Loony Laws

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By royal decree, all citizens of the realm must make their clothing out of taffy and stand on their heads three times a day! Mondays have been outlawed! The color puce is an abomination!

In other words, this is when the lawmakers have gone insane. The usual result of your more literal cases of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. Might have been written by The Caligula, or put up by the Hanging Judge in a Kangaroo Court. Often Played for Laughs—and is usually Black Comedy even in more serious examples.

Sometimes the law may not have been Loony in and of itself in the beginning (a law that prevents animal cruelty, for example), but the fact that Society Marches On and Technology Marches On makes any attempt at continuing to enforce the law seem insane (the animal the law was supposed to protect is long extinct, but the law has not been repealed or changed to account for it).

May involve a lot of Felony Misdemeanor or Disproportionate Retribution.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Cal passes a number of ridiculous laws during his insane term as Chief Judge, such as outlawing happiness. Sometimes he gets more creative:
    Cal: I have today passed a law to maintain public order! Deputy Chief Judge Fish will announce it!
    Fish: Bloop!
    Cal: You have heard the law. The penalty for disobedience is death!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bananas:
    Esposito: From this day on, the official language of San Marcos [in Latin America] will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old!
    Fielding Mellish: What's the Spanish word for straitjacket?

    Literature 
  • In Monstrous Regiment, the god Nuggan has been reduced to this, with a list of Abominations that now includes babies, garlic, blue, rocks, ears and accordion players, although Vimes for one agrees with him on that last one.
  • There is at least one book devoted to this subject, You May Not Tie an Alligator to a Fire Hydrant: 101 Real Dumb Laws.
  • Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake: Gormenghast has so many strange laws and rituals that by the time someone has become its Earl they are probably quite insane themselves. So the laws and rituals become more insane. Gormenghast is the Crapsack World logical extreme of this trope.
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: The Queen of Hearts is defined by being a woman that has to be obeyed on every single little whimsical law she makes on the spot, even the ones that make no sense, and every single crime, no matter how small, all have the same sentence: beheading (thankfully the King pardons everyone when her back is turned, a fact omitted from the Disney version). When Alice first arrives to her kingdom, she meets a group of guards that are rushing to paint every rose on the garden red (they were white), because she just woke up in the morning hating them being white (and made them illegal). During Alice's judgement later on the book, the Queen kept on making things Alice did while defending herself illegal on the spot (and, again, kept calling for her beheading for each transgression).

    Live-Action TV 

    Music 
  • The song "King of Spain" by Moxy Früvous has a mild (and relatively benevolent) example:
    It's laissez-faire,
    I don't even give a care;
    Let's make Friday part of the weekend
    And give every new baby a chocolate éclair

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In the adventure X3 Curse of Xanathon, the title curse causes the Duke of Rhoona to proclaim several odd laws, such as "All taxes must be paid in beer", "All riders must sit backwards on their horses" and "Horses can only be fed meat".
  • Planescape; in Mechanus, the natives are so obsessed with laws, that you can be arrested for things like singing in a place where it isn't allowed — at a specific time of day. Regulus, the home of the modrons, is the worst. An introductory adventure involves the Player Characters being arrested for wearing the wrong color and sentenced to a community service task that will clearly take ten years to do. (If they successfully help the supervisor fight off some invading chaos imps, they can get the sentence reduced to time served.)
  • Pathfinder: Mayor Barzillai Thrune's decrees at the start of Hell's Rebels include edicts to control rats and stray dogs, mandatory display of the queen's portrait, restrictions on the wear of embroidered clothing, a ban on drinking tea after sunset, and a ban on mint.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • Oglaf:
    • The strip "Assorted Fruits of Wrath" has a crusading army get blown away by its own god for violating a scriptural law about not opening the wrong end of a banana (no mention of which end that is).
    • In the strip "Don't", the town magistrate has to explain to the townsfolk that all the new signs forbidding things like "sex during thunderstorms" and "trimming your beard" aren't loony laws, but loony curses. The community spectre they're stuck with is a spiteful sort.

    Western Animation 
  • The post-apocalyptic New Quahog in Family Guy was briefly ruled by Peter, who, among other things, randomly assigned duties from a "job hat" and not based on expertise.
    Peter: Oooh, village idiot! That's a good one! On Tuesdays you get to wave your penis at traffic!
  • The Simpsons: In "Homer Vs. the Eighteenth Amendment", the punishment for disobeying Springfield's prohibition law is to be launched out of the city by catapult.
  • Gravity Falls: The titular town was founded by (ex-) President Quentin Trembley, and his lunacy was reflected with such things as a law that allowed humans to marry woodpeckers and the "Finders Keepers" Law (which essentially meant that; as long as you have physical possession of an object, it is legally yours; and if someone else comes along and steals it, it is legally theirs—even if you could legally prove that they stole it from you, if you can't steal it back, then well... "losers weepers"). This latter one provides a pretty big source of drama during the first season finale.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: a quick Google search for "crazy laws" will inform you that it is illegal to forget your wife's birthday in Samoa, among other things. Many of these are urban legends, however: in Britain the Law Commission has published a list of which of the commonly-quoted ones are real.
  • When Oliver Cromwell came into power after the English Civil War, he introduced laws (amongst others) that banned eating mince pies on the 25th of December and several other Christmas traditions, due to the Puritan desire to purge Christian religious festivals of "pagan" and "Catholic" elements.

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