Created By: Xzenu on April 3, 2011 Last Edited By: Xzenu on April 9, 2011

Category Traitor

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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 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. This mindset might also lead a character (of either gender, but almost always male) to become Mr Female Sexual Duty.

Unlike the goofy act of calling someone a Straw Traitor, the act of 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.


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.

  • 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 Mr Female Sexual Duty 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: 14
  • April 3, 2011
    Dunno yet how the exact distinction against Straw Traitor will be. Lets see where it goes. :-)

    The examples I added so far doesn't really feel right to include in a strawman trope.
  • April 3, 2011
    Where do you draw the line between actual traitor and arbitrarily-described traitor?

    If you were to have tropes for common types of traitor, carefully written and not full of references to tropes it doesn't have much to do with, it might be valid. I'm surprised we don't have a class traitor trope.
  • April 3, 2011
    Hmm, I'm thinking about renaming it "Category Traitor", with Class Traitor, Race Traitor and Gender Traitor as Internal Subtropes.

    Whether tre trason is actual or not depends on the narrative and is likely to be a matter of From A Certain Point Of View.

    By the way, this trope is a spin-off from it's subtrope Mr Female Sexual Duty
  • April 6, 2011
    The Fiddler example doesn't quite fit - the problem is not that Chava is a traitor to Judaism but that she is renouncing her faith - and hence the Jewish people, small at the best of times, is losing one more member. This is generally a cause for tragedy in more traditional streams of Judaism.
  • April 6, 2011
    That's an argument for "justified from the protagonist's point of view", not an argument for "not an example". And the fact that Tevye doesn't use the word "traitor", or any other word, only stop it from being an invoked example, not from counting as playing straight.

    Oh, and your justification is already the reason why Tevye is listed as Troubled Sympathetic Bigot rather then Jerk Ass or Racist Grandma. However, There is no changing the fact that the way he treats his daughter is in fact horrifying.
  • April 6, 2011
    Anyway, the word "treason" does sound a bit militant, and the trope isn't limited to that. Words like betrayal and disloyalty works just as fine.
  • April 6, 2011
    There's not much distinction between this and Straw Traitor. Okay, Straw Traitor isn't perfect, but it has a purpose, and there's nothing on the page to indicate it's exclusively for comedic examples.

    Apart from that, the description seems to be heavily biased. I'm not a religious Jew and I don't think I'm an ethnic Jew either, nor am I what might be described as conservative, but potholing a specific reference to someone being a 'good Jew' in a 'conservative society' to one of your bigotry tropes comes off as offensive, regardless of what the character might do. And the pothole to Activist Fundamentalist Antics is borderline meaningless.
  • April 6, 2011
    Related to Tall Poppy Syndrome.
  • April 7, 2011
    @halfmillennium: I can see how the potholes you mentioned could be interpreted in the wrong way, so I have now clarified them.

    As for Straw, this is not a straw trope at all. The difference between this and Straw Traitor is the same as the difference between Hypocrite and Straw Hypocrite. Indeed, Straw Traitor does not have to be played for laughs: "Bob is mad at Alice, so he make up on the spot some random nonsense accusation so he get to accuse her of treason" is not fun at all, but it is still straw.

    Your post indirectly adress the problem with trope decay in the strawman family in general and Straw Feminist in particular - I remember back when that page devolved into a huge RL rantfest based on the misconception that "If I don't like this person's opinions, then s/he is a strawman".

    Of the eight examples we have so far, NONE of them fit Straw Traitor as per the distinction between Hypocrite and Straw Hypocrite. Also, only two of the eight examples have an accuser who can be shoehorned into strawmanhood, and even then it's unfair. I don't consider the military leader in Avatar and the Death-Eaters in Harry Potter to be mere Straw Loster antagonist of the Strawman Political kind - but yes, they can be seen as such. For the other six works, the strawman title is entirely inappropriate.
  • April 7, 2011
    @Thebes: Thanks! In Sweden we call it "Jantelagen". Didn't know it exist outside the Nordic countries and is called TPS there. I'll add that pothole to several tropes later. :-)
  • April 7, 2011
    Again, Straw Traitor isn't perfect. It might be better off not using the word 'straw' and being a trope for group traitors in general.
  • April 7, 2011
    Bad real life examples for such things as Straw Feminist are people who call themselves feminists. By definition they can't be straw feminists since they really are feminists. Likewise, someone can't be a real life Strawman Political since they actually hold the political beliefs in question and therefore are not a strawman.

    Straw Traitor is different because being called a traitor is an accusation by a third party (unlike being a feminist or holding a political belief), and the third party can certainly accuse someone who doesn't resemble a real traitor. I don't think that Straw Traitor is really comparable to Straw Feminist in this way.
  • April 7, 2011
    @halfmillennium: If we rename, repurpose, redefine and rewrite Straw Loser, it could indeed become this trope. However, that's a lot of headache-heavy work for no good reason.

    Also, the same goes for Me Love You Long Time. If we rename, repurpose, redefine and rewrite Me Love You Long Time, it could indeed morph into Category Traitor. A far worthier quest, since that trope totally reek of this trope. The trope is named after a "asian women are dirty whores" stereotype, and any woman automatically qualifies for it if she is Asian and get a white boyfriend - if there is an Asian man, any Asian man, in the cast. Nut no. Fixing that mess of a trope ought to be a separate problem. And as for Straw Traitor, you have not convinced me that the trope even need fixing.

    To me, reading Straw Traitor again, that trope doesn't even look like being about treason at all. Many of the examples are more like accusing people of being a Straw Loster or Straw Moron who fail to see their own real needs & interests. I don't want any of those examples in this trope, and I don't want the examples in this trope to be in a trope with a strawman title.

    @arromdee: A white supremacist accusing me of not understanding my true needs as a white man could indeed be considered portraying me as a strawman. But that's not what this trope is about, that's in the de facto territory of Straw Loser. A white supremacist who instead accuse me of not living up to his ideology... well, he's right. I'm indeed not a nazi, and his ideology proclaims that I have a duty to be just that. He is correctly expressing his ideology, and neither him nor me is a strawman, portrayed or otherwise.

    Category Traitor and Straw Traitor are very different tropes. Straw Traitor may or may not have originally been intended to be Category Traitor, but it is not. Straw Traitor may or may not need a revamp, but personally I'm okay with that trope the way it is. If others starta revamp of Straw Traitor I might try and help out a bit, but ultimately I consider that project to be Somebody Elses Problem.
  • April 9, 2011
    From the Straw Traitor page:

    "A Straw Treason accusation is when the author has someone (almost always a Strawman Political) automatically assume that the Straw Traitor will hold the same views as them because of their race, gender, background, or whatever, and then accuse them of treason when they do not; of course, the Straw Traitor holds whatever views the author projects into them, making the Strawman Political who accuses them look both foolish and biased.

    Occasionally the author of a work will create a Straw Traitor from the third person and expect the viewer to seriously view them as a traitor to the cause, but more frequently it is the accusation of treason itself that is the strawman. "

    Not really seeing how it is different from the trope you are proposing here.