Acceptable Ethnic Targets
Did you hear about the Sumerian? She:
No, what about the Sumerian? He:
He was extremely stupid! Ha ha ha!
— Dave Barry's Greatest Hits
, telling the oldest known ethnic joke
A subset of Acceptable Targets
. Remember that these aren't always ethnic in the literal sense we're used to — they just refer to someone who has something about them which, short of plastic surgery, they can't really change. Foreign/unusual accents and dialects are also typically considered speech impediments, and therefore become subjects of mockery much like Acceptable Hard Luck Targets
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For many, skinny means weak and easy to defeat in a physical fight. Doubly so if said guy is also short. While being tall and lanky may be tolerated, being skinny and of average height is unacceptable for a man in the media, since such men look "weak" and weakness, especially physical
weakness, is just the very definition of failure at being a "real" man
- Eric Foreman from That '70s Show often falls under this trope, since Topher Grace is fairly skinny; his friends call him "girly," and his mother even castratingly reassures him that he's "not skinny, but dainty! Meanwhile his girlfriend and mother alike fall immediately for the more traditionally "manly" Casey Kelso.
- In Criminal Minds there was a scrawny unsub who participated in a fight club and lost every fight he got into. This drove him to get a gun and kill anyone who have a higher authority than him.
Such women are pretty much the Distaff Counterpart
to the above. While fat men are not exempt from being bashed, in the media - and sometimes in Real Life
- it's fat women who get the brunt of said bashing, often called 'whales' or 'hippo-ladies' and considered the epitome of ugliness, which is an inexcusable and unacceptable flaw for a woman. Not to mention that positive portrayals in the media are almost non-existent.
- Married... with Children. From Peg's *huge* mother to the fat women frequenting Al's workplace, this show doesn't just verbally mock overweight women, it also portrays them as food-addicted, greedy, mean-spirited and overall just unpleasant beings (although this being Married... with Children, almost everyone is a greedy, mean-spirited and overall just unpleasant human being).
- Numerous examples on Family Guy. If the word "cankles" turns up often, then somebody's being made fun of.
- In-universe, Peter himself often bashes fat women, but has no problems with fat men like himself.
- The whole reason for the character of Kendra Krinklesac's existence in The Cleveland Show.
- Debbie, Steve's fat goth girlfriend in American Dad! plays with this: he does love her despite the ridicule and disapproval from family and friends. On the other hand, she is given a pretty positive portrayal, being kind, cheerful, and good at housework. Even Stan takes a liking to her at one point.
Also, short people in general. Mostly for the visual. This occurs with the very tall sometimes (see below), but nearly every appearance of a dwarf on television is because their height is going to be emphasized. May be The Napoleon
. It also may help to note that "midget" is considered a highly offensive term, yet in media it continues to be the catchall expression for dwarfs.
- In an interesting lampshade, the stand-up comedian Brad Williams is a dwarf and makes extensive use of it in his routine, which generally includes a lot of physical humor. One notable staple of his routine is dancing to various styles of music chosen by the audience. Why? Well, as he and his fellow comedian Carlos Mencia point out, dancing midgets are just funny.
- Almost every character ever played by Peter Dinklage is an exception. He's made a career out of subverting dwarf stereotypes.
- As a dwarf actor in Living in Oblivion his role completely skewers the use of dwarfs as surreal visual elements. When the filmmaker protagonists film a dream sequence in which a dwarf walks around holding an apple, the dwarf actor insists that the whole thing is overplayed, yells at the director and eventually storms off the set. (This was actually his first film role.)
- The Vin Diesel movie Find Me Guilty featured a dwarf lawyer, played by Dinklage, who was largely treated as just another character, his height hardly even being commented upon. This was primarily because the movie was almost entirely based on real events, and he was portraying a real lawyer who just happened to be a dwarf.
- Death at a Funeral features Peter Dinklage (as Peter in the 2007 original or Frank in the 2010 remake) as a major character. His height is never commented on except as an identifying feature.
- Dinklage also played Finbar McBride, the protagonist of The Station Agent. His dwarfism is a major part of the film, but isn't played for laughs at all. So... averted.
- Averted in Penelope. Though one character is a dwarf nobody makes any mention of this except one clearly idiotic character who is ignored. He also wears a bitchin' eyepatch.
- Subverted and used, extensively, in the 1981 comedy film Under The Rainbow.
- Semi-averted in Pirates of the Caribbean. A member of Jack's crew is also a little person, and while they once or twice play his size for laughs, he's largely treated as just another member of Jack's dysfunctional little "family". Nearly every production that features Martin Klebba generally ignores his condition... unless his dwarfism is the entire point of his appearance. He's a person not afraid to laugh at himself, after all. Perhaps because he looks like he could fight back.
- Played straight in the second Austin Powers film with Mini-Me, though Mini-Me is a mutated clone and mute, not a normal dwarf; he's also stated to have certain "compensating" advantages.
- In Bruges has Jordan Prentice playing Jimmy, an actor with dwarfism. This is more of an in-story example; main character Ray has a strange obsession with "midgets" but all the prejudice he meets from other characters is simply because he's rude and American. He's also mistaken for a child, and is in fact playing a child in the film's Film Within A Film. And he's an asshole with a coke habit and occasionally racist rants, but this is shown as having more to do with him being an actor than being a dwarf. In spite of this, though, he's a fairly multilayered, believable character.
- Averted in movies of Luis Buñuel, who occasionally cast dwarfs because he liked their demeanor in front of the camera, even though script didn't require a dwarf.
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: "Don't call me tiny!"
- Me, Myself & Irene: it's intended as humiliation that Jim Carrey's character's wife runs off with a dwarf.
- Played for Drama in Freaks where the normal-height, physically attractive Cleopatra toys with Franz's affections, thinking of him as a subhuman joke. The "normal" Cleopatra and Hercules are depicted as grotesque on the inside, whereas the "freaks" are mostly decent people...and if you harm one of them, you get to deal with all of them.
- Gimli in The Lord of the Rings. "Toss me!" ("Don't tell the elf!")
- May count as a subversion, since Gimli is played by John Rhys-Davies, who is not a dwarf in real-life and most instances of Gimli being shorter than the rest of the characters are either forced perspective or because he was scaled down in post-production.
- Tyrion from A Song of Ice and Fire gets a lot of mockery for being short and ugly, sometimes being referred to as "Halfman" and "the Imp" by certain characters and is hated by the common people. This has left him very embittered. And when Cersei tries to have him killed, it leads to a veritable parade of people killing dwarfs on the basis that it might be him, and bringing her their heads. Although one other dwarf is shown with a relatively high station in a religious settlement, it is clear that were he not a son of the richest and most powerful lord in the land, Tyrion would have suffered even more, something he is well aware of.
- Vincent Lorimar, in Unda Vosari, openly tells somebody he hits "like a midget" (as well as comparing his fists to testicles and calling him the dick in the middle).
- Averted with Newt in Cat's Cradle, who is a perfectly normal guy described as very calm and dignified.
- Subverted in Terry Pratchett's Discworld, where the Dwarfs are a belligerent minority with a fairly direct response to being denigrated as lawn-ornaments, short-stuff, and only ever being offered half-pints of beer. The Ankh-Morpork City Watch will usually close a case as "suicide" if the deceased has, immediately prior to their demise, been heard to make mock of an axe-carrying dwarf's short stature.
- Averted in Ender's Shadow with Bean. While Bean does grow in later novels (it's a genetic disease that eventually makes him grow too tall), for the duration of the first book he is significantly shorter than all the others. However, Bean is shown as being smarter than all the rest of the school of geniuses. There are many moments where Bean is mistreated for his height, but those are mostly done by bullies or portrayed negatively. Largely, Bean uses his height to his advantage, as he does with everything.
- An episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation dealing with dwarfs swung in its treatment of them from respectful to "humorous".
- House had an episode with a dwarf woman and her daughter. The daughter's condition was caused by a curable disease (Cushing's?), meaning that when cured, she hit a growth spurt.
- House actually treated both of them as he would anyone else—he's abrasive and demeaning with everyone he encounters, so while he made a few dwarfism remarks, they were similar to things he's said about any other group besides "people who are Greg House". Usually hyper-sensitive Dr. Cameron came off as something of an Innocent Bigot though.
- Aversion: The short-lived alien invasion drama Threshold included a dwarf character: the fact that he was short was mentioned only in a few purely practical contexts along the lines of explaining why he couldn't drive someone else's car. There was a scene in a bar where the character was surrounded by half a dozen babes when another character tracked him down (he'd gone missing). He was asked "How do you get the babes?", and replied "Chicks dig brains", or words to that effect. The dwarf character had several math (and language?) degrees and was otherwise a valued team member. And was played by Peter Dinklage, by the way.
- Aversion: The HBO drama Carnivàle featured a dwarf, Samson, who was effectively the traveling carnival's leader.
- Aversion: In Seinfeld, one of Kramer's closest friends aside from the other three main characters is a dwarf named Mickey. In one episode, his height becomes important: The child actor he doubles has grown, so he uses insoles - which the other dwarfs don't like.
- There was said to be a stigma among dwarf-actors about "trying to heighten," because that creates unfair competition.
- Played half-straight in Scrubs. A recurring character holds a black belt that's generally shown with punches to the crotch, or in one case, crushing the hand of another character to end a tense handshake.
- "Would you stop using that expression, Randall? It's stuck in my head."
- But averted in an episode where assisting a really short surgeon is considered a terrible assignment to pull; the "boys' club" that uses him as an instrument of social coercion is portrayed as a pack of Jerkasses, and he gets to deliver the aesop of the episode. To be fair, the "punishment" aspect of being assigned to assist the incredibly short doctor was because the assisting surgeon would be required to stand hunched over for hours at a time, resulting in severe back pain and stiffness because of the height disparity.
- Pushing Daisies's fifth episode, "Girth", may as well be renamed "CHENO IS SHORT", given that it consists almost entirely of reminders that Kristin Chenoweth is 4'11" - ranging from a backstory involving a stereotypical short person's profession of horse jockey to a scene where she can't use a spade as a lever because she can't get traction on the ground. And deliberately shooting her from high angles to make her look even shorter.
- One must wonder if a scene in The West Wing, where her character is walking on a hallway with C.J. "Flamingo" Cregg, is poking fun at her slight stature, or C.J.'s towering one.
- Subverted but also played straight in some ways in Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere. Max admits to having a midget girlfriend and the abuse that she gets, as well as what he has to put up with for being so much taller than her, is rightfully shown as hurtful. She later finds Max indulging in jokes at her expense behind her back, causing her to leave him. The trope is played straight when Paddy calls her a dwarf, prompting Max to "correct" him on the differences between dwarfs and midgets: "Dwarfs are in the circus and do cartwheels." This is less a joke at the expense of dwarfs and more one about Max's ignorance.
- The size of presenters Richard "Hamster" Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson is a source of numerous jokes on Top Gear. Hammond's height may have actually saved his life during a serious crash of a Vampire drag racer at 288 mph; it is believed that a taller man could have been decapitated.
- NCIS halfway-subverts this - Goth 'lab rat' Abby dates an intelligent, charming fellow science geek with a love for bowling, who just happens to be a dwarf. The one time the script calls for a joke about it, it's at the expense of Abby - who says something rather thoughtlessly in her typical way that comes across as a jab about his height, and apologizes. However, the relationship doesn't last - the actor playing her love interest committed suicide, and it's implied she was dumped due to her differing height.
- Subverted in NCIS: Los Angeles with Hetty, who is not only small, but also an extremely Badass ex-operative that has Seen It All, and has an enormous amount of political clout.
- Mostly, any show where Meredith Eaton makes a participation is a self aversion, as she's usually proud of her genetic condition and is shown to not be intimidated by the "tall" people.
- Most notably in Boston Legal. Her size is often played for laughs, but she's shown to be an accomplished woman and a relentless lawyer. Also, Denny Crane is shown to fall in love with her and finding her unique proportions exotic and sexy, but it is a very turbulent relation.
- Daniel Frishman as District Attorney Vincent Daniels on Night Court. While many jokes were made at the expense of his height, Frishman played up his character as a smug, over-rich, total and complete bastard, the direct antithesis of the usual "adorable midget" phenomenon that was sweeping the nation at the time.
- The jokes were made by Dan Fielding, who taunted Daniels mercilessly about his height— but got his punishment when Daniels turned out to be his supervisor.
- Politically-corrected on Los Angeles Law, where a midget-attorney Warwick Davis was harassed by punks, only to be "saved" by Jimmy Smits. The rest of the episode showed Smitts embarrassingly grinning and laughing like an idiot Jack-o-Lantern while chumming around with him, pretending to hit it off together as the studio bent over backwards to be politically-correct and "height-blind."
- Lampshaded in one promo for Shasta McNasty, where a character played by Verne Troyer remarks that "people get freaked out by little people"... and then proves it by screaming in the ear of a guy who was napping, causing him to freak out.
- Subverted on Hannah Montana. Miley briefly goes out with a guy who is about an inch shorter than her (he must be about 5' 3''). She doesn't mind his height but is turned off when he has to stand on something to kiss her. She ditches him but then goes to apologize for being rude, after he tells her he always was rejected because of his small height. Although we never hear from him again. Played straight in some parts of the episode, as there are a lot of (corny) jokes against small people.
- Alternately averted and played for laughs on Chelsea Lately, where Chelsea Handler employs a dwarf as a sidekick because of a personal attraction for little people. But she's a comedienne, so nobody's safe from ridicule.
- The Lone Gunmen episode "Madam, I'm Adam" had a plot that involved a dwarf wrestling league and the situation was played as something that even the Gunman found bizarre. However, when the truth fully came out, it turned into a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. Their "client" was a normal-height man who was trying to win back his wife, one of the wrestlers, and had undergone a drastic procedure to try and overcome the anger problems that drove her away. The husband makes no mention of her height, but her jerkass boyfriend showed his colors when he did.
- In Modern Family, Mitchell sees his old high school girlfriend holding hands with a short red-haired person and worries that he gave her a son. He's actually a dwarf and her husband.
- Santana has been known to pick on fellow Glee club member Rachel for her diminutive stature ("Listen to Dwarf Diane Warren").
- Subverted in Game of Thrones (see Literature above). In-universe, virtually no one respects or likes Tyrion Lannister, but the show itself does not make him a joke; on the contrary, he is arguably the most intelligent and competent character on the show. Three guesses who plays him, in what is probably his biggest role ever.
- Any midget match/segment is used for comedy or for the heel to mock their opponent.
- Tom Cruise.
- Jamie Cullum (not helped by his relationship with Sophie Dahl being a case of Tiny Guy, Huge Girl).
- Nicolas Sarkozy is towered over by his wife Carla Bruni, and his attempts to draw attention away from this only open him up to more jokes.
- Ryan Seacrest.
- Unless they'e actual dwarfs (like Boston Legal's Meredith Eaton) women - being generally shorter than men anyway - are usually safe from this. But as Hayden Panettiere can attest, there are exceptions.
- Possibly averted in The Incredibles, in which there are two characters short enough to potentially be the butt of dwarf jokes, but both characterizations are based on something else entirely—Mr. Huph is defined by his callous indifference to human suffering, and the humor of Edna Mode's character stems from her artistic temperament. It is only a possible aversion because the cartoony style of the film makes it uncertain whether their shortness is supposed to be indicative of dwarfism, or just a quirk of character design. Most likely it's to contrast them with Mr. Incredible. Mr. Huph because it's thus more humorous that this tiny little guy is ranting and ordering around a massive, superpowered dude because of his authority, and Edna because she smacks the same guy around and bends him to her will with far more style and good humor. And many of the characters are physical exaggerations, including Mr. Incredible, to augment the movie's "morning cartoon" style.
- In The Simpsons, there's a deconstruction of this. Moe dated a Little Person named Maya that he met on the Web. He was so nervous about dating someone that was "different" (and thus offending her), that he ended up always making asinine comments about her height. Eventually, his comments about her height caused the demise of their relationship.
While not nearly as common as mockery of short people, there's still a certain amount of mockery directed towards anyone over a certain number of feet. While often Positive Discrimination
, mostly expect to see stuff like hitting their heads on light fixtures, driving a too-tiny car, and their head being cut off in photos of groups of friends/family. Also "fun" nicknames such as Stretch and plays on "The _____ Giant". For some reason seems to often have a funny-sounding voice, so may mix this with the "Speech Impediment" acceptable target. The tall and the generally big are also often depicted as being dumb
, though there's no correlation between size and brains at all
. A generally well-intentioned but particularly annoying stereotype is that height also lends an automatic athletic ability and predisposition, especially regarding basketball.
- Space Jam made a joke when several very tall basketball players and one short basketball player (Muggsy Bogues, the shortest NBA player in history at 5'3") are walking down the hall following a doctor. They walk through a door way... or at least Bogues and the doctor do; the others hit their heads on the door frame. This is Justified as all the players had their talent stolen by the villains, which in this scene translates to them forgetting they're all too tall to step through the door without ducking.
- The Peter Jackson version of The Lord of the Rings had a brief sequence near the beginning with Gandalf (who is of a normal human height) hitting his head on various fixtures in Bag End, a Hobbit hole. Although this might be considered more a short people joke, as Gandalf is normal human height, but is in the house of a "halfling." This was incidentally a case of Throw It In, he really did keep smashing his head in the tiny set.
- Robert from Everybody Loves Raymond is a running "tall" joke. While Brad Garrett is tall, he's been shown before in other roles without drawing attention to it (such as the mechanic in Seinfeld who steals Jerry's car); meanwhile Robert Barone is his only role in which he is shown to be Frankensteinishly enormous.
- College football coach Hayden Fox on Coach frequently mocked Sitcom Archnemesis Coach Judy Watkins, and the players on her ladies basketball team for being tall, and, implicitly, butch. Hayden was a curmudgeonly Straw Misogynist Chew Toy who mocked the idea of women playing sports at all, while and coach Watkins was decidedly closer to earth; usually, this highlighted that tall women are labeled as boorish and ungraceful, but unattractive as well. He also made fun of his assistant coach, Dauber, for being tall.
- How I Met Your Mother sometimes makes jokes about Marshall's height (e.g., when security tells Barny there's a Sasquatch in building)and the fact that the rest of his family are all even taller.
- Except in the above example, it was Marshal calling Barney and then pretending to be a Sasquatch in order to make Barney laugh, so it's not an example of him being a target. That being said, Marshal's height is often mocked by his friends in a similar way they mock Ted's romanticism or Robin's tomboy qualities.
- Real Life Example: Stephen Merchant, known for collaborating with Ricky Gervais on The Office and Extras finds it quite unfair that being tall is apparently considered some kind of achievement and that jokes at the expense of the very tall like himself are perfectly okay while jokes about dwarfs and fat people are frowned upon nowadays. He has gone over the drawbacks to being so tall many times in the past.
- Which may be partially responsible for one of the most cringingly hilarious moments in the Merchant-written Extras, when Merchant's character Darren Lamb meets noted little person actor Warwick Davis and squeals, "Oh, look! A midget!" He later asks Davis, "Can I fit in your house?"
- Actor Jared Padalecki of Supernatural gets this all the time, and not just from fans—the cast, crew, and writing team love to poke fun at his height. Among other things, director/producer Kim Manners has nicknamed him "Sasquatch," and Jensen Ackles once claimed in an interview that Jared makes him look like he's 5'9". He's clearly 6'5", but he claims he's either 6'3" or 6'4", probably out of insecurity about it. Jared also had a tendency to hunch when he walks, also probably out of insecurity.
- It has affected him negatively in the past as well. He mentioned once it cost him an acting job. He was auditioning for a pilot where he would play the son of the petite Jane Seymour. Things went well until they had to hug. When he had to almost fold in half to be able to actually hug her, it just went downhill.
- And any tall person will have heard "How's the weather up there?" a billion times. "Fair to partly stupid."
- Or if you're feeling really bitter - spit on their head/face and say "Rainy."
- Nelson's sketch from the "22 Short Films About Springfield" episode of The Simpsons had one. Though the Very Tall Man does get his revenge on Nelson, something a lot of the town seemed to want, he's portrayed so goofy that there's not much payoff from it. The man's voice is perhaps a side effect of genetic gigantism, so it actually adds to the payoff by driving home Nelson's unfair mockery.
- In one of the "Treehouse of Horror" specials, while on the hunt for attacking billboard statues, Cheif Wiggum shoots down a tall man who appeared to be the captain of a basketball team. When called out on this, he says that he was turning into a monster anyway.
- In The Weekenders, Carver receives a love letter he later finds out is from a girl named Nona, who's quite tall, and Carver is biased about it, to the point of having nightmares about if they got together, culminating in her delivering a gigantic baby. His friends aren't above it either, as when he tells them Nona is his secret admirer, they all hold their hands out and up and say "THAT Nona?".
- One The Angry Joe Show crossover made fun of the (exaggerated) height differential between Joe and Handsome Tom.
Only in pre-Civil Rights America. Or when done by other black people
for the sake of comedy. Racism against blacks in the media is generally considered unacceptable in contemporary America, and receives more attention than racism against any other group for various reasons. For most of America's history, blacks were considered an acceptable ethnic target (see Minstrel Shows
, Once Acceptable Targets
). Most European and South American nations are the same. In much of Asia, depressingly, black people are still
acceptable ethnic targets, though there are notable and noble exceptions.
White Anglo-Saxon Protestant males
Whites, being the vast majority of Americans, are consequently the group that is (historically and concurrently) the least discriminated against. This is more true of white males. Thus, when racial discrimination against white males does occur, it is often overlooked. In some circles, such racism is considered to be acceptable (see other, guilty white people
) and even bringing attention to it is often decried as racist.
- If you're an American, do a little experiment: turn on your television and count how many commercials feature dopey, goofy, idiotic men and wise, capable uberwomen. If there are no women present, then the goofy idiot role will be taken by the whitest guy in the ad. If they're all white guys, then it'll be the one with the sweater vest.
- Perhaps the ultimate shot at WASPs was Caddyshack, in the characters of the Lutheran Bishop Pickering and the WASP's WASP, Judge Smails, portrayed as only Ted Knight can.
- The villainous Mayor in Michael Jackson's Ghosts short film, a fat, bigoted white man who picks on the mysterious Maestro for being different (i.e., being Michael Jackson), is a good example of this, and played more for drama than jokes. Jackson played both roles, the Mayor under heavy makeup.
- James Spader has played a lot of privileged WASPy villains, particularly in his youth, e.g. Pretty in Pink.
- Trope is subverted in Lakeview Terrace wherein Samuel L. Jackson plays a racist crooked black cop, terrorizing a suburban interracial family.
- Subverted in The Witcher, with primary antagonist Azar Javed, an ambiguously brown man, and protagonist Geralt, a white guy. Partial subversion actually - the primary antagonist is indeed a white guy.
- Given that it's a Polish game based on a Polish fantasy universe they may be white but they probably aren't Anglo Saxons.
- Star Trek: Voyager was notorious for this, with the anti-WASP male stereotype Paris, but also with treating B'Elanna Torres' periodically breaking the limbs of male WASP underlings as a source of humor: beating up weaker people is allegedly funny, so long as the weaker people are WASP males and the abusive figure is female.
- Even if the latter is an alien.
- Frequently averted in the true crime shows featured on Investigation Discovery. Many of these shows have minority criminals.
- Scrubs poked some mild fun at an Episcopalian couple who were very restrained in their emotions. To the point that the husband chides his wife for "making a scene" when she sniffled at a bad diagnosis for him.
- One example which can be considered particularly egregious is that in Danny Phantom, where the parents of Samantha Manson are cast as WASPs, despite being Jewish.
- Many blonde jokes were actually descended from Dumb Pole jokes. Some didn't carry over.
- Another subversive example is Karrin Murphy from the The Dresden Files books, tiny, blonde, cute, generally far more intelligent than Harry and can kill you six different ways before you hit the ground.
- Major subversion in A Song of Ice and Fire: House Lannister, aka The Blonde House, is arguably the most cerebrally dangerous House in Westeros. Biggest example of the subversion is Tywin Lannister, who managed to administer Westeros to amazing levels of prosperity and order for two decades despite being handicapped with The Caligula as a superior. Also notable is Tyrion(see "Dwarves" on this very page), and Kevan. The family member who most fits the physical stereotype, Cersei, is even more of a subversion: She has serious, serious personality flaws that throw major blinders over her judgement, but she's also clearly intelligent and is an excellent political intriguer Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark find this out the hard way. Even the family member who arguably fits the stereotype the most, Jaime, is far from stupid.
- Interestingly, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has a smart blonde (Maddie) and a dumb Asian (London). This was because, originally, Ashley Tisdale was to play London (after all, she is a parody of Paris Hilton, a blonde). But early on, Disney realized that Ashley was better at playing Maddie, and Brenda Song (originally cast as Maddie) was better at playing London.
- Aversion: the lead character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which itself was created as a subversion of the "unnamed dumb blonde gets eaten by monster in dark alley" cliche of horror films. The title character is not always the brightest in the bunch, but that seems to stem more from impulsiveness than from genuine stupidity, as you can't be the Slayer for years on end and be a complete idiot, and she's generally pretty good at thinking fast on her feet, given the circumstances. Albeit the same series had one of the definitive examples of blonde ditziness on television in Harmony.
- Interestingly enough, another series that subverts the "dumb blonde" trope is Boston Legal, despite the fact that the majority of the long list of "Acceptable Targets" cliches above are played straight and usually for humor with great relish on the same show. In fact, lawyers seem to get a slight reprieve more often; blonde, capable lawyers show up in Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Womens Murder Club, to name a few.
- One of the earliest subversions/aversions on network TV would be Jennifer, Carlson's secretary on WKRP in Cincinnati. The creators of the show deliberately refused to cater to the "dumb blonde" stereotype, and wrote her as intelligent, witty, ambitious, and more than a touch sarcastic.
- Ainsley Hayes from The West Wing is not only a "hot blonde" who is perfectly intelligent and capable, but she is also conservative on a show when almost the rest of the main cast is liberal, up to allowing her to make persuasive arguments on conservative issues. Although, her character is often defined by the other characters as "the blonde Republican sex kitten" (she's even the Trope Namer). Donna Moss is a slightly more traditional example, although she is quite smart, just not as smart as Josh.
Susan: And if Ritchie's strategy is what you say it is, won't Josh Lyman figure that out in five minutes?
Amy: It'll take his assistant Donna five minutes. It'll take Josh half that time.
Amy: Maybe a little longer because the Mets lost last night, and he'll need to focus.
- More subversion: CSI: Miami has Calleigh Duquesne who is not only blonde, but fairly short, with a rather "little-girl" sort of voice - absolutely none of which affects her ability as an investigator.
- Subversion: Samantha Carter from Stargate SG-1 is an undeniable super-genius in any scientific field one cares to imagine. Astrophysics, engineering, quantum physics, wormhole physics, chemistry, theoretical physics, nanotechnology, subspace theory, hyperspace physics. The list goes on and on. Carter is at the very top of all those fields.
- Julie Brown's "Cause I'm a Blonde".
- Cornelia from W.I.T.C.H.. While a fairly calm and intelligent girl in the comic books, she became The Ditz for the television series. She liked her transformation because of the big breasts that came with it.
Dense body hair, which is naturally quite common
in men, is treated (sometimes
) as something extremely repulsive and unhygienic that only gross individuals have. That is when it appears at all — generally men's chests shown on television are utterly hairless. A hairy-backed man suffers this more than most; for some women it's any sort of body hair at all. Then again, most people react to this in real life and often wonder why such people don't wax or go the whole hog.
Anime and Manga
- An early-2000's ad for some phone service or whatever depicts an engaged couple who seem to be quite happy and in love up until the woman sees her fiance step out of the shower and reveal a generous pelt of back hair. We're apparently supposed to find it hilarious when she then uses her phone to call off their wedding on the spot.
- The village elder from Haré+ Guu, has a massive mound of chest hair that shakes like shrubbery when he moves. At one point Guu actually steals his chest hair and, much to his horror, wears it as an afro.
- Played with in The 40-Year-Old Virgin; the movie also revealed the REAL reason for waxing your anything. It's not to look good for anyone-it's to entertain your friends, who are standing there watching.
- In the film version of Stardust, lovable hero Tristan has loads of chest hair, visible whenever he undoes his top button.
- In an early Star Trek novel, McCoy tells a high-ranking Klingon that mint juleps will put hair on your chest. The Klingon recoils, deeply disturbed by the notion, contributing to an ongoing diplomatic incident.
- If you're a hairy pro wrestler, either you're a savage, an unhygienic boor... or Shawn Michaels, who only gets away with it because he's a living legend at this point. Otherwise, you have a career worth of "Shave your back! Shave your back!" chants to look forward to.
- Fedor Jeftichew, better known as "Jojo the Dogfaced Boy," based his entire career on his hypertrichosis.
- In Transylvania 6-5000 the wolfman is actually a man suffering from generalized hypertrichosis. Hypertrichosis has been informally called the "werewolf syndrome."
- Subverted by Pierce Brosnan in… well everything.
- Ryan Giggs has expressed regret about his shirt-stripping goal celebration in 1999 due to the subsequent mocking he received over the reveal of his chest rug.
- Robin Williams is notoriously hairy and he knows this, and pokes fun at it at every opportunity in his stand up.
- Jon Stewart, especially earlier in his career (and on The Daily Show, before Growing the Beard), relied on Self-Deprecation when losing comedic momentum. He often brought up his height (about 5'6") and body hair, with the essential point of, "I'm a monkey." This was also a go-to defense when interviewees brought up his fame/sex appeal, walking the line between "Aww, shucks" and "You're wrong."
- Jeffrey Hunter was no more than moderately hairy, but when he starred in the 1961 movie King of Kings, the crucifixion scene had to be re-filmed because test audiences were repelled by the idea of a Jesus with any body hair at all.
Corrupt Corporate Executives
like Lex Luthor
, losers like George Costanza
, and let's not even start about Nazi skinheads. And Jeffrey Tambor's character in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
. For some reason, however, this doesn't apply if you're also black, even if you're not a Bald Black Leader Guy
. Perhaps this is because blacks are seen as much more likely to shave their heads as an intentional hairstyle rather than male pattern baldness than white people are, and this trope only seems to apply if you've actually lost the ability to grow hair. See also Bald of Evil
. Typically averted by Bald of Awesome
- The guy who's using Brand X? Usually bald.
- Played with in Roald Dahl's Matilda. Mr Wormwood declares that a thick head of hair is a sign of intelligence. When Matilda points out that Shakespeare was bald, Mr Wormwood displays his ignorance by asking "who?" Although Dahl's other novel, The Witches plays it straight; the eponymous Witches are as bald as eggs.
- Averted with Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Many people who try to deny they are turned off by bald people list him as an example, and for good reason.
- Also averted with Ted Hoffman in Murder One - who comes off as the greatest and coolest defense lawyer ever, as well as being incorruptible and a loyal husband and father.
- And Walter Skinner of The X-Files.
- Whose Line Is It Anyway?''. Poor Colin Mochrie...
- John Kiester of Almost Live! made this mockery of the "sniveling, put-upon loser" and Hollywood Homely as much a part of his comedy persona as being a Seattle native.
- Averted by Kojak, although Telly Savalas' other roles after he went bald do fit this sub-trope.
- The Mitchell brothers from EastEnders (especially Phil): bald, stupid, and villainous.
- Another notable exception is Jason Statham.
- Averted by Yul Brynner.
- Ditto for the Dwayne Johnson a.k.a. The Rock. Rather than try to fight his receding hairline, he instead shaves it all off and looks far more Bad Ass for it.
- Parodied in The Simpsons-verse, where hair growth seems to explicitly equal success. In "Simpson and Delilah", Homer gets promoted through the roof immediately after his hair starts growing back after he discovers a wondrous hair growth product. Once it fell out again, he ends up back in his old position.
Humans, when compared to other intelligent races
Every Intellectual Animal
and Sufficiently Advanced Alien
knows that Humans Are the Real Monsters
- 3rd Rock from the Sun had an episode where Dick learns about tolerance and explains at the end that no one is "better" than anyone else, just different. The rest of the aliens burst out laughing at the idea that they're no better than humans.
- And before this was the SNL skit-turned-film Coneheads, where the titular family laughed at such silly notions as "Humans to the moon". Whether they were laughing at the idea of humans reaching the moon or that they'd only gotten as far as the moon is unclear.
- In the trailer for Portal 2's multiplayer campaign, GLaDOS says "These next tests requires co-operation. Consequently, they have never been solved by a human".
One's Own Race and/or Culture
Make fun of those who look different, and you'll be labeled a racist. But if it's your own
race, then it is perfectly acceptable. Note that here, the one taking the shots is not required to limit themselves to their own group in all circumstances. And, of course, if the mocker is of mixed races, that's more races to mock.
Virtually all forms of ethnic targets for the sake of comedy are considered acceptable when the person making the statement belongs to the targeted ethnic group (see: George Lopez, Chris Rock
, etc.). The same sort of 'intra-ethnic' targeting is almost uniformly considered less acceptable outside of comedy (example: Herman Cain). See Boomerang Bigot
for more details.
Note that this type of self-deprecative
humor can apply to more than just ethnicity, as people usually have a "free pass" to poke fun at their own profession/religion/politics/place of residence, and those in the same group who are no "Stop Having Fun" Guys
will often laugh alongside them.
- Carlos Mencia's entire schtick. Oddly, his early stand-up acts stress his Honduran heritage, even containing a bit about how nobody recognizes that fact and simply labels him Mexican in California, Puerto Rican in New York City, or Cuban in Florida. By the time he got his own show on Comedy Central, he self-identified as a Mexican, or, more often than not, a "beaner."
- Compared to Sarah Silverman, Mel Brooks is so politically correct.
- A number of black comedians have making fun of black people as the linchpin of their stand-up act. Chris Rock is probably the most prominent of these, but he's far from the only one. He is changing, though. While he used to split his time between making fun of blacks and making fun of whites, as his act has progressed it's gradually changed from "White people screw with black people, and black people aren't helping the situation" to more purely white-themed jokes. He ditched a lot of the jokes blaming black people for "the situation" around the same time he noticed just how much his white audiences were enjoying his "The difference between black people and niggers" bits, though it was also partially him dropping very old material. This is nothing new: Richard Pryor indulged in this to the extent that most of his albums in the 1970s included the N-word in their titles, and earlier comedians such as Redd Foxx (oh yeah, he was raunchy, in the day) and Moms Mabley also made considerable fun of black people.
- Russell Peters gets away with all sorts of race jokes because he - despite his name - is East Indian.
- The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour is entirely based on this principle. Not only do the Middle-Eastern comics make ample fun of themselves, they also take plenty of shots at Jews and other minorities.
- It's worth noting that most of the "shots" eventually end with a punchline about Middle Easterners (Ahmed Ahmed's "Jews yell into the phone" is part of a long riff on how Jews and Arabs are the same, Maz Jobrani's Asian Drivers reference ends with a punchline that's ultimately on Middle Easterners), so there's a lot of overlap with N-Word Privileges. Interestingly, Jobrani has claimed that he receives complaints after shows when he doesn't tease other ethnic groups - by people from those ethnic groups who feel ignored!
- Ahmed Ahmed also sharply inverts this with a joke about how even after 9/11, Muslims were still only the fourth most targeted group for hate crimes, after blacks, gays and Jews. "So... what do we have to do?"
- Brian Regan compared himself to a friend of Italian descent who does not actually speak the language but says Italian food names in the most Italian way possible. Being of Irish descent, Brian says "Corned beef and cabbage! It's magically delicious!" with an Irish accent, and then he proceeds to fake river-dance off the stage.
- Lenny Henry started out in the 70s doing racist jokes. Even though he's black, it wasn't deemed very cool.
- Paul Sinha, who's Asian-British and gay, plays with this.
- Sacha Baron Cohen, who is Jewish, plays an anti-Semitic character, Borat. The point of the shtick is to make fun of anti-Semitism, not Jews, but it's debatable how much a non-Jewish comedian could have gotten away with routines like "Throw the Jew Down the Well."
- It's debatable how well Sasha Baron Cohen got away with it as well. Most found the anti-Semitic segments incredibly uncomfortable, which was arguably the point, but many felt they were too raw even for self mockery.
- Since the Borat movie was well-received critically and commercially, it is probably safe to say most people found the humor at least somewhat acceptable. It wasn't without controversy, but the majority of viewers seemed to get it.
- The Rush Hour movies are big offenders here. In the second movie, Chris Tucker punches Jackie Chan by accident while fighting Chinese Triads and says, "All y'all look alike!" This is only justified by the fact that Jackie Chan makes fun of Asians often, so giving Chris Tucker just one line does little harm. It's also the fact that the joke sort of involves mocking white people more than anything else, as it's a common accusation that white people think all black people look alike... thus the humor in a black person saying something similar of another ethnicity. Of course studies have shown that people raised around a majority of one race have more difficulty picking out distinguishing features of other races, but because of the above-noted WASP acceptable target, it's associated with white people.
- Mel Brooks could not have gotten away with half the stuff he did if it wasn't for the fact that he himself is Jewish.
- Joel and Ethan Coen. Millers Crossing.
- M*A*S*H beat them by a few decades, and used it in a bit of satire; a 'Korean' (played by Pat Morita), on asked about someone, reported that 'all you [white] folks look alike to us'.
- Studies have shown that it's common for a person of any race to have trouble distinguishing members of any other race. It is theorized that this is because when confronted with a person of obvious differences, such as a different skin color or a differently-shaped nose or face, most people will focus on those major differences, and will have trouble distinguishing the details, such as shades of skin color or slight variations in shape of nose or face. So, this may have been more Truth in Television than the writers intended.
- The Daily Show tends to feature this regarding Jon Stewart's jewishness, including a hysterical ad-lib by John Oliver when Stewart cut his hand open doing A Glass in the Hand, telling him to "Stop being so Jewish about it!" The staff is also routinely granted N-Word Privileges in this regard.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's album Straight Outta Lynwood contains "White & Nerdy," a song that pokes fun of white people. The music video even contains Donny Osmond doing some extremely dorky dancing.
- The Harlem Globetrotters, famous trick basketball players have an opponent team called a variety of names who are "Jobbers", a bunch of players who are required to go out and be the goofy white dudes who are flummoxed and utterly shown up by the Jesters of Basketball, generally simply standing around looking stupid while the Globetrotters perform. But both the aforementioned teams were owned by white men. In the early days the focus was less on basketball and more on comedy set-pieces and clowning acts, but since the late 70's, the exhibition games have become competitive with the addition of collegiate all-stars to the Generals roster.
Cast as being in the seat of white privilege (which means, of course, that they're Catholic Celts who are considered WASPs), and still obsessed with their heritage and worse days that may or may not have existed. Ironically, this opens the door to the old Nash stereotypes like untenably large families, alcoholism, and elaborate wakes, since rather than even making fun of the stereotypes
, it's making fun of the self-serving reification of the stereotypes.
- The works of Garth Ennis, who is Irish-Irish, contain a number of vicious caricatures of Irish-Americans as drunken, ignorant buffoons who epitomise the worst stereotypes of Irish people while thinking they're celebrating their heritage, and irresponsibly support Irish Republican terrorism with no comprehension of the actual issues of The Troubles.
- There's also the scene in Blazing Saddles where the town will accept every racial minority except the Irish. Admittedly, this is an aesop about racism, but still...
- A character in The Commitments explains that it is appropriate for an Irish band to play Soul Music, because the Irish are "the niggers of Europe".
- The reason that Mrs. O'Leary and her cow were blamed for the Great Chicago Fire was because as a woman and an Irish-Catholic, she was an easy target.
- The Simpsons has made a few jokes based on the Irish being Once Acceptable Targets. It's tough to think of Bart's revelation that Whacking Day was originally "an excuse to beat up the Irish" being done with most other groups.
Old Irishman: 'Tis true. I took many a lump, but 'twas all in good fun.
Grandpa: Last time those meteors came we thought the sky was on fire. Naturally we blamed it on the Irish. We hung[sic] more than a few.
Kent Brockman: All this drinking, violence, destruction of property... are these the things that we think of when we think of the Irish?
Milhouse: Look out Itchy, he's Irish!
- Family Guy nonstop, take every single Irish stereotype and turn it Up to Eleven.
They're backward, colorfully dressed nomads with funny accents. They're mysterious, if they aren't outright tricksters
and thieves. Often able to use magic of some kind. Little do most people know that they're continuing the ancient European tradition of discriminating against the Roma, which was at its height around the Holocaust.
- Brad Pitt's fighting gypsy in Snatch. Not actually a Roma, but an Irish Traveller.
- A very unfortunate portrayal of Roma in See No Evil (aka Blind Terror).
- Frex in Stephen King's Thinner.
- A big part of the backstory of the Cal Leandros books includes the Leandros brothers' Roma heritage. Their mother was an abusive and alcoholic monster (metaphorically speaking), none of which is directly blamed on her being Roma, but it doesn't help that she engaged in a lifestyle that matches the worst of the anti-Gypsy stereotype (fortune-teller, scam artist, thief and jailbird). Worse are the Sarzo clan and their witch of a matriarch, Abelia-Roo (especially in the fifth book). We're told that, of all of human society, only the Roma are aware as a society of the non-human inhabitants in that particular universe. This trooper loves the books, but is made uneasy by the portrayal of an entire ethnicity as 'superstition'-savvy and immersed in the guardianship of arcane lore and dangerous magical objects.
- Discrimination against Travellers was the point of The Riches.
- In the Hilary Duff song "Gypsy Woman", gypsy is the adjective used to describe the woman who her father left her mother for. Given that the woman was not Roma, the reasons are unclear though, possibly because of her job as a flight attendant (referencing the second "nomad" stereotype), or because of a gypsy curse. What makes this especially insensitive is the WWII reference in the beginning of the song, the Roma being heavily persecuted by the Nazis during the war.
"She can rob you blind with just one look, from those eyes
Out of all the thieves that trained her, none of them could tame her."
- Shakira's song Gypsy, but only in the English version with lyrics like "I might steal your clothes and wear them if they fit me." The original Spanish version Gitana just paints Roma as being friendly and free-spirited people.
- Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves".
- The word Gypsy is often considered not acceptable in Central Europe but in popular usage it's common and most people still use it. Even in government positions. Considering the massive amount of Czech skinheads, any Roma jokes make you seem like one. These are the skinheads that have swastika tattoos, by the way. Yeah. "Acceptable" not so much.
- Thoughtlessly rampant in the US, where even the most liberal people will make casual jokes about selling babies to the Gypsies. Though The United States has the world's largest gypsy population.
- It's still unfortunately standard on the JREF forums to refer to fake fortunetelling ripoffs by the generic term "Gypsy scams".
- The United States doesn't have the world's largest Gypsy population. It has the world's largest admitted Gypsy population. The reason for discrimination and stereotypes falls into one of two reasons 1) An unfortunately large amount of people think Romani are a real race, while also thinking Gypsies are something the Media made up as a synonym for "mystical con artists" or 2) The person hates every non-native race.
- Fun Fact - the term "gypped" (as in bilked out of something, conned) came from Gypsy.
Except, ironically, just after the 9/11 attack
(then again it was sadly a case of swapping one stereotype [obnoxious and/or oil tycoons] for another [zealous terrorists]). Nowadays, the Arabian peninsula (and a lot of the land around it which is lumped in with it because it is A: Muslim (never mind what branch), and B: looks a bit sandy) seems to be a rich source of terrorists and people burning American flags. Ironically, before the 9/11 attacks, Arabs were still acceptable targets in a lot of Western media, being stereotyped as obnoxious nouveau riche
oil sheikhs with appalling design taste - for instance, this quote from Jeremy Clarksons Motorworld
: "The Arab is a bit flash - he'll buy a Sierra Cosworth and replace the headlamps with chandeliers. He has absolutely no taste whatsoever." Even before that, they were stereotyped as thieves, plunderers, and rogues, and the phrase "You cheating Arab!" (now confined to period pieces and racist grandparents) was a British idiom for someone having an unreasonable run of good luck at a game of chance.
- True Lies, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger battles a group of Arab terrorists who are plotting a nuclear attack. Made slightly less offensive because one of Arnold's anti-terror colleagues is an Arab-American chap named Faisil, who is portrayed as being a Nice Guy and occasional badass.
- Back to the Future features Libyan terrorists who try to shoot the heroes. The "language" they speak in the film is absolute nonsense and in no way resembles the language actually spoken in Libya. The series doesn't only pick on "acceptable" targets. The first film features stereotypical African American characters (Goldie Wilson and Marvin Berry), and in the second movie Marty's screaming boss embodies a Japanese stereotype. This type of cheap racial humor was still common in the 1980s, even though ironically the first movie was trying to celebrate racial progress.
- The Siege, in which Arab terrorists attack New York, after which Arabs are rounded up into concentration camps. However, the movie is quite Anvilicious about averting this trope, with even the Well-Intentioned Extremist General Ripper responsible for the said round-up making a speech against instituting martial law. It also contains Harsher in Hindsight: The Mysterious Informant is not only a liar, but also The Mole. Remember, this film was released four years before the second Gulf War.
- The Delta Force centers around a plane hijacking by a group of Lebanese terrorists (probably based off the real-life 1985 TWA Flight 847 hijacking).
- Iron Man 1 tries to avert this trope by saying that the terrorist group includes people who "speak many different languages — Arabic, Farsi, Dari, Urdu, Russian, Hungarian (!)..." However, all the terrorists shown onscreen are brown (although some are undoubtedly supposed to be Afghan, not Arab). And the main terrorist henchman speaks Arabic in all his scenes despite being played by the Pakistani/Indian-American Faran Tahir (though Urdu is spoken in some scenes, and is a realistic choice for a multi-ethnic group)…so the attempted aversion doesn't really work. Perhaps a subversion later on when Iron Man actually saves innocent Middle Eastern citizens from the terrorists. There's also the nice prisoner who helps Tony build his suit. A bit of a Magical Negro in a few ways, but his Heroic Sacrifice (aka he walks into a group of armed men with no chance for survival) is made more interesting when he reveals that he's actually trying to get himself killed so that he can be with his dead family again. In the original comic book Tony's captors were all Vietnamese (it was published around the time of The Vietnam War) including Professor Yinsen, who, yes, helps Tony to build the armor and makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save him. (Yinsen is most definitely a Chinese name, not a Vietnamese one.)
- Indiana Jones
- The Sheik, the 1921 silent movie starring Rudolph Valentino, depicts the title character as a Noble Savage who wins over the virginal European heroine with his violent passion. Averted since the end of the movie reveals that he's actually European, not Arab (thus making the romance acceptable). It's worth noting that in the original novel, the sheik rapes the heroine, thus making her fall in love with him. In the movie's sequel, Son of the Sheik, Rudolph Valentino's character does actually rape the female protagonist, and by the end of the movie they're happily in love.
- Hidalgo includes untrustworthy Bedouins who try to double-cross the hero so he loses the big horse race. It also features an oppressed Arab woman, the sheikh's daughter, who is being forced into a marriage to her cousin.
- Rules of Engagement: In this movie, American Marines open fire on unarmed Yemeni civilians at the American embassy in Sana'a (Samuel L. Jackson gives the order to "Waste the mother#@&%ers!"), killing women and children, and the story turns to finding out whether Jackson's recollection was true. In the end, though, it turns out that the civilians were no better than terrorists themselves — they all, even a four-year-old girl, fired on the Marines first! So the whole movie is a justification for killing Arab civilians, even women and kids -- because they're not actually innocent civilians, they're terrorists too.
- Actually the DVD commentary confirmed that the scene was originally supposed to be ambiguous; however the test audience wanted a more literal interpretation. Also, the one witness in the trial who isn't a complete liar is the Arab doctor, who accurately translates the tape even though it's painful for him.
- Subverted in The Long Kiss Goodnight where the dead Arab is the scapegoat of the film's evil CIA operatives staging a terrorist outrage to increase their budget.
- Somewhat averted by Lawrence of Arabia where the Arab characters are generally heroes. Only somewhat, because every major Arab character (except the one played by Omar Sharif) is played by a Westerner, and the fact they are unable to overcome their tribal differences in Damascus, allowing the British and French to take over from the 'children.' That was also kind of what really happened: the various factions were unable to agree on anything and couldn't present a unified front to the League of Nations. The movie also portrayed the British and the French as beings complete racist bastards who only care about Arabia as being a part of their empires. All the factions in the movie were bastards, to some extent.
- Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears replaced the book's Arab terrorists with Neo-Nazis, the former apparently being considered cliche. Then 9/11 happened while the film was in production.
- This happens in Soul Plane, a movie where everybody is game. The scene shows a man, without showing his face at first, walking through the aisles. As he's passing by, flight attendants and passengers stop and stare at him in fear or disgust (while the theme for Jaws is being played). When he finally reaches his seat, he's revealed to be a Middle-Eastern man in a turban. As soon as the poor guy sits down, he suddenly gets harassed by two employees and is called "Osama" by one of them. It's all Played for Laughs.
- Network: What really sets off Howard Beale during his "I'm as mad as hell!" speech is Arabs allegedly buying up land in America.
- The 2006 documentary Reel Bad Arabs is an in-depth look at the stereotyping of Arabs and other Middle Eastern peoples, such as Iranians (see below), in mainstream media, particularly films, and all the Unfortunate Implications coming from it. It makes the point that such stereotyping is, in fact, extremely harmful.
- Believe it or not, TNA Wrestling actually manages to avert it, and subvert it. The aversion comes with Raisha Saeed, burqa-clad wrestler/manager who was one of the most powerful women in TNA's "Knockout" division (thanks largely to her association with the unstoppable Awesome Kong), though she's an example a long running tradition of mysterious Arab Heels(though Syrians are largely non Arab), its more flattering than a terrorist angle. The subversion comes with "Sheik Abdul Bashir", who would seem to be the epitome of that standard "terrorist" stereotype, what with the angry rhetoric and the comments about holding the X-Division title "hostage"… but only if you ignore his introductory vignettes, which established him as a former Iranian-American businessman who lost everything after 9/11 due to runaway hatred of Middle Easterners, and then decided that he would make himself into the very personification of American fears as the ultimate revenge. Said vignettes even established that Abdul Bashir isn't even his real name; that would be Shawn Daivari.
- Daivari himself also portrayed the childhood friend of a Double Subversion in Muhammad Hassan. Hassan was introduced and constantly described as an American-born of Arab descent who was just as appalled by 9/11 as "we" were, but became the victim of racism from those who didn't want to know him. The double subversion came when irony bit HARD on the character, as the fans didn't want to know him and booed him for his race. The writing team quickly applied Flanderization like there was no tomorrow and turned him into the evil Arab the fans wanted to think of him as, culminating in choking an opponent out with a piano wire garrotte while Daivari was carried out as though a martyr by a bunch of people in ski masks, thus taking what might have been one of the most interesting characters ever and making him the most offensive. Irony kept biting when the WWE taped that particular scene on 4 July 2005 for a show to air on 7 July, meaning it was already in the can when London got attacked. Everyone in the media, including those who really should know better, said the WWE was capitalizing on the terrorist attack, and Hassan's career was over before it ever started.
- There are several different Arab stereotypes: most obviously, the terrorist stereotype, but there's also the barbaric savage stereotype, and the oppressed woman stereotype.
- This video demonstrates nearly every portrayal of Arabs as either a) terrorists, b) religious fanatics, c) America haters, or d) all of the above in film over the past 30 years.
- Disney's Aladdin. The original lyrics to "Arabian Nights" started this way: "Oh, I come from a land, from a faraway place/Where the caravan camels roam/Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face/It's barbaric, but hey, it's home!" Then there's Jasmine, a princess who dresses like a harem girl. It's also worth noting that the good characters have more Western-looking appearances (Aladdin was actually modeled on Tom Cruise), and generic American accents, while the evil Jafar has more Semitic features and an evil British accent. The line about "cutting off your ear" was later replaced by "Where it's flat and immense and the heat is intense."
- The Transformers had Carbombya, an obvious jab at Libya.
- Looney Tunes had Hassan, a bloodthirsty Arab with a huge sword, whose lines essentially consisted of some variation of "Hassan chop!"
Tatars, Mongols, Huns...
If we'll go with European tradition
, these apparently were Barbarian Tribes
existing only to Rape, Pillage, and Burn
. And specifically Mongols give us Hordes from the East
or simply "The Horde
" which is the same but more. That is not surprising when considering the death toll inflicted by the Mongol invasions (25 million in China alone). Of all nomads only Scythians are exempt from Demonization
while having mildly romantic/heroic aura much like early Arabs.
The word "Tartar," itself, may be derived from "Tartarus," a hellish Greek underworld (according to the OED, though this is speculative at best). Its usage is therefore deprecated in favor of the more accurate "Tatar."
- In Total War Mongols is a faction which appear from thin air and attack everyone without any discernible reason. They're trying to conquer the world. Conquering the world, or putting oneself in a better place to conquer the world, is the only reason why anyone does anything in Total War.
Often portrayed similarly to and confused with Arabs.
- Not Without My Daughter.
- Clueless has a brief reference to the "Persian mafia" - a poke at Los Angeles Persians, which would be a subset of Iranian/Persian Acceptable Targets. (The stereotype of Los Angeles Persians is often an Acceptable Target for Iranians as well, so a lot of Iranians thought the Clueless reference was hilarious.)
- 300. Yes, you can make the case that it was told from the perspective of an Unreliable Narrator, but there are a lot of other ethnic groups that a major Hollywood movie simply could not get away with depicting as faceless, soulless, subhuman depraved monsters. More likely the film would never have seen the light of day. The bad guys in both movie and comic book were not only the Persians, but also (generic eastern) Asians, black men, homosexuals (and bisexuals, transsexuals...), old men, sick men, hunchbacks and deformed in general. And they were all portrayed as cowardly, incompetent, and/or inhuman, depraved monsters. Even the only woman in the movie, despite being on the side of the heroes, has to prostitute herself to try and get military help for her husband. That's all she does before her final (and lucky) Crowning Moment Of Awesome. And if you speak Italian, it's funny that the only named bad guy other than Xerxes is called Theron, since its italianized form ( Terone) is a derogative epithet for people from the South of Italy, usually darker and physically more similar to Arabic people, as opposed to the people from the North, who have usually more Mittel-European features.
- Subverted in JAG where main character Sarah Mackenzie is stated to be of Persian descent and speaks Farsi. The actress who plays her (Catherine Bell) is half-Iranian herself.
Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy
- Even more ironically lumped in with Arabs, because they really look down on Arabs. Many Iranians strongly identify themselves as Caucasian (the whole "Aryan=Iranian" thing); and some Iranians stereotype Arabs as "lazy, violent hicks" in much the same way that New York Italians view Southerners (or British Protestant attitudes toward Irish Catholics). The stereotype of "civilized Persians" versus "desert-dwelling Arabs" is in fact a Forgotten Trope.
- In Finland, the stereotype is that they own a pizza or kebab place with broken Finnish in speech and menus. To be honest, many pizzerias and such are run by immigrants.
- Played with by Iranian comedian Omid Djalili, who discusses how media bias causes difficulty with differentiation for the west; he does so by explaining that describing a cat as "Persian" (i.e. beautiful, exquisite, well-bred), and describing a cat as "Iranian" (i.e. must have a bomb underneath it!) will generate contrasting opinions due to the double standard regarding the similar cultures.
Slavs, especially the Russians
Because of the Soviet Union, a little thing called the Cold War, and a good deal of old Czarist Russia, the peoples of Eastern Europe are widely mocked or cast as villains in action films because of the Cold War. Often portrayed as outwardly cold or immoral for their part in the former Soviet Union. Icy relations with the West are slowly seeing the resurgence of old stereotypes.
It's still relatively common to see portrayals of non-Russian Slavs, particularly the Balkan Slavs (and people who aren't Slavs but get lumped with them anyway, such as the Romanians or Greeks) as uncultured thugs and savages keen on getting revenge on their "ancient enemies" i.e. their neighboring country/tribe/village. There's also depictions of them as cunning tricksters who might outwardly accept (Western) civilization, but actually just exploit it for their own gains (e.g. a mock democracy run by a clique of corrupt generals). See Ruritania
for more details.
- In fairness, there are a lot of other Slavs and Eastern Europeans (Hungarians/Magyar and the Estonians aren't Slavs but get mistakenly lumped with them) who don't have very positive views of Russians, either.
- But on the other hand, there are quite a lot of Russians who don't have very positive views of the other Slavs, especially the Baltic ones. There is that "Estonians are slooo-ooo-oo…oow" joke, also all that business with the demolition of Red Army monuments (World War II is a very touchy subject around Russia). And the words "хохол" and "москаль" respectively are what Russian and Ukrainian lowlifes use to refer to each other.
- The Canadian Prairies had a huge influx of Ukrainian immigrants during the 1890s onward and received discrimination early on, but since then are merely the butt of the joke. It's now to the point where nearly everyone in rural Alberta and Saskatchewan has some Ukrainian descent and whenever someone does something stupid people will say "That's the Ukrainian in them.".
- All the countless "Dumb Pollock" jokes. Even more so in that "Pollock" is an ethnic slur for Polish people, and Polish-Americans, but rarely are people called on it the same way as if they had made "Nigger" jokes.
- Team Fortress 2 gives us Heavy weapons guy; a huge, loud berserker who's been described as 'a big shaved bear that hates people.' He's… a little unhinged, with the habit of talking to inanimate objects and naming his monstrous weapons. To be fair, all the characters in TF2 are outwardly dysfunctional and fill stereotype of some sort or another, revolving around Rule of Funny. Interestingly, Heavy is made to sound a lot more intelligent in the Russian dubs, and he is said to have a PhD in Russian literature, which implies he may not be stupid at all, he just doesn't speak very good English, which is also implied by his bio.
Hispanics and/or Latinos
This group has become a growing accepted target in the United States due to the growing amount of immigration of these people. They are usually portrayed as being incredibly poor and will usually be sorted in the same class stereotypes as some African-American groups resulting in many conflicts (ex. gangs). This is often portrayed in dramas dealing with high schools in urban high crime areas such as Dangerous Minds
- Toyed with but ultimately subverted in the 1999 film Bowfinger. Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin) gets his film crew by hustling illegal Mexican immigrants into the back of his van. By the end of the movie, the men have learned all about film-making and are now respected and highly successful professionals.
- In comedy, Hispanics are often portrayed as lazy and willing to work low paying jobs. Many episodes of South Park feature hispanic men speaking English in a slow-witted lazy kind of matter. In the episode "D'ykes" a group of Hispanic men are recruited for several jobs from spying to substitute teaching. Subverted when they have the day laborers competently teaching long division, and when the kids admit that the workers are teaching them more that their actual teacher would have. In another episode a sleeping Mexican janitor is mistaken for a wax sculpture while he is sleeping in a room displaying wax figures of people from different ethnicities portraying their stereotypes.
- Subverted with Isabella Garcia-Shapiro (Whatcha doin'?) from Phineas and Ferb. She's also Ashkenazi Jewish.
Tend to be mocked because of "not really being Asian" due to the fact that Filipino Culture has far more Western influences (due to three centuries
of Spanish control and a few highly-influential decades of American rule and influence) than Eastern Asian ones. This thought was essentially summarized in the line of a MADtv
sketch: "He's not Asian, he's Filipino!"
or in an episode of Will and Grace,
when Karen mentioned her boss was away on business in the Phillipines: "I like Filipinos; they're Asian, but they're not cocky about it." Then there are all the jokes about Filipino foreign workers caricatured as being practically everywhere. Not to mention all the mail-order brides and prostitutes jokes that always seem to pop up. Plus the fact that young Filipino boys are now seen as a kid of catch-all for what gay men are supposed to be into.
During the 1980s era when international revulsion against Apartheid
was at its height, there was a brief tendency in British and American works to have white South Africans, especially Afrikaners, turning up as villains, even in stories with nothing particularly to do with South Africa. If they weren't the Big Bad
, they were usually Psychos For Hire
, and visually portrayed in a manner bordering on that of the Evil Albino
(which isn't even accurate, since many Boers have fairly swarthy complexions). Even if the story wasn't about apartheid, they had a strong tendency to be particularly nasty to any non-white character
who crossed their path.
- Why did the South African cross the road? APARTHEID!
- Subverted, or maybe inverted with District 9. While it's about an alien version of apartheid, all of South Africa is prejudiced against the extraterrestrials. The hero is also an Afrikaner who pulls a Heel-Face Turn. The movie's not about apartheid. It's actually about South African immigration. For the most part this trope is played straight, since we're talking about the main Afrikaaners in the movie, most of whom are Evil Businessmen, Sadistic Scientists, and Gun-Toting Maniac Racists. But a careful bit of attention to the in-story "logic" behind the Nigerian gangsters and you uncover several Unfortunate Implications. For instance, if Prawns represent sympathetic immigrants and a good many immigrants in the country are Nigerian but your Nigerians are Always Chaotic Evil then you're entering ugly territory.
- The best remembered example nowadays is probably psychotic blond South African diplomat, murderer and smuggler Arjen Rudd in Lethal Weapon 2, and his similarly pasty and vicious mooks.
- Deconstructed in Toeckey Jones' book Go Well, Stay Well, about a white South African teenage girl who feels morally superior to Boers because she's Anglo-Saxon. She maintains this image for a while, even after she starts dating a non-racist Boer boy.
Portrayed as snooty, arrogant, drink too much wine, and have bad hygiene.
Will surrender at the drop of a hat.
Generally portrayed as either Always Male
sex objects, wise mystics in tune with the earth
, or greedy casino owners. They also like to assert themselves as the true Americans and call other Americans intruders.
World War II ended over sixty years ago, but the occasional German or German-American is portrayed with Nazi-esque
(or even Imperial Prussian-style) mannerisms, if not portrayed as an outright villain.
- Hans Gruber in Die Hard is a gleeful send-up of cruel-but-effete Nazi stereotypes (played by an Englishman, obviously).
- Wolfe Messer in Cannonball plays so many German clichés so straight that it seems to be okay to blow him up and make him the first character killed in that movie.
- Often seen as a meta-example, wherein a character portrayed as a Jerk Ass mistreats Germans: don't mention the war!
- 'Allo 'Allo!: although it mixed its sadistic perverts with its bumbling but affable Germans.
- Again, Team Fortress 2: the Medic is a overtly sadistic German doctor, coming from Stuttgart 'in an era where the Hippocratic Oath had been downgraded to an optional Hippocratic suggestion.'
Old stereotypes would have them as either mobsters
or the wives/daughters of mobsters
. These stereotypes still crop up from time to time, but they've mostly faded out... only to be replaced by the stereotype of the "guido" in the last few years. Thanks to MTV
's Jersey Shore
, having an Italian surname is an easy way for people to view you as a drunken, hard-partying, orange-skinned douchebag
. If you're male, it's assumed that you use steroids, and if you're female, it's assumed that you're a slut
. But hey, at least they make some great food
- Also, the "greaser" subculture of the 1950s largely originated from Italian-American and Mexican-American youth culture before being appropriated by others.
Products of incest
Yes, inbreeding does increase the odds of recessive alleles doubling up in the offspring. But demonization of incest tends to spill over onto any resulting next generation, creating an expectation that such children will invariably
be mentally or physically impaired, if not a Cannibal Clan
in the making.
Even though the Jamaican stereotype of a dread-locked pot-smoking Rastafarian on the beach, mon, is usually Played for Laughs
, it does get extremely annoying. It is quite common for someone from Jamaica to go abroad and be asked if they live on the beach, have air-conditioning, or if they use knives and forks. Really. Also these stereotypes even spread to other Caribbean countries, due to Americans (and many others
) not knowing much about countries other than Jamaica and maybe the Bahamas.
This one probably has its roots in racism. Afro-textured hair has the most stigma attached to and its often referred to as "nappy"
hair. Averted in '80s Hair
- Chris Rock's film Good Hair examines how Afro-textured hair is negatively portrayed in the media, and how many women with it use damaging hair relaxers and products to straighten it.
- Naomi Campbell has recently lost part of her hair because of years of hair relaxers.
- On British BBC drama Grandma's House Adam calls Simon a "natural pube-head".
- Among the younger generations many girls straighten their hair day after day after day, and are probably going to damage their hair until that particular section of their hair grows out.
- It's because many curly-haired women are rarely taught to actually care for their own hair, with straight hair being so normalized (in the US, 65% of women have curly hair!) When these girls who straighten their hair grow up, they often get tired of straightening their hair and opt to just change their washing routines. Turns out that the cultural norm of shampooing one's hair every single day is pretty bad for curly hair, causing the knots mentioned below. Look into the "no-poo" community and you'll find a lot of people with curly hair.
- Curly Hair being straightened is often one of the things portrayed in an Unnecessary Makeover. Straightening hair makes it about 500 times easier to manage. Curly, it's ALWAYS knotted and frizzy, no matter what, straight it's a great deal less of both.
- Granted, but straightening in these makeovers is typically done to enhance the subject's "beauty," while the practical concerns of caring for curly or frizzy hair aren't mentioned.
- Some workplaces still require black women to straighten their hair, because natural hair is considered "off-brand."
Much like the Irish, they are portrayed as drunk and violent, with emphasis on violent
. Expect anyone from Scotland to use weird insults, insist on wearing kilts, play bagpipes, and to be very aggressive. If they're portrayed positively, expect them to be loud, and your typical Proud Warrior Race Guy
- The Scotsman, known only as The Scotsman, from Samurai Jack.
- Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers sequels.
- Willie, though it is worth noting the Scottish seem to love him, and there's a debate there over whether he's from Aberdeen or Edinburgh.
- One Bugs Bunny short featured your stereotypical, kilt wearing Scotsman.
- Gutsy Smurf from The Smurfs.
- YMMV, but one background in Street Fighter was set in a Scottish Distillery, which prominently featured a kilt wearing Scot.
- Angus from the Mortal Kombat rip-off that is Kasumi Ninja. Ironically he's one of the more memorable aspects of the game. Besides having a short temper and stereotypical clothing, one of his special attacks involves lifting up his kilt and shooting fireballs out of his crotch — a new take on Groin Attack indeed.
The butthurt of many European jokes that involve idiocy. Quite often they are represented as being Too Dumb to Live
- In the film Rien A Declarer one of the characters is a Belgian. He puts his country above anything else and tries to absolutely do anything so that he should not work with French.
They are some of the most greedy persons you will ever encounter. Expect them also to be environmental activists, fanatical supporters of healthy food etc. Also look out for all the wind mills in their country.
- The film Superagent Ranjid Saves The World is a particularly eggregorious example of this, the least of which is featuring a Dutch as the main villain. Some notorious jokes include the Dutch professor at the beginning to order a bunch of students to eat healthy food, a bunch of wind mills everywhere and a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wants that the whole world acts like the Dutch.
New Zealanders and Australians treat each other as acceptable targets
, as mentioned on that page. Both have more in common with each other than either are prepared to admit - even if Australia is thought of as a wannabe USA but without the dignity and refinement, and New Zealand's national sport is thought to be emigration to Australia. In each other's popular media, Australians are slightly dim, and New Zealanders are absent. But personally if I were in a pub and a brawl broke out, I'd feel safer if an Aussie had my back.
Very poor rural white people
Look at TV Tropes' own Hillbilly Horrors
page. No discussion about how this is a harmful stereotype, is there? That's the sign of an Acceptable Target