Created By: bluepenguin on April 3, 2010
Troped

Persecution Flip

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Do We Have This One?? I can't find it, but I couldn't quite think what search terms to use.

When most writers want to write about discrimination and oppression, they stick to real-world examples -- after all, there are plenty of those. Some writers, however, wonder: "What if it were the other way round?" What if Africans had enslaved Europeans? What if India had colonized England? And so on and so forth. There may be a semi-plausible Alternate History explanation for the switch, but just as often it simply is that way.

Often this is not just an interesting what-if, but a way of making a point, saying to the privileged group "well, how would you like it if...?" This tends to be Anvilicious, though not always in a bad way. The message may also be that power corrupts, and no matter who's on top, things will always suck for the group on the bottom. On the other hand, in certain cases the barbarism of the now-powerful group can be played up too much and the whole thing can seem as though it came out of some lurking distrust of the group in question and/or fear of reverse colonization.


Examples:

  • The stage version of Noughts and Crosses (black people are in power; white people are discriminated against). More subtly implied in the original book(s).
  • The Vienna Teng song "No Gringo" (poor US Americans illegally cross the border to Mexico looking for work)
  • The novel Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo (Africans enslave Europeans)
  • Zanna, Don't! (being gay is normal; being straight is stigmatized)
  • From a single Alternate History anthology (although some of these are a bit iffy):
    • "The Wandering Christian", Eugene Byrne and Kim Newman (Judaism becomes the major world religion; Christianity all but wiped out)
    • "Hush My Mouth", Suzette Hayden Elgin (African former slaves rise up and seize power in the US after the Civil War; white Americans all but wiped out)
    • "The English Mutiny", Ian R. MacLeod (India colonizes England)
    • "Islands in the Sea", Harry Turtledove (Islam becomes the major world religion; Christianity is practiced only in a few small areas)

... hmm, I could've sworn there were more in there, but I guess not. Oh well.
Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • April 3, 2010
    MatthewTheRaven
    Robert A. Heilein's controversial Farnham's Freehold posits a future where the members of a white family are the slaves of cannibalistic black masters. The cannibalism it what pushes it over the edge into "Black people are worse" territory.
  • April 3, 2010
    randomsurfer
  • April 3, 2010
    Jordan
    One Sheri S Tepper novel Six Moons Dance is about a repressive matriarchal society. Tepper has a very feminist message in a lot of her work, so this is sort of like "examining demographics that would lead to men being oppressed in the same way as women".

    I forget what it's called, but I came across a series once about the Muslim world colonizing Europe in the early Middle Ages and the main character was Irish (or Norse, I forget) and owned by a black African (I think)- anyone know what series I'm thinking of?
  • April 3, 2010
    Chabal2
    Older Than Feudalism: there was a Greek play, the name of which escapes me at the moment, in which the roles of master and slaves are reversed, and it turns out the slaves make the situation even worse, spending more time beating their former masters than getting anything done.
  • April 3, 2010
    randomsurfer
    Harumph, the system isn't letting me edit my poorly formatted reply above.
  • April 3, 2010
    Jordan
    The Greek play example reminded me of Poe's story Doctor Tarr and Professor Feather. It involves inmates taking over an aslyum which "coddled" them and treating their former doctors, now the inmates, in a Bedlam House way. I've heard that the story is supposed to be a metaphor for Poe's thoughts on American blacks, and it does have a kind of Family Unfriendly Aesop- if you treat those weaker than you with kindness, they'll just take advantage of you and then do worse.
  • April 3, 2010
    MatthewTheRaven
    It is a bit unfair to say that "Doctor Tarr and Professor Feather"'s plot represent's Poe's views on blacks, as that's just one academic interpretation. More likely, it's just one of Poe's comedy pieces like "the Death's-Head" or "The Gold Bug."
  • April 3, 2010
    DragonQuestZ
  • April 3, 2010
    Hertzyscowicz
    Sliders had one episode where women were the dominant gender.
  • April 3, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Expansionary note: in the book of Noughts And Crosses, while there is one group ("Crosses") persecuting another ("Noughts"), it's never explicitly pointed out that the Crosses are black and the Noughts are white. Although I think it's implied a few times (sometimes the Noughts are referred to as 'pasty') and it might be made more obvious in the sequels.
  • April 3, 2010
    the grene kni3t
    In Yuu Watase's short manga story "Perfect Lovers," a heterosexual couple is transported into an alternate dimension where homosexuality is normal and heterosexual relationships are illegal.
  • April 3, 2010
    bluepenguin
    @UT 86: Thanks for that! I've only seen the play, and I had heard that in the book there was no physical difference between the two groups. Sorry for the mistake -- that's the danger of making statements about things you don't know firsthand, I guess.
  • April 3, 2010
    Camacan
    These kind of stories easily turn into the very kind of thing they are nominaly opposing. There is a strong tendency to write, say, a thoroughly racist or sexist, etc work and then say "oh, it's Acceptable Targets, so I'm not really <whatever>."
  • April 3, 2010
    bluepenguin
    @Camacan: Huh, I don't think I've ever seen a work of this type be disparaging towards the now-oppressed group. Can you give examples?
  • April 3, 2010
    LeighSabio
  • April 4, 2010
    Echidnite
    Babakiueria (Barbeque Area) is an Australian film that does this with imperial Aborigines taking over and oppressing white Australians.

    Link is here if anyone is interested - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06DKCdJWK2c Something in there would probably make a good page quote
  • April 4, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    @Matthew The Raven:
    • Farnham's Freehold didn't involve cannibalism, but castration ( aka "tempering") of white slaves as a regular practice of creating eunuchs.
    • Planet of the Apes involves apes keeping humans in cages and using them for experiments.
    • Gulliver's Travels with the talking horses domesticating the human "Yahoos" as farm-animals.
    • The Twilight Zone episode in which beauty is a pig-nose and harelip, while movie-star looks are a deformity.
    • In a Star Trek:The Next Generation episode, a race of bisexual hermaphrodites views heterosexuality as an illness to be cured.
      • In another episode, a race of humans is ruled by females, while men are their servants and sexual playthings.
      • On still another episode, a child-alien persecutes the adults on the ship for imposing rules on chilren.

  • April 4, 2010
    robert
    In Katherine Kerr's Polar City books, blancs (i.e whites) are a lightly oppressed minority.
  • April 4, 2010
    MatthewTheRaven
    Both cannibalism and castration appear in the book Farnham's Freehold.
  • April 5, 2010
    Arivne
    Matthew The Raven is correct.

    From Farnham's Freehold:
    I despised him long before I found out about his having young girls butchered and served for his dinner. [snip] Nope, Ponse is a cannibal. Maybe not a cannibal, since he doesn't consider us human. But he does eat us - they all do. Ponse always ate girls. About one a day for his family table, I gathered. Girls about the age and plumpness of Kitten.
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