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Scenery Dissonance

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"He was distressed to think that something so nasty could happen somewhere as idyllic as this."

A form of Mood Dissonance, this is when either:

  • Unpleasant scenarios are presented in settings with pleasant scenery.
  • Pleasant scenarios are presented in settings with unpleasant scenery.

For the former, the impact of the whole can be more than that of the sum of its parts, whether because it seems a waste that the character enjoyment of the scenery is curtailed by the situation, or for whichever other reason. For the latter, it can be used to indicate that hope is not lost, even when it seems like it.

Compare Crapsaccharine World, except that this refers to a moment rather than the setting. See also Daylight Horror, Snow Means Death, Dangerously Garish Environment, and A World Half Full. Contrast Empathic Environment.


Examples of unpleasant scenarios with pleasant scenery:

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    Film — Live-Action 
  • The movie The Rundown mostly takes place in beautiful South American jungles, contrasted with a brutally oppressed town and a lot of fast-paced gun violence...and some horny monkeys.
  • Star Wars:
    • In Revenge of the Sith, the execution of Aayla Secura takes place in a lush colorful alien jungle (viewable here).
    • Rogue One has the tropical beach planet Scarif, which becomes the site of a particularly brutal battle before being nuked by the Death Star.
    • Bespin, from The Empire Strikes Back, is a rather beautiful gas giant with a floating city that goes to hell when The Empire shows up.
  • Winter's Bone is a chain of horrible events set in beautiful, snowy forest environments.
  • In In Bruges, the beauty of the titular city is a plot point. Almost all the main characters die. Some of them very gorily.
  • A lot of the ultraviolence in A Clockwork Orange takes place in picturesque surroundings: the abandoned casino, the writer's modernist house, the cat-lady's art gallery...
  • Jaws 2 Includes the killing of happy waterskiing youths and bikini babes at a sunlit beach-also included in the poster.
  • In Sweet Country, a black farmhand who killed a white landowner in self-defense is hunted through the wilderness of the Australian outback. The beautiful landscapes are contrasted with the violent and sordid human events.
  • In Red Dawn (1984) we are treated to many gorgeous vistas of the New Mexico Rockies and high plains, while the Soviet Union invades. Plus the scene where Toni and Robert are killed by the helicopters is filmed at the iconic Ghost Ranch.

  • This is brought up in The Lightning Thief. When his mother apparently dies, Percy reflects that it doesn't seem fair for the weather to be so nice and the scenery so idyllic. He feels like everything should be cold and grey.
  • Lord of the Flies takes place on a paradise island, and is about a group of schoolchildren growing increasingly savage and inhuman after losing contact with the civilized world.
  • The Republic Of Trees - a group of teenagers escape to the forest, trying to build a new society free from all the crap created by the adults and end up re-enacting the horrors of the French Revolution.
  • The nineteenth-century novel Lady Audley's Secret invokes this trope by specifically stating that though we might think of the English countryside as idyllic and pastoral, there are as many gruesome murders committed there as there are in the city.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Carnivàle takes place in some really scenic settings, and features occasional horrifying violence.

  • The Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds song "Where the Wild Roses Grow" is a murder ballad set in a very pretty environment. The video is a nice supplement.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Deliberately invoked in the Vampire: The Requiem sourcebook Chronicler's Guide. It suggested that whenever the characters had a confrontation with The Devil, the scene should always be a nice, comfortable surrounding, like a children's playground or a perfumed and clean restroom.

    Video Games 
  • Etrian Odyssey:
    • The series has lush, beautiful scenery, with an emphasis on forests, in many of the games. These games also make up some of the hardest games produced by Atlus, a company already known for Nintendo Hard games, with difficult enemy encounters attacking you in these lush woodlands from the get-go and horrific Roaming Enemies called FOEs that will completely destroy an unprepared party. Also, in the first game, some of these woods were built on top of the ruins of a modern Japanese city and are the byproduct of a gigantic World Tree that was built to bring the world back to a livable state after a global apocalypse destroyed it.
    • One sidequest in Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City has you going out to investigate a campsite in the Waterfall Wood, one of the aforementioned forests and which has many lovely waterways. Upon arriving at the campsite, you witness the bloody aftermath of some sort of battle that look place here, implying that the occupants were killed horribly. Somewhat downplayed when you return to the pub to report on your findings, as the group is alive and well there and the reality is that they caused the carnage in self-defense when some hostile monsters interrupted them in the middle of their sleep.
  • Also in Knights of the Old Republic, Manaan. Beautiful water world. Bad things happen. And Taris, too; the whole planet gets bombed eventually.
  • Hell looks like a pink and green crystalline palace in Final Fantasy II.
  • The scenery in The Forest is quite beautiful. It provides a nice distraction from the fact that you're the sole survivor of a plane crash, perpetually defending yourself against roaming bands of mutant cannibals while searching for your kidnapped son.

    Visual Novels 

  • In Niels, one scene has Niels quietly enjoying a beautiful sunset...while two cops slowly drown under the dock he sits on.

Examples of pleasant scenarios with unpleasant scenery:

    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece: Near the end of Dressrosa arc, the battle of Dressrosa is over, and the kingdom is in ruins. Yet, by the next day, the citizens are happily resuming their lives and rebuilding the city, and even throw a small celebration over the heroes (our protagonist group) who saved the country from being utterly destroyed.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons episode, Little Big Girl has Bart and Darcy having The Big Damn Kiss at a drive-in theater. In the background of said kiss, we see a teenager in a varsity jacket being violently chainsawed by his psychiatrist under a red filter.


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