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Everything about this place, from the perfectly trimmed hedges to the endless summer days, seems like it belongs in a dream... but that's only because it does.

For some reason, there is a growing tendency across multiple media for dream worlds, virtual reality scenarios and other imaginary settings to be based entirely in some form of Suburbia (and to a lesser extent, small towns).

The possible reasons for this depiction vary: maybe it's because the suburbs are so often depicted as a perfectly controlled environment of identical houses and lawns, a setting so unreal that it already appears dreamlike in the real world. Perhaps it's because of the natural connotations of the settings, as suburbs have long represented material success and security in the modern consciousness, while small towns represent innocence and a slower pace of life — exactly the sort of things you'd hope to find in a pleasant dream world. Maybe it's the potential for a sense of Subverted Innocence, revealing a Crapsaccharine World or even a full-blown nightmare hiding underneath the idyllic setting. Maybe the town is an element of the dreamer's own mind made manifest, such as their past, their desires — or their fears.

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Whatever the case, the imaginary isn't expressed in big cities or grandiose dreamlands, but in the smaller scale-life of suburbia and small towns — with perhaps a dash of the 1950s thrown in. For good measure, expect to never actually see the big city that the suburb is apparently attached to, assuming it even exists...

Compare Stepford Suburbia, Uncanny Village, Town with a Dark Secret, and Lotus-Eater Machine.

Not to be confused with Dream Land.

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Examples:

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    Audio Plays 
  • The Big Finish Doctor Who episode "Memory Lane" takes place in a virtual Cut-and-Paste Suburb where the only inhabitants are Tom Braudy, an astronaut stranded in the dreamworld, and a recreation of Tom's grandmother. Given that the place is a replica of his childhood home, Tom has also been mentally regressed to about ten years of age and is completely oblivious to the fact that he's still biologically an adult. It eventually becomes clear that both the simulation and his brainwashing are due to the nanotechnology infecting his brain; once the Doctor and Charley become affected by it, they begin drifting into dreamworlds tailored to their own specific tastes. In reality, they're all sitting together in a holding cell.

    Comic Books 
  • During the "Dallas" arc of The Umbrella Academy, an unconscious Luther finds himself briefly dreaming of an idyllic life with his adopted sister/lover Allison in a 1950s-style suburbia, complete with children. However, something's clearly off: his children are chimpanzees, nobody seems to find anything unusual about his gorilla body, and dinner is the shredded body of Klaus. Then a massive explosion tears through the dream, killing the kids and reducing Allison to a charred skeleton in Luther's arms.

    Films — Live-Action 
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    Literature 
  • The Robert Jackson Bennett novel American Elsewhere has Wink, NM; a tiny town connected to a nearby government library where the sky is pink and the layout and architecture are lifted straight out of the 1950s (down to the local diner and old-fashioned nuclear families). Halfway through, we discover that Wink is the home of many unusual creatures from a parallel universe, and they project their interpretation of what normal life is like.
  • After Turner gets blown up in the beginning of Count Zero he spends a few months in a simulation of a suburban New England childhood while undergoing surgery.
  • In Ready Player One, the VR simulation called "Middletown" has 256 identical copies of James Halliday's hometown, complete with NPC citizens and a flawless mock-up of Halliday's family house.
  • In the finale of Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, a drunken night out results in the crew playing the illegal VR game "Better Than Life", in which each of them finds themselves in their ideal fantasy worlds. Lister's virtual paradise takes the form of Bedford Falls, the small town from It's A Wonderful Life: here, he has all the money he needs to get by, friendly neighbours, Kristine Kochanski as his wife, and two children. However, Lister will eventually starve to death in the real world unless he leaves, and BTL is programmed to erase all memory of starting a game. The novel ends with Lister becoming aware that he's in VR and vowing to leave, but deciding to leave it until after Christmas just so he has a chance to properly say goodbye... except, as the narration observes, it's always Christmas Eve in Bedford Falls. He doesn't manage to escape until the next book, when Rimmer's uncontrollable self-loathing corrupts the paradises, resulting in Bedford Falls being destroyed by a juggernaut crash, then being converted into a hellish new neighbourhood featuring a toxic waste dump, a maximum-security prison, and an air force base.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • After getting "saved" from a library-planet infested by Living Shadows during the previous episode, Donna wakes up in "Forest of the Dead" to find herself in 21st-century suburbia with no memory of her time with the Doctor. In a series of Jump Cuts from her initial stay at a hospital, this quickly progresses to her getting married, giving birth to twins and seeing them age to about five. All is well, up until a veiled figure reveals that something is wrong: no time is passing between cuts, she's been given Fake Memories to compensate, and her children are completely identical to all the other kids in the neighbourhood. It turns out that Donna has been digitized and uploaded to the Library's central computer in an attempt to save her from the aforementioned Living Shadows; unfortunately, the computer is now malfunctioning as a result of all the people taking up space in its memory (hence why everyone's still trapped in cyberspace) and is now living its own suburban delusion of being a little girl watching the Doctor's adventures on TV.
    • In "Amy's Choice", the Doctor, Amy, and Rory find themselves continuously switching between two different scenarios. One is set in the rapidly-failing TARDIS; the other takes place in Upper Leadworth, the small country town where Rory and Amy have been living for the last few years, having retired from adventuring and gotten married. According to the episode's villain, the Dream Lord, they have to figure out which of the two worlds is real and which is the dream — and choosing the wrong option will be fatal. At first, Upper Leadworth seems to be a nice, quiet place, desirable to the two ex-companions... up until an alien army turns out to have infested the elderly members of the populace, forcing the three of them to fight their way through the usual cozy small-town landmarks — from local ruins to quaint butcher's shops. The twist is that neither scenario is real, and the Dream Lord is an element of the Doctor's psyche trying to kill all three of them.
  • In "Culture Shock", the Fourth of July-themed installment of Into the Dark, a Mexican woman attempts to cross the border into the US, only to be trapped in a bizarre, 1950s-throwback suburbia, which turns out to be a simulation in which they are held while waiting for the results of their applications.
  • During the B-Pill trial in Maniac, Owen and Annie find themselves sharing a dream scenario in which they are a happily married couple living in the suburbs of Long Island in the 1980s; here, Owen (AKA Bruce) no longer has to live with his sense of crushing loneliness, while Annie (AKA Lynn) is no longer saddled with her anger and guilt. However, as with all the trials, the goal of this scenario is to confront their underlying psychological issues, so it's not long before the two of them are sent on a symbolic mission to rescue a lemur from a furrier...
  • The Sanctuary episode "Out Of The Blue" features Helen Magnus and Will Zimmerman ending up in a dreamlike suburb in which Helen is married to John Druitt and Will is caring for a pregnant Abby Corrigan. Over time, both of them begin to experience visions of waking up in a laboratory and begin remembering who they really are — eventually prompting them to drive off a cliff in order to awaken themselves from the illusion. Turns out that they'd been exposed to the venom of a psychic worm during an expedition to New Mexico.
  • In the series finale of Siren (2018), Ryn has a fantasy about having a white-picket-fence life in the suburbs with her boyfriend Ben and her daughter Hope. This is in sharp contrast to her actual situation at that point, where Ben is missing and presumed dead, while she and her daughter (being mermaids) have to consider whether to stay on land and wait for Ben, which would imperil their health, or return to the sea and risk losing the ability to return to the land.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Inner Light" features a signal from a probe unexpectedly flinging Captain Picard into a dream of another life: here, he is a simple ironweaver living in a small town on an alien world, happily married and surrounded by friends. Though Picard is deeply suspicious at first, he gradually accepts his new life — even starting a family and growing old. It turns out that this dream is the last testament of a long-dead race, beamed into Picard's mind in order to allow the extinct people a chance to be remembered: all the people Picard met in the dream were real, everything he experienced actually happened — and all the people he came to know and love died when their sun exploded.
  • In The Twilight Zone season one episode "A Stop at Willoughby", the depressed protagonist dreams on the train ride home from work that he has stopped off at an idyllic town called Willoughby in The Gay '90s. When at last he reaches his breaking point and gets off the train to stay in the town forever, it is revealed that he actually just died jumping from the real-world train and the town's name is actually the name of the funeral home that collects his body, Willoughby & Son.
  • WandaVision gives us Westview, the idyllic small-town Stepford Suburbia where Wanda Maximoff and the Vision move in to live a Happily Married sitcom life... except Westview is actually a modern-day New Jersey town that’s literally Trapped in TV Land by Wanda's reality-warping powers: the entire town is hidden inside a massive bubble of unreality, with its citizens forced to act out the parts that Wanda has assigned them... or consciously frozen in time whenever they’re “not on set”.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age:
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, during the "Broken Circle" quest, the party comes across an ensorcelled Templar who is the thrall of a desire demon. The demon has him securely imprisoned in a dream world where the demon is his beautiful wife and they have two children whom he adores. The entire fantasy revolves around their perfect pastoral life; the actual farm where he "lives" with his "family" is all inside his head and the player doesn't see them, but it's clear that he doesn't notice anything amiss with the fantasy such as the lack of time passing normally. If the player attempts to release the Templar from the demon's grip, he gets himself killed trying to fight the party rather than give up the dream.
      • Later in the same quest, the Warden and their party will become trapped in their own fantasies. If one of the companions is Alistair, his dream effectively falls into this, as he's living with his sister and her multiple children in their small house in the city of Denerim. His "sister," of course, is another demon chewing on his brain.
    • During the mission to the Blackmarsh in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, a confrontation with the First results in you, your companions, and the First being transported into the Fade; however, rather than the usual chaotic jumble of dream environments, this particular area is a largely coherent incarnation of a human village. Called "The Blackmarsh Undying," it's a recreation of a real town that once existed on this site in the waking world - and with good reason: when the Baroness of the Blackmarsh was found to have been sustaining her youth through blood magic, her subjects turned on her and burned her mansion to the ground, only for the Baroness to escape death by preserving herself and her people within the Fade. Years later, the village has long since fallen into ruin, while its incarnation in the Fade is still ruled by the Baroness - who is still feeding on the trapped souls of the townsfolk - and it's up to you to stop her.
  • In Fallout 3, a visit to Vault 112 reveals that the inhabitants have been incorporated into a highly sophisticated virtual reality simulation; though they've played other scenarios over the decades, their current home in the digital realm is a black and white sitcom suburb called Tranquillity Lane. Though unimaginably luxurious by post-apocalyptic standards, the facts that the roads don't go anywhere, there's no colour, and all the buildings look the same make it a little bit unnerving. Not that the residents notice: they've been brainwashed into forgetting everything prior to their arrival two hundred years ago, all so they can serve as the playthings to Vault 112's sadistic Overseer, Dr Stanislaus Braun. He routinely tortures and kills all of them, then brings them back to life, erasing their memories so they never acclimatize to the trauma. In his diary, Braun specifically states that the domestic environment makes them feel calm and secure, making it that much more satisfying for him when he brings the illusion of safety crashing down. Worse still, entering the neighbourhood instantly regresses you to about ten years of age, removes all your hard-earned skills and equipment, and leaves you trapped in virtual reality until you play along with Braun's sadistic desires — or find a way of sabotaging the simulation...
  • After Cloud and Tifa are swallowed by the Lifestream in Final Fantasy VII, they find themselves in Cloud's subconsciousness, here depicted as a surreal jumble of locations and events from his past, most prominently his hometown of Nibelheim. With Cloud's sense of identity broken by the confrontation at the North Crater, it's up to Tifa to help him piece together his memories and find out what really happened in the Nibelheim five years ago - requiring a ramble through the quaint little town.
  • Psychonauts features one of these in the form of "The Milkman Conspiracy." Accessed when Raz enters the mind of Boyd Cooper, it's a quirky, chaotic mimicry of a 1950s-style suburb. Featuring the floating roads that corkscrew upside-down and eerily-empty buildings, it's infested with poorly-disguised G-Men impersonating the residents, suspicious-looking girl scouts roaming the streets, and omnipresent spy cameras (hidden everywhere from trash cans and pink flamingo ornaments). In other words, Boyd's paranoid nightmare made manifest as a Mental World.
  • Saints Row IV:
    • After being captured by Zinyak, the Boss wakes up in a luridly colourful suburb reminiscent of 1950s-era sitcoms, complete with bouncy music, enthusiastically overpolite townsfolk and even canned laughter. Violence is initially out of the question, dangerous driving is impossible, swearing is censored, and the Boss is initially brainwashed into enjoying every minute of it - to the point that Male Voice 3 goes from gravelly Cockney to chirruping Received Pronunciation the moment he arrives. Eventually, the brainwashing breaks down and townsfolk begin randomly dissolving into pixels, revealing that the Boss has been trapped in a Zin Mind Prison specifically designed to torture them. The only way to break out is to cause enough chaos to break the scenario, resulting in the music winding down and glitches creeping into the program.
    • Following Kinzie's capture late in the game, the Boss is forced to return to the old Mind Prison to rescue her: here, he finds that the scenario has been remodelled into a suburban dystopia under the reign of Cyrus Temple, with Kinzie brainwashed into becoming his meek, submissive powerless sidekick. Since weapons aren't allowed in this place, the only way to cause chaos is to use the Dubstep Gun and cause enough destruction to allow Kinzie to escape from her brainwashing, unlock her simulation powers, and allow her to kick Cyrus' ass.
  • In Issue #5 of The Secret World, players follow Kingsmouth conspiracy theorist Tyler Freeborn on an insane voyage into the depths of the Fog surrounding Solomon Island, only to pass out and wake up in the Red Sargassum Dream, a nightmarish recreation of Kingsmouth created by the Dreamers. Not only does the place now look more suburban than small-town, complete with completely identical stark-white houses and white picket fences, but it's Always Night, the roads are crawling with tendrils of Filth, and it's inhabited by Filth-infected replicas of the townsfolk - all of whom will try to kill you on sight. This is because the Fog is an airborne strain of the Filth, and everyone on Solomon Island's been infected. More disturbingly, the Dreamers claim that this is their prediction of what the world will be like if they awaken, offering to let you become mayor of the town — or even its new god — if you agree to work for them.
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