Created By: lakingsif on June 24, 2013 Last Edited By: lakingsif on June 28, 2013

Uncertain Ethnicity

A person could be part-absolutely-anything, from the way they look, causing heritage confusion.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
a.k.a. Where The Hell Are You From!?

Possible title with Added Alliterative Appeal: Confused Creed

---

Mixed Race, Funny Foreigners, and even Fauxreigners, are generally Non-Specifically Foreign. This can be seen as lampshading that.

When they are, or even when their nationality is specified, other characters don't seem to have a clue where they're from - or, if they're told, have no idea whereabouts that nation is. So, In-Universe, Mr. Smith is confused over Don James Joachim Angel Louis Carlos Sergei Weinstein's ethnicity.

Characters with Uncertain Ethnicity may have a Stock Foreign Name and a questionable accent, or may not, but will generally have a character(s) unable to identify their ancestry.

Though their home country may have been mentioned - or is obvious to everyone but The Ditz - someone else will ask "Where the hell are you from!?", or list a bunch of possible places, and no answer is given.

If an answer is given expect it to be made up and so non-specific it sounds Spanish, but Russian, but English, but African... all at the same time or for a list of descriptors of the country, usually making it somewhat of a Patchwork Map nation and so general or confusing it could still be anywhere.

They don't always have to be asked, though, just making a character's ethnicity so uncertain that they look native just about anywhere - and then showing this off - is lampshading being an unknown race.

When done in Film and TV it may be a crew in-joke lampshading the Uncertain Ethnicity of someone who Plays Great Ethnics, even when they're not. In other cases it may be a reference to the creator's Uncertain Ethnicity or background.

If the person's homeland is simply unknown (and they likely don't remember, either), they're an Undisclosed Native.

Sister Trope to Non-Specifically Foreign. Those with Uncertain Ethnicity may also very well be Ambiguously Brown.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Deunan Knute from Apple Seed is of mixed races. The most that is ever hinted at is that she is "of African descent", and she is even shown to have a black mother in Appleseed XIII, despite being a completely white Caucasian girl. Shirow Masamune says this was intentional, and on top of purposely leaving that vague, says that he never intended to make her partially Japanese like many would expect from the medium.

Film

Literature
  • Lu Tze of the Discworld is a Badass Grandpa so "generically ethnic" he goes unnoticed anywhere, be it in the disc's equivalent of Shamgri-La, Omnia (Jerusalem), or Ankh-Morpork (London / New York).
  • George MacDonald Fraser, in one of the McAuslan books, describes his Scottish Highland regiment tying itself in knots over an issue of this sort. A Scottish regiment, as you might expect, is sensitive about issues of ethnicity and nationality. There is an expectation that anyone wearing the kilt should at least look Scottish, especially if he marches in the pipe band. All this was busted wide-open by a new recruit, who can play the bagpipes to perfection, but who was recruited initially by the Liverpool Scottish. Not only does the new bagpiper speak with a Scouse accent that would make Lily Savage sound cultured - he is also black, or at least mixed-race. As MacDonald Fraser points out, one side of his family must have been Scottish. The Regiment agonises over whether it is going to be good for the look of the thing, if a black Scotsman is allowed to march with the pipe-band.

Live-Action TV
  • On That '70s Show the kids quiz Fez and his friend "from the other side of the island" on their country and are left none-the-wiser. Wilmer Valderrama is American with Venezuelan ancestry and said he made the accent "40% Cuban" and "60% homosexual". The friend has what one might call a 'British Accent'.
  • In New Girl Cece is Ambiguously Brown, but says her parents are Indian in S1E05 (though she's from Oregon). Schmidt still lists a few different countries when he asks her in S2 and explains his Christmas gift to her with "Cocoa, for your brown...-ness". Hannah Simone is actually a mix of Indian, German, Italian, Cypriot, and Greek.

Western Animation
Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • June 24, 2013
    StarSword
    Supertrope to Ambiguously Brown.
  • June 24, 2013
    Chabal2
    Lu Tze of the Discworld is a Badass Grandpa so "generically ethnic" he goes unnoticed anywhere, be it in the disc's equivalent of Shamgri La, Omnia (Jerusalem), or Ankh-Morpork (London / New York)
  • June 24, 2013
    lakingsif
    ^ is it discussed? otherwise it's probably Non Specifically Foreign... hmm. Non Specifically Foreign is just when the creators make a character plain old not-American. Okay, that's good, it's lampshading.
  • June 24, 2013
    AgProv
    George Mac Donald Fraser, in one of the Mc Auslan books, describes his Scottish Highland regiment tying itself in knots over an issue of this sort. A Scottish regiment, as you might expect, is sensitive about issues of ethnicity and nationality. There is an expectation that anyone wearing the kilt should at least look Scottish, especially if he marches in the pipe band. All this was busted wide-open by a new recruit, who can play the bagpipes to perfection, but who was recruited initially by the Liverpool Scottish. Not only does the new bagpiper speak with a Scouse accent that would make Lily Savage sound cultured - he is also black, or at least mixed-race. As Mc Donald Fraser points out, one side of his family must have been Scottish. But the Regiment agonises over whether it is going to be good for the look of the thing, if a black Scotsman is allowed to march with the pipe-band...
  • June 25, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Generally when you add a Missing Supertrope, I think you're not supposed to include the items that belong on the subtrope (otherwise this would largely make the subtrope redundant), so you might want to pull the New Girl Ambiguously Brown example. I think the Family Guy one should stay since it covers a lot, though.

    The name should probably make it a bit clearer that it's about a lampshading, though.
  • June 25, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In Not Another Teen Movie Areola has a different foreign accent in every scene she's in.
  • June 25, 2013
    DRCEQ
    • Deunan Knute from Apple Seed is of mixed races. The most that is ever hinted is that she is "of African decent" and is even shown to have a black mother in Appleseed XIII despite being a completely white Caucasian girl. Shirow Masamune says this intentional, and on top of purposely leaving that vague, says that he never intended to make her partially Japanese like many would expect from that medium.
  • June 25, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    The purpose of the laconic is to explain the trope as simply as possible. It's not a place for jokes, puns or the like.
  • Western Animation
  • June 25, 2013
    MorganWick
    I'm not sure this is the Super Trope to Ambiguously Brown, at least judging by the latter's description, which has nothing to do with lampshading or even in-universe.
  • June 25, 2013
    lakingsif
    ^ I was told to put it, I agree with you.

    Title... it's not exactly just lampshading Non Specifically Foreign or the like, but when a character's ethnicity is uncertain. Non Specifically Foreign is the trope for a person that is foreign, okay, but we won't tell you where from. This is different, as the person could be native to the others' country, but have heritage from many places or be part-absolutely anything from how they appear.

    Erm... better laconic. On it.
  • June 25, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    The first sentence in the description of Ambiguously Brown:

    "An ambiguously brown character is one with a skin tone that's definitely not Northern European, but it's not entirely clear what ethnicity they're supposed to be."

    To me it seems that these two tropes are rather obviously related, so at least you should mention Ambiguously Brown somewhere in the description.
  • June 25, 2013
    MorganWick
    Related, but if anything Ambiguously Brown is an alternative supertrope to this. This is basically lampshading Ambiguously Brown, Non Specifically Foreign, or other related tropes, right?
  • June 25, 2013
    MrRuano
  • June 26, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Forgot to say this in my previous post, but you should cut the Circular Links from the draft (at least before launching).
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=f1u92bvk9xygznvff20hysg8