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Crapsaccharine World

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At Sunnyside, Lotso will make sure you stay forever.
"You can see your breath hanging in the air.
You see homeless people, but you just don't care.
It's a sea of smiles in which we'd be glad to drown."

A setting which, at first sight, looks nice and cute. The world is full of cheery colors, people are smiling, happy and helpful, and you're probably thinking you've just stepped into a Sugar Bowl. Suddenly, you notice something wrong, and upon investigating, you realize that every single thing below the surface is horribly wrong and dysfunctional. Maybe the society is Powered by a Forsaken Child. Maybe the cheeriness is maintained by totalitarian rulers that dole out horrible punishments for the slightest infractions. Maybe the bright and shiny part isn't the only part, and the more traditional Crapsack World is kept hidden from the public eye. Maybe people who ask too many questions or don't meet the standards the society pushes for suffer unfortunate accidents, or disappear, or are labeled as criminals. Maybe it's just a manufactured atmosphere, full of nice-looking but fake towns and cities, or even a manufactured reality. Basically, this is a Stepford Smiler on the scale of an entire setting, where behind the bright, cheery and colorful appearance, it's really a Crapsack World.

Compare with False Utopia, when one of the main points of the story is the contrast of how perfect the world looks and how imperfect it truly is, Gilded Cage, Peace & Love Incorporated, Light Is Not Good, Stepford Suburbia, Techno Dystopia, and Town with a Dark Secret. Often involves Fridge Horror, Sugar Apocalypse, Grotesque Cute, Dangerously Garish Environment, and Glurge as well as Sunshine Noir. A Type B cynical portrayal of The Promised Land that isn't a used-up and barren wasteland is likely to be one of these.

If the seemingly perfect world is a full-on illusion, created to entrap or otherwise fool someone, then it is a Lotus-Eater Machine.

See also City in a Bottle, where Crystal Spires and Togas meets Government Conspiracy, Soiled City on a Hill, which can be a former Shining City that retains its shiny exterior even though its heart has become corrupt and rotten, and Vice City, a city whose have already been overrun by criminals and other serious issues under its face value of being a Shining City. Urban Segregation can result in this if the viewer is initially shown only the utopian parts of the setting. A child-oriented Adventure-Friendly World or a City of Adventure is prone to being this, so does Graffiti Town.

Contrast with Sugar Bowl, the (usually) non-ironic version of this trope. May overlap with Vile Villain, Saccharine Show, especially when that same villain is the main reason (or one of the main reasons) why the world in question is... well, crapsaccharine. Contrast People's Republic of Tyranny, Fauxtivational Poster, A World Half Full, where it looks like a Crapsack World, but it can get better, and Heel–Face Town, where the town (or city) is a Shining City which was reconstructed from a Crapsaccharine World. Happiness Is Mandatory can be this, but often fails to create even a pleasant veneer over things.

Note that this trope is about a setting. If the art style clashes with the mood of the work, that is Art-Style Dissonance instead.

As this trope involves the revealing of a world's true nature, expect spoilers ahead.


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  • The Future Forest: As fun and colorful as the installation looks, the various sculptures were constructed to be a warning regarding our increasing supply of disposable junk plastics slowly eroding our environment.
  • How Hieronymus Bosch's masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights portrays the world. Everything seems bright and cheery and people of every race seem happy and content but everywhere are grotesque situations and bizarre creatures representing sin and immorality.

    Asian Animation 
  • In the Korean Animated series called Running Man, the plot goes about a bloody war that happened years ago because the seven tribes want a powerful energy source called the Soul Tree. The leaders of the tribes decided to hold a competition so people can get a share a piece of the Soul Tree if they win. There's already a The Hunger Games vibes in this, but it goes deeper:
    • First, the Running Man found out about the game being rigged by the show's host, Charming Gold. He was bullied by his peers because he looked ugly as a monster before. That scenario caused him to discover his powers in sucking the life of his fellow kind. Not only he will look young, but he will stay immortal for a thousand years. Not only that, his plan is actually to 'restart the world' and make his own kind considering he killed his own kind. Then they found out that the other competitors they battled, the D.V 7, are actually the kidnapped champions from different tribes who were forcefully experimented and brainwashed to fight against the Running Man.
      • What's worse? This happened to Gai and Liu's older sister, Jean.
    • But the biggest reveal is that the world is actually being judged by the God of Earth named Ulcus. Miyo and Dr. Mala were able to uncover the true story of Ulcus, but they were horrified when they did. Ulcus wasn't meant to save mankind, he was meant to save the world by destroying it without the concern on whoever lives in that world and 'recreate' it again. Ulcus said that this happened years before the Running Man series started. If Ulcus did the same thing once again, the characters will die a horrible death because of Charming Gold's greed. He really messed it up big time, even though he has a reason for his attitude.

    Comic Books 
  • The DC Universe, which is full of fantastic worlds and costumed heroes with amazing abilities and origins, but also psychotic supervillains and other megalomaniacs from all over the galaxy who threaten the world and even the universe on a regular basis.
  • The real world in Goddess Mode's future is even more polluted and stratified than ours, but with the Azoth AI running everything, most people are constantly distracted.
  • Gothtopia has the normally dark and melancholic Gotham City become a bright and sunny paradise. Crime is low, people are living their lives, and the Batfamily is operating in the daylight and wearing bright, inspiring costumes. However, suicide rates are unusually high and the heroes start to figure out what's really going on.
  • "Legend", a story by Walt Simonson in the Batman: Black and White anthology series, is set in the distant future, in "a stainless steel city of light" where a woman is telling her child a bedtime story about how evil was banished from the world by the great warrior Batman. Then she starts crying, and we learn that the brightly-lit, peaceful city is a dictatorship with tanks and soldiers on every street.
  • In Kang the Conqueror, as Nathaniel, Kang mentioned that he came from a post-scarcity world where you're free to do whatever you want. Young Nathaniel ended up getting bullied and having his throat cut by a gang of his school tormentors. Underneath the 30th century wealth and technology is a society that's mouldering away. It finally culminates into a global nuclear war that happens in the 40th century and reduces the future to a new age of barbarism.
  • The Marvel Universe has loads of courageous costumed heroes and adventurers... with a slew of emotional problems, who are constantly underappreciated, if not outright feared, by the people they save. And that's not even taking into account all the supervillains who make their lives a living hell. For all the superheroics, the world is still a terrible place, especially in more mundane parts of The 'Verse, like Hell's Kitchen.
    • The Age of X-Man is this. Written at an intentional counterpoint to the classic comics dystopia, the Age of Apocalypse, it was created by a former native of that reality, Nate Grey (Cable's AOA counterpart), and Apocalypse's arch-enemy and opposite. Unfortunately, where the Social Darwinist Apocalypse encourages chaos, Nate is a Control Freak. So while everyone's a mutant and encouraged to achieve their highest potential, the world is peaceful, and the 'villains' are the X-Tracts, a bunch of hippies preaching free love, even at first glance, something is... off. It transpires that the world is ruled by the 'Guiding Principles', which ban all relationships and are enforced by disturbingly cheerful and friendly secret policemen who treat it like an ordinary job. The slur "'grade'" (short for retrograde) is used for those who break the rules, and Mind Rape is casually used to erase their memories. Inhabitants get three strikes before they're unpersoned, mind-wiped, and locked away.
      • Unusually, however, the better sides of it (the X-Men don't have to constantly fight to survive/be accepted, mutants don't face discrimination, and they're free of their obligation to live up to others' standards, allowed to be their best selves) are discussed towards the end and considered to have merit. And while the X-Men leave to return to the real world, Magneto stops to thank Nate for showing him a world that's completely the opposite the one he grew up in, before Nate sets about reforming it (no secret police, for starters), with the help of a copy of AOX!Magneto, making it more of a genuine utopia.
    • Heroes Reborn (2021): While Blade has observed that the reborn timeline at least appears better on the surface (no vampires anywhere, for one), when looking deeper it becomes clear that the Squadron are all but explicitly in charge of this world, humanity dependent on their protection so that they can't truly do anything the Squadron don't approve of, and giving no sign that they are willing to 'help' beyond killing the threats in front of them (such as Peter Parker attempting to kill himself to stop his mutated form hurting others rather than asking Hyperion for help, where in Marvel or DC Peter could have asked the FF for aid or Jimmy Olsen could have called Superman) or that they give a damn about any other place besides the United States (not even outer space is safe thanks to Doctor Spectrum). To say nothing of the fact that Mephisto has supplanted God as the major religious figurehead in this world.
    • Krakoa of the X-Men: The Krakoan Age is this. It's a massive island that is the new home of mutantkind after years of failed attempts at either co-existence or subjugation. It's a place where mutantkind can live their best life, gifted with technology created by the very island itself and all they ask is for recognition of being an official country and they can give them the fruits of their labor. But, it's not all sunshine and rainbows - the country is ran by the Quiet Council, made up of some of the most self-centered mutants (and yes, that includes its co-creators Magneto and Professor X) with a few Only Sane People sprinkled in. Their backstabbing and planning still goes on behind everyone's back, meaning anything can happen. They absolutely refuse to let non-mutants in unless they are a mutant's +1, meaning that families would be broken apart just because one is a mutant and everyone else is normal. Krakoa is still a major target for anti-mutant groups like ORCHIS and, until recently, the real major danger was Moria MacTaggert, who, if she died, would have caused the timeline to reset, erasing everything.
  • How Overman views the utopia he built on Earth-10 in Mastermen #1, disliking the fact that it was built on the brutal deaths of so many.
  • Corona from Pk2, the sequel of Paperinik New Adventures, is an alien planet that managed to obtain a perfect balance between technology and nature and an incredibly high level of life. It is also a place where kids are raised in a flat-out abusing way, being a member of the government requires you to be emotionally stunned, and anyone that isn't 100% behind this is treated as a criminal. In fact, Everett Ducklair is a fugitive from it.
  • The world Scott Pilgrim lives in. Sure, everyone has superpowers, and everything is incredibly awesome, but there seem to be no repercussions for challenging someone to a fight and beating them to death.
  • Superman:
    • Superman: Secret Origin: Before Superman and Supergirl arrived on the scene, Metropolis was a Vice City. It's a bright and shiny metropolis... that was being ruled by Evil Overlord Villain with Good Publicity Lex Luthor.
    • In Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, Lex Luthor's discoveries, especially his solar battery, have apparently turned Metropolis into a place where pollution, waste, unemployment, homelessness... were no longer a concern. Then it was revealed that the design of his solar battery was based on analyzing the corpse of baby Kal-El, whom he murdered himself.
    • In Bizarrogirl, when something gets to leveling a chunk of the city, Jimmy Olsen calls it a typical day.
      Jimmy: Okay, so. A something is tearing up Metropolis. Typical Wednesday for us, really...
    • Some versions of Krypton (John Byrne's amongst them) describe Superman's home planet as a fantastically evolved society that has left war, disease, poverty, and even death way far behind... at the price of conformity, conceitedness and lack of physical contact.
    • As seen in The Phantom Zone mini-series, Pre-Crisis Krypton was full of wonders but by no means it was a utopia. Super-advanced science only meant evil, wicked people had better, more powerful tools to commit more spectacular crimes. And the planetary ruling council decided that throwing criminals into a nightmare dimension was more humane than killing them or rocketing them into space.
      "What's wrong with these people?" Charlie wonders— meaning, how can a civilization so outwardly advanced produce such a collection of fiends? That question is no longer asked of Krypton. The dark side of the human heart is taken for granted— and its transgressions punished.
  • Discussed in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye when the crew visit the aptly-named planet Hedonia. Rewind mentions that every outwardly pleasant civilization must have a less pleasant side, which he then sets out to find. As it turns out, Hedonia's actually pretty tame compared to the other examples he lists off— though they are some of the galaxy's foremost suppliers of high-end weaponry.
    • The Lost Light becomes one after Getaway's mutiny. After exiling Rodimus, Megatron, and their supporters Getaway puts the quest back on track, ending the silly diversions that distracted the crew from their mission, and no one wants for anything. However, as the crew learns more about what he did to Rodimus and the others, he resorts to brainwashing and murder to keep up the image that all is well.
  • The Unfunnies, full on.
  • A thief in The Unwritten finds himself turned into a rabbit and transported into a magical Winnie the Pooh-like forest setting with other Talking Animals. His life there consists of escape attempts and nervous breakdowns. He eventually meets the author of the books in her fictional avatar as a young girl and tries to tear down her image of innocence and expose her as a middle-aged fraud desperately clinging to childhood innocence. She reveals she's rather well-adjusted, in fact, but that means keeping all her adult fears hidden in the world of her books. Mr. Rabbit learns the hard way what this means. He got out, and corrupts every world he touches ever since. The next place he ended up was a slightly less idealistic Talking Animal land and a lot more straight example of this trope, where he became an Evil Overlord in all but name, just his "subjects" (or at least the narrator) were too naive to notice. It's chilling to read the overly optimistic narration while as a reader understanding the horror of it all.
  • Woodbury in The Walking Dead. It promises salvation from the Zombie Apocalypse but is ruled by the despotic Governor.
  • Most versions of Atlantis in Aquaman. A spectacular undersea city with advanced technolgy, magic, beautiful architecture and high culture. Yet at the same time it is driven by xenophobia, paranoia and rigid traditionalism. Their society is highly stratified and unequal, Fantastic Racism runs rampant and the common people have basically no say in the running of the government. They're also intensely militaristic, but to be fair the surface governments seem to go out of their way to provoke the Atlanteans most of the time.

    Comic Strips 
  • A strip by Argentinian cartoonist Quino depicted a tourist first arriving to a foreign country, who is first delighted when he sees that everyone from the cab driver, hotel employees and people on the street are always singing a merry tune... until policemen, The Men in Black and government agents surround him suddenly, and menacingly observe that he is not singing.

    Fan Works 
  • A Brighter Dark: The kingdom of Hoshido is revealed to be this. Like in the game, Hoshido is a beautiful land with excess food and water that seems like a perpetual golden age. However, it becomes quickly clear that Hoshido was made for Hoshidans, and anyone else, be them tribals, shapechangers, non-humans, and ''especially'' Nohrians face heavy discrimination and violence.
  • In Everqueen, Alaris is a city pretending to be a Crystal Spires and Togas attempt to restore the glory of the Golden Age, but in reality, it merely replicates some ancient architecture with no attempts at originality, and is built in an extremely colourless, cold fashion. And of course, there is Urban Segregation. Plus the leadership serving Chaos toward the end.
  • Ambience: A Fleet Symphony: Charlotte is a glitzy, glamorous casino city, as long as one doesn't look too closely at what Premier Kerrigan Badeau is up to.
  • The Games We Play (The Gamer/RWBY) depicts Mistral as this. Between the fact that open misery draws the Grimm and The Mafiaesque grip the ruling Families have on the kingdom, Granny's city is crime infested in such a way that people can cover their eyes and pretend its (sic) clean.
  • The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World.
    • C'hou. Since the four pretty much viewed C'hou as a Crapsack World in With Strings Attached, they are initially pleased by the changes wrought by the Pyar gods when they return. The new city Tevri'ed is beautiful and full of interesting things, money is easy to make, and the guards are friendly and helpful. In particular they like the new inhabitants, the G'heddi'onians, who are pleasant and civilized. Less than a day later, they've been jumped five times by both outworlders and inhabitants, and within a few more days they thoroughly hate the “Geddies,” who viciously turn on the four when they don't act heroic in the proper way. For example, George saves a library full of people by ripping up an evil magic book—and the Head Librarian fines him heavily for destroying a unique item. And things just get worse from there. While everyone blames the Black Tower for making things bad, the lousy behavior of nearly all the people wasn't created by them.
    • In-story, the Flying Island of Tipaan, a luxury resort run on the backs of the Svenjaya, an oppressed servant race. The four at least manage to alleviate their lot.
  • The Last Great Time War: The outermost Time Lord colony seemingly becomes a peaceful utopia. In reality, it's an illusion created by the Horde of Travesties to lure in victims so they can devour their timelines.
  • Mastermind: Rise of Anarchy: Fumikage reflects that after the revelations of Strategist For Hire, the world of Pro Heroism feels like an oil slick that somebody dumped glitter into. Pretty and shiny on the surface, but with a lot of grime lurking beneath the sheen, and that nobody with any power seems inclined towards trying to clean up the mess.
  • In Winx Club, Magix is an upbeat, light-hearted Sugar Bowl. In Paradoxus, Magix only appears to be one while in peacetimes, but after Bloom and Stella's deaths, it unravels as an outright Crapsack World. Because, well, when a war of dimensional scale breaks, it's pretty difficult to keep the Sugar Bowl appearance. Thus, making it a subversion. It doesn't help that the very corrupt Council of Rocalucce and the nobility of several kingdoms are rewarded with power for helping Eudora invade Magix and, consequently, have grown complacent enough to drop the façade. In peacetimes, they made an effort to pretend that, respectively, they worked for the three schools' best interests and were helping the recently crowned queens rule their planets better.
  • Any Sailor Moon fanfic that frames the Silver Millenium as a dystopian future.
  • In Sonic X: Dark Chaos, Sonic's home planet is a nice and rather peaceful place to live. The rest of the galaxy? NOPE.
    • Episode 69 has Marmolim. A planet inhabited by cute beady-eyed aliens with a penchant for magic. Sounds great — except for the fact that they've nearly been wiped out by Shroud, and are torn in a religious civil war between Christians and Maledict-worshipers.
    • New Jerusalem, the Angel capitol city, is subtly implied to be this with the Big Brother Is Watching You and Happiness Is Mandatory overtones.
  • Slayers Trilogy: The alternate future with the Dragons. Peace and order everywhere, death was rare, massive technological advancements, and criminals were extinct! The problem? To make sure that this peace and order is never disturbed, all humans were purged of any and all evil thoughts, stripping them of their free will.
  • This Bites!!: The World Goverment is to be seen by the average citizen as upholding the law, taking dramatic steps to ensure it remains so. After the events of Alabasta, a the goal of Protagonist Jeremiah Cross becomes to make the world a better place by by ripping away the venere of peace, exposing the World Goverment's actions to the average citizen. He exposes massacres, slavery, the fact that some Marines will kill their own men for the chance of getting a pirate killed and more.

    Fan Works — My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic 
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan works seem particularly prone to this, possibly because the world is shown to be a Sugar Bowl but is also full of dangerous mythological monsters. Everything from Celestia being depicted as an oppressive tyrant to Pinkie Pie having some rather unpalatable hobbies turn up regularly.


  • Fluffy Pony works (works involving a species of genetically engineered "magical pony" pets) offer an interesting inversion; Fluffy ponies are designed to see the world as a Sugar Bowl, regardless of how cruel and harsh the world may be-Depending on the Writer-making their world this trope through their eyes, while the human characters see the world for what it really is. Though it is not impossible, for a Fluffy that has had enough experience with the world to realize how dangerous the world is. Combine this with them being programmed to be naturally innocent, trusting, weak, and naive, and throw them in a world full of natural predators, many other things in nature that can kill them, and a surprisingly dis-appropriate number of humans who want to mistreat if not outright torture them for little to no reason, (Again, how prevalent this is depends on the writer and there are usually just as many people who genuinely want to help and care for them.) and those who aren't lucky enough to be taken into a loving household, will often either have to learn they live in a Crapsaccharine World or end up either dead or just saying "Wan di" on loop, till something kills them.


  • Beyond the Wall: The forest village is a lovely, friendly place where everypony has everything they need, and everypony is happy and cares for one another...but no one can come in, and no one can go out. Because Gaea doesn't love anything or anypony outside the wall, intruders are killed on sight, and any villager that tries to leave is killed and buried within the village grounds so Gaea will still love them.
  • The Conversion Bureau. The ponies are willing parties to the genocide of humanity...and it's considered a good thing.
    • In the spin-off story The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum, TCB!Equestria paints itself up as a paradise, but any veneer of niceness is easily broken if you dig deep enough. For one thing, it's shown that the Empire is very dreadfully unprepared to support the massive influx of newfoals coming in, and if you even so much as question Queen Celestia's "wisdom", you could get sent to a prison camp where you'll be worked to death or tortured, as TCB!Spike learned the hard way. There are also mentions of re-education centers; PHL members Aegis and Verdant Tract allude to having had brushes with those in the past, something which neither of them want to go through again. And according to TCB!Granny Smith, the whole land is "poisoned and dying".
  • In Jericho (MLP), most of Equestria appears to actually be sweet, but there are... darker parts. It starts to get dark in chapter 3, where the main character, Jericho, a pony from a faraway land, stumbles across a dark Government Conspiracy around the western borderlands of Equestria. It gets lampshaded.
  • Chains actually pulls this off in a far more subtle fashion. In this story, Equestria basically follows mostly to being the Sugar Bowl it always has been in the MLP canon, it even has Princess Celestia as still mostly a benevolent ruler and the resident Big Good. However, if you're a human living in Equestria (yes, they fully exist in this story) consider yourself enslaved.
    "What the hell is going on with this country? It all looked so sugary and nice up until an hour or so ago."
  • Lines and Webs Equestria appears to be a Sugar Bowl because it has been socially designed as such by Celestia, who is using the Elements of Harmony to slowly strip all ponies of free will.
  • Rainbow Factory, both the song, the original fic, and its many spin-offs portrays the titular factory as a cover-up for a death camp, where children who have failed their flight test are ground up for material to make rainbows, so they can eliminate weaker children and preserve Cloudstale's own idea of strength.
    (from the song): in the Rainbow Factory, where fears and horrors come true, in the Rainbow Factory, where not a single soul gets through.
  • Cupcakes (Sergeant Sprinkles): While the fact that one of Equestria's greatest heroes turns out to be Serial Killer is bad enough, some of the many spinoff works present Pinkie's murders as part of a larger conspiracy, going up to the highest levels of Equestrian Government.
  • Fallout: Equestria: In true Fallout fashion, the backstory reveals that past-Equestria slowly became one do to the brutal war with the Zebra Nation, splitting the government between six ponies who had no experience in politics, invention of mega spells equivalent to nuclear bombs thanks to Fluttershy's well meaning efforts, and the increasingly morally questionable actions Equestria had to resort to, up to and including spying on its citizens to make sure everyone is "happy" and getting into the heads of anyone who may be a threat in a desperate attempt to keep things together. It goes without saying, things just kept going From Bad to Worse.
  • MLP: Despite seeming to be very similar to the Sugar Bowl world of the original show, the story's world features such things as child prostitution, oppressive, soul-destroying cults, and a flourishing culture of bigotry.
  • Chrysalis Visits The Hague is all about Queen Chrysalis' indictment for war crimes at the (Real Life) International Criminal Court in The Hague. A B-plot meanwhile covers the Equestrian kingdom's efforts to stomp out the Changelings once and for all in her absence. The story soon starts dropping hints that a good portion of Equestrian society has been erected on a hotbed of horrific crimes against sapiency, with allusions being made to — among other things — The Yugoslav Wars. Needless to say, it gets a bit dark and cynical at points.
  • The Assassination of Twilight Sparkle universe has Unicornia, a pretty sweet place to live, what with the advanced technology, healthcare, food, fashion and bright smiling children. Just as long as you can stand the culturally ingrained racism, the politicians dragging their children into their power plays, and the casually institutionalized slavery. Path of the Dragon even reveals that there's inequality even among the unicorns themselves, with the nobility being the only ones holding majority, if not all, of the power aside from the Royal Family. To put this into perspective, if an average Unicornian can get by without getting screwed over by the nobility, it's considered a lucky break.

Abridged Series

  • In Friendship is Witchcraft, ponies pride themselves on ignorance, slavery, racism, and general abuse to non-pony races is not only tolerated, but openly encouraged, dark forces plague the world on a regular basis, an unknown but no doubt sizable proportion of the population are unknowingly robots who apparently (if anti-robot propaganda can be believed) go on murderous rampages if they learn their true natures, there was a massive World War One-esque conflict not long ago, the government has spies everywhere Twilight is allowed to cause mayhem and commit evil dead on a regular basis, without any negative effects to herself, Fluttershy openly runs an Apocalypse Cult, and the ponies in general are either too ignorant to notice horrors of their world or just don't care... Lampshaded by a paragraph from one of Episode 8's ending spinning newspapers:
    Citizens hope to set a trap that will lure the panther into the smoking crater left by last week's moon crash, where it will be eaten by the spiders. The Ponyville Rescue Squad assures citizens that they have a Plan B, which involves herding the panther close enough to come within reach of the downtown Tentacle Monster.
  • My Little Pony: The Mentally Advanced Series has Equestria ruled by the Ax-Crazy Affably Evil Mad God Celestia, whose "teachings" turned her student into a cynical alcoholic mess, most of the ponies are either shallow and self serving or mentally unstable, there is a secret war being fought between Eldritch Abominations that ponies are too ignorant to notice, Fantastic Racism is rampant throughout the three species of ponies, the entire cast live depressing lives, and the various events of the series rarely end with any real resolution.
  • Scootertrix the Abridged: Though Lighter and Softer than the examples above, it is still ruled by a very irresponsible Princess Celestia, who usually leaves her subjects to fend for themselves and recruits three school-aged fillies to serve as her generals in a war between Equestria and two different evil empires closing in from both sides. Oh, and the series also deconstructs the idea of characters being aware of the fourth wall, by showing how mentally and emotionally draining it would be, knowing that their lives are nothing more then a show, that can be cancelled at anytime and having to live with the burden that if the general public found out, it could have devastating consequences to the world, and if they uses their fourth wall abilities too much, it could create plot holes that will come back to bite them in unsee-able circumstances.
  • Ultra Fast Pony: Equestria is ruled by a self-absorbed immortal, who openly treats her subjects however she fills at the moment without a care in the world, the world is populated almost entirely by selfish jerk asses, murder has been illegal for all of ten years, criminal organization commit acts of violence with very little in their way, and Ponyville is in such deplorable state, its rat infestation is the only thing keeping their crocodile problem confined and the water is contaminated with arsenic.
    Rainbow Dash: There's one thing I'll never understand, Scootaloo. Why can't everyone in Ponyville just accept me for who I am?
    Scootaloo: <Maybe because we live in a corrupt society where the lower class are mistreated while unelected dictators take all they want without thought towards building a more stable future for us all to live in.>
    [and later]
    Chrysalis: My changelings need to consume pure love!
    Twilight: And you came looking for it in Equestria?
    Chrysalis: Yes.
    Twilight: That's stupid. You're stupid!


  • Star Mares uses the more saccharine elements of the setting as a smoke screen for the more unsavory elements of the Star Wars universe, such as Fantastic Racism. The fact that all the characters are brightly colored in contrast to the largely monochrome backgrounds helps drive the point home.

    Films — Animation 
  • The An American Tail series and its Mouse World. A world where talking, singing clothed mice and other animals secretly live among humans may sound adorable on the surface, until it is revealed they have their own equivalents to racism, wage slavery, gangs, protection rackets, government corruption and more.
  • This is a bit of a Lost Aesop in the CGI version of Astro Boy.
  • Beauty and the Beast: In keeping with the film's mesage of "don't judge a book by its cover", Belle and her father live in a nice cottage situated in the middle of green pastures, with flowery trees and a beautiful village nearby. Its inhabitants are polite and cheerful - even the guy strapped on a stock - but they treat Belle and Maurice like they were crazy because they don't fit in while they praise Gaston, a narcissistic Jerk Jock with sociopathic tendencies.
  • Cats Don't Dance has a world with a glamorious looking Hollywood, and humanoid animals who work alongside humans in that Hollywood... as movie extras, and are often discriminated against. The main protagonist learns this bitter truth the hard way.
  • Coco: The Land of the Dead has only been seen on Día de Muertos, but from what's depicted it seems to be a 24/7 party filled with amazing sights, sounds, and performances where the vast majority of the dead get to enjoy themselves and reunite with their loved ones after death on top of getting a chance to see how their living relatives are doing once a year. On the other hand, the forgotten, those without pictures on their family's ofrendas, are often left to scrape by in slums filled with trash and garbage with little hope of ever seeing their families again before finally becoming Deader than Dead and fading away into a place no one knows (or likely cares) about.
  • The world inhabited by the Other Mother in Coraline. It goes from full preschooler to full hell so gradually that it's downright creepy.
  • Despicable Me: Villains ride roughshod over the planet. A rare foiled plot has newscasters declaring "Good triumphs for once!" Even the orphanages are run by monsters, and the only villain who fails his Karma Houdini is the relatively harmless Vector.
  • The Lego world presented in The LEGO Movie is a very bright, merry, and cheery place, with people complimenting each other and getting along well... except that there are a lot of posters and signs emphasizing obedience to President Business, any creativity is suppressed and destroyed (with everyone living their lives via instructions, with anyone who deviates being killed via melting), and the world is heavily segregated.
  • Thneedville in The Lorax (2012). Everything looks great, but all of it is manufactured, fresh air has to be bought, and right outside the wall is a dystopian wasteland.
  • Pleasure Island from Pinocchio is a perfect textbook example of this. The Coachman takes disobedient boys here to allow them to do anything at all that they want, including smoke cigars, drink beer or play pool, but eventually, they are turned into donkeys and sold off by the Coachman. (Of course, the fact that Pleasure Island is a gigantic carnival-world — and not the wholesome kind of carnival, either — should have tipped somebody off.)
  • Ringing Bell has a great example of this trope. The first half of the story starts out with a world where everything appears to be great and the sheep live happily. Then the Wolf King kills Chirin's mother. Things get progressively darker and darker until the Downer Ending of all Downer Endings comes. Chirin kills the wolf. Despite this, Chirin gets rejected by the other sheep, and lives a desolate life alone in the wilderness until he finally dies, having killed his only friend.
  • Though the point isn't emphasized, Duloc in Shrek is one of these: it is squeaky-clean and Disney World-like, but ruled by the tyrannical Lord Farquaad. Anyone who doesn't meet his standards gets rounded up and dumped in Shrek's swamp.
  • Sunnyside, the daycare center in Toy Story 3. What originally seems like a utopia for abandoned or donated toys is actually a dictatorship run by Lotso the bear. The new toys are brought into the room where the toddlers play with and misuse them until they're broken, and anyone who tries to break out of their intricate security system is either imprisoned or tortured. But after Andy's toys manage to overthrow Lotso, Sunnyside became much more hospitable.
    Lotso: Listen up, folks. We got a way of doing things here at Sunnyside. If you start at the bottom, pay your dues, life here can be a dream come true! But if you break our rules, step outta line, try to... check out early, well... you're just hurting yourselves.
  • Frivoli from Twice Upon a Time may be the land of sweet dreams, but it's not much better than the Murkworks on a few levels. Their ruler, the Chef of State, is an illiterate doofus, the "Pantry of Pomp" is an apparent Kangaroo Court, and our heroes Ralph and Mumford are treated like crap for ultimately minor screw-ups, apparently because they're "funny-looking".
  • Another Pixar film, WALL•E, features this on the Axiom space liner. What was meant to be a five-year cruise for Earthlings while the titular robots cleaned up the polluted planet instead turned into a perpetual cruise. Everyone has gotten so fat from living in microgravity while being pampered by robots that everyone is traveling on hoverchairs meant for the infirm — no one has actually walked in centuries. Even the entertainment consists of watching robots play golf at the driving range.
  • Unicorn Wars is a war movie about teddy bears fighting unicorns.
  • Cowslip's warren (the Warren of the Shining Wires) from Watership Down. "The Man" leaves food daily, there's lots of poetry and culture, and whatever you do, don't mention the wires. (Granted, given that their choices were "near-complete extermination" or "guaranteed collective survival", the rabbits may have been justified in their choice.)
  • The Sugar Rush world in Wreck-It Ralph. It seems like a sugary paradise, but it is utter hell for Vanellope von Schweetz who is cruelly treated as a "mistake." Worse is that it wasn't always like that. The place was usurped by King Candy, a.k.a. Turbo, and the population reprogrammed to treat her like that.
    Ralph: What's going on in this candy-coated heart of darkness?

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Most of the films of Tim Burton run on this in one form or another.
    • Pee-wee's Big Adventure begins with a typical day of breakfast and a bike ride to the shopping mall — and ends with Pee-Wee's bicycle being stolen and his becoming so distraught that he slowly goes deranged.
    • The Deetzes and their rich friends in Beetlejuice think it would be fun to conduct a séance with the dead... and the fun suddenly stops when the ghosts they resurrect begin to crumble into dust before their eyes.
    • In Batman (1989), the Joker holds a parade in downtown Gotham City to celebrate the town's 200th anniversary, showering 20 million dollars on the streets to lure the crowds in... so that he can gas them all to death.
    • In Batman Returns, Selina Kyle's apartment is all pink with way more dolls and stuffed animals than you'd expect a grown woman to own. Her breakdown makes it very clear that she was the kind of person who used excessive optimism to mask her unstable mental state.
    • In Edward Scissorhands, the neighbors who are so kind to Edward in the beginning turn violently on him once they suspect (incorrectly) that he's a burglar. And his version of Alice in Wonderland (2010) isn't exactly set in a proper Wonderland. This may be former Disney animator Burton's way of demonstrating that "Disneyland" isn't all it's cracked up to be — especially since his more realistic movies (Big Fish, for example) depict worlds that are neither wholly good nor wholly bad.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022): In order to find Bjornson, a cheese salesman with ties to the Valley Gang, Chip and Dale go to Main Street, a cheerful, sunny avenue populated by cartoon characters who use their wholesome public images to keep the authorities from uncovering their illegal activities. Among the denizens there are a singing baker who sells untraceable weapons and a cute little girl who runs a Muppet fighting ring.
  • Neo Seoul in Cloud Atlas has all the features: established early on as a fantastically advanced metropolis complete with glittering spires and dazzlingly colorful interiors, it's also made abundantly clear that it runs on slave labor; most of the menial work is performed by the genetically engineered Fabricant underclass, who are forbidden by law and religion to hold rights until the day of their Exaltation — a lavish retirement ceremony in which they are allowed to become full citizens. Of course, it's later revealed retired Fabricants are secretly executed and recycled into cheap protein to feed the rest of the Fabricant population. Plus, all the color and luxury is a hologram façade, and places like Papa Song's and Hae-Joo Chang's apartment are just bare concrete rooms, while outside the upper-class regions of the city, illegal marketplaces and Fabricant brothels flourish, and the flooded ruins of Old Seoul serve as a constant reminder that the metropolis is in very real danger of running itself into the ground.
  • The Gotham City of The Dark Knight Trilogy seems more prosperous and optimistic than the Gotham of the older Batman films, but we learn rather quickly that at the ground level crime is eating the streets whole while the upper class just chooses to ignore it, wrapped up in their own success. The citizens of Gotham do care enough to take some action to rebuild their city, and thanks to the Bat himself corruption and crime are taking a beating and the Police Are Useless mantra is cut down, and Earn Your Happy Ending is in full effect.
    • The first film of the saga reveals that the League of Shadows are partly responsible for the current state of Gotham, having tried to destroy the city, which they perceived as a Wretched Hive, using economic means. Which mostly just made it more wretched.
    Rachel: Look beyond your own pain, Bruce. This city is rotting. They talk about the Depression like it's history and it's not.
  • The future city of San Angeles presented in Demolition Man looks just rosy. No crime, no war, everything is bright and shiny... Yeah, it's a real Sugar Bowl. Too bad sugar is banned by the government because it's bad for you. In fact, absolutely anything that might be the least bit harmful, offensive or disruptive to anybody is. No meat products, no alcoholic drinks, no contact sports, no swear words, no spicy food, no uneducational toys, and no physical contact (up to and including sexual intercourse). In the words of the film's villain, it's like if Oceania was run by an evil Mr. Rogers. This namby-pamby, "oppressing you for your own good" society is why there's a gang of well-armed but actually pretty friendly hobos trying to avoid it all by scraping out a free living in the city's sewers. In turn, the city's founder groomed the villain in cryosleep to exterminate undesirables like them, to keep his idea of a perfect society alive.
  • This is the plot of the Norwegian movie, Den Brysomme Mannen (The Bothersome Man). A man steps off a bus in a desert and is taken to a city where everything seems nice on the surface. He gets a nice house, a pretty girlfriend and almost anything he desires, but there is one catch. Turns out that the place is a dystopia where emotions are nonexistent, food and drink is flavorless and there are no children anywhere.
  • The Disney Channel Original Movie Descendants features the United States of Auradon, which is a world settled by the Disney Heroes and their offspring (all teenagers). On the surface, it is a pleasant place filled with Crowd Songs and other general goodness. In reality, Auradon is a Police State with a strong Black-and-White Morality that banishes all criminals (such as the Disney Villains) to the Isle of the Lost, and deprives them of basic human rights, including decent food and modern technology, as well as shunning the children for the crime of being related to the criminals. Their own residents are even subjected to extreme sexism. The second film has Uma outright decrying Auradon's crimes below a goody-facade, citing how only selecting a few children to a better life and leaving the rest behind to rot on the isle, does nothing but fuel a cycle that causes abused children to embrace villainy.
  • Goliath Awaits: The community surviving inside the air pockets of the sunken ship Goliath has a certain amount of luxuries and is miraculous in its mere existence. But it also has a somewhat dictatorial system, a certain amount of lies told too its people and the constant threat that one day the water might break in and kill them.
  • The United States in Harrison Bergeron, inspired by the short story by Kurt Vonnegut. A world where everyone is finally equal — by lobotomizing the overtly talented, if needed.
  • Hot Fuzz: "Statistically, Sandford, Gloucestershire is the SAFEST village in the country!" Tell that to the castle crypt filled with the corpses of every minor nuisance to step foot in Sandford.
  • Beneath its pastoral appearance, the town in Hunting Scenes from Bavaria is a pretty unpleasant place to live, with its residents being hostile towards outsiders and anyone else not in line with the traditional ways.
  • The Italian film I'm Not Scared features this, largely due to the fact that the main character is a naive young boy. His quiet little rural village seems nice enough, but most of the villagers (including the main character's parents) are involved in the kidnapping of a young Milanese boy.
  • Labyrinth: The peach dream is bright, colorful, and full of people compared to the drab, muddy Labyrinth. Sarah is intrigued by the glamour, but made uncomfortable by how everyone seems to be drunk and fondling each other. People laugh at Sarah mercilessly after she falls for a prank, and she wanders through it dazed, self-conscious, and completely alone. It is not helped by how Jareth stalks her throughout most of the song, and how everyone is staring at her. When Sarah realizes it's a dream and breaks out, it devolves into everyone trying to grab her.
  • Logan's Run takes place in an domed city where poverty and crime are nonexistent and people have effectively unlimited leisure time. The catch? All citizens are euthanized when they turn 30 to keep the population at a sustainable level.
  • The city from Metropolis is well-maintained and prosperous on the top, but the entity maintaining that façade is the proletariat living underground.
  • In Paradise Beach, Thailand is at first presented (both visually and in dialogues) as a colorful sunny haven full of beautiful beaches, mansions, cafes & night clubs, which contrasts the gray & rainy France from the prologue. However, as the story unfolds it becomes clear that the protagonists are stuck in a dangerous hellhole full of murders, shootouts and corrupt police. Indeed, Thai beaches don't seem like such a nice place after we see people get brutally executed there.
  • The titular town in Pleasantville is an example of this. There is no poverty, serious illness, or hostility. All the residents go through their lives seemingly constantly being "pleasant". Even the laws of physics seem to conform to "pleasantness" as there are no fires, all thrown basketballs will always go into the basket, and roads out of Pleasantville only ever lead back into town. But as the protagonists soon realize, the fictional lives of the Pleasantville townsfolk are shallow and devoid of meaning. Their society lacks any form of culture, depth, genuine emotion, sexuality and even color. People are only capable of performing the tasks they are specifically shown doing on the show and lack the knowledge to do anything elsenote . Furthermore, as changes begin to set in, the previously "pleasant" townsfolk react in fear by destroying all forms of cultural expression such as books and paintings, imposing cruel laws, and implementing segregation. You might say it's a deconstruction of '50s shows like this by displaying some actual problems of the times.
  • The future setting in The Purge Universe seems like a utopia, and actually, it almost is. The only catch is, you have to be able to survive the 12-hour period once a year where the government lets the citizens do (almost) anything without any legal repercussions.note  Of course, it's actually worse than that. If you survive being attacked by someone you thought you could trust, like the protagonists of the first film do, you'll never trust them again. It's also hinted that the biggest reason for this event is the government's way of weeding out the poor and the weak. Worst of all, the series portrays humanity itself in a very grim way, showing that, if given the opportunity to commit murder and get away with it, most will take advantage of the opportunity, simply because they can. The second film, however, downplays it, with a resistance that rises up against the Founding Fathers who decided that not enough people were dying and hired some death squads to Kill the Poor.
  • In Running Scared (2006), the home of the torturing, murdering pedophile couple is decked out like a kindergarten playroom.
  • Eden Parish in The Sacrament initially comes off as a self-sustained utopia where people can live together regardless of the race or background. It's only until later that we find out that the people aren't allowed to leave, and those that disobey the rules are severely punished.
  • Serenity (2005) has Miranda, a planet that was a failed attempt at creating a utopia by dosing the population with a chemical designed to curb their violent impulses with the ultimate aim of doing this to every world. The result is a ghost planet filled with abandoned buildings, the corpses of people who became so docile because of the aforementioned chemical that they laid down and died, and those who had the exact opposite reaction to the chemical, becoming the cannibalistic and psychopathically violent Reavers.
  • In Starship Troopers, the United Citizen's Federation is a place where society is entirely militarised, only military veterans are citizens, you need a license to have children, and you can be tried, found guilty and executed (on television no less) all within the same day. And the Federation is fighting an endless (and also implied to be hopeless) war against a race of implacable insectoids with superiority in strength, tactics and numbers. All presented in a sunny, bright, matter-of-fact way by the news reels that intersperse the film.
  • Coruscant in the Star Wars prequels. Although the films mostly show the glittering, affluent urban paradise of the top level, the Revenge of the Sith novelization mentions that the sublevels of the planet/city can be "worse than Nar Shaddaa," a notorious crime hub.
    • Works like The Illustrated Star Wars Universe reveal that Coruscant is even worse after it's been remade into Imperial Center. The Coruscant chapter takes the form of an essay written by an Imperial propaganda minister, who cheerfully describes the planet's technological wonders, mentions in passing that crime is being wiped out, and points out the magnanimity of the Emperor in granting aliens designated housing areas regularly patrolled by Stormtroopers, to better protect them from any intolerant locals. Said author was a nonhuman himself.
    • Harry S. Plinkett also notes in his review that daily life on Coruscant is busy, bright, and chipper, even when the most traumatic and horrific war to ever be fought in the galaxy is going on. Coruscant is filled with the Republic's ultra-wealthy and privileged elite, and emblematic of the decadent and corrupt society that was the Republic in its final days. And, Harry notes, it's still going strong after 20 years under Emperor Palpatine, whose most redeeming quality was, apparently, being smart enough not to shit where he ate.
    • Canto Bight in The Last Jedi is a gorgeous, glamorous casino world with classy galactic high rollers living it up at swanky parties. Of course that’s before you get to the arms dealers selling weapons to both sides of the war, the child slavery, and the animal abuse.
  • The 1968 mondo film Sweden: Heaven and Hell portrays the titular nation as an example of this trope — behind its liberated façade, life in Sweden is depicted as empty and unfulfilled, with high rates of suicide, alcoholism, and drug addiction.
  • The Finnish science fiction film Ruusujen aika (Time of the Roses). The future Finland of 2012 where class differences have been eliminated, diseases eradicated, wars are history, everyone is finally chemically happy, the world is ruled by scientists and civil servants instead of politicians — and under the surface everything is horribly wrong.
  • The Truman Show, where the whole world in which Truman Burbank lives is a giant television studio situated in Hollywood and he is the main character (and the only inhabitant who isn't an actor) in an incredibly epic reality show. He grew up in that world, which is portrayed like a mix of the modern age and a stereotypical 1950s American suburb, but is "On air, unaware" the whole time. He starts finding out when things begin to fall apart; first a floodlight falls from the sky, then he accidentally discovers a make-up room for the actors behind the doors of a fake elevator. Then he notices he can't leave his hometown, ever: all flights out are full, every bus out of town he tries to leave on breaks down, and when he tries to leave the city with his own car, the local nuclear power plant coincidentally has a meltdown and the whole area is sealed off. He finally manages to get out by sailing away and crashing into the horizon.
  • The Untouchables (1987) director Brian De Palma deliberately made Chicago crime lord Al Capone's surroundings very lavish and sumptuous:
    "My image of The Untouchables is that corruption looks great. It's like Nazi Germany. It's clean. It's big. Everything runs smoothly. The problem is all the oppressed people are in some camp somewhere and nobody ever sees them. So the world of Chicago is a slick world. A world that's run by money and corruption and it looks fabulous."
  • Summerisle in The Wicker Man (1973) may count as this, as it is not as peaceful and joyous as it seems to be.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The kids in The 100 are told to make their way to Mt. Weather, as it's the only safe haven left on earth. When they get there, it appears to be a charming rustic shelter, shielded from the terrors of the outdoors, and run by a just and benevolent leader. In reality, they plan on harvesting blood and bone marrow from the kids, even at the cost of hurting or killing them.
  • Angel:
    • Jasmine's utopian Los Angeles, where everyone is happy and fulfilled, but at the cost of mind control (and Jasmine eating people). Yet despite that Jasmine's way is incredibly attractive, even after people have been removed from her influence; all of the main characters at some point or other talk about how they miss Jasmine's love and the feeling that everything was finally good, to the point that after Jasmine's death, representative of demonic law firm Wolfram & Hart Lilah shows up to congratulate the main characters on ending world peace.
    • Lindsey and later Gunn are at one point trapped in a hell dimension that superficially appears to be an idyllic peaceful suburban neighborhood but has them living in a home that has a demon in the cellar that will rip their heart out every day, only to have them heal and relive the same thing the next day. And if anyone interferes or tries to upset the status quo, all the residents will mindlessly shoot at them with machine guns.
  • Bates Motel: Pines White Bay is seemingly idyllic town... whose wealth comes from drug dealing, sex trafficking, and all the dangerous criminals that follow this trade, a corrupt sheriff's department. And that's without getting into the family of Norman Bates...
  • Black Mirror:
    • "Nosedive" takes place in a world where people are obsessed with social media, and rate each other on their daily interactions. On the surface, this means that everyone is bright and cheerful with each other, but there are profound, genuinely disturbing implications to it all, including the fact that having a higher rating can get you preferential treatment from hospitals. Needless to say, this breeds in (most) people a ruthless pursuit of those high ratings and can utterly destroy those unable to achieve them.
    • San Junipero also comes across as this, with many viewers pointing out that this virtual tropical paradise where residents party all day and night is only fun when that lifestyle is a rarity but will inevitably get boring and empty when that's what you're stuck with for eternity a la The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "A Nice Place To Visit".
  • The Charmed (1998) double episode "It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World". The heroes team up with their evil counterparts from a Mirror Universe introduced in the same episode, causing "a shift" in both worlds when they perform an act of good in the other world. Their world turns into a manically happy world, complete with an anthropomorphic cartoon sun that never sets, where minor infractions are punished severely; Phoebe is shot by a police officer for having parked illegally, and the hospital is mainly in the business of amputating the limbs of lawbreakers—and those of people who violate hospital rules. The Charmed Ones from the mirror world reveal that the opposite has happened to their already-evil world; mutilation is now the standard punishment for exhibiting a minor kindness like saying "Gesundheit" if someone sneezes. After Leo commits an act of "great evil" in the main narrative world by killing the Elder Gideon—ostensibly a good guy but who is actually the antagonist of the season arc—both worlds regain their respective status quos.
  • The UnSub's house in the Criminal Minds episode "The Uncanny Valley". To go into further detail, the UnSub in this episode is a childlike woman named Samantha who loves to play with toys and has set up a perpetual tea party for herself and her favorite dolls. The problem is that the "dolls" in question are actually adult women who Samantha kidnaps and paralyzes with an IV-administered drug, locking them into complete immobility while totally conscious of everything going on. To make matters worse, the victims eventually die from severe dehydration, and Samantha has to go out and collect another "doll" to replace the broken one. In other words, the women are being forced to watch their own slow, painful death, all while wearing pretty dresses and makeup and sitting at a bright pink table. Granted, Samantha has an extremely good reason for her insanity, but that doesn't make her personal play-world any less creepy.
  • Doctor Who has done this several times.
    • "The Savages": The advanced and idyllic society of the Elders. It is revealed this is maintained by draining the life force of savages living outside the city for the Elders.
    • "The Celestial Toyroom", a Pocket Dimension ruled over by the Celestial Toymaker, though even at first glance it shows its evil aspects.
    • "The Macra Terror": A society fashioned after a holiday camp... with mind-controlling giant crabs lurking beneath the surface.
    • "Paradise Towers", in which the titular condominium has crumbled into a Judge Dredd-style Dystopia After the End, though some still put on a cheery façade.
    • "The Happiness Patrol", where the government has made good cheer mandatory, although, largely because of the direction and production design, this comes off more as an Informed Attribute.
    • "Orphan 55": Tranquillity Spa is an absolutely gorgeous holiday resort... where most of the gorgeousness is provided via hologram to conceal the fact that it's actually built inside an environmental dome on a Death World with vicious predators that are getting inside the dome to kill people.
  • The Good Place: When the main characters finally reach the real Good Place, it seems like an idyllic paradise where everyone is happy. Once they actually talk to the residents, however, it becomes apparent that having all of their desires fulfilled for so many years has numbed their brains to the point where they can't actually enjoy it.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid is a video game themed Cyberpunk medical drama. The dissonance has caught people off-guard, character and viewer alike.
    • Nico Saiba thought that fighting in the colorful game battles perpertaining this tokusatsu series is just harmless fun. She was horrified upon actually witnessing a fight and realizing just how brutal Matter of Life and Death it really is. That the doctor riders are not playing for funzies, but putting their lives on the line to save a patient from the Game Disease.
    • The VR game Kamen Rider Chronicle is essentially an old RPG upgraded with modern technologies. Players can become heroes of their own story by clearing all the levels and defeating the final boss as the legendary warrior, Cronus. Its ridiculous graphics, perky guide NPC and Bloodless Carnage mechanics led to it being rated A, japanese equivalent of the E for Everyone rating. Once you get in though, you either defeat the level's boss, die of the Game Disease that all players contract upon activating the Chronicle gashat or die fighting. Kamen Rider Chronicle is the Bugster's final weapon against humanity.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus played this with their usual flair in the "Fairy Tale" sketch:
    Narrator: Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lived in a valley far, far away in the mountains, the most contented kingdom the world had ever known. It was called "Happy Valley", and it was ruled over by a wise old king called Otto. And all his subjects flourished and were happy, and there were no discontents or grumblers, because wise king Otto had had them all put to death along with the trade union leaders many years before. And all the good happy folk of Happy Valley sang and danced all day long. And anyone who was for any reason miserable or unhappy or who had any difficult personal problems was prosecuted under the "Happiness Act".
  • Murder, She Wrote: The small town of Cabot Cove might look peaceful at first glance, but it also has a homicide rate that far exceeds even the most dangerous places in the real world. No matter how many (alleged) criminals Jessica catches, more always seem to take their place.
  • Both the modern-day town of Storybrooke, Maine and the Fairy Tale kingdoms of Once Upon a Time are this. The fairy tale realm is littered with corrupted rulership, thieves, and dark magic. Prince Charming's kingdom is flat broke. Cinderella's kingdom is suffering from a drought. And no matter where you look, Rumpelstiltskin is cutting deals. The town of Storybrooke looks like a quiet, idyllic community, but everyone's been ground to submission under Mayor Mills's stiletto heels and Mr. Gold owns everything through a Chain of Deals like he did as Rumpelstiltskin.
  • 2099 London in The Peripheral (2022) easily qualifies. Everything is sleek and shining, with technological marvels around every corner — the whole place is "magical", in Flynne's eyes. However, the Jackpot has wiped out most of the human population, said advanced technology is the only thing keeping the world from collapsing into ruin once more, the powers that be are ruthless oligarchs, and everyone is subject to constant Sinister Surveillance. And in Episode 6, Wilf reveals that the city's gleaming appearance is a facade enabled by virtual-reality Glamour, and in reality London is little better than a ruin in many places, with an even smaller population than previously thought.
  • The severed floor in Severance (2022) is this. Its staff are free from both the worries and joys of the outside world, and the goofy employee perks (like melon parties and caricatures) are contrasted with the psychological torture of the break room and the overall inhuman, oppressive atmosphere.
  • One Sliders alternate dimension is a world where everything looks great, and there's a great big lottery which they enter. Wade wins. However, she may have wanted to read the fine print: the lottery does give the winner anything you could ask for, but also requires you to give up your life soon afterwards. It's a voluntary population-reduction program, and the real benefit is mainly to the next-of-kin.
  • The town of Charming in Sons of Anarchy is an understated example. It's a happy, peaceful small town that's free of suburban sprawl, excessive wealth inequality, and chain stores, in which all businesses are locally-owned and independent. That is enforced by the titular Sons of Anarchy, a violent, criminal motorcycle gang who finance their activities by selling illegal firearms on behalf of terrorists, with the tacit and sometimes explicit cooperation of the local police force. As Tara laments, Charming is toxic, and it infects everyone who lives there.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1: "Revisions": SG-1 finds a small idyllic village. It looks like a perfect town until people start disappearing, and everybody but SG-1 forgets they ever existed.
    • Stargate Atlantis: One episode the team come across a seemingly beautiful world untouched by the Wraith and with no crime. It turns out the worst criminals were originally sent to an island where the Wraith would devour them. This was so effective crime virtually stopped, so standards became a lot more lax. One man who had been wrongfully convicted of murder was sent there, and a woman who tried to tell the Atlantis team about it was sent to the island for treachery.
  • Star Trek has done plenty of "planet where everyone is happy and everything is perfect, except it turns out everything is really horrible" stories.
    • Landing on one of them which is filled with beings empowered by human imagination is the only crime that still is punished by the death penalty in the Federation.
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: "The Return of the Archons'': Kirk & co. beam down to a world, finding that the town they're in resembles an American 1900s-era town. They only find out later that the idyllic atmosphere they witness among the people they see is bought at the cost of an all-controlling computer regulating their behaviors for six thousand years.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Justice": The Enterprise arrives at a planet that seems idyllic — except that the punishment for every crime is death.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Changeling homeworld, a planet of islands, beautiful gardens, and monoliths. Most of the planet is covered by the Great Link, a sea of liquid Changelings living in constant, blissful union with each other. Did we mention that it's the base of operations for the Dominion, and that the Changelings are the Founders of the Dominion, cruel tyrants who want to stamp out freedom in the Alpha Quadrant just like they've already done in the Gamma Quadrant?
  • Suburban Shootout: Played for comedy, where a picture-perfect English village is dominated under the surface by rival gangs of upper-middle-class housewives.
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • The Twilight Zone (1959): "It's a Good Life" features a Smalltown USA where everyone is bright and happy, about to celebrate the birthday of a 6-year-old boy with lots of presents and love... until we find out that the 6-year-old boy is a telepath who requires everyone to be bright and happy all the time. Everyone constantly mumbles to themselves about how happy they are, or else he kills them in rather horrible ways — or worse, if they are people he loves, he might try to help them. He still tries to "help" them in the 2002 revival because he was never taught that this was wrong; everybody, including his own mother, hates and fears him because of this.
    • The Twilight Zone (2002): In the titular gated community in "Evergreen", children considered "unsalvageable" — as in not fitting their definition of a happy household member — are sent to "Arcadia Military School", really a fertilizer plant, where they are killed and turned into fertilizer, so they can "help the world in some way for a change". The cold indifference of the people, who allowed this to "bring peace to their household", makes this one of the most unsettling episodes of the reboot.
  • Ultraseven X exhibited and downplayed this trope at same time. Given the show's darker, adult-oriented Cyberpunk setting, the locations are pretty futuristic, brilliant and luxurious, but the people living here and there have bizzare moralities. To make it weirder or worse, Enemy Mine phenomena are common all over the place, and a few Monster of the Week questions on aspects of the franchise.spoiler  Since it's made by Tsuburaya Productions who knew adult fans better, it's not a kid's show.
  • Utopia Falls: At first, New Babyl appears to be a nice city with people of all races in harmony together there, wearing brightly colored clothing and has a thriving cultural scene in the Exemplar, an annual artistic competition. Before long though, it's revealed they have a caste-like social system, and a repressive government which strictly controls things. People have also been lied to since the city began about the outside world, and many "disappear" regularly if they cross the government.

  • Devo's "Beautiful World". It starts off talking about how great the world is. Then it becomes apparent that this is someone else's opinion and that the narrator of the song doesn't agree with it. The idea is that the person who says the world is beautiful has been conditioned to believe it is and doesn't know about the bad things. The video makes this apparent.
  • Definitely exemplified in the song "Handlebars" by the Flobots (by extension, this song makes an example out of Real Life). The first half is well enough off, describing the good that we people can do. It's "good to be alive" in a world where we can do anything. However, the song takes a sharp turn in the middle:
    I can hand out a million vaccinations
    Or let them all die in exasperation
    Have them all healed of their lacerations
    Have them all killed by assassination
  • The PV and lyrics of the Vocaloid song "Hello, Planet".
  • Lily Allen's song "LDN" about London and how everything looks exciting and wonderful at first, but when you take a second look... Indeed, most of Lily Allen's songs come across this way due to the musical style they use and the sound of her voice. "Smile" and "The Fear" come to mind.
  • "The Future Soon" by Jonathan Coulton starts out about a nice and sweet song about unrequited love, but soon takes a sinister turn into escapism, cyborgs, and kidnapping.
  • Perfect Lawns by Curse in the Woods lives and breathes this trope:
    Prettyville, perfect lawns
    Sprinklers programmed to go off at dawn
    Luxury car in every drive
    Ain't it grand to have a trophy wife.
    So take all your vitamins, sterilize everything,
    Lock all your windows like they tell you on CNN.
    Don't forget to set your security alarm
    'cause the rest of the world is out to do you harm...

    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Dreaming counts, despite being set in the literal World of Darkness. You are a fairy, living off of the imagination you inspire in others, and doing courtly fairy things and adventuring in a dream world. Except the modern world is so poisonous to fae that you can literally die of boredom waiting in line at the bank, and all the best ways to stave this off will slowly drive you crazy.
  • Exalted: The First Age was a Crystal Spires and Togas paradise filled to the brim with life-improving Magitek and ruled over by three hundred divinely empowered god-kings singled out for just how awesome and special they are. Only said god kings are hard-wired to become more unstable as they become older and more incredibly powerful. After a thousand years, they're willing to do anything for amusement and to prove their excellence, from starting wars for fun to creating life to capricious and random murder. And although they don't admit it, most of them don't consider ordinary mortals to be real people and are more than willing to expend them in country-sized art projects, personal wars or horrific experiments. The flying city of Tzatli is a particularly clear example. On the surface, it's a wonder of technology even by First Age standards and its citizens lead luxurious lives envied by mortals everywhere else. In practice, however, its Exalted god-queen and her secret police strictly regulate every aspect of life to keep up the appearance of a perfect, ideal city. Slack off during your work shift, arrive too late for family time or argue too loudly over dinner, and you'll be hauled away to an unknown fate while a new set of citizens is sat down to your still-warm meal.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • There is nothing inherently wrong with Lorwyn. The plane itself is a perfectly nice place; not all of its citizens are, though. Oh, and don't stick around there when the Aurora comes (every fifty years or so), because it turns into Shadowmoor, where you don't want to end up.
    • Ravnica counts while you're at it. It looks like an okay place to live, then you realize everyone is trying to kill you, rob you, kill you, steal your identity, kill you, and generally screw you over. Even the "good" people. And you don't get any rest after death.
    • Kaladesh is little better. Praised for following the Grimdark Battle for Zendikar and Shadows Over Innistrad blocks (both defined by grim struggle against Eldritch Abomination hordes and, in Innistrad's case, the world itself going mad), Kaladesh is brightly colored with strong themes of invention, discovery, and progress. It is also home to a brutally thorough Consulate that restricts what ideas are allowed in polite society and a vast network of renegade cells dedicated to fighting consulate tyranny. Oh, and Tezzeret, The Dragon to Magic's current Big Bad, seems to be running the show.
    • Amonkhet is mostly vast desert populated by undead, exactly the kind of blasted hellscape the Gatewatch expected a plane ruled and created by Nicol Bolas would look like. Then they find the city of Naktamun, a beautiful place where benevolent gods watch over the populace and mummies perform all the labour, allowing the mortals to devote their time to training and preparing for their glorious God-Pharaoh's return. Amonkhet is arguably the most nightmarish plane seen so far. Nicol Bolas corrupted the plane by killing and corrupting its resident gods so that they would raise a population of unwitting mortals for him to harvest as superpowered mummy warriors. The entire place is one giant People Farm.
  • Paranoia: Friend Computer wants you to be happy. Happiness is mandatory. Failure to maintain sufficient levels of happiness is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution. Are you happy, Citizen?
  • The Dreamlands in Princess: The Hopeful are a magical, mystical land which you can visit through dreams, populated by plenty of mystical creatures, with benevolent all-powerful mage Queens ruling near-perfect utopias and living peacefully side-by-side... and the reason for this is because this place actually is a Lotus-Eater Machine created by the servants of a cosmic force Made of Evil: the Queens and their servants are a race of Hope Bringers they trapped here to prevent them from interfering while they freely corrupt the real world. And while the Queens have recently defeated their wardens and taken control of the Dreamlands, allowing them to send some of their servants back outside, the Lotus-Eater Machine's influence is still present, gradually warping and modifying the memory of its visitors until they forget their life in the real world, convinced they have always been here. And that's not even getting in the fact some of the natives who know their world isn't real are trying to escape by using dark magic to play Body Snatchers with humans...
  • Siren: The Drowning features a possible future for crossovers where Princesses have successfully destroyed the All-Consuming Darkness, resulting in a bright and shiny world where there is no evil and people are nice and friendly... except that's because the Light has now gone full Knight Templar and eradicates anything remotely evil or bad. The people are so nice because they are utterly terrified they will be eradicated if they show even the slightest hint of being mean.
  • Warhammer:
    • Bretonnia. A bucolic feudal kingdom with idyllic countryside, Disney-esque castles, knights in shining armour and princesses in colourful dresses, Bretonnia looks like heaven on earth compared to the grim and less romanticised Empire to the immediate east. Bretonnia is also home to an almost unbelievably oppressive and brutal feudal system where the vast majority of the population toil away in practically inescapable poverty, the nobility are meanwhile regarded as infallible and control almost every single aspect of their lives, knights can kill serfs for pretty much any reason they feel like (such as daring to lay eyes on their prized Pegasus), and the local religion is a cult dedicated to a "Lady of the Lake" who is more a Lovecraftian horror than an Arthurian legend and also known for kidnapping small children with magical abilities — the girls come back as priestesses, and the boys, well, nobody really knows what happens to them.
    • Ind. It is a land of exotic spices, legendary treasures, fertile fields, great palaces, golden temples, beautiful art and deeply spiritual people. However the disparity between fabulously wealthy rulers and poor commoners rivals that of Bretonnia, people live in constant fear of their myriad deities and everyday life is dictated by almost impenetrable system of rituals and taboos which means that the outsiders are at constant risk of being executed for unwittingly committing a sacrilege, that is if they don't fall prey to numerous temple of doom style cults beforehand. The jungles of Ind besides the expected bizarre flora and fauna also harbor scores of tiger-headed beastmen who are just as likely to defend a human village from attackers as raze it to the ground. And on top of that the area is frequently raided by the ogres from the north and the dark elves from the sea.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Upon the introduction of the politely expansionist, harmonious Tau Empire, many fans cried foul for the newcomers not fitting in with the crapsackiness of the setting. Subsequent fluff, however, has offered hints that its peaceful society is the result of mind control, and that rather than being dissident-free, dissidents are instead quietly taken out of sight, resulting in something closer to Nineteen Eighty-Four than a true paradise.
    • Inverted with Nurgle. Falling in with the worshipers of the God of Decay may look pretty atrocious, but in truth Father Nurgle's children are just as Affably Evil as their patron. In the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, at least these guys are happy with their lot in life.
    • The ultimate proof that this trope is relative to the setting is the world Q'sal in Black Crusade. On the one hand, it is in constant progress through dazzling inventions, full of people locked in the prime of their life, holds the prestige of being one of the biggest industrial and economic powers in their region, and is generally considered to be one of the best places to live in the setting. On the other hand, they openly run one of the biggest and most stygian slave markets outside of Commorragh, mostly as a mean to get "raw" souls in bulk, which powers their society and inventions. It's also led by people whose faith in a god (who is, among other things, the God of Hope) actively drives them to fuel their welfare with so many souls, to the point that souls are the main currency on the planet. To make matters worse, it's an open secret that the three city states of Q'sal are locked in a permanent cold war that drives them to outperform and use espionage on each other. If they ever did get into an open war, their combined influence could bring the entire sector into a savage war from which it might never recover.
  • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Malfean abode of Empress Aliara is a magnificent castle filled with pleasures and addictions. Unfortunately, her realm offers only insatiable longing, never fulfillment. Heady perfumes and incense merely cover up the odor of rot, and the realm's servants are actually slaves who cannot leave.
  • Arguably the European Community (read: European Union) in Cyberpunk 2020. In theory dirt poor people get free food, housing, healthcare, vid, etc. In practice food is just the most basic and the minimum to keep someone alive (read: kibble), families tend to be scattered instead of having all its members under the same roof, healthcare is given by Medicine students and may leave nasty surprises behind, they receive lots of EC-sanctioned propaganda about how good is life there (not far away from the truth given the sorry state of Eastern Europe), and lack the right to vote in elections.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa:
    • Hope's Peak Academy in was officially a government-funded private school whose goal was to raise hope for Japan's future, where students lived in harmony and were guaranteed success in life. However, the school's small pool of Ultimate students wasn't enough to keep the academy afloat, so they opened their doors to the public and began actively defrauding reserve course students out of their parents' money with massive tuitions. Said students were also often bullied by the Ultimates and one was manipulated into undergoing a surgical augmentation procedure by the school intended to make him a transhuman genius, which eradicated his old personality. The Gaiden Game Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls reveals that the school's staff may have even been actively abusive toward their own students, including the elementary branch. And this is all before The Tragedy even begins.
    • The world in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is actually quite nice, and completely peaceful. So much so that people are bored out of their wits and willing to watch teenagers murder each other in the killing game as reality tv. A show which is on its 53rd season. With the mastermind claiming that all of the students willingly signed up to be brainwashed into thinking they're someone else and put on TV. All of this assuming we can trust what Tsumugi says.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club! seems like the idyllic setting of your typical harem comedy. Then you peel back the bright colors and learn some of the deeper layers, which include charming topics like depression, domestic abuse, self-harm, alienation, and suicide. And then there's the gradual, apparent breakdown of reality and numerous horrifying encounters. All of which are revealed to be the result of Monika manipulating the game's code, because she (and any president of the Literature club) knows they're all in a video game. One where she doesn't have her own route, and she's a yandere for the player.
  • The Nagasaki of the years prior to the Meiji Restoration is portrayed as this in Shall We Date?: Ninja Shadow. The city itself is bursting with riches, businesses and entertainment, but the Big Bad Suetsugu and his influence have corrupted the merchant guilds and there's a lot of crime, illegal trade and slavery under the facade. It's so bad that the Vigilante Man group the Player Character joins (as a Sweet Polly Oliver) was specifically formed to deal with such horrible things.

    Web Animation 
  • The Amazing Digital Circus: The titular circus is a bright and colorful world filled with wacky characters…who are really human souls trapped in a digital world, unable to escape, barely holding on to their sanity.
  • Bravest Warriors has Venus Five, a cutesy world, inhabited by adorable, sexually liberated aliens ... or so it seems, until the crew find out that every now and again the world bursts into fire, only for things to immediately go back to normal with no explanation. They eventually find out that the world they see is just a holographic projection set up by the planet's rulers to fool both outsiders and even most of the planet's population and in reality, Venus Five is a hellish fire world inhabited by grotesque aliens.
  • Everyone remembers Happy Tree Friends, right? Those cute, innocent creatures from Mondo Media where nothing could go wrong? Well, if you watch one whole episode, eventually you'd be wrong. The show largely focuses on the sweet forest animals getting killed in every single way possible. Stay out of this one, kids.
  • If Disney Cartoons Were Historically Accurate: The entire point of the video, contrasting the idyllic Disneyesque setting with all the gross and brutal details of the Middle Ages that Disney cartoons tend to leave out.

  • Anecdote of Error starts off as a cute story about a girl at a magic school. Then the oppressive caste system is revealed, and the ghastly dismemberments, and the women forced into domestic servitude, and the brutal war that’s been waging for years between two sides that are both guilty of war crimes.
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, like Kevin & Kell, remains lighthearted and happy only because everyone's used to the utter savagery of their world. Here rather than the normal food chain, the majority of sentient creatures of all species, "Beings," are hunted for food and sport by stronger races, protected only by vigilantes (including the eponymous Dan) who themselves are nearly all guilty of Van Helsing Hate Crimes against those of those races (a category that also includes the eponymous Dan) who don't take this attitude. Meanwhile, the whimsical, godlike fae (like the eponymous Mab), while not aggressive in the same way, treat everyone else as playthings, with all that entails. Although the ramifications are treated more seriously than Kevin & Kell, a little bit of Moral Myopia in this world goes a long way.
  • Everything is Fine: There is something very very off with the neighborhood and its residents. Everyone is so overly cheerful and polite all the time, to the point of coming off as Stepford Smilers and anything negative, like dead dogs, is just straight-up ignored. Add to that the plethora of cameras positioned everywhere and the fact that for some reason everyone is wearing a mask that hides their heads completely.
  • Fabuland Housewives is a Stepford Suburbia with extremely cute Lego Funny Animals.
  • Girl Genius, as pointed out in its YMMV page. Yes, the world is full of cool Steampunk tech, which is almost Magitek in its sheer scope (for example, genetically engineered lifeforms created via alchemy), there's a noble, chivalric attitude, and the people seem to be genuinely content. On the other hand, actual scientific process has ground to a halt. For similar reasons, at least the entirety of Europe is trapped in a functionally Victorian cultural level, albeit with some more "modern" attitudes like women's rights and anti-racism. The aristocracy is exclusively reserved for Mad Emperor Scientists who can cause incredible harm and destruction by virtue of the fact that the Spark genuinely drives them mad, and who will pick enormously destructive fights with their neighbors if there's no strong hand preventing it. The world is crawling with all manner of highly dangerous monsters, diseases and rogue devices that want to kill everything in sight, courtesy of the abundance of Mad Scientists who tend to lose control over their own creations more often than not. There's a reason one minor character in an official side-story points out that Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer, and his belief that world peace requires the annihilation of all Sparks, is a valid case of Villain Has a Point.
  • Homestuck: Beforus, if one reads between the lines of Kankri's Holier Than Thou babbling, falls under this heading. Instead of being killed, lowbloods and the defective are placed under the care of highbloods, which sounds very nice until one realizes this is mandatory, and they are never permitted to do anything useful or fend for themselves. It's mentioned that Latula, who lacks a sense of smell but is otherwise healthy, would have had this happen, and would probably have preferred death.
  • Hooves of Death: While the comic has a adorable visual style that takes cues from later generations of My Little Pony, it's still a bloody world full of zombies and danger, and shows early on it won't pull any punches. While still looking adorable.
  • Kevin & Kell. A cute, quirky world of Funny Animal characters... where fangs are more powerful than ideals and savage instinct triumphs over reason and empathy. By the world's local ethos (its ok to kill as long as you eat it) ethnic cleansing could just be another name for a BBQ. Perhaps even worse, a Ripped from the Headlines storyline reveals that there is an organization dedicated to opposing this — WikiBeaks, which publishes confidential data that has the potential to cause the predators some serious harm: They post which species are targeted, confidential hunting areas, that sort of thing. Sounds nice? Too bad they are being directly persecuted by the government. That's right, if you're a prey species, there's nothing out there to protect you, and the only effective organization that even tries is acting illegally.
  • Lovely People: The social credit system first seems to be working for everyone's benefit, until it becomes clear that the way it works will turn dissenters into pariahs who are forbidden from buying necessities.
  • Mokepon is based on the idea of deconstructing the basic setting of Pokémon, resulting in a world that is shiny and happy on the surface, but violent and depressing underneath.
  • The world of Night Terror is one, big time. As Father Time's neverending visions of the future show, the Dreamscape is extremely dangerous, with characters dying at obscene rates (albeit those deaths being their alternate timeline selves). It gets worse when Night Terror 2 reveals that the Boogeyman can break in seemingly whenever he wants, killing and maiming whoever's unfortunate enough to be nearby when it happens.
  • The Order of the Stick: While the Empire of Blood is Obviously Evil and Elan is just too happy to be with his father to notice, this trope is played straight within small sections of the empire. For example, Elan plays in a child's ball pit, only for the comic's wide angled shot shows that there are several skeletons at the bottom.
  • Outsider: The Loroi act very civil towards Alex and the races in their alliance, so they seem better than the aggressive, totalitarian Umiak. However, at least half of the races in the Alliance are only in it as a subjugated population or out of fear, as the Loroi have committed or attempted xenocide on multiple occasions, and the Loroi are themselves a highly stratified, totalitarian militaristic society. There's a general, somewhat sinister "be nice to us or we'll kill you" tone to their interactions with others.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: One page shows a talking jelly bean calling the mayor of Happyland a "doodoo-butt" in the first panel, the second panel is a newspaper article about his execution for sedition.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • 4U City tries to be this... it's referred to as a utopia, and everybody is mandatorily happy — any sign of unhappiness results in being immediately pumped full of 'Happy drugs', while any serious departure from the accepted happiness-standard gets you thrown down the 'Judgement Chute', never to be seen again. However, despite this, it fails MISERABLY at looking like a utopia at first glance, because it's always raining.
    • The "Dimension of Lame", whose inhabitants are so pacifist that they embrace the invading demons and readily offer to sacrifice the one person who has any chance of saving them, all in the name of preventing more bloodshed.
  • Snarlbear: "If you happen to like lurid hell holes, this place is a magical wonderland"
  • In Sparklecare, despite all the bright colors and friendly characters in Sparklecare Hospital, it's a really messed-up place with some sick minds on the staff, as well as disturbing diseases and treatments.
  • Tamberlane: The Silver Sage islands are a fairly peaceful place and seem to have a good standard of living but as the comic goes on we see that it is steeped in nationalism, xenophobia and a great dislike of "desenting" ideas, to the point that they talk about going "abroad" like it's going into Hell itself.
  • Unordinary: It soon becomes apparent that underneath the sunny plazas and candy-coloured hair the world is a rather awful place to live, with superpowers creating a class system where the low-tiers can be freely bullied by high-tiers. The authorities ignore social injustice, instead supporting the high-tiers, while mentally crippling the god-tiers to control them and, if Remi's speculations are correct, assassinating the superheroes to preserve the existing status quo.

    Web Original 
  • The Nostalgia Chick's BFF Nella's My Little Pony story thing crosses very quickly into this, involving loveless marriages and a Hooker with a Heart of Gold pony.
  • Inverted by Mortasheen. The setting is a sprawling continent-sized toxic urban wasteland of twisted science and sorcery that is home to degenerate humans and hundreds of species of horrific bloodthirsty monsters (many created by the humans as living tools or weapons) where life is either nasty, brutish and short or agonizingly drawn out for far too long... and yet most sentient beings who live there cheerfully take it all in stride, and behave like you'd expect if this was a standard happy-go-lucky Pokémon-like world instead of a hell-world that could otherwise give Warhammer 40,000 a run for its money. However, all the horrible monsters are still nice to their trainers, including the Devilbirds, the Unknowns and the Wormbrains
  • Natsumi Step! is a cute, relaxing flash video about a girl on an adventure in a magical place, where she meets cute animals has a lot of fun. She seems to have suffered some heartbreak and depression in the past, but that's all better now, and she gets a happy ending! But there's something... off about it. If you're familiar with Japanese culture, you can see that there are many, many symbolisms of death hidden throughout the video. The actual story is that Natsumi killed her boyfriend with a crowbar, then committed suicide. She's in purgatory, and is on her way to Hell at the end of the video. "Natsumi Step!" is meant as "Natsumi stepping" down a train station platform and killing herself.
  • Heaven in The Salvation War. The Eternal City is filled with temples, covered with jewels from a thousand worlds, and all designed to praise the almighty God, made to dazzle the angels with its beauty. The humans, however, get to live in slums as serfs, constantly living in fear of offending the insane God who is too blind to see that humanity is on the brink of destroying them. The city itself, as noted by several characters, has many cracks and structural problems below the jewels and artificial beauty.
  • Shadowmoon in Starsnatcher is a world with almost no poverty where everyone gets to live forever if they choose to. However, it is also a world plagued by anarcho-primitivist terrorism because some of its citizens believe that automation promotes increased decadence. And let's not even begin with the government's inability to make AI less of a Crapshoot...
  • Combined with Fridge Horror, here is a Cracked list of 6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes
  • nana825763 is a master of this on YouTube. When he isn't producing just straight up Nightmare Fuel, he's hiding it underneath sickeningly sweet content. Even his relatively benign videos about an ant farm has him throwing in random shots of creepy, bloodstained dolls. And that's when he's not inverting the trope to mess with people, like the video with one of the aforementioned bloodstained dolls and utter Mind Screw...that's about cooking.
  • Welcome to Night Vale is about a small town in an Eldritch Location suffering all sorts of oddities as a simple fact of life and part of the daily grind. In The Sandstorm we meet Night Vale's rival town, Desert Bluffs, and its radio announcer Kevin, who seems much nicer and more cheerful than Cecil, Night Vale's announcer. Then the creepiness starts to set in as Kevin describes the mysterious Strex Corp. that controls Desert Bluffs — despite having no clear purpose, business plan, or mission, beyond being a sinister MegaCorp with tendrils in every aspect of Desert Bluffs — and how they manipulate everything. It still seems like a slightly better place to live than Night Vale though — there seems to be a lot less random death and sinister supernatural forces. Until Cecil shows up and sees what's actually going on...
    • Gets both barrels in Episode 47, where Desert Bluffs finally takes over all of Night Vale. The episode is hosted by Kevin and a representative of StrexCorp, who are both happy, cheerful, and friendly, and want to celebrate the recent decision by awarding everyone with a big company picnic! Even those who don't work for StrexCorp, because now everyone works for StrexCorp! And when you get there, you must make sure to check in with the Picnic Overseers — y'know, the friendly chaps with the gas masks and night sticks — and take care not to touch the electrified "volleyball nets" that keep you in there. And everyone's going to stay at the picnic now, "until the work is complete."
  • When you get right down to it, Neopia's a pretty depressing place to live, what with the countless wars, attempted genocides, and multiple fates worse than death. The only reason none of the inhabitants have lost hope is that they have enough badass Knights In Shining Armor/Lovable Rogues/Noble Demons to deal with them.
  • The site shows the world as a frightening and, well, rotten place. Several articles in the Rotten Library talk about cruel rulers and conquerors, corrupt politicians and religious leaders, execution methods, torture devices, massacres, natural disasters, diseases, weapons, racist ideologies, yet they also have fun with it, by keeping an ironic style. Apart from the worst atrocities in mankind's history the Rotten Library also offers articles about more amusing and less nihilistic topics.
  • Void of the Stars seems to be normal aside from the fact that the Equestrians seem to be a Utopia, but the backstory has an entire universe destroyed and all galaxies aside from the Milky Way devoured by invaders. The Triarian Collective routinely wipes the memories of their citizens, there are two species that want nothing more than to consume everything, and one species that is literally from hell. Even the Equestrian Empire has dystopian elements.
  • AsteroidQuest has one: the neumono farm Penn visits in part 6. There are far more kids than adults, and everyone is exceptionally hospitable and accommodating... except for some visiting neumono, who are extremely aggressive and even abusive towards their own hivemates. Penn discovers that some scientists are using Mind Control administered via the neumono's natural empathy to forcefully rewrites every neumono's personality to suit their needs, usually making them extremely subservient to the crime bosses and visiting hivemates. This includes forcing them to feel happy even if their aggressive hivemates decide to abuse them.
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared takes place in a beautiful and vivacious world of felt, covering the cruelty and evil of some of the world's inhabitants.
  • While everything is really cute there, the Daily Flash universe of Walfas arrests people and randomly administers the death penalty. It's entirely possible for a school activity to end with someone being killed.
  • It takes only a little searching on Welcome Home (Clown Illustrations)'s site to uncover a dark mystery lurking beneath the show's sunny facade. The prologue portion of the ARG introduces an ambiguously sinister relationship between Wally and Home, Wally's house and the only sentient building in the area. The first major hint is shown on a hidden page labeled "So Below," which depicts Wally kneeling before one of Home's jittery, bloodied eyes.
  • Wormwood Institute: At first glance, Wormwood seems like your average American high school. However, as each tape is archived, it paints a tragic tale of how a toxic school atmosphere can break down its students.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • Started off like this, with the cheery adventures of A Boy and His Dog, and a literal Sugar Bowl in the Candy Kingdom, hiding that it was an After the End setting filled with dangerous threats and brutal monsters. Then it started delving deeply into various horrible backstories and the Dysfunction Junction of the cast, ultimately showing that while there are plenty of nasty things out there The Land of Ooo is still overall a pleasant place to live.
    • The Winter Kingdom in Fionna & Cake is a winter wonderland where the kind and affable Winter King is constantly kidnapped by the deranged Candy Queen. The Winter King is the only Ice King seen in the multiverse who was able to conquer the madness of the Ice Crown, keeping his sanity and a mostly human appearance. However, it turns out that the Winter King only did so by casting a spell to transfer his insanity to Princess Bubblegum, transforming her into the Candy Queen and subjecting the Candy Kingdom to her tyrannical rule for over 100 years.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: On the one hand, Elmore is a colorful world filled with cartoon characters animated in different styles where the impossible is possible. On the other hand, Elmore is pretty much an exaggerated take on 21st century American society, where the education system is a joke, The World Is Always Doomed (often because of The Wattersons' antics), crime is freely committed by anyone and everyone and the Police Are Useless, and the jerkass and Idiot Ball get tossed around with surprising frequency. The only differences between this and the real world is that Toon Physics enhances all of these problems and there's a surprising amount of Black Comedy Cannibalism (since most of the people in Elmore are based on food products, like Banana Joe, Sarah G. Lato, Anton the slice of toast, and the town's police force).
    • And that's not even getting into how the entire universe is sentient and can remove whatever it deems a "mistake" and banish it to the Void forever.
    • Elmore's economy is literally depent on Larry taking up almost clerk and manual labor job in town, despite how underpayed and overall exhausted from both the work and lack of respect or consideration from everyone. If Larry stops working, so does the entire town.
  • Amphibia: The setting is in a bright colorful world with talking frogs in it. But the rest of the world is full of dangerous creatures that are a threat to the frogs and Anne. Giant bugs, huge snakes, killer plants and more. And that's not even getting into the Fantastic Racism that the toads have over the frogs (and possibly other amphibians as well). Oh yeah, and that’s not even mentioning that all of Amphibia is under the boot of the megalomaniac Multiversal Conqueror King Andrias Leviathan and the Mechanical Abomination hidden underneath his castle.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Ba Sing Se. A giant, bustling city that is efficient and pleasant to live in (at least for the middle and upper classes), but the world war with the Fire Nation is kept secret (even from the Earth King) and those who try to reveal the truth find themselves spirited away and brainwashed by the Dai Li (their Secret Police).
    "There is no war in Ba Sing Se."
    "Hi, I am Joo Dee, welcome to Ba Sing Se."
    • Things have hardly improved by The Legend of Korra since many people in the Outer Ring still live in poverty. One could say things are worse since they are the result of the oppressive, kleptocratic Earth Queen who conscripts airbenders into her army in secrecy. And then said Earth Queen dies, and the city's centuries of inequality cause it to devolve into an anarchic hellhole. Thankfully, the situation seems to be improved at the end of the series, after the Earth Kingdom is dissolved into several republics.
  • Centaurworld: The eponymous dimension is a lot more bright and colorful than the dark fantasy world that Horse comes from, but there are signs the place isn't as perfect as it looks. In the first episode, Glendale lets slip that Wammawink and the other centaurs in Centaur Valley are hiding from some kind of war and are trying to "pretend everything's okay" when they're secretly bored from living in a Gilded Cage. Not to mention some of the centaur's magical powers, like the ability to summon tiny (fully independent and prone to existential crisis) versions of themselves from their hooves, are pretty bizarre in a Black Comedy sort of way.
  • DuckTales (1987): The future that Scrooge McDuck visits in the episode "Duck to the Future" looks shiny and technologically advanced at first glance, but his nemesis Magica DeSpell managed to steal his Number One Dime in his absence, eventually assuming complete control over every aspect of life in Duckburg. The triplets now work for Magica as Corrupt Corporate Executives, and everyone else who works for Magica-McDuck Enterprises has to turn all of their earnings over to her on "pay day", making it even harder for them to afford the outrageous prices being charged for basic services.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: On the planet of the Giggle Pies, the cute things that come in Invader-Os cereal already mentioned in Sugar Apocalypse.
  • Family Guy: The episode "Road to the Multiverse" features a universe where "everything is drawn by Disney". It's a happy, musical, funny land of enchantment, but... well, it turns out it was created (and is apparently enforced) by the Walt Disney of popular legend, so as soon as a Jewish character shows up, he is promptly ripped to shreds by everyone else present.
  • Futurama: The world of the future looks exactly as we envisioned; flying cars, jetpacks, lasers and a cure to everything... except that everybody's too poor to afford anything, war is fought on a bigger scale than ever, and everything everywhere is run by idiots. As the creators put it, it's present-day Earth with a thousand years of technological advancement.
  • Gravity Falls: In "Weirdmageddon 2: Escape from Reality", Mabel turns out to be a willing prisoner in a Lotus-Eater Machine called Mabeland, a colorful and cutesy alternate dimension where anything she wants magically appears. Of course, this place was still made by Bill Cipher, and if someone actually questions Mabeland too harshly, its denizens turn into piles of bugs and start getting violent. Dipper, at least, was savvy enough to foresee this:
    Dipper: Do you see what's happening here?! Don't forget this world was created by Bill. That punch is probably blood! And that glitter rain is probably ground up bones, or babies, or something.
  • Green Eggs and Ham (2019): It's the wonderful world of Dr. Seuss full of quirkily bloodthirsty beasts, dangerously whimsical architecture, charmingly stupid or mischievous citizenry, and an almost Kafka-esque fixation on inane trivium.
  • Invader Zim: The Skool Facility that Zim attends is just like the metropolis he also lives in, modern, technological, and fair on the exterior, but cruel, mean, evil, fascist and totalitarian from within.
  • Justice League:
    • "Legends" has several of the characters end up in an Alternate Universe which was almost exactly like the Silver Age Superhero comics the Green Lantern used to read as a child. On first glance, the world looked like a stereotypical wholesome and child-friendly '50s superhero setting. Upon closer inspection, the world turned out to be a post-nuclear war landscape whose survivors were forced to live in a psychic Masquerade generated by the mutated Kid Sidekick of the original heroes of that world. There are other hints of the slightly crappy nature coming through as well, in the form of Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Hawkgirl doesn't take too kindly to having the only other female superhero suggest they make cookies for the menfolk, and Green Lantern doesn't know how to take a white superhero calling him "a credit to [his] people."
    • At a cursory glance, the world the Justice Lords created in "A Better World" might look pretty nice. All the supervillains are caught, Gotham City is actually clean, and crime has been so thoroughly eradicated that police are reduced to settling disputes over restaurant bills. The saccharine side of things is really paper-thin, as it's no secret that the reason for all of this was because the League went Knight Templar on the world and took to ruling it with an iron fist as the Justice Lords.
  • Kaeloo: The characters live on a planet named Smileyland. It's a beautiful setting where everything seems nice, you can have almost anything you want, and there are flowers everywhere. The trouble is, Smileyland is inhabited by the cast, who are all insane in some way or the other (Mr. Cat is Ax-Crazy, and Kaeloo herself is implied to be schizophrenic, for example.) In fact, a Running Gag on the show is to mention the ongoing economic crisis. Episode 94 showed the true cynicism of Smileyland.
  • Love, Death & Robots:
    • "Suits" takes place in a verdant agrarian utopia where the only threat is the occasional Alien Invasion. The final Wham Shot reveals that it's actually the chittering space bug's homeworld and the warm space farmers are the real invaders.
    • "Pop Squad" is set in an unspecified future where people have unlocked the secret to immortality, there is a Shining City that rises above the clouds, and everyone has all the time in the world to perfect whatever they want to pursue... but in a world where nobody checks out, the police murder unregistered children on sight, and have no moral qualms about it (with only one notable exception).
  • Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart: On the surface, Pure Heart Valley seems like your typical Sugar Bowl, with bright vivid colors and ridiculously cute inhabitants. But they are ruled by an egotistical yet (mostly) ineffectual King who gladly abuses his power for petty reasons, they're constantly swindled and scammed by a group of foxes, and ever since Mao Mao accidentally crashed his aerocycle into the Ruby Pure Heart, the barrier protecting them from the outside world has disappeared and they are constantly being attacked by Sky Pirates and horrible monsters.
  • Men in Black: The Series: In "The Worm-Guy Guy Syndrome", the planet Kalifadik is an extremely Lawful Stupid society where all crimes, no matter how minor, are punishable by life imprisonment in their gulags. When Agent J asks why aliens would still travel there, Agent K and a captured Kalifadik enforcer answer "The beaches".
  • Moral Orel: A seemingly nice suburban town full of depressed, miserable, and extremely disturbed souls trying their damnedest to appear wholesome and normal. Seasons 1 and 2 play it for laughs. Season 3... not so much.
  • Motorcity: Detroit Deluxe is a state-of-the-art, clean, efficient, and nearly-crime free metropolis ran by Corrupt Corporate Executive Abraham Kane. The price of admission to live in Detroit Deluxe is the revocation of one's personal liberties. Old Detroit is the exact opposite, with many Motorcitizens, including the Burners, being defectors to Kane's regime.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Downplayed. While Equestria is largely a Sugar Bowl, the world as a whole has a few features of this. While the heroes always win in the end, there seems to be some sort of villain conquering the place (not the standard fare), genuine evil world conquering sorcerers, magic-eating demonic centaurs, sociopathic children, and embodiment of chaos. In fact, if the ponies aren't in harmony, then evil icy embodiments of hate show up, feed on the hatred, and freeze the place to death. Not only that, but there is also the Everfree Forest, an untamable woodland Eldritch Location filled with dangerous monsters. And then, if Klugetown is any implication, a lot of the places outside Equestria are in dissaray and filled with crime. Granted, it's still a world of happiness and sunshine, and the villain attacks and scary stuff only happen occasionally.
    • The evil icy embodiments of hate, the Windigoes, do actually deserve some more elaboration. Their entire MO is exterminating all life, and they can't be destroyed or contained, merely driven off. Because their summoned by hatred it casts a dark shadow over the entire setting of Equestria. if too many ponies are arguing (not fighting or warring, arguing) then these creatures will be appear and begin to destroy the world.
    • A more obvious example is Starlight Glimmer's old village. It appears to be a place where everyone is happy and peaceful with no fights, but it is actually a cult where everyone is stripped of their individuality, and, if new residents refuse, they are locked in a room and conditioned.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: The city of Townsville. It's frequently shown to be a friendly big city with people that are willing to help, but it's always attacked by monsters and is inhabited by all sorts of criminals and villains. The Movie Prequel reveals that Townsville was actually much worse then it is now, a straight-up crime-ridden Crapsack World until the Professor created the girls and they became its resident superheroes.
  • Rick and Morty: The fantasy type world in the adventure that Morty makes seems at first glance to be a stereotypical medieval fantasy/fairy-tale world. Until Morty gets nearly raped by a friendly Jellybean, who turns out to be the King of the country — and has been using his position to sexually assault countless children.
    • There's also the Galactic Federation, which claims to promote peace among the rest of the galaxy but when they occupy Earth they "pay" the population in pills to keep them docile (including force-feeding them if they won't eat). This, and everything else they do over the course of their appearances, makes some fans sympathize with Rick when he engineers the Federation's collapse in the premiere of Season Three.
    • The Citadel of Ricks. On the surface, it's a highly-advanced space station where the Ricks and Mortys of the multiverse can live and work without fear of their many enemies, featuring Crystal Spires and Togas-style cities, lush farmland, deep forests, and all the amazing technologies that Ricks could conceive. Unfortunately, Ricks being Ricks, it's also immensely dysfunctional: Mortys are on the bottom rung of the Citadel hierarchy, and are only considered valid if they remain partnered with Ricks; those who lose their Ricks and can't earn a new one through the Citadel's Assimilation Academy are segregated to Mortytown, a cesspool of urban decay, drug addiction and organized crime. The police force is violent and usually on the take, and the "sensitivity training" undergone isn't enough to stop bigotry against Mortys — even by Morty officers. Meanwhile, despite having the same genius intellect as the others, many Ricks are forced to work menial jobs with no opportunities for promotion, and thanks to the government's strict regulation of portal technology, they are never allowed to leave the Citadel. Finally, the Citadel is ruled by a corrupt, hypocritical oligarchy fully prepared to kill or enslave more individualistic Ricks if they don't toe the line... Up until our Rick killed all of them... only to end up creating the political conditions that allowed Evil Morty to take control of the Citadel.
    • Froopy Land. Initially, it really was as perfect as it seemed: Rick built it for Beth when she was younger, so he ensured that the entire world was essentially child-safe, so, along with the permanently blue skies, the rainbow-colored rivers and the lush forests, Froopy Land also features breathable water and bouncy ground with no possibility for Falling Damage. And the wildlife was perfectly harmless... the key word being was. Basically, Beth invited her best friend Tommy to Froopy Land, only to abandon him there in a fit of jealousy; worse still, he soon found that the only way he could find food was by impregnating the wildlife and eating their hybrid offspring. Decades hence, Froopy Land is populated by half-human monsters and ruled by a tribe of violent, incestuous cannibals who worship Tommy as a god.
    • "Look Who's Purging Now" depicts a world full of friendly Cat Folk who Rick quickly twigs to, nominally, a working world of sustained peace with an annual outburst of crime and violence immediately and directly compared to the film The Purge. He claims to have seen it a few times before. That said, in addition to the obvious, it all turns out to be orchestrated by an insulated rich cabal who are cool with this system as long as it doesn't touch them. They end up being messily slaughtered, leaving a just-Purged society uncertain what to do. The distractable Rick drops a few words about how to make society work, leaving them to start arguing, getting the knives out and suddenly thinking, maybe they should have a night to let it all out...
  • The Simpsons: Has three in-universe examples:
    • Subverted in the "Treehouswe of Horror" segment "Hungry Are the Damned". The Simpsons are abducted by Rigelian aliens (Kang and Kodos in their first appearance) who want them to be happy all the time, cooking them gourmet foods and providing them with free entertainment. Lisa suspects that this might be Bread and Circuses and uncovers evidence that the Rigelians are actually making the Simpsons fat so that they will be delicious to eat — but it all turns out to be a misunderstanding. And the Rigelians are so offended at Lisa's prejudice and ingratitude that they return the family to Earth and tell them that they missed their chance at paradise.
    • The "Treehouse of Horror II" segment "Bart's Dream" is a parody of the aforementioned The Twilight Zone (1959) episode.
      Jasper: Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Boy, I'm getting mighty sick of this. [pop! Jasper is transformed into a dog with his head on it] Woof! Woof!
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror V" story "Time and Punishment", Homer returns from the past to find that Flanders is ruler of the world. People who aren't happy under his rule are at risk of a full frontal lobotomy. Parodied during the same story when Homer creates a world where the Simpsons are rich, Patty and Selma are dead, Bart and Lisa are well-behaved, but no one knows what a doughnut is, making Homer conclude it's this. Subverted in that they're called "rain", but Homer ran off before he can find that out.
  • The Smurfs (1981): Bacchus' paradise in the episode "Paradise Smurfed" is an example of this. A globe from an Atlas statue breaks through a wall and reveals a dark castle in which a chef is given a menu for preparing "souffle a la Smurf". Fortunately, this ends up being All Just a Dream.
  • South Park: took full advantage its Art-Style Dissonance for the first four (or so) seasons to better play up the Subverted Kids' Show angle: cute characters and little kids mixed with a horribly dark World of Weirdness. By the fifth seasonnote , the show dropped the pretense of trying to look cute and went all-in on providing strong commentary for the serious subject matter of the times, at which point it just became another Crapsack World.
    Kyle: (wearing a gas mask in anticipation of anthrax) Remember when life used to be simple and cool?
    Cartman: Not really.
    • In Season 19, the town, in a PC frenzy, decided to gentrify Kenny's neighborhood, turning it into SoDoSoPa, with fancy lofts and restaurants and a slick ad campaign. The town however becomes an overpriced cesspool of PC excess. PC frat boys bully everybody for any random Felony Misdemeanor, and homeless people are abused by the police, while the residents ignore it while claiming to be "enlightened". Of course it later turns out that living ads are pushing PC and gentrification in a bid to price humanity out of existence.
    Nathan:"What is PC but a verbal form of gentrification? Spruce everything up, get rid of all the ugliness and create a false sense of paradise."
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil:
    • Part of the show's Deconstructive Parody of the Magical Girl genre is that Star's homeworld of Mewni is not the shining kingdom it appears to be. Star is a Magical Girl Princess who's been given too much power and freedom at too young an age and more than once terrorized her own people by accident. Her family rules over a beautiful, pastel-color-schemed kingdom styled after Medieval Europe, in that all of the people outside of nobility and the Royal family live in total squalor and the political structure is based heavily on Might Makes Right. To top it off, her family's history isn't exactly clean either—the hordes of monsters they keep out of the kingdom have very legitimate reasons to resent them.
    • Later seasons expand upon how bad things are, revealing that not only are Mewmen blatantly racist toward the aforementioned monsters, said racism is a heavy case of Double Standard— several inhabitants or allies of the kingdom, such as the Demons from the Underworld, the Pigeon Kingdom, the Pony Heads or the Magical High Commission are very blatantly as non-human and scary-looking as the monsters, but still get classified separately (and as such spared from most of the racism) on the sole basis they are either rich, have been allies for generations or happen to have an important rank in the hierarchy. Eclipsa, the "Queen of Darkness" hailed as the Black Sheep of the royal family, turns out to have been a rather nice (if a bit selfish) woman whose sole crime was to leave a husband she hated for a monster she fell in love with- and said husband then had her half-monster daughter erased from the records before handing her over to be raised by an abusive robot mother while he replaced her with a peasant girl, just because he refused to have someone half-monster inherit the throne.
  • ThunderCats (2011): This is quite deliberately employed as the premiere's opening minutes treat the viewer to a gorgeous aerial Epic Tracking Shot of a Shining City, the Catfolk kingdom of Thundera, while a soothing narrator tells of the kingdom's "peace and prosperity" and its ruler's "just heart." Less than a minute after the narrator finishes speaking, the camera tilts downward from a bright, painterly city vista to dark, miserable slums where "Alley Cats" are violently beating a hapless Dog.
  • Time Squad: Set in the year 100 Million AD, where there is no more crime, war, pollution, disease, and bacon is good for your heart. The problem is, as the residents of the distant future have discovered, time itself decays the further into the past an event becomes. Larry explains it like a stretch of rope that grows longer, but also starts fraying at one end. This can mean everything from a species never going extinct to an important historical figure's personality changing or them deciding to follow a different path in life, all of which can result in huge and potentially disastrous changes to the future. That's where Time Squad comes in: their job is to keep history on its proper course.
  • Totally Spies!: The Ocean Palisades is a planned community that appears perfect - clean streets, nice people who always help each other, and where rules are (almost) always obeyed - only to be revealed as a farce; citizens are kept in line by use of elaborate technology-based mind control, and the whole operation was conceived by overly concerned parents afraid of their children turning towards rebellion and delinquency.
  • Twelve Forever: Endless Island, at first glance, seems to be the perfect paradise: it's bright, colorful, the residents are (mostly) friendly, and you can basically have anything you want. However, as we discover later on in the series, the longer someone stays in the world, the more warped their body and mind become, until they forget about any life they had before the island. Todd and Esther spend five days in a row there and end up fun-loving, rambling wrecks (with the former suffering serious Power Incontinence), and Elmer, who's lived there for decades, has long since become a shell of his former self.


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