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Internalized Categorism
Alice is a wizard, an Un-Sorcerer, a superhero mutant, a person without superpowers, a homosexual, a heterosexual, a sadomasochist, left-handed, or whatever. Whatever such category of people it is she belongs to, it makes her hate herself. And while the trait itself might not be destructive, her irrational self-hatred makes it destructive. It might even cause her to actually harm herself or others.

The trait is always something the character considers herself to be, not something she's considering herself to believe in: If it's her beliefs that get scorned but she keeps her faith in them, she will see the scorners as bad instead of seeing herself as bad. Let's say she eventually gets Driven to Suicide: If it is out of self-hatred then it is this trope, but if it is because she can't stand the ignorance and narrow-mindedness of other people then it is a variant of Too Good for This Sinful Earth.

"Categorism" is a catch-all word for racism, sexism, homophobia, and all such phenomena where individuals are clumped together into a category of people — negative stereotypes, prejudice, strict norms and/or entitlement for the normative group. As a trope, internalized categorism covers real social categories as well as fictional ones, such as mutants with superpowers.

The self-hatred of internalized categorism may cause the character to become a Boomerang Bigot. However, a boomerang bigot does not necessarily suffer from any such self-hatred: The character might be too shallow for such emotions or might side with the oppressors for any number of reasons that leave room for feeling good about oneself: Greed, Stockholm Syndrome, even delusions of grandeur. For example, let's say that a certain African-American man believes that black people are lazy criminals and rapists. If he doesn't live like that but attributes it to denying his "true nature", then he's a boomerang bigot. If he doesn't try to get a real job because he's "just a Negro" and/or commits criminal offenses of the drug-related or sex-related kind, saying, "I'm a Negro, I can't help it", then he's a case of Internalized Racism.

Of course, if a hero is plagued with this psychological problem, it can be a Crowning Moment of Awesome/Heartwarming to see him/her overcome it and to learn some needed self-esteem.

Compare Category Traitor, Aggressive Categorism, I Just Want to Be Normal, Condescending Compassion and Then Let Me Be Evil.

For other tropes relating to categorism, see Stereotype Reaction Gag and Stop Being Stereotypical.

Specific kinds that have their own tropes:

Specific kinds that are Internal Subtropes:

  • Internalized Homophobia: Gays who hate themselves and/or believe they have to do destructive things like having lots of unsafe sex with strangers because they have been taught that "that's how gay people are". For the non-internalized version, see Heteronormative Crusader.
  • Internalized Sexism: Women or men hating themselves simply for being born into a certain gender, or deny themselves everything that doesn't fit into a very narrow gender role. (This hatred is about a belief that the gender is inferior or evil or "supposed to behave" in a very limited way, not about being a Transsexual and actually desiring to be another sex.) For the non-internalized version, see He-Man Woman Hater and Does Not Like Men. See also Female Misogynist.
  • Internalized Racism: People hating themselves for their genetic ancestry or ethnicity, or reduce themselves to racial stereotypes. For the non-internalized version, see Racist Grandma.
  • Internalized Mutiephobia: Super-powered mutants who hate themselves... or goes "Hey, society considers us evil. So I guess we are. Let's just accept our role as a bad race and call ourselves Brotherhood of Evil Mutants". (In the Silver Age comics, this group was evil, period. It was later retconned into having suffered from Internalized Categorism and/or having chosen their name ironically.) For the non-internalized version, see Fantastic Racism.
  • Internalized Paraphobia: Self-hating fetishists, sadomasochists et cetera. For the non-internalized version, see Heteronormative Crusader. With the social norms being arbitrary, paraphobia can apply to mainstream heterosexuality as well: Any mainstream relationship is "deviant" when the norm is Lie Back and Think of England. For the not-so-internalized version of this kind of paraphobia, see Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny.
  • Normopathy: People who hate themselves for being different from others in any way, and thus hide any skills or talents that might make them stand out from the crowd. Psychologically and narratively, there's not much difference between Internalized Categorism and Normopathy, that's why it's an Internal Subtrope here. Philosophically, however, it's quite a big difference - Normopathy condemns talent and power and individuality as such rather than specific groups. For the non-internalized version of this, see Tall Poppy Syndrome.
    • A variation of this is when somebody gets diagnosed with something such as Aspergers, and systematically tries to stop themselves doing anything associated with it. For some, the diagnosis has the opposite effect, encouraging them to continue their behavior because they can use the diagnosis as an excuse for it.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, many of the girls who become Puella Magi stop considering themselves as human after learning that they have actually become a sentient Transformation Trinket controlling a lifeless body, becoming self-hating or suicidal.
    • They're closer to ghosts possessing their own bodies but their mission control who is the only individual they seem to communicate with would prefer they simply despair
  • In Kotoura-san, by high school age Haruka is has enough "You Monster!" insult out of being a telepath that she believed she is actually a monster.
  • Bleach: Ryuuken Ishida is a Quincy who loathes Quincies to the point of ending up estranged from his Quincy-supporting father and son. As a Blue Blood teenager, he was under enormous pressure to marry another Blue Blood in an effort to save the nearly extinct Quincy future. Tragedy destroyed any chance of that future unfolding and, although the events were not his fault, he was left shattered by his inability to solve the problem. Another tragedy killed his wife and has left his son's life in danger ever since as the culprits (Quincies) are still at large. The only thing Ryuuken seems to hate more than Quincies is himself.

    Comicbooks 
  • In Bitchy Butch, the heroine learned in her teens that she's a horrible person, and took it to heart. As an adult, she doesn't believe in that stuff anymore, but it's obvious that she still has a lot of self-hatred inside her and that her aggressive attitude is partly an overcompensation for this.
  • In the Marvel Universe, it is a social stigma to be a mutant. That includes anyone who develops superpowers naturally (rather than gaining them through an accident, experiment, etc.). One issue of New Mutants had a boy hanging himself in shame of being able to create beautiful sculptures of light.
    • The obscure villain Supercharger is a particularly anvilicious case: he gained his powers in an accident that killed his scientist father, and subsequently concluded that all superhumans bring pain and destruction to normal people, becoming a murderous supervillain specifically to intensify the existing anti-superhuman prejudice in the Marvel Universe.
  • Much of The Feeling Prince Charles Had is about women learning to hate themselves for being the gender that society considers less valuable.
  • In Cinderella's Sister, Cinderella is the antagonist - perfectly sweet and kind, but it's all passive-aggressive Sugary Malice - at least in the eyes of the angsty protagonist, the "evil" stepsister. Cinderella's most heinous weapon is her ability to teach her sister about not being docile enough, not feminine enough, et cetera, causing her to suffer a massive dose of Internalized Sexism.
  • The Sandman has a particularly disturbing case of Normopathy, Rayne of the metamorphae; a woman who has several superpowers including immortality, invulnerability and shapeshifting. She spends her days locked in her home, feeling sorry for herself for not being normal. As she claims that life is hell, Death tells her that she's actually making her own hell.

    Films — Animated 
  • Balto has this as a central internal conflict for the title character who has internalized everyone's abuse of him being half-wolf. When he learns to embrace his wolf nature with a mighty howl, it is a glorious moment.
  • Elsa from Frozen shows signs of this because she seems to believe she's cursed and must hide herself away from everyone lest she hurt them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Nymphomaniac, Seligman suggests this as an explanation for why Joe's life has been so shitty - that she has internalized our culture's misogyny and hatred of sexuality.
  • In The SM Judge, Magda initially hated herself for being a masochist, ruining her own life as well as making her husband miserable. This turns around early in the movie, but the character had already wasted decades of her life when the story begins.
  • X-Men: The Last Stand starts with a little Angel who tries to cut off his own wings (and maybe he did that quite often) in his desperation to be normal. Later, his father tries to help him get "cured" of having white wings to fly with. Angel changes his mind at the last minute, however, and later uses his flight to save his father's life.
  • In Human Nature, the protagonist has fur. She hates herself for it; shaves her entire body every morning (except her head, of course), and punishes herself by choosing a man who is utterly disgusted by female bodily hair.
  • In Never Let Me Go, perhaps the most painful aspect of the story is that the characters never overcome their social conditioning. The government plans to harvest their internal organs, and they really don't want to die. They spend the story agonizing over their lives being cut short, grasping for straws as they try to find loopholes so they'll be allowed to stay alive a little longer, and feeling guilty about taking out their angst on each other. But none of them ever dare to admit to themselves that the system is unfair, that they actually deserve to be allowed to live. They have been given the identity of sacrificial victims, and while they hate their place in life, they fail to break free from this imposed image of who and what they are.
  • Much of the drama in Secretary revolves around Edward's internal conflict. He's a sexual sadist who thinks that BDSM is dirty and immoral. This make him very unfair to himself as well as to his submissive who he blames for tempting him. Lee eventually manage to snap him out of it.
  • In Female Perversions, Eve struggles with this through the entire movie. As the work page quote indicates, the whole thing is about the devastating effects of having grown up as a girl/woman, being pushed into a destructive gender role. Not restricted to gender alone, it's also about trying to come to terms with one's power and sexuality.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • The Incredible Hulk: Bruce Banner considers the Hulk to be a monster because he's, you know, a giant green rage monster that's killed a lot of people.
    • Loki was raised in an atmosphere of profound racism against Frost Giants, so finding out that he actually was one at an already incredibly stressful point in his life led to him cracking up. In Avengers, Loki shows signs of projecting heavily onto Banner vis-a-vis the concept of embracing one's own monstrosity. Points for S.H.I.E.L.D. detaining him in their prefab Hulk cage.

    Literature 
  • Enderís Game: Deals with this after Battle School. He hates himself for what he was—a child military genius who wiped out most of an alien race and emphatically does not want to continue being that person. As an adult, he becomes The Atoner, hiding his identity while traveling the galaxy and trying to create peace and understanding.
  • The Idiot: Nastasya Fillipovna Barashkov was Afansy Ivanovich Totsky's mistress for a time, and afterwards believed that her soul had been irrevocably corrupted by the experience. She threw herself into her role as a "bad girl" and Femme Fatale, and pursued a Masochism Tango relationship with the violent Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin because she believed he was the sort of man she deserved. Furthermore, when Prince Myshkin (the novel's incarnation of Incorruptible Pure Pureness) declared his love for Nastasya and his belief that she was actually innocent, Nastasya turned him down—partly in order to hurt him, and partly because she was afraid she would ultimately hurt him worse if they married.
  • The Regeneration Trilogy: There are several versions of this. On one hand are the soldiers at a psychiatric hospital who suffer from different forms of PTSD, and hate themselves for breaking down and being "in with the loonies." Then there are the gays, who have to keep their sexuality a secret because of the repressive atmosphere, all the time hearing that homosexuality is a sin and a threat to the nation.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Cersei suffers from some pretty severe internalized sexism. During her viewpoint chapters in A Feast for Crows, she often attributes Jaime's swordsmanship skill and Tywin's PR, political prowess and military mind to their sex (instead of practice, intelligence, patience and natural talent). Likewise, she blames the people's dislike on her own sex. Her logic basically amounts to "Everyone underestimates me because I'm a woman. And yes, women are generally inferior, but I'm WAY better than any of those other hussies because I'm a Lannister and the queen and could totally run rings around my father and brother if I just had a penis." Ironically, when she does get the chance to prove her mettle as acting head of House Lannister and ruling queen besides, she quickly becomes the series' only important Hysterical Woman. Among other things.
  • Ties That Bind: Guy Baldwin has helped people to understand that BDSM does not make someone a bad person.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse: In one of the official collections of short stories, the hero goes through severe identity confusion and self-hatred as he discovers that he's actually a child of the evil werewolf clan, the Black Spiral Dancers. (He eventually snaps out of it and concludes that he doesn't have to be like his ancestors.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Smallville, Clark sometimes has a mild case of this, being an alien and with all the other kryptonians he's met so far having turned out to be evil psychopaths. Chloe comforts him and said he could be the only decent one out of his people.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "In Heat", the UnSub was a gay man motivated by the abuse his Heteronormative Crusader father subjected him to. He became convinced that he was "dirty," and began killing gay men and stealing their identities to escape his own.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tara turns out to have been abused by her relatives. Among other things, they have tricked her to believe that she's an evil demon when she's actually fully human. Believing herself to be a demon lead her to actions that almost get everyone killed, as she's desperately trying to hide her "true" nature from all her friends.
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series, Spock has a major problem with his half-human ancestry such that he feels ashamed even experiencing feelings like friendship.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Cardassians, the main characters, acting on Condescending Compassion, decide Rugal's identity for him against his will, and then insist that he's suffering from Internalized Categorism because the identity they have chosen for him and eventually condemned him to, by giving him away to the stranger Ben decided deserved him the most - by virtue of being his biological father and the victim of a political conspiracy is one he hates.
    • The episode leaves it for the audience to decide whether or not Rugal was actually suffering from Internalized Categorism or not and whether or not what they did (forcing him to move to Cardassia) was the right choice. What you'd consider best for the child depends on whether you consider him to be a Bajoran (his identity and upbringing) or Cardassian (his biological ancestry, including his looks).
    • There's also the issue of whether Rugal hated the Cardassians as an empire or as a race. Hating the empire is not a problem for him, as long as he's allowed to stay away from it. (Entering the empire would be quite dangerous, however, since it's a military dictatorship likely to persecute him as a dissident.) Hating Cardassians as a race would be far more problematic. Since Rugal claims to have no guilt in the atrocities committed by the empire, it is likely that his hatred is of the first kind. But it never gets analyzed in any detail.
    • This is further complicated by how you feel about Rugal's adoptive parents. They raised him to consider himself a Bajoran and hate Cardassians, despite the fact that biologically Rugal is a Cardassian. The decision to give him to his biological father becomes even more complicated when you realize that his biological father didn't abandon him: Rugal was stolen from him and the kidnappers faked his death, leaving his biological father grieving for him for years until he learned his son was still alive.

    Music 
  • The song "Broken" by Bad Religion brings up the danger of putting people down, that they might start believing it themselves.
  • Radiohead's Creep gets this up to eleven.
  • Somewhere I Belong by Linkin Park also counts for that reason.
  • Neurosis III by Monomate: "I'd appreciate some solitude, I feel like I'm going insane."

    Videogames 
  • Valkyria Chronicles: Alicia forms none of her own ideas about her newly awakened Valkyria powers or how to apply them. Instead, she becomes convinced that she's lost her humanity; not because anyone thinks she has, or is even necessarily afraid that she will, she just assumes that the one other person who has the same ability is evil and so she'll become evil too. This is very obviously not the case, but the assumption she makes drives the last act of the romance plot.
  • In Slave Maker, the state religion is homophobic and also holds similar prejudice against bondage. Characters who engage in lesbian sex or bondage will lose morality, thus becoming Depraved Homosexuals or proof that Bondage Is Bad. However, in the case of lesbianism, this effect is clearly caused by Internalized Homophobia, since only those who believe in the homophobic state religion are affected: Characters who follow "the old gods" or "no gods" do not lose morality over same-sex sex acts. However, both religions disapprove of bondage - making it less obvious that the morality loss from bondage is also caused by Internalized Categorism.
    • Worth noting that bondage is heavily tied to being a Pony girl. This apparently is allowed, even in public, with no shame on either the slave or the slaver. But a Pony girl is socially considered an animal, with no right to speak, refuse sex (in a setting where slaves can say "No") or wear anything but leather straps. Pony girls are used to pull carts, and there are official riding races. So bondage is shunned on "normal" slaves but mostly allowed for slaves degraded to labor animals.
  • In the Circle Tower in Dragon Age, there is a mage who is completely convinced that all mages are in fact horrible monsters that should never have been allowed to be left alive and prays to the Maker to free her from her cursed existence, as well as all the other mages who are in denial of their evil nature.
  • In Hate Plus: Oh Eun-a follows a Confucian creed that says women can only be truly happy when married to and bearing the children of a man, meaning she doesn't feel able to give a proper life to her lesbian lover Mi-seun. She becomes so obsessed with reforming society so it can protect instead that she neglects Mi-seun who eventually kills herself, believing their "less valuable" relationship to be a burden and potential embarrassment for Eun-a.

    Webcomics 

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Jeong Jeong may be a master of firebending, but he'd rather not be a firebender at all. He refers to his abilities as a "burning curse", and has this to say about firebenders in general:
    Jeong Jeong:...fire brings only destruction and pain. It forces those of us burdened with its care to walk a razor's edge between humanity and savagery. Eventually, we are torn apart.
  • Blackarachnia on Transformers Animated absolutely DESPISES being partially organic.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Twilight Sparkle, who thinks that her friends will hate her for using her considerably large magic stockpile like they hate Trixie. This is especially noticeable in her determination not to use magic even when injured in a Serial Escalation fashion in Winter Wrap Up, because it's expressly banned and she wants to be of some use.


Innocent BystanderVictimhood TropesManufacturing Victims
Homosocial HeterosexualitySociology TropesKayfabe Music
Involuntary ShapeshiftingBody Image TropesMuscle Angst
I Just Want to Be YouYou Hate What You ArePinocchio Syndrome
Windmill CrusaderEmpowermentOnly the Author Can Save Them Now
Inkblot TestPsychology TropesIt Kind Of Looks Like A Face
I Miss MomSadness TropesIt Always Rains at Funerals
Innocent BigotPrejudice TropesMalcolm Xerox
Inevitable Mutual BetrayalNarrative DevicesIntrepid Fictioneer
Insufferable GeniusCharacter Flaw IndexIrrational Hatred

alternative title(s): Normopathy; Internalized Mutiephobia; Internalized Paraphobia; Internalized Racism; Internalized Sexism; Internalized Homophobia
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