actual hell being the results of the vote.
    • Lawyers have a variant with the punchline "That was our summer program."
    • The oldest version seems to be tourism vs immigration.
  • In an exceptionally well-drawn Death Note Doujin depicting an alternate ending, rather than The Nothing After Death, the punishment for Death Note users that cannot go to heaven or hell is to be transported to the Shinigami Realm, where they will experience each and every death they inflicted on others before being completely erased from existence. While Light plans to cut a deal with the Shinigami King to escape his fate, there are 124,925 deaths, including his more creative ones, awaiting him.
  • German newspaper comic Touche has a reoccurring strip about the devil welcoming the new arrivals to Hell, informing them about the particularly horrible and humorous punishment that awaits them.
  • There was a "Got Milk?" tv commercial where a Corrupt Corporate Executive is killed by a truck and wakes up in eternity. His all-white loft is supplied with giant chocolate chip cookies, so he assumes he's in heaven, but the refrigerator is full of empty cartons of milk.
    • A similar joke tells of a stoner who dies and reaches infinite cannabis fields, but no fire. But Fridge Logic would show that it's still heaven for the stoner. Cannabis is edible, with almost all the same effects.
  • Another joke: A priest that firmly believed Sex Is Evil had a disciple. The priest died and some time later, the disciple died too. At the afterlife, the disciple saw the Priest with a gorgeous woman at his lap.
    Master he cried – I see that God appreciated your sacrifices on earth, and now you will be rewarded with paradise’s pleasures!
    You Fool! – answered the priest – In the first place, This Isn't Heaven! And in the second, I am not being rewarded, she is being punished!
  • Another old joke: An avid fisherman dies and goes to the great fishing hole in the sky, where his guide informs him that he's required to catch any fish that jumps. But after catching several dozen identical trout, the fisherman gets tired and remarks, "You know, this isn't quite what I expected from heaven." The guide replies, "Who said this was heaven?"


Fire and Brimstone HellMetaphysical PlacePhysical Hell
Infernal ParadiseInfernal TropesPhysical Hell
Hell SeekerAfterlife TropesLike a Badass out of Hell
Invisibility CloakOlder Than FeudalismIrrevocable Message
HellevatorReligion TropesPlanet Heck
Hell Is WarSettingsLand of Faerie

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