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This world is actually quite okay, at least by standards that can be expected by the audience. However, it is very much a matter of perspective whether a certain world is a Crapsack World or a Utopia. And thus, sometimes a character or cast of characters are faced with a world that is awful for them without being particularly bad in itself.

These characters might come from a world where boredom, lies, poverty or even death itself simply doesn't exist. When they encounter a world just like ours (and a rather kind version of it at that), it looks horrifying in comparison. In some cases, they learn to appreciate this new world after awhile. In others, they remain repulsed by it.

If the character is unbalanced enough, this could possibly lead to him wanting to Put Them All Out of My Misery.

Compare Life Will Kill You and Humans Are Bastards. Values Dissonance and Culture Clash are bound to come into play.

No Real Life Examples, Please

Examples of Crapsack Only by Comparison include:

Comic Books

  • The Adventures Of Oliver And Columbina features two worlds: The rosen dream lands, and reality-where-you-get-bored. The latter is simple and unproblematic for the readers, but totally incomprehensible for the characters.


  • The characters in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home find themselves as Fish Out of Temporal Water in The Eighties, and Doctor McCoy in particular is horrified by modern day medical practices, angrily comparing them to "the Dark Ages" and "the Spanish Inquisition". Since it's a rather lighthearted film, the whole thing's treated as comedy rather than serious criticism.
  • In the 1987 Masters Of The Universe movie, Teela and Man-at-Arms have their first taste of Earth food. Teela curiously asks what the white sticks in the middle are for, and she's instantly rendered nauseous when she's told that they're rib bones and she's eating a dead animal.
    • Man-At-Arms, meanwhile, doesn't seem to mind.
  • Pan's Labyrinth plays this straight for a few minutes, as the problem with our world is claimed to be that it has bright sunlight and cold. Then brutally averted for the rest of the movie, as it turns out that the world the heroine now lives in is a straight Crapsack World saturated in nightmares.
  • Enchanted sends Giselle to a place where True Love doesn't exist and there are no happy endings... New York. Semi-subverted in that by the end of it she does seem to have managed a happy ending and true love while staying in our world.


  • Vonda N. McIntyre's Thieves' World short story "Looking for Satan". A group of people come to Sanctuary and find it appalling. This is not so unusual (Sanctuary is a Wretched Hive after all) but the reason is that the place they come from is idyllic: everyone lives together without jealousy or greed and with a Free-Love Future orientation.
  • H. G. Wells' Men Like Gods (1923). As the result of an interdimensional accident a group of English citizens find themselves in another world. The people there are pretty much perfect by human standards, and Wells uses their comments on the visitors' attitudes and values to criticize English society of the time.
  • Inverted & played with in The Giver and Gathering Blue: Jonas at first thinks that he's in a utopia, but it's actually more of a Crapsack World. The town of Gathering Blue thinks itself a utopia, but it really isn't.
  • Inverted in Interesting Times, with a traveler who considers Ankh-Morpork to be not crapsack because his own homeland is so much worse. Rude and obnoxious guards are celebrated for not torturing random innocents to death, and so on.
  • This trope, or possibly its inversion, shows up in The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. The protagonist, Shavik, goes from an anarcho-syndicalist utopia on the planet/moon Anarres to its planet/moon Urras (it's a double-planet system, and the two bodies aren't too different in size), which is dominated by the capitalist parliamentary republic A-Io and the totalitarian socialist Thu (if this reminds you of anything, it should), both of which have rigid class structures. After encountering the way the lower classes live and then being forced to take refuge in the embassy from a post-apocalyptic Earth, he says that the planet seems like hell to him; the ambassador comments that, compared to the way things are on Earth, it looks like heaven.

    We should note that The Dispossessed has a subtitle: "An Ambiguous Utopia;" LeGuin takes pains to portray the problems of an anarcho-syndicalist system in practice,[1] and Shavik frequently has his doubts about his own society.
  • In Brave New World, John the Savage views the "utopian" world of London as amoral, unnatural, and pointless, while Lenina sees John's home on the savage reservation as backwards, uncivilized, and barbaric.
  • The Number of the Beast by Heinlein has our protagonists run into several such worlds. One of these, merely described, indicates abrupt Earth Drift.
  • Most citizens of Xanth (magical realm) who travel to "drear Mundania" (non-magical rest of the world) feel that way about it.
  • Gulliver's Travels would constitute a Trope Codifier in that Swift was using the fantastic societies Gulliver encounters to lampoon British society at the time.

Live Action TV


  • SPOCK's song "Beam Me Up", (surely inspired by Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) sums up our world with the words "Beam me up, there's no intelligent life down here where I am".

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40000: In the Grimdark grimdarkness of the grim, dark future, there is only grimdarkness! Er, war. Except that the Imperium of Man (and to a lesser extent, some of the other factions) must have a vast agricultural/industrial base to support their colossal war machine, and some of the licensed novels show the places that aren't right on the front lines (especially the Ciaphas Cain novels). Presumably, it's possible to live a pleasantly uneventful life among the trillions on agri-worlds and forge worlds that doesn't involve being eaten by tyranids, chopped up by orks, enslaved by dark eldar, annihilated by necrons, executed for heresy by the Inquisition, having your soul ripped apart by Chaos, and so on and so forth. But it doesn't make a good story, and certainly doesn't work for a tabletop wargame.
    • Even forge and agri-worlds aren't exempt from this; in general, forgeworlds are cramped and terminally polluted and the Adeptus Mechanicus is not exactly concerned with the well being of its workers. Agri-worlds are supposedly better off, but even they will be subject to the occasional Chaos incursion/Tyranid invasion/Exterminatus.
    • The Tau have a tendency for using concentration camps, forced sterilizations, mind control and orbital bombardment to bring people into the fold of "the Greater Good." In any other setting, they would be considered the bad guys; IN THE GRIM DARKNESS OF THE FAR FUTURE, THEY ARE TOO OPTIMISTIC AND TRUSTING.

Visual Novels

  • Several of the main cast members in Sharin no Kuni live under extremely harsh legal restrictions which they have mostly come by undeservedly, and the main character was put through a nightmarish training program in order to become qualified to oversee and rehabilitate such individuals. However, the legal system of the setting, which is explicitly intended to prevent crimes and socially destructive behavior, rather than conferring fair and proportionate punishments on the guilty, is stated to result in much lower crime rates than our own, and such restrictions are implied to be very rare compared to imprisonment in Japan, which already has low crimes rates by real world standards, such that a town which is considered to have an unusual concentration of social unrest has a grand total of three residents living under restrictions.


  • In one Bob the Angry Flower comic, Bob dies and goes to heaven; he realizes that everything up there is so awesome that people still living on earth are in agony, relatively speaking. He then jumps down to earth, saying "I've gotta kill everyone!" (doubles as a cruel parody of Damaged Soul)

Web Original

  • In Fine Structure, characters from universes with high numbers of spacelike and timelike dimensions, where intelligence arises spontaneously everywhere, land in our universe of 3+1 dimensions, where the laws of physics are limited and intelligence is barely tenable at all. It's compared to a kind of hell.


  1. Here would be a good place to note that LeGuin herself is an anarcho-syndicalist
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