aka: Pitying Perversion
"All sympathy given to victims is treacherous. The love is directed exclusively to a victim whom one consider oneself superior to. [...] It's a human psychological mechanism to be excited at the chance to help someone who is weaker, a victim. But this only works for as long as this hierarchy is firmly in place."
— Natascha Kampusch, in the epilogue of 3096 days
Condescending Compassion is when a person feels themselves magnanimous enough not to hold someone's 'faults' against them openly. They can't help being a commoner, idiot, a mutant or simply wrong
so it would simply be rude to treat them badly because of it. Instead, they resort to the much
better idea that they should be sympathetic or even friendly to that lesser being, but of course they won't really take them seriously. In a way, the condescension or even pity is likely well intentioned, but if the target of this attitude realizes it (and they probably will) then they're naturally likely to be quite insulted or hurt
May factor into Black and White Insanity
or Windmill Political
. Compare and contrast Heteronormative Crusader
. Often runs in the background of White Man's Burden
or Save Our Students
plots, which explains why some viewers find those stories offensive and others find them inspiring or heartwarming.
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- Haruhi Fujioka of Ouran High School Host Club is often subject to this from her well-meaning but painfully sheltered school friends, as a result of her scholarship admittance to Ouran High School for the ridiculously wealthy. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Kaze to Ki no Uta, Gilbert sees this in regards to Serge due to his initial kindness and compassion, which absolutely annoys him to no end.
- Angel's father in X-Men: The Last Stand: His quest to help his son is a classic example, only fueling the son's self-hatred. As he caught his young Angel trying to cut off his own wings, he reacted with revulsion to the fact that his son was a Mutant. He then dedicated his life to trying to "cure" his son from being a mutant.
- The Breakfast Club This is Claire's attitude towards the unpopular kids in school, particularly Bender. Her popularity and friends influence her to be mean to those "beneath her," and much of her conflict stems from hating the fact that this is so.
- Played with by the protagonists of Inception as they write the story of the Dream Within a Dream. Their target is a young heir who they intend to manipulate to make a certain business decision. There is some resentment between him and his dead father, with the father's last word to him being "disappointed". The protagonists resolve this by giving him a fake epiphany...
Son: I know, you were disappointed because I couldn't be you.
Father: No... I was disappointed... because you tried.
- The main conflict in The SM Judge is about how the prosecutor and others are trying to cast Magda in the role of the poor little victim who everyone should feel sorry for - never mind that the prosecutor himself is the only one having a real harmful influence on her life. Ironically, she didn't get any help neither when she hated herself for being a masochist or when she got abused for real by her previous husband. Nope, the pity comes only after she has turned her life around so that everything is going great.
- In Mammoth, believing prostitution to be horrible, Leo keeps feeling sorry for Cookie. He does this in a way that's actually shaming her and would damage her emotionally if she internalized it.
- In a film called Hate Crime, the mother of a young man convicted of murdering a gay man decides that the Christian thing to do is offer condolences to the mother of the gay man. She says something to the tune of "Well, after all, your son's bad choices weren't your fault." Bitch gets slapped.
- In the The Ledge the Christian antagonist openly feels sorry for the atheist protagonist's "empty life without God" as well as for his gay roommate. This doesn't sit well with the protagonist, who then decides to seduce the antagonist's wife in retaliation.
- In Lois Bujold's "Mirror Dance," a scene at the end comes when the beautiful, powerful, and highly competent and respected mercenary officer Elena Bothari-Jesek reports to the short, crippled, morbidly obese Lord Mark, about destroying the records of his horrific experience of being repeatedly raped, tortured, and even forcefed over a period of days while Mark lies there as everyone else is busying themselves carrying out the terms of the happy ending Mark had arranged for them. When she places her hand on his arm and expresses her pity, the result is a Crowning Moment of Awesome. "Don't you dare pity me. I won!"
- In 3096 Days and I Choose Life, the autobiographies of Natascha Kampusch and Sabine Dardenne, they both spend the last part of their books discussing this trope. Both women were kidnapped as kids, and after they got free they experienced that people tried to reduce them to a victimhood-role that was basically there for these people to feel better about themselves at the victim's expense.
- Don Quixote in the first part of the novel give us The Barber and the Curate, two Moral Guardians, and in the second part Loony Fan Sanson Carrásco, whose sincere desire to help that poor fool, Don Quixote and cure his madness is sabotaged by this attitude, rendering all of them into Threshold Guardians. (Also, all three do things to help him that could be easily described as "crazy".)
- In a Daily Show bit just after Obama's election, Larry Wilmore got all excited about finally getting the chance to exercise his "black liberal guilt" by condescendingly praising other races for basic accomplishments like being hardworking and having cute children.
- In Pride and Prejudice, when he receives news that Lydia has eloped with Wickham the rector Mr. Collins decides that it would be a good idea to write to Mr. Bennet and 'console' him and his cousins on their misfortune. These condolences primarily come in the form of a self-righteous lecture about what a wicked and shameful girl Lydia is and how she's brought ruin on them all through her wicked conduct.
- The 1995 TV adaptation has him come and deliver this lecture in person ... which, needless to say, just endears him to the Bennet sisters even more.
- In The Baby-Sitters Club series, Stacey is this toward a new girl in one book.
- In David Weber's The War God's Own, this is the attitude of spoiled young Sir Vaijon of Almerhas when first introduced. Things go to hell when he meets the protagonist, who is of a race that Vaijon considers the lowest of the low and has been personally chosen as champion by the patron god of Vaijon's military order.
- Lampshaded in The Tamuli. Throughout The Elenium the protagonists have been Elenes who are very pro-Styric despite the wide-spread anti-Styric attitudes that exist among Elenes, and stand up against Elene racism on the matter. However, in The Tamuli they finally get to see the great city of the Styrics and the shock of seeing Styrics living ordinary, normal lives like Elenes, as equals to Elenes, instead of the downtrodden, victimised people they're used to seeing, makes them realise that they'd been courting condescending compassion all along. Being good people at heart, they're able to confront this ugly side of themselves and overcome it, but it's a shock to the system when they're first exposed to the reality of the type of compassion they'd previously been feeling.
- Occurs in the "Early 21st Century Romanticism" episode of Community; when Britta makes a friend who is a lesbian, she uses this as an excuse to not-so-subtly brag about what a politically correct person she is. At one point, the rather naive and sheltered Annie curiously asks her some questions about her friend, and Britta uses this as an excuse to condescendingly lecture her on her 'homophobia' and how it makes her a lesser person.
- Of course, Britta's "lesbian" friend was doing the same thing. She was straight and befriended Britta for exactly the same reasons
- In an episode of Fringe, a doctor with a paraplegic son was killing other paraplegics in an attempt to find a cure for his son's condition. When the son found out, he was not only horrified by the murders his father was committing, but incredibly hurt that his father didn't accept him the way he was.
- An episode of Saved by the Bell had Zack dating a paraplegic girl. He was very considerate to her, but to such an extent that he slid into this trope. She called him out on it and broke up with him, but by the end of the episode he'd learned the error of his ways and they'd reunited (at least temporarily).
- In season 9 of How I Met Your Mother, the front desk clerk Curtis constantly and repeatedly pities Ted for being single at a romantic location and during a wedding.
- Nanne Grönvall's song "Fördomar" (Prejudice) plays this for laughs. The whole song is about the protagonist bragging about how she's a perfect Mary Sue who does not have any prejudice whatsoever. The first verse is simply about how great and open-minded she is in general. The second verse is the Alice of this trope, expecting gratitude from gays for not despising them. The rest of the song goes downhill from there with blatant racism (against blacks and whites), sexism (against men and women), ageism (against young people and old people) and so on.
- Katawa Shoujo plays with this trope in a few ways. Being a game about disabled love interests, it's easy to fall into this, and is the cause for some bad endings. Especially Hanako's.
- Ironic in one way, but this is basically the real life playing out of the "sympathetic bigot" part of the trope. Not knowing led to ignorant pitying, but once the creators actually began researching and talking to people they developed a more nuanced portrayal of the people involved (for example, the main obstacles in the characters lives are rarely their disabilities but their emotional/psychological problems - which can stem from their disabilities but don't necessarily have to.)
- This was actually the start of liberalization towards homosexuality in the European world: instead of criminals, they were considered mentally ill. Not that anyone would consider this progressive nowadays, since Society Marches On, and people suffered because of that attitude. Still, without this first step, homosexuality might still be considered a crime.
- The progression was pretty much from "[Godless] criminals" (19th century Britain)note to "mentally ill" (20th century 'til the 1960s or so) to The Woobie (1970s through 1990s) to Positive Discrimination (1990s and 2000s), and finally to the (generally) nuanced portrayals of today.
- Autism Speaks has the goal of curing Autism. You might say it has good intentions, but many autistic individuals are outraged by their conformist message and portrayal of autism as an illness that needs to be cured, restoring the 'real' person that the autistic person has taken the place of, rather than simply a different way of interacting with the world that has its own difficulties and blessings.
- In fact, a good bit of ableism can be described as this.
- This cracked article, "5 old timey prejudices that still show up in every movie", argues that this attitude from the white people is why there are not non-white protagonists of Blockbuster movies (except Will Smith). And especially not in a relationship with a white female character.
- Poor introverts, being born preferring time alone or with one close friend to wild parties, and thinking rather than filling a room with hot air. Is there anything we can do to cure them of this illness?
- Some of the implications of naturalization are how better off someone is to have their cultural identity replaced by the local stuff.
- Aw, poor atheist (or [insert X religion here that isn't Y religion])! Don't worry, I'll pray for your immortal soul, though you'll probably be doomed to reincarnation/damnation/die! Or better yet, join us and you probably won't! Maybe! (though you still won't be as good as us, of course!)
- And, on the flip side, "Those poor, simple-minded, religious folk. Let's politely avoid pointing out how everything they believe in is a lie because it's just so cute that they actually believe in such things at their age! Besides, after a lifetime of brainwashing they couldn't handle living like we do, without spiritual-emotional crutches. It would just be too cruel."
- And then agnostics bring along, "Those poor atheists and religious people! It's a pity they're all so close-minded and unable to accept anything but their hard-bitten little blind beliefs in 'god' or 'science' or whichever. Such a shame they're not open-minded like we are."
- Those poor natives in the territory we're colonizing/our ancestors colonized! They've lost their lands and their way of life, so we should help them become eco-friendly hunter-gatherers who worship Mother Earth/Nature again! Lots of helping! Helping aggressively. So helpful, we know that's exactly what they want without even asking them. Isn't that helpful?
- Unfortunately, this isn't rare enough among people who work in fields where the job is to help the disabled, and sometimes be bad enough that outright bigotry will preferable to those they are 'trying to help.' "Stop Helping Me!" can cause a lot of interesting reactions from the type. Unfortunately, the rarest is it working.
- Bill Clinton once described compassionate conservatism as, "I want to help you. I really do. But you know, I just can't."
- It's not unheard of for sex workers to accuse anti-sex industry campaigners of this. While such campaigns are often targeted at ending the myriad examples of abuse, exploitation and suffering endemic in the industry, these sex workers claim that campaigners often treat all sex workers as helpless, exploited victims deserving of condescending pity or contempt when this is not necessarily the case. They suggest this can even lead to campaigners denying sex workers their humanity and agency in a way that's little different from the abusers and exploiters they're trying to defeat.