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Developing Nations Lack Cities

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One example of why outsourcing your work to poorer countries is not always a good idea.

A city is a large permanent and densely populated human settlement with extensive systems for housing, transportation, sanitation, production of goods, and communication. The city's ability to bring together people and resources in a close-knit setting is vital for any sophisticated state. Yet, media from developed countries tend to portray third world/developing nations as backwards agrarian societies with no cities, which is far from the truth as even the poorest (sovereign and recognized) country in the world will have a cosmopolitan capital city with modern technologies.

This may be out of ignorance from the creator(s) or because the creator's city background makes them find the rural setting more exotic or because they believe that poor rural settings are better indicators of being in a third world nation or because they think audiences will not believe that nations like El Salvador, Uganda, Liberia, and Kazakhstan have shopping malls.

Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia tend to be the most misrepresented due to many people's misconceptions formed because of their military and civil conflicts, slow economic development, exotic landscapes and their lack of "Global" cities which makes them perfect for poor rural settings in the minds of creators.

This is done in many Wide-Open Sandbox video games set in underdeveloped or fictional nations to avoid overtaxing the console or engine as a city would need hundreds of NPCs and vehicles moving and thus creators either remove cities or downsize them to just a few skyscrapers and a dozen buildings.

The downplayed version of this trope would be a developing nation with a city that's either cosmopolitan, a Wretched Hive, or both, while the rest of the country is rural and underdeveloped.

This trope is often linked to Savage South, Africa Is a Country, Darkest Africa, Egypt Is Still Ancient, Latin Land, Spexico, Ruritania and Qurac. Tropical countries portrayed this way can have a Warm Place, Warm Lighting. Compare Land of One City.


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    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Universe: Wakanda is an inversion, being an Afrofuturistic city-state that is more advanced than virtually every other country on the planet. On the other hand, the rest of Africa is more often than not depicted as being only villages, jungles and deserts, with cities very rarely being shown.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert once traveled to Elbonia on assignment. The whole country is hip-deep in mud, and most of its structures are huts. For a country that does much of the technology grunt-work under subcontract, the Elbonians seem to rarely use it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Borat: The film exaggerates this trope for humor in the most hilariously vulgar ways imaginable. The country of Kazakhstan is portrayed as consisting of a single village that combines all the worst aspects of Ruritania with The Dung Ages: the inhabitants are all inbred and treat Black Comedy Rape and Brother–Sister Incest casually, cattle are kept inside people's houses, glass windows are considered an expensive luxury, people barely live past 43, the village blacksmith doubles as the abortion-provider, the villagers shun Jews with superstitious horror and even hold an annual "Running of The Jew", and where (according to the national anthem) a fairly average modern swimming pool is considered a "marvel to behold". That said, the country is credited as the world's number one exporter of potassium...
  • Jurassic Park (1993): All that is seen of San José, the capital of Costa Rica and a bustling inland metropolis, is a single cantina by the sea.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005): The film begins in Bogotá, Colombia, which is portrayed as a river town rather than the cosmopolitan city it is.

  • The Mouse That Roared: The Duchy of Grand Fenwick is a micronation in Europe, somewhere between France and Switzerland. It's too small to have a city; its largest settlement is the palace of the ruling monarch, Duchess Gloriana. Fenwick is so poor and backward that their tiny military still uses longbows and arrows.

    Live-Action TV 
  • M*A*S*H: In the show's version of South Korea, there are no cities except Seoul. Everything else is either farmland, farmland which has become war-torn battlefields, or army encampments.
  • Homeland: The show has been criticized for portraying Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, as a rundown, war-torn villagenote  rather than the thriving, colorful city it is in real life.
  • Perfect Strangers: The fictional island nation of Mypos is Balki's home country. The few times it is shown, we never see any cities, just small villages with carts and wagons for transportation rather than cars. It is also mentioned that the country has only one working telephone and only the royal family has indoor plumbing.

    Video Games 
  • Command & Conquer:
    • The pre-3D games portay all war-torn nations as rural societies. Later games avert this.
    • Tiberian Dawn (set all over Africa and Europe) and Red Alert (Europe) only have small buildings and huts that can at best look like a small village and don't really show the player invading large cities (although the pre-rendered cutscenes do show more urban environments). Averted in later games where the graphics and game engine had improved enough to represent more realistic cities.
  • Far Cry: With the exception of the first game, the fictional settings are portrayed as only rural towns and villages with no major cities. Far Cry 6 is the first game to have a big city and Urban Warfare.
  • Ghost Recon Wildlands: The game is set in a version of Bolivia with no cities, only towns and villages.
  • Red Dead Redemption: The game's depiction of Mexico is not only completely fictional but also has no cities despite being a border region.

    Western Animation 
  • South Park:
    • In "Starvin' Marvin", Ethiopia is shown as just a dry, barren desert with no buildings or even huts in sight. That is, until Cartman discovers Sally Struthers hoarding all the food.
    • Downplayed in "Rainforest Schmainforest". Costa Rica's capital San Jose has crappy buildings that are falling apart, but the capital building is still in decent shape (apart from a few gunshot holes on the walls). Plus the city isn't the main focus of the episode, the rainforest is.
    • In "Quintuplets 2000", Romania is shown as a village with cheap, dilapidated buildings. Kenny's mom even lampshades how poor it is, just like themselves.