When they are too perfect to be true, the suburbs can be downright creepy. Mom baking fresh apple pies every day, the kids getting A's in every subject on their report card, neighbors who grin like their teeth are wired open... there's something unsettling about it. Extra points if the houses were built on the same floorplan with relatively minor differences between them, making each house look eerily similar. In the United States, whose suburbs largely inspired this trope, many of these too-perfect towns sprang up in The '50s during the post-World War II housing boom. That's why this trope is commonly associated with the 50's and the cultural mindsets—for better or for worse—that went with the decade. Even if the show is set in the present day, the neighborhood will still have a decidedly old-fashioned vibe.
This is a Town with a Dark Secret, with the added twist that the Dark Secret is hidden in this "idyllic" neighborhood. The Trope Namer is, of course The Stepford Wives, a thoroughly creepifying book about such a town. Stepford Suburbia is the sister-city to the Uncanny Village, and both are located in the Crapsaccharine World. Can also be part of an actual Coming-Out Story. Its residents typically include angsty teens, Free-Range Children, The Beautiful Elite, and, of course, the Stepford Smiler.
- The homeland of Kino of Kino's Journey was one of these. Adults were all quite pleased and always smiling, happy to do their jobs. This turns out to be because when children turn twelve years old they go to the hospital and have an operation that changes their brains to think this way. It also seems to cause homicidal tendencies when someone questions this, as Kino herself is nearly killed for hesitantly asking if she could not have it. Things get particularly creepy when a man is stabbed and the town's residents cheerfully start trying to pull the knife out of him.
- The surface world in Texhnolyze. Everything is picture-perfect cross of early 20th century aesthetics and high technology, but everything is slightly too perfect: birdsong is heard all around, but no birds are visible, the roads are too straight and buildings too perfect - almost like setpieces in a giant miniature railroad display - and flowers wither from the slightest touch. The people who call themselves Theonormals eliminated all aggression from their ranks by exiling everybody with genetic tendency towards violence into the underground city of Lukuss, but in result they've degenerated into living dead who barely seem real, flickering like ghostly shadows due to some unknown technology at their disposal, and don't care about anything, even their own life or death.
- New Town from Soil: everything is neat and clean, the residents' flowers are oh so perfect, and the everyone is so nice and normal. The town council president is obsessed with maintaining its purity from "foreign organisms" like recent newcomers and possible interdimensional con artists the Suzushiro family. Privately he admits he too is a "foreign organism" what with the obsession and the secret video cameras, blackmail, and raping every boy in town thanks to being a dentist with laughing gas.
- One Piece: Ebisu Town, located in Wano Country, is a small, impoverished settlement located East of the Flower Capital. The inhabitants are characterized for following a philosophy of always being positive, constantly laughing about their many troubles. It is revealed the reason behind this is that Shogun Orochi fed the starving population defective SMILE fruits. Those artificial Devil Fruits have the side-effect of preventing whoever has consumed them from expressing any negative emotions, forcing them to smile and appear happy regardless of anything, hence the name. To hammer the point, the residents' smiles are accurately described as masks that they're incapable of taking off.
- Morioh-cho from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, under normal circumstances, would be a beautiful suburb where everybody lives a vibrant life. However, add Stand users into the mix, and Morioh becomes a little more than just a bizarre town. From two brothers living in an abandoned house attempting to kill their father who's been mutated into a grotesque monster, to a yandere taking over the mayor's seaside beach house so she can be with her beloved, to a self-proclaimed alien, to a man living inside of an electric pylon, to a ghost alley where giant hands will drag you off to Hell, to serial killings collectively amassed by a Serial Rapist, an electric guitar player, and a Creature of Habit, Morioh may be a beautiful town, but it has many skeletons swept under the rug.
- An issue of Shade, the Changing Man featured a Stepford Suburbia run by a man who had created a madness-powered machine that turned people "normal."note He started as a Heteronormative Crusader with mild racism and an inablility to understand young people, but as his madness increased, his definition of "normal" grew even narrower ("You take milk in your coffee, right, Joe?")
- The Walking Dead: Woodbury appears to be a type of this. It initially looks like a pleasant enough place inside the walls that protect it from the rest of the Zombie Apocalypse, but then the viewer is given views behind the facade, including but not limited to a leader that has aquariums with severed zombie heads and prevents anyone from permanently leaving the town.
- The 2016 Marvel event Avengers Standoff is centered around "Pleasant Hills". This seemingly-idyllic suburb is hiding something so nasty it brings together multiple Avengers teams (who aren't on the best of terms) to contain it. The "residence" of Pleasant Hills are actually super-villains like Baron Zemo, captured and brainwashed by S.H.I.E.L.D. into ordinary citizens with a sentient Cosmic Cube.
- In Hex Wives, the prison that the Architects create for the witches is a picture perfect 1950s suburb.
- The Authority: When the heroes are defeated and forcibly disbanded by corrupt governments, the Engineer and Swyft are brainwashed and forced into horribly abusive marriages with actors paid to make their lives miserable (including children), all without being able to do anything about it.
- Happily averted in Richard Thomson's Cul de Sac, set in a tightly-packed suburban neighborhood of lookalike houses — the inhabitants are all charmingly "off" in some way or other.
- Child of the Storm has Little Whinging depicted as this, with Carol memorably referring to it in the sequel as a "suburban hellhole full of assholes." However, this also had a little to do with Harry's abuse being overlooked due to Sinister's telepathic influence, as he wanted Harry isolated and somewhere where he could be easily studied.
- The Addams Family (2019) has the town of Assimilation, NJ, a brightly-colored planned community that's sprung up seemingly overnight next to the Addams mansion. There's some conflict with the locals, especially the community's creator, home-makeover guru and reality TV star Margeaux Needler, who sees the Addams' Haunted House as an eyesore and a threat to Assimilation's conformity.
- The community of Stepford, Connecticut from The Stepford Wives, adapted from the novel by Ira Levin (described in more detail under Literature).
- The town in Edward Scissorhands was very much the creepy little 1950-'60s town.
- Hot Fuzz is a British example. Sandford however starts off rather boringly idyllic, and only really enters creepy territory when its denizens start dropping like flies. Or more precisely, when the protagonist notices that denizens are dropping like flies. The locals are used to the attrition. "Accidents happen every day!"
- Pleasantville: the titular, eerily-monochrome setting.
- American Beauty, one of the defining "dark heart of suburbia" films. The protagonist Lester Burnham is a middle-class office drone and Henpecked Husband who is crushing on his teenage cheerleader neighbor Angela, Angela herself is a faux Fille Fatale whose sexy image is all an act, his wife Carolyn is a realtor who happily wears the mask and is cheating on him with her business rival, his daughter Jane hates him and wishes he were dead, and his next-door neighbor Frank is a hyper-macho Marine veteran nutcase who is trying to raise his son Ricky (an Erudite Stoner, Jane's boyfriend, and the film's Only Sane Man) in his own image and is a self-hating homophobe. Scott Bakula, who played one half of the gay couple, Jim Berkley and Jim Olmeyer, who serve as Lester's other next-door neighbors, has joked that "the Jims" are the most normal people in the film — and he's probably right.
- Donnie Darko. In the opening scenes, Donnie is informed that in a few days the world will end. Through him we get a glimpse of The End Times, and they look like 1980's upper-middle-class suburbia.
- Cinephiles have long pointed out that many of the Melodrama made in The '50s were in fact Unbuilt Trope satire on the mentality and values of this trope:
- Vincente Minnelli's Some Came Running portrayed the Small Town Boredom and hypocrisy of this era, the fact that the good family man is having a mistress on the side while publicly acting like a family man.
- Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows attacks the sexism and Double Standard as well as the Conspicuous Consumption that people use as a substitute to solving their actual problems.
- Nicholas Ray also provided two famous attacks on this concept, both made during The '50s:
- Rebel Without a Cause was set in an idyllic American Dream suburbia filled with dysfunction and neuroses.
- Bigger Than Life attacks it from every angle. The father can only provide the lifestyle by working two jobs which he has to lie to his wife about, they are constantly struggling to make their ends meet and more or less live beyond their means just to maintain the facade.
- Disturbia. A good pair of binoculars can reveal that the children next door are secretly watching porn, the man across the road is having an affair with his maid, and the quiet next-door neighbor is a serial killer with several rooms of his house designed to accommodate this...unusual habit.
- The Graduate is, in many ways, about Ben and Elaine trying to escape this.
- Downloading Nancy, though it may have been skewed by the protagonist's bleak outlook.
- The films of Todd Solondz feature this. He uses deceivingly peaceful and idealistic settings to hide the fact that the worlds they're set in are exceedingly grim places.
- Fido is set in an idyllic 50's community... Which just happens to employ zombies for menial labor.
- In The Cat in the Hat live-action film, the kids' neighboorhood could be described as this.
- In Targets, Vietnam vet Bobby Thompson's empty existence in one of these is what finally sends him on a shooting spree.
- The relatively obscure 1989 film Parents is set in lovely '50s suburbia... and centers around a boy who's beginning to wonder where his parents buy all the meat they cook.
- Over the Edge is about what happens when a bunch of suburban parents neglect their kids and their needs.
- The makers of Kings Row, set in a nice quiet small town, had to tone down the material quite a bit, as the source novel featured things like homosexuality and incest. But the film as it was made still features a Madwoman in the Attic, a murder-suicide, and a psychotic doctor who maims or kills patients that he deems to be morally unworthy.
- Get Out (2017) combines this with some serious interracial tension. The only black people in the neighborhood where the main characters are visiting the girl's parents are either docile, brainwashed servants or have mysteriously gone missing.
- Far from Heaven, set in 1950s Connecticut. Everyone and everything in this film looks perfect—hair, clothes, houses, etc. Except the protagonist and her husband are in a deeply unhappy Sexless Marriage, thanks to him being gay, she's slowly but surely falling in love with her African-American gardener, and their supposedly liberal community is actually quite bigoted and narrow-minded.
- In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indy finds himself in one only to realize it's about to be blown to smithereens as part of a nuclear test.
- The Big Hit: Establishing shots of the suburban neighborhood are stylized to show all the neighbors doing everything in robotic unison.
- Cypher: After his interview with Digicorp, Morgan drives back home to his suburban residence. The cinematography puts emphasis on the uniform sterility of his neighborhood to justify why he would want to seek out a more exciting existence as a corporate spy.
- Vivarium: When young couple Tom and Gemma are looking for a home, they meet with an awkward real estate agent who thinks he has the perfect house for them. To their reluctance, he takes the couple to 'Yonder' - a seemingly perfect, idyllic neighbourhood. After being given a tour around a house, they decide to leave but realise they cannot. Trapped in a weird dimension, where every street is full of similar-looking houses, and no matter how many corners they turn, they always seem to arrive back at the same house...
- Subverted in A Scanner Darkly. The protagonist's previous existence as a respectable husband with a wife and family is presented as bland and unfulfilling. Later however as an undercover narc he comes across the same house which is a ruin after being used a drug den and laments what as waste it is, as the house should have been used to raise a family.
- The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin, along with its more famous film adaptation, is the Trope Namer. In the titular small Connecticut suburb of New York City, the men are replacing their strong-willed, feminist-minded wives with docile robot duplicates. Levin based the town on real-life Wilton, Connecticut (where he lived in The '60s), only "a step away" from the city of Stamford.
- In Mike Heimbach's novel The Suburban Chronicles, the Suburban Estates subdivision and surrounding area is nothing but endless streets of identical, pastel colored tract homes with everyone perfect, to the point that in over thirty years there has been not even one crime in the town. Apparently, the threat of the owner of everything as your neighbor makes everyone act as though nothing ever goes wrong there, even when things do.
- Jasper Fforde's The Fourth Bear opens in one of these, where creatures from cautionary tales, such as monsters under the bed, really exist to keep the kids in line.
- Camazotz from A Wrinkle in Time appears to be an entire planet of Stepford Suburbia. Controlled by a disembodied brain. Pictured at the top of this page is a shot from the 2018 film adaptation, with everybody going about their business in perfect synchronicity.
- "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin is about a town where everyone's happiness is Powered by a Forsaken Child - literally.
- Waverton in the story of the same name. In this case, everyone in the neighborhood is a cannibal. But the new couple in town doesn't know that.
- Candor by Pam Bachorz is about a town that uses subliminal messages to create its Stepford Suburbia—especially creepy in the teens, who love their SAT study parties a bit too much for comfort. The town was planned by the protagonist's father as a way to have a perfect world after his other son died.
- The town of Joyful Travail in Revenant, although it's run in a far more coldly efficient fashion than most examples of this trope.
- Little Whinging, or at least the neighborhood roundabout Privet Drive, in the Harry Potter series, at least if the Dursleys are typical residents, which seems likely since the neighbors are apparently "the sort of people who thought scruffiness ought to be punishable by law." The Dursleys' attempts to appear as normal (read: boring) as possible are Played for Laughs and, of course, complicated by the fact that Harry is secretly a wizard.
- This is played with in the films, where Privet Drive residents live in precisely identical houses, and all drive exactly the same car.
- Possibly the whole town since Harry came and went from the same house as pampered Dudley, scrawny and bruised and dressed in rags, and no one did anything. At least, anything successful enough for Harry to know about it. This is sometimes blamed on Dumbledore.
- Parodied in a Doctor Who short story, where the Doctor insists the true horror of suburbia is that there aren't sinister secrets behind the net curtains - it really is that boring.
- The eponymous town in the novel Tangerine is like this, to the extent that early in the story you start expecting mind-sucking aliens or an ancient curse or something. People are struck by lightning and part of the middle school is sucked into a natural sinkhole, and the viewpoint character's path to confronting this in the town and in his family forms the backbone of the story.
- From The Regulators, we have Poplar Street in Wentworth, Ohio. Stephen King spends the first 5 or 6 pages of the novel practically gushing over its all-American normalness with narration so upbeat it's almost manic. And then everything goes straight to hell, in typical King style.
- In Lucifer's Star by C.T. Phipps, Cassius Mass used to be an Ace Pilot and The White Prince but a Trauma Conga Line resulted in him becoming this. Notably, Cassius isn't actually that upset about it as he believes he deserves obscurity after serving as a soldier for The Empire and getting so many of his friends killed. Gary is notably such a Rebellious Spirit that he's constantly breaking through his brainwashing and so is his wife.
- Shaker Heights, Ohio in Little Fires Everywhere; the real life version is one of the first "planned communities" in the US (see below).
- Wink, New Mexico in American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett was this. It is beautiful and picturesque, but there is something extremely wrong with it. For one thing, the human residents all live in fear of the Eldritch Abomination residents, because while most of them mean no harm, some do, and even the "nice" ones are dangerous when crossed. The Eldritch Abomination residents put themselves through various forms of discomfort because they learned how humans are "supposed to" act when they broke through during the 50s and 60s. Also, no one is able to leave and nothing ever changes, at least until the protagonist arrives.
- The titular short story in In the Land of the Lawn Weenies is set in a suburban community where the dads have a zombie-like obsession with lawn care. The protagonist fears that his own dad will succumb to the mindset.
- How Buildings Learn (non-fiction) by Stewart Brand has sections about the building styles that Brand calls High Road ("House Proud") and Low Road ("Nobody cares what you do in there").
- Houses in a High Road suburb may be built with a wider variety of floor plans, but they tend to be dominated by residents' committees which are terrified that if anyone does anything at all to their house, then it will reduce the value of everyone else's house. There are probably a few novels' worth of lingering resentments right there.
- Low Road suburbs are usually built with much less variety, because that's cheaper, but it's much easier for the residents to modify and extend their houses, so individuality tends to increase over time.
- Sinclair Lewis' Main Street was a prototypical deconstruction of middle-class suburban America, notably written in 1920 decades before the great suburban boom of the mid-late 20th century. The setting of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota may look like an idealized Everytown, America on the surface, and the protagonist Carol initially sees it as such, but she grows miserable as she realizes that all of her neighbors are vain, materialistic, smugly conservative social climbers and that the only people she can connect with are the town's outcasts. By the end, she leaves Gopher Prairie behind and moves to Washington, D.C..
- In Desperate Housewives, Wisteria Lane is a place of constant secrets, lies, adultery, misfortunes and other nasty things.
- The Twilight Zone:
- The Twilight Zone (1959): The classic episode "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" (and its remake in the UPN series) are examples of this trope and a deconstruction of it. Each version of this classic ends with the same twist, but two very different antagonists.
- The first episode of the 2002 series (titled "Evergreen") features an exclusive gated community where troublesome teens were turned into fertilizer to maintain idyllic family harmony.
- The Twilight Zone (2019): "You Might Also Like", where everyone in the suburbs is awaiting the release of a new revolutionary product "Egg" - except this is the long-belated sequel of "To Serve Man", and the eggs are the killing blow. In Soviet Kanamit, Baby Eats You!.
- In the Black Mirror episode "Nosedive", the world in which Lacie lives is scarily perfect, with almost everyone under the same smiley, ratings-obsessed spell. Public outrages are seen as felonies, people buy coffee just to photograph, and you must disregard certain acts - such as being kind to service workers and colleagues - to keep those precious stars intact. There's even a ratings expert that Lacie visits who is similar to a psychiatrist or a counselor in the real world. It's easy to see why she ends up snapping halfway through the episode.
- The hell dimension in the Angel episode "Underneath" invoked this trope. Lindsey is condemned with no memory in a cheerful, happy suburban home with a loving wife and son. The cellar of the house is a medieval torture cell where a monstrous demon cuts out his heart every night. When they try to escape, the wife, son, and postman pull out submachine guns and start firing. Gunn later describes the worst of it being the buried knowledge that the happy facade concealed horrors without ever being able to know what they were. Angel, who had his son's memories wiped and placed him with a happy, suburban family to conceal the horrors of his past, is silently but noticeably troubled by the description.
- One episode featured a cul-de-sac which appeared idyllic but was actually filled with "ennui", affairs and feuding neighbors. Bones learned that the key to dealing with the residents of the cul-de-sac was to treat them each as a component of a single large organism.
- All suburbs in the show feature Hiveminds.
- In "Chuck Versus the Suburbs" the main characters of Chuck go undercover in a suburban cul de sac to figure out which of the residents is an evil spy. They all are
- The ABC series The Gates, where everyone concentrates on petty issues of town status to distract from their bloodlust, channel the traditional vampire/werewolf enmity into less destructive competition, and conceal two witches warring over the town.
- This Is Not My Life's Waimoana, an eerily perfect and homogenous New Zealand town of the future.
- The Walking Dead: Like in its original comic book incarnation, Woodbury has dark secrets behind the cheerful facade of an "everytown USA" suburbia that are hidden from most of the populace.
- The Charmed episode "It's A Bad Bad Bad Bad World Part 2", shows what our world would be like without sufficient evil to balance it out — sure, everybody would be friendly and nice, but parking your car in the wrong place is a capital offense and using your cellphone in a hospital gets your hand lopped off.
- In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), Dean seems to feel the Lawrence, Kansas, with his mother still living in their childhood home is about as perfect an existence as he can expect, but the neighbor seems confused by Dean's cheerful wave while mowing the lawn.
- The Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories episode "Holes" is set in an idyllic, wealthy cul-de-sac where the neighbors torment you if you don't attend their sports parties.
- Back when BBC One was using the "Circles" idents, one of them featured a suburb where six blank-faced women were mowing their lawns, only for the pull-back to reveal that they were creating a single huge Crop Circle.
- The Boys (2019). When she finally makes an appearance at the end of Season One, Rebecca Butcher is raising Homelander's son Ryan in what appears to be Everytown, America. Season 2 however reveals that she's living in a Vought facility surrounded by prison walls, her house both inside and outside is monitored by hidden cameras linked to the guardroom, and the whole place is just a Potemkin Village to give Ryan a stable upbringing so he won't turn out like his psychopathic father. Rebecca lampshades the trope by saying she coped with her Gilded Cage by pretending she was Carol Brady.
- WandaVision: Westview, New Jersey is a suburban community straight out of sitcom central casting that Scarlet Witch and The Vision find themselves living in as a Happily Married Dom Com couple. As the show goes on, the creepy elements go from mere subtext (why are two superheroes acting out this sitcom fantasy?) to outright text as it's revealed that Wanda cast a Hex over the entire town due to her grief at losing Pietro and Vision and everyone's being forced to act out roles in her sitcom fantasies.
- "Little Boxes", the 1962 folk song composed by Malvina Reynolds and popularized by Pete Seeger (and used as the original opening theme to Weeds). It was covered by The Decemberists, whose choice of chord progression drags the subtext kicking and screaming to the fore.
Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky-tacky... And they all look just the same.
- "The Kids Aren't Alright", by The Offspring, tells the story of a neighborhood full of promising lives that went From Bad to Worse: Jamie got pregnant and dropped from high school, Mark has no job and spends all his days playing guitar and smoking pot, Jay committed suicide, and Brandon OD'd and died. Supposedly, Dexter Holland wrote this song after finding his old neighborhood torn apart by tragedy.
- "Subdivisions", by Rush, details the oppression of conformity in the "mass-production zone" — and the inevitable draw they have on those who manage, briefly, to escape. In particular, from the chorus-verse bridge:
Any escape might help to smoothe
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth
- "Pleasant Valley Sunday", written for The Monkees by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.
Another Pleasant Valley Sunday
Charcoal burning everywhere
Rows of houses that are all the same
And no one seems to care
- "Shangri-La" and "Well Respected Man" by The Kinks are about suburbia and the people who inhabit it. It was a regular theme with them, although there are subversions such as "Village Green" (where the singer longs for the "simple people," "fresh air" and 'Sunday school" of his idyllic hometown, and laments how modernization is turning it into The Theme Park Version).
- The video for Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun." The song doesn't explicitly mention suburbia, but... this trope hardly seems out of place.
- "Shop Vac" by nerd favorite Jonathan Coulton is about a couple that moves from the big city to suburbia to start a family... only the husband really isn't happy with the move.
We hung a flag above the door
Checked out the gourmet grocery store
I bought a mower I can ride around the yard
But we haven't got real friends
And now even the fake ones have stopped calling
- The video for Das Weisse Licht by Oomph! shows that this order is maintained by replacing the inhabitants with robots, in a Stepford sort of way.
- Ben Folds' re-envisioned "Rockin' the Suburbs" for the movie Over the Hedge:
We're rockin' the suburbs
We part the shades and face the facts
They've got better lookin' fescue
Right across the cul-de-sac
- Living on XTC's "Respectable Street":
Sunday church and they look fetching
Saturday night saw him retching over our fence
Bang the wall for me to turn down
I can see them with their stern frowns as they dispense
The kind of look that says they're perfect
- Arcade Fire's third album, The Suburbs, is a Concept Album which focuses on, well, the suburbs. It takes a somewhat nuanced view of the subject (Win Butler is on record as saying that it's a letter "from" the suburbs, not for them or against them), but the Stepford form is definitely visible (particularly "Sprawl II: Mountains Beyond Mountains").
- The Smashing Pumpkins' video for "Try, Try, Try" contains a sequence that takes place in a dark Stepford Suburbia.
- Blur often sang about apparently normal suburban characters who are a lot weirder under the surface. "Tracy Jacks" and "Stereotypes" are two examples.
- "Paper Mache", written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and recorded by Dionne Warwick.
Twenty houses in a row
Eighty people watch a TV show
Paper people, cardboard dreams
How unreal the whole thing seems
- "The Sound of the Suburbs" by The Members is a late '70s punk anthem about teenagers bored by suburban conformity.
- The Melanie Martinez Concept Album Cry-Baby takes place in a pastel 1950s-styled universe. Cry Baby lives in a suburban town with her drug using brother, alcoholic mother, and distant, cheating father. It gets worse as time goes on. Cry Baby ends up heartbroken several time, no one comes to her birthday, she ends up kidnapped and possibly raped, she has to kill her kidnapper, and she then undergoes a mental breakdown as a result. Her mother also kills her husband, his mistress, and possibly her brother.
- The video for the Barenaked Ladies' song "Call and Answer" is set in this, with identical houses and all the driveways filled with Volkswagen New Beetles that repeatedly pull in, change drivers, and pull out again.
- "Suburbia Overture" by Will Wood is based entirely around this trope, with multiple references to drugs, violence, and the nuclear panic of the '50s and '60s throughout. Even the name of the fictional neighborhood, Mary Bell Township, takes its name from a serial killer.
The dog bites the postman while basement eyes dream
Of a night at the drive-in with an AR-15
- "Night Horrors: Wolfsbane", a sourcebook for Werewolf: The Forsaken features a town where everything's nice and orderly, a little oasis in the midst of the New World of Darkness. What made it so nice and orderly? Simple; several years ago, the town's spirit went completely power mad, ate everything nearby in the Shadow to become the only semi-sane magath in existence, and simultaneously Claimed the entire town. Stay too long and he'll happily add you to his safe, happy, and duller-than-a-bag-of-hammers-on-downers Hive Mind.
- The Mutants & Masterminds module "A More Perfect Union" brought the player characters to the seemingly idyllic small town of Unity. With a name like that, What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Hivemind.
- The Pyramid Campaign in a Box Situation: Conspiracy by David Morgan-Mar is set on an idyllic street in the suburbs ... where "several different supernatural, otherworldly, and ultraterrestrial factions" have, entirely by coincidence, chosen to base themeselves as they plot the conquest of humanity. The gag is a) none of them are aware of the others and b) they're all monstrous Captain Ersatz versions of classic sitcom characters.
- The theatrical Trope Codifier is Leonard Bernstein's 1952 mini-opera Trouble In Tahiti, whose generic American setting is even called Suburbia. It has a vocal trio cheerfully singing about the lovely life of a Happily Married couple, providing extreme Mood Dissonance counterpoint to the couple actually featured in the show, who are so "sharing, smiling, confiding, loving" that they struggle to remain on speaking terms with each other.
- In One Touch of Venus, love-interest character Rodney Hatch can't wait to move into one of these, singing a whole song ("Waiting for a Wooden Wedding") about how delightfully boring and predictable it will be. This becomes the tipping point for Venus, our protagonist, who realizes during the song just how awful life with Rodney might be.
- (Props to the creative team of this one, by the way, for using this trope so early. The show opened in 1943, just as suburbia was starting to become a recognizable concept.)
- Flaming Tree Grove, setting for the Australian play Ruby Moon.
- In Shrek: The Musical, Duloc under Farquaad's rule is well on its way to becoming this. Donkey even lampshades it early on, saying that the whole place is "going Stepford".
- The Zaibatsu corporation owns an upscale suburb in Grand Theft Auto 2 called "The Village", apparently a shout out to The Prisoner. It's a swanky community with pink cobblestone streets, art deco houses, and luxury cars roving the streets.
- In Hitman: Blood Money, Agent 47 pays a visit on a gated community located in southern California. The target of the day, Vinnie, is a mob informant living under witness protection with his family in an idyllic house. Scratch the surface, though, and the American dream isn't exactly working out for Vinnie: his wife is getting hammered on wine while hitting on pool boys, the feds are upstairs sniffing his daughter's panties, and Vinnie is too terrified to leave his bodyguard's side for even a second.
- In Hitman 2, Agent 47 pays a visit to a gated community in Vermont, in a mission homaging the above contract. The neighborhood is very nice and idyllic, though it looks like it stepped right out of the 50s. It doesn't take long to see the rot under the surface, however, as the target of the day is a former KGB chief living under a fake identity, his army of bodyguards are slowly purchasing the homes and taking the neighborhood over, there's a Serial Killer living nearby, one of the houses was vacated following a violent murder that was apparently covered up, and in one of the Elusive Target missions, another serial killer arrives in town looking for prey.
- In Mercenaries, North Korean dictator General Song builds one as a backdrop for his propaganda films. What's creepy is that the buildings themselves are just facades with nothing behind them.
- The trope-naming "The Milkman Conspiracy" level of Psychonauts is a literally twisted (i.e. it looks like an Escher engraving), evil little suburb where the lawn flamingos turn to watch you and everyone is either a Rainbow Squirt or a G-Man. It's hilarious, but rather creepy once you realize that this is how Boyd sees the entire world, as a sham Stepford Suburbia that's watching him all the time.
- Fallout 3:
- The towns of Andale and Tranquility Lane, and the virtual world of Vault 112. Suffice to say, there are other factors that make them both even creepier than the standard Stepford Suburbia.
- This applies to much of suburban America in its pre-war days, where people were being killed in everything from government experiments, to malfunctioning factory robots, to taste-testing soda. Chinese Americans were also being rounded up and imprisoned after the Sino-American war began in 2066, and fears of Communism and sabotage led to the United States becoming a police state in everything but name.
- Fallout 4 continues the trend with Covenant, a neat and tidy little town full of friendly, well-dressed people, that has absolutely no business being in the middle of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Learning the town's secret only increases the creepiness factor. For bonus points, you can turn the citizens hostile, kill them all, and set up your own settlement within the walls - with the new settlers never bothering to clean up the corpses of the former residents.
- Although most of the human characters in the first Destroy All Humans! game fit comfortably into the Stepford Smiler trope, Santa Modesta is set in a pleasant 1950s suburbia... in which everyone has various psychological hang-ups seething just underneath the surface.
- Harvester runs with this. The protagonist's mother bakes cookies all day, ignoring her children even though one is clearly ill; his father is covered in bandages from an S&M session gone wrong; the neighbor is clearly a pedophile, but no one seems to notice; and everyone won't stop talking about "the Lodge" that everyone important in town is a member of. There's a reason it's like this: it's not a real town. It's a computer simulation designed solely for the purpose of twisting the protagonist into a serial killer as part of a government experiment.
- At first, Tazmily Village in Mother 3 is a beautiful Sugar Bowl where no one locks their doors and even the concept of money is foreign. Then the timeskip rolls around. All of a sudden it's a modernized suburbia with stores, a train station, cars, and all sorts of modern conveniences... and anyone who doesn't join in has their house struck by lightning. The guy who ran the inn has it bought out from under him, every house has a "Happy Box" that people are compelled to stare at, anyone old and not rich is forced to live in a complete dump, everyone else (even the kids) is expected to slave away in a factory for a living, and becoming a Pigmask is treated as a great career goal. It gets worse.
- The eponymous town of Silent Hill looks like a quaint resort town, but looks can be deceiving. Shepard's Glen, its neighboring town that Silent Hill: Homecoming features prominently, has some secrets of its own.
- We Happy Few takes place in a fictional town in 1960's England where everyone is subject to Government Drug Enforcement: anyone who doesn't regularly take a drug called Joy becomes a "Downer" and is hunted down by the police. The given reason for this is supposedly Britain being invaded by the Nazis during World War II and the "Very Bad Thing" that subsequently happened. Whatever it was, they were so horrified by the Very Bad Thing that they resorted to self-inflicted Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul just to avoid societal collapse. Unfortunately, their society is about to collapse anyway because everyone's too hopped-up on Joy to notice things are falling apart.
- Mafia III's New Orleans-inspired setting offers up the neighborhood of Frisco Fields, an upper-middle class, white-picket-fence suburb that looks like something straight out of The Brady Bunch. It's also the home base of the Southern Union, founded as it was by people fleeing the integration of New Bordeaux, while many of the housewives are hopped up on 'weight-loss pills' that they didn't realize were actually PCP until The Mafia already had them addicted.
- Gleaner Heights takes place in an idealistic rural village. You're the new farmer who recently moved to town. As it turns out, many of the local villagers have very dark skeletons in their closets.
- This is the default setting of The Sims, though it only gets as dark as you are willing to make it. The aesthetic for the game was heavily inspired by American domestic sitcoms, complete with the build menu in the original game having shopping mall muzak play whenever it is opened up. Will Wright, the founder of Maxis and lead designer on the game, stated that the intent was to satirize the treadmill of consumerism that characterizes suburban life.
- The titular city of Autodale is a totalitarian dystopia which resembles a stereotypical 1950s American suburb. Everyone is obsessed with being "pretty" (aka, mindless conformists who serve as useful cogs in Autodale's society); and anyone who is no longer useful or falls outside the norm is designated as "ugly", which leads to them being dragged to the edge of town to be killed by robots and then dumped in a mass grave.
- City of Reality is both a Subversion and a Double Subversion of this trope. While it's very easy to believe that Reality is hiding a deep, dark secret beneath its saccharinely idealistic exterior, it really is exactly what it appears to be: a place without negative emotions where everyone looks out for everyone else. However, some of its inhabitants are willing to go a bit too far to protect Reality from outsiders.
- Everything is Fine is a webcomic in a police-state suburbia where the exact opposite is true.
- Fabuland Housewives - a Funny Animal Photo Comic parody of Desperate Housewives using LEGO Fabuland characters.
- It Never Rains on Monitor Hill: Guess how often the sun shines on the suburban neighborhood of Monitor Hill?
- In Welcome to Night Vale, Desert Bluffs, run by Strexcorp, seems to be this. They desire to keep growing, spreading across the world, making everyone as Happy and Productive as they are, even Night Vale. They even succeeded for a while.
- Scarfolk Council gives us Scarfolk, a small English town trapped in the 1970s which is Stepford Suburbia except that You Can Panic Now. Got to keep those infant terrorists and undead foreigners out!
- This is the typical form taken by the "nature preserves" used by some of Mortasheen's many Mad Scientist-types to isolate and study pure humans.
- Teen Lit Wasteland:
- The ruling class in Panamerica, while descended from survivalists and militia groups in Idaho and Montana, have dropped all but the most surface-level trappings of such in favor of an embrace of the lifestyle of rich suburbanites. The capital city of Kalispell is described as a vast suburban sprawl of about two million people with virtually no tall buildings outside of downtown, with many of those people paranoid of getting stabbed in the back (sometimes literally) by their Nosy Neighbors. Out in the Districts, meanwhile, the elites live in gated communities that are both eternally fearful of the non-citizen laborers who make up most of the population and resentful of the people in Kalispell, who they see as having gone soft over the years.
- The vampires in Alaska give the janissaries cozy suburban housing for themselves and their families in exchange for their loyalty. They get what people in The '50s would consider a comfortable middle-class existence... in exchange for a lifetime of brainwashing and indoctrination to ensure loyalty to their vampire masters, enforced with brutal punishments for anybody who steps out of line.
- Episode 150, Cul De Sac, of The Magnus Archives features one of these in its statement. The neighborhood the protagonist gets trapped in a suburb that goes on forever, and in it, all the houses are completely identical and all the street signs are only labeled things like "ROAD" or "STREET". He almost gets lost in it forever, only surviving through sheer luck. He finds a corpse in a house that suggest not everyone is so lucky.
- The neighborhood Malice in The Venture Bros., appears to be populated primarily by professional costumed villains.
- Moralton in Moral Orel. For all the Davey and Goliath stylings, it is a place filled with self-hating, hypocritical, abusive Jerkasses that seem dead set on crushing the naive and hopelessly optimistic protagonist. And that's when said protagonist isn't wreaking carnage because he takes the bad advice of his authority figures to extreme and unfortunate ends.
- The episode "Mooving Day" of The Fairly OddParents involves Timmy moving to a very creepy suburb inspired by the Trope Namer. It turns out to be a plot from Doug Dimmadome (owner of the Dimmsdale Dimmadome), using genetically modified milk to turn people into social zombies so that they'll buy his new housing services.
- One appears in the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero two-part episode, "There's No Place Like Springfield." Shipwreck is on a mission when he gets knocked underwater and passes out. He awakens in a hospital bed seven years later, surrounded by his loving wife and their loving daughter, whom he has completely forgotten. They take him home and explain that Cobra had been defeated several years prior, but a recent fall off the roof caused him to lose his memory of those events. The idyllic town is actually a Cobra training base, his family are Cobra agents, and they are trying to get Shipwreck to reveal a secret password he received before his accident.
- In one episode of Totally Spies!; Sam, Clover and Alex discover a group of parents who have turned the sorority town their children go to into this by using a mind control device disguised as a clock tower.
- "Planned communities," such as Seaside and Celebration in Florida, are particularly subject to this trope. Some actually attempt to use this trope on purpose. More than 25% of Orange County, California is made of such communities, with the crown jewels being Irvine and Mission Viejo, which regularly top the FBI's Safest Cities in America list. See also Hollywood California for stereotypes on Orange County's lack of personality and vapid suburban sprawl.
- The town of Celebration is especially notable, given that it was developed by the Walt Disney Company (though they soon relinquished control of it) as an idyllic model community inspired by the small towns of the '40s and '50s. The moment people heard that Disney was building a suburb, they immediately expected this trope, and they were not disappointed.
- One thing that both renders them extremely safe but also extremely monotonous is the sheer amount of these communities being started for religious purposes. Granted, sometimes the founders genuinely are that religious and not out to create a cult-like Wretched Hive. Both Amish and Mormon communes qualify well under that regard.
- Shaker Heights, Ohio, is a rare example of a planned community that set out (after five decades of deed restrictions, mind you) to become as racially integrated as possible. Results have been mixed.
- Many American cities have picturesque outer suburbs that sprang up from farmland and wilderness during the post-World War II housing boom. Their dark secret? Many of them were white-only, meaning racial minorities were forbidden from living there. Even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed housing discrimination, these suburbs grew because they were outside the reach of public transportation, which made it easier to maintain a "certain" image.
- Britain built a number of entire towns this way between the immediate aftermath of the Second World War and the mid-sixties. Most of them are still infamous for this trope, but at least one became a Wretched Hive instead.
- Poundbury in Dorset was a direct response to "New Towns" and an attempt to defy this trope. The results were... mixed, at best.
- Darien, Connecticut: filming location for Revolutionary Road, both The Stepford Wives films, and the basis for the book and film Gentlemen's Agreement.
- The Levittown communities built by Levitt & Sons in Long Island, New Jersey (in Willingboro, which briefly changed its name to Levittown), and Pennsylvania were among the first pre-planned communities in the United States, and helped pioneer the development of pre-made suburban communities. At its peak size, the Long Island Levittown contained over 17,000 homes built using the exact same floor plan for each house. Even in just aerial photographs from history textbooks, the eeriness of the unending rows of similarity can't be ignored.
- Ironically, despite it (like the other Levittowns and many other pre-planned suburbs) having been racially segregated initially, the New Jersey Levittown is now a majority black community (and still a middle-class one, at that).
- North Pole, Alaska, a town located about fifteen miles east of Fairbanks where it is literally Christmas Every Day. Every business is Christmas-themed (even the McDonald's!), and sixth-graders are enlisted to reply to all the letters to Santa that the US Postal Service delivers to the town. Jon Ronson visited the town to shoot a documentary called Death in Santaland, about a foiled school shooting plot in 2006 by a group of 13-year-olds who allegedly had grown sick of/been driven mad by the Crapsaccharine World they lived in.
- Potemkin Villages is "any construction (literal or figurative) whose sole purpose is to provide an external façade to a country which is faring poorly, making people believe that the country is faring better." The pic◊ in the previously linked article illustrate this perfectly: by painting the front of the building it gives the impression the entire place has been renovated although the rest of the structure still shows the ravages of time.