Majored in Western Hypocrisy
"From the number of cannibal village chiefs with Oxford or Harvard degrees, I'd say someone better investigate what they teach in law school."This trope refers to Western (often Oxbridge or Ivy League) educated foreign characters who are encountered by Westerners. Whether heroic or evil, a typical plot is for them to either be assumed to be an "ignorant native" or else use Obfuscating Stupidity as a Fauxreigner before revealing their education to Western characters. Also frequent is a comment to the effect that while they gained skills from this education, something they experienced added to their revulsion for the West, whether it was unpleasant aspects of Western culture in general or the fact that the Westerners were racist toward the character (the latter is especially common in works taking place in time periods when racism was more openly acceptable). This is Truth in Television to a great degree: many great universities were never racially segregated, and foreigners of the most exotic varieties were welcome to attend them, though in practice few ever did. Those who did tended to be among the wealthiest and/or most talented from their homelands - the ones who were more or less destined for greatness when they returned home. May employ a Completely Unnecessary Translator. When a white American does the opposite of this, that's Mighty Whitey.
— Recon 5
open/close all folders
- Subverted in the Keith Giffen era of the Justice League. The noble savages of Kooey Kooey Kooey send a promising son to the mainland to learn at Oxford — because they want to modernize the island. They embrace Western Culture as soon as possible.
- Lawrence in the Rogues' "New Year's Evil" story is the demon-summoning nephew of a modern-day Asian warlord and has an Oxford education.
Films — Live-Action
- Die Another Day: The Trope Namer.
Colonel Moon: I know all about the UN. I studied at Oxford and Harvard. Majored in Western hypocrisy.
- What's even funnier about the line is that Colonel Moon speaks it with an air of someone who sees the Western world and its inhabitants as completely beneath him (Truth in Television as this is the cultural attitude of North Korea). Adding to his hypocrisy is his collection of Western-imported sports cars, a British girlfriend in the form of Miranda Frost, and his undergoing plastic surgery that transforms him into a British playboy with the intent of furthering his scheme of destroying the land mines in the demilitarized zone so that North Korea can retake South Korea.
- Also used in The World Is Not Enough by Bond himself. When impersonating a Russian scientist on Renard's team, Dr. Christmas Jones compliments his control of English. His response (In Russian): "I studied at Oxford" (which his real identity did).
- In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Chattar Lal, prime minister to the Maharaja of Pankot, attended Oxford.
- Night at the Museum : Ahkmenrah, though, of course, he couldn't have actually studied there — instead, his knowledge comes from being kept in the Cambridge Egyptology department.
- In The Mask of Fu Manchu, it is mentioned that Fu Manchu has a doctorate of philosophy from Edinburgh, a doctorate in law from Christ's College, and a doctorate in medicine from Harvard.
My friends, out of courtesy, call me Doctor.
- Dr. Kengh Lee of the Chinese insurgents in Battle Beneath the Earth studied in western universities, and is kind enough to compliment them. Then he returns to work on destroying the United States with atom bombs.
- In Lord of War Yuri takes a moment to quickly mention that African warlord Andre Baptiste (who will kill at a moment's notice and defends practices like using Child Soldiers) is Western educated.
- In Tora! Tora! Tora!, the trope is inverted: Admiral Yamamoto studied at Harvard and served as a liaison officer in Washington. He warns that the Americans are proud and just.
- Jane and the Lost City, based on the Fanservice-heavy British comic strip and set in Africa during World War II, has the main characters get captured by the "Leopard Queen", a half-naked female African tribal ruler. When Jane punches her out, the up-till-then silent Leopard Queen suddenly starts talking - and reveals that she not only understands English, but styles herself as an Englishwoman, proper accent and all.
- James Bond series
- Fu Manchu is one of the earliest examples.
- Axis of Time: The monstrous Hideki.
- Jingo by Terry Pratchett: 71-Hour Ahmed plays up his foreignness, but was educated at the Assassin's Guild, the closest thing to a posh British public school on the Disc. He plays up his education in Klatch, for pretty much the same reason he plays up the Klatchian stereoptype in Ankh-Morpork.
- Flashman and the Tiger: Flashman encounters the son of a Rupert of Hentzau Expy who describes public schools as having conditions worse than Siberia but helping to toughen him up to take on Englishmen; also, there is a character in Flashman's Lady who is an English-educated Barbary pirate.
- Babar may be a colonial allegory, with the Elephant King representing Western-educated leaders who are looked upon favorably by European powers (in this case France).
- Evelyn Waugh's novel Black Mischief has the Emperor Seth of the fictional African country Azania, who includes among his numerous titles a bachelor of arts degree at Oxford. The character is an interesting combination of strawman liberal, Well-Intentioned Extremist and Tragic Hero.
- Frederick Forsyth's novel The Dogs of War is kind of on the Unfortunate Implications side, as there is an Oxbridge educated African leader who is one of the few honorable African characters in the book, with both sides of a civil war being portrayed as a bunch of savages. He represents a third group of people and eventually takes power, allowing for a somewhat optimistic ending.
- Subverted and dissected by John Steinbeck in East of Eden. Lee is a graduate of UC Berkeley and a California native speaking fluent English, although he plays the role of an Asian Speekee Engrish much of the time. However, he is firm in belief that he is ultimately an American, not a Chinese, having found himself to be even more of stranger in China than in United States.
- Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne: Captain Nemo; whether a Pole or Indian Prince, he is definitely steeped in Western culture, ironically enough, the same culture he is at war with.
Annorax: "You're an engineer, then, Captain Nemo?"Nemo: "Yes, professor," he answered me. "I studied in London, Paris, and New York back in the days when I was a resident of the Earth's continents."
- Invoked in Dorothy L. Sayers' Have His Carcase. When Lord Peter Wimsey, Harriet Vane, and the local policeman all hear a story revolving about an Indian rajah who supposedly did not know about banknotes, the policeman objects: what sort of Indian rajah would not know about banknotes? Why, many of them had been educated at Oxford.
- Doctor Dolittle series: Crown Prince Bumppo of the African nation of Jolliginki. Of course, while he likes studying at Oxford (except for math, which he hates, and the silly European habit of wearing those ghastly shoes all the time) it has mostly succeeded in turning him into an Upper-Class Twit and an Ethnic Scrappy.
- Tir Ram, the ruler of a fictional Indian state in the Doctor Who New Adventures Sherlock Holmes crossover All-Consuming Fire.
Holmes: I am honoured to meet your Highness. May I compliment you upon your excellent grasp of our clumsy tongue.Tir Ram: I was at Eton and Cambridge, Mr Holmes. I even speak Hindi with an accent now.
- In the Lord Darcy novel A Study in Sorcery, some Native American warriors deliver a note to the Angevin camp by tying it to an arrow fired into the officers' tent. The attached message ends with the signature of a tribal leader, Laughs-Last, complete with the initials for his Oxbridge-awarded graduate degree.
- Kingy in The Mockery Bird by Gerald Durrell.
- In Oxford Days by Paul West, he analyses this trope and questions the message Hollywood is trying to give us by having the typical minority Oxbridge graduate portrayed as a villain.
- The chief of the threatened jungle tribe in Lloyd Alexander's The El Dorado Adventure is an Oxford graduate, and the tribe's fearsomely-named "warring clans" turn out to be cricket teams.
- A heroic example in Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series. Rescued from the sea while unconscious (the rest of his ship's crew choose death), Lieutenant Tamatsu Shinya of the Imperial Japanese Navy pretends to be ignorant of his captors' language. However, he understands them perfectly, having studied at Berkeley before the war. After finally revealing his fluency in English, he immediately offers his services to the crew of the Walker until such time as they return to our world. Indeed, he proves to be a loyal and valuable officer, eventually becoming a general in The Alliance. His education (compared to most of the Walker crew) is also what allows him to recognize the religious language of the Lemurians as Latin. He is the first to establish communication with them.
- Yes, Minister : A humorous version was used where Hacker sees a news story on the new dictator of an African country and immediately recognizes him as a schoolfriend who also attended the London School of Economics — prestigious but not quite Oxbridge. Given that the show is on the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, the (admittedly amusing) casual racism of the British characters is complemented by the obvious corruption of the African dictator, who neatly outsmarts them by being sort of a better politician.
- An episode of Jeeves and Wooster where Bertie blacks up and attempts caveman-speak to impersonate a visiting African chief is saved from cringeworthiness when the real chief shows up and turns out to have been educated in England and be better-spoken than Bertie.
- Mash: This happened a few times, generally with the Korean/Chinese/whichever doctor getting the better of obnoxious racist Frank Burns. One of them had even gone to Colonel Blake's alma mater.
- Referenced in Blackadder III. After the Prince has a drunken night with the Duke of Wellington's nieces, he considers fleeing as far as Mongolia to avoid the Duke's revenge. Blackadder points out that the Duke is a close personal friend of the Chief Mongol. "They were at Eton together."
- Usutu makes a fool of Matt Parkman in Heroes:
- Usutu: You must find your totem - a spirit guide that attaches to your subconscious. It will lead you on your journey.Parkman: What is that, some, uh... African mystical mojo thing?Usutu: Carl Jung, Analytical Psychology. You don't read much, do you?
- Referenced in The Young Ones. When the train the lads are taking to the BBC studios to film University Challenge is held up by Mexican bandits, the train driver notes that he didn't want to be a train driver, but without going to an Oxbridge school, he didn't have many career prospects. According to him, 98% of the KGB went to British public schools.
- On That '70s Show, there's a one-off gag where Fez states this is basically his goal as exchange student: to take what he's learned in America, return to his homeland, and "RULE WITH AN IRON FIST!"
- Spoofed by The Goon Show in the episode "The Gold Plate Robbery": Visiting Morocco, Neddie Seagoon meets an Arab nomad who went to college in Cambridge and speaks English like a native — with a broad Cockney accent.
- In Utopia Limited, Utopia's crown princess Zara has been studying at Girtonnote for five years. She returns to her Anglophilic homeland with several English advisers in tow and a plan to remodel Utopian society in England's image.
- In one episode of The Wild Thornberrys, the Thornberrys encounter a tribe of natives who were planning on cooking and eating a runaway Darwin. When Nigel tried to apologize and explain that Darwin was their pet, the chieftain revealed that he knew how to speak English thanks to language tapes. The chief then picks up a call from his friends on his cellphone and tells them that they won't be eating Darwin, so they'll just drive into town for steak.
- The Simpsons: In "Much Apu About Nothing", Apu tells the Simpsons that he originally emigrated to the US to study computer science at the Springfield Heights Institute of Technology.
- The leaders of the Negritude movement in France's colonies, the London-educated barrister Gandhi, the Egyptian Islamic fundamentalist and U. of Northern Colorado alum Sayyid Qutb, sometime Prime Minister of Vietnam Ho Chi Minh, Sun Yat-Sen, founder of both Modern Chinas, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, who studied in France in their youth, Vladimir Lenin, who spent much of his life in exile in Western Europe, and many, many more. More or less every revolution against colonial powers in the last three centuries was started by a small group of highly Western-educated native countrymen. The man that takes the cake may be Jawaharlal Nehru, big-shot in the British Indian National Congress and the first Prime Minister of the Indian Republic; his upbringing and outlook was so (nigh-painfully) British he described himself as "the last Englishman to rule India."
This was actually one of the catalysts for India's push for freedom — Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, and others were just as educated as the British, but were still marginalized simply due to their race, causing them to realize that they would always be considered inferior to their British overlords.
- Pol Pot was educated in France and lived in Berlin prior to his return home to Cambodia. His bizarre philosophy was, more or less, a Frankenstein patchwork of the things he picked up in Western universities and in Cambodia's jungles.
- He was just one of a whole group of young Cambodians who converted to Marxism while studying in Paris and eventually formed the nucleus of the Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot was actually one of the lesser-educated ones but rose to leadership because of his ability to hold a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits together).
- Averted for Mao Zedong, the founder of Communist China, who spent his entire formative life in China (the highest level of education he attained was auditing classes in his free time at Peking University when he worked there as an assistant librarian). Members of his intimate circle, on the other hand, were all educated by the French or Japanese (whose education system was closely modeled on that of the Germans).
- Many of the people responsible for the worst human rights violations in 1970s-1980s Latin America were military or security personnel trained at the School of the Americas (now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in an attempt at re-branding), run by the US government.
- Many of Augusto Pinochet's ministers and economic advisors were graduates of the University of Chicago during Milton Friedman's tenure.
- Radovan Karadžić, leader of the Bosnian Serb Army and on trial for War Crimes, went to Columbia. Vojislav Šešelj, a leader of Serbian paramilitaries in Bosnia, taught in American universities for a few years in the 1970s and 1980s.
- Charles Taylor, genocidal leader of Liberia went to Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
- As an Older Than Feudalism example, at least from the perspective of the Romans, could be considered Arminius, the chieftain of the "barbarian" Germanic tribe of the Cherusci. Young Arminius served in the Roman army as a foreign auxiliary soldier, and got as his reward Roman citizenship and the rank of an eques (a specific aristocratic class, something like the later European knights, since it means "horseman"). He also gained Roman military training, which later back home did come in handy, when he and his Cherusci crushingly defeated the Romans in the historic Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.
- A stock plot in Russian jokes is someone being captured by a cannibal tribe and discovering that the chief is an alumnus of the Moscow Patrice Lumumba University* (that specializes in educating foreigners, often from third world countries), almost invariably accompanied by a crack that whatever the cannibals are eating this time is still better than what's served in the University's refectory.
- Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy, studied at Harvard (in addition to the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy).
- One of his officers, Admiral Chūichi Nagumo, spent several years as part of a Japanese mission studying naval tactics in the United Kingdom and the United States between the world wars. Not at all surprising when one recalls that the Anglo-Japanese alliance was only dropped in the early '20s and that both empires had received some measure of US assistance in the latter part of their War against Germany.
- Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō, The Nelson of the East (who expressed the belief that he actually was the reincarnation of Horatio Nelson), was part of the first batch of Japanese cadets sent to study the art of naval war in Britain. He studied in Britain or on British ships for seven years (graduating second in his class, above many British cadets) before returning as an officer on the Hiei, the newest British-built vessel of the Imperial Navy.
- In fact, it's been said that this was the genesis of Imperial Japan - post-Meiji Restoration, the Japanese wanted to be like the western powers so much that they ended up copying their bad points. Among other things, they saw what the exploitative European colonial powers had done, particularly in China...and concluded that Japan should become an exploitative colonial power too.
- Jose Marti (a Cuban revolutionary from the late 19th century) once said of the US, where he got his education, "I know the monster, because I have lived in its lair."
- Hussein Farrah Aidid, son of the notorious Somali warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid, emigrated to the United States when he was 17. He graduated from an American high school and later joined the Marine Corps. In an ironic twist, he came back to Somalia as a part of Operation Restore Hope since he was apparently the only person in the entire United States Marine Corps who spoke Somali. After his father died, he inherited his position and served as warlord/"President of Somalia" until 2007, when he was sacked after being demoted several times by the Ethiopian-led interim government and defected to Eritrea.
- In Peter Ustinov's autobiography, Dear Me, he talks about going to school with the son of Count von Ribbentrop, who was Nazi Germany's ambassador to Britain.
- The Chinese Self-Strengthening Movement of the late 1800's believed that China should study and adopt Western economics and military technology while retaining Chinese culture. In theory, the combination of superior Western technology with "superior" Chinese culture would allow China to equal and later surpass the Western powers.
- Kim Jong-un studied at an international school in Switzerland as did his brothers. It should be noted that his elder brothers were being groomed to follow in their father's footsteps but neither one wanted the job (and another fled in exile after he was caught sneaking into Tokyo Disneyland). Jong-un would have probably had a much lower government position if either one of them accepted the dictatorship.
- Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, studied to be an eye doctor in England. He wasn't even expected to become the next president (essentially an inherited position there), but his elder brother died and he was recalled. His wife and inner circle speak English.