"Why do you resist? We only wish to raise quality of life for all species."
A villain who adheres to the philosophy that The Needs of the Many
outweigh the needs of the few.
At best, they're a Well-Intentioned Extremist
who believes that Utopia Justifies the Means and they did what they had to
. They might eventually have a Heel Realization
or die in their struggle for the greater good
... or maybe they're actually right
. At worst, they're a Knight Templar
hellbent on assimilating everyone
in a Lotus-Eater Machine
, killing everyone who is unhappy, killing everyone to stop unhappiness
, or doing things that would send them plunging toward the Moral Event Horizon
... if not worse.
What makes the Totalitarian Utilitarian
a frightening character is that while their For Happiness
motive is tragically flawed, they are ruthlessly efficient
to those ends and have no hobbies, no pastimes, and no friends
- nothing that could be used against them
, in other words.
There are three basic flavors of Totalitarian Utilitarian:
- The problem is the means:
- The TU has a good goal that many would support, given that it is fundamentally good and noble, but only the TU thinks the means they have chosen are acceptable. Perhaps this particular road to utopia is Powered by a Forsaken Child or simply includes a nauseating level of so-called 'necessary' sacrifices.
- The TU has a good goal that many would support, given that it is fundamentally good and noble, but the means the TU has chosen have hidden/'hidden' costs. Though it'll 'solve' the original problem, it'll bring about something even worse. For example, they may try to prevent crime... by sacrificing everyone's souls to an eldritch abomination so they will no longer have personalities or feel the desire to steal. They may not have even realized that this is a problem.
- The problem is the goal:
- The TU has a goal that few would support, given just how extreme and illogical it is. Any principle can become Nightmare Fuel if one divorces it from common sense and basic human decency. For example:
- The problem is the 'problem':
A Totalitarian Utilitarian character is often a Strawman Political
as well as a Straw Vulcan
and may even be a Hollywood Atheist
! However, he's just as likely to simply be a regular villain who the authors tried to make a bit less senseless by adding a grain of Straw Man Has A Point
. If Romanticism Versus Enlightenment
is a theme, he will almost always side with the Enlightenment. Compare Happiness Is Mandatory
. Contrast Principles Zealot
. See also Tragic Dream
No historical examples younger than a century. However, feel free to go around this with examples of how various authors have portrayed
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Anime & Manga
- In Psycho-Pass the Sybil System and the people who work to keep it in control of society are this, with the anime starting AFTER they succeed in realizing their goal. Near the midpoint of the show the idea of maximum happiness is highlighted as why the system is so great. All it asks is that you submit to it deciding your entire lifepath, constant drone overwatch, the threat of permanent detention or even execution if the prediction system decides you might commit a crime, and the further threat of constant mind-altering drug applications or detention if you have a chronically negative mood.
- Seele from Neon Genesis Evangelion, justifying its Assimilation Plot with For Happiness even though it means causing the Apocalypse to awaken an Eldritch Abomination while using traumatized 14-year-olds for combat and later another apocalypse.
- Light Yagami of Death Note begins here with his plan to make the world a better place by systematically killing all its criminals, starting with the world's worst offenders and working his way down to purse-snatchers and similar, ending with the idea of becoming "the god of a new world."
- Teru Mikami takes Light's ideals a step further. Mikami not only kills all the criminals whose names he can get his hands on, but also kills people who used to bully others, those who had killed in self-defense or felt honest remorse for their actions (something that Light creditted to them and let them live) and then proceeds to kill people who are lazy and don't live up to their actual potential.
- GUN×SWORD: The Claw and his minions are this all the way, being mostly the nicest people you can meet, and who want to bring about a better world through an Assimilation Plot, and will kill when necessary to achieve this goal. Notably, the heroes are generally very individualistic and less personally pleasant, and it's suggested that the Claw's plan probably would bring about a better world if successful.
- Code Geass:
- Charles di Britannia and his wife Marianne have a plan to Kill "God" and prevent anyone from lying.
- Lelouch can also be considered this when he engages the Zero Requiem. There are less bloody ways towards world peace, but it is at worst a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds considering what has happened to him, and his intended end result.
- Chairman Gilbert Durandel from Gundam Seed Destiny turns out to be one of these.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica
- Kyubey is trying to stave off the heat death of the universe. By dooming teenage girls to lives of suffering, and killing plenty of innocents (potentially entire planets) along the way. The primary problem here is that there's trillions of years to come up with a less terrible plan.
- Gretchen Kriemhild, Madoka's witch form, is a negative utilitarian. Whereas Madoka cares deeply about making everyone happy through positive means, Gretchen wants to erase suffering by assimilating each and every sentient being into herself, which is a Lotus-Eater Machine.
- An example of |Erase Humans -> Erase Suffering| logic is in Book of Bantorra. The girlfriend of the evil priest has developed this philosophy, due to being imprisoned within the priest's soul for ages along with the souls of thousands, if not millions or billions, who have been stuck in the purgatory of existing in a allegoral plantless desert. This turns her into the big bad, Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds type, and forces EVERYONE ELSE (who isn't a monster or too tired to exist) to participate in the fight for Book-Earth.
- Fate/Zero has an Anti-Hero example with Kiritsugu Emiya. He believes that sacrifices need to be made in order to achieve greater good or to bring peace and justice. He is willing to sacrifice the few for the sake of many, commit acts of evil to defeat a greater evil, and use unorthodox tactics to achieve his goals. He thinks a lost of innocent life is tragic, but as long as more innocent lives are saved, he is willing to sacrifice his beloved ones to protect the many.
- The Pro-registration side in Civil War turned out to be this. The goal? Insert some accountability into superheroics. The means? Creating an insane clone of Thor, imprisonment without trial in a hellish extradimensional prison for anyone people who didn't go along with it, granting functional pardons and extra powers to supervillains, notably putting Norman Osborn in charge of a government agency, and the conscription at gunpoint of teenagers with superpowers.
- Osborn himself qualifies, at least in his own mind. He thinks that the superhero community is likely to usher in The End of the World as We Know It and wants to save the earth — too bad he's a psychotic superhuman himself and far more dangerous than any of the people he's opposing.
- The Big Bad of Watchmen, whose goal is to end the Cold War and then use his abilities to control the Earth and make it a paradise on Earth. His problem is mainly one of methods, killing half of New York in a Genghis Gambit, but the ending implies it may also be one of goals, as Dr. Manhattan tells him, "nothing ever ends."
- The Headmaster of Praetorian Academy is working out this way in PS238. He fears that metahumans breeding and passing on powers will create an apocalyptic Goo Goo Godlike scenario, and so hopes to instill a sense of order and control in metas from a very young age, with the possible end of culling any who don't play ball with his vision of future metahumanity. The Argosians, the native people of the local Superman Expy, present an image of a society that went this way, too, culling "ferals" - any supers without the socially approved power set.
- The artificial superhuman Krishna from Supergod employs this strategy to turn India into a first world nation, by instituting a massive extermination campaign to bring the nation's population down to sustainable levels, then building a technological utopia for the survivors to live in. However, his efforts are nullified when the precognitient Dajjal kills him and destroys most of Eurasia because the resulting utopia would apparently have been so peaceful and good that Dajjal thought it was brainkillingly boring.
- TRON: Legacy: Clu, building his "perfect world".
- In Serenity there is the Alliance, which tried to create a more peaceful world through chemical testing leading to untold numbers of deaths and the creation of a breed of rampaging psychopath space pirate, and their hatchet man, the Operative. Notably, the Operative acknowledges that when they've built their "perfect" world, he won't have any place in it.
- The system in Never Let Me Go, saving so many lives. Also the protagonists themselves, conditioned to disregard their own life and dignity for the greater good.
- Ninotchka is a cold-hearted Russian envoy with No Sense of Humor. Her worldview can be summed up by this quote of hers: "The last mass trials have been a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians."
- Brave New World takes place in a society where For Happiness has become such a great cultural obsession that it has become oppressive.
- George Orwell's 1984 contains a very grim satire of this concept: The ruling party are trying to make sure that the party members are the happiest people in the world - by making their lives hell but making everyone else's life far worse! And of course it works great. Even the protagonist agrees with the party about everything... eventually.
- In George Orwell's Animal Farm, the pigs start out like this. As the story progresses, some pigs are lost, while others are corrupted by their power unless they were really Straw Hypocrites all along. By the end of the story, the remaining pigs have become what they once rebelled against.
- In Wild Swans many of the revolutionary communists are portrayed like this, while others are portrayed as Straw Hypocrites or simple cases of Peer Pressure Makes You Evil. The latter includes the main protagonist herself.
- In the Discworld novel Witches Abroad, Genua is run like this. People failing to be happy enough (and stereotypical enough, as the ruler's goal is to make Genua a fairytale-esque city) are dealt with harshly.
- Star Wars EU treats Jacen Solo like this after his demise.
- There's one Stanislaw Lem story about a society which builds an Artificial Intelligence that has to create the perfect world. The AI does this by building a factory, taking people one by one there, with the promise of a happy place, and noone ever returns from there (that alone should ring some alarm bells, but apparently the people aren't Genre Savvy). Truth is, in the factory people are turned into shiny metal discs, which the AI later arranges in a geometrical pattern. Apparently it's a bit of a Literal Genie and didn't understand that this wasn't what people had in mind with "the perfect world".
- He also plays with this in Eden, where any Edenite who isn't perfect is killed, and everybody's okay with this. Even though they've a rather high mutation rate. It should be noted where he lived and when.
- Totalitarian Utilitarian is actually a common theme in Lem's stories. Experimenta Felicitologica would be another example.
- The Lord Ruler of Mistborn tried his hardest to be this. Pity Ruin was in telepathic contact with him for his whole thousand-year reign, twisting his utopian vision into a postapocalyptic nightmare.
- The society in The World Inside by Robert Silverberg is one in which people have decided that the best world is the one with the most people in it; the vast majority of the world's current population of 80 billion all live in giant, city-sized apartment buildings with no privacy, while all the rest of Earth's habitable land is devoted to agriculture. It is theorized that the maximum population that can be supported this way is 200 billion.
- The Mysterious Benedict Society has Ledroptha Curtain. He just wants to control everyone so that they can be happy, at least he believes this to be so.
- From the New World takes this to terrifying level. In order to create a stable society of psychic and avoid repeating the destruction of the world, the society has been thoroughly indoctrinated, and anyone who display even a potential to stray fron the doctrine is silently and quickly terminated— even (especially) if that someone is a kid. Said society has been genetically modified to resolve dissenssion through hot bisexual sex, modeled after bonobo. Anyone who doesn't have psychic power is downlifted into mole-rat-men. You have a society where everyone is sexually satisfied and possesses psychic power, but at what cost?
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: This seems to be the Mayor's reason for achieving Ascension — to bring order.
- In Star Trek, the Hive Mind called The Borg seem to honestly believe that getting assimilated into their collective is the best for everyone.
- The Federation itself is sometimes portrayed as this. Lampshaded in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when Eddington notes that the Federation is constantly seeking out new cultures to bring into the fold in the belief that everyone should want to be in the Federation, wondering how that makes them any different than the Borg?
- The classic series Doctor Who episode, "The Happiness Patrol", tells of a society in which the tyrannical leader Helen A has all the "killjoys" - basically, anyone who shows any sort of unhappiness ever - killed, occasionally in bizarre ways. For bonus points, Helen A is also an obvious parody of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
- In Angel Season 4, Jasmine, essentially the Big Bad of the season, is an example, wanting to bring pure happiness to the world by mind control that would have removed from everybody the free will to be evil. Whether the tradeoff would have been worth it can be debated.
Myth And Legend
- In Classical Mythology, there's the Golden Age which is identified (at least in some versions) with the reign of Kronos. Now there was a prophecy that one of his children would topple him, like he had toppled his father Uranos. So Kronos ate all his children to avoid this. Not sure whether he did that for concern that the Golden Age should continue or just because he himself didn't want to lose power, but if it was the former, this would be a case.
- In Paranoia, Friend Computer maximizes happiness by simply making unhappiness a capital offense. Are you happy? Thought so.
- Feng Shui:
- Being unhappy is also a crime in this game's 2056 juncture, where everything is ruled by the Buro.
- There are also the Jammers, who want to free the world and humanity from the "tyranny" of Chi by destroying all Feng Shui sites. Sites that often take the form of schools, hospitals and other places important to a community or where innocents tend to gather. And to make things worse, they haven't given much thought as to what will happen once all Chi and Feng Shui are destroyed, and what the consequences will be to the world — and given that Chi is said to be tied to life itself, the consequences could be very bad indeed.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- It is implied that the Tau Empire's philosophy, "for the greater good," reduces to this trope in practice (and is more or less alluded to being enforced via mass mind-control). And the other races consider the Tau the Naïve Newcomer. That should tell you what kind of setting this is.
- One could also interpret the actions of the God-Emperor of man as manifestations of this philosophy. His own philosophy appeared to be a form of "radical secular humanism". His goal was to ensure survival and security the human species, and it's mastery over the galaxy, and eventually the entire cosmos. He believed that this goal was best realized by causing humanity to accept science, logic, reason, and secular humanism, and reject superstition, mysticism, and any religion (or competing philosophy) of any kind. Therefore, in his mind, the best way to do this was to launch a "Great Crusade" to conquer the galaxy led by fanatically loyal genetically-engineered super-soldiers who would kill or convert any and all humans they encountered, as well as completely exterminate almost every non-human they encountered, which resulted in the deaths of countless sentients and the destruction of whole planets. He also lied about the existence and nature of the VERY real demons and dark gods which do inhabit a sort-of "preternatural" plain of existence, and treated many of his direct offspring, the Primarchs, as mere tools to be used rather than as people. All of this in order to create a unified human civilization under his direct rule. And the ironic part? In the end, the vast majority of humans ended up worshipping him as a god.
- In later BattleTech fiction, particularly the Capellan Solution duology, Sun-Tzu Liao is this trope. It's all about the good of the Capellan Confederation for him (as he sees it, of course), and no trick is too dirty or underhanded and no sacrifice too great if it brings him one step closer to making his nation great again.
- In Mage: The Awakening, the Silver Ladder wants to restore the connection between Earth and the Supernal Realms, allowing all of humanity to achieve godhood. They end up doing a lot of shady manipulation and exploitation in their efforts to bring everybody into line with their plans and frequently end up falling into Ambition Is Evil by pursuing power for its own sake.
- In the earlier Mage: The Ascension, the Technocracy wants humans to live in a futurist utopia, safe from things like rogue mages, terrorist werewolves, manipulative vampires and so on, and thus they're trying to make everyone put their faith in science instead of magic and superstition. In practice...well, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few magical eggs.
- In Transhuman Space, Kazakhstan is ruled by the terrifying Sergei Zarubayev, who uses a vaguely plausible but very totalitarian philosophy to justify the creation of a surveillance state in which the secret police use advanced technology to play with the minds and perceptions of anyone they choose.
- Sofia Lamb in BioShock 2. Her goal is to create a "utopia" by using ADAM and mind control to imbue everyone with the entire sum of the knowledge of Rapture's inhabitants, eliminate their free will and instruct them to act only for "the greater good" (turning everyone into mindless slaves). Starting with her own daughter.
- Valmur of Suikoden Tierkreis is half this and half trying to survive. On the one hand, he believes there's no way to beat the One King, and that those who ally with it will be spared. On the other, he'd probably ally with the One King anyway—in return, he and everyone he follows will be placed in eternally repeating illusions of the best days of their lives. To Valmur, who is unable to accept the deaths of his family, even an illusion of their return is better than reality, and he's willing to inflict the illusion on everyone else. Of note is that at least for the protagonists, it doesn't work—the gun expert grows weary of never completing his greatest design; the farmer realizes his crops will never be harvested; two lovers know they'll never be able to raise children . . .
- The Illusive Man of Mass Effect and his organization Cerberus are dedicated to the protection, prosperity, and improvement of mankind in the galaxy. Of course that means that he wants to defeat every alien race that could ever possibly be a threat (i.e. all of them), is quite fond of Playing with Syringes, and will kill anybody who could conceivably threaten one of his goals (including any of his own employees). History will vindicate him, after all. Worst part? He may be right. The Council and the Alliance are just two steps short of declaring Shepard a criminal. The best that Shepard's Reasonable Superiors can do is prevent that from happening. Cerberus is the only ally Shepard has.
Hell there's a message you can read in the DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker where a major asks for Admiral Hackett's permission to have Shepard arrested and interrogated for a few months on why they're working with Cerberus. Thankfully, Hackett denied that request.
- Shepard can act in this way, especially as a renegade. Unlike in many games with a Karma Meter, renegade Shepard is still basically one of the good guys. Which essentially means that they can kick and gun down a great many canines, and defend various atrocities in the name of the greater good.
- By Mass Effect 3 however, The Illusive Man and Cerberus have Jumped Off the Slippery Slope and are actively waging war with the galaxy. TIM continually tries to justify to himself that his actions are for the good of humanity until the end, where Shepard can convince him that he's become indoctrinated in a scene much like the confrontation with Saren in the first game.
- Mr. House of Fallout: New Vegas has a clear vision for uplifting the Mojave and humanity through making Vegas prosperous again, but he also uses his Securitrons to enforce strict order.
- In the ending credits song of Portal, GLaDOS claims that her actions were for the greater good of mankind... what's left of it, anyway. Also, she fully intends to keep killing innocent people. For Science!
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura's Big Bad, Kerghan, believes (rightly so) that death equals eternal peace as opposed to the constant struggle of life. He draws the logical conclusion.
- Lord Doom from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe is dedicated to solving the world's problems and making the world a better place so no other child has to watch their family be systematically killed like he did during the Holocaust. To that end, he intends to overthrow every government on the planet and replace them with his own benevolent rule, modify the general behavior of the human race through genetic engineering, drug thereapy, and branwashing, end crime by ending the criminals, permanently, and insuring that the only people who have the capacity to make war are those who have been programmed to be loyal to the cause.
Among other things, he is a Mad Scientist who is all about Playing with Syringes when it comes to making people better, and insists that Happiness Is Mandatory, and anyone who disagrees with him or gets in his way, even if they are his own children, must be eliminated. Sure, his plan is a bit harsh, but you cannot make omelettes without breaking a few eggs.
- Zinnia Jones: Debated in Why Not Immortality?.