Paradise Is A Lie: A History Of False Utopias

If you're living in a shiny happy world where everything is provided to you, and your white pajamas never ever get stained, then chances are you're in a false utopia. Someone's going to be coming and harvesting your organs, or culling you at age 30, or drugging you into obedience. The fake paradise built on a foundation of shit seems to flourish most during times when technology seems to be solving all our problems (like during the dotcom boom.) Click through for a list of false utopias.

You could argue that most dystoipan movies are really false utopias, because the rulers of a dark, bleak dystopia (like, say, Brazil) still try to pretend that everything is perfect and wonderful. The difference is, most dystopias start out bleak and dark, and just get more horrid until the protagonist is forced to confront the darkness around him/her. But in the "false utopia" subcategory of dystopias, everything is bright and wonderful, and the main character is either getting some great drugs, or having lots of fun sex, or both in the case of Brave New World.

The "false utopia" genre, says Transparency Now,

shows humanity lost in false paradises of technology and simulation. In one subcategory, we see enclosed high-tech cities or habitations with apparently well-ordered societies full of people who are trapped by their dependence on automation and computers. They may also live decadent lifestyles that serve to distract them from the truth of their circumstances.

Here's a brief and cheerful history of fake utopias:

Paradise Is A Lie: A History Of False Utopias

1909. "The Machine Stops" by E.M. Forster. Forster's reaction to some of H.G. Wells' more optimistic fiction. In the distant future, humans live underground, each in a separate "cell," with all of his or her needs provided for by the all-powerful Machine. Human culture stagnates, and people wrongly believe they can't survive on the surface of the Earth without protection. Over time, people start to worship the Machine like a god, forgetting they made it. And then eventually the Machine starts to break down.

Paradise Is A Lie: A History Of False Utopias

1932. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It's 2540, and everybody's drugged up to the gills on Soma, a sort of anti-depressant/psychotropic, and people can learn in their sleep. There's lots and lots of casual sex and orgies, and people chanting "orgy porgy" while having orgies. It's awesome. Oh, and people are incubated artificially instead of being born "naturally." The lower classes are engineered to be less intelligent and curious than the upper classes.

1956. The City And The Stars by Arthur C. Clarke. It's a billion years in the future, and humans have mostly abandoned Earth to go off and create super-ultra-awesome minds in space. In the domed city of Diaspar, people lead perfect lives, governed by the Central Computer. When they die, the Computer stores their memories and grows new bodies for them, making them nearly immortal. But then it turns out humans have been lied to about why they have to stay on Earth.

1971. The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem. Ijon Tichy goes to sleep (or does he?) and wakes up in the trippy year of 2039, an utopian era without money or want. Everybody's mood is kept carefully controlled using drugs. Many people have pointed out the similarities of this drug-induced utopia to The Matrix: At one point, Tichy's girlfriend offers him a choice between two pills: The black pill will make him forget their relationship, the white pill will make him commit more deeply.

Paradise Is A Lie: A History Of False Utopias

1976. Logan's Run, the movie based on the 1969 novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Everything is perfect in the domed city, with all the casual sex and meaningless hedonism you could ever want. Machines provide for all of your needs, but there's one drawback — when you turn 30, you have to die.

1994. The Giver by Lois Lowry. In this award-winning young-adult novel, it's a perfect world: bad feelings and conflict have been eliminated, thanks to perfect communication and drugs. (It's always drugs.) People get around by bicycle, and there are very few cars or airplanes. Romantic love and sexual desire (called "stirrings") are illegal, and are suppressed via medication. Instead, couples are matched up based on compatibility and can adopt up to two children from "birth mothers": one boy and one girl. Here's a Christian review warning against this book based on a misconception that it's actually utopian.

1998. The Truman Show. Truman lives in a lovely small town, surrounded by nice people, with possibly the only job in the insurance industry that doesn't totally suck. The only problem is, he can never leave town, and he's kept scared of the ocean by a fake story about his father drowning. He doesn't realize that everything in his world is a lie, and he's really one of the Pussycat Dolls.

Paradise Is A Lie: A History Of False Utopias

2002. Equilibrium. I hesitated to include this movie, because it's not much of a utopia. It's sort of bleak and nasty, and Christian Bale will do gun-aerobics in your face. But it does have many of the hallmarks, including people being drugged into flat affect-hood.

2005. The Island. Ewan McGregor lives in a utopian community where everything is perfect, and all of his choices are made for him. As usual in these types of stories, everybody's told that the rest of the world is uninhabitable due to some kind of toxic disaster. Everybody yearns to win the "Lottery" and go to "The Island," a tropical paradise — but it turns out The Island is made of people. Sort of.