Created By: Xzenu on April 10, 2011 Last Edited By: Xzenu on April 20, 2011

Category Traitor (revision)

Someone consider Bob to be a traitor against his race, class, gender, or whatever .

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Rolling Updates * Needs More Examples

Bob belongs to a certain group, or at least Alice consider him to belong to it. And thus she demand that he stay "loyal" to this group. It's beside the point whether or not the group actually exist as a relevant group and whether Bob actually sympathize with it or not.

And thus, Alice will consider Bob a "traitor" or similar whenever he does something she consider to be against the group. This includes anything that might be beneficial to any other group, based on the assumption that life is a Zero Sum Game. (Note that words such as "traitor" or "betrayer" does not necessarily have to be invoked, as long as Alice make her position clear one way or another.)

This group can be exactly anything. In real life, psychological experiments has shown that people can quickly be made to develop group identity over any dividing lines, no matter how arbitrary and superficial. However, some dividers are more common then others. The classics are race, gender, class, religion and what sports team you're cheering for.

Branding someone a Category Traitor is usually Serious Business... at least for the character who does it, even if the narrative doesn't agree - the accuser can be portrayed as justified or at least as a good kind of bigot, but can also be portrayed as a Strawman Political or someone doing Activist Fundamentalist Antics. In either case, being branded as a Category Traitor might cause Internalized Categorism. In cases where the accusation itself is an obvious strawman, this trope can be called Straw Traitor.

No Real Life Examples, Please!. And no Audience reaction examples either: Only examples where one character is in-universe accused of betraying his category. Whether or not the accusation is portrayed as justified is worth mentioning, but not relevant to whether or not it counts as an example.


Comic Books
  • In Bitchy Butch, Butchy is very quick to brand other women as gender traitors for not sharing her misoandry (hatred & prejudice against men).
  • Whatever Love Means rant quite a bit about how men are expected & indoctrinated to be loyal to men in general, at the expense of women.


  • The Turner Diaries is built on this trope: The base premise is that being white without being a nazi is a crime, the Moral Event Horizon of "betraying" your race.
  • In Harry Potter, the Death-Eaters consider wizardy to be in the blood. They also feel that all "real" wizards are obliged to be "loyal" to "their own kind", and thus despise all regular humans, fantasy creatures, and above all else the so-called "mud-bloods": Those wizards that doesn't the deatheater ideology's arbitrary definition of a "real" wizard. Unsurprisingly, their cintempt for pureblood and halfblood wizards who care for muggles and mudbloods turn out to become a big part of their undoing as young Snape lose faith in them because of his love for the "mudblood" wizard Lily.
  • Huckleberry Finn's father (an uneducated, coarse slob) berated his son for taking up reading and doing quite well, because all their family were illiterate prior to that moment. He even goes so far as outright calling his son a traitor.

Live-Action TV
  • Seen in Coupling where Sally accuses a gay man of being a traitor because he supports the Conservatives.

Newspaper Comics
  • Surprisingly averted in The Boondocks. While Strawman Political characters abound, particularly black ones, never at any point do any of the characters seriously suggest that the others are race traitors. Even Uncle Ruckus, a self-hating black man who constantly expounds upon the joys of Caucasian-hood, is never rejected by his friends however misguided and extreme his actions become.
    • Subverted in the Trial of R. Kelly where Tom is accused of being a self hating black man because he's married to a white woman. However, he's accused of this by the white defense attorney.

  • In West Side Story, Maria is pressured to marry Chino simply because they are from the same ethnic group. When she falls in love with an outsider, all hell breaks lose. Interestingly, Chino never get any Mr Female Sexual Duty lines, but that's probably because he's such a minor role in the first place.
  • In Fiddler on the Roof, the protagonist Tevye (a good Jew in a really conservative society, who is struggling with his prejudices and social pressure versus the emancipation of his daughters) consider his beloved daughter to be past the Moral Event Horizon simply for wanting to marry a guy who isn't Jewish.
    • In the beginning of the play, she and her sisters waiting for some random Entitled to Have You guy to be assigned to each of them, but they all eventually rebel and chose their own husbands. Tevye accept the rebellion of his oldest daughters, since they stick to choosing Jewish guys.

Community Feedback Replies: 2
  • April 10, 2011
    Like I said in the old YKTTW, I think that Category Traitor and what is currently called Straw Traitor works best as separate tropes.
    • Category Traitor is in itself not about straw, although the person making the accusation is sometimes a Strawman Political.
    • The trope currently called Straw Traitor is about straw and should remain as such, but judging from the examples I wasn't sure it was really about treason.

    After discussing it in the TRS Thread, I now think we should have two separate tropes. Putting them both up on YKTTW:
    • Category Traitor: Bob (is considered to) belong to a group, and gets accused of betraying this group - typically putting his own interests over the interests of the group.
    • Straw Affiliation: Bob is considered to be X, and is thus expected to be Y. X is a category of people, while Y is an opinion, agenda, particular need, or whatever.
  • April 11, 2011
    In the other thread, Sackett wrote:

    "Also, Uncle Tom suffers from both this and accusations of Category Traitor quite a bit, as modern people keep projecting their attitudes about what a black man should think back on Tom.

    Somehow never picking up on the fact that Uncle Tom was a Christ figure who lays down his life, first for his brother slaves, and then for his enslaver. Thus making Uncle Tom a moral rebuke to all the Southerners who claimed that they were Christians and the black slaves heathens."

    Okay, first of all: Should we allow examples of how how works of fiction have been recieved? Personally, I'd prefer to get these important points about Uncle Tom in without allowing that kind of examples: Is there any work where this kind of analysis has been debated or mentioned?

    As for the second paragraph, I totally agree. I think one of the main reasons some people hate the Uncle Tom character is that he was good to the "wrong" kind of people. Speaking of Christ figure, this phenomenon was also one of the main reasons why some characters in The Bible was so pissed off at Jesus.

    So, I just started a trope about the phenomenon. Calling it "Hating Unbigoted Goodness" for now.