->''"Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?"''
-->-- '''Shylock''', Creator/WilliamShakespeare's ''Theatre/TheMerchantOfVenice'', in what seems to be a radical statement for his day (as opposed to being, as is now clear, [[CaptainObviousAesop pretty self-evident]])

Something from the past that seems like a huge load of ValuesDissonance. It seems laden with, say, a RoseTintedNarrative or a {{Historical Hero|Upgrade}} or [[HistoricalVillainUpgrade Villain Upgrade]].

Only... it turns out it was comparatively Fair for Its Day. Maybe the HistoricalHeroUpgrade or HistoricalVillainUpgrade wasn't that unfair a reflection on the person's views. Maybe the RoseTintedNarrative just wasn't rose-tinted enough for its original audience. Maybe it was even ripped apart in its own time for being downright insurrectionist, and was brave to go as far as it did. It might even ''completely agree'' with modern attitudes, but not do so {{Anvilicious}}ly [[AndThatsTerrible enough for today's audiences]].

This doesn't automatically make the work immune to criticism: something less dissonant than its contemporaries can still be pretty darn dissonant. Oftentimes, though, a little research will show that something cringe-worthy or laughable today is also something worthy of applause for what it stood for, and the context can be important in interpreting the work at large. Authors often work under [[CulturePolice a system of rigid censorship]] that decrees even ''mild'' criticism of the status quo to be going too far, even in [[NotSoDifferent enlightened democracies]]. Attempting to argue for modern values would have ''really'' been pushing your luck. (In other words, here [[FailureIsTheOnlyOption Failure Was The Only Option]].) A work that's only a ''little'' culturally subversive is more likely to escape censorship and earn public acclaim than one that goes all the way, thus ensuring its relevance - or at least survival - into the present day. (For an ironic counterpoint, consider RefugeInAudacity, which is when one has to go all the way in order to get away with being ''offensive''.)

Leading via FridgeLogic to the FamilyUnfriendlyAesop: If you risk your reputation to shift the values of a society towards more tolerance and idealism, later generations may see you not as a hero, but rather as a RuleAbidingRebel, or at best a well-meaning coward, hardly any less appalling than the people you fought when you were alive. This conclusion presumes the so-called Whig theory of history, which proposes that societies become infinitely more politically liberal as time passes. (It also assumes that people from the future must have absolutely no sense of history.) Another problem with this trope is that it tends to smack of condescension and presentist snobbery, as if the most unenlightened modern-day person is still fairer than the most progressive historical person.

Please remember that this trope does not mean "surprisingly enlightened for its time period." It means "''more'' enlightened for its time period", which is not necessarily the same thing. If a vintage work has a message that comfortably fits modern audiences, that's ValuesResonance. In order to qualify for Fair For Its Day, a vintage work must have negative cultural traits as well as positive ones. Even then, though, there might only be ''apparent'' dissonance: certainly, despite what PositiveDiscrimination would have one believe, there [[TruthInTelevision really are]] [[ScreamingWoman women out there who scream whenever they get frightened]], or minorities who are uneducated and [[JiveTurkey speak in dialect]] [[note]] and even then, a character might only start out that way and then undergo CharacterDevelopment, thus refuting the stereotype [[/note]], and the presence of one such person in a work should not be taken to mean that the creators believe ''all'' people of that type are like that [[UnfortunateImplications (though if they are the only representatives of their respective groups, it's natural to feel suspicious)]].

Contrast RuleAbidingRebel. InnocentBigot and RacistGrandma are related tropes. ExecutiveMeddling and LowestCommonDenominator may also play roles, if unprejudiced creators are forced to pander to widespread prejudices among the public. The same principle applied to innovation in fictional works is SeinfeldIsUnfunny. [[NotSoDifferent Ironically]], a clear counterpart to YouAreACreditToYourRace, the utterance of which ''was'' fair for its day.




[[folder: Advertising]]
* Levy's [[http://blog.leeandlow.com/2012/05/03/race-in-advertising/ "you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy Levy's bread" campaign]] may seem a bit cringeworthy today, but back in the [[TheSixties 1960s',]] it was rare for non-whites in the media, including wide reaching ad campaigns like this one, to be not featured as a racist caricature.

[[folder: Anime and Manga]]
* Often noted in the case of Creator/OsamuTezuka that, while the content of some of his work is offensive by modern standards, he was actually a very enlightened writer for his time and would likely appreciate the more open minded nature of today's society. A good example would be ''Manga/PrincessKnight''. While it can come across as incredibly sexist by modern standards (among other things, having it that [[WomenAreDelicate women are naturally timid, unsuited for fighting, and enamored of pretty things like dresses]]), it still has a heroine who [[EarnYourHappyEnding fights for her happy ending]] and [[PluckyGirl becomes strong and brave enough]] [[ActionGirl to defend herself]]. Furthermore, while the series shows women as naturally being frail, it also showed that they ''can'' [[CharacterDevelopment grow to]] [[TookALevelInBadass be strong ]]and most of the women were shown as [[WomenAreWiser being naturally brave, compassionate, and intelligent]]. Friebe and Hecate are shown as being good people while ignoring gender norms and engaging in unladylike behavior (and are shown to be very good at it). Meanwhile, the villain takes advantage of the kingdom's sexist laws to further his own goals, while the heroes agree that the rules limiting the rights of women are misogynistic and outdated. [[spoiler:When the women of the kingdom finally revolt, while the whole thing is generally PlayedForLaughs, they do put up enough of a fight to worry the Duke, and Plastic granting women equal rights to men and letting Sapphire rule is shown as him being a true man and doing the right thing.]]
* ''Manga/{{Cyborg 009}}'' was written in the 60s and [[ValuesDissonance it shows]] - the characters tend to be portrayed rather stereotypically, with 005 and 008's designs aging very badly (008's design being done in a cringe-inducing {{blackface}} that makes him look like a humanoid monkey). The manga, however, was one of the earliest portrayals of a multi-cultural superhero team. All of the characters are likable, no matter which country they were from. They quickly grow to be TrueCompanions and have respect for each other's cultures. And while the portrayal of the native characters didn't age very well, the stories still draw attention to how Native Americans and the people of Africa suffer from social injustices and should have their way of life respected. In the Vietnam War arc (not present in the anime), the people of Vietnam are shown as being simple farmers who have no desire for war and are miserable. Additionally, Francoise/003 gets criticism for being TheChick and [[RealWomenDontWearDresses not having offensive powers]], but she still was shown as being brave, proactive, and able to use her super-senses to help the team during battle. She was also clearly displeased with StayInTheKitchen jokes made at her expense and was willing to help the team despite being a pacifist and disliking fighting.
* Lots of people complain about Honey Kisaragi from ''Manga/CuteyHoney'' being a huge MsFanservice, but she was and still is a very brave ActionGirl -- and one created in TheSeventies, who became iconic enough to inspire the anime {{action girl}}s and {{magical girl}}s that would follow.
* ''Manga/KannazukiNoMiko'' has a nonsensical plot rife with UnfortunateImplications about the main character falling in love with a PsychoLesbian who [[DoubleStandardRapeFemaleOnFemale raped her]]. But back when it was released, yuri anime almost universally gave its characters [[BuryYourGays tragic endings]] or [[BaitAndSwitchLesbians shied away from making their relationship explicitly romantic]], whereas ''Kannazuki no Miko'' made it clear that its female main characters were in love with each other and gave them a happy ending together ([[{{Reincarnation}} of sorts]]). However, the rape and overall poor handling of its yuri relationship means that it has ''not'' aged well at all.

[[folder: Comic Books]]
* ''Yellow Claw'', published by Marvel precursor Atlas Comics, was named for its villain, a rather racist YellowPeril character. But its hero, FBI agent Jimmy Woo (who has since become a SHIELD agent and leader of the Comicbook/AgentsOfAtlas), was Chinese-American, quite a rarity in those days.
* When Creator/{{Marvel|Comics}} first ran its ''[[ComicBook/NickFury Sergeant Fury]] and his ComicBook/HowlingCommandos'', its TokenBlack character Gabe Jones was portrayed rather stereotypically (complete with a jazz trumpet on the cover of the very first issue), but having a black character on the team at all was quite revolutionary in that day and age, and he was generally treated as equal with the other commandos and a valued member of the strike force.
* ComicBook/{{Luke Cage|HeroForHire}}'s blaxploitation origins are a bit cringe-worthy to read. Heck, in-universe he rather considers the yellow-disco-shirt-Holy-Christmas era an OldShame. Yet he was the very first black superhero to have his own title series, he regularly served as a reserve member of the ComicBook/FantasticFour, and he rapidly evolved from a generic ScaryBlackMan to a well-rounded character.
* A ''lot'' of the entries in CaptainEthnic can count as this. They might be embarrassing stereotypes but they were sympathetic heroes of color in a time when almost all superheroes were still white people.
* Creator/WillEisner laid out a similar defense for Ebony White from ''Comicbook/TheSpirit''. He argued that despite his racist minstrel appearance, Ebony was a relatively competent and heroic depiction of a black {{Sidekick}}, especially for the time period he was created in.
* ''Comicbook/{{Tintin}}'' has what would be considered very racist portrayals of minorities today. However, Tintin and the heroes always treated these people with respect, while the [[PoliticallyIncorrectVillain villains]] would not treat them this way.
** Invoked in [[http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Recap/TintinTheBlueLotus The Blue Lotus]], where Hergé consciously defies western stereotypes about the Chinese and makes fun of people who still believe in them.
* It's quite jarring to see Digby saying that "The black boy's done it, sir" near the end of the first ComicStrip/DanDare story, but it was remarkable that a 1950s British comic would have a black African as supreme commander of the Earth forces in the first place. Dan certainly treats him with all the respect owed to his rank.
* ''ComicStrip/{{Nero}}'': Petoetje was a black Papuan native adopted by the white Flemish woman Madam Pheip. Despite being brought to Belgium he kept walking around in his native dress for several albums. This is a bit embarrassing nowadays, but at the same time no other comic strip at the time had a little black boy as part of the main cast. Not only that: Petoetje is actually smart and doesn't speak in pidgin talk.
* ''ComicBook/{{Circles}}'' was first published in 2001 and the story continued up to 2004, with each chapter being a season of the year. In those times, these types of comic books were rare and few were successful. Issues like illegal marriage were much more apparent in those times. That said, the final chapters were published in 2015, nearly after all marriage was legalized in the United States where it was published and written.
* [[ComicBook/{{GreenLantern}} Hal Jordan's]] Inuit sidekick, Tom Kalmaku, introduced during the 60s. On one hand, he had the extremely racist nickname "Pieface" and tended to say things like "great fish hooks!" when shocked. On the other hand, he was a competent minority character in an important position at Ferris Air who Hal respected as a trusted friend and equal. Nowadays, he is only every refered to by his real name and the more derogatory aspects of his early portrayal are treated as an in-universe BerserkButton.
* ''ComicBook/{{Shazam}}'': By modern standards, the Golden Age depiction of Freddy Freeman -- who was regularly called a "cripple" by friends and strangers alike -- is ableist. However, he was one of the very first disabled protagonists in comics, and was always portrayed as an intelligent kid and a valuable ally to Captain Marvel. In fact, some fans even argue that Freddy's Golden Age depiction is ''more'' progressive than other versions of the character, since he never struggled with the same anger or self-image issues that have plagued his modern incarnations.
* Dust, or Sooraya Qadir of the ''ComicBook/XMen'' might draw some groans today. She's a Muslim who always wears a burqa, has a ''very'' stereotypical power of sand manipulation, and was specifically rescued because she was the target of slaver terrorists. But keep in mind that she was created in December of 2002, just a little over a year after [[UsefulNotes/TheWarOnTerror 9/11]]. The fact that she's ''always'' been portrayed as heroic, and is a well-defined character, and was notably one of the few mutants who never lost their powers to the ''Decimation'' event, is sure to stand out in an era where depictions of heroic Muslims were extremely hard to find in western media.
* ComicBook/Gen13 is rather infamous today for being filled with gratuitous amounts of {{fanservice}} and stereotypes, and for having an LGBT Native-American member that wouldn't stop going off about being PC when she wasn't shy about her sexuality. However, back when the comic debuted in the mid-'90s it was rather progressive on several fronts. For one, it was one of the few teams in comics where the women outnumbered the men, with the leader and most powerful member also being Fairchild, a woman no less. It was written in a manner where the sexes weren't made a big deal of, but happened to be that way. On top of that, it was very diverse with only one member (Burnout) that filled the "safe" qualities of being a white male heterosexual. The fact that all members were treated equal, even the aforementioned Rainmaker as the LGBT character, also stands out. Rainmaker herself also fits, as in the '90s most mainstream comic writers were ''very'' scared of putting outright LGBT characters in their main stories, out of fear of a homophobic reaction hurting their sales, yet they made no attempt to portray Rainmaker as anything other than that around a decade or so before it started catching on.

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* ''Disney/SleepingBeauty'' has a rather flat love story line between the prince and princess. They just meet in the forest and fall in love in a matter of seconds because they met "once upon a dream". But at the time, the previous two Disney Princesses (Snow White and Cinderella) had even less developed love interests -- they functioned simply to marry the princess and whisk her away to a better life. Aurora meeting her prince and getting to talk to him properly was fairly progressive for Disney at the time. It was also the first time a Disney Prince functioned as an actual character -- Philip (note: the first prince with a name) has to [[EarnYourHappyEnding fight for his happy ending]] instead of just showing up at the end. Also worth noting is that Aurora doesn't just immediately swoon into the guy's arms. She makes arrangements to get to know him properly later -- not in the forest, but in her ''home'' with her 'aunts' present.
** Speaking of ''Disney/SleepingBeauty'', neither Aurora nor the prince are the main protagonist. That honor goes to the three good fairies who are portrayed as competent women and prove necessary help for the Prince. The antagonist is also female meaning that most of the film is driven by women which is rather feminist for the time.
* The crows in ''Disney/{{Dumbo}}'' are often accused of acting like stereotypical black people, and the leader of them is even called Jim Crow [[AllThereInTheScript in the credits]]. But on the other hand, their antics portray them as being incredibly {{clever|crows}}, and they prove to be some of the nicer characters in the film when they teach Dumbo how to fly. In fact, they are the ''only'' characters, other than his mother and Timothy, who treat Dumbo well.
* Disney's ''Disney/SnowWhiteAndTheSevenDwarfs'' is routinely criticized for its lack of depth in the romance. But when the film was made, it was an ''improvement'' over the original fairy tale, where the prince only comes in as a DeusExMachina at the end. At least here the prince appears much earlier in the story and has some reason to look for Snow White. He was meant to have a larger role in the film (being tormented by the Queen) but the Disney animators weren't good at drawing a convincing human male yet.
* Disney's ''Disney/{{Cinderella}}'' is often panned by people nowadays for Cinderella being passive and submissive heroine who do nothing except waits for a man to rescue her and didn't directly rebelled against her stepfamily's abuses. However, this is an entirely a misconception as pointed by DougWalker and Screen Prism, and her character was considered progressive for its contemporary. Cinderella didn't wait for people to rescue her as what most people commonly believes. Cinderella's patience and dreams are what keeps her determine to fight for happiness and freedom that her stepfamily derived her; taking opportunities to do so in spite against her stepfamily's wishes and openly expresses her contempt towards them.
** In addition stated by Screen Prism, Cinderella never once mention praying for a man or prince to come rescue her. In fact, she ''doesn't know'' she's dancing with the Prince at the ball until told later. Again, Cinderella uses opportunities and risks earning her happiness and freedom, including the Prince, the only person that Cinderella that she has a happy interaction for a long time since her father.
---> '''Wait Disney''': “She believed in dreams, all right, but she also believed in doing something about them. When Prince Charming didn’t come along, she went over to the palace and got him.”

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* Disney's [[OldShame current stance]] on ''Film/SongOfTheSouth'' is that it is too racially offensive even for a home video release. The movie had Uncle Remus (who was [[InsistentTerminology a sharecropper, not a slave]]). However, since the South had a way of cutting corners after they lost the Civil War, sharecroppers weren't too far removed from slaves, and many were slaves who couldn't find any other work, only this time they got paid with a fraction of the crop they farmed, and even then landlords and merchants would unfairly treat sharecroppers. So people were understandably offended when they showed Remus as complacent and even positive about his position. Despite this, Uncle Remus the only intelligent, mature person in the movie, whereas the white people were portrayed as idiots. Without Uncle Remus, that family would have fallen apart, and the movie says so. The film gets a lot of flack for presenting "happy slaves", and given the reasons mentioned above, that's fair. It also is criticized for Remus' "exaggerated" accent and dialect, despite the fact that it is realistic for its time period. The actor who played Uncle Remus, James Baskett, originally auditioned for a bit voice acting gig. Walt Disney liked his performance so much that he was given the roles of both Uncle Remus and Br'er Fox, and Disney did quite a bit of work behind the scenes to get the Academy to acknowledge Baskett's performance with an honorary Oscar-- and that right there is the definition of this trope: the very first Oscar awarded to an African-American male, yes, but an "honorary" one.
* ''Film/SouthPacific'' was intended as an anti-racism musical and movie. Rodgers and Hammerstein originally intended the show to end with [[spoiler:Cable and Liat getting married]] until public and political pressure led to [[spoiler:Cable being killed to prevent an interracial marriage from occurring on stage]]. However, they still had a man in a past interracial marriage (with mixed race kids) portrayed well, and his Southern love interest shown as wrong for initially disliking (coming to accept it over the course of the story).
* The ''Film/CharlieChan'' films of the Thirties and Forties may cause some embarrassment to modern audiences, with their hero's YouNoTakeCandle English and stereotypical "Oriental" aphorisms; however, the character was actually intended as a [[SubvertedTrope subversion]] of the then-ubiquitous YellowPeril villain and actually did a good deal to regenerate the character of Asians among Westerners. It's worth noting that Charlie Chan's sons were played by Chinese-American actors and given a "Gee, Pop!" all-Americanness. In "Charlie Chan at the Olympics," Charlie's son is representing the U.S.A. as an Olympic swimmer. Earl Derr Biggers originally wrote the novels because he was appalled by the racism he witnessed when he visited California.
* ''Film/BrokenBlossoms'' would be considered racist today, as the Chinese character is called "The Yellow Man", and played by a white man in {{yellowface}}. For its day, however, it was quite enlightened, as it portrayed a Chinese emigrant positively, as opposed to the YellowPeril depiction that was prevalent in the 1910s.
* Creator/FrankCapra's ''Film/TheBitterTeaOfGeneralYen'' contains a Swedish actor in {{yellowface}} who plays General Yen, but he's a complex character who wants to teach a naive missionary the truth about human nature. He falls in love with her (played by Creator/BarbaraStanwyck), and she with him. This film shocked its audiences and flopped, but it has some very biting criticisms about missionaries and their tendency for CondescendingCompassion, their racism, and their love for ideology but never practicing what they preach.
* The portrayal of Buckwheat in many ''Film/TheLittleRascals'' shorts is considered quite offensive by many today, yet at the time it was considered fairly daring in many quarters to show a black child hanging out on a more-or-less equal basis with white children. Several episodes show Buckwheat sitting in the same classroom as white students at a time of rampant segregation. In addition, Stymie may have been illiterate, but he was a clever lad who was the main character as the brains of the outfit until he was gradually eased out due to his advancing age for Spanky to take over that role.
* ''Literature/FlowerDrumSong'' is [[ClicheStorm one long list of cliches]], but a Hollywood movie in the early sixties with a cast composed entirely of Asians? Unexpected. Also, while there are significant cliches, you also see many characters be as shallow and annoying as other "hep" characters from this period. To put this in perspective, the movie came out in 1961, the same year as ''Film/BreakfastAtTiffanys'', which had Mickey Rooney playing a Japanese landlord with no problems.
* ''Film/{{Sayonara}}'', with Creator/MarlonBrando, Miiko Taka, Red Buttons, and Miyoshi Umeki. Japan is portrayed as a land of [[ThirtySecondsOverTokyo geishas, Takarazuka, kabuki, bunraku, pagoda, arched bridges, and cherry blossoms]]; Japanese women as delicate doll-like creatures who exist to scrub their husbands' backs -- [[YamatoNadeshiko demure lotus blossom]] stereotype right out the wazoo. Still, when it came to sympathetic portrayals of Japan and interracial relationships in 1957, the pickings were pretty slim.
* 1960 sci-fi B-movie ''12 to the Moon'' features an international, multi-ethnic, mixed-gender crew, all of whom are introduced as being legitimate experts in their fields (although most of the crew are still white males). It's also notable for portraying the Soviet Russian scientist in a sympathetic light. [[FrenchJerk The Frenchman, on the other hand]]...
* The film of ''Film/LiveAndLetDie'' may look incredibly offensive today with its seeming stereotyping of all black people as superstitious drug-dealing criminals. However, the film was surprisingly liberal for its time in showing Bond in an inter-racial relationship, two of the most competent agents in the film (Quarrel Jr. and Strutter) are black, and the most incompetent of the 'heroes' is the racist sheriff, J.W. Pepper, who is explicitly shown as an idiot. While the black mooks are walking blackface stereotypes, Mr. Big himself it every bit as intelligent, sophisticated and charismatic as any other Bond villain. It is also far less racist than the original Creator/IanFleming book.
* The classic Hollywood western was criticized by later audiences for its negative stereotypes of Native Americans, for reinforcing MightyWhitey and its uncritical glorification of ViolenceIsTheOnlyOption. Having said that,
** Creator/JohnFord's westerns are often held up as uncritical glorifications of the Wild West, and thanks to the association with Creator/JohnWayne, everyone assumes that Ford and Wayne shared the same political views. Creator/JimJarmusch and others criticized Ford for casting Navajos as various tribes irrespective of heterogenous differences in language and customs, but Ford westerns were shot on location in Monument Valley and used Navajos as extras on union scale at a time of segregation, and he maintained such good relations with them that he even spoke the Navajo language, and was given the honorific title "Natani Nez". Likewise, Ford always said that ''Wagon Master'' was his favorite film, one reason being that it was his only western actually set in Utah where the Navajos played themselves.
** ''Film/TheSearchers'' in particular dwells in a strange twilight zone between [[InnocentBigot unconscious racism]], visceral racism, and subtle condemnation of the second element. Apart from a protagonist who's an Indian-hating lunatic yet is treated mostly sympathetically, there are murderous, [[WhereDaWhiteWomenAt rapist]] Comanches and the most likable full-blooded Native is an AbhorrentAdmirer and ButtMonkey. But the film at least decries the slaying of white women who have been defiled by Comanches (the characters who view this as StakingTheLovedOne are portrayed as heartless) and puts in a (somewhat) heroic role the quarter-breed Native Martin Pawley, who can't stomach his adopted uncle's racism and makes that very plain.
** In the Early 60s, Ford even made ''Cheyenne Autumn'' which portrayed the Cheyenne tribe with nobility and sympathy and sharply criticized the American government policy towards Indian tribes. Ford even made ''Sergeant Rutledge'' an attempt to make Woody Strode, a character actor in many of his films, the first African-American movie star.
** On a general note, many scholars note that the rise of the spaghetti west and the TwilightOfTheOldWest movies and other revisionist films that came in TheSixties and TheSeventies, the end result has been that TheWestern became [[GenreKiller a dead genre]]. The unintended consequence has been the virtual drying up of on-screen representations of Native Americans. The earlier westerns while flawed, crude and stereotyped [[AtLeastIAdmitIt at least admitted]] that wars with the Native Tribes were crucial parts of American history, and kept the names of Geronimo, Dull Knife and other famous Indian chiefs, tribes and warriors in popular memory. Modern Hollywood rarely ventures and portrays Native American culture and life in modern America or offer many roles, to the point that funding for such films has dried up and films like ''Dead Man'', ''The Exiles'' or Creator/JohnnyDepp's ''The Brave'' are obscure.
** Creator/NicholasRay's ''The Savage Innocents'' was shot on location in the Arctic and was intended to subvert the stereotypes of Eskimos and Inuit, a fact that a modern audience will see as fundamentally compromised on account of its casting of Anthony Quinn rather than an Inuit actor as a lead (which Robert Flaherty did with Film/NanookOfTheNorth), and equally offensively, for casting Japanese actress Yoko Tani as Quinn's wife. However as noted by Tag Gallagher in the context of films made in that time.
--> '''Tag Gallagher''': ''The Savage Innocents'' possibly comes closest to a non-white point of view of any film by an important [white] filmmaker; [[{{Deconstruction}} it goes out of its way to render the strange and bizarre as normal]], and succeeds so well in inducting us into the alien sensibilities of its Eskimos that, [[CultureClash by the time a white man shows up, we feel him as the abnormal one]].
* ''Film/BenHur'': The Arab sheikh is portrayed by a white guy (although some Arabs, from the more northern parts of the Middle East especially, look almost white, so it's not too much of a stretch. They also often view ''themselves'' as white, and have been called Caucasians). He's also portrayed as a decent person, has a Star of David talisman fashioned for Ben Hur, explicitly draws a parallel between the oppression of Jews and the oppression of Arabs at the hands of the Romans, and is generally one of the very few male characters with no obvious bigotry.
* ''Film/GoneWithTheWind'', unlike other films made in the early twentieth century, thoroughly avoided using blackface, having actual black people play the black characters. Also, Mammy was hailed at the time as a strong black female character, with Hattie [=McDaniel=] becoming the first black person to win an Academy Award with the one she received for Best Supporting Actress. Additionally, the makers of the film actively refused to give the Ku Klux Klan the glorifying treatment it received in the book. The film is also a rare example of a film that easily passes the Bechdel Test and has strong female characters.
* In ''Film/{{MASH}}'', the lone black character is a former college football player nicknamed "Spear-Chucker" who's brought in as a ringer to win a game. On the other hand, he's an officer and a neurosurgeon, and his white colleagues treat him with respect (even adulation) despite the film being set in the 1950s. The film even {{Retcon}}s the book by claiming his nickname referred to his time as a champion javelin thrower (though with a strong suggestion that no one buys that for a minute).
* In ''Film/KittenWithAWhip'', to modern sensibilities, [[VillainProtagonist Jody]] is clearly [[MoodSwinger bi-polar]]; a criminal, dangerous to herself and others, and in clear need of meds and psych counseling. By the standards of the day (mid-1960s), Jody would've been considered a troubled girl, in need of a firm hand to guide her on the right path (this was long before the current practice of charging youth offenders as adults came to be). Indeed, this is how she's described by the juvenile facility matron Jody hospitalized in her escape.
* Creator/HowardHawks was known for having some surprisingly impressive depictions of women despite the bulk of his work being made in the studio era.
** ''Film/HisGirlFriday'' can be somewhat troubling today with Hildy's talk of wanting to "become a woman" by getting married. On the other hand, Hildy is a strong-willed, intelligent, and hardly submissive woman (some of the men even start making bets on how much time it will take before she will want to come back to the paper) and is respected by her male colleagues as an equal, as well as being acknowledged as one of their best reporters. This is all quite impressive for a movie released in 1940, but even better, [[spoiler:she ends up overcoming her previous aspirations and sticking to her work in the newspaper, albeit on the condition of remarrying her boss and getting a proper honeymoon this time]].
** Similarly, in ''Film/TheThingFromAnotherWorld'', the female lead really only exists as an added love interest (though to be fair [[Literature/WhoGoesThere the movie didn't have a whole lot in common with its source material, so this is one of the more minor changes]]). However, she is probably one of the most memorable characters in the movie. Much like Hildy Johnson, she is sharp-witted, intelligent, and far from submissive. Even while most of the choices are put in the hands of the men, she gets a few moments (a memorable case being when the fact that she wasn't involved with an argument among the men allowed her to be the first to notice [[spoiler:that the Thing was cutting off the heat]]). Also despite being in a horror movie from the 1950's, she manages to avoid any kind of DistressedDamsel situation and never once screams in the movie (the only time she actually raised her voice was near the very end, and that was because she was trying to alert the protagonist to a very legitimate problem).
* ''Film/{{Them}}'' is another 50's monster flick that has a progressive female lead in entomologist Dr. Pat Medford. She's a competent professional who ably assists in dealing with the film's giant mutant ants, including going down with the male (non-scientist) heroes into a gassed colony to make sure the inhabitants are all dead. She does scream once, when she abruptly and unexpectedly comes face to face with one of the creatures, but beyond that moment she also never falls into the DistressedDamsel catagory.
* ''Film/LawrenceOfArabia'' is often praised for its anti-imperial politics and providing sympathetic, complex Arab characters, and was considered fairly progressive in 1962 because of this. Today, however, the movie draws heavy criticism for focusing on Bedouin looting during the desert campaigns (which is well-documented) and the political/tribal discord among Lawrence's allies (ditto, though this angle's exaggerated in spots). Not to mention Creator/AlecGuinness and Creator/AnthonyQuinn playing Arabs.
** Guinness went to extraordinary lengths to portray Feisal accurately. It worked, too. While on location he met several people who had known Feisal and were impressed by the resemblance. He listened to Omar Sharif to learn his Arabic accent. Jordanian officials and clergy worked closely with the production crew and actors, even coaching an English actor in proper recitation from the Holy Q'ran.
** Today the film is appreciated for being an EpicMovie that dealt with homosexuality in a complex and non-judgmental fashion. The fact that Creator/DavidLean and Creator/RobertBolt refused to de-gay Lawrence by adding a token female love interest (to the extent that the movie has absolutely no ''women'' in any parts outside of extras) and otherwise resorting to standard Hollywood hypocrisy when dealing with the topic. To some extent, it makes it even more radical than big budget films made today.
* Similarly, a lot of revisionist Westerns made in the '50s and '60s, which were daring enough to depict Native Americans sympathetically, haven't aged well, whether due to NobleSavage stereotyping or off-color casting. ''Film/BrokenArrow1950'' being the best example: Jeff Chandler's Cochise was considered groundbreaking, as an honest, sympathetic, and intelligent Apache Indian -- but today comes off as an improbably perfect wise man, played by a Jewish New Yorker. Later films like ''Film/LittleBigMan'' [[note]] which had a swarthy-skinned white youth (Creator/DustinHoffman) passing as a Native American in-story, which wasn't much better [[/note]] and ''Film/DancesWithWolves'', which feature Native American actors playing Native Americans, haven't helped.
* Most early movies depicting homosexuality directly, as opposed to through coded inference, inspire critical responses from modern viewers. ''Theatre/TheChildrensHour'' has generated controversy through the UnfortunateImplications involving [[spoiler:Shirley Maclaine's character]]. Others criticize Basil Dearden's ''Film/{{Victim}}'' (1961) for showing its gay characters as passive victims of criminals and blackmailers, focusing on their sexuality to [[{{Anvilicious}} make a social statement]]. However given that homosexual acts were still illegal in the UK at the time, ''Victim'' broke new ground in portraying the lead character, who eventually agrees to testify against the blackmailers, in a sympathetic way.
* ''Film/ConquestOfSpace'' (1955) may be shocking to a modern viewer in that it seems to imply the non-existence of female astronauts, meaning that the space program is made mostly of white men. However, the one Japanese crew member we see is treated as competent, professional, and equal to his white comrades.
* When seen today, a lot of {{Blaxploitation}} films from the 70's and 80's might come off as little more than cheap action films that just happen to have a black protagonist, but at the time the idea of a black actor making a successful career as an action star was relatively new. For a lot of black audiences at the time (and even some white viewers) having anyone that could be seen as a strong black lead that they could root for was seen as a huge step forward. The fact that there were even a few black women like Pam Grier who managed to make a successful career in these films is also remarkable when you consider that [[ActionGirl action heroines]] were only just ''starting'' to become popular in mainstream films.
* Silent film ''Film/TheHalfBreed'' might have its eponymous half-breed protagonist played by a white actor in {{Brownface}} (Creator/DouglasFairbanks), and the local natives are kind of minstrel-y figures that wind up setting fire to the forest for no reason. But in some other ways, it is remarkably enlightened for a film made in 1916. The eponymous half-Native American character is chased off his adoptive father's land by evil racist white folks. The film even goes so far as to mull on the idiocy of white supremacy, with a title card snarking about a "specimen of the 'Superior' white man" followed by a cut to a dirty alcoholic hobo.
* ''Film/RockyIV'' is often mocked today for delivering a BrokenAesop in the end, where Rocky tries to promote peace between the US and the Soviets. This wouldn't have been so bad, had he not made that speech just after beating the crap out of their Russian champion Ivan Drago on national television. Still, misplaced as it was, movies that portrayed Russia in any sympathetic light at all in the mid-80s height of the UsefulNotes/ColdWar were pretty hard to find.
* Nowadays, Lincoln Perry's infamous "Stepin Fetchit" character is mainly remembered as an embarrassingly racist caricature of African-American men, the poster boy for [[EthnicScrappy Ethnic Scrappies]], and an outdated relic of a time when casual racism was PlayedForLaughs--which it is. But of course, it's important to remember that Perry got his first major studio contract in ''1927''. In a time when {{Blackface}} was still a popular form of entertainment, it was a pretty damn big deal that Perry was able to launch a successful film career at all. And for him to become a bona fide ''movie star'' in such a time--the first Black actor ever to become a millionaire through the movie business, in fact--was nothing short of miraculous. As demeaning as the character might seem by today's standards, there's a good reason Perry was eventually given a Special Image Award by the NAACP in 1976.
* ''Film/GlenOrGlenda,'' directed by and starring the infamous Creator/EdWood, is one of the most notoriously awful movies of all time for its rambling narrative, terrible dialogue, and all of its nonsensical scenes and asides... but it's also a surprisingly open-minded film about transgender people, crossdressing, and anyone who oversteps society's "accepted" gender roles. It presents some ideas that would be laughable today, such as the idea that the titular Glen only crossdresses as Glenda because he needs a "perfect woman" in his life and that developing an interest in housework and cooking will "make" a man into a trans woman, but the movie also [[ValuesResonance condemns those who would use religion to demean these people]] and asks that the audience be open-minded and accepting of them.
* The movie ''Film/RainMan'' is criticized nowadays for introducing the stereotype that all autistic people have savant skills, and for giving out a strict criteria for autism portrayals when the condition is, in reality, loosely defined. However, the film was responsible for mainstream awareness of autism, and it opened the floodgates for introducing mentally-challenged characters in media. The book ''Literature/NeuroTribes'' also points out that the general population became much more sympathetic towards autistic people as they gained a basic understanding of the condition from the movie.
* ''Film/{{Philadelphia}}'' is heavily criticized by contemporary critics for falling heavily into the ButNotTooGay trope when it comes to its depiction of homosexuality, and for pretty much making Andrew into a saint who is flawless in every way except for being gay and having AIDS. Both of these elements were essentially forced onto the production by the [[ExecutiveMeddling studio]] in order to get the film made at all, and the studio also forced them to delete scenes showing Andrew and his partner Miguel in a more intimate light. Not to mention that it remains a ''massive'' step forward in the history of LGBT portrayals in cinema, to this very date.
* An example of an attempt at a ''politically'' progressive work would be the 1943 film version of ''Literature/ForWhomTheBellTolls'' featuring Creator/GaryCooper and Creator/IngridBergman. The heroes of the film include a band of Spanish anarchist guerrillas who are treated as, well, heroes, even if their beliefs are whitewashed into "normal" liberal patriotism. This at a time when many people in America and Europe - especially Christians and the wealthy - viewed anarchists as little more than common criminals. Also noteworthy is the lack of sexism within the guerrilla ranks, even if the ActionGirl is [[RealWomenNeverWearDresses a heteronormative tomboy]] and the ''pretty'' female rebel [[FauxActionGirl never actually fights]].

* ''Literature/AroundTheWorldIn80Days'': The book's protagonist, an Englishman, falls in love with and marries an Indian princess. Although Verne describes her as [[ButNotTooBlack fair skinned and notes that her English is perfect]], most likely as an excuse to make the pairing more acceptable to his 19th century audience, the fact that the book features an interracial marriage at all is still fairly progressive for its time period.
* In ''Literature/TheDivineComedy'', Creator/DanteAlighieri shows a surprisingly progressive (for the time) view on homosexuals: he does condemn the sin theologically by putting unrepentant sodomites in {{Hell}}, but treats individual characters with humanity, sympathy, respect and, in the case of his former teacher, Brunetto Latini, even affection. In Purgatory, repenting lustful souls share the same fate whether heterosexual or homosexual, just walking in opposite directions, with no extra punishment for the repentant sodomites.
* ''Literature/LittleWomen'' was actually comparatively feminist by the standards of its day, but the most feminist thing about the novel isn't anything in the book itself, but the fact that Louisa May Alcott defied every feminine standard of the day by fully supporting herself and her family financially with her pen after most publishers told her to "stick to your teaching." For that matter, being a female teacher was itself quite enlightened, as most teachers of that day were men.
* Creator/HRiderHaggard's 19th century stories about his GreatWhiteHunter Allan Quatermain (''Literature/KingSolomonsMines'', ''Allan Quatermain'', ''etc''.) have a number of UnfortunateImplications and the occasional racist overtone, but actually try hard not to be racist. The second book, ''Allan Quatermain'', even opens with an anti-racist essay by Quatermain. This does not make the books politically correct, mind you, and there's still a little accidental racism, but Haggard really does try, and his books are notable for pretty much lacking all the nastier stereotypes of blacks, having many strong black characters, and even a sympathetic interracial romance. Admittedly, they're StarCrossedLovers, but Quatermain notes that the problems they face are largely circumstantial, and maybe one day such love may be quite acceptable. A notable quote from ''King Solomon's Mines'' has Quatermain talk about gentlemen:
-->"What is a gentleman? I don't quite know, and yet I have had to do with niggers -- no, I'll scratch that word "niggers" out, for I don't like it. I've known natives who ''are'', and so you'll say, Harry, my boy, before you're done with this tale, and I have known mean whites with lots of money and fresh out from home, too, who ''ain't''."
* Creator/RudyardKipling rejected the notion that white people were inherently superior to non-white people. He believed that non-white people were no less capable of nobility, morality, and kindness. However, he also believed that non-whites needed the guidance of white people to better themselves, with his definition of "better" being English culture. This was a fairly common belief at the time argued by many people who rejected racism but supported British imperialism.
** ''Literature/WhiteMansBurden'' has inspired a great deal of argument over what the intended message was. If read as a straight defense of imperialism, it still states that whites attained the pinnacle of civilization through chance rather than racial superiority. Therefore, non-white people ''can'' be civilized and ''shouldn't'' be excluded or abused. This would be culturally supremacist, but not actually racist. Some people insist that the poem is a [[PoesLaw parody]] of imperialism, refuting it altogether.
** Several other of Kipling's poems -- [[http://www.kipling.org.uk/poems_jobson.htm "Jobson's Amen"]] and [[http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/we_and_they.html "We and They"]] -- are rather scathing towards the attitude that British are intrinsically superior to native people.
** "Fuzzy-Wuzzy", which refers to the Beja by the rather unfortunate epithet of, well, "Fuzzy-Wuzzy", nevertheless acknowledges "yo're a pore benighted 'eathen, but a first-class fightin' man".
** ''Gunga Din'', which has the titular Indian water-carrier -- viewed as lower than dirt by the British soldiers, including the narrator -- end up performing a TearJerker of a HeroicSacrifice to save the narrator. By the end, the soldiers' racism and Gunga Din's heroism end up as a huge subversion of the then-popular MightyWhitey trope.
---> You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
** The 1939 FilmOfTheBook portrays the Indian antagonists fairly sympathetically, simply fighting to get the British out. As the Indian leader notes, "our civilization was great while Englishmen lived in caves and painted their faces blue."
* ''Literature/UncleTomsCabin'' is an example in regard to UnfortunateImplications -- the blacks are caricatures, but they're at least treated as human beings, and the whole point of the novel is to condemn slavery. When released, the novel outraged the Southerners, and an entire [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Tom_literature genre]] was created to respond to it. Over the years, supporters of slavery created InNameOnly adaptions of the story that used the worst of the Blackface caricatures. It was these characterizations that stuck in the public's consciousness and gave rise to the concept of the "[[UncleTomfoolery Uncle Tom]]" (the black man who was subservient to white people and was seen as a "sell out" to his own race). The book's Uncle Tom character was anything but the stereotype: he was killed for defying his owner to help other slaves.
* Unlike other examples here, the "for its day" part in ''Literature/TheAdventuresOfHuckleberryFinn'' wasn't merely a ''comparatively'' positive portrayal that was nonetheless unfortunately marred; the caricatures in the book were part of a conscious ''subversion'' of such portrayals, as they reflect how black people look through the eyes of a racist child; as the book progresses, and Huck wises up, the black characters become less and less cartoonish. Much is made of Jim's many humorously absurd superstitions, but it should be noted that many of his predictions actually come true, and many white characters believe things that are no less absurd. Strangely, this makes the book fall into somewhat of an UncannyValley of race relations, with its invocation of NWordPrivileges causing more trouble than books that are much, much more prejudiced.
* Creator/RobertAHeinlein
** Heinlein was given the outline for his novel ''Literature/SixthColumn'' by the racist but influential sci-fi editor Creator/JohnWCampbell. He disliked the racism in the story, so he "fixed" it. Unfortunately, while it was fair for its day for having a "good guy" be Asian, it still contains enough racism to make you cringe today. He considered the story an OldShame. His ''Literature/FarnhamsFreehold'' lacks the excuse of being someone else's outline, but it tends to be more UnfortunateImplications. In his other works, the UnfortunateImplications are dialed down or absent (e.g. the narrator of ''Literature/TheMoonIsAHarshMistress'' is explicitly multiracial, and the narrator of ''Literature/TheCatWhoWalksThroughWalls'' is half black).
** ''Literature/TunnelInTheSky'' is also on the receiving end of this. While it seems ridiculously 1950sish at times -- like boys and girls not being allowed to go out hunting together, or girls' obsession with getting married -- it would have actually been pretty radical by the standards of the time, with strong female characters, including an entire military corps made up of women in combat roles -- something that we're only ''just now, in the 21st century'', accepting. One of the strong characters is a black woman. It's also notable for depicting a society where race is ''not'' something considered important, resulting in nobody in universe seeing anything particularly noteworthy about the protagonist being black.
* The [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kouroukan_Fouga Kouroukan Fouga]] may seem somehow reactionary today, but for its time, it was a revolutionary document and the first full-fledged constitution of a [[TheFederation federation]], [[OlderThanTheyThink five centuries and a half]] before the US got one.
* "The Little Black Boy" from Creator/WilliamBlake's ''Literature/SongsOfInnocence'' is a statement against racism, in which the little black boy begins by noting that DarkIsNotEvil, and then saying that when all are dead and gone to Heaven, their "clouds" of white and black will be lifted and they will all be alike.
* A non-fiction example is the first volume of ''The Story of Civilization'', the best general history series of the 20th century. The first volume was published in 1934, and is about the origins of civilization, and the author goes out of his way in the preface to apologize for the various stupid mistakes and simplifications he makes. He also makes the point that most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice; moreover, he flat-out states that civilization has nothing to do with racial qualities. Then he goes on to call Aborigines and Africans savages (right after saying we shouldn't use the word savage), gives a now incredibly antiquated overview of neolithic life, and talks about how the loose morals of various civilizations led to their destruction.
* Like most of the protagonists of 'boy's own' British adventure novels of the early twentieth century, John Buchan's Richard Hannay of such works as ''Literature/TheThirtyNineSteps'' reads as being quite racist and jingoistic to a modern reader; however, when compared to his peers (such as [[Literature/BulldogDrummond "Bulldog" Drummond]]), Hannay is notable for actually being quite open-minded and empathetic towards many of the traditionally stereotyped groups of the literature of the period (such as Germans, pacifists, Jews, ''etc''), and frequently avoids demonizing them. A lot has been made of racial slurs against Jews in ''The Thirty-Nine Steps'', but a more careful reading shows that they are all made by one paranoid and possibly unbalanced character. In RealLife, Buchan supported Zionism to the extent that at the outbreak of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, he featured on Hitler's death list of pro-Semitic persons.
* ''Greenmantle'' is noteworthy for treating its German villains with a degree of sympathy and respect, quite surprising given that the book was written in the midst of UsefulNotes/WorldWarI. Even Kaiser Wilhelm makes a brief cameo, coming off as a decent man manipulated by his subordinates into starting the war.
* Heavily subverted in the Creator/NevilShute novel ''Ruined City'', whose protagonist gives a modern reader the distinct impression that he would not be anywhere near so upset about his wife's infidelity save for the fact that she's chosen to conduct it with an Arab. But by the time you find this out, said protagonist already looks several kinds of {{jerkass}} for completely unrelated reasons, whereas the Arab comes over rather more sympathetically.
* The story [[http://www.andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheJewishGirl.html "The Jewish Girl"]] by Creator/HansChristianAndersen, with its message that Christianity is just better than Judaism and its protagonist who just wants to convert to Christianity, is insensitive at best by modern standards. But for its time, it is fairly tolerant: Sarah goes to Heaven, without even having to be baptized.
* The epic Arthurian poem ''Parzival'' features a half-white, half-Moor brother of the main character called Feirefiz. While the author, Wolfram von Eschenbach, claimed that Feirefiz [[YouFailBiologyForever would have skin that alternated black-and-white because of this]] (like a magpie), Feirefiz is treated much more decently than most other pagans in Arthurian legends -- he gets baptized, sees the Holy Grail, marries the Grail-maiden, and goes back home to a happy ending. The idea that a pagan was just 'someone who isn't Christian yet' as opposed to AlwaysChaoticEvil was extremely advanced for the Middle Ages.
* ''Literature/OrlandoFurioso'' does something similar with the Moorish knight Sacripant, who is, to some extent, the story's ChewToy, but is also probably the only genuinely decent person around. It's also worth noting that he gets a happy ending (although it involves converting to Christianity), while Orlando does not: Angelica's CharacterDevelopment from RichBitch to caring human being involves her choosing Sacripant over Orlando.
* ''Growltiger's Last Stand'' from ''Literature/OldPossumsBookOfPracticalCats'' uses the CH word to refer to the Siamese at one point. Howsoever, they are undeniably the heroes, and their defeat of the evil Growltiger is a SugarWiki/CrowningMomentOfAwesome.
* Creator/RobertEHoward:
** While Howard was unfortunately racist (although less hysterically than his friend Lovecraft), he managed to write a few reasonably well-rounded black characters in the Literature/SolomonKane series, not least of which is N'Longa, who is not only a native African, but also a powerful witch-doctor. His tone when referring to African natives is condescending, and he does use the nasty stereotypes a lot, but definitely not exclusively, which would have been par for the course.
** Howard wrote many stereotypical DistressedDamsel characters ([[ExecutiveMeddling usually at the insistence of his publishers]]), he also managed to create several strong female characters -- Belit, Velaria, and Red Sonya in particular.
* Arthur C. Clarke's original version of ''Literature/ChildhoodsEnd'' (1954) was extremely fair for its time, but slips up describing the Utopia: "The convenient word "[[NWordPrivileges nigger]]" was no longer tabu in polite society, but was used without embarrassment by everyone." Cringe-inducing, along with the use of 'negro', but ameliorated by the black [[AudienceSurrogate Jan Rodricks]]' adventuring & subsequent appearance at the end [[spoiler:as [[LastOfHisKind the last man]].]]
* Isaac of York in ''Literature/{{Ivanhoe}}'' is uncomfortably close to a GreedyJew for some modern readers. He's a wealthy and cautious Jewish moneylender who really likes his wealth. Although at least one of the epigraphs from a chapter involving his character is taken from ''Theatre/TheMerchantOfVenice'', Isaac is actually one of the good guys. In contrast to Shylock, he repeatedly states that he loves his daughter more than all his wealth. The persecution he suffers at the hands of the Christian villains is always characterized as unjust. The heroes always treat him and his daughter fairly. and Isaac, in turn, is even capable of some measure of generosity. His greed is clearly an [[MrViceGuy endearing character flaw]] rather than the core of his being.
* Machiavelli's ''Literature/ThePrince'' certainly qualifies. These days, it's largely considered a manual for [[KickTheDog puppy kicking]], and only the most cynical dictator or greasy politician would follow it. When it was written, it was basic pragmatism and even a little hopeful. A small minority of critics go so far as to label the whole thing a satire.
--> ''Further, he ought to entertain the people with festivals and spectacles at convenient seasons of the year; and as every city is divided into guilds or into societies, he ought to hold such bodies in esteem, and associate with them sometimes, and show himself an example of courtesy and liberality; nevertheless, always maintaining the majesty of his rank, for this he must never consent to abate in anything''.
* Julian Tuwim's ''Murzynek Bambo'' (literal translation: ''Bambo the little Negro'') was a 1930s Polish poem for kids which was meant to teach tolerance by showing that Bambo may be black and live in Africa, but he's still the same boy as you and me, sometimes misbehaving but being a good guy after all, who loves his mom and gets good grades at school. Today it is often seen as extremely insulting and racist, mainly because it shows Bambo doing things other little boys around the world do, like [[UnfortunateImplications climbing a (palm) tree or refusing to take a bath]].
* ''Literature/{{Struwwelpeter}}'' from Germany features a very 19th century outlook on family life and childrens' obedience, marked by its infamous spurts of [[WhatDoYouMeanItsForKids grotesque violence]] and DarkHumour ({{Fingore}} and repeated defiance of InfantImmortality, to name just a few). But it features the often-forgotten story of the Inky Boys: Three kids who tease a black boy for being black, and then get their just desserts when [[SantaClaus St Nikolas]] dips them into big vat of ink. When they continue to tease the boy, they just come off as the ridiculous racists they are. The black boy is called a "moor" by the narrator, which would be considered offensive today, but was very much a descriptive term back then. As you can see, the story isn't exactly pro-racism.
* [[UsefulNotes/DichterAndDenker German philosopher]] Oswald Spengler wrote in his non-fiction book ''Literature/TheDeclineOfTheWest'' that every major culture is [[BlueAndOrangeMorality not understandable]] from the POV of most other major cultures. Which he claimed was the case with westerners and Jews, too. Now, note he wrote this during a time when antisemites would spread the craziest conspiracy theories about [[OnceAcceptableTargets the eeeevul Jews]]. And in another work, he criticized German antisemitism, pointing out that the Brits didn't mind that UsefulNotes/BenjaminDisraeli was Jewish, and only cared that he was a competent prime minister. And in yet another work, he wrote how real men don't care for the race of their women, and only choose whomever is the right mother for their kids -- and may even prefer women of another race. And finally, he pointed out how in South Africa, black and white miners worked in the same mine, but the white miner was paid 2 shillings per hour for 8 hours of work per day, while the black one (though Spengler used a different word starting with "K", which he likely didn't know is considered very offensive) worked 12 hours for 1 shilling (per day, not per hour).
* The early ''Literature/TomSwift'' (1910) novels are an interesting case. In the books, the few times characters (even the villain) reference the [[SomeOfMyBestFriendsAreX black friend]], Eradicate's, race, he is called "black", which is more than fair for its day in books written literally twice as close to the days of legal slavery than to today. Unfortunately, the narrator calls him basically everything short of the n-word in the first book when he is in a chapter for a long time, apparently to avoid redundancy. Also, Eradicate is implied to be rather lazy, which is jarring simply because he seems to spend all of his waking day looking for work, whereas a white character living as a hobo also plays a prominent part in the book, but without implications of laziness. That said, Eradicate also saves Tom from very dangerous situations multiple times, so MightyWhitey is averted, despite Tom fixing his stuff often (which Tom also does with most of the secondary white characters as well).
* ''Literature/LiveAndLetDie'' was Ian Fleming's second 007 novel (1954) -- while the book's narrative and the black dialect Bond hears in Harlem read pretty cringe-worthy, he observes they're interested in the same things as everyone else, and is glad "they're not genteel about it". One of Mister Big's mooks is instructed to hurt Leiter "considerably", but has bonded with him over their mutual love of jazz. He hurts him just a little and apologizes, as he doesn't dare cross his boss. Mister Big himself notes that blacks have made major contributions to many human endeavors, and aims to be the first black super-criminal.
** During Bond's initial briefing, even M (not a character noted for tolerance or open-mindedness) says that Mr. Big or someone like him was inevitable. "The Negro races are just beginning to throw up geniuses in all the professions -- scientists, doctors, writers. It's about time they turned out a great criminal. After all, there are 250,000,000 of them in the world. Nearly a third of the white population. They've got plenty of brains and ability and guts. And now Moscow's taught one of them the technique."
* The Literature/LandOfOz series by Creator/LFrankBaum makes it difficult to realize that it was written more than a hundred years ago when you consider how many women are in positions of power, how many different personalities and mannerisms come with each woman, there was an all-female revolt against the Emerald City, the entire Land of Oz itself is ruled by a woman, and how little cultural quips such as women being delegated to being inside the home are mercilessly shunned by eponymous characters. It's about as quietly feminist a fantasy world as it gets, and it was written in a time nearly two decades before the United States granted women the right to vote. Though at the same time, one doesn't have to read too carefully to spot some pretty ridiculous (by today's standards) stereotypes. For instance, the soldiers of the all-female revolt mentioned above use knitting needles as their weapon of choice, and they conquer the Emerald City because the army (which is only one old man) would never dare harm a lady. Also, when the leader of the revolt, Jinjur, is expelled from her throne, she laments that she now has to go back home and milk cows. Still, Jinjur is expelled by the all-female army of real soldiers fielded by Glinda the Good, and replaced on the throne by another woman, Queen Ozma. So it's not exactly The Patriarchy Strikes Back. Baum was a suffragist himself (in fact his mother-in-law was feminist and suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage, whose views were even more radical than most women's rights activists at the time, which he channeled into his work).
* ''Literature/ToKillAMockingbird'' has been criticized for the use of racial epithets (even by the good guys) and for not developing black characters completely enough, and Atticus for not being as completely accepting of African-Americans as some people would like -- but considering that it's set in the 1930s, just the fact that he forbids his children from using the word "nigger" and honestly argues Tom Robinson's case in court even knowing that [[KangarooCourt he can't win]] (as well as the fact that [[spoiler:he actually ''almost '''does''' win'']]) is quite a thing in itself.
* Italian author Emilio Salgari was revolutionary for late 19th century-early 20th century Italy, as he would have female heroines and invariably portray colonialism as the result of either greed or well-intentioned ignorance and often took the parts of the indigenous people in his novels, openly stating they had any right to oppose forced Europeanization (and putting the blame for the Indian Mutiny of 1859 firmly on the East India Company for walking over Indian customs). On the other hand, modern audiences will cringe a little at his characters, considering the various races of mankind and assuming that a determinate character is brave or a coward due to his origins, or the implied superiority of then-current European civilization (keyword ''current'': he states that many past non-European civilizations were on par or superior to the European one of their time, and that the European superiority is due to non-European decadence and mixing foolish customs to more civilized ones). [[ScienceMarchesOn He also considered smoking a healthy habit]].
* ''Literature/TheSilenceOfTheLambs'' centered on a CreepyCrossdresser serial killer who [[spoiler:murdered and skinned women to make himself a woman suit]]. However, both the book and the film try to distinguish between real transsexuals and the villain, who only ''thinks'' he's a transsexual due to his own self-hatred, and go out of their way to point out that most transsexuals are normal, decent people who have no unusual inclination towards violence -- in fact, in the book, one of the ways Lecter suggests for finding a description or photograph of the killer is to look at people who both faked their identity to the surgeon, and were turned down for the surgery for psychological reasons; the former because a criminal record for almost anything (besides, well, charges based upon them cross-dressing) disqualifies the applicant (and both Lecter and the FBI agree that Buffalo Bill almost certainly had one), and the latter because, well, there was no way that anyone as disturbed as Buffalo Bill was going to pass a psychological test of any kind.
* ''Literature/RobinsonCrusoe'' can leave a bad taste in readers' mouths due to Friday being [[HappinessInSlavery happy to be Crusoe's slave]] and Robinson subsequently "Europeanizing" him, as well as never letting you forget that Friday is Crusoe's inferior. However, in the days when Carib Indians were considered devil-worshiping cannibals, Friday being described as brave, loyal, and a better Christian than Crusoe himself is a ''huge'' improvement by the standards of 1719.
** Robinson also mentions that while the cannibals do eat people and kill their captives, it's not really their fault, as it is only in their culture to do these things, and that his [[NotSoDifferent own more civilized nation]] has also committed atrocities.
* Several examples from British statesman Lord Chesterfield's ''Literature/LettersToHisSon'':
** With regards to the Crusades, he wrote that the Christians attacked the Muslims to take land that was rightfully theirs.
** About fox-hunting: "The poor beasts are here pursued and run down by much greater beasts than themselves".
* Creator/HPLovecraft very rarely gave any female characters important roles in his stories, but his thoughts on women's rights were actually quite progressive for his time. Whenever women do show up in his stories, it's a very minor supporting role at best. That said, in ''Literature/TheShadowOutOfTime'', the narrator describes his ex-wife, who after he apparently went mad ([[ItMakesSenseInContext in actuality, his body had been swapped with an alien from the past]]) actually takes action and gets the rest of her family as far away from her now-abusive husband as possible. There is also talk of strong-willed and intelligent mothers (such as that of Arthur Jermyn), and one or two memorable female antagonists. This is also quite impressive compared to some of the other mythos writers of the time, some of whom did not write women at all. In contrast, his views on ''race'' were [[InvertedTrope bad even by 1930s standards]].
* The book "Literature/LadyInWaiting" may seem overall backwards in expecting single women to do so much service. However, some parts of it are actually rather progressive. One single woman is encouraged to pursue a doctoral degree -- sadly, some religious leaders and denominations still discouraged women's advanced education, stating that a woman did not need it since motherhood was a woman's true call. Another part states that a spiritually beautiful woman is interesting and has goals for herself -- possibly encouraging goals other than motherhood. And just the fact that the book implies that the women reading it want to find husbands because they want romantic love and adult companionship (as compared to just seeing marriage as the way to achieving their one and only ultimate goal of having children) may seem actually revolutionary. Overall, just the fact that the book acknowledges that women could or would possibly want something in their lives other than to become mothers goes against what some groups believe.
* The ''Literature/SherlockHolmes'' stories feature various racist stereotypes common to the era of the 1870s to the 1890s, but there is a hint of WriterOnBoard in the way Holmes, Watson, and the women in the series express, to different degrees, distaste for the way divorce laws were slanted against women. Holmes also lampshades, a century-plus ago, the "American fascination with guns". There's also one story in which members of the Ku Klux Klan appear as villains. He also shows interracial marriage favorably in one story, when it was widely taboo and even illegal, with a woman having to hide her mixed race child due to this (her new husband, who is white, accepts her child though). Also, the one woman Holmes truly respects as his intellectual equal (because she managed to outsmart him) has a habit of running around London in male disguise, because that makes it easier to go wherever she wants to go. And Holmes himself dresses up like an old woman once or twice for spying purposes, which is shocking to Watson, but not really presented as morally wrong to the reader.
** There's also a lesser-known non-Holmes mystery short story by Creator/ArthurConanDoyle with the title ''The Man with the Watches''[[http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/ManWat.shtml]], which is remarkably gay-positive or at least advocating for tolerance. Alright, the narrator is a homophobic / transphobic jerk, the story still ends in [[BuryYourGays tragedy]], and the gay couple are criminals (card sharps) willing to use violence, but the narrative supports the reading that the tragedy wouldn't have happened if the narrator hadn't been such a bigoted bully, and the surviving partner of the pair (who'd been presented as a "seducer of the innocent" by the narrator up to that point) is explicitly shown to not be evil or inhuman in the end, with the narrator even bonding with him a little over their shared grief. And for a straight, mainstream author in the Victorian era, writing this story for the family-friendly, middle-class ''The Strand'' magazine, a story that not only shows the "love that dare not speak its name" in fairly unmistakable ways ''at all'', but also invites the reader to sympathize with the gay characters, is pretty amazing already.
* The Literature/NeroWolfe stories, particularly those written fairly early on, often have sympathetic characters expressing some casually racist and misogynistic views. However, Creator/RexStout was a fairly progressive guy for his time, and just as frequently lampoons these same views by showing them to be ludicrous, damaging, and evil. Wolfe himself, while unquestionably holding several old-fashioned and misogynistic views, seems to find these types of prejudice absurd, and usually treats everyone he encounters with an equal amount of respect. One also gets the sense in reading the stories as they progress over time that Stout often comes to find several of his earlier views embarrassing or shameful and makes a conscious effort to try and repudiate them in later stories.
** A notable example is the 1938 novel ''Too Many Cooks'', which is set at an exclusive restaurant/resort in West Virginia with a large number of black people working as the service staff. Derogatory terms and condescending attitudes towards African-Americans are thrown about with an abandon the modern reader may find disconcerting, but the ultimate point of the novel is that these attitudes are foolish; Wolfe makes a significant breakthrough in the case simply by gathering the service staff together, treating them with genuine respect, and appealing to their sense of decency and equity.
* The Franchise/NancyDrew and Literature/HardyBoys books had to undergo some pretty extensive rewrites (to the extent that sometimes only the title was the same) in the 1960s because of this. The original stories started back in 1927 had a lot of more offensive stereotypes, and the unfortunate habit of referring to a large number of the villains as "dark," "swarthy," and "foreign," not to mention stereotypical characters who were supposed to be the ''good'' guys. At least one scholarly article wondered whether or not it was a good thing, since rather than make minority characters more complex and three-dimensional, they just got rid of them entirely, [[MonochromeCasting whitewashing the entire series]], leaving some scholars to say, "Sure they were offensive, but at least they were ''there.''"
* In a similar case, in ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'', while they are not humans, the orcs are often referred to as dark and swarthy while the heroic elves are usually described as fair or light-skinned. Also most of the humans who are fighting for [[GodOfEvil Morgoth]] and [[DragonAscendant Sauron]] are Eastern and described as sallow-skinned or swarthy. Tolkien was actually quite progressive for his day, but such descriptions might make some readers cringe today. However Tolkien at least implies that those fighting for Sauron aren't really evil but misguided and lied to. When Sam sees the body of a man who fought for Sauron he even wonders whether he was really evil and whether he would have preferred to stay at home. And in an UnbuiltTrope of AlwaysChaoticEvil it is claimed the Orcs are really acting out of fear and a cruel culture.
* ''Literature/TheCountOfMonteCristo'' is a multidimensional example of this.
** Racism: While Creator/AlexandreDumas was a man of color, and his portrayal of people of various races and cultures was extremely advanced for the mid-1800s and the two slave characters in the book are usually treated extremely kindly and respectfully by their master, the main character is still a slaveowner, and some of the commentary on Arabic culture can leave a bad taste in modern readers' mouths.
** Sexism: Dantes seems to blame Mercedes for marrying Fernand and consider it an act of unfaithfulness. It's very arguable, though, as Mercedes defends herself by reminding him that Fernand was her closest and oldest friend and her emotional support after Dantes was imprisoned, and she had no way of knowing that Fernand was behind it. The Count later tells her that he doesn't begrudge her anything. Additionally, many of the women in the story, even if they aren't necessarily the nicest people, are independent, well-rounded characters.
*** The character Haydee is also an example. ''Yes,'' she is stereotypically quiet and submissive, ''yes,'' she is [[HappinessInSlavery a foreign slave who is happy to be so]] -- but she also gets a chapter or so devoted to recounting her backstory, and another showing how she testified in court to get her revenge against the man who killed her father and sold her mother into slavery.
** Homophobia: The lesbian Eugenie Danglars is portrayed as an extremely cold, standoffish, even morally ambiguous person. However, she is also a more-or-less openly gay character in a time period when homosexuality was something of a taboo, and she and her lover Louise d'Armilly are still portrayed as fairly good people compared to many of the other characters in the novel. It also completely averts the BuryYourGays trope (Eugenie and Louise run off together to be artists, escaping their disapproving families and presumably going on to live happy lives).
* ''Literature/HeartOfDarkness'' can seem quaint and uncomfortable to modern audiences, but Joseph Conrad was one of the only people writing criticism of the atrocities going on in the Belgian Congo. Even if the book contains some Africans depicted as cannibals, or violent hunters, or [[NobleSavage Noble Savages]], Conrad's sheer indignation as he writes about the labor camps and their brutal European overseers bleeds through and is hard to argue against.
* Can be seen in much of [[Creator/CSLewis C.S. Lewis]]'s work. While some of his views on gender roles, race, and sexuality may seem outdated now, he almost always did his best to treat these subjects even-handedly and with more sympathy than many readers now give him credit for. He was actually fairly progressive for his day (and still is compared to many mainline Christian writers).
** The Calormenes may seem like offensive stereotypes of the Middle East, worshipping a God who turns out to be a [[GodOfEvil demon]] who can't accept anything good. However it's shown that there are still good Calormenes, Emeth for example is able to get into Aslan's Country because he was devout to his religion even though he wasn't worshipping Aslan. Aslan even says anybody who does good is really doing it in his name without knowing it.
** Although the main character of ''Literature/{{The Horse And His Boy}}'' was a "White Narnian", his companion Aravis, an intelligent and brave girl, was fully Calormen.
* The 19th century Philip Meadows Taylor novel ''Literature/{{Seeta}}'' is typically imperialistic, treating Christianity and British culture as inherently superior to Hinduism and Indian culture. However, it sympathetically portrays a mixed-race marriage between an Englishman and an Indian woman who learns to accept British values. The story paints a picture where all races are equal and the only thing lacking in non-white populations is the right culture, which can be learned. While it all serves as a justification for colonial expansion of the British Empire, it's a very progressive take on the subject.
* The works of Harold Bell Wright (an author in the early 1900s) exclusively portray women [[MadonnaWhoreComplex as either one-note embodiments of purity or immoral sluts]] trying to corrupt the protagonists. However, his female characters often do masculine things such as horseback riding, bushcraft and carrying a gun. They are praised for doing these things, and when Sybil [[note]]The protagonist of ''The Eyes of the World''[[/note]] threatens to shoot [[BigBad James Rutlidge]], it is treated as a MomentOfAwesome. At least Wright's heroines were allowed to be strong in ''some'' ways- a lot of the era's other female characters weren't.
* In the ''Literature/DoctorDolittle'' stories, Prince Bumpo and his parents were pretty progressive for their time period. The king was given a legitimate reason to be angry with and not trust white people (the last ones who showed up before Dr. Dolittle were shown great hospitality and responded by digging up the ground for gold, shooting elephants for their ivory, and leaving without even thanking the king) and Bumpo, despite being portrayed as a bit foolish, was still a good-hearted man. He joins Dr. Doolittle for a later adventure and the narrator (a schoolboy who is also coming along) is amazed that Bumpo treats him as a friend, since Bumpo is an adult and a prince.
* While ''Literature/TheWellOfLoneliness'' does use the old-fashioned theory of 'sexual inversion' to explain the protagonist's homosexuality, which seems to imply that all lesbians are by nature masculine, it was still very radical for its time for using this biological theory of homosexuality to claim that homosexual love is just as natural as heterosexual love, and should be accepted by society. Its message was so shocking for the time that it was famously banned for 'obscenity'.
* The Brazilian book series ''Literature/SitioDoPicapauAmarelo'' has been accused of racism for depicting black characters and its not helped that the language used to describe them is ''painfully dated''. On the other hand, said black characters are never depicted in anything other than a positive light with [[{{Mammy}} Aunt Anastasia]] and [[MagicalNegro Uncle Barnabe]] being shown as very wise and intelligent. Other than race issues, the series' most well known character Emilia, was also a very headstrong and independent little girl/ragdoll which stood out in early 1900s.
* Laura Ingalls Wilder thought it was very important, when writing ''Literature/LittleHouseOnThePrairie'', to represent the "good Indians" that argued that the other tribes should not kill the white settlers.[[note]]Leaving beside the UnfortunateImplications of this needing to be represented...[[/note]] To this end, she did some research on the subject, and wrote in Soldat du Chene, allegedly the chief of the Osage at the time. Unfortunately, [[DatedHistory this was probably not the man's actual name]], [[http://liwfrontiergirl.com/osage.html because the book she got it from was wrong]].
* In ''Literature/AConfederacyOfDunces'', the CampGay Dorian and JiveTurkey Burma came come across as somewhat as bigoted caricatures to modern readers. But Burma is clearly portrayed as a victim of PoliceBrutality and one of the [[OnlySaneMan few characters to be both sane and basically decent]], while Dorian is never portrayed as a villain and is clearly the better man compared to Ignatius. And speaking of Ignatius, the ultra-conservative, {{Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist}}'s bizarre mixture of contempt and condescension towards homosexuals and blacks is very clearly portrayed as one of his many, ''many'' grotesque flaws.
* Giovanni Boccaccio's opus ''Literature/TheDecameron'' is remarkably even-handed with its treatment of Jews for a 14th century Christian text.
** The second story of the first day portrays Christianity as the true religion and ends with its Jewish main character's conversion, but through the course of the text it characterizes Abraham as an honest and learned man with a Christian best friend. It also contrasts Abraham's noble qualities with the corruption of the clergy of Rome.
** The third story of the first day goes a step further by asserting that Judaism is just as valid as Islam and Christianity. In a dialogue between Saladin and Melchizedek the Jew, who is [[GreedyJew miserly]] but also wise, Saladin tries to trap Melchizedek by asking him which of the three Laws (Christianity, Islam or Judaism) is the true faith. Melchizedek tells a parable through which he asserts that adherents of all three religions can never know if theirs is the true one in spite of their faith, and Saladin sees the wisdom of this.

[[folder: Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Star Trek|The Original Series}}'' was progressive for its day, but is still obviously a creation of the 60s.
** Lt. Uhura is the [[TokenMinority only black cast member]], who, as a female communications officer, can come off as little more than a secretary.[[note]] On ''Series/TheBigBangTheory'', Leonard actually points this out, noting that the show's only black character basically "answered the space phone." [[/note]] Creator/NichelleNichols agreed with this assessment and was going to leave the show at the end of the first season. She was talked into staying, because seeing a black woman on television in any role but that of a maid really was groundbreaking for its day. It even led to the often-quoted first interracial kiss on television, between Kirk and Uhura, in the episode "[[{{Recap/StarTrekS3E10PlatosStepchildren}} Plato's Stepchildren]]". The person who felt so inspired by Uhura as a symbol of progress he talked Nichelle into remaining on the show... [[UsefulNotes/CivilRightsMovement Martin Luther King Jr.]] Creator/WhoopiGoldberg also credits seeing Nichols on this show as a major inspiration to her as a child. She says this a big reason she choose to appear on ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration''.
** Other examples include Sulu and Chekov. Sulu as a competent professional, not a cringing yellow stereotype, and Chekov as a non-evil Russian on television during the UsefulNotes/ColdWar. Many minor characters as well break the white-male mold; given the military setting, this is remarkable for the day.
** Those miniskirts that are greeted with rolled eyes nowadays were considered a mark of female liberation at the time, as women who wore them were exerting their right to dress sexy instead of like timid housefraus. Sure, it was {{fanservice}} too, but not ''just'' that. Also, the miniskirts weren't mandatory: some of the female background crew are shown wearing pants. The skirt uniform was an option, a distinction which can be lost on modern audiences.
** In "[[{{Recap/StarTrekS2E24TheUltimateComputer}} The Ultimate Computer]]", Kirk reports to his superior officer, who turns out to be a black man. Dr. Daystrom, the creator of the M-5 computer and one of the Federation's greatest geniuses, is also black, and eventually revealed to have created the computers used on the Enterprise. In addition, Dr. [=McCoy=]'s medical staff includes the eminently qualified Dr. M'Benga, who is African himself (and the staff expert on Vulcan physiology). With them, their race is a ''total'' non-issue, as you would expect with an interstellar and multi-species [[TheFederation federation]].
** Originally, Creator/GeneRoddenberry [[WhatCouldHaveBeen wanted to take it a bit farther]] and had cast Creator/MajelBarrett as the first officer in the original version of the pilot. He even subverted the common portrayal of women as being prone to hysterics by portraying her as the cold logical type (a trait that would later be transplanted to Spock, who was originally supposed to be emotional and can be seen acting emotionally in the original pilot). Capt. Pike even called her [[Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration Number One]]. ExecutiveMeddling canned it, either because of negative test audience reaction (from women!) or because Barrett was Roddenberry's mistress. Or both.
** Roddenberry actually went a bit further than most people knew when it came to having a female in the chain-of-command. When [[ExecutiveMeddling canned the idea of Majel Barrett as the second-in-command]], Rodenberry then tried to slip it in the back door by having ''Uhura'' be the ship's second officer after Spock instead of Montgomery Scott, reasoning that a bridge officer would make more sense for such a task. The network didn't catch on to this trick until shooting had already started on the episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of," at which point they once again tanked the idea of a female commander for Enterprise.
** And then there's [[Recap/StarTrekS1E22SpaceSeed Khan]]. The official reason for [[Film/StarTrekIntoDarkness the 2013 movie]] casting the white Creator/BenedictCumberbatch to play him instead of an Indian actor was that the producers would have felt uncomfortable having a man of color as a villain, particularly since that version [[PostNineElevenTerrorismMovie played Khan up as a terrorist]]. As others have pointed out, however, they actually didn't get it right in the original series either, as the Indian Sikh Khan was played by the Mexican-born Creator/RicardoMontalban. But in 1967, casting a dark-skinned actor as a dark-skinned character was pretty progressive (remember, this was the same era that gave us [[Film/LawrenceOfArabia Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn as Arabs]] and [[Film/TheConqueror John Wayne as Genghis Khan]]). And Khan wasn't ''just'' a villain, mind you: he was an incredibly brilliant, charismatic world leader who was genetically bred to be superior to other humans in every conceivable way--all of which was ''unthinkable'' for a character of color at the time. [[MexicansLoveSpeedyGonzales The Sikh community loved the character]] for those aspects, and were upset when the film producers threw away the chance for a Sikh actor to play him.
** It should be noted that while Montalban was born in Mexico, he is actually 100% "white"/European. His parents were from Castile, Spain. His features are totally Caucasian and his skin is no darker than your average Spaniard or Greek (a tannish/olive skin tone), bar "Space Seed" when he was in BrownFace.
** The famous interracial kiss is often criticized for its UnfortunateImplications, because they were KissingUnderTheInfluence thanks to [[AliensMadeThemDoIt aliens]]. Due to the racism of the time, the showrunners and actors had to fight very, very hard to get even ''that'' to happen -- the executives ordered them to shoot alternate takes without the kiss (which Creator/WilliamShatner deliberately messed up every time by pulling faces), they wanted Spock to kiss Uhura instead (because he was [[DiscountLesbians an alien, so it didn't count]]), and they outright would not budge on allowing it to be consensual. Even so, stations in the Deep South refused to air the episode at all, resulting in it being the lowest rated episode of the entire original series.
* The ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'' episode "[[{{Recap/StarTrekTheNextGenerationS5E17TheOutcast}} The Outcast]]" often gets criticism today for its blatant use of the DiscountLesbians trope in attempting to tackle LGBT rights. In a nutshell: the plot features Riker falling in love with a member of an androgynous alien species [[DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything who consider attraction to gendered species to be a form of sexual perversion]], leading to her being subjected to forced "psychotectic therapy" after she declares that she considers herself female, and is attracted to Riker because he is male. The intended GayAesop is a bit hard to swallow today, since Riker's love interest Soren is ''played by a woman'', as are all of the other members of the androgynous J'naii species. But in 1992--when same-sex marriage was '''illegal''' in the United States--the very fact that the show ''attempted'' to tackle LGBT rights was pretty daring; for all its faults, the episode still [[SomeAnvilsNeedToBeDropped explicitly condemned conversion therapy]] at a time when it was still a common "treatment" for homosexuality. And even if it was accidental, Soren's struggle to declare herself female (over the objections of her species) still made ''Star Trek'' one of the first shows ever to come anywhere close to touching the issue of transgender rights.
* ''Series/{{Ultraman}}'' was very similar to ''Series/{{Star Trek|TheOriginalSeries}}'' in that it had a woman (Fuji) as an integral part of the Science Patrol team. By odd coincidence, Fuji occupied the same post-communications officer as Uhura, and the two shows premiered within weeks of each other! Considering that Japan's attitude toward gender roles was even more retrograde than the U.S.'s at the time, Fuji's prominent role in the team (she frequently deployed with her squad mates and fought alongside them in many of their battles, much more so in fact than Uhura did) was positively revolutionary (to be sure, Fuji sometimes served tea to the rest of the crew in classic OfficeLady fashion). ''Ultraman'' even went ''TOS'' one better in that at least one episode centered around Lt. Fuji, whereas poor Uhura never got the chance to really be at the center of an episode.
** We can also say similar things about many other female characters in the early ''Franchise/UltraSeries'', notably Anne Yuri from ''Series/UltraSeven'' and Yuko Minami from ''Series/UltramanAce''. Both got to participate on the field even more than Fuji did, with the latter being Ultraman Ace's ''co-host'', making their characters very progressive by the standards of late 60s-early 70s Japanese society. Unfortunately in the case of Yuko, the character was PutOnTheBus because young viewers didn't respond well to the idea of an Ultra having a woman as a host.
* On ''Series/TheManFromUNCLE'', (which started running several years before ''Series/{{Star Trek|TheOriginalSeries}}''), Illya Kuryakin (as portrayed by Creator/DavidMcCallum) was one of the first positive portrayals of a Russian. -- more precisely, Soviet -- character on UsefulNotes/ColdWar-era American TV. This was all the more revolutionary because Illya was portrayed as being not just a patriotic Russian citizen, but ''a serving officer in the Soviet Navy'' (he's shown in uniform in one episode).
** In one second-season episode, "The Indian Affairs Affair", Native Americans in Oklahoma were portrayed in what would be considered a somewhat cringeworthy manner today, but it was quite clear from the context that they were the good guys (and THRUSH was portrayed in this episode as dressing up like stereotypical "black-hat" cowboy villains and treating the Native Americans in a contemptuous manner), and the Native Americans lent crucial help to Napoleon and Illya at the episode's climax in foiling the THRUSH plot.
** Although the first female Section II agent (that is, active combatant) was infantilizingly referred to as "Series/TheGirlFromUNCLE", she was also a whip-smart and highly capable operative. The other Sections were consistently depicted as coed affairs, with women serving not just as secretaries[[note]]Not to mention that the "secretaries" that staffed the front desks at UNCLE offices were also the offices' first line of defense--and they were armed[[/note]] but as codebreakers, translators, medical staff, computer programmers[[note]] although programming was often considered "women's work" back in the day[[/note]], and scientists.
* Certain episodes of ''Series/{{Bonanza}}'' were Fair for their Day. Although it was, at heart, a cowboys-and-Indians type show, the Native Americans occasionally had hints of character depth and humanity. Little Joe used to defend an Indian boy in schoolyard fights... but then kills him when his "savage nature" shows. The Cartwrights lose track of their young cousin and panic because there are "savages" around... but then a friendly Indian brings her home safely. A neighbor is against Indian removal because he is afraid his friends will starve on a reservation, so Ben intercedes... to make sure the new reservation has fertile land. It all seems hokey and racist today, but some of these aired when American Indians had only recently been granted civil rights.
* ''Radio/TheJackBennyProgram'' is sometimes criticized for the character of Rochester, a butler who is routinely mistreated by [[AdamWesting Benny's fictional version of himself]]. In early episodes, Rochester is little more than a black stereotype, with lots of gags made about craps and razor blades. However, Benny became increasingly uncomfortable with racial humor and began scaling it back. After learning about the extent of the Holocaust, he demanded that all racial humor be eliminated from the show. Rochester remained poorly treated, but this is because [[JerkAss Benny's character is an egomaniacal jerk]]. Rochester is also a ServileSnarker who often gets the better of his employer. Many later episodes also show that Rochester and Benny's character are actually best friends.
* ''Radio/AmosAndAndy'' was immensely popular in its day, but is today viewed with a degree of embarrassment due to its unvarnished indulgences in MinstrelShow tropes and {{blackface}} live performances. However, it was also one of the first shows to portray blacks as successful businessmen. Various characters were shown as lawyers, doctors, shop owners, and the main characters run a cab company. In earlier radio days, ''Amos & Andy'' was a 15 minute daily serial program, and great attention was paid to characterization. Audiences were called upon to sympathize with the black characters' goals and feelings. The show included a significant portion of straight drama dealing with their lives, and even dabbled with social commentary during a sequence where Amos is abused by police.
* One episode of ''Series/GetSmart'' featured Max pretending to be a Native American to foil a plot by a Native American splinter group to destroy the US. More than a bit cringeworthy by today's standards, but the episode's climax has Max admitting that they may be justified in their grievances and he has no good reason why the splinter group should expect better treatment from the US in the future, considering all they've been through so far. Oh, and the Native Americans' master plan? [[RuleOfFunny Firing a giant arrow at the White House.]]
* ''Series/{{Bewitched}}'' is often attacked as a reactionary fantasy, in large part for Darrin's chauvinism and Samantha's tolerance of it. However, most of the early black-and-white episodes begin with Darrin clinging to the slightly exaggerated chauvinism of a typical television husband only to realize his mistake and apologize to Samantha by the end of the episode. Darrin's chauvinism was necessary so that he -- and the men in the audience -- could learn that episode's lesson against male vanity, male consumerism, and male bravado. Unfortunately, that aspect of the character was {{Flanderized}} as the series moved into color.
* The ''Series/MysteryScienceTheater3000'' short "The Home Economics Story" leaves itself open to mockery for its depiction of "women's work" in the 1950s. Still, it does encourage girls to go to college and get jobs (albeit to study [[TitleDrop Home Economics]] and become Nurses/Cooks/Teachers), and it argues that an education is important even if you are planning on being a stay-at-home wife (which at least implies that a girl ''might'' be allowed to try being something else). [[note]] Many cynics have observed that while many women (at least if they were upper-class or upper-middle-class women) did attend college prior to women's lib, they did so primarily to receive an economically worthless liberal-arts education so that they could pass themselves off as "cultured" and "highbrow" and make their husbands look good at social gatherings. To a great extent this was true, but there was nothing legally stopping some women from studying mathematics or one of the other hard sciences and actually getting a professional job, popular social attitudes be damned. [[/note]]
* The original ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|1978}}'' had, in its second episode, a case where almost all the male pilots were incapacitated by a disease. In desperation they create a squadron of all female pilots, gleaned from shuttle pilots, who turn out to be just as competent as the men at fighting the Cylons. This was 20 years before the US Military allowed women fighter pilots.
* ''Series/{{Carrusel}}'' may not have had any of the girls be into science, sports, or any other traditional male pursuits. But most of the girls still had career goals--and their teachers and parents encouraged the girls to pursue them. Which can be deemed enlightened, considering this was made in Mexico in 1989-1990, a very macho society with employment opportunities for women much more restricted than those of women in the USA/UK.
* ''Series/MindYourLanguage'' is widely criticized today for its use of ethnic stereotypes, but at the time (late 1970s) it was looked upon positively for giving main roles to non-white actors who would otherwise have found it very hard to gain representation on TV.
* ''Series/MightyMorphinPowerRangers'' (and the ''PowerRangers'' franchise as a whole) is often mocked for its FiveTokenBand and for having a [[UnfortunateImplications black Black Ranger and an Asian Yellow Ranger]], not to mention that the Pink Ranger is a girl. The truth of the matter was that the race/color combination was an accident, only realized halfway through the first season, and was even corrected with various cast changes. [[note]] The African-American Walter Jones was actually originally cast as the Blue Ranger, and unaired test footage shows that [[TheOtherMarty the actress originally cast as the Yellow Ranger was actually Hispanic]].[[/note]] But regardless, the portrayal of those characters was unexpectedly nuanced and universally positive: Zack the Black Ranger had his own stories, rather than just being the BlackBestFriend to [[TheHero Jason]], and Trini the Yellow Ranger was intelligent enough to understand [[TheSmartGuy Billy]] but social enough to avoid falling under AsianAndNerdy. Walter Jones (Zack) commented that if anything, it just drew more attention to the fact that the show had a multi-racial cast.
* ''Series/TheOuterLimits1963'' was generally quite progressive in regards to race, with several episodes featuring dignified non-white characters. "Nightmare" in particular was an anti-racist episode. (They did have one YellowPeril episode, "The Hundred Days of the Dragon," but this was arguably more of a UsefulNotes/ColdWar story dealing with Communist China, being inspired by ''Literature/TheManchurianCandidate.)'' Unfortunately, while the show was admirably racially sensitive, by modern standards it could get pretty sexist. Most of the female characters scream ''a lot.''
* ''Series/{{The Goodies}}'':
** ''Series/{{The Goodies}}'' did an episode about South Africa which mocks and ridicules Apartheid. Try watching it on Youtube without wincing.
** One episode even spoofed the popularity of ''The Black and White MinstrelShow'' (a LongRunner "light entertainment" show featuring musical numbers performed in BlackFace -- at that time there had been a recent attempt to ReTool it by doing a series of it without the blackface, but the ratings tanked, causing it to be changed back) by combining it with a WholePlotReference to ''Series/{{Roots|1977}}''. While most of the stereotypical jokes are aimed at [[AcceptableTargets Scotland]] and the story satirizes the concept of using something like blackface as a ratings grab, its assertion that everything's better with blackface doesn't come off as entirely ironic.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The 1960s era, owing to having a female producer, Creator/VerityLambert, had much better written and more dynamic female characters than most other science fiction at the time - there are [[UsefulNotes/TheBechdelTest two equally prominent female characters who have lives outside of the male characters]], Barbara in particular being very strong. (Compare with ''Series/StarTrek'', with only two recurring female crewmembers who never interact.) Some stories even played with 60s conceptions of gender, such as "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS1E6TheAztecs The Aztecs]]" where Barbara is mistaken for the reincarnation of a male priest, causing her to point out that not all cultures consider gender to be that different, and a discussion between Susan and Barbara about whether Ian should think himself to be be looking after them. In "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS2E2TheDalekInvasionOfEarth The Dalek Invasion of Earth]]", Susan also snarks at a member of LaResistance who assumes that because she's a woman that she can cook, even though we later find out that she can when she prepares and cooks a wild rabbit for a Resistance member later. Future societies are depicted in which men and women are completely equal. Even the Doctor's patronising and patriarchal attitude towards his teenage granddaughter Susan was dismantled in "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS1E7TheSensorites The Sensorites]]", when he seems to realise that the reason he and Susan never argued is because he's been keeping her dependant on him. Barbara even has a no-strings-attached offscreen relationship with a handsome young HumanAlien [[GirlOfTheWeek man]], which is not milked for romance and for which she is never shamed. However, there's still plenty of random sexism that would never be acceptable today - such as in "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS1E2TheDaleks The Daleks]]" the way the Thals, presented as unambiguously heroic, openly mock their women - sexist {{Out Of Character Moment}}s when writers with a shakier grasp of gender relations try and write the female TARDIS crew-members, and how Susan is PutOnABus by having her get married (when she's supposed to be 16). There is also ''a lot'' of [[ScreamingWoman pointless female screaming]], and it's not always remotely appropriate for the situation - due to being a BottleEpisode, most of the implication that there is something amiss in "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS1E3TheEdgeOfDestruction The Edge of Destruction]]" is transmitted through having Susan and Barbara shriek all the time for no visible reason. And once Verity Lambert ends her involvement with the series, portrayal of women quickly gets worse -- [[StrangledByTheRedString marrying off of female TARDIS crewmembers]] and getting StuffedIntoTheFridge begins to happen (Vicki, Katarina and Sara), and ParentService and DamselInDistress characters start appearing (Polly and Victoria).
** 1960s ''Doctor Who'' also possessed relatively complex and interesting non-white cultures in some historicals, whose problems were not dealt with in a patronising way. Of course, they were all played by white people in makeup.
*** Mention has to go to "[[Recap/DoctorWhoSE6TheCrusades The Crusades]]", which tries to give a fair portrayal of the Saracens. The main villain may be a Saracen but it is made clear the others don't like him. Also the English are not portrayed as completely pure, Richard I is portrayed as quite childish and foolish at times. And the Saracen villain is finally killed by a Saracen Haroun, who apart from the TARDIS crew is probably the most heroic character in the serial.
** The Second Doctor and Jamie ShipTease like nobody's business, because the actors wanted to see if they could get away with it. (This was at a time when homosexuality was not yet legal, though few actors cared.) This may have contributed to the show's legendarily large LGBTFanbase, but nowadays ButNotTooGay flirting with no emotional payoff is considered {{Queerbaiting}} and is thoroughly discredited as homophobic by fandom.
** Similar to ''Star Trek'' "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS4E2TheTenthPlanet The Tenth Planet]]" (which aired just a month after the first episode of ''Star Trek'') and "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS4E6TheMoonbase The Moonbase]]" show a future with less national distinctions. The first example even shows a black man flying a spaceship. This can make "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS5E1TheTombOfTheCybermen The Tomb of the Cybermen]]" feel a bit awkward due to its portrayal of a black man who barely speaks and is the servant of the villains, with his main feature being his strength. However he ends up sacrificing himself to stop the Cybermen escaping. And originally he was supposed to be deaf but this didn't come across (though was retained in the novelization).
** "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS5E4TheEnemyOfTheWorld The Enemy of the World]]" features a strong, sympathetic, vulnerable and relatively three dimensional black female character (played by an actually black woman rather than by a white woman in makeup) who gets to be tragic and kicks ass, but also includes the Doctor putting on brown face paint to pass as a Mexican (and Creator/PatrickTroughton, a white man, playing said Mexican with non-diagetic brown face paint in a dual role).
** There's a few stinkers, but the portrayal of female companions in the 60s and 70s is generally better than in other SFF of the era, if only because the restrictions of being a children's show with a relatively sexless and nonviolent hero prevented the show from the worst excesses of sexual exploitation (and meant the Doctor was as likely as his female companions to get captured). The producers and writers were concerned about portrayal of women and tried to correct the worst problems that emerged - such as by pairing the Doctor up with a woman who was smarter than him (Zoe, Romana), or an ActionGirl (Leela). Elements of gender fluidity were even touched upon, with Season 14 (1976) treating a gender-swapping alien seriously, and implying that the ability to regenerate across gender was a trait both s/he and the Doctor shared. However, there's definitely elements to these characters that are regressive by modern standards, in particular the near-total lack of any female guest stars. And when Tom Baker made a point of mentioning that he wished his replacement "whoever he ''or she'' might be, a success", it was never a serious proposal, and had only ever been intended as FlameBait to get a media reaction, much to the disgust of Creator/ChristopherBidmead, who had genuinely wanted to cast a woman.
** "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" was ''somewhat'' progressive by the standards of TwoFistedTales YellowPeril {{pastiche}}, portraying its campy Chinese supervillain Chang as a highly intelligent NobleDemon whose reasons for resenting white Victorian society are shown to be justified; he also possesses a genuinely funny, DeadpanSnarker sense of humour, and is generally portrayed as the Doctor's WorthyOpponent. Even his opium use is shown in a context that makes it somewhat sympathetic. His boss Magnus Greel is a white man who could be read as a villainous cultural appropriator, a bellowing, misogynistic idiot who collects tacky Oriental junk out of his own pursuit of vanity. In the 70s, when mainstream comedy shows used music hall orientalist stereotypes to mock the Chinese, even this was unusual, as the {{camp}}y ironic tone would have been enough to indicate it was a GenreThrowback to Literature/FuManchu stories. This said, Chang is played by a white man in YellowFace; he and his Chinese cronies are all hopelessly duped by Greel's GodGuise even though Greel is portrayed as an idiot; the racist idea that Chinese people all look the same is a plot point; and every character, including ''the Doctor'', makes constant racist remarks which are supposed to be funny ("[he's in trouble] right up to his [[InherentlyFunnyWords epicanthic eyebrows]]"). It has been observed that "Talons" follows StrictlyFormula ''Doctor Who'' tropes, only instead of using AlwaysChaoticEvil alien races as the monster, it uses a real-world race. It aired in the UK, but in Canada, anti-defamation groups prevented its airing, and few today would find it an unfair decision.
* The title character in ''Series/{{Roseanne}}'' was regularly nasty to her boss, openly gay character Leon. Her plans for his wedding to his partner Scott employed almost every gay stereotype in the book. At the same time, that episode depicted a gay wedding almost 20 YEARS before same-sex marriage became legal in Illinois.
* The gay storyline involving Todd on ''Series/CoronationStreet''. Yes it involved a previously established straight character SuddenlySexuality and carrying on an affair behind his girlfriend's back. However it still portrayed Todd sympathetically, any hostility towards him was about the fact that it was an affair (rather than it being with another man) and it eventually resulted in the entire pub standing up for Todd against Les Battersby's homophobia. This was in 2003 and was one of the first times a gay storyline had ever been done in British soaps. There was a mountain of controversy over having gay characters at all. Todd remained a series regular for at least a year, during which another gay character was introduced (and they ''weren't'' [[TokenMinorityCouple paired together]]). Todd was most definitely a trail blazer for the very popular Sophie and Sian pairing that followed.
* Willow and Tara's relationship early on ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' reeks of HideYourLesbians. The network was incredibly strict on what the couple were allowed to be shown doing, the writers having to use magic as a metaphor for lovemaking. The two didn't even get to kiss on screen until they had been together for over a year. And that's not to mention the UnfortunateImplications of Willow's NoBisexuals approach. However it was a groundbreaking success for lesbians on television. The two weren't given a GayAesop or PositiveDiscrimination; they were treated as simply another couple on the show. Likewise after the show moved to a different network, they were allowed to be shown kissing and sharing a bed a lot more. This again was shocking, as lesbian couples on TV had been primarily known as affectionate rather than sexual. Just compare the evolution of Tara's popularity. When Willow chose her over Oz, fans exploded and wrote such nasty things about Amber Benson that she nearly quit the show. Two years later [[spoiler: when Tara was killed off]], Joss Whedon received death threats for letting her go.
** On the topic of the first on-screen kiss, it was slipped in as a genuine tender moment in the middle of the episode [[spoiler: where Buffy's mom dies]], handily and deliberately preventing it from being played for sex appeal in advertising.
* In 1961 Creator/RodSerling wrote ''Series/TheTwilightZone1959'' episode [[Recap/TheTwilightZoneS1E27TheBigTallWish "The Big Tall Wish"]] and cast black actors in all the major roles, which was completely unheard of at the time. Several future episodes followed suit and cast blacks in what would nowadays be considered [[TokenMinority "token black"]] roles, but back then, seeing black people on TV was so rare that even token inclusion was considered revolutionary.
* ''Series/HomeImprovement'' is, in many ways, a standard sitcom about a family where the dimwitted husband constantly has to apologize to his CloserToEarth wife about whatever screw-up he's done. But on a closer inspection, Tim is a loving husband and father and his conflicts with Jill are more about genuine miscommunication between genders than being irresponsible or selfish (most of his [[DoomItYourself DIY disasters]] come from trying to make Jill's life easier). The show received loads of fan letters praising the show for how well it represented marital arguments, and on multiple occasions Jill realizes that the way she treats Tim sometimes facilitates his behavior or she makes her own mistake and has to apologize to him.
* ''Series/AllyMcBeal'' aired an episode in 1997 featuring a transgender character named Stephanie. She is well-developed and largely sympathetic, Ally gets her pronouns right for most of the episode even when talking to other people about her, and she is distinguished from a drag queen or cross-dresser and actually identified as suffering gender dysphoria, marking one of the first times that term was used on primetime television. Unfortunately, for all the episode got right, it checked quite a few boxes for negative trans representation: The treatment recommended by a doctor for her gender dysphoria is to embrace her birth sex and live as a man (which, for the record, was a largely discredited stance even at the time), she's played by a cis male actor, and her character is a sex worker and [[spoiler: ends up murdered by the end of the episode because of her gender identity]], which are two of the most unfortunate ([[TruthInTelevision and unfortunately true-to-life]]) tropes regarding trans characters.
* ''Series/ShakaZulu'' is a South African TV miniseries that aired in 1986, during the later years of [[UsefulNotes/TheApartheidEra apartheid]]. Despite that fact and the show's 19th century historical setting, it features a predominantly black cast, depicts European colonialism in a [[DeliberateValuesDissonance not-so-flattering manner]]; and the [[UsefulNotes/ShakaZulu titular protagonist]] is a fully fleshed-out and (semi-)sympathetic character, even despite his [[AntiHero moral]] [[AntiVillain ambiguity]] and more [[VillainProtagonist horrifying traits]].
* ''Series/{{Friends}}'' is starting to attract this label. When viewed through the lens of the late New Tens, the show's treatment of LGBT people (Transgender especially), its rigidly-defined 'acceptable' masculinity and its lack of ethnic diversity is starting to draw criticism. However, considering its beginnings in the early 1990's, the complete lack of malicious homophobia from either the characters or the show itself (via the characterisation) is remarkable. Considering that in the USA, same-sex marriage was not legalised until over a decade after the show ''ended'', the fact that an episode with a Lesbian wedding aired in the second season with not a single character [[note]]Certainly no characters on-screen. Carol's parents are said to be boycotting the ceremony (which is treated as unequivocally horrible), but we never see them. Phoebe, while being 'possessed' by the spirit of a woman who died on her massage table is the only person to express anything other than 100% support for the union, and even then it's merely to remark on how unusual it is -- you'd have to really be squinting to see anything truly objectionable in what she says.[[/note]] objecting handily demonstrates the show's progressive-for-the-time credentials.

* People who bash Al Jolson for performing in blackface may not realize that he actually helped a lot of real black people make it big in the music business, helping to give performers such as Music/CabCalloway their big breaks. When filming a duet with Calloway, Jolson demanded that they be given equal treatment on the set. When reading in a newspaper that songwriters Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle had been kicked out of a restaurant because of their race, he personally invited them out to dinner despite having never met them, saying he'd punch the nose of anyone who had a problem with it. Jolson was also known as the only white man who was allowed into the all-black nightclubs in Harlem.
* Creator/GeorgeFormby wrote and performed a series of songs about a Chinese immigrant named Mister Wu. Although they did play heavily upon the stereotypical British image of the Chinese, they also portrayed the protagonist in what for TheThirties was a fairly positive light. George Formby had a dim view of racism throughout his life, as evidenced during his tour of South Africa in which he refused to play to segregated audiences and criticized local racist views.
* The first stanza of UsefulNotes/{{Germany}}'s national anthem sounds ultra-nationalistic today, with a line that translates as "Germany above everything in the world..." Yet it was written before UsefulNotes/AllTheLittleGermanies had even united, so looking past regional conflicts toward a common German identity was pretty ahead of its time.
* "Lola" by Music/{{The Kinks}} uses a few transphobic stereotypes, like the UnsettlingGenderReveal when the narrator calls Lola a man. Nonetheless, it was a pretty positive portrayal for TheSixties, characterising Lola as attractive and implying that the narrator accepts her identity even after TheReveal.

[[folder: Newspaper Comics]]
* In Lee Falk's ''ComicStrip/MandrakeTheMagician'', Mandrake's BlackBestFriend and [[BashBrothers Bash Brother]] is Lothar, an African Prince of a federation of jungle tribes and "the strongest man alive". While this may seem stereotypical, Lothar was portrayed with great respect and dignity compared to almost any other black characters at the time. [[note]] This made it much easier than it could have been when WesternAnimation/DefendersOfTheEarth was made in the Eighties, and Lothar was upgraded to TheBigGuy and GeniusBruiser for the team [[/note]]
* In ''ComicStrip/RupertBear'', the Chinese Conjurer and Tiger Lily are very stereotypical, but also depicted as likable and good characters rather than YellowPeril villains. They are also drawn as people that human beings could believably look like, rather than as the kind of extreme ethnic caricatures seen in other strips of their era.

[[folder: Professional Wrestling]]
* Until the 1960s, promotions had black wrestlers battling other black wrestlers; a notable exception was Wrestling/BoboBrazil frequently battling [[Wrestling/EdFarhat The Sheik]], an assimilated Arab from Brazil's hometown of Detroit who was generally considered white. Interestingly, you could probably argue this one either way: either the black-on-black matches were fair for their day in that black wrestlers were allowed to compete ''at all''... [[FridgeBrilliance or they were covertly even more fair]] because they avoided race riots breaking out in which the black minority in the crowds would inevitably get the short end of the stick, not to mention avoiding the possibility of [[MightyWhitey the white wrestler winning every time just to satisfy white audiences' egos]].
* American Indian wrestlers mostly had savage gimmicks in the 1920s and 1930s, during the early days of gimmick characters -- ergo, to promote "cowboy and Indian" angles. One retrospective, "The Idiot's Guide To Professional Wrestling" (penned by Wrestling/CaptainLouAlbano), suggested that as a promotional tool, the wrestler would set up a teepee at city hall (or courthouse, high school, etc.), enticing people to call the local newspaper and send a reporter over to see "what the disturbance was about." The Indian wrestler would be in character and causing a disturbance, and then give the promoter the free publicity he was seeking. Later on, as Native Americans were granted civil rights, these characters were ''always'' [[NobleSavage heroes]], even though they continued to be portrayed by white athletes who could "pass" for Indian or (in the case of Tatanka) men of mixed race who looked more white than anything else.
** Indeed, throughout the 1960s and earlier, it's remarkable that the only nonwhite heels in wrestling were either Japanese (who were demonized for political rather than racial reasons) or Ernie "Big Cat" Ladd (who, if anything, ''took pride'' that his character neither sucked up to nor tried to enlighten white audiences). (Also possibly the Sheik, if people from the Levant are to be considered nonwhite; and, as mentioned above, his heroic opposite was a black man anyway.)
* When purist fans talk pro wrestling history they tend to overlook, or more likely, ignore Wrestling/{{GLOW}} completely and indeed against González sisters, The Crush Gals and the Thunder Queens it doesn't look too impressive. The problem with doing this is that it leaves the impression women were doing a lot of nothing for about six to nine years in United States since in the 1980s if a woman was nationally known she was probably working for GLOW. And despite it proving women could carry a show, even if a {{camp}} show, there was never another successful attempt by anyone else in the country to get a women's show broadcast on that level until Wrestling/{{TNA}}'s ''Knockouts Knockdown'', about 31 years after GLOW ended.
* {{Wrestling/Sable}} is not quite fondly remembered as far as women wrestlers goes. She had no training, had it written into her contract that she couldn't bump and was there to provide {{Fanservice}}. Despite this, she was a woman that got popular in her own right and warranted a push as a star by herself - rather than as a valet to another man. She codified the SmurfetteBreakout and got the women's division resurrected just to give her something to do. What's more, Sable was presented as a woman who would stand up for herself and fight for what she believed in, even if she might have had trouble doing so outside of {{Kayfabe}} (which was of course irrelevant). In the PG Era when many Divas were forced to go through {{Chickification}} or behave like a DistressedDamsel, this is very telling.
* {{Wrestling/Paige}} had hardly any character depth when she arrived in NXT. With the RedBaron "The Anti Diva" and a different look to most of the others, she was essentially reeking of RealWomenNeverWearDresses. However she still got over in her own right and proved that fans could get behind Divas if they were pushed as more than MsFanservice.

* Literature/TheBible: "An Eye For An Eye" was originally instituted to prevent DisproportionateRetribution or long-term cycles of revenge. The term isn't a call for revenge but a limit on justice: no more than an eye may be taken for an eye. In other words, the punishment must fit the crime. Later passages also imply that monetary compensation was allowed in place of literal violent punishment. Further, the version most people quote is actually a New Testament passage saying that while the law ''permits'' retribution, Christians should choose forgiveness instead.
* Biblical treatment of women and sexuality is often considered horrible by modern standards but may have been relatively liberal at the time.
** People complain about the "wives, submit to your husbands" New Testament passage, but then again the male side of that order, "husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church" (i.e. be willing to ''die'' for her in return) would have been unheard of at the time it was written. In fact, a careful examination of Christ's love for and treatment of the Church suggests that this is telling husbands to consider their wives' lives and happiness more important than their own.
** Ruth and Esther are Old Testament books completely dedicated to women, and in Esther's case, she saves her own people. It's also interesting to note that when David commits adultery with Bathsheba, it is David who receives the most punishment and blame for engaging with her -- we do not remember Bathsheba getting punished/rebuked, but rather David. A proverb is dedicated to a strong and hard-working wife who has her own business.
** Israelite daughters (specifically if there were no sons) were also able to inherit property as long as they married a man from their own tribe.
** Laws commanding adulteresses and other sex offenders to be stoned sound like pretty harsh HonorRelatedAbuse. Then you reread them and notice that ''the man too'' must be punished. Unusually even-handed, given that even some modern societies punish only the woman and let the man play KarmaHoudini. Of course, the law wasn't always ''enforced'' that way, as demonstrated in the story of [[http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%208:1-11&version=NIV the woman caught in adultery]], that mentions nothing about her lover being stoned to death along with her, even though [[CaptainObvious he was caught in the act]] too (which in itself is not a proof for him not getting stoned, though)...
** [[http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy%2021:10-14&version=NIV Deuteronomy 21:10-14]] provides instructions to Israelite soldiers on taking a captive woman as a concubine: basically, shave her hair, cut her nails, and get rid of all her old clothes in order to erase her cultural attachments. Give her a month to mourn her parents, and then you can make her marry you. If you decide you don't want her anymore, let her go because you're not allowed to sell her like a common slave. Sounds like a formula for a MaritalRapeLicense? Undoubtedly. Is it an improvement over the more conventional "throw her on the floor, rip off her clothes, and gang rape her to death" treatment soldiers from ''just about every other nation on the face of the Earth'' were giving to women from the nations they'd just conquered at the time? Absolutely, especially since that long waiting period (which starts ''after'' getting home from the war, which might take quite some time to happen) is likely to cool that soldier's jets and make him reconsider whether any woman is really attractive enough to be worth so much trouble.
*** Not to mention, the shaving hair, cutting nails, and losing clothing was a great way to reduce disease and parasite infestation.
** One of the case studies presented to Moses in the WallsOfText that make up the Covenant of Law: a man is found having sex with a woman not his wife in the middle of nowhere. The recommendation is to punish him as a rapist, because if they were simply committing adultery he wouldn't have bothered to take the woman somewhere her cries for help can't be heard.
** Very strict early Christian divorce prohibitions may seem oppressive today, but were actually very attractive to Roman women and partly responsible for the rapid spread of the new religion. Under Roman law, it was extremely easy for a husband to divorce his wife or to take a concubine on whim, but extremely difficult for a woman to obtain a divorce even in cases of severe spousal neglect or abuse. The Christian conception of marriage as unbreakable but binding for ''both'' spouses (though it gives concessions for the unbelieving spouse of a mixed faith couple to initiate a divorce, at which point the believing spouse is supposed free to remarry without stigma) seemed much more egalitarian.
*** Furthermore, most modern Christians will take for granted that Jesus explicitly states that a man who transgresses his divorce prohibition is guilty of adultery. Judaism being technically polygamist, an improperly divorced Jewish man who sleeps with an unmarried woman is technically ''not'' guilty of adultery. Jesus was actually extending adultery law to be more egalitarian.
** The Bible is also exceptionally progressive in the area of race and social status. Rahab the prostitute is given a place in the lineage of Christ. Specific OT laws are put in place (an repeated multiple times) to protect foreigners passing through Jewish settlements (reminding how the Jews were treated in Egypt as a warning to do better or else). Ruth, who was not a Jew, is given her own book. The New Testament is just as radical: Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman at the well, and later tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, where the Samaritan acts more justly than several members of the Jewish elite. Paul stresses the importance that in Christ there is neither "Jew nor Greek, male nor female," and just about every NT author emphasizes the need to share the Gospel with every tribe, tongue and nation. The most radical idea, however, is the concept that all men are equally evil as the next. That is a direct slap in the face to any kind of racial supremacy.
*** Creator/IsaacAsimov wrote an essay called "Lost in Non-Translation" in which he claims that we're too far removed in time and space from Jewish culture to understand the words "Moabite" or "Samaritan" the way the original audience would have, and suggests reading the books while mentally replacing those words with the name of some ethnic or cultural group that's despised ''now'' to understand the impact they were intended to have.
* [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia#Women.27s_rights Sharia law]] gave Arab women rights that they didn't have in the pre-Islamic period, and in some cases western societies didn't have until the 20th century. It might seem unfair to 21st century Westerners that a woman is only entitled to inherit half of what a man inherits, or that women can only use fault-based divorce while a man can no-fault divorce his wife with an adequate number of witnesses, or that a woman's testimony is only worth half of a man's in court, but when you consider that in many societies--including pre-Islamic Arabia--women were not permitted to inherit at all, divorce their husbands, or testify in court, it's actually, well, pretty Fair For Its Day.
** Sharia law also has the concept of ''dhimma'', which grants protection to "People of the Book" (Christians, Jews and Sabians). Granted, Christians and Jews living in al-Andalus were second-class citizens and had to pay extra taxes, but this contrasts sharply with the neighboring Spanish kingdoms, where non-Christians were persecuted, forcefully "converted" to Christianity, and eventually expelled.
*** The extra taxes were because Islamic law forbids non-Muslims from serving in the military. There was at least one occasion when a Muslim general realized that the military situation required him to withdraw his troops and protection from a non-Muslim village. Because he was withdrawing his protection, he returned the taxes he had collected from the villagers for their defense.
** The Quran allows interfaith marriage under certain circumstances. A Muslim man is allowed to marry a Jewish or Christian woman so long as their children are raised Muslim. Muslim women, in the Sunni understanding, cannot marry non-Muslim men under any circumstances. (Shia women can marry non-Muslim men under the same rules as Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women; the Shia consider the prohibition on Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men to be an innovation introduced in the days of the Caliph Umar, whose legitimacy they do not recognize.)
* This trope is also a counterpoint for God and religion. While killing someone for some slight of the rules may seem unfair, in the days of Exodus and Moses these were well-nigh universal laws, where disobeying a king (any king) in virtually any matter large or small would be punishable by death, and crimes such as shoplifting were dealt with by [[DisproportionateRetribution cutting off the thief's hand]].
* In Literature/TheBible, if a man slept with a woman who was ''not'' [[ArrangedMarriage betrothed to]] someone else[[note]] If she was already betrothed to someone else and "did not scream for help" (though consideration was made if she couldn't scream or was not in earshot), that was just plain old adultery, and both the man and the woman were to be stoned to death.[[/note]], and someone found out, he legally was required to pay her father (or nearest male relative if her father was dead) the customary bride price and [[ShotgunWedding take her as his wife]]. He could not divorce her, no matter what. Note that this also could be applied to ''some'' cases where the woman was raped, not seduced. This was to provide for any child they may have conceived (a very real possibility in an era before effective contraceptives) and to protect the reputation of the woman's family (it also protected the woman, who would be considered DefiledForever, ensuring that someone would be forced to support her). Also, while the rapist would be obligated to pay for her upkeep for the rest of her life, she would ''not'' be obligated to live with him.
** Additionally, if the rapist could not afford to pay the bride price, he became a slave to the father for seven years, and was effectively removed from being a "person" as far as establishing a [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minyan minyan]], meaning in order for him to attend public religious services he had to be accompanied by the father.
* 1 Timothy 2:11-12 ("A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.") may sound radically sexist by today's standards and is quite the bane of feminists everywhere, even Christians. However in the context of the time the first four words "A woman should learn" itself was a radically enlightened idea; most women living that time period wouldn't be educated at all. The remainder of the passage may still sound pretty backward, however one must consider that there were almost no women at the time with the knowledge or leadership experience to take on leadership roles. Moreover, note that Paul was speaking from personal experience; he wasn't prohibiting ''all'' women in ''all'' places and times from ''ever'' teaching or assuming authority.
** In a different context, all Paul had to say about women on the pulpit is that they should cover their heads when they speak (in deference to local customs) and that they shouldn't "talk" (i.e. chit-chat and gossip) in church.
** In fact, Paul also said that everyone was equal in Christ, regardless of sex, ethnicity, or social standing, an idea widely espoused (if not always followed) today.
** He also commended some early-church women for their work, such as [[http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%2016:1&version=NIV a deaconess by the name of Phoebe.]]
** And, the word for "assume authority" in the 1 Timothy passage, does not appear elsewhere in the New Testament, and it is not the usual word for "authority" (exousia) which Paul and the other NT writers always use. Study of this "assume authority" word shows it is a very hard word, sometimes rendered as "usurping authority" or with the general idea of claiming undue and/or excessive authority. The bottom-line of this is that Paul was not forbidding the usual authority (exousia), but something very specific and most likely inspired by what was happening in Ephesus at the time Timothy was there. For a thorough study of this passage and others related to Paul's view on women in the NT, see [[http://christianthinktank.com/fem09.html this]], which is part of a larger study on the role of women in the Bible.
* The Proverbs verse about the Wife of Noble Character is used by some modern sects to demonstrate [[StayInTheKitchen that a woman's place is in the home tending to her family]] [[AcceptableFeminineGoals and to work deemed appropriately feminine]], so that they won't be tempted into sin (or tempt others into sin), and their husbands can go off and take care of their own duties. But the passage was actually written [[MisaimedFandom not so much]] to tell ''women'' what they should be doing, but to encourage men to appreciate the work their wives were doing, instead of taking their wives for granted. Indeed, woman in the poem is portrayed as strong and capable and smart. She takes care of her home and family, and [[BeautyEqualsGoodness her appearance]], but she also runs her own business (and she is good at it, too!) Her husband respects her as an equal, his partner in every sense of the word, and he boasts about her to his friends and colleagues. Women are to follow the example of the Wife of Noble Character and use their talents and be the best person they can be... but men are to follow her husband's example and be supportive and appreciative of their wives.
** Additionally, it must be remembered that she is a CompositeCharacter of all the roles a "respectable" woman of that time and place could have. In other words, just because ''she'' can "do it all" doesn't mean that the reader (or reader's wife) must "do it all", or try to fit into roles she isn't suited for or doesn't want, or that her first and most important role is [[MandatoryMotherhood motherhood whether she wants that or not]], or feel bad for not being TheAce. (See also, point about the passage not being meant to admonish ''women''.)
*** You may also notice that the wife's husband is an important man busy with law and statecraft, so the wife needs to keep the house running. This basically makes her a DeterminedHomesteadersWife, which is still an admired behavior in many places today.
* Literature/TheBible prescribes punishments that might seem harsh or even barbaric to modern readers, but compared to contemporaneous Near Eastern law codes (such as Hammurabi's Code), it's actually quite fair. People tend to forget that there were trials in Biblical times, and that the standards of evidence were pretty high (e.g., a conviction needed at least two eyewitnesses), especially in capital cases (where even a confession was insufficient to convict).
* The Old Testament Mosaic code contains many rules that people today find quite absurd and are frequently mocked or brought up as examples of rules that modern day Christians no longer follow. But many of these actually made a lot of sense at the time:
** The ban on eating pork is perfectly logical as at the time pork was a very unhealthy meat, pigs often carry parasites and it was difficult to adequately cook the meat to make it safe for human consumption. Similar situation with shellfish. Also draining blood from slaughtered animals and making sure not to eat around the areas easily contaminated by fecal matter make a ''lot'' of sense in a hot climate before modern preservation techniques and knowledge of foodborne illness.
*** There is an alternate view on pork. It's not the fact that it's particularly dangerous (the parasites are seldom lethal, but anthrax is, and pork is a type of meat that doesn't have it, unlike, for example, beef), but the fact that it's hard to raise pigs in the Canaan climate, so eating pork meant the society wasting money on foreign luxury items.
** Likewise, not mixing meat and dairy would be useful in primitive forensics for determining the source of a foodborne illness outbreak. If the people who only had the milk aren't sick and the ones who had meat got sick, then you know the meat is bad. If someone had both, then it would be far more difficult to trace the source.
** Not wearing clothing made out of more than one kind of fabric is actually perfectly logical in a world that predates modern sewing machines.
** Circumcision is a rather controversial ritual today, but before modern sanitation systems it carried many hygienic benefits. Many believe this was the entire reason for the beginning of the ritual.
** Tattoos were banned because the practice was associated with various pagan cults, and tattooing without modern equipment is a very non-hygienic and risky activity.
** And finally, the draconian rules and list of prohibited activities on the Sabbath might seem extremely inconvenient and pointless by modern standards, but has a very sound reason behind them: That every person deserved at least one day of rest a week, and if this was not mandated and simply made "optional" it would eventually become optional only in theory. A variation of this occurs even in modern day law, many countries and US states ban employees from working more than six days a week (even if the employee "consents" to it) and it is illegal almost everywhere for hourly wage employees to work without being paid, even if they in theory agree to.
*** This even applies to the draconian penalties up to ''death'' for violating the Sabbath, as absurd as they sound, they were mostly to get the idea across that allowing everyone a day of rest was SeriousBusiness and NO ONE was going to deny this. Establishing only fines or minor penalties might've not have been much of a deterrent as some might've taken that simply as a cost of doing business (much like how some companies will simply opt to pay fines for business practices or violating environmental laws rather than changing their practices today.)
* Imagine you are the ruler of a town in ancient Sumeria. Or early-medieval Germany. Or even colonial America. At nearly any time and place, this is very physically close community (by necessity of anyone without a farm needing to take up as little space as possible), but also a relatively populous one, a hundred thousand people densely packed into a couple square miles of buildings. Now imagine there is a sudden plague of horrible, incurable disease, basically certain death without an easy method of cleaning and medicating, that is absolutely ravaging a handful of citizens, not so many that the town cannot push through, but with such hysterics going on it would be devastating to both it and you if you were to let this happen again. The local healers, doctors, etcetera, report only one constant among those dying: All of them are males that recently engaged in sodomy with another male. On only this knowledge and with every other citizen crying for someone to save the town from this wrath of God, what do you propose to do to prevent this from ever happening again? [[note]] For reference, the first case of [=HIV/AIDs=] to be discovered and classified as such was in 1981, and the disease wasn't widely known of until several years after.[[/note]]

* ''Theatre/{{Carousel}}'': 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 to being abused'' at all.
* Several operas of the past were really quite progressive back in the day. Examples:
** ''Theatre/MadamaButterfly'' and ''Lakme'' were both stories about innocent women from the East being taken advantage of by men from the West. Nowadays, some people consider them mildly racist for their portrayal of Asian female stereotypes. But at the time, they were a rather loud reproach to Western people for their grabbing and crushing mentality toward Asian people and their culture. Pinkerton's and Gerald's treatment of Butterfly and Lakme respectively was repellent to any decent person, and probably more than one person left the opera house rethinking their ideas of Western superiority.
** ''La Juive'' was an opera that really addressed anti-Semitism of the day. A Christian prince disguises himself as Jew to woo a Jewish woman, but when their relationship is discovered, the Jewish woman and her father are sentenced to death by a hateful and anti-Semitic judge. But just when it is too late, the Judge discovers that the girl who he considered so filthy was in fact his long lost daughter, who was rescued and raised by the Jewish man. This really rebuked the idea of the supposed differences between Christian and Jew in a tragic way.
** ''Theatre/LaTraviata'' features the courtesan Violetta, who repents and gives up her life of debauchery in order to live with her true love, Alfredo, but is forced to leave him because the scandal of Alfredo living with a former courtesan is wreaking havoc with his family. Modern feminists might object to the fact that she has to "redeem" herself by sacrificing everything, as well as the fact that she conveniently dies in the end, "freeing" Alfredo from scandal once and for all and even urging him on her deathbed to marry "a chaste virgin." Still, the opera portrays her as an unquestionably noble, selfless heroine, and shows up the hypocrisy of the times, criticizing the social more that women who fell could never rise again. At one point, Violetta almost directly rebukes the audience by claiming "Though God forgives, man never will". Ouch.
** ''Theatre/TheMarriageOfFigaro'' was unquestionably far beyond fair for its day. It ''is'' true that the "happy ending" has the arrogant, lecherous Count Almaviva still fully in power and [[WhyWouldAnyoneTakeHimBack forgiven by his emotionally abused wife]], with no hint that his behavior will change in any long-term way. But the play still has a denunciation of aristocratic abuse of power, which led to the play being banned across Europe and helped to inspire UsefulNotes/TheFrenchRevolution. And its gender politics are still widely praised as extremely proto-feminist.
* ''Theatre/TheKingAndI'': Yes, there are crude stereotypes and comically ignorant, misogynistic Asians speaking pidgin English, who need a white woman to civilize them. But at the same time, it also articulates the King's struggle between tradition and modernity with more insight than would normally be expected in '50s America -- contrast it with the Japanese guy in ''Film/BreakfastAtTiffanys''.
* Creator/WilliamShakespeare often wrote characters that would be considered in very poor taste today, but for his time were fairly even-handed.
** ''Theatre/TheMerchantOfVenice'' has created a great deal of debate over how fair it is to its Jewish villain Shylock. Shakespeare often wrote villains with understandable grievances, and Shylock is no exception. He is given a famous monologue in which he eloquently complains about the many injustices he has suffered for his faith, which puts his actions in the light of racist persecution. In the end, Shylock is forced to convert to Christianity, which is a pretty lousy fate by modern standards, but in Shakespeare's day this was seen as a merciful HappyEnding, as Shylock lives and his soul is saved. Other villains in such plays usually receive a gruesome KarmicDeath.
** ''Theatre/{{Othello}}'' is about a black man who suspects his white wife is cheating on him and chokes her to death. In the original story on which the play was based, however, the Moorish character doesn't even have a name, and it ends with Desdemona [[AuthorFilibuster lecturing the audience]] on why interracial marriage is evil. In his adaptation, Shakespeare gives the Moor a name and fully fleshes out his character into a sympathetic war hero who is intelligent and sensitive enough to woo Desdemona with poetry. Shakespeare also adds the character of [[ManipulativeBastard Iago]] to serve as the play's villain, a white man who manipulates Othello into a jealous rage ForTheEvulz, and Iago ends the play with getting arrested for his crimes against the main character. In fact, the only overtly racist elements of the play are spoken by unsympathetic characters.
** ''Theatre/TheTamingOfTheShrew'' has a fairly sexist plot, but the standard "uppity wife" play of the time usually involved gleefully beating her into submission for the audience's amusement. By having Petruchio find a psychological solution (demonstrate how mean-spirited her behavior has been), never laying a finger on her, and letting her change in behavior be of her own choosing, it was downright enlightened. The play also shows the obedient, submissive Bianca, pretty much the epitome of a desired girl, turning out not to be quite the ideal wife her husband expected.
** ''Theatre/KingLear'' features Edmund, a version of the [[BastardBastard villainous bastard]] stock character popular at the time. But while he is a [[ManipulativeBastard resentful and conniving jerk]] who fits every stereotype, he has a pretty darn good FreudianExcuse for [[TheUnfavorite hating his family]] and nobody but his father ever really brings up his illegitimate heritage. He even inherits his father's land and title (after scheming to have his father and brother killed of course), and goes on to woo ''both'' heirs to the throne. He even tries to [[RedemptionEqualsDeath undo his last acts of villainy.]]
* Creator/ChristopherMarlowe's plays tackled such conceptions as ReligionIsWrong, homosexuality and racism and his plays were cited by Creator/OrsonWelles and Creator/BertoltBrecht for having a great deal of UnbuiltTrope. While some have argued that Marlowe's ''Theatre/TheJewOfMalta'' is more racist than ''The Merchant of Venice'' because the Jewish villain is punished, others argue that Marlowe's play is, seen as a whole, far more sympathetic. While not free of the anti-semitism of its premise at the very least has a Jewish VillainProtagonist (where ''Theatre/TheMerchantOfVenice'' has a Jewish BigBad and supporting character). Barabas also makes it clear that his actions are inspired by racism and oppression at the hands of Christians and Muslims. One speech is cited by scholars to have inspired Shakespeare's famous monologue:
--> '''Barabbas''': Why, I esteem the injury far less,\\
To take the lives of miserable men\\
Than be the causers of their misery.\\
You have my wealth, the labour of my life,\\
The comfort of mine age, my children's hope;\\
And therefore ne'er distinguish of the wrong.
** Also where Shakespeare's play makes a big deal about how the Christianity being "the quality of mercy", in Marlowe's plays, all the characters (Christians, Muslims, Jew) are shown to be equally corrupt, and the play makes it clear that politics drives religion ("I count religion a childish toy/And hold there is no sin but ignorance") and the overall focus is how oppression forces minority groups to start BecomingTheMask and make them decide ThenLetMeBeEvil, which makes Barabas a ByronicHero who refuses to convert and dies defiant and unrepentant. While the forces that defeat him are not the forces of order so much as another machiavellian and corrupt authority.
* ''Theatre/{{Showboat}}'' seems pretty racist by modern standards, but at the time it was actually considered shocking that black people were even present together in a musical with white people. It is said that the audience didn't even clap at the premiere because they were all just sitting there gawking in shock.
** Specifically, that the ending of the entire musical was a [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eh9WayN7R-s big black baritone]] singing out an [[CrowningMusicOfAwesome epic song to the Mississippi]].
** The musical also gets credit from modern critics for a sympathetic portrayal of an interracial relationship, and for portraying a single mother who works to support her child.
* ''Theatre/WestSideStory'' can seem a little stereotypical today with its portrayal of Puerto Ricans, but for the time it was written in, the 1950s, it was revolutionary in that it had sympathetic minority main characters and touched on subjects such as immigration and the devastating effects of racism, poverty and gang violence. You could argue that the reason for the Puerto Rican characters seeming stereotypical is because they ''are'' immigrants, and because they're still living in segregated communities, where the "stereotypical" accents and the old folkways linger a little longer. That's not prejudice, but social realism - which was ''also'' a new idea in the 1950s. Likewise, the white gang? Eastern and Southern Europeans (like the Polish Tony) were not considered "as white" as Western Europeans at the time and weren't treated much better or differently than the Puerto Ricans (which, arguably, was part of the whole point).
** It should be noted that the Puerto Ricans were US citizens (Puerto Rico is a part of the US) while the Eastern and Southern Europeans probably weren't.
* ''Theatre/InAbrahamsBosom'': This play was probably thought of as progressive in its day, with the story being about a black laborer who dreams of bettering himself and founding a school for local children, only to be murdered by the KKK. But Abraham actually makes some of his own problems by his tendency to burst into violent rages when disrepected by white people. And even more disturbingly, the central message of the play is that he ''shouldn't'' be trying to better himself, that a black man seeking an education and hoping to rise up to the level of the white man is tragic folly.
--> "Time you's learning day white is white and black is black, and Gohd made de white to always be bedder'n de black. It was so intended from the beginning."

[[folder: Video Games]]
* ''Franchise/TombRaider'''s protagonist, Lara Croft has been seen by some as obvious {{fanservice}} for adolescent male fantasies, given her [[BuxomIsBetter generous proportions]], not really helped by the developers admitting the reason why she was a female was so gamers wouldn't have to look at a guy's ass all day. However, at the time Lara was a pretty big step forward for women in gaming, who even when they were in lead roles in action or fighting games tended to be DamselInDistress types. Having a female character that not only had a strong personality, but didn't have a male character coming to her rescue at any time was something few games had tried in the past and none saw the same mass-market success. If nothing else, the series proved that gamers--at the time largely stereotyped as violence-addicted immature adolescent males--were mature enough to at least tolerate playing a female character.
* If you beat ''[[VideoGame/{{Metroid 1}} Metroid]]'' in under three hours, it was revealed that {{Samus is a girl}}... by showing her in a leotard, or a bikini if it was beaten under one hour. This was big at the time, however, as she was one of the first playable human female main characters. Plus, with the NES's resolution, this was practically the only way to show with certainty that she was in fact a woman and not a long-haired man.
* In ''[[VideoGame/LeisureSuitLarry Leisure Suit Larry 6]]'', Shablee, one of the girls Larry dates, turns out to be a transvestite, something Larry to which reacts in disgust. This was less "transvestites are gross" and more of a parody of Dil from ''Film/TheCryingGame''.

[[folder: Web Original]]
* The [[http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/almost-politically-correct-redneck Almost Politically Correct Redneck]] meme, though it's more "Fair For Its Region" than Fair For Its Day.

[[folder: Western Animation]]
* WesternAnimation/{{Bosko|TheTalkInkKid}}, the first WesternAnimation/LooneyTunes star, was a black boy drawn in such a simple style that he resembled WesternAnimation/OswaldTheLuckyRabbit with human ears and a bowler hat. At the very start he spoke in a Southern drawl. But the creators saw their error and tried to backtrack. Soon Bosko was shown running businesses, fighting as a musketeer alongside white musketeers, and defending his girlfriend from white bad guys. Alas, the drawing style still causes uninitiated modern viewers to presume the worst.
** Whenever Warner Bros references Bosko in modern times (such as when he appeared on ''WesternAnimation/TinyToonAdventures,)'' he is ''always'' explicitly identified as just a general purpose "ink blot" CartoonCreature along the lines of the ''WesternAnimation/{{Animaniacs}}'' heroes.
** Speedy Gonzales has been the subject of criticism for his stereotypical Mexican qualities, [[MexicansLoveSpeedyGonzales but a lot of actual Hispanics had good memories of having a resourceful Latino hero on television.]]
*** It wasn't Speedy who was portrayed in a racist light, it was everyone who wasn't Speedy in the supporting cast, like Slowpoke Rodriguez or the Mexican mice who always call on Speedy to help them get cheese or be free from the oppressive rule of the "gringo pussycat" (Sylvester) or, in the much-maligned later cartoons, WesternAnimation/DaffyDuck.
** The WesternAnimation/MerrieMelodies cartoon "Clean Pastures" featured good natured spoofs of famous black jazz musicians, and the story suggests that certain types of black music are better than others.
* The [[UsefulNotes/TheSilentAgeOfAnimation Silent Era]] ''WesternAnimation/FelixTheCat'' cartoon "Uncle Toms Crabbin". While the blackface designs and deep south slavery setting would turn heads today, it's surprising in that it clearly shows Felix on the side of a sympathetically portrayed [[Literature/UncleTomsCabin Uncle Tom]] against [[DastardlyWhiplash Simon Legree]] (with Tom's race and plight distinctly ''not'' being played for laughs), with Felix even helping Tom against Legree and coming out on top in the end.
* ''WesternAnimation/JonnyQuest'' itself (the original 1960s version of which originally aired in prime time) deserves a listing here. While the character of Hadji has some clearly stereotypical characteristics ("Sim sim salabim", anyone?), he was the first dark-skinned character to be a regular in a 1960s kids' show, was always treated as Jonny's equal, as well as his best friend and adopted brother, and had tricks that amazed or confused the adults featured.
** The 1990's version downplayed a lot of the unfortunate baggage on Hadji, including playing his philosophizing as a way for him to subtly snark at his more adventurous adoptive brother and Jessie Bannon's hotheaded tendencies. Part of that was making him the computer expert. Unfortunately, ten years later, BollywoodNerd was its own trope.
** Also given the realistic art style of the show, mostly avoiding {{Engrish}}, and generally being competent, none of the non-white characters were racist caricatures, at least by '60s standards. They weren't always pretty, but they were far better than portrayals from earlier decades.
** The show has some blatant stereotypes by modern standards, including an almost complete absence of ''any'' black people (except in ''Pursuit of the Po-Ho"), plus about a second's worth of [[ChasedByAngryNatives angry African natives]] from that episode in the opening credits.
** In "Pursuit of the Po-Ho", Dr. Quest quietly chides another scientist for calling a Po-Ho ritual "barbaric". He says that it is, according to ''their'' standards, not the Po-Ho's.
* Referenced in ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague'' episode "[[Recap/JusticeLeagueS1E16And17Legends Legends]]." Green Lantern and the others have been transported to a world with 1950s era heroes, one of whom calls the black John Stewart "[[YouAreACreditToYourRace a credit to your people]]," which he genuinely means as an enlightened compliment, and would've been such for the time period they're from.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'':
** When it first aired in 1997, the episode "[[Recap/TheSimpsonsS8E15HomersPhobia Homer's Phobia]]" delivered what was considered a largely positive view of gay people, [[SomeAnvilsNeedToBeDropped with the message that gays should be accepted as human beings]]. However, viewed today, that same episode can come across as offensive [[CampGay for its stereotypical depiction of gays]] (though the Aesop of "Gay folks are no better or worse than stright folks and don't always follow the camp or overly macho stereotype" is [[SomeAnvilsNeedToBeDropped a fairly good message that needs to be taken to heart]]).
--> '''John:''' Well, Homer, I gained your respect - and all I had to do was save your life! As soon as every other gay person does that, you'll be all set.
** "[[Recap/TheSimpsonsS4E3HomerTheHeretic Homer the Heretic]]" was once praised for showing that organized religion and fringe religions can get along just fine, but these days, you will find people[[note]]mostly on this site[[/note]] that think the whole episode is a screw you to those who don't want to associate with mainstream religion, as it ends with Homer going back to church. (This is forgetting that in the episode Homer was neither irreligious - he actually claimed that God Himself told him he didn't have to go to church! - nor "alternatively religious", as he just didn't want to miss football games on Sunday mornings. Or that Apu's Hinduism is depicted favorably, and Hinduism is ''not'' a "mainstream religion" by most theological standards; in fact, by Western standards it's not a formal religion at all.[[note]]Hinduism is commonly thought of not as a "church", ''per se'', but as a continuum of strongly related cults, not unlike the general polytheism of ancient Greece and Rome.[[/note]]) On the plus side, it's not as aggressively bad as ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'''s Aesop of "Believing in God is for idiots" in "[[Recap/FamilyGuyS7E11NotAllDogsGoToHeaven Not All Dogs Go to Heaven]]" and, despite the Aesop, ''The Simpsons'' episode didn't sacrifice humor to get their message across to viewers.
** The character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has gotten a ''lot'' of flak in recent years due to being viewed as a rather blatant stereotype of Indians and Southern Asians in general, along with the fact that he has a white voice actor (Hank Azaria). However, during the show's run in the 90s, he was also the first if not the ''only'' depiction of a Southern Asian to appear on mainstream television in the U.S. and is generally portrayed as a nice guy who gets along well with the other characters. The problem with that is, as the show [[LongRunners continues on]], many of his stereotypical traits don't seem to have assuaged much (if anything, they've [[{{Flanderization}} only gotten worse]]), resulting in him being viewed as a racist caricature to [[SocietyMarchesOn today's world]]. Though interestingly, while he has been criticized by Indian-Americans and South Asian Americans, [[MexicansLoveSpeedyGonzales Apu is well-liked in India itself]].
* The Betty Boop cartoon "Making Stars". Despite the blatant racial stereotyping and usage of the word "colorful", the fact that the black American characters ''weren't'' in a segregated crowd was quite admirable for the 1930's, and the ending when all the babies drink from the same bottle could be interpreted as a diversity message.
* Many British and Commonwealth cartoons, such as ''WesternAnimation/{{Rupert}}'', have highly stereotypical depictions of foreign characters (panto accents, joke names, and [[TheThemeParkVersion theme park]] countries). What's often missed is that these are often only surface details, with the actual characters themselves being well-rounded and positively portrayed.
* TheDickTracyShow had two characters, Joe Jitsu and Go-Go Gomez, who both were drawn (and acted) very stereotypically for the time period. However, while their portrayals can be a little uncomfortable for modern viewers to watch, they are also both intelligent and capable heroes within the show's universe.

* Disney's "It's A Small World" was and is an appeal to everyone's shared humanity. While the various stereotypical attributes (folk costume, etc.) of the animatronics in the ride haven't particularly aged well (mostly because only the most traditional societies still wear such garb on an everyday basis), it's still TheThemeParkVersion, no pun intended, of the possibility of a world where we can live together in peace. It's worth noting that the same mold is used to create the dolls' faces regardless of ethnicity, thus completely avoiding FacialProfiling.
* Some Barbie toys depicted Barbie in professions that women usually didn't have in that day -- nowadays some people consider that to be "sexist". Most hilariously is when some people see veterinarian as one of Barbie's jobs as sexist.
* The ''Smothers Brothers'' sketch "Hiawatha" contains some fairly cringe-worthy jokes at the expense of Native American culture. However, it also contains Dick defending the Sioux "massacre" of Custer at the Little Bighorn, noting that it was a war and "Sitting Bull? Just doing his job." Given when the sketch was released, that was quite fair-minded.
* The famous ''Franchise/{{Superman}}'' radio miniseries "The Clan of the Fiery Cross" gets quite a lot of well-deserved praise today for being one of the first works of mainstream American pop culture to portray the Ku Klux Klan (or a thinly-veiled {{expy}} of them, at least) as villains, explicitly calling out their racism and xenophobia as "un-American" and inviting ordinary Americans to harass and disrupt them by any possible means. By today's standards, though, it might seem a bit odd that the family that Superman defends from the Klansmen are not rural or working-class African-Americans (the most frequent target of the Klan, by far), but heavily Americanized middle-class ''Chinese-Americans''. And the story takes pains to show them as educated, well-to-do business owners who speak flawless English, as if they would have been too hard to sympathize with if they hadn't been the absolute image of respectable white-bread Americanness. As progressive as the story was, it was still a product of the 1940s; it was daring enough to take on the Klan, but not quite daring enough to show Superman siding with Black Americans.

[[folder: Real Life]]
* In 1779, UsefulNotes/ThomasJefferson proposed a law to the Virginia Legislature that would castrate men convicted of sodomy, which seems very harsh... until you realize that the maximum punishment in Virginia at the time was death, and the legislature actually rejected it.
** Likewise, much has been made of Jefferson's slave ownership despite his egalitarian political beliefs, but Jefferson also strongly opposed the expansion of slavery and banned the international slave trade as president. Until his dying day he was still proposing plans for the education of slaves, the regulation of the practice, and even the gradual abolition of slavery itself. Given that the expansion of slavery and trade in slaves were some of the worst parts of the slave system, Jefferson likely made a very radical humanitarian gain here. America's ban on the slave trade even preceded the celebrated British ban.
** Jefferson also, very radically for his time, insisted ardently that even if blacks were, in his words "inferior in both body and mind," that was no justification for slavery or for discriminating against them, pointing out that they were still "men". He also treated his slaves much more kindly than most masters, allowing them many holidays, breaks, and even payment on occasion, as well as refusing to use the whip or generally selling slaves. His justification for keeping his slaves was that, given the financial and legal barriers making it difficult to free slaves, it was not worth the risk as he felt they would rather be taken care of under his "protection" than cast out into a world which would not treat them well. Obviously this is incredibly paternalistic and racist by our modern standards, but when there were still many people who were ardently pro-slavery and who argued that blacks were "sub-human" or not human altogether, Jefferson's emphasis on kind treatment and the humanity of blacks was cutting edge.
** Jefferson's feelings on women and Native Americans were also progressive for the day. While Jefferson did not support women's suffrage himself, he pushed for expanded education for women and gave significant support to many early suffragettes like Frances Wright. And although Jefferson favored the assimilation of natives like most others of his time he also took great pains to protect their cultural practices, religious beliefs, and languages, which many contemporaries thought should be wiped out as "savage".
* UsefulNotes/AbrahamLincoln, despite being known for his firm stance against slavery, held views that would be considered very racist today (a good example being his [[http://www.learner.org/workshops/primarysources/emancipation/docs/address.html "Nobody likes you and you should get the hell out of the country for your own good"]] speech to some prominent black citizens). Also, as a politician, he had to balance his various interests against each other; simply outlawing slavery would massively disrupt society and the economy, and further divide the country against itself. His original plan, which ultimately only got a partial enactment in Washington, D.C., itself, was to buy out the slaveholders at the taxpayers' expense and ship the newly freed blacks back to Africa. Only when this plan didn't work out as he'd hoped and all the disruption and division he'd been trying to avoid happened anyway did he finally decide on a somewhat more radical course, and then only as it came to be to his political advantage. Thus, while he wasn't exactly a saintly abolitionist (and most people never were), he does earn considerable admiration as a crafty politician for having been able to compromise and cajole his way to the slaves' emancipation. (And he ''did'' hate slavery, and for entirely altruistic reasons, even if he usually didn't say so publicly.)
* The Athenian democracy gets some deserved flak for excluding women, non-Greeks, immigrants, non-landowners and slaves. Yet, a society where the leaders were elected rather than born into power, and where homosexuality[[note]] Though they were open to homosexuality, the form that many ancient Greeks (and the Romans who followed them) practiced, was a lot closer to pederasty. Also, the person on the receiving end was considered a lesser man than the person giving.[[/note]] is not only tolerated but is normal, is pretty good going for several centuries BC.
** Also, the Athenians were big on slavery... but the status of the slaves was actually quite a bit better than it could have been. It was forbidden to hit a slave on the streets (you could not be certain it wasn't a free man you were hitting), the murder of a slave was tried for and punished as murder rather than destruction of property (something many later societies lacked), and quite a few slaves were effectively independent workers who only had to pay a fixed sum to their master. And of course, you could save to buy your freedom, which gave you same social status as a fellow Greek immigrant to Athens.
* Thanks to the GoodRepublicEvilEmpire trope, it gets hard to appreciate that features of modern democracies is a fusion of the best features of classic and medieval republics and kingdoms, as opposed to a direct lineage from Greece and Rome. The Persian Empire that opposed the Athenians and Spartans gets some flak for being TheEmpire but they were abolitionist and multi-cultural and citizens had protection before the law. The Spartans were a dyarchy and military self-destructive society yet there was greater equality and more rights for women. Classic democracies and republics in Ancient Greece and Rome are more precisely oligarchies governed by aristocratic classes.
* Ancient slaves were often treated more fairly (they could achieve citizenship and at some times it was expected from a rich man to free his slaves) than many Africans imported to North America. It was also not usually racial, and in a perverse sense more "equal" - it was possible for virtually anyone to become slaves assuming they fell into the wrong circumstances (debts, taken captive in war, etc.) Many powerful people were born or spent some time as slaves.
* UsefulNotes/GeorgeWashington was very nearly the only one of the slave-holding Founders even to make an attempt to free his slaves. For him, the matter was excruciatingly complicated: he wanted to free his slaves late in his lifetime, but most of his slaves weren't technically ''his'', instead being "dower slaves" owned by his wife Martha, and technically not his to do with as he wished. Further, freeing his own slaves and leaving Martha's slaves in bondage (outside of looking like gross hypocrisy) might conceivably have broken up slave families. He published a will that upon his and Martha's deaths (Martha changed the will to releasing the slaves a year after George's death, as she was uncomfortable living around people who were looking forward to her dying), all slaves the two held were to be freed and educated enough to let them enter society as free men, and those too old or infirm to enter free society were to be cared for at the expense of Washington's estate for the rest of their lives. He had the will published, but Martha's relatives (Washington himself was the last of his line) did their best to get it quashed.
* The Inquisition is usually portrayed as a sinister and oppressive organization. However, The Papal Inquisition was the first European secret police more than anything else. The Inquisition was also revolutionarily lenient for its time, as it strictly limited the use of torture (which was very common in secular courts), allowed the defendants legal representation, and issued death sentences much less often than in municipal proceedings where petty thieves usually were sent to swing. However all this pales compared to the fact that the Inquisition rose above its contemporary courts in [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presumption_of_innocence placing the burden of proof on the prosecution]].
** And the Spanish Inquisition ended witch trials in Spain a full century before the rest of Europe because it required scientific proof of witchcraft - not just eyewitness accounts.
** Among protections afforded accused heretics was that if you were called before the Inquisition, you were required to make a list of all your enemies. Anyone on that list was forbidden to give evidence against you, because it was presumed to be false and motivated by spite.
** In fact, one of the indications of the extent to which this trope applied to the Inquisition was the fact that, in many cases, accused criminals intentionally maneuvered to get their cases brought before the Inquisition, because they were confident of getting a fairer hearing than before the ordinary courts.
** And even if torture was to be used, the Inquisitors gave the accused numerous chances to repent. They would first demand confession verbally. They would then explain, in hideous detail, what would happen to them if they did not confess. Only then, if they still did not repent for their sins, would they resort to torture.
* OlderThanDirt: Hammurabi's Code had a great many {{double standard}}s and even triple standards, but it still compared favorably to what his contemporaries in the region were doing.
** For that matter, "an eye for eye, a tooth for tooth" was a step up from the previous standards, since it ''limited'' the amount of retribution to the amount of harm. Also, the oft-quoted "An eye for an eye" bit in Hammurabi's code has a qualification rarely mentioned when the law is quoted: it only applied when the victim was a nobleman. For the common folk, the loss of an eye called for the payment of a piece of silver (that said, the notion that common folk were entitled to ''any'' legal recourse when injured by their betters was a huge advance in the direction of justice).
** What Hammurabi's code did achieve, for all its failings and inequities, was to specifically define crimes and their punishments. This made law a predictable and reliable thing, which was a considerable advance over the previous levels of law-making and punishments, which were roughly equivalent to "I hope the king (or judge, or chief, etc.) is in a good mood today" before then. You might not like the place where you stood very much under the Code, but you knew where it was and that it was stable.
** Some of it would fit right in a modern law code:
*** Section 206,[[OlderThanTheyThink "If during a quarrel one man strike another and wound him, then he shall swear, "I did not injure him wittingly," and pay the physicians,"]] is a pretty good paraphrase of "Direct medical expenses arising from a negligent act may be claimed against the wrongdoer."
*** Section 232, "If it (the poorly constructed house) ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that has been ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means," is similarly paraphrased as "Goods damaged by the negligent construction of a building in which the goods are stored may be claimed against the wrongdoer, and restitution to be made on the damaged building."
*** Section 250, "If while an ox is passing on the street (market) some one push it, and kill it, the owner can set up no claim in the suit (against the hirer)," is the first basis for the ''novus actus interveniens,'' or "new intervening act" doctrine in negligence law. Section 245 also illustrates this concept.
*** Section 103, "If, while on the journey, an enemy take away from him anything that he had, the broker shall swear by God and be free of obligation," is the first description of ''force majeure'' (the doctrine that someone may be released from his end of a contract because overwhelming circumstances beyond his control made compliance impossible).
** And then there was the fact that the law wasn't just written down, it was written where ''everyone could see it'' - thus ensuring that a person couldn't deceive you about what the law was and making sure you don't have access to it to check.
* Many people call Dr. John Langdon Down (November 18, 1828 - October 7, 1896) ableist for claiming that 'Mongoloids' (now referred to as people with Down's Syndrome) were a throwback to an earlier stage of evolution. However, what they don't realize is that he considered mentally handicapped Caucasians to be proof that non-white races were actually ''human beings'', something that was a topic of much debate among white people then. He also supported the rights of women, claiming that [[LamarckWasRight educated women produced smarter sons]] (contrary to the common belief that excessive education masculinized a woman and made her infertile, or produced lower-quality children).
* Similarly, Johann Blumenbach (11 May 1752 - 22 January 1840) (who gave us the term Caucasian for white people) underwent a weird CharacterDevelopment with regards to race. He initially believed that race determined a person's level of intelligence (with "Negroid" races being below all others). However, he later fell in love with a black woman and came to the conclusion that black people were just as intellectually capable as any other race (presumably he observed this personally in her).
* The Meiji Era (1868–1912) language and educational reforms of Japan now look like efforts to eradicate dialects and enforce a single, very specific restrictive standard on people, but at the time they were enlightened efforts to create class equality and open up scholarship to the lower classes by making scientific or literary writing accessible to people who couldn't afford years of education in heavily Chinese-influenced writing.
* The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia contains a provision that Parliament may make laws about "The people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws." The 1967 referendum finally recognizing indigenous Australians ''as people'' in fact DELETED "other than the aboriginal race in any State." This makes more sense once you realize that this provision is interpreted such that it only allows ''beneficial'' laws to be made about any one race (thus allowing Federal Indigenous Scholarships, grants, etc.) and overrode State laws that did ''very bad'' things to indigenous Australians.
* The Irish Constitution opens ''In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Éire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial, [...] Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.'' These explicit references to Christianity are quite exclusionary to the many atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, etc. who now live in Ireland - but at the time (1937) there was a push for it to open ''In the name of Our Lady of Lourdes...'', an explicitly Roman Catholic opening, but they went with a version acceptable to all traditional Christians.
** Likewise, before 1973, the Irish Constitution "recognised the special place of the Roman Catholic Church", which appears to view Catholicism specially, however it also mentioned other non-Catholic religions (like Anglicans, Methodists and Jews). Catholic extremists wanted no mention of other religions and wanted an official state religion. The "special place" was due to the Roman Catholic Church being "the guardian of the Faith of the professed by the majority of the population", i.e. the RCC is special only due to the amount of members it has. The official church position is that RCC is special since it descended from UsefulNotes/{{Jesus}}.
* [[http://books.google.com/books?id=5EoEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PA16#v=twopage&q&f=false This]] ''LIFE Magazine'' article from April 1938 compares photos of UsefulNotes/FranklinDRoosevelt to photos of UsefulNotes/BenitoMussolini, UsefulNotes/JosefStalin, and UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler. It was in response to Roosevelt's infamous Reorganization Bill, which would have dramatically strengthened the Executive Branch and which many Americans were ''strongly'' opposed to (even die-hard Roosevelt fans generally see it as one of his greatest mistakes). Fast-forward three and a half years, and such an article [[UsefulNotes/WorldWarII would be seen as treasonous]].
* The exams performed in the various Empires of ImperialChina from the time of the Song (10th century) onward may seem overly restrictive today, what with the fact that one highly difficult test could make or break your prospects (until you re-sat it). However, these tests were designed to break the power of the Song Empire's feudal aristocracy by allowing middle-class people to get civil service jobs. They succeeded. Their unique societal fusion of the aristocracy and middle class into the so-called 'scholar-gentry'/'literati' class was continued by the later Yuan, Ming, and Qing empires. In an era when most countries awarded positions within the administration and army based on 'divine right', 'noble' birth, and political connections this was ''extremely'' progressive if not outright revolutionary. The idea that the daily business of government and warfare would not be stopped by mere politics was pretty darned radical.
** This system of meritocracy gained popularity in the British Empire and the United States because it was seen as a much better alternative to their then-current systems of nepotism and the spoils system. The British Army removed the last impediments to middle-class participation in the officer corps (paying the Army a year of your salary so you could be promoted) during the Crimean War of 1853-55.
*** Notably, they provided contributions to Western Education. Remember those structured essays you wrote back in school? Or how academic papers are structured? The Imperial Civil Service Exams have a lot to do with that, as their clear format and structure made it easy for the examiners to look at an essay and judge its merits by ensuring that the essays would follow specific guidelines.
* When St. Augustine of Hippo (November 13, 354 - August 28, 430) was writing, he included a detailed treatise on sexuality that basically reaffirmed the commonly held idea that SexIsEvil. He did, however, make it clear that a woman who was raped ''[[NotIfTheyEnjoyedItRationalization and did not enjoy it]]'' did not commit a sin. The "did not enjoy it" part may sound awfully insensitive and sexist nowadays, but back then (when the prevailing view was that AllWomenAreLustful, with all the UnfortunateImplications that trope carries) this was rather innovative thinking for its time.
* Medieval Germanic society had the concept of the ''weregild'' (literally, 'man-price'). If a person killed another person, they could avoid punishment by compensating the victim's family in money or material goods. There was even a standardized code in place, establishing weregild prices depending on the victim's social status and circumstances of death. The concept of applying a monetary value to a human life may seem callous to us today[[note]]although the insurance industry and actuarial practice exist to do ''exactly'' that, along with wrongful death suits[[/note]], but considering the alternative form of retribution was the victim's family enacting a revenge killing, kicking off a blood feud that would most certainly cost more to the involved parties in loss of life and property, it was quite civilized and pragmatic.
** [[RealityIsUnrealistic The Weregild is the oldest law still in force in any common law country]]. It predates the common law crime of murder, and the name has been updated; it's called the tort of wrongful death. Torts to the person, the lesser cousin to the Weregild, ''also'' assign monetary values to various injured body parts, as well as the amount of money that person earned with that body part. For a modern example - take a look at OJ Simpson's misfortunes.
** At the time, many legal systems had a very different method - charges were brought by private citizens (usually the victim themselves, or next of kin if they were dead or unable to) and more similar to what we would now call a tort case.
* Maryland's Act of Toleration in 1649 guaranteed religious freedom - as long as you were a Christian. Given that this was the age of the UsefulNotes/ThirtyYearsWar, one of the most horrifying wars ever, fought in large part over rivalry between Christian sects, it's more impressive than it sounds today.
* Tommy Douglas referred to homosexuality as a "mental illness". In fact, he said this because he supported decriminalizing it and wanted people to be more tolerant (something that was also true for other progressives then). This sounds intolerant today, but it was a tremendous leap forward, since convincing people that homosexuality was harmless, acceptable behavior would have been completely impossible at the time.
* The [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Heavenly_Kingdom Taiping Heavenly Kingdom]] might seem like a repressive theocracy run by a messianic lunatic, but it was also the first government in China to prohibit slavery, concubinage, [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_binding foot binding]], and to hold women and all races to be equal in the eyes of the law.
* John Tharpe owned a slave plantation in Jamaica. However, he was famous for treating his slaves with dignity and respect. During a slave rebellion, other houses were burned down but his was spared.
** Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of [[UsefulNotes/AmericanCivilWar the Confederate States of America]] also owned slaves but treated them kindly and supported several laws that would protect slaves from abuse and even prevent the recapture of runaway slaves in free states.
** The Confederacy allowed black slaves to set up accounts with their owners that they could deposit money into to eventually buy their freedom. These accounts were ''protected by law'' against embezzlement by the slave owners.
** Before the Emancipation Proclamation, Louisiana, like other [[DeepSouth Southern US states]], allowed slavery. However, slaves had rights that they didn't have in other states. Slaves could seek legal action against abusive masters. Also, in accordance with Louisiana's predominant Catholic faith, even slaves were given Sundays off. During those Sundays, slaves could work their own businesses and keep whatever money they earned.
** This was in good part due to the state's French heritage, particularly the French [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_Noir Code Noir]] which had certain articles requiring humane treatment of slaves. The very similar Spanish Code Negro was a socio-political compromise, after a number of Spanish Catholic priests who'd attempted to enforce the Church's unambiguous canon laws against chattel slavery got slaughtered for their efforts.
** What few people also know is that blacks and whites were fighting for equality in Louisiana a full century before the rest of the United States. And the code Noir also forced slave purchasers to purchase entire families rather than splitting families and slave owners typically legitimized their children born to slaves and provided them with a proper education. Slave owners also had no way to pass slaves on to their children meaning that upon a slave owner's death their slaves would be freed and most slave owners would give a portion of their estate equal to the original purchase price of the slaves to each slave upon their death.
* UsefulNotes/TheBritishEmpire, despite the damage its imperialism caused to its subjects, was the first major European empire to effectively ban the slave trade in 1807, then slavery as whole in 1833, some 30 years before America. They created the West Africa Squadron in 1807, which actively hunted down slavers, eventually destroying the Atlantic slave trade.
** European missionaries in colonial India were known for their aggressive proselytization and callousness to the local cultures, but the areas that they were most successful in were ones that had many members of lower castes under the caste system and dalits (aka "untouchables"). People who were told their entire lives that it was a disgrace and worthy of punishment ''even to have their shadow fall on'' a higher caste person were told that everyone was equal before Christ and that God loves everyone equally.[[note]]Dalits were common among Indian Christian converts (and before that Muslim converts, for their similar teachings), though eventually several of them went Buddhist under the influence of Dr. Ambedkar, a Dalit who rose through the ranks to become an important Freedom Fighter and author of the Indian Constitution. He denounced the caste system, colonialism, and other religions for exploiting Indian people and creating disunity. [[/note]]
** King Edward VII of England was very liberal for his day, criticizing his nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II, for not moving with the times and being decidedly displeased with British colonial attitudes, saying in 1875 (as Prince of Wales) after a visit to India: "Just because a man has a black face and a different religion than our own, there is no reason why he should be treated as a brute."
** For that matter, those who equate imperialism with automatic racism should know that racist loopholes in the British civil-service system in India were completely closed as early as 1906 (when the Liberals came to power in Parliament) - more than 40 years before India's actual independence. Likewise, while colonialism itself was generally disliked, the Indian civil service was highly admired, even by India's freedom fighters, who cited its focus on meritocracy and good governance. In fact, the initial complaints of the independence movement was that the civil service was "too small". It's main purpose was to support the colonial enterprise rather than general governance for the better interests of the Indian peoples.
** Subash Chandra Bose is a hugely controversial figure in Indian and British politics. The British see him, not without justice, as a fascist stooge, while Indians see him as a potential military dictator or merely as a "freedom fighter" (a catch-all phrase in India that doesn't account for the political differences within the movement). While Bose entered into a short-sighted and naive EnemyMine with UsefulNotes/NaziGermany and UsefulNotes/ImperialJapan, he was personally a nationalist. His Indian National Army was the first non-segregated army peopled, staffed and run by Indians. There was no religious or caste divisions and it provided entry and service for women (in other words, absolutely different principles than those of his Axis allies). These features would be followed by the Post-Independence Indian military (which derives from the British Indian Army rather than Bose's unit).[[note]]Bose's politics were a huge mix. He had initially considered himself a quasi-socialist and had earlier sought an alliance with the Soviet Union but thanks to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, he turned towards Hitler instead.[[/note]]
* UsefulNotes/TheFrenchRevolution may not have been much into women rights, but they provided women rights to property ownership, introduced the no-fault divorce for the first time, and its leaders called for active primary education for both men and women.
** The Revolution was also the first mass movement with a strongly anti-racist character, giving rights to black people (and promoting them to high ranks in military service), equal rights for Jews and Protestants, decriminalizing homosexuality; things that we take for granted today, but it was way further to the left of not only the European establishment (hence its opposition by the antisemitic conservative Edmund Burke), but the philosophers of UsefulNotes/TheEnlightenment which inspired the movement. The First French Republic in response to the Revolution in Haiti, likewise abolished slavery for the first time in 1794 (during the ReignOfTerror).
** Much of these egalitarian achievements however was abrogated by Napoleon Bonaparte (who restored slavery, reintroduced racist policies towards black Frenchmen) but at the same time, being a product of the Revolution, Napoleon depended on it for his legitimacy. Hence his Civil Code and features such as meritocratic advancement and modern bureaucracy as well as secular governance. Napoleon's conquests across Europe effectively marked the end of feudalism, altered the class structure of several states and brought Jews out of ghettoes, at least in Western Europe. A lot of these policies were effected before Napoleon of course but he did consolidate it.
* When the vote was first extended to women in Britain by the Representation of the People Act 1918, it was only to women over 30 (men could vote at 21); but, considering that prior to the same Act being passed, only 60% of ''men'' (i.e. males over 21 according to the standards of the time) had the vote, it puts things into perspective.
* UsefulNotes/JuliusCaesar would be considered cruel by the standards of today (boasting about killing and enslaving millions of people can do that), but many contemporaries criticized him for being ''too lenient''. Case in point - he once dealt with a rebellious town by cutting off the right hand of every rebel in the town (so they could not raise arms against him again). Standard Roman practice would have been [[DisproportionateRetribution to kill every living thing in the town and turn it into rubble.]]
** Caesar had a desire to spare his enemies that would baffle modern politicians. He insisted that his conflict with Pompey was based on a misunderstanding, and was said to have cried over his corpse when a third party killed him. He also pardoned many of the other factions' leaders after defeating their armies, many of whom contributed to his assassination. Caesar's successor, Augustus, learned from this and co-opted Caesar's reputation for mercy, but made sure to have genuinely dangerous rivals killed before the ceasefires came.
** Caesar is also the first person in history to have thought of the idea of life imprisonment - for treason, of all things. [[ValuesDissonance Everybody thought this novel punishment was ludicrous]]-how could you throw a man in prison for life and humiliate him when it would be far more merciful to just kill him? In fact, this very argument is still used by those opposed to the outright abolition of capital punishment.
** Julius Caesar was actually part of the ''populares'', i.e. the left-wing of UsefulNotes/TheRomanRepublic or a close approximation thereof. The optimate faction, which eventually comprised Caesar's assassins, had been aristocratic and anti-reformist and had, violently, opposed earlier Republican reformers (such as the Gracchi). Caesar was a reformist of the same mind, but also a pragmatist who wanted to avoid the same fate. He joined the army and used his military career and conquests to protect himself. As dictator-perpetuo, he instituted ideas such as citizenship for people across Rome, land distribution among the very poor, meritocratic advancement for men of talent, and an end to the purge-and-counter-purge that characterized the Republic before him.
** While Caesar is viewed as a monster today for his deeds against "barbarians" in Gaul (where he claimed to have killed or enslaved hundreds of thousands of civilians), he was actually fairly moderate for an ancient Roman. He claimed in his commentaries that he only enacted those slaughters to protect allied tribes (and had quite a few Gallic men following him as auxiliaries), and maintained that the Gauls were not just barbarians, but a coherent society that could be civilized [[WhiteMansBurden under Italian rule.]] In 49 BC, with the Lex Roscia, Julius Caesar in his capacity as consul also granted to the people of Cisalpine Gaul (modern [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Italy Northern Italy]]) full Roman citizenship due to their loyalty, and also granted citizenship to many key Gallic figures in other allied tribes. To be fair, this was as much a pragmatic move as anything else (as these Gauls would then be more loyal to him), but it's one that earned him much criticism from the xenophobic politicians back in Rome.
** Likewise Caesar provided rights and protection for Jews who lived in Rome at that time. He was also highly popular among the people of Roman Athens, supporting the common people and extending franchise to them rather than the aristocratic client oligarchs that had been backed by the optimates. Caesar also wanted to end Rome's dependence on slave labour (which is not exactly abolitionism but historically, a key movement towards ending slavery) and provide better conditions and opportunities for free labourers and workers. Basically, if you were a working man in Rome during the end of the supposed Republic, Julius Caesar was your man.
* Most of [[UsefulNotes/ElizabethI Queen Elizabeth I's reign]]. At a time when France and the Western/'Spanish' Habsburgs were wracked by religious Civil Wars between Protestants and Catholics (i.e. the French Wars of Religion and The Eighty Years' War), she was more concerned with making sure England ran smoothly. Anglicanism was the official religion, but all she required Catholics to do was pay a small fine for not attending Anglican services, which at that time was radically permissive. She hated executing people, and would often commute sentences at the last minute, unless the crime was treason. Philip II Habsburg of Castile-Leon, Aragon, Burgundy, etc. (the late Mary's husband, who protected Elizabeth from being excommunicated by the Pope until English state-sponsored piracy/privateering in the West Indies became too problematic for him to ignore any longer) tried twice to stage a Catholic uprising against her, only to find that most of the Catholics ''liked'' her. When asked about her lenient-for-the-time attitude, she said she "had no desire to make windows into men's secret minds and hearts", preferring to keep her people fed and her country financially solvent. At the time, England was almost the only kingdom that hadn't bankrupted itself fighting religious wars (it had occasionally nearly bankrupted itself from fighting Irish rebellions, but although the Irish were Catholic, that's another story entirely).
* Remember how Creator/KarlMarx believed that revolution was the only way workers could gain better conditions? Well, he ''did'' say all of this during a time where many countries did not give most workers the right to vote, so it seemed the only way that they could get what they wanted was through the use of force (though many of his followers joined parliaments peacefully later on, proving this wrong). Universal suffrage was one thing the Marxist parties helped to pass that most people ''do'' agree with. There are still some communist and anarchist groups that see the state, despite full suffrage, as irredeemably capitalist and insist that only a revolution can bring about real change though.
** The idea of communism was, in Marx's view a radical extension of democracy to its logical conclusion: a society that would not only be classless but stateless, socially, scientifically and technologically advanced and automated to the extent that people could PursueTheDreamJob and truly be themselves rather than work because were born poor, or if they were middle-class run the family business and follow the careers their parents chose. Marx's original idea was in essence UsefulNotes/TheAmericanDream, and drastically different from the socialist republics run by self-procalaimed communist parties in underdeveloped and developing nations. Marx actually ''praised'' capitalism for having gotten rid of feudalism and for creating means of production that would allow for ending want once and for all. He was absolutely against pie-in-the-sky romantic returns to the golden age, farms and rural peasantry.
** Some of Marx's criticism is overly harsh, (such as comparing factory work to literal slavery - which was ''actually still a thing'' while he was alive) but the actual conditions of UsefulNotes/VictorianBritain were dire enough to make him see things that way. Engels' "Conditions of the Working Class in England" describing what England was like in the 1840s shows just how unbelievably miserable conditions were - Charles Dickens, if nothing, romanticized this misery.[[note]]To Marx and Engels, people were quite literally being dehumanized and turned into cogs for an economy machine that rich people profited off of; factories had no safety standards, all kinds of people - men, women, and children, were regularly killed or maimed by them, and these people were never compensated. They were paid such insubstantial wages that most workers lived in the worst conditions, or were vagrant, and trying to fight for better pay resulted in being fired at best, or being beat up by corporate police. Not only did workers have basically no rights, but the very ''idea'' of workers having rights was laughed at. For Marx, this looked strikingly similar to what actual slaves were going through.[[/note]]
** "Religion is the opiate of the masses” today sounds like Marx was calling religion a harmful addiction. But in 1840’s Europe, [[ArtisticLicenseHistory opiates weren’t used (at least not primarily) as recreational drugs]], but as medical painkillers. In other words, while Marx didn’t believe there actually was a God, he didn’t think of religious people as deceived addicts destroying society around them but as fundamentally reasonable people using the idea of another, fairer plane of existence to cope with their often unpleasant material situations.
* One of the problems with appreciating the real tensions in the UsefulNotes/ColdWar is to see Liberal Democracy and Egalitarian Socialism as opposites rather than dynamic entities that changed and transformed each other.
** As Creator/WarrenBeatty's Film/{{Reds}} reveals, it was UsefulNotes/VladimirLenin's USSR which introduced such things as women's equality (no-fault divorce, abortion rights) and other social welfare measures that liberal democracies either didn't have, or regarded as too radical, but which are now taken for granted. Lenin's government also conducted the first anti-racist campaign of the 20th Century when he conducted campaigns to clamp down on anti-semitism that had been endemic before then (and still did not completely die despite his efforts but Lenin deserves credit for it never rising back to the frequent pogroms of the Tsarist era). Less known, partially because of Stalin's homophobic reversal, but Lenin's government was also the first to legalize homosexuality in the 20th Century.
** American Communists are usually seen as either "useful idiots" or "potential spies for Stalin" but very few people bother to wonder ''why'' Communists were respected by well-meaning and otherwise intelligent artists and intellectuals in various political parties. The reasons for that are usually because Communists championed labour rights for men and women, were heavily involved in the union movement and, most importantly, it was the American Communists who went into the deep south and organized African-American communities which is the reason the likes of Paul Robeson and W. E. B. Dubois became members of the Communist party. They also paid for the trials of the Scottsboro Boys and persecuted Mexican workers.
** Communist movements in Third World post-colonial nations, generally played a key role in developing film industries, raising literacy, increasing life expectancy and other poverty relief measures. The Soviet Union and Fidel Castro likewise lent crucial support to Nelson Mandela in a time when he hadn't become a global icon.
** Recent commentators have argued that while Communism failed ultimately, numerous crimes were committed in its name and the fall of communist regimes often left behind a mess of issues, it's real legacy was to be a VictoriousLoser in lending support for ideas that had formerly been considered fringe in Europe and America but later became the norm in the west via TheMoralSubstitute. UsefulNotes/FranklinDRoosevelt's New Deal program was largely intended to co-opt class resentment and introduce welfare without revolutionary violence.
* UsefulNotes/DwightDEisenhower's "And I don't care what it is" speech drew a contrast between the US and "godless" communist regimes and stated that all moral and just governments needed to have a foundation in religious faith. That might sound incredibly backward and reactionary (or at least old-fashioned) to someone in a more secular society today. However the line that it takes its name from is him stating that he doesn't care about what religion it's based on, and that ones other than Christianity can be valid foundations for society, a rather progressive view at the time, and even moreso than many today hold.
* [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Laurens John Laurens]] was the son of a wealthy plantation owner and a colonel in the Continental Army during UsefulNotes/TheAmericanRevolution. In contrast to most of his contemporaries, he believed that black and white people were equally human, and it was disingenuous of the nascent nation to espouse liberty while keeping a subset of humanity in bondage.
-->''"We have sunk the Africans & their descendants below the Standard of Humanity, and almost render'd them incapable of that Blessing which equal Heaven bestow'd upon us all."''
* The constitution of the UsefulNotes/WeimarRepublic has been much maligned ever since the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Nazis. However, it was written during a time of military defeat and revolutionary upheaval (the national assembly was in Weimar, because Berlin was overrun by communists fighting militias in civil war like fashion). Despite all its failures (one of the most glaring being that two thirds of two thirds of the Reichstag could change the constitution and no part - not even fundamental human rights - was exempt from this) the constitution survived the 1923 hyperinflation, years of a President openly hostile to the Republic and people voting for fascists and communists in increasing numbers. It was also the first democratic constitution to ever actually become law in Germany and the first constitution ever written or drafted without an emperor. Given that the founders of the Weimar Republic had precious little to draw upon and the deck stacked against them, they manged quite phenomenally well. In fact, the constitution of UsefulNotes/TheBonnRepublic explicitly includes a few pieces of the Weimar constitution, which remain the law of the land as of 2016. The Weimar constitution also guaranteed equal representation, one man one vote - and (more crucially) one woman one vote (half a year ahead of the US and even more ahead of Britain and France) and established collective bargaining as a legal right. Arguably if Hitler had been shot in 1932 or never been appointed chancellor, the constitution could have weathered that storm as well.
* ''Cuius regio eius religio'' [[note]] Latin that translates roughly as: The ruler decides the religion[[/note]] is of course incredibly drastic and did force people to either leave their homes or convert on the whim of a local ruler - sometimes several times in their lifetime. But it was a huge advance over the wanton wars between Catholics and Lutherans of earlier times, when rulers who did not like the branch of Christianity of their neighbor took it as a pretext for war. The principle of Westphalian sovereignty which was made into international law with the peace of 1648 that ended the UsefulNotes/ThirtyYearsWar established for the first time that no power - not even the emperor - had any right to attack a sovereign state just because its leader was Lutheran or Calvinist. This was a huge step forward, even though it did little to protect any other religion. Similarly it gave the toleration of Judaism (which depended mostly on the whims of local rulers) a bit more of a legal foundation, even though Jews were still treated worse than the preferred type of Christian and sometimes even worse than the other type of Christian.
* Yes, the Roman Empire was a slave holding society, and much of its population lived in poverty. They also had plumbing made from lead (plumbum in Latin) and overall environmental pollution was probably worse than in many first world countries today, but they also had a remarkably meritocratic military, a relatively fair system of taxation, built roads so good they were still in use by the time the first cars came around and created a need for wider roads, established peace in Europe on a level never achieved until the end of World War II and even provided a very rudimentary system of aid to the (free) urban poor of Rome (which is incidentally where the term "proletarian" comes from). Rome was also very tolerant on the religious front with basically any type of polytheism allowed and sometimes even openly embraced (at the height of the empire there were temples for Babylonian and Egyptian goddesses in Rome) and Judaism as ''religio licita'' (allowed religion) was excluded from the need to worship the emperor.
** If you absolutely couldn't get away from being a slave, historical documentation in Pompeii suggests you had a better chance of living a decent life if you were a slave in some parts of Rome. Some of those records show that many a successful business owner was a former slave; it was fairly common for an owner to free a slave after a period of time, and some even gave the former slave a financial leg up to build their own life. While they didn't have ''all'' the benefits of a citizen, their children did, and there doesn't appear to have been a great deal of stigma attached to marrying a former slave who'd become successful. Slaves could even receive extravagant gifts from their owners: in the ruins of Pompeii was found a heavy gold bracelet inscribed with, "To a slave girl, from her master" engraved in it. While slavery itself usually sucked, at least a Roman slave had a healthy chance of actually being freed.
** Woman citizens of Rome also had a shockingly high position in society for two thousands years ago. Although they were nominally kept out of public life such as government office and under their father's control, these holdovers laws from the Roman Kingdom gradually withered away until, by the point of the late Republic, their enforcement was sporadic and largely a formality. There are numerous anecdotal accounts of women being shrewd business owners, money-lenders, landowners, and factory managers, and they seemed to be thoroughly entrenched in the economic dealings of Rome (since they weren't technically "great" public figures, not much was written at length about them). The Roman Republican views on divorce and free love were also very forward-thinking; nobody batted an eyelid at a married noble living together with a woman of lesser station, provided he didn't try and screw his legal wife out of any of her rights such as legitimizing his children.
* Many argue that compulsory education laws give too much power to teachers and administrators over students, forcing kids and teenagers to sit around all day, read about stuff that doesn't interest them, socialize rather minimally, and possibly endure bullying, all with no direct pay[[note]]Technically, they do get paid, but in funding for college, not in money to buy stuff with[[/note]] or other real incentives. However, their enactment was meant in no small part to put an end to the rampant child labor that plagued the 19th and early 20th centuries.
* The slavery laws as mentoned in [[Literature/TheBible The Old Testament]]. Today, slavery is outlawed both within the US as well as countries that ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, making UsefulNotes/{{Somalia}} the only place in the world where slavery is allowed. Many of those laws were however ahead of their time, the most notable one that a master could not kill his slave without reason, as it took many centuries before a similar law was finally adopted in ancient Rome.
* Another law from the Old Testament declared in part that the victim of a rape and her rapist were to be considered married. While this may make no sense to a modern reader, this actually invoked a number of secondary laws and traditions that dramatically alter the picture. For instance, a married man was subservient to his wife's parents and male relatives, and obligated to financially support not only her, but her entire extended family. The traditional duties of a Jewish wife of the time, meanwhile, included management of the household's finances and property holdings, with the "proper" role of the husband being advisory rather than authoritative on these matters. She was also free to delegate her husband's physical needs to a servant if she so desired. He was, of course, expected to provide said servant for her.
* The Talmud laws state that the man is to be considered infertile if his wife testifies he "doesn't shoot as an arrow". Today, we would consider it a most ridiculous fertility test, but considering how many societies before and after denied the man can be at fault in these matters ''period''...
* Despite [[ReignOfTerror its modern-day associations]], [[OffWithHisHead the guillotine]] was the first execution method explicitly designed to be quick and painless, at a time when purposely brutal executions like drawing and quartering were still practiced.
* Many of the stereotypical "Jewish" surnames such as Rosenberg or Goldstein are actually ethnically German, and very common among pureblooded Germans. In the late 1700s, Austrian Emperor Joseph II announced that, if Jews wanted to be citizens, they had to Germanize themselves, which included taking "official" German surnames instead of traditional Hebrew ones. While the idea of stripping away someone's identity may seem highly inconsiderate, this was also the first time it was suggested that Jews, after centuries of living as eternal immigrants, could even '''be''' European citizens at all. As to why most of those Jews with German surnames are in the United States, well, let's just say [[UsefulNotes/NaziGermany there was a backlash towards the Germanization of Jews]].
* The whole idea of a "white race" in the United States, even though it was often used as a bludgeon against "nonwhite races" (particularly Sub-Saharan Africans). It can be hard to comprehend for many modern observers, but the USA of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (where 85%+ of the population was European-descended) was actually considered a very racially diverse place by many Europeans. Why? Because it classified all ''Europeans'' as one group and generally equal, which was actually a pretty radical sentiment. This was a time when Northern Italians treated Southern Italians as colonial subjects (kept in poverty via exploitation) rather than fellow citizens and regarded them as racially inferior mongrels, when the Germans regarded the Poles as a degenerate "East Baltic race" prone to violence and of limited mental faculty deserving only ethnic cleansing or death,[[note]]they would put this belief into practice in World War II, where 1/5 of Poland's population was killed, millions more were enslaved, and the eventual plan was to completely clear Poland for German settlement, bar a small segment of the population judged to be sufficiently Nordic in blood.[[/note]] when the British Army of WW-1 (per a 2004 report by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs) gave disobedient Irish troops far harsher punishments than normal because of a racial bias, when a million Irish people under British rule died in a partially-artificial famine and were regarded as deserving of it by much of the British public because of the "selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the Irish people", when Jews were regarded as treacherous "Orientals" in most European countries, etc. While some European immigrant groups did get discriminated against in the US, in particular the aforementioned southern Italians, overall it was very minor compared to what was going on in Europe at the time and people of Jewish, Polish, Neapolitan, Sicilian, etc. descent mingled with people of Anglo or German descent with little issue and without mass genocides, often rising to positions of power.
* [[TheFreakshow Freakshows]] are usually seen nowadays as some offensive and denigrating to people with physical disadvantages. However, back in the day they were seen as the only way to make a decent and honest living for deformed human beings. Within their circus they were treated with respect and many enjoyed some form of "celebrity status". As many freak show performers had a weak health and were rejected by mainstream society, the freakshow was the only way to not go to the warehouses, that keep them in poor condition and gave them an even bigger stigma. Add to that the fact that many freaks were disowned by their blood families (Or lost the few relatives that took care of them), so freak shows allow them to [[FamilyOfChoice make their own families]], free of prejudice. Marriages between freaks were common, as well as the more able freaks taking care of the less able.