Created By: dogwolfman on June 22, 2012 Last Edited By: dragonslip on July 27, 2012

Historical protagonists with vague views

Protagonists in historical settings have no stated views on any controversial subjects

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Trope
If you’re watching a historical peace set more then a few decades ago chances are you’re never going to hear the protagonist’s explicit views on any thing like sexism, Racism, war, politics or any other controversial issue. The reason for this is because depending on the setting, having such issues openly discussed would mean the writer has to either give the character horrible but period accurate views and risk the audience losing sympathy with them, or give the character modern but historically inaccurate views and abandon any attempt at realism

Occasionally there’s a very odd variation of this where a characters is shown doing something horrible but we’re never told their justification for doing it. The most likely reason for that is because it allows the audience to more easily tell themselves the character doesn’t know any better


Examples

film
  • Gladiator: Maximums would probably seem a lot less sympathetic if he ever tried to explain why he thinks conquering the Germanic tribes is morally A-ok
  • The 2004 King Arthur movie, much like Maximums above we do know he believes in Rome’s superiority but we never hear him say that justifies them conquering the world


Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • June 22, 2012
    NimmerStill
    One way to avert both Politically Correct History and Values Dissonance, I suppose.

    I know I've seen it a lot, but I'll have to post as I remember. In Gangs Of New York, although the bad guys periodically denigrate black people, Amsterdam Vallon never does. We also never hear anyone's true opinion of the "she-hes".
  • June 23, 2012
    Damr1990
    Secular Hero would be a Sub-Trope of This i think
  • June 23, 2012
    Riptiderex
    The Frame of mind Friendly Forerunner!
  • June 23, 2012
    Topazan
    I'm not sure if I understand the Gladiator example. Maximus was pretty clear about his belief in Roman superiority. IIRC, he said something like:
    I've seen the rest of the world. It is dark and cruel. Rome is the light.
  • June 23, 2012
    Earnest
  • July 24, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    FWIW it may also be that for people of that period, such issues weren't really contentious, and the racist/sexist views weren't controversial, but "just the way things are." In that case, too, there's little or no need to comment on them, they're merely taken as read. Something along the lines of, "Everybody knows..." Autres temps, autres moeurs.

    @ Damr1990 In some cases, possibly. It really depends on why the hero is seen to be secular. Mere Conservation Of Detail wouldn't fit, but a nonbeliever who doesn't cop to their atheism/agnosticism to avoid in-universe criticism and/or avoid alienating large portions of the audience would. I'd call it "some overlap".

    Spelling corrections: "losing", not "loosing"; "abandon", not "abadon"; "themselves", not "them selves".
  • July 24, 2012
    AgProv
    Winston Churchill was actually in pretty much full agreement with the Nazis over something called "eugenics" - the idea that a nation should try to scientifically breed the best, the healthiest, the fittest people it could, and that "flawed" or retarded people should be euthenised - is, the Downs Syndrome or CP baby should be allowed to die, and that adult specimens should be steriolised or mercy-killed. Granted, this was a common viewpoint in the 1920's and 1930's, and was not just held by nazis and fascists - social democratic Sweden actually applied this as an item of faith and got further down the road with it than either Britain or Germany. Public protest in Germany so alarmed the Nazis that they dropped the plan - the one time Germany resisted the Nazi Party. But Winston was all in favour of it here...
  • July 24, 2012
    Waterlily
    Does this count?

    In the Felicity books from American Girls Collection, Felicity's beloved grandfather owns a large plantation in Colonial Virginia. The issue of slaves is never mentioned.
  • July 24, 2012
    TBeholder
  • July 25, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^^^What kind of example is that supposed to be? Since this is about leaving out reference to someone's views, it can't apply to Real Life; Real Life doesn't leave out anything. Are there particular works which gloss over those aspects of Churchill?
  • July 25, 2012
    AgProv
    I should have added that Winston Churchill is such an abiding hero that modern intrpretations gloss over the less appealing aspects of his personality such as the belief in eugenics or the fact that as a government minister before the First World War, he sent troops in with instructions to shoot dead striking coalminers. People don't like to be reminded that heroes have dark sides - in this respect modern British history is as guilty as anyone else of sanitising the past and whitewashing over the inconvenient bits. representations of Churchill in literature, TV and film always skirt around the darker side, even if most of British high society in the 1930's thought the same way. It may have happened as part of real Life, but if it happened outside living memory, the spin the historian puts on it matters more!
  • July 25, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^Thanks; I'm aware of who Winston Churchill is. I still think there should be some examples of works which gloss over those details.
  • July 26, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    Should we only list aversions? I.e. modern works, set in historical times that feature otherwise likeable characters boasting unsavoury contemporary views, e.g. women shouldn't vote, pro-slavery, flat world?
  • July 26, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^Why only aversions?
  • July 26, 2012
    jatay3
    Flat world is unsavory compared with pro-slavery? Isn't that like Arson Murder And Jaywalking?
  • If launched, this should be indexed in No Real Life Examples Please.
  • July 27, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^Right, but that doesn't include real people portrayed in non-fiction or based-on-a-true-story works. Like I said, it doesn't make sense for Real Life because there's no such thing as glossing over details there.
  • July 27, 2012
    TBeholder
    how it's not either aversion of Author Filibuster (lack of emphasizis on Controversial!TM themes) or outright Politically Correct History (lack of "inconvenient" details)?
  • July 27, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^It's not just an aversion of anything, because it's a positive tool to use in storytelling. And it's not Politically Correct History, because that does involve filling in the details.
  • July 27, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    Nimmer Still: sorry, I thought this was intended as an Omnipresent Trope, my mistake. jatay3: it is kinda Arson Murder And Jay Walking, I just meant views that a modern audience would find unpalatable in general.

    I may have misunderstood, I thought this trope about the way films/tv shows/whatever usually want to have their cake and eat it, in terms of avoiding anachronistic levels of enlightenment for the era but not going so far as to SHOW the characters espousing the unpleasant views they were likely to have had. e.g. a modern day story about white Victorian-era explorers in Darkest Africa has options a) ignore all unpleasant ideas of the day and have the explorers and the natives get along just fine b) go Darker And Edgier, show that the explorers plan to invade, boss the natives around and steal their resources c) the topic never comes up, the explorers don't meet any other humans on their journey or something.
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