A “utopia” is a fictional place where everything is perfect; it’s supposed to give us a goal to aspire to, a place that we hope we — or maybe even the entire human race — can one day reach. But not all perfect societies are created equal. In fact, here are nine utopias that actually sound pretty goddamned terrible.
Let’s start with the big one, eh? The fictional place that coined the word “utopia” in Thomas More’s classic Utopia is pretty darn great. There’s no property ownership and no crime, everyone has to farm and learn one other useful skill, there’s freedom of religion, free health care, divorce is okay, and no one wants or needs gold. They have gold, of course, but they use for chamberpots and slave chains, and here’s where Utopia gets into trouble. It’s a slave society. Slaves — who are foreigners or Utopian criminals — perform all the shitty tasks no one else wants to do, which helps keep everyone else happy, but means Utopia is no utopia for at least one significant segment of the population. Oh, by the way, premarital sex is a crime and wives have to confess their sins to their husbands once a month, too. So if you're a misogynist, abstinent slave owner, I guess Utopia is still pretty cool for you.
2) The Logan’s Run City
The domed city of Logan’s Run seems all right. Giant computers run everything, so humans don’t have to do anything but eat, sleep, and have casual sex which each other — and there’s no shortage of food, beds, or sexual partners. There are no jobs that need to be done, no government, and no marriage. There’s no discrimination or crime either — unless you count the fact that everyone has to die when they turn 30 and those that try to escape this fate are hunted down and murdered, which you probably should. Oh, sure, it’s a non-stop orgy of happiness and pleasure until you turn 29, but then suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so hot after all.
3) The Axiom
Having somehow managed to cover the entire planet in garbage, the human race set off into space to… lounge around on their fat asses, mostly. Appearing Pixar’s hit Wall-E, the Axiom is one of the ships humanity left on, a space-faring luxury cruise ship where the passengers don’t even need to walk to the copious restaurants, shops, and malls, since their chairs carry their massive carcasses around for them. Since the ship is run by a computerized autopilot, no one needs to work, and even the ship’s captain is primarily a ceremonial position. It all sounds pretty nice until you realize the sedentary lifestyle has turned all the humans into morbidly obese blobs. God knows how many health problems all these people have, and how — or even if — the ship’s technology cures them, because they are not getting any thinner, I’ll tell you that for sure. Another thing: You realize that these people must be peeing and pooping into their chairs, right? They don’t get up. So unless they have some tubes inserted in some very uncomfortable places — tubes that never ever come out — they are effectively sitting, sleeping and even eating while on their toilet.
4) San Angeles
I don’t know that anyone nowadays would objectively say the giant megalopolis stretching from L.A. to San Diego in the 1993 hit Demolition Man is a utopia, but the people living in it sure seem to think so. To be fair, they have absolutely no crime, Taco Bell is a fine dining establishment, and they have some kind of ass-wiping device called the three seashells which seems to be pretty effective, if not outright pleasant to use. The problem is when notorious criminal Wesley Snipes (playing notorious criminal Simon Phoenix) is awoken from deep freeze in the year 2032, and goes on a rampage the police are no longer even close to being competent enough to handle. Which is why they awaken cop John Spartan (played by non-law enforcement personnel Sylvester Stallone) to stop him, at which point Spartan tries to tell these people that Taco Bell is actually kind of terrible if you happen to remember the alternatives and that life in the future is actively miserable if you don’t happen to know how the three seashells work.
I don’t want to call Dinotopia a hippy-dippy commune, but holy hell is it a hippy-dippy commune. Here’s the Code of Dinotopia, the closest thing they have to laws:
Survival of all or none.
One raindrop raises the sea.
Weapons are enemies, even to their owners.
Give more, take less.
Others first, self last.
Observe, listen and learn.
Do one thing at a time.
Sing every day.
Eat to live, don't live to eat.
They’d get a better government of law from a set of those Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Anyways, it’s the usual deal — no money, no ownerships, no crime, but there are a shit-ton of dinosaurs. Now, Dinotopia claims that the people and the dinosaurs always get along, but I honestly think that’s bullshit. They don’t just have herbivores there, they have omnivores and carnivores, and you can’t tell me a T.Rex has never once gone on rampage in the fashion district or something. There may be plenty of non-human meat for it to eat — which I would assume would be from other dinosaurs, who might not think this island where they’re constantly in danger of getting massacred is much of a utopia either — but that doesn’t mean a tyrannosaurus wouldn’t eat a human if it were close and he was feeling peckish (this is why sane people don’t keep tigers as pets, too). Anyways, even if all the kids are born of pure heart and all the dinosaurs are somehow granola-eating peacemongers, there’s still a bunch of people on Dinotopia whose job is to clean massive piles of dinosaur shit all day. I promise you they do not feel they’re living in a utopia.
6) The Island of the Houyhnhnms
The final journey that Gulliver took in his eponymous travels was to The Island of the Houyhnhnms, a race of sentient horse people. The Houyhnhnms are entirely devoted to reason, so much so that they have no emotions, no religion, and no politics to speak of; heck, they don’t even have a word for “lie.” Of course, their island is also inhabited by bestial, primitive men they call Yahoos, whose skin Gulliver uses to make a canoe complete with a sail, so I think we can safely assume the Yahoos aren’t particularly thrilled to be there. The Houyhnhnms have nothing evil in their nature, unless you count their proclivity to selectively breed their entire race, and only allow couple to have two babies/foals — a boy and a girl; if you have two of the same kind, you’re forced to trade with another family — but none of them ever mind, so whatever. However, unless you’re an emotionally closed-off horse, Houyhnhnm Island sounds pretty fucking terrible.
The Silver Surfer’s homeworld of Zenn-La is absolutely a utopia — no poverty, no war, everyone gets along, everyone is happy and/or a scientist, yadda yadda. So what’s the problem? Zenn-La gets destroyed a lot. And I don’t mean a little beat up, I mean there's a full-scale apocalypse event where pretty much everybody dies like once every 50 years or so. The first time was in 1947, when something called The Other just decided to kill every living being there and erase all signs of civilization. Luckily, the Silver Surfer’s master Galactus was in a good mood that day, and he restored everybody. But then the Surfer pissed Galactus off, and Galactus decided to kill everybody again and then drain the planet of all its energy, rendering it an uninhabitable wasteland. But about 500 Zenn-Lanians survived, including the Surfer’s gal pal, and she somehow made it another utopia. And then some interstellar asshole called The Great One took Zenn-La out of reality, which killed everybody again, forcing the Surfer to somehow bring a simulation of the planet in the Great One’s brain back into this dimension. So Zenn-La might be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Or die there. Many, many times.
8) The Vortex
On one hand, you could say that the Vortex in the legendarily insane movie Zardoz is no utopia purely because if you lived there, you’d be in constant danger of seeing Sean Connery running around in a red diaper. And that would be perfectly valid. But here’s the thing about the Vortex — everyone already thinks it sucks. All the humans there have their every whim catered for, all they do is sit around all day and bake bread and that's pretty much that’s it. They’re all so lazy and bored that all the men are impotent. Things are so boring in the Vortex that the supercomputer that ruled it made up laws just to spice things up a little, although since the punishment for everything is aging and everyone in there gets reborn in a healthy body anytime they die, it’s still not that useful. And the worst part is if you live in the Vortex, everyone you know is a self-absorbed asshole, including yourself. It's awful. And then there’s diapered Sean Connery, running around like he owns the place! There’s no question that the Vortex is one of the worst utopias of all time.
I have to take back what I said about Dinotopia being for hippies. That’s because I forgot about Pandora, the planet upon which James Cameron’s Avatar is set. Pandora is a world of lush jungles, massive trees, glowing mushroom-things and it's also just chock-full of Unobtanium, which is apparently something we greedy, terrible humans want a lot of. The giant blue Na’vi live happily on Pandora in apparently idyllic peace… except for the countless indigenous giant monsters which constantly try to kill them; I guess when you have a giant Life Tree to sing the Na’vi equivalent of “Kumbaya” around, getting savagely mauled by the Darwinian circle of life isn’t such a big deal. But even if you’re a nature-lover and are totally cool with being killed by viperwolves and stingbats and direhorses and all the other improbably named monsters that live there, I don’t know how any human would be okay with using the same hair-tentacle-orifice to have sex with people but also to control their animal mounts while riding them. That would be like sticking your penis into your horse in order to ride it. Besides, admit, it, any utopia without air conditioning isn’t really a utopia.