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Freedom of choice

is what you got,

Freedom from choice

is what you want.

In our modern society, people are supposed to have "freedom of choice" and be happy about it. Ironically, however, this sometimes make people feel anxious, uncertain and trapped in being forced to make choices. This makes them resent the constant choice-making, sometimes even giving it up if given an excuse: Real Life can feel like a Quicksand Box. May or may not lead the character to become Property of Love, or even enjoy Happiness in Slavery, finding someone else to run their life for them.

This desire can be stirred by an overly Long List.

Note that this is about resenting having to make choices at all: Resenting a Sadistic Choice is not this trope. However, exposure to such choices might lead a character to this trope as he develops a longing for a simpler and less painful life.

While freedom from choice is morally neutral, a character who takes the desire for freedom from choice too far might become destructive/evil as he goes off the deep end pondering (and justifying) The Evils of Free Will.

Examples:


Comics

  • In Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Strikes Again there is a passing reference to a "Freedom from Information Act", presumably intended as a satirical slap on the recent activities of the Bush administration.
  • In Final Crisis this is one of the reasons the Anti-Life Equation is so effective. When several characters such as Green Arrow and Red Robin are freed of it, they admit that Anti-Life was "easy" and that some of it did ring true for them.

Film

  • The film and book "91/2 Weeks" presents an erotic variation on Freedom From Choice: a career-woman who is successful and forceful in her professional life forfeits her sexual freedom to a man, and their relationship pushes the boundaries between what is "Safe, Sane, and Consensual" and what is abusive.
  • City of Ember has a bit of this.
  • Loki talks a lot about this in The Avengers.

Literature

  • Alvin Toffler's nonfiction book Future Shock predicted that in the future, everything would be customizable, leading to "overchoice".
  • Dave Barry has a column or two on the same subject as Calvin's dad: "For problems concerning Extra-pulpy Vitamin-enhanced orange juice in 32oz size, press one. For problems concerning Extra-pulpy Vitamin-enhanced orange juice in 64oz size, press two. for problems..."
  • Charlie Brooker did a rant about this in The Guardian, and how he wants a 'cultural diet' because he has too many films to watch.
  • In the book Brit-Think/Ameri-Think, there's a cartoon comparing and contrasting Americans and British buying ice cream. The American is at a Baskin-Robbins type shop with a thousand flavors to choose from; the Brit is given the option "Vanilla or chocolate?" His reply: "You choose."
  • This trope figures heavily in The Giver by Lois Lowry.
  • In the later Slave World novels, some of the enslaved protagonists are stranded in their old world. Thus they are free. But they want to go back to Happiness in Slavery, and this is one of the main reasons why.
  • The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz is about how too many choices are paralyzing society.

Live Action Television

  • A Bit of Fry and Laurie did a sketch where a government minister responsible for a broadcasting deregulation bill arrives at a restaurant and the waiter pretends to be mortified that someone who put so much emphasis on variety has only been given one ordinary set of cutlery, takes it away, and comes back with a huge number of plastic coffee stirrers which he pours on the table, screaming that they might all be rubbish but at least he's got plenty of choices.
  • Rome has Pompey, after losing his power and his fortune, philosophizing on how easy life is for slaves, to be free of the burden of choice and responsibility.
  • The Doctor, upon noticing that the human race has been enslaved yet again, muses, "I think you like it. Easy life."

Music

  • Devo's song "Freedom of Choice" is about this, with examples like a dog not being able to decide between two bones and starving to death. The refrain changes to the trope name at the end.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin's dad goes on a rant about this as he's out shopping and grows increasingly frustrated with the fact that for every item he wants to buy there are countless meaningless options. The particular focus of his rant is potato chips. "What if I want less fat and less salt? What distinguishes 'Lite' from these others?" And don't even ask about the peanut butter.

Philosophy

  • The paradox of Buridan's Ass, which posits that an ass presented with two equally available sources of food and water would die because it lacks a reason to select one rather than the other.

Religion

  • In LDS theology this is was a large part of what got Satan kicked out of heaven. The purpose of mortality is to come to Earth in order to make choices for ourselves, with the risk that we might make wrong choices and not return to live with God. Satan and his followers were kicked out because Satan's plan was to remove free will and force everyone to make the right choices. This would mean, in theory, that everyone would be able to return with God. All he wanted in return was to be placed above God. Then they started a war when they didn't get their way.

Video Games

  • During one of the Truth-sessions of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood you can hear how one of the modern descendants of the Knights Templar describes how they will provide mankind freedom from democracy and choice, and all base and material for a good measure.
  • The central principle of the Qun in Dragon Age. It's remarkably popular with other races, mostly because the various human, dwarven, and elven societies tend to be corrupt, prejudiced, and unequal enough that meaningful choice is an illusion for most citzens anyway, and at least the Qunari will offer you genuine respect regardless of your allotted role.
    • Several mages enjoys being under the templar rule. Finn, for example, says he hated being outside and is only convinced to leave the tower because of his interest in the eluvian
  • According to Tabitha in Fallout: New Vegas, the super mutants long for this situation, given her advertisement for "Utobitha" is to not have to think for yourself

Web Comics


Western Animation

  • The Futurama episode where Lrr is going to eat Leela as a public spectacle. His exchange with the waiter goes as such:

 Waiter: That comes with soup or salad.

Lrr: Uh, salad.

Waiter: Ranch or vinaigrette?

Lrr: (growling) Vinaigrette...

Waiter: Balsamic or raspberry?

Lrr: [pulls out directed-energy weapon and vaporizes waiter]

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