Created By: Xzenu on April 20, 2011 Last Edited By: Xzenu on September 13, 2011

Aggressive Categorism

A character establishing or upholding prejudice in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary

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  • Old title: Square Stereotype, Round Group

Call this an unfair generalization if you must, but old people are no good at everything.
--Moe Syzlack, The Simpsons, when Mr. Burns wants to join the bowling team

Bob knows that Alice is stupid: She's a woman (or a non-white, or whatever), and women are stupid - never mind that Alice got a PHD and 150 IQ, she's still a woman... and women are stupid, thus Alice is stupid. If Bob finally accept that Alice is indeed smart, he might resort to claiming that she is not "really" a woman. Bonus points if Bob use Alice not being stupid as an example of the principle that women are stupid - either because she's too smart to be a real woman, or as "the exception that verifies the rule". Also bonus points if "Alice" isn't even a woman, and Bob simply assumed a neutral Internet nickname to be female because he thinks the person is stupid. Alternatively, Alice actually do something stupid one single time - and Bob draws the conclusion that she is (and all other women are) always stupid.

Of course, this is all simply Bob doing some really bad categorism: Racism if it's about race, sexism if it's about gender, ageism if it's about age, homophobia if it's about homosexuals, and so on. If Alice listen too much to him, she may come to suffer from Internalized Categorism.

This trope can come into play in two ways: Either establishing or upholding. The first is often in the form of making a raging overgeneralization about a group - one that cannot possibly be true in all cases, and is often so outrageous that it might even be hard to find a valid example. The second is upholding the prejudice in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Often with the help of Theory Tunnel Vision, Insane Troll Logic and/or I Reject Your Reality.

Sometimes combined with Straw Affiliation to make it extra insane: If you have Trait X you belong to group Y, and everyone in group Y are Z. For example, if you are a man who has long hair, you obviously turn over gravestones and nail live kittens to church doors. Because men with long hair are satanists, and satanists do that kind of stuff. Compare Nonsense Classification and Insane Troll Logic. When used by characters rather than the narrative itself, tropes such as Depraved Homosexual, Bondage Is Bad and All Gays Are Pedophiles are often played as aggressive categorism. With the first two tropes, this come in the form of reducing people to their sexuality and reducing the sexuality to the sex. With the last two tropes, it comes in the form of deciding that everyone who have quality X (In this case gay or sadomasochist) also has the unrelated quality Y (in this case pedophile or generally bad person).

Often done by Racist Grandma, He-Man Woman Hater, Windmill Crusader, Straw Loser or Noble Bigot, and often used to highlight how shallow the character's thinking is. This is often Played for Laughs on the character's expense or as a joke in it's own right. Rarely done by more nuanced andf Played for Drama characters such as Troubled Sympathetic Bigot. Note that "There Are Two Kinds of People in the World" is usually not this: Even when it's not a joke or metaphor, it's usually restricted to one parameter.

Comic Books
  • In Chick Tracts, protagonists are likely to do this to Christians or non-Christians depending on whether they are Saved or not. Those who do it to Christians are always proven wrong (and either get Saved or go to hell), while the Christians who do the same thing always turn out to be right.
  • In Bitchy Bitch, Midge's insufferable fundamentalist coworker does this all the time. For example, she "know" that the recently hired temp is a witch who can put curses on people, because she has a neclace with a pentagram.
  • Bitchy Butch do this all the time, living in her own unhealthy little world where all men (and all heterosexual women) are total Jerkasses. The only time managed to see a guy for the nice person he really is, she refused to see that he's male.


Stand-Up Comedy

  • In Arne Anka, the protagonist make a jerky attempt to fliert with a woman, who respond by exclaiming to her friend that all men are the same kind of pigs. This cause Arne to go on a rant about starting concentration camps for men, and giving the woman the "Sieg Heil" salute.

Western Animation
  • Played straight with Lampshade in The Simpsons. See page quote.
Community Feedback Replies: 13
  • April 20, 2011
    Personally, I don't think this is tropable (Stereotype covers this), but if it is, I would call it Grossly Incorrect Stereotype or just Incorrect Stereotype.
  • April 20, 2011
    The "Alternatively, Alice is not 'really' a woman," fallacy is covered in No True Scotsman.
  • April 20, 2011
    This is just prejudice - when a stereotype is false and someone insists that it's true anyway.
  • April 20, 2011
    @robybang: True. Added pothole.

    @ajmint & Elihu: Prejudice itself is too wide to be a trope, but this trope is indended to be "Sticking to prejudice in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary." Updated laconic to that.
  • April 21, 2011
    Call this an unfair generalization if you must, but old people are no good at everything.
    --Moe Syzlack, The Simpsons, when Mr. Burns wants to join the bowling team
  • April 21, 2011
    This trope can come into play in two ways: Either by establishing a prejudice by making a raging overgeneralization, or by upholding a prejudice in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    Fine. The definition of bigotry is sticking to prejudice despite outside influence, including evidence. The point I'm trying to make is that prejudice/bigotry is not a tropable concept outside of the character that uses it (e.g. Racist Granma, He Man Woman Hater, Noble Bigot, Troubled Sympathetic Bigot).
  • April 24, 2011

    We both agree that characters being portrayed as prejudiced is tropable, while prejudice as such is too wide and flimsy to be tropable.

    If this trope was simply "Bob's opinion about Alice is prejudiced", it would be YMMV as well as a bit of People Sit On Chairs. However, it is not. This trope is supposed to be about a dissonance built into the narrative, a dissonance where a prejudice is shown to be wrong and yet is upheld anyway. This dissonance is surely tropable.
  • April 26, 2011

    I see what you mean now: it's not a character trope so much as a plot one, specifically, a typical encounter-with-bigotry plot (which I can't seem to find a find a trope for?) where the moral is that some people won't change their ways even when proven wrong. I can definitely support the "upholding a prejudice" part as a distinct and usable trope, with the "establish a prejudice" as a inherent precursor.
  • September 4, 2011
    Yeah, just needed to structure the whole thing up a bit. The first draft was vague.
  • September 12, 2011
    I think no Real Life examples.
  • September 12, 2011
    Sounds like a good idea.
  • September 12, 2011
    Related to Theory Tunnel Vision (which I believe was launched).
  • September 13, 2011
    Added it together with Insane Troll Logic and I Reject Your Reality as common ways the upholding is done. Thanks.