After World War II the veterans came home, married and bred creating the Baby Boom in the United States. Houses were needed. Lots and lots of houses. Entire neighborhoods were built with houses only slightly different from each other. Minor variation in detail from house to house only accentuated the similarities and made each neighborhood hopelessly dull. The yards are also uniform. One common tactic to make them look different is flipping the blueprint, as if having the garage on the left instead of the right would create visual interest.
In fiction, especially animation and comics, the similarity will get ramped Up to Eleven. The houses, gardens, cars will be identical. The lives of the residents may be identical or the point may be that their lives are different, even if their houses are the same.
Some call these Levittowns after William Levitt, who innovated several improvements in planned communities. To this day there are many cities named (officially or unofficially) Levittown (list at Wikipedia here), the presence of one in Puerto Rico shows how far William Levitt's influence extended.
Wikipedia uses the term "tract housing" because a whole line of them is built at once, while recognizing the American and Canadian slang term "cookie-cutter housing". "Development" is a more general term, used when things beyond just the houses are planned out at the start. Often this includes more complicated street patterns, gated communities, and usually a little bit more variety in house design (but not by much).
Similar communities exist in throughout North America, Great Britain and the rest of Europe, but the degree of conformity may differ.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: The apartment block where Rei lives is an urban variant, one of a long row of utterly identical buildings.
- The 1973 print "The Individualist" by Mordillo shows an endless terrace of identical grey houses disappearing into the distance. In the foreground is a house with a vivid pink striped roof ... whose owner is being hauled into a police van.
- Lampshaded in Asterix. When in Britain, Asterix and Obelix walk down an endless row of absolutely identical houses, and Asterix says, "Good thing we have the house number. Its description might not have been enough."
- The film Over the Hedge. The homeowner association makes sure that nobody is different.
- The Incredibles. Similar cars in the driveways as well.
- Gru's lair in Despicable Me is located under a spooky-looking manor house incongruously located in the middle of one of these. With its dark colors, looming architecture, and dead lawn, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
- The town of Perfection in Uglydolls has the citizens living in identical white houses with grey roofing. The symmetry nearly causes Babo, one of the Uglydolls, to have a panic attack. The visiting Uglydolls themselves are given a lopsided storage shed to stay in instead, something they find pleasant.
- In the opening action sequence of Minority Report, John Anderton is chagrined to find that he can't identify the house the murder will take place in because of the identical look to everything in the housing complex. (It's only because of the open door he is able to find it.)
- Harry Potter - Harry's relatives the Dursleys also live in one of these neighborhoods in the movies. Identical cars are present as well. Product Placement or trope emphasis?
- Edward Scissorhands also contains one of these, in a bright, sunlit neighborhood where everything is pastel colored — and where assymmetrical, midnight-and-candlewax colored Edward sticks out like a sore thumb.
- The Russian film The Irony of Fate involves a man, having been put on a plane while drunk, ending up in an apartment in Leningrad all but identical to his Moscow apartment, even down to having the same lock on the door. As entire standardized districts of USSR show, the phenomenon of copy-and-paste housing is not limited to suburbs.
- Pleasantville. No difference and no color.
- A Serious Man is largely set in such a suburb in the 1960s.
- The Big Hit features a uniform suburb where all of the inhabitants go about the same chores in unison.
- Vivarium: The neighborhood of "Yonder" is copy-pasted everything, including clouds in the sky.
- In the Homer Price story "Wheels of Progress" by Robert McCloskey, the local millionaire decides on a whim to build a new suburb for Centersburg. One hundred identical houses, with her mansion in the center. Hilarity Ensues when said mansion is moved away accidentally, and the hundred-and-first house put in its place. And it turns out the guy hired to put up the road signs got into the hooch buried under said mansion and has yet to start putting up the signs, leading to some serious confusion.
- MAD once had an article about road signs they'd like to see, and one of them was "Ugly Tract Housing Development Ahead." It showed a picture of a driver asleep at the wheel driving past identical houses.
- An early Animorphs book has an alien getting confused at the sight of two identical houses. His human companions must explain the concept to him.
- The chillingly homogenous neighborhood in Camazotz, used to great effect in A Wrinkle in Time. All the houses are the same, as are the yards, everyone does everything exactly the same or else they are penalized...
- Trude in Invisible Cities is a Cut and Paste city which is implied to have covered the Earth. You can't leave.
- Where Pete lives in The Lost Thing, right down to the oddly-shaped chimneys.
- Dave Barry once joked that one should build a house by taking the prefabricated unit out of a big (no kidding!) box and just drop it onto a big hole.
- Erma Bombeck wrote of moving to such a neighborhood in the early postwar years in The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank:
-"...every time we leave the house, we'll have to leave a child on the front lawn as a landmark..."
- In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, they find such a planet, inhabited by sentient herbivores that have annihilated the entire ecology except for what they need and built undifferentiated homes, like a vast planet-covering herd.
- Ready Player One, being mostly set in a VR multiplayer game, takes this Up to Eleven, with entire planets that contain hundreds of copies of a single area, repeated over every inch of them. One example being "Middletown", which has 256 identical copies of James Halliday's hometown, complete with NPC citizens and a flawless mock-up of Halliday's family house.
- The Discworld spin-off Mrs Bradshaw's Guidebook to the Ankh-Morpork and Sto Plains Hygienic Railway illustrates the Morporkian suburb of Suffink with a row of identical houses, from which a row of identical men with briefcases are emerging to catch the train into the city.
- One episode of Angel uses a dimension full of this sort of housing as a holding area.
- Weeds - even uses "Little Boxes" as its theme song (see Music)
- The Disney Channel movie Stuck in the Suburbs takes place in a town where every house looks the same... to the point where the main character has to tell her ride home that they were outside the wrong house, and the driver insisted that it was definitely the right one (until the subtle differences were pointed out).
- Vera: Vera gets lost while trying to navigate her way through a maze like suburb of identical houses to a crime scene at the start of "Home".
- Malvina Reynolds' song "Little Boxes."
There's a green one and a pink oneAnd a blue one and a yellow oneAnd they're all made out of ticky-tackyAnd they all look just the same
- The song "Pleasant Valley Sunday" by The Monkees.
Another Pleasant Valley Sunday (Sunday)Charcoal burning everywhereRows of houses that are all the sameAnd no one seems to care
- The Rush song "Subdivisions" deals with the conformity of suburban life.
Sprawling on the fringes of the cityIn geometric order, an insulated borderIn between the bright lights and the far unlit unknownGrowing up, it all seems so one-sidedOpinions all provided, the future predecidedDetached and subdivided in the mass production zone
- The storyline in the Rays' song "Silhouettes", later covered by Herman's Hermits, depends on this trope. The song begins with the narrator seeing the titular silhouettes inside what he initially thinks is his girlfriend's house. Upset at the sight of his girlfriend kissing somebody else, he knocks on the door, only to be met by two strangers telling him he's on the wrong block. The song ends with the narrator running to his girlfriend's (presumably identical) real house, happy to know she was faithful after all.
- "400 Lux" by Lorde:
And I like youI love these roads where the houses don't changeAnd I like youWhere we can talk like there's something to say
- "Shangri-La" by The Kinks:
And all the houses in the street have got a name'Cause all the houses in the street all look the same
- The music video for the Barenaked Ladies song Call and Answer was filmed in a suburban development in the Valencia section of Santa Clarita, California. To top it off, all the cars were identical - white Volkswagen Beetles.
- Richard Thompson's Cul de Sac takes place in such a neighborhood in a Washington DC suburb.
- An almost literal example in The Magnus Archives when a man gets stuck in an endless suburb where all the houses are exactly the same, and the streets are completely deserted. He eventually expresses his suspicion that there was only ever one house.
- Used in Little Shop of Horrors to highlight how little Audrey wants.
It's just a day dream of mine. A little development I dream of. Just off the interstate. Not fancy like Levittown. Just a little street in a little suburb. Far, far from urban Skid Row. The sweetest, greenest place where everybody has the same little lawn out front and the same little flagstone patio out back. And all the houses are so neat and pretty, 'cause they all look just alike.
- Inevitably the case in the City-Building Series, since housing has one or two models of per level of evolution and they all have the same requirements to evolve. Having an area of housing all at the same level is actually beneficial, since higher-level housing provides more space and taxes, and too strong a housing disparity affects your citizen's happiness.
- In the Schoolhouse Rock! short "Energy Blues" the sameness of the houses even extend to the identical puffs of smoke coming out of the chimneys.
- Classic Disney Shorts are full of these neighborhoods. Donald Duck and Goofy in particular enjoy the lifestyle.
- Oggy and the Cockroaches - Oggy and company live in such a suburb. Oggy's house has its roof of a different color.
- The abandoned house in the "Valse Triste" segment of Allegro non Troppo is surrounded by featureless pre-fab houses.
- Particularly in earlier seasons of The Simpsons, most of the houses in Springfield looked largely the same.
- In Recess, Menlo lives in a neighborhood like this.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Squidville", where Squidward moves to a squid-only closed community called Tentacle Acres, where everyone lives in an Easter Island head, which is identical to his old home.
- Dexter's Laboratory is set in one such suburb. Dexter's home is identical to the others on the outside, since his laboratory is underground, but his neighbor and archnemesis Mandark has a massive above-ground lab that looms over his house.
- In the Netherlands this conformity is enforced by local government. Remodeling must be approved by the community.
- Truth in Television : Homeowners societies can often times enforce this trope in the real world by putting restrictions on what can be done to the outside of a home. This is usually done with the intent of keeping property values up, but in especially high-end neighborhoods the rules can seem quite draconian.
- Another Truth in Television : There are some housing projects that will have anywhere from 4 to 30 of the same style house, apartment complex or townhouse in the same area. This is because the land owners had sold the rights to one contractor, and the contractor can get the materials pre-cut in bulk at a cheaper cost for one floor plan as opposed to three or four various plans. This also means they can do things in "waves": They can pour all the foundations at once, then put in the foundation timbers, etc.
- An Enforced Trope in Britain from the immediate aftermath of the Second World War until well into the 1960s; faced with a desperate shortage of housing courtesy of the Luftwaffe and an equally desperate shortage of money after half a decade of all-out war, aesthetics had to take a back seat to getting houses built as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
- Subverted with terraced housing, e.g. in London. Each house is identical (often in symmetrical pairs), yet as part of a greater whole, they are very beautiful. Also each terrace is different with infinite variety in the details.
- While William Levitt's houses were the Trope Maker for this in the United States, the Ur-Example was Doelger City in the western neighborhoods of San Francisco, which Henry Doelger started building at the end of the 1920s. One of Doelger's later projects, the Westlake community in suburban Daly City, was the inspiration for the song "Little Boxes" (mentioned above).
- Older Than They Think : The concept of tract housing is actually much older than even the 1920s example listed above, dating back at least to the Gilded Era of industrialists and robber-barons. As industrial cities exploded in population and wealth, new houses were needed in large numbers. With mass production and standardization just coming into their own, the obvious solution was standardized housing. Tracts of housing from the mid-to-late 1800s can be found in many places across the North-Eastern United States.
- North Korea is currently (Dec 2020) boasting of a massive investment programme designed to provide all its citizens with a decent home, with priority given to those rendered homeless after natural disasters such as typhoons. It has released impressive-looking pictures of the new housing estates, with identical not-bad-looking homes set out in regimented ranks. The NK government claims these are actual photographs of the new towns and that these have already been built. Its supporters and friends outside the PRNK have redistributed these pictures - without looking closely at them, and without realising they only exist as CGI cut-and-paste virtual imagesnote . As far as is known no new homes have (yet) been built to this pattern in NK. Take a close look at some of these pictures released to the West on an NK-sympathetic website.