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Examples of Straw Utopias
Anime & Manga
- Ruthlessly parodied in the form of Magical Land in Dai Mahou Touge. Sure, on the initial surface it looks like a Mary Suetopia, with fantastic magical architecture and things with disgustingly cute names. However, dig a little deeper and you'll find that only the royal family (and perhaps a few nobles) actually lives in comfort, and everyone else lives in poverty under the oppressive hand of the Queen.
- Mitsuo Fukuda, the director of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, claimed in a 2003 interview that Orb was supposed to be his ideal Japan:
"That's just an ideal. Japan that is. However, they weren't occupied. Think about it, in order to be ruled you need massive military power and that's troublesome." — Mitsuo Fukuda, on the meaning of the neutral country Orb
- From the New World is a particularly brutal deconstruction of this trope, of the Everyone Is a Super variety. Some suetopias might believe that when everyone has both psychic powers and self-restraint, the world will be a nice place. Things don't work that way here.
- Mobotropolis, Echidnaopolis and Albion in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog certainly fit the bill here, especially under the penmanship of Ken Penders. Albion and Echidnaopolis were both shown to be technologically-advanced civilizations that would rather not give two shits about either Robotnik War, deeming it beneath them. Even after the second Robotnik, Dr. Eggman, caused Angel Island to crash to the ground to power the creature Chaos, they still didn't bother. As for Mobotropolis, they were shown to be a peace-loving group eschewing the use of guns after one simple incident, viewing Overlanders (humans with just four fingers) as nothing more than vile brutes and any attempts for peace were stomped by various forces. Under the penmanship of Karl Bollers, Eggman would go on to surpass the echidnas technologically and raze Echidnaopolis to the ground. Under Ian Flynn's penmanship, it would be revealed that Albion was also destroyed by Eggman, thanks to the manipulations of the mad echidna Dr. Finitivus, and that Mobotropolis, for all of its peacefulness, were led by usually inept rulers guided by a force that would override common sense. In fact, even after the monarchy turned into a republic, it was shown that most (four out of seven) of the councilors had some grudges with the royalty. To say nothing that those same four councilors just aren't the kind of people you'd want to have a position of government, having very little leadership experience and questionable mental health.
- Wakanda from Black Panther has elements of this that vary from minor to being played straight to an infuriating degree, Depending on the Writer. To wit, at its very base it's an isolationist African country which is impossibly wealthy due to the huge amount of Vibranium they possess and their technology is better than the rest of the world's, despite the fact that they deliberately maintain a "traditionalist" attitude that sees them, for example, still wielding spears and shields (made with super-tech, admittedly). Somehow, it usually manages to be racist by being both straight-up Darkest Africa and played as so positive it comes right around the other way.
- This is most notoriously emphasized under Hudlin, most particularly for one fact: they have the cure for cancer... and they refuse to share.
- Christopher Priest went some way towards mitigating this (and explaining why they haven't simply conquered the world) by depicting Wakanda as a chaotic ensemble of warring tribes and rival groups that spend most of their time fighting each other for control of the country.
- The animated series Iron Man: Armored Adventures also strove to avert this by portraying them as a nation of racists with absolutely no contact with the outer world (none of the other countries wants to bother dealing with them) and severely messed up in terms of economy.
- In the second of the Ultimate Avengers films, Wakanda owes its success because a Chitauri ship crashed there and they have reverse-engineered its technology, though they are still not able to singlehandedly defend themselves against the returning Chitauri and need the Avengers' help.
- Played almost teeth-grittingly straight in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!, with Black Panther being the team's resident Gary Stu — he's better at technology than Iron Man, as powerful as Captain America, and knows just as much as The Mighty Thor does, if not more, about spells and magic. Wakanda itself has the world's greatest technology, still controls magic, is the world's only source of the Un Obtainium called Vibranium, refuses to interact with the outside world at all, is so powerful it singlehandedly repels Kang's attempt at conquest during the first season, and yet still practices the traditional laws out of Darkest Africa (like the right to challenge the current king to a fight to take control of the country, though by the end of "Panthers Quest", T'challa abandoned this tradition for democratic legislature after overthrowing White Gorilla.).
- Though it should be noted that Panther knows so much about technology, specifically Tony's technology, because he spent a very long time studying it in his general observation of the Avengers - and as for his knowledge of magic, that has more to do with his willingness to study it, where Thor takes it as a given. On mythological specifics, Thor knows more. And sticking a council of elders in charge isn't exactly democratic.
- Though it is pretty much first attempt on political reform and providing a formal administration instead of Trial by Combat. And T'Challa did say that the council is to be selected from the populace.
- Recently, though, other events have started to pull Wakanda away from this sort of depiction beyond what Priest has done. During Doomwar, the collective force of the Black Panther, the Fantastic Four, some of the X-Men and Deadpool are only able to recollect about 5% of the vibranium Doctor Doom stole before T'Challa was forced to render the rest inert. Then came Avengers vs. X-Men which had Namor, powered up on the Phoenix Force, flood Wakanda with a tidal wave, bringing it to absolute ruin.
- In the All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch of the Black Panther title, Wakanda is returned to its pristine form, but we're shown another facet of what's going on as we're shown a hi-tech country with archaic laws. When a few women are imprisoned for attacking their would-be rapists, including the wardens of prisons for female, they've had enough and turn rebel.
- The cartoonist Rius, before 1989 portrayed any Soviet Communist country (but above all, Cuba) as this and as an example to follow ("there is no poverty, no unemployment, no drug addicts, no bums, no hobos, no children without schools, no prostitution..."), after that, it has Zig-zagged between depicting them as Crapsaccharine Worlds and Ye Goode Olde Days.
- New Crystal City from IDW's Transformers Drift miniseries qualifies. A bunch of refugees lead by peace-loving samurai settling into an underground city where nobody is poor, nobody is hurt, no social classes exist and everyone gets along perfectly fine and there are no problems finding any sort of energy source (in spite of the lack of readily-available Transformers-compatible energy being the main driving element behind a lot of IDW Transformers tales), unlike elsewhere in the cosmos where the evil Decepticons and the just-as-evil Autobots (or so author Shane McCarthy would have you think) wage their war. Notably, this entire plotline was mostly abandoned, with good reason, really.
- Various authors have been revisiting setting, coming up with actual explanations for the city's energy reserves and more seriously considering how a group of a strict pacifists would be viewed within the context of the Autobot-Decepticon war.
- The author of Child of the Storm has remarked that he's intentionally subverting this with Wakanda, as opposed to its usual status of near invincibility - while it has some very snappy technology and a near unique knack for melding technology and magic, it isn't even close to invincible. While it did things like resist all attempts at colonisation, beating back invaders, that happened in the real world. The Battle of Isandlwanha, where a Zulu army crushed an invading British army, is cited (though it is noted that the rest of the war didn't go quite so well for the Zulus), and the geography of Wakanda is noted as helping. Plus, you know, its armies being led by at least one Captain America level superhuman. Thanks to its isolationist history, it also has very poor diplomatic and economic links with the rest of the world, which means that it's largely incapable of exerting its will beyond its borders. Plus, in chapter 70, HYDRA's assault team led by Baron Zemo is shown to be capable of penetrating Wakandan air space, reaching the Vibranium mound and carting off tons of the stuff.
- And after HYDRA's defeat, Peter Wisdom points out very bluntly that he doesn't actually have to give T'Challa any of the reclaimed Vibranium back and T'Challa has no way of forcing him to.
- The world of Unicornicopia from My Little Unicorn.
- In general, a lot of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic portray Equestria in this fashion, despite the fact that the show itself heavily stresses the flaws its characters possess and the conflicts that stem from these flaws (not to mention the frequency of evil being that show up). It can be especially blatant in the cases of authors who project their own ideologies into the setting. Also inverted by some other fanfics that ignore the canon flaws of the society and view the canon Equestria as this and try to 'fix' it by adding flaws.
Films — Live Action
- Avatar: Pandora. The movie and book state that the Na'vi society is utterly idyllic - they are so blissfully happy that they have no needs or wants, can't be offered anything because they already have everything they could possibly desire, have birth control so they never expand enough to damage the environment, much less come into conflict with other tribes over resources, and more.
- Part of how they are shown to be better than humans is they don't have to destroy the environment to fulfil their needs, everything they could ever want or need, up to and including flight, is provided by nature.
- Dances with Wolves's merry Sioux are a Gary Stu-topia. They're communists, have no sexual hangups, and the sheer amount of male solidarity, while reflecting traditions, is taken to extremes, though not to the extreme of misogyny. They're also completely friendly to anyone, even the white men trying to kill them, as contrasted with the Always Chaotic Evil Pawnee, who even attack their white allies.
- In Little Buddha, the King attempts to invoke this when his son, the Prince Siddhartha decides to leave the palace to learn more about the world. The whole city seems to live in the same splendor the Prince does, it seems like he has no reason to leave his home... until Siddhartha sees a poor beggar wander into the crowd who is then hauled away by the guards. This revelation about the world is one of the things that causes Siddhartha to begin a journey that will ultimately lead him to become the Buddha.
- Star Trek: Insurrection has the Bak'u, who live on a planet with fountain-of-youth powers and espouse a technology-free society. They still use all pre-industrial technology though, making them not as "primitive" as they'd like to claim. SF Debris tore them apart in his review, pointing out how improbably clean and orderly everything and everyone is, especially since our modern standards of cleanliness are derived from technological advancements.
- Either that or they're all Shakers.
- And standards of cleanliness varied widely in pre-industrial cultures, with, e.g., Japan being notably cleaner than contemporary Europe in the early 17th Century.
- The 1936 film Things to Come takes "Everytown" (obviously London) from an alternate 1940 to a sort of proto-Bartertown, challenged by the heroic black-clad aviators of Wings over the World — a council that eliminates things it objects to (such as private aircraft and "independent sovereign states"). Everytown finally morphs into a shining white-and-crystal Mary Suetopia where everyone wears white togas, where a character says he has the right to speak and be heard because he's a Master Craftsman, where an old man explains to his great-granddaughter about the bad old days when houses were built above ground and actually had windows — and where anyone who has any qualms about this is explicitly and specifically opposed to "Progress", thinks "Progress" is a bad thing, and wants to put a stop to it once and for all. The book upon which the movie was based was essentially the same, albeit told in the form of a very long alternate-history essay.
- The 300 version of Sparta makes the city-state into this trope, where all the men are perfect warriors (except for the evil Smug Snake types), all the women are perfectly beautiful and the rest of Greece respects and fears them. Note that some of the unpleasant aspects of Spartan society (infanticide for the weak, Training from Hell for children, a culture of warfare) are presented as being part of the utopian ideal, while other aspects of their culture are carefully avoided (institutional slavery, pederasty, religious zealotry) to make them more sympathetic to modern audiences. Probably intentional since it was based on ancient propoganda.
- Discussed in J. Neil Schulman's Alongside Night.
"You mentioned something about a Grand Tour?" Eliot asked.Harper smiled. "Oh, that was just my little joke. In any proper utopia you're always given the Grand Tour. You know: 'Here is the food-production facility. It produces three times the food of the old, reactionary system, with just one third the effort!'""I take it this isn't a proper utopia?""I'm afraid not."
- Atlas Shrugged: Galt's Gulch would definitely fit in this category. It extends to the whole world when Galt and his companions emerge from their valley.
- Sendaria from David Eddings' Belgariad and Malloreon series comes pretty close to this. They elected their first king, and they're easily the most practical and sensible of all the races. The people are honest and have a strong work ethic. Oh, and they pay equal respect to all the gods rather than only picking one. However, it is also hammered in by the books that they have no military to speak of, and the only reason it has not been gobbled by one of its neighbors is that Belgarath and Polgara arranged it to be protected by the Roman Empire Expy culture Tolnedra.
- Ironically reversed in a lot of dystopian fiction, like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. The world first appears perfect, till it becomes horribly clear it's not.
- Richard M. Wainwright's The Crystal Palace of the Adamas has Adamas. The main character, Janus, lands on this planet and discovers a peaceful, harmonious society. The family that takes him in has all generations living under one roof, they grow their own food, educate their own children and seem to be at one with nature. Janus contrasts this with his own planet Segatum, which is overpopulated, technology-dependent and has no natural spaces left. However, we later find out that the Adamians DO have modern technology (which they got from visiting earthlings), except they only use the kind that they deem useful (like medicine) and not the kind that they deem trivial (like television or cars).
- Greg Egan's novel Diaspora has the posthuman Coalition of Polises. An assortment of anarcho-libertarian utopias, where the inhabitants are immortal, have cognition that is so accelerated that they experience one-thousand subjective "days" over the course of one chronological day, have "children" via software recombination, never kill each other or war with fellow cities, and have no environmental concerns because their population size is static over the centuries. They reproduce, never age, are accelerated 1000-fold, and have a static population size over centuries. The only way to die is by choosing it. To quote: "Death meant suicide. There was no other cause."
- The Harshini in Jennifer Fallon's Demon Child and Hythrun Chronicles series are immortal, uniformly beautiful, perfectly polite, and constitutionally nonviolent.
- James Gurney's Dinotopia novels:
- Humans of all races and all manner of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals live and work together in harmony. There is no money, no war, everyone is vegetarian, eating fish at most. Those predators that don't integrate with society do make crossing the Rainy Basin hazardous, but they are intelligent and easily bought off by offerings of fish, and never stray out of the Basin to wreak havoc. Everyone does what they want to do, most of it meaningful work, humans live for a very long time due to special herbs, the few sour notes are all provided by the few rebellious people. But Gurney's Dinotopia books are beautifully illustrated, the dinosaurs are well-researched, there is a good deal of realism in little details, and overall it's not nearly as grating as some of the other examples.
- The attempted TV series pilot: two guys from the modern world are stranded there after a plane crash, and when talking to some sort of council of elders about the outside world, are somehow unable to say a single thing better about the "real" world that one of the council doesn't calmly refute, in mystified tones, with how Dinotopia is about 1000 times better.
- However, given that the perfect world is shown to be stagnated and stuck in traditions to the point where it's stifling itself and only the newcomer American boys can save the day, the show-Dinotopia applies a bit less than the book-Dinotopia.
- There's also the point that no one can ever leave, making sort of an enforced utopia. The island is completely surrounded by an Eternal Storm, making it impossible to even communicate with the outside world. Fine if you've got nothing left behind. Not so fine if you had any loved ones that were relying on you to support them. Yet no-one ever seems to think of this or mind. Even the one rebellious human, Lee Crabb, just wants out for no reason beyond disliking dinosaurs. Well, that and the enforced vegetarianism since every single living thing on the island is inexplicably sentient.
- S.M. Stirling's The Draka stories portray The Domination as a VillianSuetopia, where history just seems to repeatedly break in favor of The Draka, in defiance of all logic.
- Ernest Callenbach's novel Ecotopia, which features an environmentalist utopia made up of several breakaway U.S. states in the northwestern corner of the country. The villains are the U.S. government (which wants Ecotopia back in the U.S.) and Ecotopian businessmen who want a loosening of government regulations. Ecotopia exists solely as a foil for the author to attack capitalism and promote environmentalism.
- Roma I, from the Faction Paradox novel Warlords of Utopia. Sure, it's conveniently explained away as it being the statistically inevitably universe where every action went in Rome's favour, but when it gets to the point of successfully counteracting Nazi artillery with catapults and machine guns with shortswords, things have gone just a little bit over the edge.
- Michael Z. Williamson's Freehold is a libertarian-pagan free market paradise in stark contrast with the UN-dominated politically correct Earth which is portrayed as, well, Hell-on-Earth.
- The country of the Houyhnhnms in Gulliver's Travels appears on the surface to be a utopia, run by noble intelligent horses who adopt Gulliver as an amusing pet. The only trouble is that the horses can be arrogant tools at times, particularly to Gulliver, and the only human-like creatures on the island are the savage Yahoos. There is some debate over whether Swift actually meant us to side with the Houynhmns in the declaration that Humans Are Bastards, or whether he meant something more cynical yet: Everyone Is A Bastard, Even The Horses. Let's not forget that he was insane. Gulliver has the tendency to interpret every culture with which he is presented as a Utopia, blatantly ignoring its glaring flaws. In-story, however, Gulliver does see the Houyhnhnms as perfect-he goes insane himself, rejecting fellow humans and seeking the company of horses, talking to them in the stables.
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman's suffragist utopia, Herland (1915) — a manless country where the women reproduced by parthenogenesis. The culture is run by a council of "Over Mothers", and motherhood — the bearing and rearing of strong, intelligent, competent, happy children — is the ultimate aim of every member of society. (They're also cheerfully eugenicist.) They are not a lesbian culture: in fact, they're completely uninterested in sex. One expresses to a male visitor from "Outside" a vague astonishment that in his (presumably North American) culture, married couples engage in sex even when they're not specifically trying to conceive a child: "Do you mean ... that with you, when people marry, they go right on doing this in season and out of season, with no thought of children at all?" (Gilman may have rejected the idea that men were necessary but she wasn't able to see further than other authors of her time, who all assume the same thing — that decent ladies don't care about sex.)
- A serious in-universe example in The House of Night. Vampyre society is considered- both in-universe and by the authors- to be completely perfect. The narrative explicitly states that vampyres are smarter, stronger, and more creative than humanity. The only good humans in the story all assist vampyres in some way. Any humans who don't like vampyres are invariably hateful, murderous people who are hopelessly envious of the vampyres' perfection and probably serving evil.
- Gondawa in Rene Barjavel's The Ice People (La Nuit des Temps) is an ancient earth civilization with most necessities controlled by automatic machines and computers run on universal energy. People are free to pursue pleasures and to create scientific and artistic achievements. Work is completely optional. At your coming of age the computer grants unto you a number, a key, and a (usually compatible) opposite-sex spouse. The narrator admits that sometimes the computer fouls up on the compatibility part. The key (worn as a ring) is used as a debit card; at the beginning of the month everyone gets a certain number of points. Work does not earn more points. There's no rollover, you just get the same number of points next month, but it's very hard to exceed your limit. Then you find out what happens to those who do (and that link is putting it mildly). Oh yes, and did we mention the key also functions as a contraceptive? Both partners have to remove their keys in order to have children.
- Theodore Sturgeon's short story "If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?". An interstellar traveler becomes curious about the source of some truly excellent coffee and traces it to an isolated world that's presented as paradisiacal because the inhabitants have eliminated the source of all psychological maladjustment: the incest taboo
- The Dr. Seuss story I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew ("... where they never had troubles (or at least very few)") is a subversion, since the Aesop of the book is that you can't ever get to Solla Sellew, and would be better off facing your problems in the real world rather than wasting time trying to escape them.
- "Inuaki, the reptilian within me" by Aryana Havah has a kid who is the reincarnation of a lizard-like alien explain how on their world agriculture means you put a seed in the ground, fill it with "light and love", pray and get food. No waste problems appear because nobody would ever think about not recycling, everybody is friendly with everybody else and nobody would dream of harming everybody else because that would be very silly of them.
- Subverted in Michael Moorcock's The Land Leviathan; the Alternate History Earth he depicts seemed to be developing into one of these by the end of the nineteenth century, as a young genius' inventions all but abolished war, famine and want, and ensured that everyone was educated and well-fed. However, human nature wasn't quite so easily solved; whilst the current generation was quite content, the next generation — realizing that all the power was in the hands of an elite, and seeking to become that elite — soon turned to rebellion, resulting in a near-constant global conflagration far worse than what eventually happened in our history.
- L. Frank Baum envisioned Oz to be this. Even with Wicked Witches around, Dorothy never had to pay for anything. It gets more explicit in his later books when Ozma assumes the throne and everyone in Oz is granted functional Immortality.
- Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward: 2000-1887 envisions a turn-of-the-millennium America that has become a Christian socialist wonderland. It was hugely popular among late-19th-century socialists.
- Shangri-La comes from a book written in 1933, Lost Horizon. National Geographic, in an article on the now-real city of Shangri-La, describes the fictional version as a novelist's imagination mixed with Tibetan mythology, the writings of a botanist and explorer, and a whole lot of longing.
- In Karma Club, the monetary system is run on good deeds, so bad people simply don't exist, and if they do, they're either brainwashed or they're Card Carrying Villains who are sick of goodness and peace. It's not explained why the main characters — or anyone — actually has a job beyond doing "good works". Not to mention the Unfortunate Implications: "Crime, of course, was completely nonexistent in these parts... Rich people were just too virtuous."
- In the Book of D'ni, where Terahnee is a similarly utopic world (whose wealth happens to be based on slavery).
- The Neanderthal world of Robert J. Sawyer's The Neanderthal Parallax trilogy is depicted as such. Everyone wears a wrist computer that records their activities and so crimes are easily solved. Violent crime is largely gone. A lack of religion gives people freedom from such evils as prejudice, stereotypes, and embarrassment. And enforced rhythmic birth control keeps the population low so they don't destroy the planet. However, they get this due to the fact that if anyone commits a serious crime, that person, and anyone who shares half of their DNA or more (parents, kids) is forcibly sterilized (and they also sterilized people with low IQs in the past). Everyone is surveilled, all the time, and the sexes are prohibited from mingling 90% of the time. It's utopia, but through draconian means.
There are subversions in the trilogy, in that the Neanderthals themselves readily admit they're not perfect: anger management in particular is an issue for at least one major Neanderthal character, and therapists appear to be just as busy in the Neanderthal world as in the Homo sapiens world. There is also a significant population of Neanderthals who find their society oppressive for whatever reason and choose to go off the grid. The standard judicial punishment for serious crimes also has a very large loophole where domestic violence is concerned, which is explored in detail: a Neanderthal woman whose mate is beating her refuses to report the crime because she doesn't want her children sterilized.
- Ben Bova's New Earth where all the inhabitants live in harmony with each other and with nature, there is no disease, at least none that aren't easily curable and lifespans are measured in centuries with people being born artificially only when needed to balance the population.
- The Night Watch series has a hypothetical Mary Suetopia. In Twilight Watch, there's a discussion of how Light Others intended to help the cause of Communism early in the 20th century by putting a spell in the Russian food supply to make people good, loyal communists. Had this been done, Russia would be a powerful and prosperous democratic socialist country and the rest of the world would follow their lead. Technology would also be much more advanced- it's asserted that there would already have been shopping malls on the Moon. The reason it's hypothetical is that the Light Others realized that this utopia would lead to The Masquerade being exposed and muggles would attack them (because Others would be an affront to equality). So, the Light Others let Dark Others sabotage the plan, and so Russian communism instead resulted in the deaths of millions of people.
- According to the novels, there have been multiple attempts by the Light Others to remake certain cultures into this trope. Unfortunately, they have all be failures, some having been sabotaged by the Dark Others, others failing simply due to human nature. These include The American Revolution, presumably intended to create a nation of perfectly good people unblemished by the Old World's prejudices, only to have the new country follow the same path and do other unsavory things (e.g. slavery, extermination/relocation of the Native Americans). Still, this is nothing compared to the huge failure that was national socialism, or, as it's better known, Nazism.
- Subverted in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, where Omelas starts out looking like a ridiculously perfect utopia, until we learn it hides a dark secret. Le Guin likes subverting this trope. Anarres in The Dispossessed also appears to be an example of this at first glance, but as we progress through the plot we learn that, while it is better in many ways than either of the dominant powers on Urras, it is still pretty damn flawed, and becoming worse.
- Ralph Nader's Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! shows the construction of a Mary Suetopia by 17 super-rich celebrities.
- In Pale Fire, the delusional Charles Kinbote recalls his putative homeland of Zembla as a charming, proudly traditionalist (yet intellectually and sexually liberated), paradisiacal Ruritania.
- P.C. Cast seems fond of this trope. Before she and Kristin wrote the abovementioned House of Night example, her world of Parthelon, as seen in her Divine by series and its related side stories, served as a forerunner. It's a beautiful agricultural world based on an idealized mythological idea of ancient Britain, which seems to always be in summer. It's run by women, has concepts like running water and sanitation, and apparently has the means and resources to make elaborate temples with nearly everything covered in gold. There seem to be no hostilities with neighboring people, all that's required of their High Priestess on a day-to-day basis are some simple rituals and for her to marry the head of a centaur clan (who can shapeshift into a human man at night, so no anatomical worries), and if there is any trouble, the goddess Epona just magically tells the High Priestess what to do. Everyone, from the well-off to the peasants, are friendly, trusting, cheerful, and beautiful. The only conflict comes from a race of beings who seem to do nothing but destroy, kill, and rape.
- Zenna Henderson's The People stories tend to this kind of thing, both on Home and in the earth colonies. The part about Author Filibuster (she tries to keep it brief) and "the only time you'll actually see anyone in any kind of distress is when they try to break with the society's core ideology" are true of her stories.
- Rosewood, Pennsylvania in Pretty Little Liars. Actually it is a pretty clear deconstruction showing that even in a town of nothing but the beautiful elite they have some huge problems.
- L. Neil Smith's Probability Broach series, whereby an anarcho-libertarian society is so perfect that not only is it completely at peace with the world, science is so advanced that Alexander Graham Bell is able to make technology to talk to dolphins, chimpanzees and orcas in the mid 1860s! A luxurious airship has marble columns in its lobby, yay! And then Ayn Rand became president and flew to the moon! Seriously! It's worth noting L. Neil Smith won the Prometheus Award for this book. Who created the Prometheus Award? L. Neil Smith.
- Aira in H.P. Lovecraft's "The Quest of Iranon". Except for the twist: it doesn't exist, except in the mind of the eponymous poet — but it's better to exist there than not at all.
- Redwall and Salamondastron obviously qualify, but then again so does any society or group made of "goodbeasts," ie mice, otters, hares and so on. Practically all of them are upstanding and responsible members of society and noble and compassionate as individuals. Even though they're pacifists, most Redwallers can easily outwit and outfight hardened killers, and Salamondastron, being an army of badass, is nigh invulnerable. There is almost no internal strife, poverty, dissatisfaction or vulnerabilities. If more than three members existing at once have real flaws, then it's a bad generation. Meanwhile, the vermin are Always Chaotic Evil, with only a handful of Subversions.
- The creation of a Mary Suetopia is the main focus of Plato's The Republic, though it is completely hypothetical and part of an elaborate thought experiment. Still, the level of detail to which the "perfectly just society" is described makes it similar to the other fictional utopias listed here, and there are just as many overlooked flaws and just as much Values Dissonance.
- Raymond E. Feist's The Riftwar Cycle: The eledhel in Elvandar. They are all morally upstanding, all beautiful, all skilled. Their very home is a work of art, the mere sight of it sure to drive the most grizzled veteran to tears. They harbor no resentment for anyone, regardless of reason. Any elves who don't live as they do are considered unfortunate deviations from the ideal (as the term "The Returning" implies), but are generally happy to abandon their whole life's worth of teachings and values (and, in the case of the moredhel, family and friends too) and go live with the eledhel as soon as they realise how awesome they are. The glamredhel literally skip off to Elvandar as soon as they learn it exists. And of course, moredhel can go "good" and become eledhel, but no eledhel ever goes bad. Ever.
- Malacandra (Mars) in C. S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet is "the world that never fell" and remains a perfect, Edenic society. Technically, Malacandra was damaged in the fall, but not in the moral sense. Oyarsa states that everyone used to live on the surface, but Satan damaged the planet, forcing him to dig out canyons for everyone to live in. Morally, however, all of Malacandra's inhabitants are upright. The real Edenic world is Perelandra. The entire plot of the second book revolves around keeping it that way when a demon shows up to ruin everything.
- There was a whole planet like this in The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted. Supposedly the currency there was directly based on hours worked, and that basic needs can be paid for by about a 6-hour workweek. It's also revealed that the whole society is based on the work an AI has sent to every printer on the planet. When confronted, said AI doesn't much care for the society, thinking they misinterpreted his message but doesn't care enough to tell them. Jim keeps being told how the value of each work-hour is constantly increasing, and everyone is looking forward to the day when a person can work for 15 minutes a week and have everything he or she needs. Needless to say, Jim leaves the planet as soon as he can (what could he possibly steal in this world?).
- S.L. Viehl's Jorenians verged on this in some of the early Star Doc books.
- The first (and earliest) society Charles Wallace visits on his trip through time in A Swiftly Tilting Planet is a Magical Native American tribe. Everyone in the tribe has a purpose, and no one ever questions his purpose in life. People rarely argue, and when they do, the Keeper of Harmony resolves the dispute and everyone accepts his judgement without further question. No one is considered better or more important than anyone else. The idea of one human killing another is literally incomprehensible to them. And despite the fact that they appear to have more or less a subsistance economy, the main character has plenty of free time to wander in the woods, swim with his pet dolphin, or go flying on his pet eagle.
- Harry Harrison falls into this trap in the Stars And Tripes Alternate History trilogy, where a British intervention during the American Civil War results in both sides completely forgetting their differences and uniting in eternal brotherhood against the vile Brits. All racial problems are forgotten, slaves are freed, the South is rapidly industrialized, and it looks like women may even get to vote soon. All this within a few years. This doesn't even take into account the rapid advances in technology the re-unified nation makes (actually, mostly just one guy), including dreadnought-level battleships, rapid-fire personal weapons, and tanks. Meanwhile, the Brits have regressed not only technologically and militarily but also culturally and politically. The Queen's will is absolute, the might of the British Empire (the largest empire in history, mind you) is nothing compared to the can-do attitude of the States. The same attitude appears to be infectious, as the Canadians quickly beg the US to annex them. Mexico follows suit, and both Irelands reconcile within days, forgetting all those pesky differences between Catholics and Protestants. Strangely, the author himself spent much time in Britain and didn't appear to have any personal animosity towards the British.
- Karen Traviss' Mandalorian society could be seen as this trope (it often depends on whether or not you find her criticisms of the Jedi persuasive). Mandalorians have a mandatory draft for all males, who craft their own armor. Females often do likewise and go to war as well. Some of them stay at war, acting as high-paid mercenaries for various individuals and governments, although some take up less warlike professions (apparently the surname "Fett" means "farmer")— all are nonetheless required to have armor and fighting capability. The language has a single gender-neutral pronoun for living things and is quite easy to learn; the society is welcoming to those who can fit into it, all of them love children, marriage and divorce are done with a few phrases in a few minutes. Women bearing sons traditionally wait five years to conceive again, one year if it's a daughter, because daughters don't always want to go to war. While this would be an interesting and valid society, and it's more developed than a lot of the others in Star Wars, Traviss always portrays it as a desirable culture with several of people wanting in and no-one but a few degenerates wanting out, and with most Mandalorians believing themselves superior to all the other societies. Traviss also has a tendency to portray them as superior to the Jedi to the point where a Jedi left the order and became a Mandalorian.
- Averted in H. G. Wells The Time Machine. The Eloi seem to live in this until the protagonist finds out they're really just cattle for the Morlocks.
- The eventual perfect world created in The Turner Diaries is definitely this, if only in the mind of its author, William Luther Pierce. The fact that it's created via a nuclear race war that eliminated all non-white people in the world makes it one of the more extreme examples of political shoehorning.
- Scott Westerfield's Uglies series appears to be one of these at first glance. There is no poverty, no hunger, no crime, and no pollution — all these things have been overcome through technology and are abhorred as products of the ancient "Rusties." In addition, all teenagers are given a complete surgical makeover on their 16th birthday to turn them into supermodels with enlarged eyes, perfectly symmetrical faces, entirely new and flawless skin, an immunity to sickness and even new ceramic teeth. These teenagers are appropriately called "Pretties" and get to do whatever they want and party all day without consequences; they can even continue to get free "surge"— more surgical enhancements, including ridiculous things like tiny gems embedded into the iris to function as a clock, or tattoos that swirl in response to heartbeat. However, as the mechanisms behind the Pretties' world are revealed, the reader quickly realizes that the world is actually a dystopia, particularly when it is revealed that part of the Pretty surgery alters brainwaves to turn all the Pretties into unquestioning bubbleheads.
- Orson Scott Card's "Unaccompanied Sonata." Basically the utopian government, made up of "Watchers," chooses your occupation. The protagonist starts off as a music virtuoso, isolated from birth from the outside world in order to create unique music. Then someone slips them a recording of Bach and the protagonist gets kicked out of music for no longer being pure. They get placed in other jobs but they still love music so they try to continue in various manners (singing, the piano), with the offending music making body part being destroyed by a watcher each time. However, the protagonist accepts these punishments and becomes a watcher themselves. Card ends the story portraying the protagonist as a benevolent successful watcher who chooses happy occupations for many people. Your mileage may vary on whether you believe the universe is utopian or dystopian.
- The original Utopia by Thomas More. They had such brilliant ideas as eliminating religious conflict by having everyone worship whatever they wanted so long as they did it exactly the same way at the same time in the same places — and it worked, of course. That said, the book was about how something like this can never happen in real life. 'Utopia' is a pun on both eutopia-"good place", and outopia-"no place". The structure of the book makes it clear that the presentation of Utopia as an ideal society is meant to stimulate discussion; while the primary narrator (a traveler called Raphael Hythloday, whose name works out as something like "peddler of nonsense" in Greek) is very insistent on Utopia's perfection, the narrator of the frame story (a fictionalized version of More himself) is less enthusiastic. At the end of the book the fictional More mentions to the reader that he has some reservations and invites the audience to discuss the topic further — the main point of the work is to contrast the communist, communitarian ways of the Utopians with some of the social problems of early modern Europe, such as greed and intolerance.
- In The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson), it is believed that society was like this in the Second Age before the Bore leading to the Dark One's prison was discovered... incorrectly, since the backgrounds of the Forsaken clearly show that there was still plenty of crime (including white-collar crime like insurance scamming), discontent, and war. Though they certainly did have methods of enforcing good behavior with the Binders, or as the current age knows them, the Oath Rods. In the Third Age, the Aiel society and The Two Rivers come close at times. Possibly justified because these are the two societies that have the clearest equitable power breakdown between men and women; a major theme of the series is that gender imbalance leads to trouble.
- Quetzalia in James Morrow's Wine of Violence where all violent impulses are literally sucked out of people's heads and thrown into a river of liquid hate. Hope Morrow thought about safeguards for that river. There's easily half a dozen way this could go horribly wrong, from simple overflowing to the hate coalescing into a soul-crushing, insane monstrosity.
- In Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear, the protagonist spends a few months in Ademre. Ademre is populated by warrior-philosophers that live in an absolute meritocracy, experience no sexism, have complete sexual liberation, are completely free of venereal disease, exercise a perfect mix of wealth and humility, and are unshakingly loyal (all Adem who become mercenaries send at least 80% of the money home, which is doable because Adem mercenaries are such excellent fighters that they command a high salary). They also have no idea that sex and pregnancy are connected, not even having a word for "father" in their native tongue. You know, because everyone is screwing so much that no one could stay celibate long enough to put two and two together.
- One of the societies in Marge Piercy's novel Woman on the Edge of Time, and the one the character most often visits. The main future is a rural utopia in which virtually the entire political and social agenda of the late sixties and early seventies radical movements has been fulfilled: free love, no class or gender distinctions (going so far as to eliminate the he/she distinction in favor of "per"), no consumerism, and ecological sustainability. The only exceptions to this are the death penalty and war, which they still practice, with good reason. The death penalty is a form of a two-strike rule, where the first time someone commits a crime, rather than punishment they have to go through mild repentance (like serving on sea vessels), but the second time (and it seems it doesn't matter too much what the second crime is) they kill the person, because they feel that doing otherwise would destroy the mutual trust everyone feels toward each other, and they can't bear to have prisons anymore. As for the war, they're fighting a war of attrition with an evil technological empire.
- Robert A. Heinlein:
- Beyond This Horizon. The world is "perfect", but a few people feel they should be in charge and that society has never given them the credit they deserve. Our hero fights them to preserve the utopia. Interesting, in that this early work of his has the "best" people working, but attaches no stigma to not working and the government gives out money to everyone, so you don't have to work — the society is a representation of everything that is good about socialism. Contrast this with his later, more "conservative" views that are negative toward "freeloaders", when the society has become a Strawman for Communism/Capitalism — Heinlein had divorced his second wife, who was very liberal, and remarried a woman who had much more conservative views.note
- His last/first book For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs is essentially a guided tour through a Mary Suetopia. He wasn't able to sell it when he originally wrote it (it was only published after his death), and reading it, one can see why. There is a single sequence where a politician admits that there is still corruption and stupidity, but after a couple of lines of Informed Flaw we're again being indoctrinated on how this society rocks.
- The society in Starship Troopers was also a sort of Mary Suetopia, based on his later conservative ideals. Of course, the films subvert this into a Straw Dystopia, but not an actualized one. The book did preach a "military democracy" (a completely nonsensical contradiction in terms, given that every military throughout history has operated through a hierarchical structure and not through popular vote) that utilized corporal punishment for crimes, and capital punishment (not just for murder but other major violent crimes) even with insane persons; the given rationale for the society was that "it works," using only the fictitious evidence of the book itself, while scorning all 20th century conventions as "primitive myths" which were naturally proven wrong by "advanced scientific proofs" of Heinlein's Suetopian future-world, such as the supposed need to corporeally punish dogs in order to housebreak them (which, you will note, most dog experts agree is a terrible idea, these days).note
- In Time Enough for Love, he opines that only a libertarian, near-anarchic Frontier society of fully self-sufficient "rugged individualists" can be ideal; anyplace with enough people to "require identification cards" is explicitly considered a Dystopia to be fled from at high speed. Luckily, in that universe All Planets Are Earthlike, so there's an actual frontier to flee to. This is a bit borderline; the character espousing this opinion is a near immortal who isn't too keen on being found out after what happened in the previous book, Methuselah's Children.
- Stranger in a Strange Land also had a small Mary Suetopia based around Martian philosophy. In the book, having lots of free love and learning the Martian language apparently gives you telekinetic powers and cures all your health problems.
- The free love is one of the consequences, rather than a cause: the Martian language is based on the True Name of everything, and one cannot name a thing without understanding it ("grokking the fullness" of it). This means that anyone who isn't a complete psychopath cannot gain magical powers without becoming highly empathetic - it is stated that Martian-speakers cannot feel Schadenfreude. This makes a utopia more or less inevitable, over time.
- All of Heinlein's utopias, and most of the neutral-good places as well, feature free love, with both hebephilia and close-family incest appearing on occasion - his basic rule is that so long as everyone involved wants it, there's no problem. (Perfect contraception and STD protection tends to be assumed.)
- The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a borderline example, a population consisting largely of convicts and descendents of convicts somehow turned into one of the politest and most chivalrous societies in human history simply because "stupid" people have a tendency to end up on the wrong side of an airlock without a p-suit and there were extremely few women.
- Most Soviet speculative fiction was like this.
- The Communist party had set a timeline for when they expected to achieve certain goals related to the advancement of Communism. All fiction in a futuristic setting was required to adhere to this timeline. This means future Earth was always a Communist paradise.
- Any aliens more advanced that humanity would also have naturally discovered the superiority of Communism, and would also live in Communist utopias. Writers who disobeyed these rules risked never ever being published. Ivan Yefremov's Andromeda Nebula and The Hour of The Bull are perfect examples. See Noon Universe by Strugatsky Brothers for notable subversion.
- Ironically, whatever the authors though about Communism, and what authorities did were quite often drastically different things, which sometimes has led to extremely funny situations. For example, Efremov, who sincerely believed in the goodness of Man and wrote such utopias because he indeed though them to be the only way, still caught a lot of flak for criticising the sides of the Soviet society even the official opinion believed reprehensible, only because he didn't toe the party line perfectly. Strugatsky brothers were even better illustration, because their view on the perfect society differed from the party line pretty heavily.
- Philip K. Dick's Eye in the Sky has the protagonists, via a particle accelerator accident, transported into false realities that were manifestations of each of their subjective worldviews. As such, two of them were Mary Suetopias to their respective believers:
- The technologically-ignorant religious fundamentalist's worldview has plagues of locusts descend on people who blaspheme, and in the glove compartment of every car there's a prayer book for when it breaks down, allowing the driver to "pray" his car back into operation until it can reach the nearest auto faith healer.
- A middle-aged prude eliminated nuclear war and racism and sexuality and all those other 'nasty' things, simply by wishing them into nonexistence or otherwise altering them to fit her tastes. Like putting trousers on field horses.
- The Lyremouth Chronicles by Jane Fletcher have a fairly straightforward example; those who live outside the Protectorate are either unsavory criminals, pseudo-religious con-men, just bad at their jobs, or actively wish they could live inside the Protectorate - but know they're not good enough to do so. Citizens of the Protectorate, on the other hand, are wealthy, successful, intelligent - and eschew 'primitive religions', anything hereditary, and are almost all bisexual.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek:
- Had its share of Space Amish presented as the pinnacle of civilization which even the Federation could not hope to achieve. They tended to come off as self-righteous pricks who couldn't shut up about their new-agey ways.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Up the Long Ladder", there were two Mary Suetopias. One was a pre-industrial rural "Salt of the Earth" pseudo-Irish utopia (that was doomed without high-tech help) and an advanced technology "Everybody in His Place" utopia of clones (that was doomed due to lack of genetic diversity). The only way for both populations to survive was to reject their own culture and intermingle. (Or so Picard claimed, right before abandoning both cultures to their own devices. More than a few of the Trek novelists have later pointed out that such a notion actually is more than a bit problematic.)
- And of course The Federation itself. Want to work? Cool, do what you want. Go found a new colony. We don't use money, we have replicators and everyone works only for their own benefit. Deep Space Nine is both well liked and criticized because it denies this Utopia.
- There have actually been a few instances - subplots at least if not full episodes - where the "perfectness" of this society are brought into question. There's some instances of meritocracy (you get everything you NEED, but if you want something you have to earn it) and there's the odd situation with having to deal with a race that thinks you're being deeply stupid as an entire species for giving up money (namely, the Ferengi.) Most of the arguments, however, seem to come from the standpoint of "Utopia only works if everyone is in on the gig, even folks that don't want to be."
- In fact at one point Sisko clearly points out that really it's just Earth itself that's the Utopia. People on the fringe, colonists or rebels do exist, and those are the people Starfleet has to deal with. It actually shows a bit of in-universe dissonance: Earth is wonderful, the fringe worlds aren't. People wouldn't want to remain part of a society when they receive no representation and no benefit from belonging.
- Chuck Sonnenberg AKA SF Debris lives on pointing out the flaws that the writers unintentionally wrote into the society. Especially in any episode that revolves around money or the Maquis.
- While Deep Space 9 was the first series to really shatter the view of the Federation as a utopia (with heavily implying that the only reason it worked as one was because of Section 31, an organization willing to violate every principle the Federation held dear to preserve it), The Next Generation had already begun to soften some of these angles once Gene Roddenberry was no longer looking watching to make certain the other writers didn't go too far. TNG put forth the idea of Federation Credits, which were apparently based on how much energy it took for the replicators to make something... so they had currency, just not physical money.
- Section 31 itself was significant, as it claimed that in order to maintain peace, terrible things must be done. While not mentioned outside of DS9, it underwrites every other episode with the reminder that the Federation isn't built solely on sunshine and smiles. Sloan, the only Section 31 member we see, claims that they only recruit people they are convinced would never become power hungry or go too far. They will do anything including attempt genocide, to save the Federation, because they want it to stay a Mary Sue-topia. No matter what. Or at least, that's what Sloan claims, anyway.
- Of course the very existence of Section 31 and the DS9 series comes into question when many fans argue neither is canon, due to their belief that only Gene Roddenberry did it right.
- On the other hand, there is a conversation had by two individuals who were effectively allied with the Federation, Quark and Garak. They talked about how much they hated root beer. How vile it is. How bubbly, cloy and happy it is. Just like the Federation. And how, if you drink enough of it, you start to like it. Just like the Federation. It's their goodness and decency that makes them so successful, because in the end, everyone ends up liking them.
- This plot was used in the The Twilight Zone (1959) episode, "Number 12 Looks Just Like you." In addition to making one beautiful and compliant, the surgical transformation also granted extended life. Although the rules of society state that a person could refuse the surgery if they wanted to, in practice, they really couldn't.
- Atlantis by Donovan starts with a narration describing how perfect Atlantis used to be.
- Neil Young's song "Cortez the Killer" depicts the Aztecs, of all people, in this fashion:
"And the women all were beautiful
And the men stood straight and strong
They offered life in sacrifice/So that others could go on.
Hate was just a legend
And war was never known
The people worked together
and they lifted many stones...."
- Admittedly, he was sixteen when he wrote this, up all night with a stomach ache after six hamburgers, and they were studying the Aztecs in history class.
- One of the complaints about the Lorwyn set in Magic: The Gathering. It's a rather idyllic, peaceful place literally under constant sunshine, where most races with one exception are bordering on Always Lawful Good... and because of that, nothing really happens in its storyline.
- Anarchist habitats in Eclipse Phase are apparently flawless societies where robots and nanofabricators provide for everyone, crime is virtually non-existent due to sourveillance sensors everywhere and well-armed populaces, and there's no shortage of spare bodies like there is in the Transitional Economies. However, in Rimward, this gets examined a little, and it's made clear that anarchy isn't for everyone; personal property effectively doesn't exist, including your own body, and people who don't socialize well with others can be effectively incarcerated indefinitely for failing to fit in. Despite this, anarchism is still presented more positively than any other ideology.
- The Dalelands come across this way in the Forgotten Realms, particularly Shadowdale.
- In Mystara, the Hidden Elf Village of the Karimari, a pygmy-like human culture is this trope in spades. Apparently, thousands of happy hunter-gatherers who all opt to settle down in one place, without otherwise changing their way of life, wind up surrounded by pleasant gardens, group singalongs, and dinosaur polo matches, not hunger, poverty or open sewers.
- Mordent, a quietly-rustic domain of Ravenloft whose darklord never seems to leave his house, and in which the Land of Mists' greatest monster-hunters were headquartered, can seem like a Mary Suetopia when compared to the misery and dread of the rest of the game-setting. The 3E Arthaus products opted to subvert this: Mordent's nastiness is there, it just waits to happen to people until after they've died and their spirits are vulnerable. And Godefroy does have free run of the place, so he can ensure this happens as soon as he's in the mood to torture somebody's ghost.
- Despite being in the horrible world of Shadowrun, Sweden and New Zealand have both somehow become a paradise, where the Megacorps are at bay, everyone is rich, technology is years ahead of the rest of the world, the environment is pristine, nothing bad ever happens, and candy drops from the sky. Maybe the author thought he was writing for another universe. A lot of the fluff for Shadowrun is basically "Socialism good, capitalism BAD!!" Which is odd considering that the heroes you're playing are essentially anarchists-for-hire. This is to provide a balance in a Crapsack World. There needs to be a place where life doesn't suck.
- Another example would be the elven kingdoms of Tir na nOg and Tir Tairngir. The first is Ireland that seceded from UK after success of an elven IRA made of child soldiers. The second is California, with essentially same backstory. Both are North Korea-level isolated, tolerate no corporate presence on their territory and use non-convertible currency different from the rest of the world. Yet somehow both elven kingdoms feature high standards of living, have some of the most elite special forces in the world, and have better technology than international megacorporations.
- Warhammer 40,000 had a bit of fun with this one.
- The late third edition introduced the Tau Empire, which (despite its name) is The Federation consisting of the Tau and a number of allied races. The Tau, unlike all the other species, have no species infighting and a society that is basically Communism that works (and In Space), are willing to use diplomacy as a first resort, and were presented as having assimilated several nearby human colonies into the fold of the "Greater Good". For a universe as badly off as Warhammer 40,000, the Tau Empire were quickly singled out as a Mary Suetopia for it. Then came the fourth edition rulebook for the faction where it was hinted that the Empire is kept in control due to Mind Control by its ruling class, Dawn of War's second expansion had the Narrator (an imperial scholar) implying that the Tau used forced sterilization on the population of Kronus in the Tau ending, and finally, just to hammer the point home, Games Workshop sicced a large splinter of Hive Fleet Kraken at them.
- Also, Ultramar is a mini-empire of prosperity and happiness in a decaying Crapsack Imperium. It's suggested that most of this is due to extensive rebuilding by the Ultramarines chapter, and the fact that the eight worlds in Ultramar don't have to pay the hefty Imperial tithes, instead working to support the Ultramarines chapter. Ultramar is one of the few democratic places in the galaxy, and the worlds tend to look more like Real Life Earth, rather than the hopeless, overpopulated and polluted hive and forge worlds of the rest of the Imperium. Unlike the Tau Empire, however, this is a Mary Suetopia played straight: the Ultramarines are notorious for getting HUGE Creator's Pet treatment in the fluff, especially if the person writing for them is Matt Ward.
- This is one of the most common complaints leveled against Blue Rose — Aldis, the main setting, is specifically designed to strike players with modern liberal sensibilities as a fundamentally good place worth defending. This complaint is arguably based more on the tone of the book than the strict content, though - a careful reading shows that Aldis does have corruption, greed, crime, ethnic strife and similar ills, it's just that the parts of the text detailing them can be easy to miss in between the pages upon pages of gushing about how wonderful Aldis mostly is.
- Fates Worse Than Death is an alternative cyberpunk game taking place in a setting in which humanity has (with very limited success) largely moved into these. With the invention of advanced brainscanning technology, it became possible to scientifically evaluate not just a person's real intelligent and talent, but also such qualities as their loyalty, morality, emotional stability and generosity. Following a series of world wars and economic crises which eroded humanity's faith in the older systems of government, this led to the creation of a world based around private communities. By using brainscanning technology, the rulers of each such community can guarantee that only people possessing the skills and personality traits they desire will be able to enter. In theory, this would create a global utopia: what could possibly go wrong in a community inhabited entirely by intelligent, altruistic, friendly people? The game goes to great lengths to show why this is wrong. For once, different people have different ideas of what a perfect personality is, and not all personality profiles are ideal for the maintenance of a community. Many "utopianist" communes are, in fact, dirt poor and in poor repair as people were selected to live in them based on such traits as their adherence to monogamy or ability to suppress emotions. Many are effectively cults, all are incredibly authoritarian (with regular brainscans to make sure people haven't "strayed from the path", and the threat of being kicked out in that case), most demand absolute conformity and a significant minority actively despise all other societies. Moreover, since many such communities emphasize independence, epitomized in the community's ability to become self-sufficient, many quickly regress into a barely industrial level of civilization as the tiny, "perfect" societies prove incapable of maintaining crucial, modern industries. Most importantly, the state of the world means that at any time, there's a large surplus of people who have not been found fitting for any nearby community: they are the mentally unstable, the inclined to violence, the drug addicted, the revolutionaries and individualists... and in this world, they are all packed into ghettos so as to not disturb the communities nearby. The game's default setting of Manhattan is one such ghetto, and it is repeatedly shown that for all of its grit and grime, the people there are generally both happier and more enlightened than the clean, smiling representatives of the nearby "utopias".
- Utopia Limited, the penultimate Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, anviliciously invokes this trope because Gilbert was satirizing (among other things) the uncritical adoption of English ways by its colonies. The South Seas nation of Utopia seeks to "reform" its society to emulate England, and becomes a straw utopia when the reforms work too well. The Utopian king and his Girton-educated daughter can’t understand what went wrong until the latter realizes that the reforms omitted "the most essential element of all": party politics.
Crown Princess Zara: Government by Party! Introduce that great and glorious element—at once the bulwark and foundation of England’s greatness—and all will be well! No political measure will endure, because one Party will assuredly undo all that the other Party has done; and while grouse is to be shot, and foxes worried to death, the legislative action of the country will be at a standstill. Then there will be sickness in plenty, endless lawsuits, crowded jails, interminable confusion in the Army and Navy, and, in short, general and unexampled prosperity!
- Deconstructed by the BioShock series; the societies you find yourself wandering through were founded upon a single core philosophy (objectivism in BioShock, an anti-objectivist credo of absolute altruism in BioShock 2, and American exceptionalism in BioShock Infinite) and did indeed start off as Mary Suetopias. By the time YOU show up, though, the religious adherence of their citizens to these philosophies have brought to light a few minor flaws therein; flaws which have forced the cities' founders to become the monsters they fought (a cruel irony they're all too aware of), and have caused society to crumble into a state of violent anarchy, the exception being BioShock Infinite... where it's pretty clear the founders STARTED as monsters.
- In Dragon Age, the writers describe Qunari society as a "negative utopia." Yes, it is genuinely the most advanced nation on the face of the planet, making great leaps and strides in technology and science, with enough food, shelter, and other necessities for all citizens. This is not an Empire with a Dark Secret; there are no blood rites going on in the background, no pacts with demons to keep the whole thing going. The only problem is that it is a staggeringly totalitarian society that uses every single individual as nothing but a cog in the machine that is the nation. You are born never knowing your biological family, assigned a job at twelve, and must spend your entire life playing your role or you will be re-educated—and if re-education fails, you'll be turned into a living zombie and sent to perform menial labor (the Qunari waste nothing). And Maker forbid you're born a mage (which they probably bred you for, specifically). Oh, and they don't have cookies. See, cultures invent cookies and cakes in order to do something with the leftover batter from other projects. The Qunari plan ahead too well to have any leftover batter, so no cookies. While that sounds a bit silly, it's actually a microcosm of their society as a whole. They also reject the notion that one race is inherently superior than any other. Anyone is free to willingly follow the way of the Qun. A human, and elf, or a dwarf is treated no differently than a kossith (the original Qunari race). The reason why most of the Qunari encountered in the games are of the kossith is because they're bigger, stronger, and tougher, making them better for their societal role as soldiers.
- The Polaris civilization from the computer game Escape Velocity Nova, which features a perfectly organized enlightened society, the complete absence of piracy (or any sort of conflict) within its borders, and dramatically overpowered technology far in advance of its rivals. They did have to go through a civil war thanks to an issue with their system, and there are two implied reasons why their technology is far in advance of their rivals that have nothing to do with the Polaris having a superior societynote , but...
- Ylisse is a deconstruction of this in Fire Emblem Awakening. It's a peaceful and pious nation, ruled by a kindhearted and wise young woman... but it only got there after the previous ruler basically ran the country into the ground through an endless war with Plegia (and it took Emmeryn YEARS to get things in order... and we're talking about a woman who became queen at age NINE), and the "peaceful" part comes to bite them in the ass early on, when Ylisse finds itself completely unable to resist a Plegian invasion without help from their battle-loving northern neighbors.
- Fire Emblem Fates has the Kingdom of Hoshido. It is portrayed as a place of great beauty, peace, and prosperity, with a kind and gentle queen leading it, and the people there live comfortable lives. There are less savory aspects of the kingdom, such as the Fantastic Racism directed at Azura, but for the most part it's portrayed as a kingdom full of good-natured people.
- Parodied in the Team Fortress 2 Engineer update comic, where it's revealed that Australia became a hyper-masculine Gary Stu-topia at the pinnacle of technological progress thanks to the discovery of Testosterone Poisoning-inducing Australium. Even though the Australians were originally dumb, the Australium made them super-geniuses and allowed them to grow marvelous handlebar mustaches, even on women.
- Gallia of Valkyria Chronicles, where everything is wonderful because they're sitting on the world's largest deposits of ragnite, which is implied to be the cornerstone of the world's ability to function and thus means Gallia is amazingly well-off in the global economy. We're told that the major cultural problem in Gallia is racism against the Darcsen race, but this is solved by the end of the game when the Princess is revealed to be Darcsen and doesn't lose the approval of her people, and nearly all the racist Gallian characters either learn the error of their ways or have their personalities corrected. The game does an excellent job of making the player as invested in Gallia's safety as the characters are, but Gallia itself is the literal moral high ground that the main cast stands on. Then again, the main conflict of Valkyria Chronicles II is a coup made by racist nobles to dethrone the Princess and racially purge the Darcsens. And even the people opposed to the coup are often prejudiced, such as the military academy the protagonist attends where any and all Darcsens are assigned to the bottom class regardless of competence and several playable characters, though most of them can learn to get over it all save for the Imperial foreign exchange student.
- In City of Reality
- The city is intended as a deconstruction of the typical version of this trope. It's really, genuinely true that the government is nonexistent, crime is unheard of, and people just want to get along. It's also true that there are a lot of worlds that are not Reality that quite frankly suck, and Reality doesn't get along with them very well. People being born in such a 'perfect' world as Reality being ill-prepared for a world significantly darker than theirs, which is both played straight and subverted on several occasions, even leading to the creation of some well intentioned extremists among Realists who deal with other worlds. It also shows that they've created and maintained this world by a stringent set of rules for immigrants... you have to be a genuinely good person as checked by tests and empaths to move to Reality to begin with (which makes you wonder how Hawk got in), and immigration is small enough that it's hard not to get assimilated to the Realist way of thinking. Naturally people born there would be raised by example.
- There is an implication that Reality used to not be nearly so nice, as demonstrated for the SUEPR (troubleshooter/superhero) centers being many many times the size they need to be, and only gradually made their way to their current state the hard way, by working for it.
- The storyline at the end of the first 'season' has the government of Reality itself come to question its isolation leading to an event that was utterly disastrous. City of Reality isn't one to let potential holes in it's utopia remain unpoked, half the comic seems to exist to test the limits of it's utopia and the other half to revel in it.
- In Escape from Terra, the Asteroid belt is an anarcho-capitalist paradise, bit similar to The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress minus the convicts. Earth meanwhile is a bureaucrat-ridden socialist-fascist society of drones.
- Yiffburg in Kit n' Kay Boodle, with a straw-dystopian counterpart in the Karostropov Dictatorship.
- A tiny example in Sinfest, where Perfectron needs villains.
- An Alternate Universe in Sluggy Freelance. When Torg first visits the dimension early on, all the characters except Kiki are surprisingly polite, and every day is nearly perfect. He is horrified to discover, though, that the dimension contains no alcohol, leading everyone to call it the Dimension of Lame. The dimension contains no violence at all. Torg later revisits it during the "That Which Redeems" storyline, only to find that the dimension has been invaded by demons from the Dimension of Pain. No-one can even imagine defending themselves. When the world governments drop a Nuke, it turns out to be a Notification of Unified Kindness Envelopes, basically a lot of scraps of paper. Torg also finds out that "nice" and "pacifist" isn't the same thing as "perfect", or even "good".
- Sonichu has CWCville, where all benefit from the wise and magnanimous rule of Christian Weston Chandler. "Tobacky" and alcohol are banned, though the mayor has eventually abandoned his principles and gotten on the booze. The town has several taxpayer funded soup
kitchenshotels with cable television and internet in every room. Each person gets their own room and each hotel is at least five stories tall. Also, some of the "heroes" of the comic have mobiles with unlimited free minutes and cards that allow them to eat anywhere for free. With very little effort, the trolls make fan fiction depicting CWCVille as a hellhole headed up by an insane, tyrannical manchild.
- It certainly doesn't help that their response to a terrorist bombing (perpetrated by one of Chandler's many Strawmen based on real life people) is to have the daughter of one of the victims butcher the terrorists with a drill.
- As revealed so far, the Union of American Socialist Republics in the alternate history series Reds is a deconstruction of much of the tropes of utopia. Is life in the UASR better? Perhaps. Is it very different? Absolutely. The cultural and social values that developed over a century of tremendous divergence, revolution and the like are very much alien.
- The Equestrian Empire in Void Of The Stars. There is no crime, no poverty, and the explanation is literally magic.
- Family Guy:
- An episode has Peter go back in time to sow his wild oats, meaning he and Lois never married. For some reason, this also puts the US government firmly in the hands of Democrats (Al Gore was elected President in 2000 and all the Supreme Court justices are liberal). The alternate present is depicted as a dream world where crime and pollution are nonexistent, Gore hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden with his own bare hands, and several prominent Republicans like Dick Cheney were killed in a hunting accident. Brian tries to convince Peter to give up on Lois and stay in this reality. Of course, the same episode also shows that not all is well in this reality. George Jetson kills Jane, his wife, for taking all his money instead of a few bills for shopping.
- Another episode did much the same thing, this time with Brian and Stewie using a device to travel to different realities. The first reality they visit is one in which Christianity never existed, and, as such, the Dark Ages never happened and society is now a utopia where technology has made huge advances (everything, even pooping, is done "digitally") and absolutely everyone (even Meg) is gorgeous and travel across the Atlantic takes seconds. The only downside presented is that the artwork from the Renaissance-era does not exist.
- An early episode depicts ancient Ireland as a highly-advanced technological society about to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. Then someone invents whiskey.
- The episode "Back to the Pilot" has Brian telling his past self about 9/11, causing him to prevent it from ever happening. Since 9/11 never happened, Bush lost the 2004 re-election, causing him to reform the Confederacy with eight other southern US states resulting in a second Civil War. Eventually nuclear weapons are exchanged resulting in a post-apocalyptic United States.
- Towards the end of the South Park episode "Goobacks," everyone decides to act responsibly to make the future a better place so that people don't have to timegrate back to their time and take their jobs anymore. It works, just like that, and the town is shown becoming a Mary-Suetopia... until the characters realise that "this is really gay" and go back to their old ways.
- Many, many children's cartoons take place in such universes, most notably any series set in a fantasy world inhabited by fantasy characters, such as The Smurfs or Care Bears. This allows for very easy plot construction where a Big Bad is always trying to befoul the Suetopia in some way.
Examples of Straw Dystopias
- Liberality for All: Osama bin Laden as an ambassador because the US have become "too liberal"? PETA trying to kill the last living bald eagle (notice the "least concern" conservation status) because "euthanasia is more humane"? Yeah, they go there.
- Please note that PETA does indeed euthanize animals in real life as a "more humane" alternative to simply releasing them to starve. note
- The Mighty Thor: Gods and Men fits this trope nicely. In an alternate future, pissed after humanity destroyed New York City in an attempt to destroy Asgard (the godly kingdom was hovering above the city at the time), Thor conquers Earth and pretty much creates a world where magic has replaced technology and provides the answers to nearly all of life's problems. What's so bad about this you ask? Good question. Dan Jurgens seems to be of the mind that "handing" people happiness, without making them work for it, causes them to lead worthless, unfulfilling lives. There may be some truth to that, but the book goes waaaaay far in painting Thor's choice as morally wrong, especially when you consider that this whole thing was started by a government that killed millions of its own people to teach Thor a lesson. Cue Reset Button.
Films — Live Action
- The Norsefire Britain of the V for Vendetta film.
- It's Thatcherism straw-manned into Fascism — and no-one is happy unless they join V and rebel against the government. The graphic novel is more subtle and ambiguous about this; while the Norsefire Coalition are obviously totalitarian monsters, they're also the only thing holding Britain together after a nuclear holocaust, and V himself is more a sociopathic anarchist than a heroic freedom fighter.
- Which is puzzling, as the Britain in the film, although a ruthless dictatorship that suppresses civil liberties, still looks prosperous, at least for the residents who aren't gay or Muslim. Just about every citizen we see is living a comfortable middle-class existence with pubs and late night talk shows. How likely are they to rise up? At least the residents of the hell-hole Britain of the comics are desperate enough to clutch at any straw.
- In the comics, Norsefire were very clearly based on far-Right English racist organisations like the National Front. In the film, Norsefire just becomes the English Nazi Party, complete with its leader having his last name changed from "Susan" to "Sutler" and trading his NF-esque blue suit and clean-shaven look for a Hitler-esque black suit and moustache appearance.
- The Strawman Communist dystopias of Ayn Rand's Anthem.
- The futuristic, hedonistic Britain of Brave New World, which is utterly perfect in some ways (amazing medical advances mean no-one ages, travel 'round the world takes minutes). Yet, at the same time, their society depends on thinly-veiled eugenically-altered slave labor, families are unknown, and all classes of society are conditioned (often through pain) to perform their roles. Furthermore, it's pretty clearly established that all that super-fun hedonism has resulted in a world where life is almost completely pointless.
- In the CoDominium series by Jerry Pournelle, Earth under the control of the CoDominium - an alliance between the Western and Eastern blocs - has become an extreme exaggeration of a Welfare State where the privileged Taxpayer class support massive "Welfare Islands" where uneducated citizens receive an endless supply of free food and drugs. Later averted as the CoDom was on the way out and everyone knew it, resulting in them shipping as many people offworld as possible whether they liked it or not in order to save humanity.
- The Domination of Draka is an odd case, best described as a Villain Sue-topia. Supposedly a study in the nature of evil on a metatextual level and possessed of a social structure resembling a pre-emancipation Caribbean "sugar island" (small citizenry ruling over several times their number of slaves) massively scaled up. The question is how the Draka manage to constantly display every martial virtue in the book for generations, become a beacon of gender equality, and retain an advantage in technological innovation that does not begin to narrow until the late 20th century (the notational POD is in the late 1700s). Furthermore, as this site notes, a large part of their success comes from a mixture of Author Favoritism and the fact that every other nation is handed the Idiot Ball regarding them until it's much too late.
- The future UN from Michael Z Williamson's Libertarian tract Freehold novels (Freehold and The Weapon).
- While run as a repressive surveillance state, to the point that everyone has an implanted radio transmitter monitoring their every move, Earth's cities are a Clockwork Orange nightmare ruled by brutal street gangs — an apparent contradiction, but thematically resolved through bureaucratic inefficiency and dysfunctional incentives. Meanwhile, the UN's military is an utter joke, populated by time-servers and serial rapists, crippled by its own sensitivities, and seemingly incapable of successfully oppressing anything more fearsome than an orphanage. There are some mitigating circumstances and real-life precedents for most of the above, but it still comes off as rather unbelievable.
- The Freehold of Grainne, in the first book, is somewhat of an example of a Straw Utopia too, with free sex mostly without consequence due to 100% failsafe contraceptives, freely available drugs for recreational use, no traffic laws, and no overtly evident crime. Things became a little less rosy with companion piece The Weapon, where the Freehold underground is pointed out better — and it's said in no uncertain terms that little girls running around unarmed are at serious risk.
- Terry Goodkind's Faith of the Fallen, where Richard is basically kidnapped by the dark sister Nicci, who delivers speech after speech about the "enlightened" administration of the Imperial Order, all of which are caricatures of Communist and/or Socialist practices.
- The first Wind on Fire book contains this and Straw Utopias. People in the dystopia take tests constantly to determine their aptitudes. Children — even those only about a year old — who misbehave in public are given demerits, which affect their entire families' social status. The child who happens to live with an aunt rather than his parents is grubby and socially backward because "he has no one to tell him to wash". Repeat child offenders get sent to live with the "Old Children", even though being touched by one turns you into one of them and this is universally understood to be Not A Good Thing. The government officials basically state that they want to make life hard for the main characters, because obviously the readers couldn't accept Well-Intentioned Extremists. And yet... you have the chance to improve your status based on your own merits, and if you keep your head down and are good at memorizing the information on the standardized tests, you're pretty much left alone. The biggest problem with this government seems to be that it never considered that different people are competent in different areas. Oh, yeah, and that it doesn't accept that "We're only this way because the magic left! When these seven-year-olds bring it back, it will make everything all better. Somehow."
- Marge Piercy's novel Woman on the Edge of Time again. The main character visits a craphole future very briefly. It's more technological, but everything else is terrible. No one on Earth can see more than about 20 feet due to pollution, most people don't live past 40, a lot of technology's broken, and the only people that have it good are a few ruling elite who live past 150 in orbiting space stations and buy fresh organs from the lower class. Piercy obviously included this chapter just as a foil to the Utopia of the rest of the book, and the main character, fearing this future, never goes back.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four, where one of the members of State Sec even thinks that The Party will last forever, despite that in reality, there obviously would be corruption, revoltsnote , sabotage and failures in surveillance system, inefficency and crises of economics, lack of professionals and social lifts which will lead to failures in the work of state... the list can go on.
- Jack Chalker described himself as a 'militant centrist', and claimed that all or most of his dystopic societies he got by taking an outlook or group's proposed theories and taking them to their logical conclusion assuming no competition or dissention from other outlooks.
- The Theocracy of Abul Sabah in the Never Again series is basically able to take over the world by having every other country act towards them in the same way that the Alliance for Democracy acts towards the previously mentioned Draka—even after they use military force to conquer China, no one does anything to stop them, and that doesn't even get into the fact that before said conquest, the theocracy only ruled a small, resource-poor and poverty-stricken area of Central Asia, which would realistically have been dwarfed by its opponent, especially since China has many powerful allies in this Alternate History. Not only that, but the theocracy only exists in the first place because Belief Makes You Stupid is played depressingly straight. If even one person other than the Big Bad and The Dragon acted rationally, their movement would have come falling down like a house of cards.
- One common interpretation of "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut is that it's a deliberate example of one of these, as a Stealth Parody of similar works by Ayn Rand and others.
- The Handmaid's Tale has The "Republic" of Gilead, which the author admitted was effectively her conception of the worst society possible for women. In the panic following a global infertility epidemic, the US government is overthrown by a organization of religious terrorists who somehow manage to assassinate the President and every member of Congress in a single day; they subsequently throw out the Constitution and impose Old Testament Law in its place. The few remaining fertile women are rounded up to be sold as Sex Slaves to wealthy men, and the penalty for a woman disobeying a man becomes death. It's also implied rather strongly that Gilead has undertaken a mass murder of both African- and Jewish-Americans. However, it turns out Dystopia Is Hard, as the book's epilogue insinuates that Gilead's repressive policies led to a quick revolution, with future Americans remembering it as essentially the historical equivalent of a Big Lipped Alligator Moment.
Live Action TV
- Done in "Quarantine," of The Twilight Zone (1985). A space-weapons expert is brought out of cold sleep to destroy a meteor that's about to fall on Earth. In this future, everyone has psychic powers and live in a wholly agrarian society that hippies can only dream of; even the biocomputer chimpanzees are equals. Every tiff the guy has with the future society is brushed aside with some half-baked response to the effect of, "Ha, we're just that damn awesome." However, it's revealed that they didn't bring him out of cold sleep to destroy a meteor, but to destroy a ship of survivors from the nuclear holocaust. Because we can't let those damn dirty military people land and ruin our perfect planet, especially since they're American damn dirty military people. In the shot of the ship being destroyed, the "United States of America" label on the side of the ship was extremely large. The writer sure wanted to let you know who the "bad guy" was in the nuclear war.
- The society in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Masterpiece Society" was deliberately designed to be a Straw Utopia. Every inhabitant was genetically engineered to fit perfectly into his place in the Perfect Society. But any outside influence — like a visiting starship or a natural disaster — destabilized that society to the point of destruction. A very heavy-handed Aesop about Straw Utopias in general. Sometimes, the TNG-era Federation comes across as a Straw Utopia due to poor writing. But there are a few episodes, mostly on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, that inserted flaws into Federation society.
- Eclipse Phase has a counterpoint to the utopian anarchists mentioned above in the form of the Jovians, and more generally the bioconservative movement. While a society that's inherently suspicious of transhumanism and bio-augmentation is legitimately the natural antagonist in a setting that's entirely about "Transhumanity", it gets taken a bit further than it really needed to go.
- Especially since Jove's basic argument was that artificial intelligence and 'self-enhancement' is what got humanity in trouble in the first place, and that's pretty much correct whether you're a space nazi oppressing all the poor special people with your hatred or not.
- The Hypercorps also basically fall into this trope. Ostensibly they should be as much a post-scarcity society as the anarchists, with availability just limited by credits instead of time investment, but somehow it never works out that way and everyone is miserable all the time. No capitalist is allowed to so much as wait tables fora salary without some nefarious corporate plot (usually involving murdering or torturing uplifts/AG Is) going on for some reason.
- Dungeon Keeper subverts this. At the beginning of the game you look out across a blissful land ruled by good and just rulers, with no trials or tribulations, bar a few aching facial muscles from smiling too much. It's your goal to turn these joyous lands into terrible lands ruled by fear and anthrax.
- In Sharin No Kuni, considering the effort made to point out that Houzuki is badly abusing the system, showing what it could be made to do and what a bizarre case the town is in terms of their obligations, it's difficult to entirely believe the assertion that it's such a terrible system. Or worse than the normal justice systems that it is compared to. Arguably, Sharin No Kuni subverts both the Utopia trope, and the Dystopia trope. The Country of the Wheel is neither perfect, nor hellish, in the end. There are ways in which it is worse (the Involvement clause, the treatment of the foreigners), and there's ways in which it is better. There's good people, and bad people in it, and the rules themselves are frequently bent or corrupted for good as well as for ill. The final plot of the antagonist is his attempt to undermine the system, so as to implement *our* justice system, albeit his version of it. In many of the endings, the protagonist can choose to not follow in his father's footsteps and instead finally make peace with the system, and in most of the routes, the obligation system is the least of the problems the protagonist faces.