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Stepford Suburbia

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"Come inside, kids, dinner's ready!"note 

"Dinah and Sam are seated before the fireplace, with their after-dinner coffee. They are bored and tense. Dinah knits; Sam reads the paper. It looks like domestic bliss, but it feels awful."
Trouble in Tahiti, description for Scene VII

Ah, Suburbia in Everytown, America: the sunny lanes, the white picket fences around manicured lawns, the friendly neighbors, the smiling children, the friendly dog barking as the neighborhood kid on his bike delivers the newspaper, the pastel color scheme, the rotting skeletons hiding in everyone's closet and the town's hidden underbelly....

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.

Sees frequent use in the Dom Com flavor of Subverted Sitcom. See also Suburban Gothic, which is less tight on the conformity but no less creepy.


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  • 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.
  • This Holsten Pilsener ad shows Jeff Goldblum draving into such a place, where every house has identicaly dressed men in white shirts and glasses mowing their lawns in unison. Jeff quickly tries to leave.

    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The whole of 60s Gotham City (or at least the North Side) is like this in Gotham City Year One. It's initially presented as the story of how one horrific event turned Gotham from a big city that felt like a small town to the Wretched Hive it is today. It's actually the story of how one horrific event caused everything that was already wrong with the city to bubble to the surface so the Northsiders couldn't ignore it.
  • In Hex Wives, the prison that the Architects create for the witches is a picture perfect 1950s suburb.
  • An issue of Shade, the Changing Man featured a Stepford Suburbia run by an Obsessively Normal 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.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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.

    Film — Animated 
  • 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.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Barbie (2023): The conflict is kicked off when Barbie grows increasingly uncomfortable with her town's saccharine, pastel perfection, and nearly ruins a perfectly planned dance party with an admission that she's starting to question their mortality. It turns out that this is because Gloria has been playing with Barbie while remembering how she used to do so with Sasha before their estrangement. This feeling of bleakness and nostalgia, coupled with a midlife crisis, has caused her to unintentionally transfer similar feelings into Barbie while holding her. Later, when the Kens take over Barbieland and turn it to the Kendom, the Barbies start acting like Stepford Wives in all but name.
  • 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.
  • The Big Hit: Establishing shots of the suburban neighborhood are stylized to show all the neighbors doing everything in robotic unison.
  • Blue Velvet could mainly be called more of a Suburban Gothic, but the uncanny nature of suburbia is emphasized in the cinematography. The movie opens with a "Mister Sandman" Sequence establishing the retro-'50s setting, with the habits of suburban life - picking up newspapers, mowing the lawn, etcetera - depicted as almost robotic movements.
  • In The Cat in the Hat live-action film, the kids' neighboorhood could be described as this.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Don't Worry Darling: Jack and Alice live in the picturesque, idyllic 1950s California desert Company Town of Victory. Jack and the other husbands go to work in the day; Alice and the other wives spend their days drinking, cooking, cleaning their beautiful homes, and enjoying various community amenities. However, Alice becomes increasingly unsettled when things aren't as they seem. Victory is later revealed to be a simulation where the women are forcibly kept by their husbands.
  • Downloading Nancy, though it may have been skewed by the protagonist's bleak outlook.
  • The town in Edward Scissorhands was very much the creepy little 1950-'60s town.
  • Far from Heaven, set in 1950s Connecticut, is a Genre Throwback to Douglas Sirk's '50s melodramas. 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 the Fear Street trilogy, the town of Sunnyvale is full of rich jerks with unusually good luck, in contrast to the squalid town of Shadyside nearby - a town where people have the unusual tendency to suddenly turn into Slasher Movie villains. We eventually learn that this is because of a Deal with the Devil made by one of Sunnyvale's ruling families.
  • Fido is set in an idyllic 50's community... Which just happens to employ zombies for menial labor.
  • 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.
  • The Graduate is, in many ways, about Ben and Elaine trying to escape this.
  • The films of Todd Solondz feature this. For example: Happiness (1998) is a Black Comedy that uses its deceivingly peaceful and idealistic settings to hide the fact that the world they're set in are exceedingly grim places and feature people who try to find Happiness in all the worst places.
  • 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!"
  • 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 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.
  • Over the Edge is about what happens when a bunch of suburban parents neglect their kids and their needs.
  • 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.
  • Pleasantville: the titular, eerily-monochrome setting.
  • The community of Stepford, Connecticut from The Stepford Wives, adapted from the novel by Ira Levin (described in more detail under Literature).
  • Rebel Without a Cause was set in an idyllic American Dream suburbia filled with dysfunction and neuroses.
  • Subverted in The Film of the Book 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.
  • 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.
  • In Targets, Vietnam vet Bobby Thompson's empty existence in one of these is what finally sends him on a shooting spree.
  • 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...

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Shaker Heights, Ohio in Little Fires Everywhere; the real life version is one of the first "planned communities" in the US (see below).
  • 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.
  • 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 (a fictionalized version of Lewis' real-life childhood hometown of Sauk Center, Minnesota, which the residents were not amused by) may look like an idealized Everytown, America on the surface, and the protagonist Carol initially sees it as such when she moves there with her new husband, 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. to try and make it on her own, and her return to Gopher Prairie by the end indicates that she too is turning into a Stepford Smiler no matter how much she refuses to admit it.
  • "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.
  • Proud Pink Sky has William's hometown. Though it's pleasant on the surface, for a queer teenager it's a menacing and claustrophobic experience.
  • 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.
  • The town of Joyful Travail in Revenant, although it's run in a far more coldly efficient fashion than most examples of this trope.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bones:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Charmed (1998) 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 "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
  • In Desperate Housewives, Wisteria Lane is a place of constant secrets, lies, adultery, misfortunes and other nasty things.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • This Is Not My Life's Waimoana, an eerily perfect and homogenous New Zealand town of the future.
  • 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.
  • 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!.
  • Twin Peaks is a borderline example. The town is full of weird, dark, disturbing things, and everyone in town seems to have some kind of secret, but for the most part, they are good people. One episode features Agent Cooper giving a speech about how Twin Peaks is home to a kind of basic decency he thought was gone from the world, and then a few scenes later Bobby gives a speech blaming the whole community, "all you good people", for the murder of his girlfriend Laura Palmer, since "everybody knew that she was in trouble" and no one helped her. That Laura could go through the kind of torturous double life she did and nobody realized it is one of the key tensions of the show.
    • The third series has a subplot set in a very surreal, empty-seeming suburb outside of Las Vegas, and an insurance agent who is almost literally sleepwalking through his life - and nobody notices.
  • The Walking Dead (2010): 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Blur often sang about apparently normal suburban characters who are a lot weirder under the surface. "Tracy Jacks" and "Stereotypes" are two examples.
  • 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").
  • "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
  • 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
  • "Model Village" by IDLES paints rural and suburban small towns in the UK as hotbeds of racism, far-right nationalism, and toxic masculinity.
    He's "not a racist but" in the village
    Gotta drive half-cut in the village
    Model low crime rate in the village
    Model race, model hate, model village
    Got my head kicked in in the village
    There’s a lot of pink skin in the village
    "Hardest man in the world" in the village
    He says he got with every girl in the village
  • "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 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 Sound of the Suburbs" by The Members is a late '70s punk anthem about teenagers bored by suburban conformity.
  • "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
  • "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
  • "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 Smashing Pumpkins' video for "Try, Try, Try" contains a sequence that takes place in a dark Stepford Suburbia.
  • The video for Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun." The song doesn't explicitly mention suburbia, but... this trope hardly seems out of place.
  • "Suburbia Overture", the opening track of Will Wood's The Normal Album, describes a traditional American town... but with disturbing lines snuck in revolving around nuclear war. It dips into much darker lyrics about the citizens "cumming radiation" and eating each other's organs. 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
  • "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 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.
  • 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

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mother:
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • 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.


    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Scarfolk Council gives us Scarfolk, a small English town trapped in the 1970s which is Stepford Suburbia except scarier. Got to keep those infant terrorists and undead foreigners out!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Brian David Gilbert: The setting of "Welcome to the Neighborhood!" The homeowner's association imposes strange, overly-arbitrary guidelines on the neighborhood, somehow possess intimate knowledge of the POV character's lifestyle (including the thread count of their bedsheets), and takes the liberty of canceling their news subscription (presumably due to its grim contents). And when the POV character kills their neighbor, an identical "new" neighbor appears the next morning, somehow cloned through the strange bathtub setup outlined in the HOA pamphlet.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Moralton in Moral Orel. For all the Davey and Goliath stylings, it is a place filled with self-hating, hypocritical, abusive Jerkasses who 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.
  • 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.
  • The neighborhood Malice in The Venture Bros., appears to be populated primarily by professional costumed villains.


Video Example(s):


Victory Project

Something is off about the picturesque 1950s suburb named Victory Project...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / StepfordSuburbia

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