Created By: noproblemzoro on July 31, 2011 Last Edited By: noproblemzoro on August 11, 2011

Associative Empathy Disorder

Alice doesn't give two cents about a particular group of people until she becomes one.

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Aaron: "In fact, Moses, when did you start caring about slaves? Was it when you found out you WERE one of us?" - The Prince of Egypt

Kyle: "Wow, that's a little ironic, isn't it?" Cartman: "What do you mean, Kyle?" Kyle: "Well, all last week you were ripping on ginger kids and now you ARE one." - "Ginger Kids" South Park

Alice's hometown was burned down by barbarians when she was a baby, resulting in a deeply-set hatred of them into her adult life - until the village elder informs her that her parents were barbarians! Alternately, Bob, who lives in a society fueled by a scum labor class not worthy to lick his feet, rubs the phlebutonium the wrong way and is transformed himself into a laborer.

Shake and bake it however you like, the story's the same. Carol hates, dislikes, or was imbibed with long-standing prejudices from the day she was born against some class of society, only to turn into one herself. Carol gets over her original feelings, lessons are learned about being accepting of other people, Carol may or may not return to her original form by the end of the show, and she more than likely had some fun and heart-warming moments in the process.

This trope does not work if Dave always knew he was from the oppressed culture. The whole point of this trope is that Eleanor does not care, becomes one, THEN cares because it directly affects her.

Keep in mind that the transformation is not necessarily down the social ladder. Consider Frank, a happy-go-lucky street urchin who takes orders from no one only to discover he's the son of a duke. Or Gabrielle, who is established as a modern hippy busking on street corners and loathes politicians and corporations just before she magically or scientifically switches places with the president's daughter.

CAN have unfortunate implications in that the character treats these people like shit and tolerates or accepts their persecution up until the point the abuse is directed at them. Remember kids, the violent, mental, or emotional toture of a race of human beings is tolerable so long as you are not a member of that race.

Side note: This trope enters a shade of grey when you consider exactly what a "transformation" means. Does it include becoming so immersed in the culture that you become one as is popular in so many Native American novels and films? This troper would like to discuss.


The Prince of Egypt has the page quote. Moses in this version was not told he was Hebrew until well into his adult life. He had never even noticed the terrible suffering of his people until he knew he was one, banishes himself, and inevitably (spoilers!) lets his people go. This trope does not apply to the original Old Testament story because in that version Moses always knew he was not Egyptian.

Cartman from South Park in the episode "Ginger Kids." Also the page quote. Cartman spends all week telling everyone that ginger kids are soulless vampires. Pissed at him, Kyle, Stan, and Kenny put makeup on him in his sleep so that he appears to be ginger. Cartman, being a dumbass, is completely convinced he really is ginger and starts a revolution of ginger kids to purge the world of non-gingers. Guess what happens next.
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • July 31, 2011
  • July 31, 2011
    I'm thinking this could lead to Internalized Categorism in a hurry.
  • August 1, 2011
    Aquired Situational Narcissism is associated with celebrity and Internalized Categorism deals with hatred of oneself. Associative Empathy Disorder (feel free to think of something snappy) is when a character doesn't stop hating a category until they become one. This trope requires: 'prejudice', 'transformation', and 'change of heart' in that order.
  • August 1, 2011
    • Twilight Zone: The Movie segment 1 "Time Out". William Connor is bigoted against Jews, blacks and Asians. During the course of the segment he is changed into a Jew, a black and an Asian, and suffers appropriate discrimination. The ending is a subversion, as he becomes a Jew again and is put on a train to a Nazi death camp.
  • August 1, 2011
    See Karmic Transformation for a more fantastic example.
  • August 1, 2011
    ^^Real life wrote the plot on that one; Vic Morrow was killed during the shoot (a helicopter crashed and decapitated him & two child actors) so they had to end it with what they had already shot.
  • August 1, 2011
    How about a Pratchett for the page quote: "I've only been a woman ten minutes and already I hate you male bastards." (Nobby Nobbs in Jingo, in his disguise as a woman)?
  • August 10, 2011
    Hereby I, Turbo Beholder, Proclaim American Psickololgy Fully Falling Within Poes Law.
    11 August 2011, <signature>
  • August 11, 2011
    In Family Guy, Peter admits that he thinks handicapped people are "immoral and are forcing their lifestyle onto other people" (remember, he's retarded), until he becomes crippled himself and learns what it's really like.
  • August 11, 2011
    On The Twilight Zone (the original series) one episode cast Dean Stockwell as a World War II soldier who was particularly gung-ho on killing the Japanese. Temporarily being changed into a Japanese soldier and hearing the same sentiments from his commander showed him the ugliness of race hatred.
  • August 11, 2011
    • This is the basis of Magneto's entire plan in the first X Men film, as he intends to use a machine to transform a summit of world leaders into mutants like himself, thereby forcing them to oppose anti-mutant prejudice. Interestingly, it's made clear that it won't work, since his machine kills its subjects rather than just making them into mutants. Moreover, the first person he tests it on doesn't seem to renounce his anti-mutant bigotry.