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Happiness is Mandatory

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From Copper.

"The Computer is your friend. The Computer wants you to be happy. Happiness is mandatory. Failure to be happy is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution."
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An oppressive regime requires its citizens to "be happy". Of course, this doesn't actually make them happy; it only gives them one more thing to fear.

The regime may be small scale. For example, it might be a parent or boss. When the regime actually controls the world, it's a Crapsack World. Often without added saccharine, since "be happy, or else" doesn't actually make the world look like a happy place; in fact, it's more likely to simply highlight the depressing atmosphere even more.

Why does the regime do this? Well, maybe it is simply insane or enjoys toying with its underlings For the Evulz, or they may be trying to paper over the fact that Dystopia Is Hard. The regime is perhaps trying to combat The Evils of Free Will through Stockholm Syndrome. Or through Insane Troll Logic, because beating is so effective to control the population, it can be applied as well to emotional states. Either way, the demands for happiness tend to underscore the regime's 0% Approval Rating.

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If this trope was inverted, it would be much easier for the citizens to follow - since the law itself would already give them something to be unhappy about.

See also Stepford Smiler, which this trope tends to make people into, as well as Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul, where people actually do become happy whether they like it or not (such as through Government Drug Enforcement). Compare and contrast Finger-Forced Smile when the intent of making people smiling isn't as sinister as this trope. Also contrast Happiness in Slavery, where oppressed people somehow manage to be actually happy.


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Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece: The World Nobles force their slaves to act happy and keep smiling at all times, under threat of death. Crying was also a no-no. As shown in a flashback, Koala was scarred into becoming a Stepford Smiler after seeing several other slaves getting tortured or killed for failing to smile, since she was only eight when she was freed. Fortunately, Fisher Tiger was there to break her facade and help her recover.
  • Psycho-Pass: The government of Japan go all out to ensure its citizens are happy, and if somebody isn't happy, he/she's a criminal and must be arrested for reformation—or exterminated on the spot in extreme cases. Mandatory Happiness is even the name of a Psy-Pass game for the PlayStation 4/Vita.

    Audio Plays 

    Comic Books 
  • The people of Doctor Doom's country Latveria have the highest standard of living in Europe. Or else.
  • In the Fables spinoff comic Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love, Cinderella's fairy godmother decides she'd conquer a world, and force people to act happy until they became happy.
  • Judge Dredd: Inverted when the insane Judge Cal, among his long list of ridiculous decrees, outlaws happiness and mandates that all items which could cause the emotion among Mega-City One's citizens be destroyed immediately.
  • In one Mickey Mouse story, Mickey and Goofy meet a deranged monarch who explains that he has no unhappy subjects, because if they are unhappy they are imprisoned. Then, to demonstrate, he asks a random peasant whether he is happy. The peasant grins maniacally and seemingly sincerely and says that he is happy... and the king promptly orders him thrown into jail.
    Mickey: But he was happy!
    King: Yes, but he is sad now — and I aim to prevent crime before it happens!

    Comic Strips 
  • Played with in a The Wizard of Id strip. The King is showing a visiting noble around, and the noble asks a peasant how things are for him, and gets the reply, "I can't complain." The noble says that's nice and asks why, and is told, "It's forbidden."

    Fanfiction 
  • In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, the Psyche Master enforces total non-expression of emotion on all Psyches, including Empath.
  • In the Pony POV Series, one Bad Future exists where the Mane Six, after defeating Discord and seeing the damage he's done to Equestria, decide that the only way to preserve harmony in Equestria is to enforce it by any means necessary. Using the Elements of Harmony, they imprison the Royal Pony Sisters, take over Equestria, and declare themselves the "Harmony Queens". Under their reign, everypony is forced to be happy and harmonious, and those that aren't are sentenced to Brave New World-style re-education camps until they start thinking the way the Harmony Queens want them to. Every part of Equestria is being spied on for signs of disharmony; when a pony is heard crying in the privacy of her own home, she's dragged off to the Happy House and forced to eat cupcakes filled with Happy Sauce.
  • In the Dangan Ronpa Mirror Universe fanfiction, Through The Cracked Mirror, Junko Enoshima claims this is what life is like the empire.
    Hope. A meaningless concept. A boring lifestyle. At least, when applied to this world. Despair. Outlawed. Deemed unnecessary. Did your lover die? Your parents? Your closest friend? You are not allowed to feel despair because of it. You must feel hope. Nothing but hope.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Coraline, the Other Mother becomes dissatisfied with the Other Wybie's tendency to not smile, so she sews his smile in place.
  • This was originally Joy of Inside Out's mentality; her Character Arc throughout the film was learning that you don't need to be happy all the time, and in fact such a mentality can be unhealthy.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Flash Gordon, during Ming's wedding scene, a ship flies over head with a banner reading "ALL CITIZENS SHALL MAKE MERRY," followed by another one with "...ON PAIN OF DEATH."

    Literature 
  • One of the Alice, Girl from the Future books features the evil adopted son of an emperor, who learned that his father decided not to leave the throne to him. Furious, he assassinated his adoptive father, impersonated him by putting on a smiling mask, ordered the whole planet to wear such masks as well, painted all the prisons and fortresses with flowers, renamed his flagship from Justice into Universal Tenderness and established a brutal dictatorship.
  • Brave New World: Distributing affordable drugs in large quantities makes it a borderline case with Government Drug Enforcement. In a variation, those who aren't happy aren't blamed—it's considered a failure of government conditioning, not a personal fault—and are given the choice between voluntary exile or joining the ruling class, since only those with some degree of dissatisfaction have the motivation to lead.
  • Gary, the protagonist of Clocks that Don't Tick, mentions that Thralls (immortal slaves to oligarchs known as the Bosses) are supposed to appear happy while in the public's eye.
  • Discworld: In Witches Abroad, Lady Lilith is an evil fairy godmother that turns Genua into a knock-off of Disney Land, where everyone is cheerful and happy... because the ones that aren't, disappear.
  • Discussed and/or joked about in Fatherland: Shortly before a big anniversary celebration for the Nazi regime, there's a brief mention of the words "Anyone found not enjoying themselves will be shot" having been spraypainted in a prominent place along the parade route, which a couple of worried public employees are hastily cleaning off. Whether they're afraid it will offend their superiors or give them ideas is not specified.
  • In The Giver, it's more like "Quiet Contentment is Mandatory", since excess emotion is discouraged in the dystopian society.
  • The Green-Sky Trilogy by Zilpha Keatley Snyder is all about this. She goes into great detail exactly how in the Kindar society, Joy is not just a desirable spiritual state, but a moral obligation.
  • In Hard to Be a God, at one point the freshly established theocracy punishes people for "non-ecstatic way of thinking".
  • It's a Good Life: Be happy... Otherwise, you'll be sent to the cornfield.
  • In the Left Behind series, from The Remnant onward, in response to the growing opposition against Nicolae Carpathia from among those who have taken the Mark of the Beast, Carpathia demands that his people worship him at all times with mandatory parades in his honor. The people end up responding with Flat Joy. In Kingdom Come, Lothair and Ignace Jospin, who attend their cousin Cendrillon's funeral during the Millennial Reign, tell Kenny Williams that they suspect that Jesus also demands that the people of that time would worship Him if they want to live long lives. Kenny says that isn't the case.
  • Inverted in the Mr. Men Little Miss Sunshine (not the movie): the titular character visits Miseryland, where the inhabitants are kept miserable simply because of a sign stating the laws: "No smiling, no laughing, no chuckling. Giggling forbidden by order of the king." Naturally, Miss Sunshine is able to turn the kingdom around by simply changing the wording of the sign.
  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, people are required to love Big Brother and be happy about it.
  • In the world of The Program, one in three teenagers end up committing suicide, so all teens are under close observation at all times. Those who are considered suicide risks are whisked off to the Program. No one's sure what happens there, but the fact that the patients come back as Empty Shells does not exactly inspire confidence. The result is that teenagers, our main characters included, force themselves to appear cheery and well-adjusted at all times, since crying in public, being moody and withdrawn, and, you know, generally acting like a teenager can get you sent away.
  • In Slave World, this is used as an addition to Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: The slaves are biochemically altered for certain kinds of happiness, and they get punished if they try to resist the effect.
  • Norwegian children´s novel When The Robbers Came To Cardamom Town, if you are into a rather disturbing Alternate Character Interpretation. Bastian the police chief actually has this line in his introduction song: "I walk around, seeing to it that everyone is content, because I think everyone should have it that way"... Just - Let that one sink in for a minute.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Black Mirror has this situation in "Nosedive". The episode shows a world where one's place in the society is dependent of one's ratings in a social network (the elite being composed of people above 4.5 ratings, who can even have preferential health care). Because of that everyone has to be, or at least pretend to be happy, sweet, loving and nice all the time in order to not get downgraded by others.
  • A few of the serial killers on Criminal Minds are sick enough that the only way for their victims to keep from making them angry is to pretend to be happy with them.
  • Dead Ringers: Deal Or No Deal maintains its atmosphere of importance by making sure anyone who doesn't enjoy or care about being on the show is beaten to death by the other contestants with their "Happy Sticks" (i.e. baseball bats).
  • Doctor Who:
    • This is the entire point of the Happiness Patrol in the serial of that title.
    • "Smile": On Gliese 581d, you had better be smiling or the emojibots will get you.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Diend's World in Kamen Rider Decade. Everyone is expected to be kind and helpful; if you aren't you get dragged off by the DarkRoaches from Kamen Rider Blade and cells from Jashin 14 (here reimagined as an Eldritch Abomination) injected into your brain that force you to be kind and helpful.
    • A Kamen Rider Drive movie has a villain with a similar idea. Bringing about peace is good. Using feather-like devices that destroy the portion of the brain capable of rational thought, leaving nothing left except the parts that make you happy and peaceful is not how to go about it.
  • The fairy-tale kingdom of Happy Valley from Monty Python's Flying Circus. The subjects were always happy all the time because, by royal decree, anyone who wasn't happy would be put to death. One subject whose wife had just died is seen being arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to hang by the neck until he cheers up.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: In the episode "The Mole People", Pearl has instituted "Lawgiver Daze" wherein, as described by poor Professor Bobo, "all are ordered to make merry and be light of heart, under pain of horrible lingering death."
  • The Office (US): This is page one of Michael Scott's management handbook and the prime reason why Dunder-Mifflin is such a soul crushing workplace.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Seven of Nine is this whenever she is in a social situation.
    [to the Borg children] "Fun" will now commence!
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) TOS episode "It's a Good Life", based on the Jerome Bixby short story. A mutant 6-year-old child with incredible powers requires that everyone be happy around him. Anyone who isn't gets "sent to the cornfield".

    Magazines 
  • A 1954 Time magazine article on North Vietnam invoked this with its title: "INDO-CHINA: Land of Compulsory Joy". It was, unsurprisingly, about life under the regime of Ho Chi Minh, which the citizens were coerced to be happy with, starting off with the description of megaphone-wielding men patrolling the streets of Hanoi telling people their "joy is indescribable". Given the virulent anti-Communism of that era's Time and its willingness to slant its reporting accordingly, there's no telling if this is true.

    Music 
  • Referenced in "California Über Alles" by The Dead Kennedys:
    You will jog for the master race
    And always wear the happy face
  • A popular Fanon interpretation of R.E.M.'s song "Shiny Happy People" is that it is a parody and a deconstruction of Chinese government propaganda following the Tiananmen Square crackdowns, which essentially ordered everyone to be happy (and be compelled to disregard what had just happened). Viewed in this light, the song's lyrics become a hell of a lot darker. (Word of God is that it really is just a dumb pop song, and deliberately so.)
  • The Vocaloid song "Kochira, Koufuku Anshin Iinkai Desu" (Translated as "We are the Public Health and Peace-of-Mind Committee" or "This is the Happiness and Peace of Mind Committee"). The call-and-response chorus involves the spokeswoman for the titular committee reminding everyone that happiness is, in fact, a duty, and cheerfully recommends that those who aren't happy choose their preferred option from a list of violent execution methods. Reinforcing this, the song starts off with (and briefly relapses into) a very gentle tune before descending into dystopian hell.
  • "The Straight Razor Cabaret" by Voltaire is about a macabre vaudeville show whose master of ceremonies mutilates the faces of anyone he thinks isn't enjoying his show enough.
    He used a straight razor
    'Cause he's a face-raper
    And there's nothing he hates more than a stick-in-the-mud
    If he tells a joke
    You'd better laugh until you choke
    At the Straight Razor Cabaret!
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's album titled Mandatory Fun has Al on the cover standing in military dictator garb with an army at his beck and call.

    Religion 
  • Implied in the Book of Nehemiah from The Bible, with Nehemiah's initial interaction with King Artaxerxes in chapter 2, as the king sees him sad and makes Nehemiah worry due to the Persian custom that being sad in the presence of the king as a court official meant you were totally displeased with the king, possibly even to the point of rebellion, and that would mean a death sentence. Fortunately the king was benevolent enough to understand that Nehemiah's sadness had nothing to do with him, and so that gave Nehemiah the opportunity to explain the situation and to make his petition known.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the DarkSun setting, the three Mind Lords of the Lost Sea insist on this. Being powerful telepaths, they can even make you happy, but usually prefer a messy disintegration instead.
  • The Trope Namer is the Dystopian Edict of Alpha Complex from Paranoia: "Happiness is mandatory. Unhappiness is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution. Are you happy, citizen?" Inverted in Alpha State, where morbid depression is mandatory.
  • One of Ravenloft's lesser domains was home to a king who had no sense of humor, who'd clumsily tried to simulate one by requiring all citizens to laugh with every sentence they spoke. As he couldn't tell a real laugh from a forced one, this resulted in people who weren't particularly happy or amused saying "ha ha ha" after each statement.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Grelod the Kind has quite a way with children.
    Grelod: Constance!
    Constance: Yes Grelod?
    Grelod: Hroar's crying is keeping me up at night. I'll give you one chance to talk the tears out of him, or he's getting the belt.
  • In the video game Floyd (also known as The Feeble Files), the Omnibrain demands happiness. Solving one of the early puzzles in the game gets an innocent civilian executed on the spot for being unhappy.
  • Just Cause 2: President Panay believes the happier his people are, the better he feels; the better he feels, the people will be even happier.
    "So... (threatening voice) BE HAPPY!"
  • Kingdom Hearts has Donald stating that the Gummi Ship only functions when the pilots are "Smiling". This could've been a lie to snap Sora out of an incoming Heroic BSoD, and we rarely see the pilots inside the ship, so who knows? The manga leaves no room for doubt, though: You HAVE to be smiling when aboard the damn thing.
  • Inverted in Normality. Nobody in Neutropolis is allowed to show any signs of happiness, lest to be taken away to be "normalized".
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: This invitation to join the Eggman Empire ends with the line. "You'll love it! (Love mandatory)"
  • SOON: Robots made every effort to "streamline" Australian population into being more "happy and productive." Atlas is delighted to find "frowning" people later in the corrected future.
    Robot: If your constant failure is making you feel sad or otherwise interfering with your ability to be a happy, productive member of society, perhaps you should consider a stay at one of our many mood readjustment centres.
    Atlas: [thinking] I've heard... stories about the mood readjustment centres. [aloud] Nope, happy and productive, that's me!
  • Ultima V: Where in Ultima IV, your aim was to demonstrate the eight Virtues (e.g. honesty, humility, and compassion), the dictator that has sprung up in part five enforces all of them on pain of torture. "Thou shalt help those in need... or thou shalt suffer the same need!"
  • Wellington Wells in the indie game We Happy Few. After the Very Bad Thing the people of Wellington Wells did to drive off the German invasion and occupation of England, the populace rebuilt their town into a drugged-up futurist False Utopia. Any "Downers" caught not taking their Joy are either forced to take their medicine if they're lucky, or beaten to death by the townsfolk if they're not.
  • World of Warcraft contains a Shout-Out to the Trope Namer, Paranoia. The Arcane Constructs patrolling Silvermoon will occasionally say "Happiness is mandatory, citizen", as part of the theme being built around the Blood Elves (mostly during Burning Crusade) that, while everything is beautiful and perfect on the surface, if you look a little deeper things aren't so nice.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the government officials of Ba Sing Se seem unable to do anything but smile due to brainwashing.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, Timmy's time-traveling caused his father to turn into a power hungry dictator whose main rule is 'Be Happy... Or Else!'
    Timmy: But you can't be happy all the time!
    Dad: Oh, rebellion! That is so '70s.
  • Kaeloo: In Episode 123, Kaeloo takes Stumpy and Quack Quack on a tour to Heaven, where they meet an angel. The angel keeps singing about how in Heaven, there is only peace and harmony and things like that, but the angel doesn't seem too happy.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The season 5 premiere "The Cutie Map" takes place in a village run by a Well-Intentioned Extremist who has magically replaced everyone's cutie marks with equal signs. The denizens seem to be happy, but the Mane Six quickly discover that they're not.
    • Later, when a pony reveals that he is not happy with his replaced cutie mark, he is publicly shamed and then spends a night being brainwashed.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Treehouse of Horror II", when Homer, Bart, and Lisa all have nightmares, "Bart's Nightmare" is all about having psychic powers and everybody in Springfield walks around thinking "happy thoughts" so as not to displease him and be turned into something weird in a spoof of It's A Good Life.
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror V" story "Time and Punishment", Homer's time-traveling creates a dystopian present in which Ned Flanders rules the world and requires everyone to be happy all the time. Those who don't comply are given a "re-Neducation" culminating in a lobotomy.
    • In "Pokey Mom", Homer injures his back at a prison rodeo and is sent to its infirmary. When asked how he's feelingly, he sheepishly replies "I can't complain" while pointing at a large "NO COMPLAINING" sign. Right afterwards, an orderly says it only applies to inmates, so he is free to complain.
  • Inverted in The Smurfs episode "Happy Unhappiness Day To You", where unhappiness among the Smurfs is mandatory for one day. Strangely, this means that Grouchy can't be grumbling for one day!
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In "Stump Day", the Mewmans set aside their differences and celebrate for a full twenty-four hours in honor of the "Great Stump"... because if they don't, the Stump attacks them and threatens their lives until they make up with each other.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Empire Day", Imperial Taskmaster Grint is shown "encouraging" some less-than-enthusiastic citizens to cheer during the parade celebrating the titular holiday.
  • Wakfu: The heroes overthrow a dictator who was overtaxing his town by releasing the man and woman he sealed in some rings, the latter of which was the previous governess who returns to power. In the closing seconds of the episode, right after the heroes leave, she reveals herself to ALSO be an iron-fisted dictator, but obsessed with everyone being happy. She gives a New Era Speech about planting a bunch of flowers and forcing people to sing songs, to her fiancee's discomfort.

    Real Life 
  • Military:
    • A common saying among the lower ranks of enlisted men in the U.S. military is "The beatings will continue until morale improves!"
    • A specifically naval variation is "There will be no liberty until morale improves."
    • Events hosted to boost morale and which have required attendance (particularly on what would otherwise be a day off) are called "Mandatory Fun" events.
  • Dave Barry:
    "You can't not have fun at Disney World. It's not Allowed."
    • He claimed that if you're seen not having fun, you get abducted by the staff "and then it's into the Goofy suit."
  • North Koreans are required to love whichever Kim is currently in power. After Kim Jong-il's death, the government gave six months of hard labor to anyone whom they considered to not be upset enough, which is kind of an inversion.
  • After the collapse of the January Uprising against Tsarist Russian rule, Poles and Lithuanians were demonstrating their feelings by wearing mourning clothes. The Tsarist officials' reaction? All people who wanted to mourn were required to apply for a special half year permit, pay a fee and in their application point out which relative they were mourning.
  • Being a Disney employee. They're called cast-members for a reason.
  • Applies to most prostitutes, as johns usually buy the illusion that the prostitutes like having sex with them and will complain if the prostitute looks as bored and/or unhappy as she really is.
  • There are some religious sects (that will not be named here) that view any expression of unhappiness as a sign of lacking faith, non-commitment (or inadequate commitment) to the faith, wanting to deviate from divinely-ordained roles and expectations, rebellion, etc. Especially when it happens in public view.
  • Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich wrote an entire nonfiction book detailing her experiences encountering this sort of ideology in, of all places, a support-group for breast-cancer patients, and lampshades its Unfortunate Implications in that book and in this video.
  • William Gibson's 1993 essay about Singapore, "Disneyland with the Death Penalty".
  • Some have said this is the only true difference between totalitarian and authoritarian governments. Both use the same oppressive tactics, but whereas authoritarians will leave you alone if you don't speak out against them, totalitarians require everybody to enthusiastically endorse the regime at all times, no matter what they are doing.
  • On a smaller scale example, go to pretty much any major retail store chain and nine times out of ten anybody working at the counters will have a forced smile on their face and might even have a forcibly happy "greeting" they are forced to memorize and give to every customer. A lot of these places also use Insistent Terminology to describe their staff: they're not downtrodden "employees" but "associates" or "members of the family".
  • A well-known factor for those in abusive relationships or from abusive homes. When in public with the abuser, especially among those who don't know about their true nature, the abused have to put on a happy face no matter what or else they'll suffer greatly for "embarrassing" their spouse/parent/etc. by expressing the "wrong" emotion.


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