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"Ooh, swimming! Ooh, golf! Ooh, waving people! Ooh, creepy smiles!"
Mr. Turner, The Fairly OddParents!

A beautiful, seemingly utopian community which is not what it seems. Often either under control of a morally questionable conspiracy or demented supercomputer or protected by a Deal with the Devil. May even be an entire town of Well Intentioned Extremists.

Not quite the same as Town with a Dark Secret as these are usually not particularly idyllic nor do they have The Village's uncanny quality. May overlap with Stepford Suburbia. Contrast Quirky Town. A Wrong Genre Savvy character may take it for a Close-Knit Community — or vice versa.

See also Powered by a Forsaken Child. May or may not be used tandem to Uncanny Valley.

If the setting as a whole comes off as this, see Crapsaccharine World.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Several are encountered in Kino's Journey. Probably the most notable one is Kino's own home country, which seems as happy as a place can be, but it's because every child on the cusp of adulthood is given a lobotomy, which prevents them from feeling unhappiness, no matter what. And children who question the procedure get summarily killed by their parents, who can't help but feel happy about the whole thing.
  • Soil: Soil New Town is so picture-perfect that you just know something bad is happening. Compared with the possible alternate dimension shenanigans ripping apart the whole world, the mundane stuff like a pedophilic dentist raping all the boys for about a decade while keeping the whole town under surveillance with hidden cameras are much worse. Fortunately, he gets his; unfortunately, his favorite victim's the one who wants to destroy the world.

    Comic Books 
  • Avengers Standoff features an archetypal example in Pleasant Hill, an excruciatingly perfect small American town. It's actually S.H.I.E.L.D.'s ultimate supervillain prison, where offenders are mind-wiped with Cosmic Cube powers and brainwashed into idyllic bliss. Pleasant Hill even scores literal points for Powered by a Forsaken Child, as the Cosmic Cube making it all possible manifests as an 8-year-old girl named Kobik. Besides being immediately awful for all the obvious reasons, the Pleasant Hill fiasco also lays the groundwork for much greater infamy to come.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Played with in Big Fish. There's nothing really wrong with the town of Spectre, it appears to be just as nice as everyone says it is, but until the protagonist leaves, you can't shake the feeling that something's off...
  • Sandford from Hot Fuzz is a textbook example of this setting. A mostly peaceful and bucolic village in the English countryside where people have a tendency to die in suspicious "accidents". Nick Angel thinks there's some kind of real estate scheme going on, but the truth is weirder and somehow worse: the Neighborhood Watch Alliance is desperate to make sure Sandford becomes Village of the Year again, and everyone who died was killed for making the town look bad.
  • The Harga commune in Midsommar seems at first like a peaceful, welcoming community built around a traditional form of paganism. It's just that some of those traditions include incest and human sacrifice.
  • The Village (2004) — the former Trope Namer — looks like an idyllic 19th-century village but its surrounding dense forest is inhabited by nameless, unseen beings that seem to be holding the inhabitants captive.

    Literature 
  • In Candor by Pam Bachorz, the protagonist's father created a town where everybody is happy and there is no crime by putting subliminal messages in the music played through speakers in the town.
  • In The Dark Tower (2004), we have "Blue Heaven", an idyllic 1950s-style college town with some (justified) anachronisms (such as holographic sex partners and DVDs, though they aren't called so by name), lovely houses, up-to-date entertainment, and the best food. Oh, and it's surrounded by layers of electrified barbed wire (the outermost kills), the borders are patrolled by armed guards, all the sunlight is artificial, the town is set in an After the End wasteland and the telepathic, Beam-breaking inhabitants are happily working on bringing about the end of all of creation.
  • The small town of Warrick in Twig is not-so-secretly the private playground of the Baron Richmond. The entire population is composed of convicts or vagrants who were offered a chance at a life of relative luxury in exchange for signing over their lives to him and is organized as a parody of normalcy with every person paired off with another, and each couple watched over by an engineered monstrosity created from their firstborn children which follows them everywhere. The town lives in constant fear, and that's before the Baron decides to pick out some people for stress relief...
  • In Watership Down, the rabbits come upon a warren where food is abundant and everything seems perfect, except that it's utterly taboo to ask where someone is. Turns out the entire place is being tended to by the local farmer as a sort of free range rabbit farm with traps laid everywhere. The inhabitants respond to the regular disappearances by pretending it isn't happening.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "Amy's Choice", Upper Leadworth, where Amy and Rory live in one reality, is a beautiful, quiet village... that's spookily empty, with people who live unnaturally long lives...
  • The titular small town of Eerie, Indiana is an outwardly normal town where Elvis swaggers around in full costume, Bigfoot eats out of garbage cans, people stay young by sealing themselves in Tupperware boxes and the dogs are plotting to take over the world, among other things.
  • The Invisible Man has an episode set in "The Community", a village for secret agents who blew their cover.
  • Necessary Roughness season 3 has V3, a sports agency, that treats its clients and employees like family and nurtures young athletes till they are able to go pro and become millionaires. However, from the beginning, we know that the agency has a dark secret that it has spent considerable time and money covering up. One executive killed himself rather than have his family find out about what he did. Then there is the sports medicine clinic that offers miraculous 'experimental' treatments.
  • Once Upon a Time: Storybrooke, Maine is a quaint little town, only needing one or two cops to keep the peace... and ruled with an iron fist between Snow White's stepmother and Rumpelstiltskin.
  • The Prisoner (1967) has the Village, the former trope namer, a sunny seaside resort with quaint and charming architecture inhabited by people with numbers instead of names who are under the strict control of 'Number Two' enforced by eerie white orbs... and nobody leaves without its masters willing it, ever.
  • Stargate SG-1: "Revisions" features a town under a dome on an otherwise uninhabitable planet so bucolically pretty and perfect that viewers know at once the Team is in deep trouble. SG1 soon notices that villagers are not just disappearing but being written out of the memories of their friends and families, better still the area of the dome is shrinking...
  • Star Trek: The Original Series has a number of episodes featuring Uncanny Villages. "The Return of the Archons" gives us a peaceful low-tech society of mindlessly smiling people policed by creepy hooded figures. "This Side of Paradise" and "The Apple" are set on literally Edenic worlds with carefree populations living lives of prelapsarian happiness. "Errand of Mercy" gives us such a society under threat from the Klingons and refusing to raise a hand in their own defense. Star Trek in general has a thing for this trope, with the Aesop being that Utopia ain't possible.
  • In Supernatural, the Winchester brothers visit one or two of these. In "Scarecrow", they encountered a town that makes yearly sacrifices to some evil spirit of one man and woman, and a couple conveniently lost in the road is their target. The brothers intervene, and the spirit instead takes a local couple as his tribute.
  • The Torchwood episode "Countrycide" explores a nice-looking country village where the villagers have a decennial event in which they eat whoever passes through.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Mystic Falls may also count as a Town with a Dark Secret. The vampires, witches, and werewolves are one thing, but the level of civic pride shown by the good folk of Mystic Falls just screams weird.
  • The Walking Dead (2010):
    • The walker-free fortified town of Woodbury seems like the safe haven the survivors have been dreaming of, but it's really not. Its leader is a murderous, paranoid, and authoritarian man that eliminates all outsiders to take their belongings.
    • "Terminus" publicizes itself as a "sanctuary for all", including open gates and welcoming newcomers with barbecue and no questions asked. It turns out that the place is a community of cannibals that either locks up newcomers to serve as cattle or feeds them human flesh and then reveals the truth, giving them the choice of Join or Die.
  • The X-Files: The Falls at Arcadia, from "Arcadia", is a beautiful, peaceful planned community with a sinister secret. The peace is controlled by the Homeowners' Association, represented mainly by President Gene Gogolak. They have strict rules and regulations about everything and observing them is enforced by a murderous Tulpa. Most of the inhabitants know, but newcomers are not as lucky.

    Podcasts 
  • The title town of King Falls AM is a town plagued by government conspiracies, various eldritch horrors, rainbow lights, Jack in the box Jesus, zombies, weird late-night callers, and even the ghost of Helen Keller.
  • The title town of Welcome to Night Vale is a friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead as they all pretend to sleep.

    Video Games 
  • Alan Wake: Bright Falls, WA, with the twist being that most of its denizens are hopelessly unaware of the ongoing horror because it is technically captured inside a Stephen King-esque horror plot itself, implemented by said dark forces with the help of the human protagonist. In other words, it was literally written to be this trope.
  • The city of Columbia in BioShock Infinite initially appears to be a utopian paradise where everything is perfect and the technology is far beyond anything else at the time, when it is actually a brutal theocratic dictatorship that oppresses minorities like black people and eventually plans to use its weapons to destroy the "Sodom Below".
  • In Chrono Trigger, the floating continent of Zeal is a highly magical, beautiful city where people's every need is taken care of. The only problem? Well, there's a new power source for all of this magic Lavos which has a minor side effect making the Queen insane.
  • Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent, the people in Scoggins are part of a brotherhood that worships the "Hidden People" (gnomes). They allow them to take people because they were chosen by them to help them get home.
  • Professor Layton and the Curious Village has the eponymous curious village of St. Mystere. The reason the villagers are so strange is that they're actually robots built to watch over Flora and her inheritance.
  • In The Secret World, the Morninglight seems to create these kinds of communities wherever it sets up shop, from the peaceful hippy camp that just so happens to be Freddy Beaumont's base of operations, to the kindly youth support center that's actually doubling as a training ground for suicide bombers. However, the biggest and most obvious example of this takes the form of "The Clubhouse," an underground club for young Morninglight prodigies: along with all the luxurious amenities offered to new recruits, it lacks the soul-crushing indoctrination used in other centers, and by all accounts, it was a pretty fun place before the Filth outbreak. However, those who eventually prove themselves to the Morninglight leadership are granted access to the temple — and initiation into the deepest secrets of the cult.
  • Shin Megami Tensei has several examples. Roppongi in Shin Megami Tensei I and the whole of East Mikado in Shin Megami Tensei IV are good examples. The first is actually populated exclusively by undead, two demon kings and an even crazier Undead Child, and the latter seems like a near-fairytale kingdom set in Ghibli Hills, except it's a brutally elitist citadel following an inflexible caste system, and demons just a few doors away.
  • Story of the Blanks: Sunny Town seems like a happy little village of ponies until Apple Bloom finds the remains of a dead body in a fireplace. Then things take a turn for the terrifying.

    Western Animation 


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