Dystopian Edict

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Anyone found not having a good time will be shot
—Graffiti in Robert Harris' Fatherland

A Straw Dystopia, World Half Empty or Planet of Hats oftentimes has a single, not very realistic law (with other laws existing to shore up that law) which, often contrary to common sense defines that society. The penalty for breaking the Dystopian Edict is usually draconian in nature—death or imprisonment are the most common, but worse punishments exist, particularly in speculative fiction.

This edict must never have existed in any past or present society (nor, in many cases, could it), and probably couldn't be enforced in the real world for more than two minutes.

Dystopias with a variety of different laws and rules, no matter how draconian, don't count. (E.g. The Giver.)

See also The Evils of Free Will for what most of these Dystopian Edicts ultimately boil down to. Common Dystopian Edicts include Happiness Is Mandatory and No Sex Allowed.

No Real Life Examples, Please

Examples of Dystopian Edict include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • AKB0048 with the Entertainment ban. Depending on the area, it is either grudgingly accepted (things like radio and TV and classic music) to being completely banned with the threat of siccing State Sec on the offender.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The comic City Of Dust, where every fiction (starting with religion) is outlawed.
  • The "It is illegal to be unhappy!" variety seems pretty common. It also appears in a Mickey Mouse cartoon, where Mickey and Donald Duck have fallen through the Bermuda triangle into a fantasy kingdom. Everybody is smiling like crazy. At one point, the king orders his guards to arrest a gardener, seemingly at random. When Mickey protests that the man wasn't being unhappy, the king replies: "Well, now he is! I'm a great believer in preventing crimes."
  • The Dark Judges in Judge Dredd come from a parallel dimension where it was decreed that, because all crimes are committed by the living, life itself is a crime, punishable by death.
  • In Buck Godot Zap Gun for Hire: THERE ARE NO LAWS IN NEW HONG KONG. SO WATCH IT.
  • No emotions! (The Doctor Who Magazine comic City of the Damned and the IDW Doctor Who story The Whispering Gallery)

Film[edit | hide]

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov. Euthanasia for everyone who is 60.
  • No untruth of any kind, including misleading statements, exaggeration or fiction. (The James Morrow novella City of Truth.) That law is enforced by brutal conditioning in a procedure known as the "brainburn." It's not only illegal to lie in Veritas (the city of the title), it's impossible once one's received the burn.
  • Doctor Who novel The Stealers of Dreams, where even thinking about anything untrue is a sign of insanity. However, it is justified by the evil mind aliens that make anything you imagine become "real" as a hallucination.
  • No books! (Fahrenheit 451) Deep thought in general, though not as incredibly illegal as books, definitely does get you in trouble.
  • The third child of a couple must die or go to jail! (Shadow Children) The third son of a Drow house must be sacrificed at birth to Lolth. (Drizzt Do'Urden avoids this fate only because one of his brothers assassinates the other before the sacrifice takes place, "promoting" him to second son.)
  • Special government permission is needed to have a third child! (Ender's Game)
  • Take anti-arousal pills! (Welcome to the Monkeyhouse by Kurt Vonnegut)
  • No laws of any kind! (An inversion of course, Enid Blyton's Land Of Do-As-You-Please; still a kiddy version of a Straw Dystopia, though).
  • Nobody is allowed to be better at anything than anyone else. (Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut)
  • In The Court Of The Air, true believers in a hyper-communistic ideology volunteer to be maimed, disfigured or lobotomized if they realize they're too fit, attractive or smart.
  • In the Mr. Men/Little Miss story Little Miss Sunshine, the titular character visits Miseryland, where the inhabitants are kept miserable simply because of a sign stating the laws: "No smiling, no laughing, no chuckling. Giggling forbidden by order of the king." Naturally, Miss Sunshine is able to turn the kingdom around by simply changing the wording of the sign.
  • Robert Silverberg's To See The Invisible Man, which was remade as a The Twilight Zone episode. A future society requires everyone to be friendly and warm to each other at all times. Anyone convicted of being "cold" must spend an entire year with a mark on their forehead that warns everyone else not to acknowledge their existence in any way.
  • Ray Bradbury's short story The Pedestrian. A man goes out walking at night, which no one else does anymore—they're all watching TV. He's stopped by the police and hauled off to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies.
  • Discworld
    • In Witches Abroad, Lily Weatherwax has created the ideal fairytale kingdom. To aid this, by law, toymakers must sing as they work, butchers must be red-faced and jolly, and everyone must smile all the time. Violators will be taken away to an uncertain fate.
    • Fiction is illegal in Interesting Times's Agatean Empire.
  • In the book Hard-Boiled Wonderland, the one and only rule in The Town is "no shadows", as in they cut off your shadow before you're allowed in. Of course this also takes away your mind so they really don't need any other rules to maintain order.
  • In the very first Sword of Truth book, the Evil Overlord and Big Bad outlaws fire. In a quasi-medieval society, just as winter's about to set in. This stems from when he was horrifically burned by Wizard's Fire as a child, but that doesn't make it any less crazy. One wonders how they make bread and smith metal in his kingdom.
  • No chocolate! (Bootleg by Alex Shearer, which was also made into a TV series, a manga and an anime.)
  • A Star Trek: The Next Generation novel called "Gulliver's Fugitives" had a planet that banned all fiction, with very elaborate cleanup measures including Laser-Guided Amnesia. Unlike many examples, this one makes it very clear just how incredibly hard it is and how much of the society's resources are needed to maintain the "quarantine" against imagination.
  • And a Star Trek: Enterprise novel "A Secret of Fazi" features a society where any spontaneity is regarded as barbaric. Justified because they share the planet with Hipons, a Giant Spider race whose thoughts alone can Mind Rape you and the only protection is to have your mind as orderly as possible.
  • Everything not forbidden is compulsory! (The ant colony in The Once and Future King.) It's an allegory to Communism.
  • Ayn Rand's Anthem is set in a collectivist society where the words "I, me, my, mine," and "ego" are forbidden. Speaking those words is a crime punishable by death.
  • In Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged Directive 10-289 stops scientific research, makes it illegal for people to quit their jobs, and demands all prices and production be fixed at the level it was when the directive was passed.
  • Being an "Utopia" the Fordian Society from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World isn't so rigorous as many Dystopias, but as everyone in the fordian society is brainwashed since childhood to not doing anything alone, being incapable of a long term relationship, consumig a drug called Soma when you are not happy, and all number of things in order for you to be "happy" and not disturb the social order, if you don't follow even one of this rules of behaviour they banish you to a island far away so you won't disturb the social order, but is stated at one point that is not as a punishment as it may look as there they're able to coexist with persons who share similar belief and live their own way. After all, "Everyone belongs to Everyone Else"
  • In Unwind by Neal Shusterman, the government has decided that to please both sides of the abortion debate, abortion is illegal but people can chose to have their children "unwound", which means they are taken apart and used for organs.
  • In Dan Wells' Partials, the Hope Act demands that all women 18 and older must be pregnant as often as possible since all infants since 'The Break' have not survived and the politicians figure that sooner or later an infant will be immune if they keep at it long enough.
  • In The Program, where Sloane lives, any form of sorrow and thoughts is a one way ticket The Program in an effect to curb the suicide rate.
  • In The Declaration, having a child while taking immortality medicine will result in that offspring will be declared a Surplus and would either have to be killed or taken away. However, if you opt out, you can only have one child while a Surplus can be spared and be declared a Legal if one or both parents happened to be deceased.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Not a country, but an episode of The IT Crowd has the company CEO Denholm Reynolm declaring a war on stress, with anyone showing any signs of stress to be fired. Of course, the threat doesn't help things.
    • He shows a similar attitude to a lack of teamwork, once firing an entire floor because they weren't working together as a team. And then ordering the security team sent to make sure they all left the building fired because he suspected they weren't working as a team.
  • It doesn't get more absurd than the half-hour episode of Six Dates with Barker starring Ronnie Barker, about a world in which everybody has to laugh at old music hall routines.
  • No unhappiness! (Monty Python's Princess Mitzi Gaynor of Happy Valley sketch. Violators are hanged by the neck until they cheer up.)
  • No unhappiness! (The Doctor Who serial The Happiness Patrol)
  • In the Star Trek episode "A Taste of Armageddon" two planets are at war with each other, but have set up a system where, instead, of actually dropping nuclear bombs on each other, they have computers calculate how many people would be killed if one of them dropped a bomb on another. Anyone the computers determine would have been killed by the hypothetical blast have 24 hours to report to a distintegration chamber and let themselves be killed. Apparently, in the 500 years the war had been going on for, no one had ever refused to let themselves be disintegrated until Captain Kirk came along. It's implied that this orderly and clean system of war is actually what has kept the conflict going for so long when the horrors (and physical cost) of a real war would have had both sides crying for peace centuries ago.

Radio[edit | hide]

  • No one must use contractions in their speech! (A typically demented aspect of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio Jubilee by professional madman Robert Shearman; he said he did this to create a situation where humans would sound like Daleks).

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • No pop music in 2084 in the Tabletop RPG Starchildren.
  • "Happiness is mandatory. Unhappiness is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution. Are you happy, citizen?" - Friend Computer, Paranoia
  • Nobilis and the Windflower Law. "Thou Shalt Not Love." Really, the main point of the Windflower Law is the simple fact that very nearly everyone violates it. The Complete Monster who enacted it may actually hate love as much as he claims, but the MAIN point is that it gives him a ready excuse to punish anyone at his convenience. The fact that violations are usually ignored, BUT cruelly enforced at Entropy's whim, is arguably scarier than consistent enforcement.
  • People in Risibilos, a now-defunct Ravenloft domain, had the "laughing law", by which every statement had to be accompanied by "ha ha ha". Not laughter, just the bland recitation of "ha ha ha".

Theater[edit | hide]

  • In Urinetown, you have to pay in order to pee.
    • Given the increasing number of pay toilets in large cities like New York, Philadelphia, London, Paris, etc., this particular example borders on Truth in Television.
  • In We Will Rock You, the Queen musical, rock is not allowed. It was really probably the only way to get any kind of a plot out of The Power of Rock.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In order to ensureprevent revolution, the Orbs in the Manhunter games do this: Humans are not permitted to speak to each other under penalty of death. On the other hand, since the Orbs took over, everything is under penalty of death.
    • Which isn't to say that humans don't communicate. They just don't speak (figuring out what someone is trying to tell you is a puzzle in itself).
  • Played to amusing effect in Batman Arkam Asylum. Joker declares overloudspeaker that there is a new rule in place. Penalty for breaking this rule is death, no ifs ands or buts. The best thing about this rule? Its a secret!
  • In Tropico the relatively annoying DJ announcer states when you pass the anti-litter ordnance- "El presidente has passed a new anti-litter ordnance. Remember, violators will be shot on sight, so watch where you throw that bubble gum wrapper, kids."

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • The "everyone must be happy" variety shows up in Sluggy Freelance with 4U City. Anyone found being unhappy is either filled full of drugs until they are happy, or they get deported to another dimension via the "Judgement Chutes."
  • No Poker! Don't even mention the word!

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Do not mention the 100-year war in Ba Sing Se. (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
    • More specifically the edict is that "There is no war"
  • Timmy once ended up in a dystopian alternate future (ruled by his dad!) where everyone must smile all the time! (The Fairly Odd Parents)
  • Tomorrow Boys: Libby was given the Megalomanium by mistake, and she takes over Retroville in the alternate future Jimmy and his friends, Sheen and Carl travel to while testing Jimmy’s time machine. Under Libby, citizens are required to watch dance programs at specific times.
  • In Bull-E, Marge was able to pass a law that banned bullying. For awhile, it applied to regular bullies, like Jimbo, but it soon turns into this matter when random people gets arrested for bullying. Homer, who abused the new law, soon find himself arrested, thanks to Todd and Rod coming to the conclusion on what is happening to Ned.

Notes

  1. A film doesn't have to have a dystopian society to have one.