Created By: RaustBD on August 22, 2013 Last Edited By: RaustBD on September 3, 2013
Troped

Tragic Bigot

A character who hates a group because of a painful/traumatic experience a member of the group inflicted upon them

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Roger Rabbit: What could have possibly happened to you to turn you into such a sourpuss?
Eddie Valiant: You really want to know? I'll tell you. A toon killed my brother.
Roger Rabbit: A toon? No!
Eddie Valiant: Yes, a toon. We were investigating a robbery at the First National Bank of Toontown. Back in those days, me and Teddy liked working Toontown, thought it was a lot of laughs. Anyway, this guy got away with a zillion simoleons. We trailed him to a little dive down on Yukster Street. We went in. Only he got the drop on us, literally. Dropped a piano on us from fifteen stories. Broke my arm, Teddy never made it. I never did find out who that guy was. All I remember was him standing over me laughing, with those burning red eyes, and that high, squeaky voice. He disappeared into Toontown after that.

The Tragic Bigot is a character who has developed an Irrational Hatred of a demographic, race, species, subculture, etc., as the result of a traumatic and tragic incident involving that group in the character's past. This typically manifests as the death of one or more of the bigot's loved ones, the utter ruination of the bigot's life, or something similarly horrible. As a good rule of thumb, the Tragic Bigot would be a straight-up woobie if they had come out of the incident without holding it against their tormenter's kind.

This doesn't justify the Tragic Bigot's bigotry; the Tragic Bigot is still a bigot, and their hatred is still irrational. However, when this Dark and Troubled Past is revealed, it quite often causes their peers (and the audience) to think better of them as a character, or at least not hate them as much. It often paints their bigotry in a different light, portraying it as one of the personal demons that an otherwise good character has to fight.

And this is likely why this is such a common trope for bigots: compared to a regular bigot, the Tragic Bigot has a far higher capacity to be a good person underneath it all, and thus any non-villainous bigot in a story has a very good chance of being this trope. After all, straight-up bigotry is widely seen as a villainous trait.

This also, however, can make a Tragic Bigot far more hurtful. Since the Tragic Bigot is often an otherwise good person, this gives their remarks far more sting because the characters who are the subjects of their bigotry can't simply dismiss them as a Jerk Ass and a lost cause they should just ignore. In fact, depending on how tragic the Tragic Bigot is and just how many of that group took part, it can sometimes cause characters in that group to doubt themselves and maybe even fear that the Tragic Bigot could be right about them (this rarely if ever lasts very long).

Another important distinction of the Tragic Bigot is that they aren't likely to resort to bullying or mockery like a standard bigot would. The Tragic Bigot doesn't see their hated demographic as inferior, but as evil.

Finally, the Tragic Bigot has a very high chance of redeeming themselves. One very popular method is that the Tragic Bigot runs into their old tormentors during the course of the story and defeats them this time around. If this happens, expect the Tragic Bigot's bigotry to rapidly disappear.

Of course, a Tragic Bigot can still be a villain, and when they are this trope has some serious overlap with the Tragic Villain and Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.

Compare Freudian Excuse, which is what the Tragic Bigot's backstory is. Also see Troubled Sympathetic Bigot, which a Tragic Bigot is quite likely to also be (though the reverse isn't necessarily the case).


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • One Piece
    • Many fishmen, such as Fisher Tiger, hate humans because of how humans have treated them--they made him a slave, and it is implied that most fishmen hate humans for this reason. This is subverted when Hody Jones, the Big Bad, describes what humans have done to him to make him hate them: "Nothing."
    • Jinbe and Hatchan think Nami is this, since she has a bad childhood with Arlong (their former comrade). However, thanks to Hatchan's general kindness and Jinbe's story (as well as the incident in Sabaody involving Camie the mermaid), Nami has lost any kind of bad opinions towards fishmen (she still hates Arlong, though).
  • Pretty much everyone who hates humans in Rosario + Vampire has had a tragic encounter with them in one way or another. The biggest example is probably Ruby, whose tragic backstory (her parents both dying in a car crash with a human truck driver), while tragic, didn't reflect overly poorly on humanity (who else would there be to crash into, exactly?). However, she remains sympathetic because her Tragic Bigotry was actually nurtured and encouraged for her entire life by her psychotic witch mentor who wanted to use her in her plan to kill as many humans as possible.

Film
  • Eddie Valiant from Who Framed Roger Rabbit used to love Toontown and the toons who lived there until a toon killed his brother, which left him bitter and resentful towards toons in general, especially since he never found out which toon it was until Eddie finally confronts and defeats him at the end of the movie.
  • In Team America: World Police, Chris harbors a deep distrust of actors because he was molested by the cast after a Cats performance.
  • The Searchers: While Ethan Edwards is basically a Jerkass to everyone, he gains a little sympathy over his hatred of Comanches since a group of them killed his family and took his niece to live as one of them.
  • Derek from American History X became a neo-nazi after his father, a fireman, was murdered by black drug dealers when he tried to extinguish a fire.

Literature
  • Averted with Ciaphas Cain: He claims his parents were killed by kroot, to a kroot's face, but doesn't bear them any more ill-will towards them than the other xenos species. Of course, it's entirely possible he was lying.
  • Rene Vorbretten in A Civil Campaign hates Cetagandans for killing his father in battle only to find that one of his ancestors was a Cetagandan.

Live-Action TV
  • The wife of the coroner (both black) in Copper hates the Irish because her brothers were lynched by The Irish Mob. This causes issue, as the main character and the coroner's top client, Kevin Cochran, is an Irish immigrant.
  • Parodied in the Scrubs episode "My Five Stages", where Dr. Kelso has a bizarre hatred of bikers that causes the Janitor to raise an eyebrow and ask why on earth he hates bikes so much. Cue flashback to Dr. Kelso as a little kid, listening to his father who is on a bicycle with tons of luggage tied to it:
    Kelso's Father: Son, Daddy's got to move on. And I just want you to know that since the car is in your mother's name, I wouldn't be able to leave the family forever if it weren't for your bike.
  • Hilariously subverted in True Blood. When an anti-supernatural hate group called "The Obamas" (named after the Obama masks they use as disguises) starts savaging Bon Temps and murdering shifters, werewolves and vampires, Sookie tries to find out who the leader, called "The Dragon," really is. When it turns out to be a woman named Sweetie Des Arts, Sookie uses her psychic powers to try and find out why she hates supernaturals so much, only to find out that it's because her husband left her for a shifter. While that would be sufficient for less extreme actions, the fact that The Dragon launched an entire genocide campaign makes it unfathomably petty.
  • G'kar in Babylon 5 is bigoted against the Centauri for their crimes against his world. He outgrows this a little when he is forced to cooperate with a Centauri and when he sees the Centauri suffering too.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Major Kira bared quite a strong grudge against Cardassians thanks to her time as a member of the Bajoran resistance. Driven home when she has a few Not So Different moments (given the Cardassians were basically Space Nazis).
  • Most Hunters in Series/Supernatural start because someone they loved was killed by a supernatural creature. The Winchesters because the Yellow Eyed Demon killed their mother.
  • In Series/Merlin, Uther Pendragon hates sorcerers because Nimue used magic to get his sterile wife pregnant with Arthur, not knowing that to give birth to Arthur her life would be traded. This one is made worse due to the fact it's emphasized it was completely unintentional on her part.

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft setting. In Rudolph van Richten's Back Story his son Erasmus was kidnapped by a Vistani clan and sold him to a vampire. Van Richten tracked down the Vistani and (with a little help) killed all of them in a rage. When he found Erasmus, he learned that his son had been turned into a vampire and killed him. He hated all Vistani for years thereafter but eventually learned that not all Vistani are evil.

Video Games
  • Dragon Age: Origins. Teryn Logain hates Orlais because of the years Ferelden spent subjugated under them and his experiences in the war that won his country's independence. It gets to the point that he would rather betray King Cailan and become the Big Bad than accept their help in fighting the Darkspawn. It's tragic because he genuinely believes he's protecting his beloved homeland.
  • Rosie in Valkyria Chronicles is revealed in a bonus chapter to have lost her family to the Darcsen hunts, after her home was burned to the ground by the hunters thinking there were Darcsens inside it. She ultimately concluded from this that if there had been no Darcsens around her, her family would be alive. By the time in the story this has been revealed, she's gotten over it from her experiences with Darcsen injustice throughout the war[[note]]such as the famously dark scene where Squad 7 witnesses a concentration camp they knew was holding many Darcsens including children burned to the ground by the Imperials, something Rosie found disgusting[[/note]]. One possible story-concept had her song, "A Love Passed On" turning out to be a re-arranged traditional Darcsen song given to her by a robbed person that turned out to be Darcsen themselves.
  • Dawn of War II gives us Sergeant Avitus, a very grim man whose personality is defined, at least in part, by his hatred of the Imperial Guard, and always takes the opportunity to insult them as cowards when he can. This is mostly due to his childhood, where he was under the heel of a corrupt Guard regiment, and the Kronus Campaign, where he was in direct conflict with them and lost brothers to the fighting. This slowly does get averted, though, as the game progresses and the regiment he and his brothers help out manage to prove themselves as capable allies. That then gets averted yet again in the start of Chaos Rising, where he gets attacked by traitor guardsmen, but he doesn't completely revert back to how he originally was.
  • In Final Fantasy X, the Al Bhed are societal outcasts due to their use of machina technology, which the world-wide religion Yevon teaches are blasphemous and anger Sin, the Eldritch Abomination that roams the world. Wakka hates the Al Bhed because his brother was killed by Sin trying to fight alongside them using machina weapons.

Web Comics
  • Redcloak from The Order of the Stick. Initially he hated both humans (especially Paladins) because his village was wiped out by a group of Lawful Stupid paladins (since they were mechanically an Always Chaotic Evil race and literally only existed to serve as a source of XP) and Hobgoblins (because he and other goblins were bullied by their more martially inclined brethren). He got over the latter, but not the former.
  • Jamie from Khaos Komix is first introduced as a homophobic Jerkass, and although he shows some Hidden Depths in later appearances, he still comes across as a bigot. It's only in his own POV chapter that readers find out ''why'' he acts like that.

Western Animation
  • In a Courage the Cowardly Dog episode called "The Mask," a cat called "Kitty" hated all dogs because a domestic abuser of her friend Bunny is a dog.
  • In one episode of Futurama The Professor leads a group of protestors against Proposition Infinity, which would legalize Robosexuality. It turns out he hates Robosexuals because he used to be one before his girlfriend cheated on him for another robot, causing him to take his heart break out on all Robots with an interest in humans.
  • The Legend of Korra has Amon, who claims to hate all benders because a firebender murdered his family. It's a lie, but he still came to hate benders because his traumatic childhood convinced him that bending was evil.
    • Hiroshi Sato also turns out to be one of these, surprisingly enough; it's because his beloved wife was murdered by firebenders.
Community Feedback Replies: 50
  • August 22, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    There's a trope called Dark And Troubled Past but no such thing as "Tragic Backstory". Also, please cut the Circular Links from the draft.
  • August 22, 2013
    RaustBD
    Done, sorry about that. I realized that soon after I posted, is there a preview button here? I didn't see it.
  • August 22, 2013
    paycheckgurl
    In one episode of Futurama The Professor leads a group of protestors against Proposition Infinity, which would legalize Robosexuality. It turns out he hates Robosexuals because he used to be one before his girlfriend cheated on him for another robot, causing him to take his heart break out on all Robots with an interest in humans.
  • August 22, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^^ No, no, it's okay. My point wasn't to criticize but just to point out a few problems with the draft. Mistakes can always be fixed after all :)
  • August 22, 2013
    arbiter099
    Dragon Age Origins: Teryn Logain hates Orlais because of the years Ferelden spent subjugated under them and his experiences in the war that won his country's independence. It gets to the point that he would rather betray King Cailan and become the Big Bad than accept their help in fighting the Darkspawn. It's tragic because he genuinely believes he's protecting his beloved homeland.
  • August 22, 2013
    arromdee
    There's a storyline in One Piece recently. Many fishmen, such as Fisher Tiger, hate humans because of how humans have treated them--they made him a slave, and it is implied that most fishmen hate humans for this reason. This is subverted when Hody Jones, the Big Bad, describes what humans have done to him to make them hate him. "Nothing."
  • August 22, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ An attempted continuation of that one
    • Jinbe and Hatchan think Nami is this, since she has a bad childhood with Arlong (their former comrade). However, thanks to Hatchan's general kindness and Jinbe's story (as well as the incident in Sabaody involving Camie the mermaid), Nami has lost any kind of bad opinions towards fishmen (she still hates Arlong, though).
  • August 22, 2013
    DAN004
    Uh, we already have Troubled Sympathetic Bigot.

    ...OTOH, your description is much better. :P
  • August 22, 2013
    RaustBD
    Yeah I don't quite get what Troubled Sympathetic Bigot is supposed to be based on the description, it's a tad confusing, but it sounds like there's a good difference between that and this from what I can gather...
  • August 22, 2013
    Earnest
  • August 22, 2013
    Chernoskill
    • In Team America, Chris harbors a deep distrust of actors because he was molested by the cast after a Cats performance.
  • August 22, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    In Final Fantasy X, the Al Bhed are societal outcasts due to their use of machina technology, which the world-wide religion Yevon teaches are blasphemous and anger Sin, the Eldritch Abomination that roams the world. Wakka hates the Al Bhed because his brother was killed by Sin trying to fight alongside them using machina weapons.
  • August 22, 2013
    GoldenDarkness
    Does Not Like Men may be related.
  • August 23, 2013
    Frank75
  • August 23, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced and italicized work names, grouped examples by media, corrected an improper Example Indentation.

    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons Ravenloft setting. In Rudolph van Richten's Back Story his son Erasmus was kidnapped by a Vistani clan and sold him to a vampire. Van Richten tracked down the Vistani and (with a little help) killed all of them in a rage. When he found Erasmus, he learned that his son had been turned into a vampire and killed him. He hated all Vistani for years thereafter but eventually learned that not all Vistani are evil.
  • August 23, 2013
    Nithael
    Removed a reference to a "recent arc" of One Piece because Examples Are Not Recent. Also:

    • Derek from American History X became a neo-nazi after his father, a fireman, was murdered by black drug dealers when he tried to extinguish a fire.
  • August 23, 2013
    Synchronicity
    • The Legent Of Korra has Amon, who claims to hate all benders because a Firebender murdered his family. It's a lie.
  • August 23, 2013
    Bisected8
    • Redcloak from The Order Of The Stick. Initially he hated both humans (especially Paladins) because his village was wiped out by a group of Lawful Stupid paladins (since they were mechanically an Always Chaotic Evil race and literally only existed to serve as a source of XP) and Hobgoblins (because he and other goblins were bullied by their more martially inclined brethren). He got over the latter, but not the former.
  • August 23, 2013
    Synchronicity
    Edited my example. Spelled it wrong.
  • August 23, 2013
    Koveras
    Also from Dragon Age Origins: Zathrian the Elven Keeper is extremely bigoted against humans and werewolves, since the werewolves are actually descendants of a group of humans who killed his son and raped his daughter centuries ago, and whom he personally cursed to turn them into monsters.
  • August 23, 2013
    littlemissmuffet
    • Demona from Gargoyles hates humans after being treated poorly and ultimately betrayed by a few.
  • August 23, 2013
    Generality
    In I Robot, Del Spooner is distrustful of robots after one rescued him instead of a child from a car accident (because it calculated that he had a better chance of survival).
  • August 23, 2013
    MrRuano
    Dawn Of War II gives us Sergeant Avitus, a very grim man whose personality is defined, at least in part, by his hatred of the Imperial Guard, and always takes the opportunity to insult them as cowards when he can. This is mostly due to his childhood, where he was under the heel of a corrupt Guard regiment, and the Kronus Campaign, where he was in direct conflict with them and lost brothers to the fighting. This slowly does get averted, though, as the game progresses and the regiment he and his brothers help out manage to prove themselves as capable allies. That then gets averted yet again in the start of Chaos Rising, where he gets attacked by traitor guardsmen, but he doesn't completely revert back to how he originally was.
  • August 24, 2013
    Alucard
    Rosie in Valkyria Chronicles is revealed in a bonus chapter to have lost her family to the Darcsen hunts, after her home was burned to the ground by the hunters thinking there were Darcsens inside it. She ultimately concluded from this that if there had been no Darcsens around her, her family would be alive. By the time in the story this has been revealed, she's gotten over it from her experiences with Darcsen injustice throughout the war[[note]]such as the famously dark scene where Squad 7 witnesses a concentration camp they knew was holding many Darcsens including children burned to the ground by the Imperials, something Rosie found disgusting[[/note]]. One possible story-concept had her song, "A Love Passed On" turning out to be a re-arranged traditional Darcsen song given to her by a robbed person that turned out to be Darcsen them self.
  • August 24, 2013
    jastay3
    Rene Vorbretten in A Civil Campaign hates Cetagandans for killing his father in battle only to find that one of his ancestors was a Cetagandan.
  • August 24, 2013
    Bisected8
    Is The Order of the Stick not an example, then?
  • August 24, 2013
    jastay3
    G'kar in Babylon Five is bigoted against the Centauri for their crimes against his world. He outgrows this a little when he is forced to cooperate with a Centauri and when he sees the Centauri suffering too.
  • August 25, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Averted with Ciaphas Cain: He claims his parents were killed by kroot, to a kroot's face, but doesn't bear them any more ill-will towards them than the other xenos species. Of course, it's entirely possible he was lying.
    • Harry Potter: We finally understand why Aunt Petunia so hates wizards, seeing them as freaks, when it's revealed that her sister got an acceptance letter from Hogwarts, whereas she got declined.
  • August 25, 2013
    Bisected8
  • August 26, 2013
    randomsurfer
    The Searchers: While Ethan Edwards is basically a Jerkass to everyone, he gains a little sympathy over his hatred of Comanches since a group of them killed his family and took his niece to live as one of them.
  • August 30, 2013
    somerandomdude
    The wife of the coroner (both black) in Copper hates the Irish because her brothers were lynched by The Irish Mob. This causes issue, as the main character and the coroner's top client, Kevin Cochran, is an Irish immigrant.
  • August 30, 2013
    MsCC93
    In Courage The Cowardly Dog episode called "The Mask," a cat called "Kitty" hated all dogs because a domestic abuser of her friend Bunny is a dog.
  • September 1, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    i was about to add a hat (awesome work on the description), but then i noticed mine would be the fifth. but i think the description still needs a page quote and an image. so... withholding it.
  • September 1, 2013
    RaustBD
    Thanks! I'm considering the quote from Who Framed Roger Rabbit where Eddie explains what happened to his brother. As for an image... I'm drawing blanks on this, but I think we're looking for a comic or something that shows a character standing amidst the carnage/ashes and saying something to the effect of "Damn you X! I'll never forgive you for this!". I can't think of any comic-medium examples of this kind of scene though...
  • September 1, 2013
    MattStriker
    Jamie from Khaos Komix is first introduced as a homophobic Jerkass, and although he shows some Hidden Depths in later appearances, he still comes across as a bigot. It's only in his own POV chapter that readers find out ''why'' he acts like that.
  • September 1, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Troubled Sympathetic Bigot was mentioned in the eighth reply and you still haven't defined how these two relate to each other.
  • September 1, 2013
    RaustBD
    From what I understand, the Troubled Sympathetic Bigot is a bigot whose bigotry damages his life, while the Tragic Bigot is a character whose damaged life causes his bigotry. Do I have that right? There's no Laconic for it and it's a little confusing.
  • September 1, 2013
    GoldenDarkness
    Should people who became bigots towards another group because members of that group were bigoted towards them fit as well?
  • September 1, 2013
    Alucard
    ^ That sounds kind of tropeable itself, actually.
  • September 1, 2013
    RaustBD
    Yeah, I think that's a separate trope.
  • September 2, 2013
    DAN004
  • September 2, 2013
    RaustBD
    Two things: does my comparison of Troubled Sympathetic Bigot and Tragic Bigot work, and does anyone know of a good image of the kind I mentioned earlier?
  • September 2, 2013
    GoldenDarkness
    Bigot Vs Bigot looks to be more of a plot where opposing bigots meet.

    My mind is more, "Person from Group A is attack by members of Group B for merely being a member of Group A, so Person from Group A hates Group B in return."

    In a way, it's more tragic, because it involves mutual hatred.
  • September 2, 2013
    DAN004
    Sounds like Cycle Of Revenge to me, but involving bigots...
  • September 2, 2013
    RaustBD
    Back on topic: any suggestions for a page image?
  • September 2, 2013
    RaustBD
    If I don't get any suggestions for the page image within a day, I'm going to launch.
  • September 2, 2013
    GoldenDarkness
    I'm just asking wouldn't at least one of them be considered Tragic Bigot at least?
  • September 2, 2013
    RaustBD
    I think it sounds more like cycle of revenge.
  • September 3, 2013
    Synchronicity
    Addendum to the Korra example: Hiroshi Sato also turns out to be one of these, surprisingly enough; it's because his beloved wife was murdered by firebenders.
  • September 3, 2013
    RaustBD
    @Golden Darkness: I suppose one of them would be, now that I give it more thought, if it's clear who started it.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=5e6tez5zcgftdql4tgzsofd0&trope=TragicBigot