"Any dolt with half a brain / can see that humankind has gone insane,A world that would be utter hell to live in. But instead of everything being depressingly rotten like in the Crapsack World, everything is depressingly ridiculous. Nothing in the world makes sense, and the very laws of physics seem to exist for the purpose of making things turn out unfairly. Any attempt to find meaning or validation is answered with an Anvil on Head. The protagonist is usually the Only Sane Man, who never comes out well and sometimes winds up Giving Up on Logic. For some reason, writers who work in this genre tend to only do this genre. This tends to be a specialty genre for its creator, who is usually very, very bitter, and almost always a Sadist Show (or Sadist Book, or whichever). Compare Cosmic Plaything, Finagle's Law. May leave the reader saying "What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?" May be a result of stepping into a Cloudcuckooland or Crapsaccharine World, or of a Mad God or Reality Warper taking over. Compare and contrast World of Chaos, which is chaotic, disorganized and unpredictable, but not necessarily hellish or a torment to live in (although the two tropes can certainly overlap).
To the point where I don't know if I'll upset the status quo / if I throw poison in the water main."
To the point where I don't know if I'll upset the status quo / if I throw poison in the water main."
— Doctor Horrible, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
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Anime and Manga
- The Digital World in Digimon Adventure. The weather is forecast as: "Sunny with occasional ice cream". Sadly, it fails to actually rain ice-cream. Also, the scenery can be quite weird and random at times (like The Forest of Irrelevant Road-Signs). It's literally subconsciously pieced together by random crap the Digimon dig up on the internet. Take a moment to appreciate that Digimon is rated for younger audiences... Gennai says that anything weird (factories that don't produce anything, phone booths to nowhere) is the result of broken or missing data.
- Digimon Adventure, Digimon Frontier, and Digimon World all give us the wonder that is the meat plants: trees that grow apple lookalikes that taste like various kinds of meat, bushes that grow legs of lamb and chicken and sirloins that can be planted from seeds and grow in a garden. They all have to be cooked a little before they're eaten, but their very existence stuns Hiro into silence at one point.
- And the Digital World as presented in Digimon Adventure gets even weirder during the Dark Masters arc, when the entire thing (except for a few crumbling pieces of ground) gets twisted up into Spiral Mountain — which, when viewed externally, can be seen as mountains, cities, forests and oceans twisting around each other up into the sky.
- The Tamers version of the digital world was probably the single most surreal. It's comprised of numerous layers that shape themselves to the inhabitants (the newest layer being a barren wasteland because it hadn't been customized yet), the physical laws are completely subjective (i.e. you don't need to eat or even breathe if you don't think about it), raw data appears as pink tumbleweeds, gigantic data streams can randomly warp anything caught in them to any part of the world, day and night change instantly with no transition, and the physical world is visible in the sky of the lowest plane as a computerized graphic of a globe at all times. It's nowhere near as whimsical as the other series efforts, but every bit as strange.
- The world in the year 300X in Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo basically runs on this, Hurricane of Puns, and Rule of Funny.
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. Whatever topic Nozomu is ranting about for the chapter, there'll be some ridiculous thing going on nearby to provide examples, whether it's a relay race for people passing responsibility off on other people, an art gallery for "self-completing" artists who ignore criticism, or a literal battlefield in the middle of town full of battles where nobody wins.
- This is what happens to Tokyo in Paprika after the mad parade (a conglomeration of surreal and maddening dreams) gets enough power to intrude into the real world.
- Daten City from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is chock full of ghosts and demons, and every character seems to be a living embodiment of sex drive.
- In an issue of Grant Morrison's Animal Man called "The Coyote Gospel", it shows what a Roadrunner cartoon would be like from one of the participants (the titular Coyote). It's a living hell, a continual and weary cycle of violence. Eventually, the Coyote begs his cartoonist-creator for the cycle to end and it does, but only with the Coyote leaving it for the "real" world (the world of Animal Man) and eventually dying. Almost anything by Grant Morrison ends up involving this trope, whether the original writers intended it that way or not. Seaguy, of course, started out and remains this way.
- Warren Ellis likes to combine this trope with Crapsack World and What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?
- In the Emperor Joker storyline in DC Comics, The Joker, having gained godlike powers, turns the entire world into a surreal hell. The world of the Joker's mind in Superman & Batman: Generations II is similar.
- All of the works of Jhonen Vasquez are based around this trope. Every character in his fictional worlds are either oblivious, batcrap insane, or both. Characters can routinely mutilate bystanders and fly around in spaceships and no one notices.
Films — Live-Action
- The world of Brazil would be a good example... depending on how much of that is just in Sam's head.
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Eddie Valiant must get himself back into the proper, insane frame of mind to be able to cope with Toon Town.
- Dr. Strangelove is what happens when you give Cold War paranoia that last little nudge into the abyss, then watch it fall.
- The Crucible, as explained under "Theatre".
- Weekend by Jean-Luc Godard. Everything is Serious Business, half the population are Cloudcuckoolanders, and everyone is constantly hyped up to his maximum.
- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is, unsurprisingly, this Up to 11: you can see a bunch of perfectly normal people degrading into this in the matter of minutes — and you'll be hard pressed to find a single unaffected character in the whole film. Bonus points for actually not breaking any laws of human psyche.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events by Daniel Handler. Once things were united behind VFD. Then the schism happened and everything went straight to hell.
- Almost anything written by Douglas Adams. Both the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gently series fit this. Most of Adams' heroes maintain their sanity by being ready to abandon it at the drop of a hat. Also, Arthur Dent is in a Universe that appears to have gone mad, but that stands to reason when viewed from the eyes of an alien. Wonko the Sane lampshades this when Arthur returns home to find that he's built an inside-out house called "Outside the Asylum" to keep the crazy world in — like the Earth, everything inside is sane, outside is crazy. Dirk Gently doesn't live in a mad world, it's just that being a Weirdness Magnet makes it locally insane.
- Almost anything written by Alexis Gilliland. His cartoons for the old RPG GURPS Illuminati set the tone. ("It'll be tough to test my theory without destroying the universe... but what the heck... it's a really neat theory!" or "Paranoid police, sir. You're under arrest. Nobody could look that innocent unless they were plotting against the state.")
- The Discworld sometimes verges on this, especially in the books that star Rincewind. Played with in Moving Pictures: when one man wonders why all of CMOT Dibbler's movies (or "clicks") are set in a "World Gone Mad", Dibbler's nephew comments "Because he is a very observant man."
- Of Two Minds is set in a world that used to be one of these, before the local Reality Warpers got their act together and turned everything internally consistent. The sequel, More Minds, sees the whole thing falling apart again. It's not quite as dangerous a place as most examples on this list, since everyone has some influence on what the world is like, and Death Is a Slap on the Wrist, but the constant shifting isn't very good for one's psychological stability.
- Inverted in a short story by Robert Sheckley. The protagonist, who lives in one of these, finds himself crossing dimensional boundaries into a universe where your physical surroundings don't change completely at random; the implication is that he finds ours to be the real World Gone Mad. By the end of the story he's a raving street preacher who spends his days ranting about how of course nothing can ever truly change and it's stupid to pretend otherwise.
- Wonderland, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and the Looking-Glass House from Through the Looking-Glass read rather like this, more than once reducing Alice to tears of frustration at trying to deal with their nonsense.
- One Foot in the Grave. The Meldrews are afflicted by a constant barrage of cruel and surreal events at their expense. Nothing nice ever seems to happen to them, or indeed anyone in the Purgatory-like suburbia they live in.
- Red Dwarf, where the whole universe can be summed up in Rimmer's closing line for one episode: "It's a smegging garbage pod!"
- The sections of The Daily Show where Jon Stewart talks to a "correspondent on the scene" are often like this, where the correspondent pretends to be a government shill and gives Cloudcuckoolander justifications for stupid or criminal government programs. It's eerily possible to say that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report both point out the absurdities of government in the World Gone Mad perspective. Eerie because, well, it's the real world. Truth IS sometimes stranger than fiction.
- Mad World, by Tears for Fears, famously covered by Gary Jules — it is also a World Half Empty.
- Everything you know is wrong / Black is white, up is down, and short is long / And everything you thought was just so important doesn't matter...
- "World Wide Suicide" by Pearl Jam.
- Daniel Amos' °Alarma! has a short story in the liner notes In the liner notes story, where the narrator dreams of an alternate world thatís a twisted parody of the flaws of American Christians. The inhabitants see nothing strange when preachers mix patent nonsense into actual passages from the Bible, and they fully believe that positive feelings are the solution to all lifeís problems.
- Shel Silverstein's poem "If The World Was Crazy" is like this.
- The 1950s "Theatre of the Absurd" (especially Eugene Ionesco's work) may be the Trope Maker. Ionesco, by all accounts, based his World Gone Mad on bad experiences with Romania's Communist bureaucracy.
- Absolutely every play written by Christopher Durang. Summed up in the famous Peter Pan Monologue, which would be the opening quote for this page if it weren't so long. His play 'Dentity Crisis, where the Peter Pan Monologue comes from, may be the best example of this trope. Jane lives with her mother, her brother, her father, her grandfather, and a visiting French count. However, Jane is the only person who realizes that the brother, father, grandfather, and count are actually a single person with multiple personalities. Everyone else thinks they're separate people, even though they see him switch personalities in front of them all the time. When Jane points this out, they think she's crazy. If you can't guess how the play ends from this description, TV Tropes has not sufficiently ruined your life yet.
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. As Hamlet puts it, "the time is out of joint."
- The Crucible definitely has this vibe, as is frequently pointed out by the few sane people, who also have to contend with people who have not fallen victim to the hysteria, but are just exploiting it for their own goals. The play is made all the more disturbing because a) it's based on real events, and b) one of Miller's motivations in writing it was to criticize Senator McCarthy, whose out-of-control hunts for communists were proving that modern people could be just as gullible and subject to hysteria as they had been at the Witch Trials.
- The RPG Paranoia, where the heroes are secret Commie Mutant Traitors assigned to capture Commie Mutant Traitors, the Bond gadgets never work right, and Friend Computer executes anyone who leaves their color-coded zones. One adventure for the game has the "heroes" on their way to a briefing. Missing the briefing is punishable by death... but a badly programmed robot painted the hallway the wrong color, so walking to the briefing room is also punishable by death. The game does encourage Friend Gamemaster to let things work sort of right sometimes, especially if the players are ruthlessly clever, and/or can be set up for an even bigger fall. If you're not dying several times in the first hour or so, you're doing it wrong.
- The RPG GURPS IOU: Illuminati University is about a Extranormal Institute university where everyone has learned to adjust to an utterly futile universe. For instance, blood feuds between professors are fully regulated and organized by the school bureaucracy. You're not cleared to know what the O stands for.
- Warhammer 40,000 creeps into this territory at times. It's a Crapsack World taken up to such a ludicrous extreme (along with every other trope) that you can't help but think the setting has well and truly lost its marbles.
- The God-Emperor of humanity is a ten thousand-year-old husk in a life-support machine. Every day thousands of psychics are slowly sacrificed to him to provide a navigational space beacon, in the same way that you can see the burning bodies of a million people from quite far away. Once what's left of the emperor fails, all the ships will be lost in hyperspace and all the colonies will be cut off from each other. Also, there's probably a death god under Mars. There is some speculation that the Emperor will be reborn as a warp entity when he goes, which is not really worth looking forward to.
- The Eldar are cursed with enslavement to a god who will appear out of hyperspace and kill anyone who feels excesses of emotion. This means that procreation is at an all-time low. Also, the Eldar race is unimaginably old and is slowly dying off in an universe that no longer can sustain them. The best case scenario (as stated by their religious beliefs) is that they'll manage to raise a new god of their own to combat their old nemesis... after they're all dead.
- The Tyranids are an all-consuming race — killing the populations of entire planets, turning the remains into goo and then sucking it up into their giant organic spaceships so they can breed more terrifying engines of oozing death. The only option is to run away from them, and what's been seen so far looks like a "scouting" party. There's probably a bigger hive fleet moving towards our galaxy from what used to be another. There's been hints that the Tyranids are on the run, and are being chased by something even bigger and scarier.
- The Necrons are undead metal killing machines, created in concert with a race of star gods to kill one of the oldest races in the galaxy. They can't be killed, and when they are heavily damaged they simply teleport back to base to be repaired. They once attacked Sol, the most heavily guarded solar system in the Imperium, to get at the aforementioned death-god inside Mars. They were repelled only because the Necron force was a "scouting party" and the Imperium threw millions of soldiers at them before they escaped.
- The Tau are a race who have taken fascism/communism to the extreme, giving all discovered races a "submit to our happy collective or die" ultimatum under the name of the Greater Good. If anyone resists their benign takeovers, they blast their worlds into cinders and move on. They are the setting's fluffy liberals.
- The Orks are fungus-creatures with the ability to reproduce their entire biosphere anywhere they go thanks to the spores they shed when they are killed. To make up for their crazy breeding rates, they seek out battle constantly, 'cause it's fun. Personality-wise, the entire species resembles football hooligans who have been given guns and axes. These brutal planet-raiders are the setting's comedy relief.
- The forces of Chaos are empowered by warp entities to pursue their deepest desires. Unfortunately, they are shackled to those desires and are mostly twisted to the point that the terrible mutations induced by their patrons are of no concern to them. Also, their patrons are not exactly nice, at least in human terms.
- JAGS Wonderland is a great one: Other realities are invading our world, and if you're not careful, you'll get infected by them and dragged away in the night. And it's all available for free download from the publishers.
- Dungeons & Dragons can be this, depending on what the GM wants to do with their setting. With all of the weird monsters at their disposal, a change or two that makes magic closer to the soft side of Sanderson's First Law can turn the world from your typical High Fantasy into the freakiest Surreal Horror they can possibly come up with!
- The Shivering Isles, in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, seem to fit in, particularly in the realm of Mania. It's the realm of the god of madness and he is, unsurprisingly, a Cloudcuckoolander.
- The Wonderland of American McGee's Alice has gone from playful weirdness to cracked insanity.
- This trope pretty much sums up the entire world of Dead Rising series thank to both the unending government atrocities and the psychopaths that want to kill you, aside from it being also a Crapsack World.
- Pretty much the entire setting of Pathologic, coupled with Just Before the End.
- The city of Stillwater in Saints Row is practically a playground for various gangs, criminals, and other forms of mayhem. Driving a septic truck around spraying sewage on people's houses to lower property values is pretty par for the course. The mixture of Surreal Humour and social commentary in the second game has drawn comparisons to Death Race 2000, and the rest of the series ups the ante each time.
- Steelport, of Saints Row: The Third is even worse. Aside from The Syndicate consisting of hackers and Luchadores, costumed mascots seem to be a sizable minority within the city and is also home to Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax (not to mention Professor Genki himself occasionally running around and killing civilians himself). As such, only a man such as Burt Reynolds is capable of being the mayor of such a city.
- And all of that COMBINED is acceptably sane compared to the final chapter and spinoff, Saints Row IV. After Cyrus goes insane from being exiled from America and tries to nuke the White House, the boss thwarts his plans only to crash into the president's office and GET ELECTED AS PRESIDENT. After five years of making the world a better place and throwing their polls in the trash, the White House is interrupted by an ALIEN INVASION. The boss is kidnapped, breaks out, yadda yadda yadda, only to find out that the Earth EXPLODED. Yup, 90 percent of humanity go boom. Finally, the boss uses a computer simulation that gives hackers superpowers to assassinate the emperor of the aliens and take HIS place, thereby becoming the "President and God Emperor of the Universe for Life. With limited time travel abilities. And the friendship of THE Santa Claus.
- And finally in Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, the boss gets sent to hell. Not because they died, but because they became so notorious throughout the universe that Satan himself wants the boss AS HIS IN-LAW. Johnny Gat becomes the main character of this game and goes on a power ride to conquer Hell.
- The Rook Islands in Far Cry 3. Two islands dominated by Ruthless Modern Pirates and a full-fledged private army respectively working for a slave and drug trafficking operation. Pretty much anyone you meet apart from your captured friends is insane in someway, whether by drug addiction, the violence in the area having gotten to them or just pure evil. Even the animals are insane, and most of them will attack you on sight. There's implications that there's something fundementally wrong with the islands and anyone there will go nuts eventually. By the end, the player character is one step away from madness, and it's left to the player to choose whether to give in completely or turn back at the last second.
- Adventurers! takes place in a console RPG. Needless to say, all the normally Acceptable Breaks from Reality instead become blatant absurdities, and the Only Sane Man is perpetually astonished and dismayed by how little sense everything makes.
- The SCP Foundation has many examples, particularly regarding things with extradimensional origins\powers. Whoever the Foundation assigns to study them often struggle to explain what the hell is happening. SCP-1193 and SCP-1877 stand out because the writer intended them to be intersections of World Gone Mad with reality leading to "mudane is horrible, Mind Screw is normal":
We could believe that we are somehow wrong about the nature of everything that surrounds us. The world of conventional objects which the being with the arm describes is not subject to the conventional and comprehensible laws we believe it to be. Its dream-logic about ovens and cakes and casts and invulnerability is the way the world works, not a deluded fantasy by a buried giant. The Foundation's attempts to rigorously study it are futile, because reason itself is a bizarre delusion.
- Looney Tunes shorts drop into this occasionally; the word looney is in the title. (Grant Morrison's "The Coyote Gospels" deconstructed this in an issue of his run on Animal Man, described above in the comics folder.)
- What time is it? Adventure Time! Constantly. Though the Land of Ooo in Adventure Time seems to (mostly) be a benign sort of mad, with hints of darkness. Evidently it's a world taking place after a nuclear war according to Word of God.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "The Return of Harmony, Part 2", Equestria gets turned into this under Discord. Everything gets crazier and more chaotic as the episode goes along and everyone is driven insane in some way or another, whether as a mockery of their previous selves or in some random way Discord found amusing. The landscape is likewise warped — roads are turned into soap, some houses are turned into flat props and others are uprooted and float seemingly of their own accord and the very sky shifts rapidly from day to night and back again, while truly random creatures roam the chaos-stricken land (buffaloes in tutus, rabbits with impossibly long, spindly legs, pies randomly coming up through the floor...). This is all highlighted by the main character, Twilight, being left sane and aware of twisted everything is and having to deal with a nonsensical world, the hateful, one-dimensional parodies her friends were twisted into and Discordís constant mocking.
- On Regular Show, the characters are Petting Zoo People and Animate Inanimate Objects who live in a predominantly human world. But that's not the weird part; it's where mundane things escalate into something bizarre. For example, playing rock, paper, scissors. In the pilot episode, if you manage to tie 100 times in a row, you'll will summon an Eldritch Abomination.
- Gravity Falls has this be the ultimate goal of Bill Cipher, who wants to remake the universe in his own image, turning it into "a party that never ends with a host that never dies!" The fact that this means The End of the World as We Know It doesn't bother him at all. The end result is an apocalyptic wasteland full of monsters, burning ruins and "bubbles made of pure madness", all ruled by a horde of nightmare demons under Bill's command who look like something out of a psychedelic trip. The humans and "regular" supernatural creatures — those that haven't joined Bill or been trapped in Crapsaccharine dreamlands — are left to hide in the warped ruins of their world from the giant bat-winged eyeballs Bill sent to hunt them down.
- The world of Milo Murphy's Law (and, by extension, Phineas and Ferb) has its main character cursed with Murphy's Law, meaning that anything that can go wrong for Milo and those around him will go wrong. This can range from llama stampedes to sudden alien abduction. And that's to say nothing of the things that aren't a result of Milo, such as a underground society of trapped construction workers or time travelers that want to save pistachios from going extinct.
- Bimbo's Initiation: The short is about a Funny Animal dog named Bimbo who falls into a strange underground realm home to a cult named Do-It-or-Die, which promptly forces him to undergo a series of ridiculous initiations to try to force him to join them. Bimbo spends the rest of the cartoon undergoing one surreal, terrifying trial after the other — blades cut off pieces of his shadow without harming him, flames and reflections take a life of their own, liquid water solidifies the moment he jumps into it and there is some new surreal phenomenon around every turn. Everything is constantly subverting expectations, offering false hope or just causing bewilderment or worsening Bimbo's situation, ensuring he remains as confused and terrified as possible throughout.
- According to some sources, the British army thought this was the case after their surrender at Yorktown, with their band playing "The World turned Upside-down" as they marched out under a white flag.
- "Real World" instead of Real Life? Has the world gone mad? Was it ever sane?