Follow TV Tropes


Fantastic Ghetto

Go To
Where Fantastic Racism meets Urban Segregation. The Fantastic Ghetto is a place where an undesirable racial minority is rounded up inside to keep them out of the majority's line of sight.

Ghettoes are very much a case of Truth in Television: the term "(bor)ghetto", Italian for, more or less, "little town", originally referred to the district in City-State Venice where the Jews were supposed to live. Ironically, it has been asserted that the original Jewish ghettos were privileges, designed to protect Jews from unfriendly Gentile citizens, provided by the local rulers, including walls and locked gates which were bitterly resented by the locals. Like all well-meaning attempts at segregation, the "special treatment" not only turned out to be not so special but increased division and tension between communities, especially since the ghettos were often poorly maintained and serviced, despite the frequent promises to the contrary. Additionally, their separation from the rest of the city often made doing business difficult for those who lived there, meaning that the community within the ghetto would become poorer over time. When American segregation was being litigated, testimony from the Middle Ages was actually used in court to prove that the claim of "separate but equal" was an impossibility.

As a form of racial segregation, whether deliberate or emergent, ghettos still exist to this day, usually because of a practice often called "redlining" wherein economic and social factors are used to keep people from buying houses in a certain area. This can even include rerouting streets or subway lines to discourage traffic to a particular area. Therefore, the topic is usually approached with caution in fiction, usually from the Fantastic Racism angle. However, it can also be implied by the Unfortunate Implications of having different races live in different areas (say, all the elves living in a hidden woodland glade) with little or no mixing, though it is important to note that not all uses of the Hidden Elf Village trope imply racial segregation: many settings that use this trope also include at least the occasional intermarriage between the "elves" and humans after all. It rather depends on whom the "elves" are trying to hide from, and whether they have a good reason for it.

When an oppressed group intentionally segregates away from the oppressors, it's an Outcast Refuge.

Not to be confused with Sci Fi Ghetto, or the related term "Fantasy Ghetto", in which the genre gets this treatment by the literary establishment.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: The Eldians that were left outside the Walls were rounded up by the Marleyans and thrown into internment camps. They live in abject poverty, with absolutely no rights, and are only permitted to step outside the designated Internment Zones with special permission. In the century since their internment, Marley has used propaganda to frame this as them showing "mercy" on the "Children of the Devil", and convinced the residents that the Eldians that escaped behind the Walls are the ones to blame for their suffering. In reality, the camps exist to maintain a captive population that can be turned into Titans during times of war. Libero Internment Zone is the main camp seen in the series and was the home of both Grisha Yeager and the members of Marley's Warrior Unit.
  • Birdy the Mighty: Most Altans live in a slummy area of the city, called simply "the Altan district".
  • Code Geass: In the Holy Britannian Empire, the "Concession" cities in the conquered "Area" colonies are usually split between the rich "Settlements" inhabited by Britannians, Honorary Britannians, and generally the rich and powerful, and the "Ghettos" where the conquered "Numbers" (native subjects), terrorists, and other unsavoury groups are forced to reside. The Tokyo Concession in Area 11 (Japan) is the most notable example, being the setting for the majority of the series.
  • In Endride, the human race (Endras) use the Zoozians for hard labour and ship all the ones who were too weak to work to an island in the middle of the sea so they'd be out of sight.
  • In Megalomania, there are the slums where the demihumans, a bioengineered Slave Race, live.
  • Monster Girl Doctor is set in a city that's being repurposed so monsters can live alongside humans. Abandoned slums are flooded so that aquatic monsters can live there and the area is turned into a tourist sight.
  • One Piece: The world is mostly populated by humans, while other species live in specific home islands. Giants work occasionally for the World Government, and fishmen and merfolk are known to marry other species, but it's extremely rare to see races like longlegs or dwarves wandering among humans. Separation seems to emerge naturally due to Fantastic Racism; the World Government doesn't enforce segregation but doesn't try to prevent it either. Living separated from humans on the sea floor is especially problematic for merfolk and fishmen. They don't need sunlight and oxygen, but they still yearn for it. However, human cruelty makes them afraid of living above the surface.
  • Overlord (2012): The city of E-Rantel has a Demihuman District, which used to be a slum but was recently rebuilt.
  • Rebuild World: Each city of the One Nation Under Copyright government has slums outside of its main defenses, which is also part of their general policy of Urban Segregation. Besides how they use slum residents as Cannon Fodder to fend off attacks and to replenish the ranks of hunters due to it being the only real work available to them, and use them for Playing with Syringes, it takes a while for a reason to be attached to why the residents are kept there. It turns out to be because the government takes an extremely harsh view of debt, and due to the free Mystery Meat food, housing, and water that they get, slum residents are seen as each being in debt to the government until they bring in enough Lost Technology relics scavenged from ruins to pay the city back (which is represented by having a hunter rank of 10).
  • Spice and Wolf: The city of Kumersun has an area surrounded by a high wall, where live alchemists and other people, whose profession is considered "suspicious" by the Church. Dian is a local chronicler, collecting tales not yet censored by authorities and mediating in trade between inhabitants and the outside world. She also happens to be a giant bird, who took on human shape like Holo.

    Comic Books 
  • In Angel & Faith, a magical plague has mutated some of the residents of Hackney, London into magical creatures. The area they live in is now called Magic Town.
  • In The Ballad of Halo Jones, New York has designated areas for the Proximan alien refugees where humans aren't allowed. The title comes from The Hoop, a floating, hoop-shaped conurbation full of unemployed humans and Proximans that's tethered to Manhattan.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volume III implies that these exist for aliens from Venus as "Treens Out" can be seen written in graffiti a couple of times.
  • Strontium Dog: Mutant populations in New Britain are not allowed to hold any jobs (apart from bounty hunting) or live amongst normal humans, instead living in their own trashed ghettos, the most prominent one located in Milton Keynes.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW): The aftermath of Old Hob's mutagen bomb attack left more than 300 people transformed into mutants. Newly elected mayor Baxter Stockman quickly ordered the affected zones to be quarantined and all the mutated humans confined therein, supposedly until a cure for their conditions could be administrated. He also ordered building a 50 ft wall around the zone to prevent the mutants from escaping. Eventually, the area became known as Mutant Town, a hellhole full of dilapidated neighborhoods, abject poverty, homelessness, hunger, and cold.
  • Top 10 is about an entire city where superheroes were relocated after World War II. There are separate slums for various other science beings like robots and vampires, and a throwaway line mentions Kaiju being confined to a tiny island.
  • In Transformers: TransTech, Axiom Nexus has nine Offworlder Zones that house interdimensional refugees.
  • Wild C.A.T.s (WildStorm): This shows up during Alan Moore's run when the team visits Khera, where it turns out the Kherubim-Daemonite war ended centuries ago everywhere except Earth. Khera is ruled by the wealthy and technologically advanced Kherubim while the planet's indigenous population, a race of Sizeshifters from which Maul descended, has been displaced into underground cities, and Daemonite civilians living on Khera are confined to a low-tech ghetto. Having one Daemonite ancestor is enough to get Voodoo, a Kherubim-human hybrid like her teammates, forced into the ghetto.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The Sangtee Empire enslaves non-kreel women and forces them to live doing hard labor secluded from the populace. Non-kreel men are not allowed to live in the capitols and have to petition the government in order to have any children since the only legal way for them to do so is through cloning, (though this stands for kreel as well biologically female kreel are allowed to be citizens so long as they present as male in public).
  • X-Men: The series have used multiple takes on the idea of a mutant ghetto, from concentration cams (Neverland) to reservations (the grounds of Xavier's school during the 198 series) to isolationist compounds (Utopia) to ethnic neighborhoods (Mutant Town/District X) to national "homelands" (Genosha).
  • Mutants in Before The Incal live in an enclosed ghetto called the G.T.O. which they don't leave until they're 21 because it's legal to kill them before that age.

  • In Hemostuck, the seadwelling trolls get forced into the ghetto 'round the docks, and some of the worse-off end up living in what passes for the local sewers.
  • In Mass Effect: Human Revolution, once the Templars gained control over Caleston, they quickly moved all the alien population into the Red Light district. They don't bother patrolling inside anymore, and the situation quickly descended into mass anarchy and partying.
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • The reason why dark elves are rarely seen outside of the North. Even the act of bringing dark elves to the South would catch the guards' attention. It's a miracle that Grace, a dark elf, is able to get employed as a Fan Service With A Smile in Ansur (which is in the South).
    • The Fortress City of Rad is a subtle one. On one hand, it is a populous city where one would not see the same race twice. On the other hand, it is dedicated to the fantasy races (aka. the non-human population) once considered being undesirable by the Kingdom of Eostia.
  • SAPR: Atlas is divided into two cities. In the sky, there's an upper city built on a giant floating rock, which is mostly inhabited by humans and is extremely advanced and affluent. On the ground, there is a lower city (also called Low Town) that is inhabited mostly by poor faunus and is constructed in a ramshackle and thrown-together manner with little in the way of the technology the kingdom is famous for.
  • In Tales of the Canterlot Deportation Agency, the "temporary human settlement camp" (aka New Cynosure) where the trans-dimensional humans are kept qualifies. The Princesses recognize that there are peaceful humans who either arrived by accident or found their deliberate method only worked in one direction. Those incursions were granted two square kilometers carved out of a wild zone, and there they live, work, and make any friends they can. They can even recreate technology as long as it works cleanly. But... it's isolated from pony territory, there are guards, the entire thing is covered by a shield, and outside the border, there's a monster-infested wilderness. However, one option for some of the violent incursions is an underground prison. (Ben doesn't ask about the rest).

    Film — Animated 
  • The plot of the first Shrek movie is essentially driven by the local Feudal Overlord turning Shrek's swamp home into a ghetto for fairy-tale creatures and the like, and Shrek objecting rather violently to this — not so much because he's against ghettoization, but because he's against ghettoization in his back yard.

    Film — Live Action 

  • Ai no Kusabi: Ceres, a slum where the mongrels live.
  • Andre Norton's science fiction stories have the Dipple on the planet Korwar, filled with war refugees that no one wants to deal with.
  • In Anno Dracula 1899: One Thousand Monsters, Yōkai Town is an area in Tokyo where the vampires are corralled (the series mythology is that all Youkai are vampires, just more imaginative shapeshifters than their western counterparts). By Anno Dracula 1999: Daikaiju, it has been transformed into the Bund, a quasi-independent vampire community that the warm authorities have to tolerate due to Christina Light's influence.
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown: Vampires are trapped in ghettos called Coldtowns. Humans go into the Coldtowns to party.
  • Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. is largely set in the Unnatural Quarter, a slum district in an unspecified American city that's been zoned for habitation by the Monster Mash of non-humans unleashed by the Big Uneasy.
  • Discworld: Ankh-Morpork has a dwarf neighborhood around Cable Street and a troll neighborhood around Quarry Lane. People like "Mayonnaise" Quirke sometimes refer to the dwarf district as "Tinytown". Snuff reveals that the goblin district is a shantytown outside the city walls. This is described in terms very reminiscent of black townships in South Africa during The Apartheid Era, and is even explicitly described as "a township".
  • Dred Chronicles: The lawless Prison Ship setting is divided into various gang territories. Most prisoners aboard Perdition are human, but those who are aliens keep to themselves in their own isolated section of the ship, both avoiding other prisoners and being avoided themselves.
  • Into the Bloodred Woods: Werebeasts are separated from their parents and sent to live in Cage Row, where they spend their lives in cages forced to perform for the amusement of humans.
  • Harry Potter: There's a werewolf ghetto, which Lupin visits in Half-Blood Prince to tell them to Stop Being Stereotypical.
  • In The Migax Cycle, Squell District is the place where the outcast vagrants of society are forced to live.
  • Monster Hunter International has the Enchanted Forest Trailer Park, which is filled with trailer trash elves.
  • The Orphan's Tales has Shadukiam city, where magical beings are either locked in separated areas on the outskirts (genies, one-legged) or forced to wear distinctive clothes (Yi). The local Mad Oracle (who actually pretends to be mad to scare off wealthy idiots) chose to reside in the shadow of the shiny basilica, chained to a dirty wall, because itís where those in need appear. Citizens prefer to have them all where they can't dirty their beautiful city.
  • Perdido Street Station: Several exist in New Crobuzon for pretty much any non-human sapient species, with an even worse on for the Remade — people who have run afoul of New Crobuzon's vicious and unfair law system and were reshaped into deformed slaves.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant:
    • There are mage-only neighbourhoods that are designed to look like ghettos so that Muggles will leave them alone, in a deliberate exploitation of this trope.
    • There's also a tower block that's controlled by vampires. The human residents give them blood in exchange for them keeping the area free from criminals.
  • The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries has Hotshot, a trailer park full of werepanthers.
  • Star Wars Legends: The X-Wing novel Wedge's Gamble shows that the Empire allows nonhumans only in certain parts of Imperial Center which are called ethnic neighborhoods. One is officially the "Alien Protection Zone (dubbed "the Invisible Sector" or "Invisec") walled off from the rest. Supposedly this is for their protection against prejudice (hence the name) and they have prominent statues of heroes from different species living there, although they're really massive ghettos, as you would expect. A rebel group named the Alien Combine arose in Invisec because of this. It turns out that General Evir Derricote is having residents of Invisec rounded up for use as test subjects in his secret development of the Krytos Virus.
  • The Tower and the Fox: London's Calatian population is confined to a dreary island in the middle of the Thames referred to as "the Isle of Dogs". They're allowed to spread out more in the American colonies, but still tend to be pushed together.
  • Wild Cards: Jokertown, the only place where Jokers (the nine percent of the people who contract the Wild Card Virus who don't die or become normal-looking superhumans) don't have to be self-conscious about their disfiguring mutations. Masks are still popular fashion statements there, though. Other countries have other arrangements. There's a Joker Quarter in Jerusalem and Ireland banished all their Jokers to Rathlin Island (a visiting American compares it to a Native American reservation).
  • In The Witcher, some cities force elves and dwarves to live in ghettos, where they are second-class citizens. Despite the discrimination, the situation for them is much worse in other kingdoms, where hunting and killing elves is practically legal.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Aliens has alien refugees living in a slum called Troy behind a gigantic concrete wall. They get let out during the day for work release.
  • Carnival Row: The eponymous row, a part of the Burgue, is where the immigrant Fae settle. At the end of the first season, they're confined inside it by government order with armed guards patrolling the outskirts. It's quite poor and run down, with the confinement only making things worse as medical supplies are low.
  • Misfits: The Wertham Estate can be seen as an inversion of this trope. It was a normal borough of London until a mysterious storm gave a lot of the residents superpowers.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has a variation of this trope, shown in the two-part episode "Past Tense": in the 21st century, America's unemployment and poverty rates rose so high that nearly every major city would set up "Sanctuary Districts", walled-off communities for the destitute. In theory, they would help those struggling with poverty find steady employment and housing. In practice, however, they were essentially massive debtors' prisons for everyone from the unemployed to the mentally ill, as the residents were legally forbidden from leaving "for their own safety", and job placement services had been practically abolished.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Shadowrun: Orks and trolls often get this treatment, and more rarely other metahumans such as elves and dwarves. Notable examples include Orkland in the Bay Area; Yomi Island in Japan, serving as an internment camp for all Japanese metahumans before the internment laws were lifted by Emperor Yasuhito and the camp was left to the Wendigo and other HMHVV infectees; and the Seattle Underground, settled by orks and trolls following anti-metahuman pogroms. When a rogue Japanese general took over the California Free State, he also enforced metahuman segregation and forcibly relocated the metahuman citizens of San Francisco and Sacramento to hastily-made ghettoes outside of the cities proper.
  • In Traveller the Imperial Starport on each planet is a distinct place with its own laws. This is less because of Fantastic Racism and more an application of the policy of compromise between Imperial hegemony and local autonomy.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Some progressive worlds allow mutants to live in miserable ghettos to serve as slave labor for the Imperium's factories, with only occasional pogroms to keep the numbers manageable. Other planets simply burn their mutants at the stake with the other heretics.

    Video Games 
  • Destiny 2: When the House of Light, a friendly faction of the Eliksni, petitions the Last City for sanctuary, they're settled in the Botza District, an unpopulated section of the City that was razed in the Red War a few years ago. As with the original ghettoes, it's for their own protection: the City's leadership is sympathetic to the House of Light but is keeping them isolated because the City's populace mostly knows the Eliksni species as raiders and pirates who slaughter humans on sight. Members of the House of Light are even allowed to travel around the rest of the City if they wear visitor passes, but this opens them up to violence from angry citizens. Attitudes have cooled after the House of Light proved instrumental in resolving the current crisis, but the Eliksni Quarter remains their home.
  • In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided the situation for augmented humans has gotten so bad that, in Prague at least, Augs have to live in the crappiest part of town and go through police checkpoints to get anywhere. And they're the lucky ones, the unlucky ones get shipped off to Golem City.
  • Dragon Age:
    • The Alienages are ghettos for the City Elves. The "protective" aspect is brought up in a codex entry in the first game, in that it's technically legal to live outside them but elves who do nearly always end up being driven back in by their violently bigoted neighbors.
    • The casteless dwarves of Orzammar are only allowed to live in Dust Town, the ruins of the old city. In Awakening, Nathaniel (an elf) asks Sigrun (a casteless dwarf) if Dust Town is anything like the alienages, only to be taken aback when she compares the alienages positively to Dust Town.
  • Dreamfall: The Longest Journey: The Magical Ghetto is where The Empire of Azadi keeps the non-human citizens of Marcuria permanently locked in. Azadi claims it's for their own protection. It doesn't stop them from scouring non-humans' houses in search of illegal goods and blocking supplies of medicines and food to the ghetto. Anyone who uses magic is put in the ghetto, even if he or she is human. Roper Klacks, a human alchemist, is found there, despite the fact that alchemists don't have any natural magic abilities.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the city of Windhelm segregates Dark Elves into the Grey Quarter, since the government of the city isn't too big on non-Nords, and Dark Elves and Nords don't get along. And they still get better treatment than the Argonians, who are locked outside the city walls and forced to live on the docks as woefully underpaid manual laborers and killed on sight if they try to enter the city proper.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, many of the original inhabitants of Rabanastre have been forced by The Empire to live in Lowtown, an underground area originally just used for storing goods. Meanwhile, the wealthy and imperial citizenry take everything above the surface.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: as shown in Heavensward, the Holy See of Ishgard is divided into two districts called the Pillars and Foundation. The Pillars is home to the highborn residents of Ishgard, including noble families and those working for the clergy, and is a pleasant neighborhood. Foundation, on the other hand, is downtrodden and scarred from the war with the dragons, housing the city-states industries and lowborn population, including a young woman named Hilda, a mixed elezen/hyur woman. One neighborhood in Foundation, called The Brume, is particularly dilapidated, lacking in amenities and basic necessities, and located in an area that often sees dragon attacks. By the end of the story, things start to improve as a new democratic government is founded to help bridge the gap between highborn and lowborn.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Taris has two. Nonhumans are ghettoed in the middle levels of the City Planet, while criminals are punished by exile to the planet's surface, which is infested with rakghouls.
  • In Miserere, the aliens and human-alien hybrids have to live in the sewers to escape persecution from humans.
  • Splatoon: The Octarians were forced to live in a series of dilapidated underground domes as punishment by the Inklings for the Great Turf War. Today, however, it's their own leader, rather than the Inklings, who keeps them underground with military propaganda in hopes of invading and getting revenge for that loss. Any Octolings that manage to get to any cities on the surface, however, will find that most Inklings in the present day will happily accept them into their communities... partially out of sheer ignorance over the fact that they're speaking to an Octoling rather than an exotic-looking Inkling.
  • Touhou Project:
    • Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism takes place in the Underground, home to a population of banished youkai like a plague-manipulating tsuchigumo or mind-reading satori, whose powers made them shunned and despised even by other youkai. There's also a lot of oni found there too, but oddly enough the oni relocated later and voluntarily, after getting fed up with humans resorting to trickery to defeat them. True to the nature of Touhou, the Underground's denizens seem far more content amongst their fellow exiles than they were before... well, except the satori, who found that they were just as unwanted among the exiles as they had been on the surface, causing at least one of them to lock herself away and pushed her little sister into giving herself a Poke in the Third Eye.
    • Oddly enough, the trope gets flipped around when you look at Gensokyo proper, where it's the humans who are confined to a single settlement, the imaginatively-named Human Village. There aren't any youkai soldiers or anything making sure the humans stay put there, it's just that there's an understanding that any humans encountered outside this village at night are fair game. Humans who live outside its borders tend to be people like Reimu Hakurei or Marisa Kirisame, who have repeatedly proven that they can handle themselves.
  • Warcraft: Between Warcraft II and III, the orcs are confined to internment camps scattered across Lordaeron after being defeated in the Second War. You can visit some of these camps in World of Warcraft — one is in ruins and occupied by bandits, another has been reclaimed as the Horde's main outpost in the Arathi Highlands. Then in the Cataclysm expansion, the newly-promoted Warchief Garrosh confines Orgrimmar's troll and goblin populations to a cramped stretch of canyon, a situation made even worse when the goblins decided to drill for oil in the only water source.
  • The Witcher: Nonhumans are confined to dank slums on the west end of the city.
  • XCOM: Chimera Squad:
    • Andromedrons live in sanctuaries because their biology is incompatible with normal Earth environment, unlike the other alien species freed from the Ethereals. Those sanctuaries are thus constructed with environmental condition required to keep Andromedrons alive without them needing to wear exosuits. However, the point about segregation problems are still played straight, with relations between Andromedron sanctuaries and post-war government being strained at best.
    • Floaters and Archons are still alive in their own isolated community somewhere. It isn't stated what their physical condition is like and their actual location is left unsaid but we are told they live in a sort of psionic stasis or willing equivalent to The Matrix to avoid reality where they are suffering constantly thanks to their cybernetics.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Attempted in the backstory, when humans tried to relocate Faunus to the isle of Menagerie. The two sides eventually went to war and the end result allowed Faunus to live among humans, and while there's no institutionalized racism, there is still a lot of bad blood between the two groups.

  • Be the Sea Dweller Lowblood: In the troll (half)-City Planet on Surrogia, where you're allowed to live in is dictated by your blood color. This means that, while the goldbloods and jadeblods have very good living conditions, the blue- and violetbloods get the slums, while seadwellers live in abject poverty in the slums' slums.
  • In Disenchanted, Vermintown has Bogside, where the Boggarts live.
  • The Legend of Genji: The Sand Quarter is a slum in Jinsha where many sandbenders live after being forced off their ancestral homes by the Earth Federation. This is a result of the Earth Federation government providing the displaced sandbenders with subsidized housing in nearby cities as part of an ongoing effort to culturally assimilate them. All this really did was create urban slums where the sandbenders experienced poverty and disenfranchisement.
  • Skin Deep: The Avalons are basically Hidden Elf Villages where mythological creatures walk around openly. They range from remote villages like Wonderland, to single shops like the Southwest Missouri Avalon, to concealed neighborhoods like the Liverpool Avalon (which is housed in the empty shell of a huge warehouse.) Played With in that we are told that mythical creatures chose to go into hiding and took their communities with them, to escape the Fantastic Racism of medieval humanity.
    Jim: Most "abandoned" buildings aren't really abandoned. We use them for shops and meeting places and the like. We keep 'em run down so they don't attract attention.
  • In The Zombie Hunters, the carriers of the zombie plague live apart from healthy people in barracks infested with rats and roaches.

    Web Original 
  • Nostalgia Critic: In the review of A Goofy Movie, the Critic notices that most of Goofy's neighbours seem to be dogs and wonders if animals get segregated into different neighborhoods in this setting.

    Western Animation