Bread and Circuses
Iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli / uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim / imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se / continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, / panem et circenses.
—Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81
Evil governments are usually depicted as Crapsack Worlds of greedy, corrupt, backstabbing despots who each want to cut themselves the largest piece of the pie before it rots completely, at the expense of the rabble they claim to represent. When a revolutionary hero rises from the masses and sets everything in its proper place, everyone's happy and all ends well. (Or not.)
Sometimes, however, the evils of such a government (whatever they may be) may not actually filter down to the lower levels of society. Perhaps the leaders realize that a happy population is usually a supportive one, or maybe they just aren't that despotic in most of the more utilitarian areas of government. The workers all get paid, everyone has enough to eat and The Trains Run On Time. And it's not a Lotus Eater Machine or an especially efficient Propaganda Machine; the stuff is real. As a consequence, as long as the people are contented, who's going to care about petty things like restrictions of basic freedom, environmental destruction, WMD research or random abductions...
The trope name (Latin: Panem et Circenses) comes from Roman poet Juvenal's metaphor for people being willing to give up civic responsibility for a reasonably stable status quo (the "circus" in question being an arena for spectator sports like races). When the people are well-fed and having fun, they are not likely to protest against those in charge, leaving them theoretically free to do as they please. It's not like the leaders are running a Lotus Eater Machine or simply covering up the destitute, either. For examples to qualify both the food and the fun have to be real. Where they come from or what they cover up will be the thing The Hero sets out to expose.
This situation also sets up conflict for a hero who sees the evil of those in power, because as far as the neighbors are concerned, the hero is simply a rebel or a troublemaker out to ruin their (relatively) happy life—or worse, submerge them in fire and brimstone. Too much focus on the contentment of the people may also lessen audience sympathy for the hero; sometimes, this is even the correct thing, because the hero really will cause more trouble than he fixes.
There are three primary reasons for this conflict:
- Those in charge pacify the people by making sure they are comfortable.
- The government ensures a stable, if not always comfortable status quo.
- Simply put, there is peace in a sense and there is enough food to keep everyone alive. If the government is toppled, mayhem will ensue and nobody wants that, even if things may eventually become better.
- The Devil you know is better than the Devil you don't.
- Sure, the people in charge are bad enough, but look at all the others lurking out there—at home and abroad—waiting for the chance to take over—or worse, stage a civil war over who gets to grab the reins of the Evil Power Vacuum, with attendant cross-fire. NO THANKS.
If The Hero is forming La Résistance or fighting in it, he regards the first as manipulation, and the second and third as simply wrong. If, on the other hand, he is not trying to bring down the government and this issue comes up, often enough he offers these reasons himself. Indeed, this trope may slide indetectibly into Reasonable Authority Figure, as the repressive measures are deployed against real threats—particularly if Hobbes Was Right.
These kinds of governments are usually run by Totalitarian Utilitarians. Note that because people in these kinds of settings are Gullible Lemmings, Bread and Circuses can easily come into play for democracies as well as authoritarian governments.
This is related to the Marxist concept of the Dominant Ideology, whereby the lower classes are kept in place by disseminating the idea that that's their "natural" lot in life and there's no sense fighting it.
- The Trope Namer was Ancient Rome, where the poor would receive free wheat and have gladiatorial shows staged for them to keep them happy. Although it's often said that "the Emperor" handed out the bread (or wheat) to placate his subjects, the practice predates the foundation of the Empire by centuries and the food was rarely if ever actually handed out by the Emperor in person. (The emperor, however, did incur the cost of the entertainment, or at least his treasury did.)
- Depicted in Gladiator (see below).
Anime and Manga
- Kira's rule in Death Note could possibly count. Sure, Light's methods are questionable but war has stopped, petty crime is mostly nonexistent and for everyday, law abiding citizens life is much safer.
- Alternatively all the news is good because everyone is scared of dying, it's telling that of Light's two opponents in the 2nd half of the series one is working with the mob and there is no indication they're a dying breed
- The World Government of One Piece is a perfect example of the second type, with a little bit of the first and third thrown in as well. They're a corrupt, evil force, but they manage to keep the world in one piece; not to mention that the common man sees the World Government as benevolent protectors, and pirates as savage thieves.
- Oda is pretty good about maintaining Gray and Grey Morality for the most part. While the Nobles we've been shown are a corrupt and decadent bunch, the existence of more... noble individuals has not been outright denied. The Marines—especially those of higher rank—as a whole are relatively decent officers who stick to My Country, Right or Wrong with nastier ones being Punch Clock Villains and there have been quite a number of Complete Monsters among the Pirates, who are supposed to be the 'good' guys.
- Ergo Proxy has the remnants of humanity living in what is essentially a bubble, and there is a prominent advertisement and voice which encourages them to shop.
- As of the Edolas arc of Fairy Tail we have a city for this. While most of the parallel world is quite literally crumbling the king has taken all the magic used by the rest of the world that keep things going in order to make the capital city into a magical wonderland/amusement park. That magic was created by him from absorbing the essence of people from the normal world.
- The modus operandi within Puella Magi Madoka Magica and its spinoffs. We have Kyubey, a Manipulative Bastard with curious intents, and his so-called "workers", or the Puella Magi/Magical Girl. On one hand, the girls can get anything they want with a simple wish. In return, they have to fight Witches. On the other hand, this fighting puts them in danger of them becoming Witches they feared and their personality having a drastic retake on reality. Most of the anime revolves around why Madoka wants to become a Magical Girl, so characters involved with the Faustian Rebellion trope take this trope perfectly straight. To hammer home just how essential the system is, the finale only fixes it by rewriting reality courtesy of a One in A Million Chance.
- In Samurai 7, once he makes himself emperor, Ukiyo gives out free rations of rice to the peasants in the capital as part of his scheme to become an all-powerful Villain with Good Publicity. The way it works is that he tells the peasants in the provinces that he's on their side and helps them defend against the bandits, so they like him; at the same time, he sends the bandits to crush the peasants and take their rice, so they like him; that rice is then given out to people in the capital, who like him too.
- Doctor Doom generally runs Latveria quite well, and the people know it.
- Lex Luthor of Superman fame is known to do a great deal for the city Metropolis and the country in general. Of course he is trying to covertly rule the planet and attempts to kill the world's greatest hero out of sheer pettiness every weekend, but everyone's gotta have a hobby.
- Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers: Overlord is what happens when a Person of Mass Destruction doesn't get his fix of this. It's not pretty.
Films -- Animation
- WALL-E is a subversion in that the people on the Axiom been living this way for so long, they've actually gotten bored with all this.
- Third type is used in A Bug's Life, where the grasshoppers keep the ants protected from "bigger bugs" in exchange for large amounts of food.
- In keeping with the accuracy level of the rest of the film's entomology, real grasshoppers are passive herbivores and in fact are sometimes eaten by ants (which are usually quite aggressive).
- In Osmosis Jones, the cells of Frank are worried about Frank's health (i.e. their future), but Mayor Phlegming doesn't want to make the kind of sacrifices that living a healthy lifestyle would require. He doesn't want to lose the other cells' support in the upcoming election to Tom Colonic, so he uses the voice override to get Frank to just take a cold pill and call it good (even though voice override is supposed to require a vote). And he promises the cells that Frank is going to a chicken-wing Fan Convention. (Cue cheers from the Love Handle District.)
Films -- Live Action
- This was quite literally depicted in Gladiator when spectating commoners at a gladiator match are given loaves of bread.
- Truth in Television: Roman citizens were given free bread at the Colosseum.
- Senator Gracchus goes so far as to comment on how clever this strategy is:
Senator Gracchus: I think [Emperor Commodus] knows what Rome is; Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they'll be distracted. Take away their freedom, and still they'll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the Senate, it's the sand of the Colosseum. He'll bring them death...and they will love him for it.
- In the film Pan's Labyrinth the Spanish fascist government of Franco is shown issuing bread rations to the starving peasants who remain loyal to the regime. It should be noted this was pretty much dead on accurate; to help deal with the fairly popular Republicans, and to a lesser extent the communists, Franco's government used food rations as a way to gain public support.
- The main purpose of the rationing was to ensure that every family got exactly as much food as they needed, and not one bit more, so that they couldn't covertly provide aid to the partisans. This is explicitly mentioned in the movie.
- In Peter Watkin's Privilege, set in the "near future", the British government uses a Pop star's immense popularity to keep their youth "happy, off the streets... and out of politics."
- In Rollerball the giant corporations ruling the world of the future distract the masses with the violent spectator sport "rollerball".
- This trope is actually only a side benefit. The real purpose of the game is to demonstrate the futility of individualism.
- Non-totalitarian example: Batman Returns has influential, crooked plutocrat Max Shreck tossing Christmas presents to a Gotham City crowd during a tree-lighting ceremony. (As two other characters soon discover, Shreck is secretly planning to siphon electrical power from the city and sell it back to consumers.)
- Aldous Huxley's Brave New World gives us an interesting example of a dystopia that manages to be surprisingly nice. As long as you're upper-caste (Alpha and Beta, at least), life is orgies and drink and drugs and parties; the lower-caste (Delta and Epsilon) are conditioned to be content both with their workload and with their life in general (and their free time is also orgies, drinks, drugs, and parties).
- It's never quite made clear what the Gammas are, but as you can see, it doesn't make very much difference.
- Prisoners of Power by the Strugatsky Brothers combines all three on one level or another.
- The Patrician runs Ankh-Morpork well, so most of his people don't question all the shady activities involved in the running. Except the mimes. So far he's been reinstated after every deposition. Although he has been described as Machiavellian, unlike the page quote, he does not fortify himself through being loved (in fact most either dislike or are indifferent to him), but by being necessary, and better than any alternative.
- In Interesting Times some middle-class revolutionaries try to overthrow the Agathean Empire in the name of the workers. Rincewind asks them if they've checked what the workers would prefer to happen. (They haven't.)
- In Mort, an evil Duke is plotting to murder a royal family to become king. A quick glimpse into a possible future reveals that he actually would have ruled extremely well.
- The Party in 1984 goes much easier on the proles than it does on Party members, mostly by and large due to the fact that the proles are stupid and easily distracted (such as a "lottery", where even the winners don't really get anything.)
- Bartimaeus mentions this in The Bartimaeus Trilogy about the magician governments.
- Logan's Run.
- This trope is more or less how the Imperial Order stays together in the Sword of Truth series, complete with Blood Sport.
- Phyllis Eisenstein's In the Red Lord's Reach was very much the third case. The Red Lord kept up crack military troops to protect people from the (largely propaganda based) enemies champing at the gates, while claiming single individuals to horrifically, sadistically torture to death.
- Averted in Hector Bywater's The Great Pacific War. It looks like prime Bread and Circuses territory, but instead, to quell the revolts, instead of lulling the populace into luxury, the politicans distract them with jingoist speeches against America's interference in Chinese land that should be rightfully subject to Japan.
- The Studio in The Acts of Caine is a company that funds the most extreme live action role playing games ever by sending highly trained "Actors" over to an alternate universe populated with creatures like dragons and elves, making them have Adventures, and selling the recorded memories. In Overworld (the alternate universe in question), they are known to the locals as Aktiri, a kind of human-resembling demon that brings wanton slaughter, and Earth is known by some Overworld religions as the True Hell. This is because the actors do all the stuff fantasy heroes do - looting tombs, murdering people, exacting genocide on unpopular species, starting wars, etc. The Adventures sold by the Studio are the best-selling entertainment in human history and keep people from questioning a global feudal government that operates on a ruthless corporate caste system and keeps nine out of ten people in near wage slavery. It's one of those stories.
- Used to exceptionally compelling effect in The Wheel of Time series: the Seanchan are an invading, conquering army. But every place they invade suddenly finds itself living under exceptional order, discipline and prosperity, where everyone is held equal to the eyes of the law. Bear in mind everyplace else is functioning under a medieval monarchy - sometimes much better than the real-world version, sometimes not. The problem? They enslave anyone who can Channel, and break their spirits and minds with collars that control them and can subject them to horrific tortures until they are the equivalent of happy, eager-to-please pets who happen to be able to level whole armies through acts of will. This trope is actually invoked outright in the most recent book, where Rand decides he is going to wipe the Seanchan from the face of the earth, and has absolutely every ounce of power he needs to do it...but everywhere he goes that is occupied by the Seanchan the people (who aren't women who can channel, anyway) are happy, smiling and living in good conditions, which is more than he's been able to provide in some cases. The discrepancy drives him even further into madness, but he's sane enough to realize he can't go through with it and flees. The Seanchan unfortunately show no signs of stopping the whole mind-raping women who can channel into being docile pets thing though, and the Last Battle is around a couple weeks away at best. So something has to be done about them, or many people (including almost every female protagonist) are screwed.
- How the old Republic of Haven became the People's Republic of Haven in the Honor Harrington stories. The Republic guaranteed its population a "Basic Living Stipend" and most of them went onto the Dole, causing a collapse in the Haven economy, which they tried to fix by conquering their neighbours, and looting their economies, and putting their people on the Dole, which meant they had to conquer more of their neighbours...
- Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Most people like the mindless entertainment.
- It is in fact explicitly mentioned that there was no totalitarian regime imposing the censorship for control purposes. Instead, it was the people themselves who slowly began to demand from the government the destruction of literature.
- The government of the country of Panem (from "panem et circenses", see above) in The Hunger Games keeps the people appeased (well, keeps the people in the Capitol entertained and everyone else under their thumb) with the title Hunger Games, in which 24 children are made to battle to the death every year. In the third book, a character directly quotes the phrase.
- And just to throw in a little of the third type, once the rebels defeat the Panem government, they promptly begin planning for games of their own, using children from the capital
- It's worth noting that the Panem government were very much Stupid Evil in this regard; not only did the Hunger Games not entertain the masses (they were forced to watch the games instead of choosing to do so, and it was their children who were being made to kill each other) but many people in the districts lived on the brink of starvation and took on potentially-suicidal extra chances to be chosen for the Hunger Games just for the extra food rations. In the later books we learn that tensions had been boiling under the surface long before Katniss became a symbol of rebellion, and that a full-fledged rebellion has been forming for years by this point. The whole treatment of the districts by the Capitol was about letting them know who was the butch and who was the bitch, not keeping them content, which was blindingly short-sighted given that they were completely reliant on things being produced by the districts for their survival and entire lifestyle.
- In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero In Hell, Ulysses objects to democracy because it's bound to lead to this.
- In Malevil, the Big Bad Fulbert averts this at his own peril. The people of La Roque are on strict rations, Denied Food as Punishment, and they're bored from a lack of entertainment or even semi-productive work. The villagers of La Roque do nothing but suffer his abuse, hide inside trying to avoid his ire, and grumble about him. He would be overthrown in a heartbeat if he didn't horde all the food and weapons in a fortified manor early on.
- In Matched, everyone in the towns of the Society are satisfied with the lack of choice they have in their lives. and are unaware that there is a war going on in the outskirts of the country.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Daenerys Targaryen says to Ser Jorah Mormont that her brother Viserys told her that the smallfolk make dragon banners in secret and pray that he will one day return to the throne. Mormont responds that the smallfolk pray for rain, healthy children and a summer that never ends, and they don't care about the game of thrones, so long as they are left alone (and they never are).
- In Stephen King's The Running Man society is portrayed as being intensely fixated on live television for entertainment, which deludes themselves towards the ever looming environmental crisis. Even when Ben Richards attempts to warn the public about it they censor him on air. Alongside this citizens are encouraged to report Richards if they see him in person to get a large sum of money.
Live Action TV
- In Doctor Who's Vengeance on Varos, Varos has a populace in a bread-and-circuses mode. The poor governor, a Reasonable Authority Figure, is trying to make them endure sacrifices that are absolutely necessary to get the prices they must have, and they don't want to. The situation is so bad that when we see him sentencing to death an innocent and heroic man, to amuse the populace a little longer, we sympathize with him. And at the end, when the governor has succeeded and is announcing it, the people are shown as dazed and uncomprehending and even frightened at the prospect.
- An episode of Star Trek: The Original Series is actually titled "Bread and Circuses." Unsurprisingly, it took place on a Planet of Hats whose hat was being Ancient Rome ... with 20th-century technology. They still use swords for the Gladiator Games.
- The fifth episode of Hell on Wheels is also titled "Bread and Circuses" as this trope is both invoked as the main plot, and then the Latin is quoted and it is discussed.
- The song "Panem et Circenses" by Ihsahn deals with this phenomenon.
- This is some of the Dreaming Dark's M.O. in Eberron—peace through kidnapping potential rebels and happy propaganda-filled dreams for everyone!
- In Dark Sun, all of the Sorcerer-Kings run the risk of a 0% Approval Rating, since they're overt wizards in a setting where all wizards are hated and their magic kills the environment. They distract their subjects with lavish gladiatorial games, which are so popular that the people keep running them after one Sorcerer-King is overthrown.
- The Imperium from Warhammer 40,000 may be violent, discriminatory, oppressive and full of incompetent governors, but nearly every other option manages to be even worse.
- Interestingly it's mentioned in the novels that Forgeworlds got sparetime locations for the menials and despite being the lowest level in the working force they are considered free men (whatever that means in the Imperium...), the same with your average imperial world, you will find pubs, casinos, TV channels with not too dogmatic series, and food cheap enough to allow the most modest person to survive the day.
- And don't even start talking of the Ultramarines domains, it seems they are so happy their positive emotions can be seen as a bright constellation in the warp.
- There are as many ways to rule worlds in the Imperium as there are worlds themselves, so some are well-governed almost-utopia's while others are the Grimdark that we've come to associate with 40K.
- The Grimdark-ness of the Imperium is largely on a galactic scale. It's outright stated that many planets are not too dissimilar to our own. Only Hive Worlds and Forge Worlds really feel the oppression, and feral worlds (due to their feudal system) However while individual worlds might experience times of prosperity and happiness, the Imperium as a whole is very pragmatic. However all it takes is one heresy to ruin all that...
- It's speculated that this is how the Ethereals keep the various Tau Castes in line, by enforcing their own status quo of "good times" upon the others. All Tau know that if the Ethereals were to go extinct, their entire empire can devolve into civil war, as that's exactly what happened before the Ethereals came. Recent evidence suggest that the Ethereals might be controlling them through pheromones or latent psychic abilities however, so they might not be the saviours they appear to be.
- Alpha Complex may be a Crapsack World, but at least everyone pretty much always has (crappy) food and entertainment.
- More like a Crap Saccharine World - Bread and Circuses can make the difference between these two.
- Providing enough bread and circuses for your underlings to keep them from rioting is a staple of Civilization series. Sometimes it involves construction of a literal Colosseum.
- In Tales of Symphonia, the heroes have trouble getting help in towns that have made deals with the oppressive Desians—things may be bad, but at least nobody they know gets taken to the Human Ranches.
- Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars background reveals that the Brotherhood of Nod have become the last hint of civilization and order in the devastated Yellow Zones of Earth, for the people living there (about 80% of the human population) they are seen as the good guys, those who bring infrastructure, food, medicine, security and hope to the masses, also, they look really cool.
- In Mother 3, the Pig Masks do keep some semblance of peace and order in Tazmily. They were the ones who made it necessary in the first place.
- Later chapters of Half-Life 2 reveal that this had, at least partially, happened. A random quote from idling NPCs sitting around: "Y'know, I kind of miss the Breen show. Remember that time he had the jugglers on?"
- It is heavily implied that the Shinra Company in Final Fantasy VII used a "Bread and Circuses"-style policy while President Shinra was in charge. Then his son takes over and decides to use fear instead.
- The backstory for Oni explains that upper- and middle-class life under the World Coalition Government is like this.
- The player can use this trope in Cyber Nations: building slave labor camps hurts your nation's happiness rating, but you can cancel out that effect by building stadiums and police stations. You can also build intelligence agencies to lessen the happiness penalty that comes with having a high tax rate (this also allows your nation to recruit more secret agents).
- Tolbi in Golden Sun. Sure, Emperor Babi has kidnapped a holy child to force her hometown to build him a lighthouse, and wants to live forever, but he also provides an Annual Gladiatorial festival, and the Tolbians are some of the richest people in the world, and support their Emperor to the fullest.
- Tolbi is essentially Rome.
- In the Caesar games, you play as a Roman governor and one of your most basic duties is to provide food for your citizens. Entertainment is also required for housing to evolve beyond the most basic levels. A combination of unemployment, hunger, and lack of entertainment can result in riots.
- The Hearts of Iron series features a Command and Conquer Economy for all countries, with different kinds of production controlled via sliders. This comes under the "Consumer Goods" slider - satisfy or exceed demand, and your Dissent rating goes down. Fail to meet demand, and before long you might be facing open revolt or (in the case of some countries) open civil war. Even an extremist dictatorship like Nazi Germany can have a 100% Adoration Rating if production is managed well.
- ... which is Truth In Television, really...
- Following this principle will avert many a tantrum spiral in Dwarf Fortress. The most basic step is to never let them run out of booze. Giving them nicely furnished rooms, legendary dining rooms with high quality meals to match everyone's preferences, beautiful architecture to walk to their jobs through, will keep them in fantastic moods while their family and pets die in front of them.
- Rome: Total War of course, fits the trope as (among other factors) public order depends on the frecuency of gladiatoral games and races and how high are taxes.
- In Secret of Mana, the protagonists eventually get shot into Empire lands. A Genre Savvy player might be expecting to land in a Crapsack World only to find calm mellow music, green pastures, and a mix of ordinary citizens and resistance fighters moving about in a quiet country town. Even the empire soldiers, while strict, appear to be genuinely helpful to the populace. Eventually it's implied that there is peace and happy citizens in all empire towns.
- Exit Path has an arena where the crowds will cheer if you die and if you don't.
- In Telltale's Back to the Future adventure game series, Marty's grandfather said that's all Hill Valley's science expo he was in charge of was. This confused Trixie Trotter, who hadn't seen any clowns anywhere.
- Jade Empire begins in an apparently peaceful time for the titular Empire, with the horrors of the Long Drought long past thanks to the Emperor. However, this is due to the Emperor mutilating the Water Dragon and using its still-living body to provide the needed water.
- In Centurion Defender of Rome taxes affect the mood of your people, and the citizens of Rome get rebellious if they don't get frequent Gladiator Games.
- In the remake of Final Fantasy VII, Heidegger says this Trope word-for-word during his villainous gloating to the heroes after televising their actions and luring them to what he intends to be their Public Execution.
- In Order of the Stick, Celia invokes the second reason for why Haley shouldn't kill the head of the thieves guild: the Succession Crisis would harm people, and give the MOB a chance to get into the city.
- The Empire of Blood also applies this trope. This being Order of the Stick, it naturally gets lampshaded. Now the trope page image.
- In Girl Genius, one of the Baron's soldiers asks another whether the Baron sent soldiers to a street party. He had, in fact, sent barrels of booze. Besides the good will, those drunk on that would make no trouble.
- Later, Gil defends him on Bread and Circuses grounds.
- Domain Tnemrot. The title stadium is one of these. The people who can afford anything are all entertained with these, or compete with their slaves, and the slaves themselves are generally better off that the horrid scavenging we see at the beginning.
- In Endstone, how Primrose justifies the slaughter of higher animals.
- In Sinfest, deployed by the devil.
- In A Broken Winter both Ibara and Terasu employ some variant of this trope. Terasu focuses on the bread aspect, making sure everyone is comfortable and provided for, even as they ban base pleasures such alcohol and homosexuality. Ibara focuses on the circus aspect, allowing liberal hedonism at the cost of a stable social order. They both achieve their purpose, however.
- Mongul's empire in Justice League drew obvious parallels to the Roman Empire. The Martian Manhunter finds out there's mass unemployment and poverty, but people are kept entertained by the gladiatorial games.
- The final episode of Superman: The Animated Series sees the Man of Steel defeated thanks to the trope. Thanks to events that occurred throughout the series, people are not sure they trust Superman anymore; Lex Luthor is more powerful than ever, but the average person's life is good enough that they don't really value what Supes does for them. A frustrated Superman heads to the planet Apokolips, ruled by the despotic tyrant Darkseid. After giving Darkseid a proper beat-down, he tells the people that they are now free...only to see them reject freedom and choose to help Darkseid return to his throne. The people of Earth are the second variety of this trope, while the Apokoliptians are the third. The series ends with Lois Lane reassuring Superman that he can still convince people to trust him one at a time.
- In Sonic Underground, the series shows how Robotnik can afford to stay in power. The upper-class aristocrats can either provide his funding, or lose their land and privileges and risk roboticization.
- Deconstructed In Thundercats 2011 the Catfolk-populated empire of Thundera has the severity of its decay, Urban Segregation and Fantastic Racism underscored by contrasting the slums, and the fates of Thundera's prisoners-of-war with the extravagant entertainments and feasts enjoyed by the upper city's deeply complacent Blue Blood. They enjoy lavish banquets and watching Blood Sport Gladiator Games in a giant amphitheatre, which a fêted general singles out as one of "the little things in life [I] miss the most." while slum-dwelling Artful Dodgers must pick pockets to buy food, and hungry Lizard Folk P.O.W.s, enslaved for the crime of raiding the expansionist Cats' crops, must contend with the most dangerous implications of medieval Stock Punishment. Small wonder the Cats fail to see their fall on the horizon...
- Futurama. The robot planet demonizes humans, produces anti-human movies, and go on (normally) fruitless human hunts to distract them from a lugnut shortage and incompetent Robot Elders leadership.
- The Roman civilization was the target of satire by Juvenal, in his appropriately-named Satires.