It's a Good Life

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A 1953 short story by Jerome Bixby.

The story is set in the small town of Peaksville. The town used to be in Ohio, but it has since been completely cut off from the outside world (assuming the outside world still exists) by the first manifestation of Anthony Fremont's powers.

Anthony Fremont is literally omnipotent. He's also only three years old, and he's had his powers from birth.

The plot of the story shows a day in the life of the town. It does about as well as you would expect under the thrall of a being with the power of God and the moral understanding of a three-year-old who's never been disciplined in his life: pretty crappy.

This story has been adapted several times by The Twilight Zone. The original series did a very faithful adaptation, with a very young Bill Mumy as Anthony and Cloris Leachman as his mother. The 2002 revival series had a sequel episode, "It's Still a Good Life", featuring a grown-up Anthony (played again by Bill Mumy) and his daughter (played by Mumy's real-life daughter Liliana), who also has powers. Twilight Zone the Movie gave the story a Setting Update to the 80s (with Anthony terrorizing a single mansion rather than an entire town) and the happiest ending that the premise would allow.

The TV series Johnny Bravo and The Simpsons both did episodes which are homages/parodies of this story.

Compare and contrast with minus. Definitely not to be confused with It's a Wonderful Life.


Tropes used in It's a Good Life include:
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Don't ask Anthony for a favor, ever. Even when he's genuinely trying to help, the results can be horrific.
    • Anthony himself learns this lesson after he decides just to send 'everyone' to the cornfield, realising how lonely it is with just him and his daughter as the last people on earth.
      • Or maybe not. As he will do it again if someone makes him angry.
  • Berserk Button: For Anthony, it's singing. Any kind of singing, whether a capella or with music, seems to make him extremely angry.
  • Children Are Innocent: Hahahahahaha! Anthony may not be evil per se, purely by virtue of being ignorant of good and evil; this doesn't make him any less dangerous.
    • As stated above it's not that he's evil. It's a question of how a person will be if they have never been less anything but praised for his actions out of fear.
  • Closed Circle: Outside of Peaksville is only a gray nothingness where the rest of the world used to be.
  • Creepy Child
  • Enfant Terrible: Practically the Trope Codifier.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: Because Anthony will lash out at anyone thinking negative thoughts.
  • Lost in the Maize: Where Anthony sends the bodies of his victims.
  • Mind Rape: The opening states that in the beginning, Aunt Amy was the only person who could exercise any control over Anthony, until he noticed her singing and his mind "snapped" at her. She's left as a shell of her former self, smiling vacantly, and no longer watching how she acts or what she says around Anthony.
  • Noodle Incident/Nothing Is Scarier: The fates of Anthony's victims are alluded to but rarely described in any detail. There are hints that Anthony himself does not look human; again, there's no details about what he does look like.
  • Psychic Static: The residents of Peaksville try very hard to fill their heads with nothing in particular whenever they're tempted to think a negative thought, because there's always a chance that Anthony will choose that moment to listen in.
    • Dan Hollis tries to invoke this by distracting Anthony, and he begs the others to kill Anthony while Anthony's attention is focused on his outburst. Unfortunately for Dan, everyone is still too afraid to raise a hand against Anthony.
  • Purple Eyes: ...well, there's one detail about what he looks like -- maybe. The actual phrase is "purple gaze", which might mean purple eyes, or something else entirely...
  • Reality Warper
  • Scary Jack in the Box: In the original Twilight Zone episode, this is what Anthony transforms his one on-screen victim into.
  • Stepford Smiler: The only way to keep Anthony happy is to think happy thoughts and act like everything's okay.
  • Telepathy: Don't even think anything bad about Anthony. Really, don't.
  • Villain Teleportation/Mobile Menace: Anthony is hard to avoid--not that he's any less dangerous when he's far away.

The various adaptations provide examples of:[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Deranged Animation: Played for nightmare fuel in The Movie: Anthony is obsessed with cartoons, so instead of "the cornfield" he sends his victims to "cartoonland", depicted as a technicolor nightmare. And brought a Tazmanian Devil-like toon character into the real world.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: A rabbit turns into a snarling hellbeast in The Movie.



It's good that we have a recap of this episode, it's real good...