Lev Grossman: Do you think of The Culture as a utopia? Would you live in it, if you could?
Iain Banks: Good grief yes, to both! What's not to like? ...Well, unless you're actually a fascist or a power junkie or sincerely believe that money rather than happiness is what really matters in life. And even people with those bizarre beliefs are catered for in the Culture, albeit in extreme-immersion VR environments.Any dictionary will give you this much: n:
- An ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects.
- Arcadia - a place where people embrace the good old ways and live in wondrous simplicity.
- Crystal Spires and Togas - When extreme technological advancement wraps itself in the trappings of ancient civilization's aesthetics.
- Mary Suetopia - Utopia when written weakly (conflict is not solved better, it just doesn't exist).
- Sugar Bowl - where cuteness and sweetness is king.
- No Poverty - a frequent feature of any Utopia.
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Anime and Manga
- The setting of Aria.
- Crystal Tokyo, the far future realm of Neo-Queen Serenity, in Sailor Moon. And much earlier in the same setting, the Silver Millennium on the moon, which it is to at least some extent based on.
- Stellvia of the Universe depicts a rather realistic Utopia, wherein the humanity suffered 99% loss of population in mid 22nd century due to a freak cosmic cataclysm and was forced to unite as one, if they were to rebuild their civilization and survive. For the next 200 years, this Utopia was maintained by the threat of another cosmic catastrophe but as soon as danger was gone, it started falling apart. Even then, however, one could see just how difficult it is for most people to even imagine purposefully hurting others. Eventually humanity united again, against a new threat, and later, in their leap for the stars.
- In Magi – Labyrinth of Magic several characters tell legends of Alma Torran, a paradise ruled by King Solomon which was eventually destroyed. It turns out Alma Torran did indeed exist, in a parallel universe.
- In The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw despite a rash of racism the floating cities are a utopia. The animals live peaceful lives dedicated to the pursuit of magical knowledge and industry. In the Autumnlands at large there haven't been any major wars for a very long time.
- The original depictions of the Silver Surfer's homeworld of Zenna-La (the name being a variation on The Shangri-La) were decidedly utopian. Zenn-La was a very old, very high tech society that had long ago achieved world peace, where crime was virtually unknown, everyone was peaceful and learned, and where most human physical wants were easily met with technology. Its people had long ago explored great swathes of the universe... and having thus explored, they had come home again and stayed there. Norrin Radd, who would become the Surfer, found his world horribly boring, and resented the current generation (himself included) for reaping the benefits of their ancestors' labors which they themselves did nothing to earn. The 1990's animated series depicted a less isolated and introspective version of Zenn-La. In this version, the planet is famed throughout space for its spiritual enlightenment, and pilgrims come there to study the ways of peace. Even dissident Kree and Skrulls who want to find a way to end their millenia-long war. In both versions, they're defenseless when Galactus comes, until Norrin offers himself to the Planet Eater.
- This is also a long-standing What If? trope with Doctor Doom; whenever he actually manages to take over the world, he manages to change it into an honest to god utopia with minimal (not none, mind) removal of freedom. At the end of the day, the reason he never seems to get there in the main universe is because he's too obsessed with one-upping Reed Richards, that and he often finds Victory Is Boring; it's a lot easier to conquer than it is to sustain, paradise or not.
- In one of the more peculiar utopias ever described, the skahs of With Strings Attached consider their world of 25+ years ago to be a utopia, since they're all adventure addicts and loved running around fighting the Tayhil and their monsters. Unfortunately for them, they slaughtered everything, and now they're all going crazy with boredom. It is, indeed, heavily ironic that what they now consider a Dystopia is actually, by Earth standards, far closer to utopia.
Films — Animation
- Life on the Axiom in Wall E is seemingly perfect, with everything done by robots, if you overlook the fact that humanity has devolved into fat, infantile couch potatoes. What with the weight problem and the fact that everyone communicates via computer screens, you wonder how anyone on that ship managed to have babies. Unless the babies are genetically engineered or something.
Films — Live-Action
- The fictional African country of Zamunda in Coming to America.
- The City of Domes in the movie and TV series (and book) Logan's Run is a utopia for its inhabitants, but has a nasty stinger in its tail as far as our sensibilities are concerned.
- The world of the future in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a utopia built on the music of Wyld Stallyns. George Carlin explains that right down to the mini-golf scores, everything's just great. "Even the dirt... it's clean!"
- The Big Bad of the 2nd file, Chuck De Nomolos seems to be entirely motivated by really hating the music that his society runs on. It appears some folks will always be tortured in any utopia.
- The name comes from Sir Thomas More 's book Utopia, published in 1516, which described a communal, agrarian state. However, More hung a lampshade on the entire idea with the title- "Outopia," in Greek, means roughly "no place" ("Ou," "not," and "topos," "place") while "Eutopia" translates into "good place" ("Eu", "good"), thus the common meaning for More's title. The pun was almost certainly intentional. The extent to which More's Utopia is actually utopian is a matter of some debate-More actually made a point that there is no privacy or private property, slavery still exists (as a way of punishing adultery), and though all four of the religions are tolerated, atheists are not, as "obviously" without belief in a god or afterlife they have no reason to be moral (the fact that they aren't actually killed or otherwise punished, however, but merely sent to speak with the priests to change their minds, is very progressive for the era).
- The concept itself is much earlier than the name, going all the way back to Plato's dialogue The Republic, written in the fourth century B.C.E. Plato's Republic, besides being Older Than Feudalism, is the first of a long list of Utopias which most modern people would find terrifyingly totalitarian, with no private property and its meritocratic, eugenicist caste system ruled absolutely by "philosopher kings". It also gave us the concept of the "noble lie", the mechanism Plato thought would hold it all together, namely people believing that they were born from the earth itself in their respective castes (to accomplish this, children would be taken away from their mothers and raised in state nurseries) and the gods or nature itself had ordained it that way. Since this was part of Hindu society for centuries among the many other systems like this, it seems that it can work, if not perfectly.
- Deconstructed by Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, which provides an example of a hyper-controlled Crapsaccharine World, driven by utilitarianism, mass consumerism, and welfare-state planning and enabled by psychological conditioning, prescription drugs, and mind-numbing propaganda. Ironically, Huxley changed a few things about it that suddenly turned it into a utopia in a later novel; that book is called Island.
- The Lord of the Rings has an often overlooked utopia in the form of "The Shire". The simple agrarian hobbits manage to live a leisurely lifestyle while remaining prosperous and undoubtedly well fed. They have average lifespans in excess of 100 years. They enjoy frequent celebrations and gift exchange. Their only armed force, Sheriffs, deal more with lost livestock then any real criminal behavior, and in fact in the whole history of the Shire there have been only four instances where the hobbits needed to muster any sort of military force; all were due to external threats. Apparently the Numenorians and their descendants found the hobbits' society particularly endearing as they've gone out of their way to defend the Shire from foreign invasion even after the fall of their own empire. According to Frodo, as of the events of the "Scouring of the Shire" chapter, no hobbit has ever killed another hobbit on purpose in the Shire.
- Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy (1888), one of the first American utopian novels, which described a socialist US in the year 2000. News from Nowhere by Willam Morris was a direct response, as he deemed it overly sterile and bureaucratic. Naturally, both works have their detractors.
- "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", a short story by Ursula K. Le Guin, paints an image of a utopia whose survival and prosperity is dependent on an Aesoptinum (the city's happiness and perfection is Powered by a Forsaken Child forced to live in perpetual misery for intentionally unexplained reasons), perhaps as an allegory for Christ's sacrifice or utilitarianism. This might count as a Dystopia instead, or as well. Since LeGuin is a Taoist, there may be no intended Christian theme-she has stated it to be based on the theme of the scapegoat (although that also bears some resemblance to the Christ story).
- Le Guin's novel The Dispossessed is subtitled An Ambiguous Utopia, which nicely summarizes the setting - Anarres is presented as a much less flawed world than ours, but it is still far from perfect. Le Guin puts down much of this to an obstructive bureaucracy and decay of the idealism that led to Anarres's founding in the first place.
- The galaxy-spanning civilization, enabled by sufficiently advanced technology, known only as The Culture which appears in Iain M. Banks's novels is very Utopian, at least internally. The majority of the novels are set on the fringes, concerning the Culture's covert operations within other societies, which are portrayed as very morally ambiguous, but mostly considered justified, as their aim is to make all civilizations as Utopian as their own.
- Oz under the rule of Ozma is more or less a utopia; all problems come from either outside (particularly the Nome King) or from Oz's fringes.
- The culture of the good guys in the first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is a utopian one-with-nature form of communism. This works, because everyone has a "health-sense" that makes them sensitive to their environment so that it actively hurts them if a neighbor/rock/potted plant is starving, ill, or mentally disturbed.
- The idea above is mercilessly spoofed in the Stanisław Lem short story "Altruizine" (from The Cyberiad). An idealistic alien robot clandestinely alters the human inhabitants of a planet to possess such a sense. After the ensuing chaos, the robot is found out and the humans show it their "gratitude" by crushing it into a cube and shooting it into space.
- Heinlein was actually fond of deconstructing utopias. None of the societies he described are really utopian and the one in Starship Troopers is accepted by the masses simply because it works satisfactorily. It effectively deconstructs the utopia largely because of this and that the other methods of governing worked as well, though badly, and it is indicated that the society in the novel is just as faulty and came about largely because of the collapse of the previously existing systems, leaving no apparent better alternative.
- Gradually subverted in Strugatsky Brothers's Noon Universe. While the early installments portrayed the world of the 22nd Century as a more-or-less straight-forward communist utopia, later novels began to subtly undermine this picture. Characters found themselves facing problems that clashed with their utopian mindset, the supposedly just government was revealed to be increasingly ruthless and duplicitous and the 22nd century scarcity-free society was shown to breed a class of bored intellectuals who went to extreme lengths to make themselves feel useful.
- A more straight example is in works of I. Efremov: the Andromeda Nebula, Heart of Serpent and Hour of the Bull all show us three consecutive eras of a communist utopia. However there is a Fridge Logic subversion once you realize parallels between Earth's society and that of Tormance, the dystopian society that's introduced in the third book.
- The eponymous environmentalist utopia of Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia.
- The titular setting of Dinotopia is based around a peaceful coexistence between dinosaurs and humans. Except for the carnosaurs in the Rainy Basin, who are convinced to stay put by dying herbivores making a pilgrimage there to be eaten. And that one guy nobody likes who rants about how Dinotopia doesn't mean dinosaur utopia-it really means "terrible place". He gets points for his Greek knowledge, but he's still a big jerk. But he does have a Nice Hat.
- Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is set in a postsingular utopia called "The Bitchin Society".
- In the Robert Sheckley short story Ticket to Tranai, the Earth-based protagonist has heard that the titular planet has no crime and no taxation. He finds out when he arrives that this is technically true, but only because there are no laws and the government employs muggers to take what it wants.
- People in Stanisław Lem's world in The Futurological Congress could live life as they liked by taking pills which changed reality. Later the hero discovers that everything he's seen has been hallucinated because the government was hiding-with more drugs-that Earth is overcrowded and freezing and everyone will die soon.
- In his Observation on the Spot, another Ijon Tichy vehicle, Tichy visits Lusania-a country on the planet mentioned in one of his earlier adventures, where everyone lives in a seemingly perfect Utopia brought in by hypertech nanomachines. Half of the book is devoted to deconstruction of the folly of its creators-from Tichy's standpoint he couldn't help but notice glaring holes in the logic and workings of their society. And vice versa.
- Ray Bradbury's The Toynbee Convector provides a man-made utopia in Earth's future. In the present, Craig Bennett Stiles announced on a live TV broadcast that he had invented and successfully tested the first functional Time Machine. While the machine shorted out on its maiden voyage, he did succeed in traveling 100 years into the future, procuring artifacts and video footage from the future and returning. He announced that within the next century, mankind would rise above its darker nature and abolish the evils that have plagued civilization: poverty, war, prejudice, hatred. We would wipe out all diseases, colonize the Solar System and live in perfect harmony with nature and with each other. 100 years later, that future has indeed come to pass, and a reporter locates Stiles, still alive at 130, on the day that Stiles' younger self is set to arrive in the future. In the resulting interview, Stiles reveals that he never actually traveled through time; the time machine, artifacts and video footage were all created by a special-effects team. He believed that, at the end of the 20th century, the world was careening toward self-destruction, and that mankind needed a vision of a better world, even if he had to invent that vision himself. He created the lie, and the world chose to make it the truth.
- L. Neil Smith's The Probability Broach has his protagonist accidentally crossing over from a dystopian United States collapsing under a Shadow Dictator government to an Alternate Universe where North America is a highly advanced libertarian society.
- The setting of Sophie Renaudin's novel REAL belongs in the No Poverty category: Earth's resources are shared equally all over the world, The Metaverse allows people equal access to education, communication and entertainment, and political conflicts and war seem nonexistent. Since Humans Are Flawed, this allows the author to focus on the characters' personal problems, which range from internet addiction and Parental Abandonment to incurable deceases.
- * William Lind's Victoria offers the Northern Confederation, a neo-reactionary direct democracy with a very hands-off, Articles of Confederation-style federal government that scraps all welfare payments, rolls back feminism, homosexuality, anti-racism and other social changes of the 20th century that the author considers destructive, and effectively enforces an idealized, conservative 19th-century lifestyle for its citizens, with all the good and bad that entails. While the author evidently intends to present it as an honest utopia, or at least the closest thing to one we are likely to get, he also realizes that not everyone would be happy with it, and has characters criticize it in-story. Notably, one critic from an effectively Nazi fantasy nation dislikes their shopkeeper mentality, while others from a Lady Land are horrified by a nation that expects all women to be good Christian housewives and nothing else.
- The Fox reality show "Utopia" has a group of people in an area cut off from society with no rules and a very limited number of resources to start with, trying to create a Utopian society, and seeing what they have in a year.
- Doctor Who had an episode actually called "Utopia", where it was a fabled respite from the horrors of a dying Universe. It constantly broadcast the message "Come to Utopia" on a loop, inspiring hope for anyone who was listening. The last humans spend the episode trying to reach it, finally setting off in a rocket by the end. However, there was no Utopia, or at least the last humans did not get to it. The Master, who was their leader in his previous, amnesiac form, finds them floating in space. They had converted themselves, using parts from the ship, into robotic Psychopathic Manchild cyborg kids who take joy in killing. The Master then brings the depressed psychotic masses to modern Earth.
- Star Trek's Federation is a utopian setting, which is probably why they have to have so many Negative Space Wedgies and malfunctioning Phlebotinum.
- The United Federation of Planets is said to be Gene Roddenberry's idea of "utopia"-no poverty, disease, or war exists on the Earth of the 24th century. Deep Space Nine, though, pokes some pretty big holes in that idealistic view, with terrorism, war, and a 'secret police' cabal that will do anything to ensure that everyone is safe and sound.
- Given the replicator along with other high technologies (such as in medicine), there is some justification for the end of poverty and disease, but war obviously is still around. It would also make sense for humans to pull together after the Third World War and first contact with the Vulcans. Still, there are clear problems-for one, the implications of many technologies are barely touched upon-and it hardly justifies the Planet of Hats thing.
- War does not exist internally within the Federation, it is a problem that the Federation tends to have with neighboring powers. Given the Federation's expansion and the availability of entire new planets for colonization, it is not surprising that many social issues are simply gone. No Federation race has to cram their entire population onto just one world if they do not want to. Thus common problems in future settings, such as overpopulated mega cities are just not present because anybody that wants more open space can move to a less densely populated colony (overpopulation also seems to be prevented by contraceptive injections mentioned in a couple episodes).
- In the pilot of Sliders, Quinn is visited by his double who says that he visited a Utopian world "Where no one was afraid".
- Doctor Steel's stated goal is to remake the world into a Utopian Playland where having fun is the first priority.
- Deconstructed in "Nothing But Flowers" by Talking Heads, where the singer describes an idyllic world... and is clearly bored.
This was a parking lotNow there's nothing but flowers!If this is ParadiseI wish I had a lawn mower!
- Subverted in "Paradise" by Within Temptation. Though the singers' home is explicitly not a paradise, it's still their home.
- The big plan behind the plot of Scanner's Concept Album Hypertrace is to build a galaxy-spanning utopia called Terrion.
- The Evillious Chronicles by mothy frequently involves characters either discussing the concept or attempting to achieve it, often in the process providing a Deconstruction of what it means to have a utopia and how to get one (the Clockwork Lullaby song series in particular features a set of characters trying to achieve utopia by collecting seven demons of sin, with others rightfully skeptical of the results that would produce.)
- Imagine by John Lennon, paints the picture of a communist and irreligious utopia (as usual, this will not sound good to all).
- A couple of songs by Scatman John are centered around some place called "Scatland", a ideal world while there's no corruption or discrimination, only peace and understanding.
- In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Legion, members of the Alpha Legion describe the Emperor's plan as utopian and therefore impractical-although stating they will support him fully.
- The Ancient Martians from Rocket Age had a society where nearly every citizen was living a life of luxury, entirely supported by automated machines. Deconstructed however, since as very few Ancients were actually required to be productive or creative they became easy pickings for Erisian raiders.
- The Rayman games take place in such a world, when it isn't being invaded or attacked. This is mostly clear in the beginning of the first game.
- This is Rolento Schugerg's entire reason for joining the Street Fighter tournament more or less. He claims to want to build the perfect nation, except, his idea of Utopia is more uhh...totalitarian.
- The setting of Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising until the beginning.
- Angelnetted worlds in Orion's Arm are essentially utopian. Within the angelnet you cannot be physically harmed, psychologically harmed, have your memeset (perception of reality) interfered with or have your rights violated. However the AI Gods are still the "iron fist in a velvet glove" so there isn't any real freedom, not that you'd ever know.
- The problems with writing or even imagining actual utopias is discussed in this Less Wrong article.
- This may be the future at the end of the Chaos Timeline.
- 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 author's seem to take a differentiating approach with this question. While communism is often seen as a utopian ideology, and the UASR has many of the facets of utopia (free love, classless society, great freedoms), this comes at a cost that people socialized to live in a capitalist, democratic republic might find quite uncomfortable, such as very great social pressures to participate in political and social life, and other duties that don't gel well with an individualistic society. The cultural and social values that developed over a century of tremendous divergence, revolution and the like are very much alien.
- Futurama has a setting which has a distinct mix of utopian and dystopian themes.
- The second movie, "The Beast with a Billion Backs" almost ends with all of the universe living in a Utopian setting on a galaxy-sized tentacled alien that loves everyone (romantically), renders them immortal, and looks like The Theme Park Version of Heaven. Then a jealous Bender and his robotic Army of the Damned invade "Heaven" and end up getting everyone exiled, because True Love is Jealous and Needy.
- In the episode Neutopia, a "neutered utopia" is created when the crew and their passengers crash-land on a planet where an alien takes away everyone's genitals, causing a blissful, conflict-free society. However, once they remember how good sex was, they demand to have their genitals back. Unfortunately, the alien gives them back wrong...
- Time Squad: A Cartoon Network series involving a time cop, a 21st century orphan, and a former robot diplomat who routinely back in time to set the changes of history on the right path. When not going time traveling, the three often hang out in their present time (the year 100,000,000 C.E.) on their spaceship near the Earth, which is referred in dialogue as a peaceful utopia where there are no longer any problems to solve (hence the reason for them making sure history stays on track, because otherwise their utopia could be ruined). All nations of the world have merged into one, and, according to the time cop, Tuddrussel, there are "no wars, no pollution, and bacon is good for your heart."
- Lady Land in Gandahar is in perfect harmony with nature and is a borderline Mary Suetopia until destruction comes.
- On Fairly OddParents, Timmy manages to get Cosmo off the hook for sinking Atlantis (9 TIMES!) by reminding the Atlanteans that because of Cosmo, they now live in a clean undersea utopia without bullies, pollution, or worse, terrible movies!
- Zaofu from The Legend of Korra. It's effectively portrayed as the ideal civilisation, with innovation, freedom and self-perfection being key but not sacrificing security and commonwealth like many libertarian dystopias. It's so perfect, in fact, that the final antagonist of the series, Kuvira, tried to model the Earth Empire after it, with mixed results. It's also achieved in a fairly realistic fashion too, and while things are good for the citizens, it has a grim side in that it siphons resources away from the rest of the Earth Nation.