Created By: Praetyre on March 18, 2009
Nuked

Shylock Was Comparatively Positive

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Definitely Needs a Better Title. Probably a subtrope of Values Dissonance.

You've come across something that seems like a huge load of.. well, Values Dissonance. It seems laden with Unfortunate Implications, a Rose Tinted Narrative or a Historical Hero or Villain Upgrade.

Only, as it turns out.. it turned out it was comparatively fair for it's day. Maybe people complained the Historical Hero Upgrade or Historical Villain Upgrade was not giving enough credit to the hero or enough demonization to the villain. Maybe the portrayal of the subject of the Unfortunate Implications was comparatively kind. Maybe the Rose Tinted Narrative just wasn't rose tinted enough for it's day. Here, you have a case of Shylock Was Comparatively Positive.

Examples


  • Many people today regard the original telling of the tale of Shylock, the antagonist of The Merchant of Venice, as anti-semitic. As a matter of fact, in Shakespeare's day, far, far worse and dehumanizing portrayals of Jews were the norm. He didn't really want to write a "bad Jew gets his comeuppance" story, but market demands of the day more or less meant he had to.
  • Similarily, The Jew of Malta was regarded as comparatively sophisticated for his time, despite the titular Jew, Barabbas (named for the Biblical figure of Barabbas, the thief and murderer pardoned by the Pharisees and locals in place of Jesus when Pontius Pilate gave them a choice of who was to be crucified) killing and betraying every character in the play.
  • The "What Makes The Red Man Red" song and sequence in the Disney adaptation of Peter Pan comes across as racist to today's audience. However, it was criticised in it's own day for portraying the Native Americans too positively.
  • The play Evita is accused of being a Rose Tinted Narrative of the days of Argentinian President Juan Peron and his wife, Eva Peron. However, it was criticised in Argentina for being too negative a portrayal of the late Peron and his wife.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • March 5, 2009
    Praetyre
    • Carousel gets this, too. Modern audiences tend to find it disturbing that Julie could consider staying with a man who hits her. At the time it was written, though, what was unpalatable to the audience was that she would admit it at all.

    • On the Shylock example; what made Merchant so out of step with the times it was written was how lightly Shylock got off. His sentence, for attempting to take the life of a Venetian citizen is to have his money and goods divided, half to go to Antonio and half to the state and his life is forfeit to the Duke. But Antonio states he will take his half "in use" meaning that he gets the income, but not the principal, and that the principal goes to Jessica at Shylock's death. The Duke also remits the state's half, as long as Shylock leaves everything to Jessica. Then the Duke grants him mercy from the death penalty on condition he convert.
  • Seen It A Million Times, although I can't think of any specific examples off the top of my head. Definately tropeable.
  • March 6, 2009
    FastEddie
  • March 6, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    cf. Rule Abiding Rebel. It's about, for example, how Little Women was feminist ...for its day.
  • March 6, 2009
    Praetyre
    How about the 1930s film Freaks? Considering that actual sideshow people were used (IE: Bearded ladies and the like), and that they were portrayed as people with feelings and emotions (Compared to being only seen as "freaks of nature" as was the norm back then). By today's standards, however, it's considered pretty offensive.
  • March 6, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    This is more like the reverse of Rule Abiding Rebel , that's a trope about things being interpreted as rebeling against some social convention when a closer reading reveals that they really aren't.

    This is about something that at first glance seems to follow convention, but doesn't follow it all that closely, kind of, that's a bad explanation but I think it works.

    maybe we could call this Rule Breaking Conformist , to parallel Rule Abiding Rebel/
  • March 6, 2009
    Tzintzuntzan
    About Freaks, I've heard that it was actually seen as exploitative and offensive at the time (enough to ruin the director's career), and only later was it dusted off and seen as a classic.
  • March 10, 2009
    Praetyre
    Bump.
  • March 10, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Fair For Its Day is nice and searchable
  • March 15, 2009
    Praetyre
    I need 3 more examples.
  • March 15, 2009
    calronmoonflower
    The term for this kind of thinking is ethnocentrism.

    Star Trek has been criticized for having only one black cast member. At the time that quite a big step.
  • March 15, 2009
    Duncan
    Songs about Indians from the Broadway musicals of Peter Pan ("Ugg-A-Wugg") and Annie Get Your Gun ("I'm an Indian, Too!") were cut in recent revivals.
  • March 15, 2009
    ROBRAM89
    I like "Retroffensive," but there's no good way to make it a Wiki Word.
  • March 15, 2009
    Kuciwalker
  • March 16, 2009
    Sijo
    Huckleberry Finn has been condemned for its use of the "N" word... never mind that at the time and place it was set, everyone used it, even the slaves themselves. There's also the fact that the story was an anti-slavery tract. (I can understand the word being removed for this more PC times, but forbidding the novel itself is REALLY missing the point.)
  • March 16, 2009
    Praetyre
    What is Fair For Its Day about "Ugg-A-Wugg" , though?
  • March 17, 2009
    Praetyre
    Bump.
  • March 18, 2009
    Medinoc
    I heard Islam as a whole was that for women, by the time of its creation (like giving a daughter half of a son's share of inheritance, while at the time it was common to give them nothing at all).
  • March 18, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Praetyre: It's Fair For Its Day because it portrays the Indians as Noble Savages, which is a step up from the Always Chaotic Evil barbarian stereotype of the day.
  • March 18, 2009
    Andyzero
    The Bible was remarkably pro-women compared to the alternatives in the day.
  • March 18, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Fair For Its Day is probably the simplest
  • March 18, 2009
    silver2195
    Speaking of The Bible, compare the Old Testament law codes to Hammurabi's code.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=t9kr4ypvjytluli2k635n390&trope=ShylockWasComparativelyPositive