5 Fictional Universes Where Being a Regular Person Sucks
Fantasy and sci-fi are bigger than ever right now. It took a long time, but society as a whole has embraced the nerd genres and come to accept that Star Wars and the Avengers are cool. We like superheroes, we like comic books and outer-space battles and wizards and orcs and guys who chop peoples' heads off with swords. The nerd genres are legit. Except for that My Little Pony shit. That's just creepy and weird.
The unaddressed issue with sci-fi and fantasy, however, is that everyone is someone. Fantasy takes what look like everyday schlubs and makes them heroes. Sci-fi is full of the same sorts of dashing champions who were at first maybe everyday Joes like you and me but rose to the occasion to defeat an alien armada or magically drop-kick a whole army of butt-faced trolls. These stories always focus on heroes, even when they set up a story with someone who is "clearly" not a hero from the get-go. So what happens to the people who really aren't heroes? What's life like on Coruscant for a cab driver? How does a cobbler in Rohan get by? Not as well as you might think, I'd wager.
Tolkien created a rich and amazing world with his Lord of the Rings series and assorted companion books, and Peter Jackson brought them visually to life in a pretty intense and amazing way. If you get past the destructive elements of entire races of awful, man-eating beasts, Middle-Earth seems like a decent place at first glance. It's full of wonder and adventure and super sexy elf babes. Not too shabby, right?
The downside to Middle-Earth seems to be the fact that about 2,000 people live there, give or take. Maybe there's more, but you never see them anywhere. Rohan looks for all the world like an outdoor flea market -- how is that a major force of the human population? And Gondor looks visually stunning and all, but it also seems to be the size of that castle at Disney World. I don't know how many enslaved children run that thing, but it's not a noteworthy amount.
Wait, why is Obama in this photo?
I'm not saying there's much wrong with living in a tiny world, and I have no doubt someone in the comments can quickly correct me with a footnote from The Silmarillion or some bullshit that indicates the population of Numenor used to be whatever they keep typing long after I've started drinking straight vodka. I'm just saying that Middle-Earth, in the films, seems really sparsely populated. And that means hooking up is an issue.
You see at the end that Sam gets that hot little hobbit lady he's always had his eye on, and that's great for him, but what happens to Frodo and Merry and Pippin? Are there any other hobbit women under the age of 60? And dwarfs are an entire race of people that seem to have no homes and no women at all. For all we know, there are literally just two dozen dwarfs in the world who once shared a woman between them. Why is that?
"And my ax! 'member when I said that? Eh. I was on Sliders."
The fact is, if you're not an adventuring hero or some pompous elf who has the option to hop a boat to God knows where, there's not a lot going on in Middle-Earth worth living for. What the hell do the people in Rohan do all day? That was their capital city in the movie, right? It looked like depression shat itself on a country meadow during a rainstorm. And again, where are all the women? There were like five for the whole population. Middle-Earth is going to have some serious population issues with the lack of ladies around. The whole place makes China look like a suburban Tupperware party.
The utopian future of Star Trek has a lot going for it. There's space travel, which has to be fun, machines that make food just by asking for it, holodecks that can recreate any reality, and green ladies you can safely have sex with. If all that was in the travel brochure for any place on Earth, we'd all go there right now.
The issues in Star Trek start when you try to reconcile human nature with the ideals Star Trek wants to represent. For instance, in the future of Earth, there is no money anymore. Everyone in the human part of the Star Trek universe works for the good of humanity. This in turn means there's a guy in Starfleet who has had to snake a toilet after some Andorian clogged it with a big ol' space turd, and that guy did it just because. Just because he chose to be the guy who snakes future shitters for the greater good of society.
"Turds from a blue lady! Can you imagine!"
I appreciate the idea of an elevated society, and that really is where the fiction joins the science in Star Trek, but I think it suspends disbelief to an egregious point when we're expected to believe that people make the world run for no monetary gain. But believe it we must, and that means if you're not in Starfleet, flying through the galaxy and boning all these super sweet aliens, you could very well be a McFuture fry cook who works a shitty dead end job because you literally have nothing better to do with your time. Someone must be doing these jobs.
Ignoring the mundane and awful jobs, imagine being an artist in the future. You paint a masterpiece, a glorious vista the likes of which no one has ever seen before, the picture of pure beauty. So then what? Either you give it away, which is noble, or someone says, "Cool, can I hang that over my toilet?" and you agree, because that's what you do. You make art, and then people just have it after and maybe that gives you some notoriety, but you don't get anything to help pay for supplies. But that's OK, because you get your supplies for free, too. It's a circle of unfulfillment.
Thanks to the idea of a machine that can produce anything you want by asking for it, maybe the manufacturing industry as a whole, any industry that produces something, would be shut down to allow people to pursue more personal interests, but we've still seen plenty of times that bars and such exist in the future. So those people manning and maintaining these businesses just do it because? For shits and giggles? What kind of terrible childhood do the people of the future have to endure to make them want to clean up alien vomit for free after a night of partying in a bar that doesn't charge money?
The Marvel Universe
Of all the universes in the universe, the Marvel universe has to suck the most for everyday people. Do you have any idea how many aliens have invaded the Earth since 1962 in the Marvel universe? Or how many superpowered beings have basically destroyed the world as we know it? Looking at you, Apocalypse, you son of a bitch.
If it's not Skrulls, or Sentinels, or Galactus, or the Celestials, or Ultron, or Dr. Doom, or literally hundreds of other characters, there's still heroes themselves going all batshit, like the Hulk or Professor X. You can't be safe in Marvel because there are beings running around who can literally unmake reality just by thinking about it. Do you feel safe in a world where the Scarlet Witch could unmake time itself? How can you go work at Burger King with that weighing on your shoulders day in and day out? Oh sure, the Avengers are great; just don't make them angry, because all of them literally have the ability to fairly simply wipe a city off the map.
Every single human in the Marvel universe should rightly have an astronomical blood pressure reading and severe agoraphobia. Nothing good ever happens to the people of the Marvel universe. Heroes don't make their lives better; the heroes in Marvel, at best, prevent their lives from getting worse. That's not a fun way to live. It's not like the X-Men showed up and brightened your day so you have a fun story to tell the guys at work; the X-Men showed up and maybe stopped you from being shredded to pieces by a futuristic robot that has machine guns for eyes and now you don't have a house and the guys from work won't hear about it because Apocalypse used the building you work in as a club to beat the shit out of Colossus.
The world in Game of Thrones doesn't seem to have many upsides. Everyone is dirty; there's rampant poverty, slavery, rape, and murder; and pretty much every politician is the most corrupt bastard who ever lived. The little people don't have a lot of advantages. Aside from boobs, anyway. Westeros really seems to produce a lot of boobs.
Now overlook the extremely poor job the government in Westeros (which is currently in a state of utter turmoil as new kings are declared and murdered probably faster than the news can travel to most peasants) does, and the fact that some of the largest armies patrolling the land seem to be killing and raping villagers for sport, and consider the nation as a whole. Do you see the big problem the world has, and has had since the very beginning? The life and safety of every single individual south of the Wall are dependent on the skill and commitment of a small army of criminals and unwanted bastards who have been given the option of execution or becoming the last line of defense against a terrifying, ancient evil. What a fucking terrible idea.
"I'm ready to man the Wall. And shit myself."
Naturally the problem is that, in modern Westeros, no one believes in the monsters beyond the Wall, so why not throw all the human trash you have at the Wall to guard against wildlings? But we as viewers and readers are aware the monsters are real. The guys at the Wall know they're real. And winter, which can apparently last for years, will allow them to come down from the North and turn everyone they come across into pale, blue-eyed zombies.
The safety of all the good people of Westeros is therefore constantly in the hands of inept assholes. There's literally only five or six decent people on the entire continent, which really makes it hard to come up with a reasonable method of staving off mass death and destruction on a global scale, which seems to be what's about to happen. No one cares about anyone in Westeros, and if you're a little dirt farmer down by Moat Cailin, well, screw you, you better start placing bets on who's going to murder you first.
Do you remember when we first met Luke Skywalker? He was on Tattooine, living a simple life with his aunt and uncle as moisture farmers. Moisture farmers! That's the life you have to look forward to as a nobody in the Star Wars universe. I think that may be even dumber than a dirt farmer. The universe of Star Wars is so depressing, people live in the desert and collect dew as a way of life. And that's when life is good, because there's a race of weird, hooting monsters with rifles who might show up and murder you out there, too, if the tooth-filled mega sand vag doesn't swallow you first.
Farming moisture on Tattooine is of course only one career path for the everyday fella in Star Wars; maybe you're going to live on Coruscant instead. If that planet doesn't have the highest suicide rate in the galaxy, I will eat my hat. It's one big city with multiple levels of flying traffic and nothing else going on. Everyone is always going somewhere, and that seems to be all that ever happens in the entire world. If the entire planet Earth was Detroit, would you ever open your curtains again? Would you look outside and smile ever? No, you wouldn't. Not at all. Because you live in the shittiest place anyone has ever thought of, and no amount of flying cars can make that better.
The largest employer in the galaxy seems to be the Empire, and by the time parts IV to VI roll around it's clear that the silly clone troopers from the prequels have been replaced by guys who need jobs and don't mind really uncomfortable uniforms that offer no protection and seem to have no purpose or benefit whatsoever. Those guys get shot all the time. How they rook people into that job we may never know, but it should be obvious to everyone in a galaxy far, far away that Stormtrooping is a shitty way to make a living and has little room for advancement. All things being equal, the only cool and relatively safe job in the Star Wars universe seems to be bartender, and even then you have to get used to people shooting the place up and some really awful space jazz. Plus the threat of having your whole planet blown up by small moons, if it strikes someone's fancy to do so.