At best, he's a Well-Intentioned Extremist who believes that Utopia Justifies the Means and he did what he had to do. He might eventually have a Heel Realization or die in his struggle for the greater good... or maybe he's actually right. At worst, he's a Knight Templar hellbent on assimilating everyone in a Lotus Eater Machine, killing everyone who is unhappy, killing everyone to stop unhappiness, or doing things that would send him plunging toward the Moral Event Horizon... if not worse.
There are three basic flavors of Totalitarian Utilitarian:
- The problem is the means
- The problem is the analysis
- When the problem is the analysis, the TU has a good goal, but his means will lead to another—much worse—destination entirely. Even if the plan does solve the original problem, it will only bring about something even worse. For example, he may suggest that the best way to prevent crime is to install surveillance cameras everywhere, including private bathrooms and bedrooms. He may not have even realized that this is a problem.
- The problem is the goal
- When the problem is the goal itself, the TU is off the deep end. Their idea of happiness is simply wrong - it's not what most people would call happiness, and/or it suffers from a heavy dose of Insane Troll Logic. Any principle, no matter how reasonable as long as it's used within reason become Nightmare Fuel if you take it too far... For example:
- We should maximize the average happiness. This can be done with killing off everyone who's unhappy.
- We should maximize the total happiness. Since even starving people are capable of happiness, we should reproduce as much as possible, regardless of each individual's quality of life.
- Negative Utilitarianism: Instead of maximizing happiness, we should only focus on minimizing suffering. However, all living things suffer to some extent, so we should just put them out of their misery.
A Totalitarian Utilitarian character is often a Strawman Political as well as a Straw Vulcan and a Hollywood Atheist. However, he's just as likely to simply be a regular villain who the authors tried to make a bit less senseless by adding a grain of Straw Man Has a Point. If Romanticism Versus Enlightenment is a theme, he will almost always side with the Enlightenment. Compare Happiness Is Mandatory. Contrast Principles Zealot.
No real life examples, please; and no historical examples younger than a century - see the Strawman Political discussion above for why. However, feel free to go around this with examples of how various authors have portrayed various groups.
- Seele from Neon Genesis Evangelion, justifying its Assimilation Plot with For Happiness even though it means causing the Apocalypse to awaken an Eldritch Abomination while using traumatized 14-year-olds for combat and later another apocalypse.
- Light Yagami of Death Note begins here with his plan to make the world a better place by systematically killing all its criminals, starting with the world's worst offenders and ending with those who merely aren't living up to his standards, but swiftly veers off course into wanting to become "the god of a new world."
- Gun X Sword: The Claw and his minions are this all the way, being mostly the nicest people you can meet, and who want to bring about a better world through an Assimilation Plot, and will kill when necessary to achieve this goal. Notably, the heroes are generally very individualistic and less personally pleasant, and it's suggested that the Claw's plan probably would bring about a better world if successful.
- Code Geass: Charles di Britannia and Schneizel el Britannia, full stop. Lelouch can also be considered this when he engages the Zero Requiem, considering there are less bloody ways towards world peace, but is at worst a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds considering what has happened to him, and his intended end result.
- Chairman Gilbert Durandel from Gundam Seed Destiny turns out to be one of these.
- Kyubey of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is trying to stave off the heat death of the universe. By dooming teenage girls to lives of suffering, and killing plenty of innocents (potentially entire planets) along the way. The primary problem here is that there's trillions of years to come up with a less terrible plan.
- Gretchen Kriemhild, Madoka's witch form, is a negative utilitarian. Whereas Madoka cares deeply about making everyone happy through positive means, Gretchen wants to erase suffering by destroying all life on Earth.
- Speaking of |Erase Humans -> Erase Suffering| logic, the girlfriend of the evil priest in Book of Bantorra has developed this philosophy, due to being imprisoned within the priest's soul for ages along with the souls of thousands, if not millions or billions, who have been stuck in the purgatory of existing in a allegoral plantless desert. This turns her into the big bad, Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds type, and forces EVERYONE ELSE (who isn't a monster or too tired to exist) to participate in the fight for Book-Earth.
Comic Books[edit | hide]
- The Pro-registration side in Marvel Civil War turned out to be this. The goal? Insert some accountability into superheroics. The means? Creating an insane clone of Thor, imprisonment without trial in a hellish extradimensional prison for anyone people who didn't go along with it, granting functional pardons and extra powers to supervillains, notably putting Norman Osborn in charge of a government agency, and the conscription at gunpoint of teenagers with superpowers.
- The Big Bad of Watchmen, whose goal is to end the Cold War and then use his abilities to control the Earth and make it a paradise on Earth. His problem is mainly a type 1, killing half of New York in a Genghis Gambit, but the ending implies it may also be a type 2, assuming naively that this is all that is required to defuse a 40+ year old nuclear standstill and failing to take into account Rorschach's diary.
- Tron: Legacy: Clu, building his "perfect world".
- In Serenity there is the Alliance, which tried to create a more peaceful world through chemical testing leading to untold numbers of deaths and the creation of a breed of rampaging psychopath space pirate, and their hatchet man, the Operative. Notably, the Operative acknowledges that when they've built their "perfect" world, he won't have any place in it.
- The system in Never Let Me Go, saving so many lives. Also the protagonists themselves, conditioned to disregard life and dignity for the greater good.. their own lives.
- Brave New World takes place in a society where For Happiness has become such a great cultural obsession that it has become oppressive.
- George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four contains a very grim satire of this concept: The ruling party are trying to make sure that the party members are the happiest people in the world - by making their lives hell but making everyone else's life far worse! And of course it works great. Even the protagonist agrees with the party about everything... eventually.
- In George Orwell's Animal Farm, the pigs start out like this. As the story progresses, some pigs are lost, while others are corrupted by their power unless they were really Straw Hypocrites all along. By the end of the story, the remaining pigs have become what they once rebelled against.
- In Wild Swans many of the revolutionary communists are portrayed like this, while others are portrayed as Straw Hypocrites, Complete Monsters, or simple cases of Peer Pressure Makes You Evil. The latter includes the main protagonist herself.
- In the Discworld novel Witches Abroad, Genua is run like this. People failing to be happy enough (and stereotypical enough, as the ruler's goal is to make Genua a fairytale-esque city) are dealt with harshly.
- Star Wars EU treats Jacen Solo like this after his demise.
- There's one Stanislaw Lem story about a society which builds an Artificial Intelligence that has to create the perfect world. The AI does this by building a factory, taking people one by one there, with the promise of a happy place, and noone ever returns from there (that alone should ring some alarm bells, but apparently the people aren't Genre Savvy). Truth is, in the factory people are turned into shiny metal discs, which the AI later arranges in a geometrical pattern. Apparently it's a bit of a Literal Genie and didn't understand that this wasn't what people had in mind with "the perfect world".
- He also plays with this in Eden, where any Edenite who isn't perfect is killed, and everybody's okay with this. Even though they've a rather high mutation rate. It should be noted where he lived and when.
- The Lord Ruler of Mistborn tried his hardest to be this. Pity Ruin was in telepathic contact with him for his whole thousand-year reign, twisting his utopian vision into a postapocalyptic nightmare.
- The society in The World Inside by Robert Silverberg is one in which people have decided that the best world is the one with the most people in it; the vast majority of the world's current population of 80 billion all live in giant, city-sized apartment buildings with no privacy, while all the rest of Earth's habitable land is devoted to agriculture. It is theorized that the maximum population that can be supported this way is 200 billion.
- In Star Trek, the Hive Mind called The Borg seem to honestly believe that getting assimilated into their collective is the best for everyone.
- The classic series Doctor Who episode, The Happiness Patrol, tells of a society in which the tyrannical leader Helen A has all the "killjoys" - basically, anyone who shows any sort of unhappiness ever - killed, occasionally in bizarre ways. For bonus points, Helen A is also an obvious parody of then-Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
- In Classical Mythology, there's the Golden Age which is identified (at least in some versions) with the reign of Kronos. Now there was a prophecy that one of his children would topple him, like he had toppled his father Uranos. So Kronos ate all his children to avoid this. Not sure whether he did that for concern that the Golden Age should continue or just because he himself didn't want to lose power, but if it was the former, this would be a case.
- In Paranoia, Friend Computer maximizes happiness by simply making unhappiness a capital offense. Are you happy? Thought so.
- Being unhappy is also a crime in Feng Shui's 2056 juncture, where everything is ruled by the Buro.
- There's also the Jammers, who want to free the world and humanity from the "tyranny" of Chi by destroying all Feng Shui sites. Sites that often take the form of schools, hospitals and other places important to a community or where innocents tend to gather. And to make things worse, they haven't given much thought as to what will happen once all Chi and Feng Shui are destroyed, and what the consequences will be to the world—and given that Chi is said to be tied to life itself, the consequences could be very bad indeed.
- In Warhammer 40,000 it is implied that the Tau Empire's philosophy, "for the greater good," is this in practice. And the other races consider them the Naive Newcomer. That should tell you what kind of setting this is.
- In later BattleTech fiction, particularly the Capellan Solution duology, Sun-Tzu Liao is this trope. It's all about the good of the Capellan Confederation for him (as he sees it, of course), and no trick is too dirty or underhanded and no sacrifice too great if it brings him one step closer to making his nation great again.
- In Mage: The Awakening, the Silver Ladder wants to restore the connection between Earth and the Supernal Realms, allowing all of humanity to achieve godhood. They end up doing a lot of shady manipulation and exploitation in their efforts to bring everybody into line with their plans and frequently end up falling into Ambition Is Evil by pursuing power for its own sake.
- Sofia Lamb in BioShock 2. Her goal is to create a "utopia" by using ADAM and mind control to imbue everyone with the entire sum of the knowledge of Rapture's inhabitants, eliminate their free will and instruct them to act only for "the greater good" (pretty much turning everyone into mindless slaves). Starting with her own daughter.
- Valmur of Suikoden Tierkreis is half this and half trying to survive. On the one hand, he believes there's no way to beat the One King, and that those who ally with it will be spared. On the other, he'd probably ally with the One King anyway--in return, he and everyone he follows will be placed in eternally repeating illusions of the best days of their lives. To Valmur, who is unable to accept the deaths of his family, even an illusion of their return is better than reality, and he's willing to inflict the illusion on everyone else. Of note is that at least for the protagonists, it doesn't work--the gun expert grows weary of never completing his greatest design; the farmer realizes his crops will never be harvested; two lovers know they'll never be able to raise children . . .
- The Illusive Man of Mass Effect and his organization Cerberus are dedicated to the protection, prosperity, and improvement of mankind in the galaxy. Of course that means that he wants to defeat every alien race that could ever possibly be a threat (i.e. all of them), is quite fond of Playing with Syringes, and will kill anybody who could conceivably threaten one of his goals (including any of his own employees). History will vindicate him, after all. Worst part? He may be right. The Council and the Alliance are just two steps short of declaring Shepard a criminal. The best that Shepard's Reasonable Superiors can do is prevent that from happening. Cerberus is the only ally Shepard has.
Hell there's a message you can read in the DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker where a major asks for Admiral Hackett's permission to have Shepard arrested and interrogated for a few months on why s/he is working with Cerberus. Thankfully, Hackett denied that request.
- Shepard him/herself can act in this way, especially as a renegade. Unlike in many games with a Karma Meter, renegade Shepard is still basically one of the good guys. Which essentially means that s/he can kick and gun down a great many canines, and defend various atrocities in the name of the greater good.
- By Mass Effect 3 however, The Illusive Man and Cerberus have Jumped Off the Slippery Slope and are actively waging war with the galaxy. TIM continually tries to justify to himself that his actions are for the good of humanity until the end, where Shepard can convince him that he's become indoctrinated in a scene much like the confrontation with Saren in the first game.
- Mr. House of Fallout: New Vegas has a clear vision for uplifting the Mojave and humanity through making Vegas prosperous again, but he also uses his Securitrons to enforce strict order and seems to care very little about the less-fortunate people of Freeside and outer Vegas.
- In the credits song of Portal, GLADOS claims that her actions were for the greater good of mankind... what's left of it. Also, she fully intend to keep killing innocent people For Science!.
- One 2010 arc of Sluggy Freelance centers around an Alternate Universe, 4U City, which is this sort of society. Happiness is enforced through a mandatory regimen of drugs, and anyone who shows signs of being the least bit morose is 'judged' (which basically consists of zapping them into a random alternate universe.)
- Parodied by Hunter of Suicide for Hire.
- Lord Doom from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe is dedicated to solving the world's problems and making the world a better place so no other child has to watch their family be systematically killed like he did during the Holocaust. To that end, he intends to overthrow every government on the planet and replace them with his own benevolent rule, modify the general behavior of the human race through genetic engineering, drug thereapy, and branwashing, end crime by ending the criminals, permanently, and insuring that the only people who have the capacity to make war are those who have been programmed to be loyal to the cause.
Among other things, he is a Mad Scientist who is all about Playing with Syringes when it comes to making people better, and insists that Happiness Is Mandatory, and anyone who disagrees with him or gets in his way, even if they are his own children, must be eliminated. Sure, his plan is a bit harsh, but you cannot make omelettes without breaking a few eggs.