: "Yes, but you see, he was
good, he was
a good Samaritan, of all people!"
The noble bigot prides himself - and it usually is
a man, since women are commonly stereotyped as being "nicer" and more sensitive - on doing the right thing, making sure that those in need are taken care of, yet in the same instance has no qualms with labeling those different from himself with unreasonably prejudiced terms
or backhanded compliments
. Although the noble bigot basically wallows in his own jerkass
nature, he's on the side of good as well. His bigotry might even be motivated by a misguided desire to be good and "loyal" rather than a Category Traitor
. Other characters either are constantly revolted by his nature, or brush it off as it just being in his nature, in the hope that others will get used to it. It may or may not prove to be Pretend Prejudice
This character will almost always be totally redeemed in the end
- and even if he isn't, it will still be acknowledged that he has his good qualities. Sometimes he is as sympathetic as such a character can be, only holding on to his prejudices due to a Freudian Excuse
(his parents taught him to be this way, or he was once wronged by a member of the group he now despises). A distinct but closely related trope is the Innocent Bigot
, who honestly thinks he is not
prejudiced due to Values Dissonance
, and is thus ignorant rather than a Jerkass
It is also possible - albeit confusingly so - for a person to be both racist and
anti-racist. Love and hate exist in a sort of yin/yang combination
, and it's possible for a person to theoretically
admire groups but also hate them out of pure envy or fear (see Race Fetish
and Karmic Transformation
for more on this), or for someone to have a ridiculously outdated "idealized" notion
of a certain group but then hate modern-day individuals of that group for not living up to that imagined standard
or for "betraying" their culture
(this being a common attribute of so-called liberal racism).
This trope has its roots in the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, when the great minds of the day condemned religious
bigotry but viewed racial
bigotry as acceptable and even logical. The attitude went mainstream during the Victorian era and then became steadily degraded as it percolated down through the less educated classes. More modern anthropological discoveries during the early twentieth century did much to discredit scientific racism
, and then the Holocaust killed it off for good as a topic of serious discussion
. In fiction, however, it is alive and well.
See also Noble Bigot with a Badge
and Boomerang Bigot
. Compare Good Is Not Nice
. May overlap with Wicked Cultured
or Fair for Its Day
. May come off as Affably Evil
(or even Faux Affably Evil
) to the targets of his prejudice.
Anime and Manga
- Walt Kowalski from Gran Torino, even toward the end of the movie after being adopted as a new grandparent by a Hmong family, still referred a particular Asian girl as "Yum Yum" when he couldn't pronounce her name.
- Ethan Edwards in The Searchers has this toward both Comanches and Yankees. His hate of Comanches comes from years of fighting and his hatred of Yankees comes from his participation in The American Civil War.
- Dirty Harry Callahan "doesn't play favorites." He hates all races, including his own.
- Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket is considerably homophobic but a well-intentioned guy.
- Police Chief Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) in In the Heat of the Night. The portrayal was so well done it earned Steiger an Oscar for Best Actor.
- Dirty Steve from Young Guns. He constantly harasses Chavez calling him a greaser and using Navaho as an insult, but in the final shootout he rides back to save Chavez getting himself killed instead. ( This also subverts the common, no longer racism because I was saved by a minority.)
- The Rivers of War portrays Andrew Jackson like this. He is highly bigoted, even by the standards of the time, and does not hesitate to call friendly Cherokees "savages", ask how Sam Houston can be so sure that his coloured teamsters won't steal his gear and sum up state militias as drunken and cowardly to a man. However, he hesitates to shoot Red Eagle (a rebel Cherokee responsible for a major massacre) because he surrendered voluntarily, promotes a coloured sergeant to commissioned rank, against regulations, and threatens to kill a man who protests against arming free coloured men, but who won't join the militia himself. Essentially, the Andrew Jackson in the book is bigoted against groups but is capable of respecting an individual who is especially heroic and or a fierce fighter. While he is a bigot, he hates fools and cowards even more.
- Believe it or not, Hawkeye Pierce from the original novel Mash was very much a Noble Bigot With a Medical License (and even more so in the sequels). It's even conjectured that Richard Hooker wrote M*A*S*H Mania primarily as an attempt to "rescue" the character from Alan Alda's portrayal and have the last say. He failed.
- Adrian Mole's grandma doesn't like Indians or Pakistanis, but is otherwise sympathetic and somewhat badass.
- Played for laughs in Good Omens with Witchhunter Shadwell. He has a (mildly) derogatory slur for everyone, belittles foreign cultures and religions, and suspects everyone of being a witch or a warlock, yet everyone is charmed by him and he fearlessly prepares to fight Satan when the Apocalypse comes.
- Sam Vimes is an equal-opportunity racist. He thinks dwarves are irritating little bastards, trolls are irritating big bastards, werewolves are violent bastards, vampires are bastards who embody everything that's wrong with wealthy aristocrats, and humans are just bastards. This doesn't stop him from being Knight in Sour Armor who consistently helps anyone in need, no matter their species.
- He also (maybe) acknowledges that Lady Margolotta (a vampire) isn't a complete monster (though he doesn't like her), and highly values Angua (a werewolf), Detritus (a troll), Cheery (a dwarf), and all the other Watchmen he works with, because they're no longer just dwarves/trolls/werewolves/vampires...they're watchmen.
- In return, the non-human members of the Watch generally ignore Vimes' racist rhetoric, because they know that if their backs are against the wall, he'll be the first one diving in to help them.
- Albrecht Albrechtsson from The Fifth Elephant hates Ankh-Morpork, but he's a good, loyal dwarf who, Rhys notes, probably would have made an excellent king a few hundred years ago.
- In the Dragaera universe, the Vlad Taltos books give us Aliera, and sometimes Vlad himself. Played with and lampshaded by Vlad when he realizes that, while he hates Dragaerans, almost all his friends and loved ones are Dragaerans.
- Slughorn in Harry Potter is a minor example. While he's one of the most sympathetic characters Slytherin House produces, there are times when he displays the 'Blood Purity' ideology that makes most Slytherins so distasteful; he assumes Voldemort must be a pure-blood due to his immense magical power, and expresses mild surprise when he finds muggle-born wizards with above-average talent, such as Lily or Hermione. His final opinion of a person will always be based on their talent, however, and he won't look down on a muggleborn for long if they manage to impress him.
- In The Grimnoir Chronicles, Joe Vierra is a Portuguese farmer who spits at the Okies that pass by his farm. But he still buys and adopts the daughter of one family when he notices that she has a potentially self-destructive power that needs training.
- Barrayar in Vorkosigan Saga. Honorable and valiant warriors who always keep their word but have an extreme prejudice against cripples.
- In Tom Kratman's Caliphate, Adbul Mohsem might be anti-American, but he did care about Petra's well-being unlike his wife Khalifa.
- Lord David Alderscroft, from the Elemental Masters novels, isn't quite as bad as some of the other examples on this page. But in most of his appearances, he assumes that nonwhites, the lower (social) classes, and females are inherently inferior to wealthy, white male nobility like himself.
- Archie Bunker from All in the Family. (Based on an ignoble bigot.) This comes to a head in an episode where he meets the KKK.
- Andy Sipowicz from NYPD Blue is a reformed mean drunk, whose racial bigotry stems ostensibly from his father being battered by a black man when trying to read the man's gas meter, and his own experiences infiltrating the Black Panthers when he was still freshly traumatized by his Vietnam war experiences. Sipowicz struggles to keep his racial bigotry from affecting his work, and consistently displays genuine empathy for people of color, even though at times his temper gets the best of him and he says the wrong thing to the wrong person.
- Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars is something of a racist, and very much a classist. He really hates poor people. And yet, he's also genuinely heroic at times, and we root for him, and we cheer when he falls in love with Veronica and they become a couple.
- Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead. While he still harbors the same racist tendencies as his older brother Merle, at the end of the day, he's still an effective and capable survivor who's a crack shot with both a crossbow and rifle, and he pitches in to help the rest of the survivors as much as he can. Wisecracks about "Chinamen" aside.
- Mal Reynolds usually takes some issue or another with Inara's career as a High-Class Call Girl, or Book's religion. It may be some sort of ploy.
- Gregory House, the title character of House.
- Debatable. He doesn't seem to hold any racist or sexist beliefs, he just makes racist and sexist comments because he likes to annoy people.
- If anything, he's bigoted toward everyone. Lampshaded in one episode after he fails to ruffle Cameron's feathers; she tells him that he's "a misanthrope, not a misogynist."
- Frances "Our Country, Our Rules" O'Brien from The Librarians. In spite of her frequently culturally insensitive comments and racially stereotyping (thinking that an Arabic internet banking site was advocating terrorism), she still manages to work with and even apparently care about a highly diverse group (many of whom she presumably does have the authority to fire). She's made more sympathetic by her unfortunate home life, her past, her panic disorder and the fact that at least some of her behaviour is apparently resultant from her repressive Catholic upbringing (diving into Christine's breasts obviously suggested she did still have at least some bisexual leanings she was denying).
- Rafe McAuley from Defiance. He generally hpold aliens, especially Catithi in contempt, largely because of the war but he also tries to do the right thing, even, eventually, coming around, more or less, to his daughter marrying a Castithi.
- Warhammer's High Elves are virtually all Noble Bigots, being incredibly haughty, aristocratic and condescending towards all non-elves, but at the same time devoted to fighting the forces of Chaos and protecting the world and its people from destruction. The entire elven race is afflicted with a sense of its own superiority over everyone else, but where this causes the Dark Elves to despise and enslave others and the Wood Elves to ignore them, in the High Elves it manifests as a patronising tendency towards helping the poor "lesser" races who couldn't possibly survive without High Elf help. One or two High Elves are aware of their racial prejudices - Teclis for instance - but most see it as the natural order of things. That elvenkind actually is naturally gifted far beyond the race of man doesn't help to quell their monstrous egos...
- *Mute from the visual novel Analogue: A Hate Story is extremely open about her sexism and homophobia, yet shows compassion and even admiration for actual women and lesbians, if heavily filtered by her prejudices. Of course, in Hate Plus in the aftermath of *Mute's suicide you learn that her original, factory-state programming has no such bigoted ideas—they were very much taught and in large part literally programmed by the patriarchal Ryu dynasty.
- Zelos Wilder from Tales of Symphonia was taught from birth that half-elves were disgusting, stupid, beneath regular humans, saw his mother get killed by a half elf and confesses to the rest of the party that he feels conflicted about traveling with two half-elves. However, at the same time, he sympathizes with them far more than he does with his aristocratic background, and even before meeting the party, he stopped the Pope from passing various anti-half-elf legislation.
- Which is ironic, since the Chosen's bloodline, in order to get as close to Martel's physical makeup as possible, was probably descended distantly from Mithos himself, a half-elf. In other words, Zelos probably has some very diluted half-elven blood himself.
- It'd be quicker to list the Mass Effect characters who don't fall into this. Almost every one of your squadmates will have at least moment of mistrust, condescension or downright hostility to some other species. Fans tend to point to Ashley as the "racist" squadmate, but she's actually one of the milder cases - she just worries about letting alien nationals (including a bounty hunter and a Cowboy Cop) on your prototype warship and believes that the Council will sacrifice humanity when times are difficult. The kicker is when Dr. Chakwas, ship medic and all-around Cool Old Lady, reveals some unexpectedly strong feelings about synthetic life in the third game.
- The bigger kicker is if you disagree with her, she dismisses it and calls you a machine due to Shepard's cybernetics.
- Khelgar Ironfist from Neverwinter Nights 2. Initally hates Neeshka because she's a tiefling. Hates Elanee because she's an elf. Through his sidequest though you can get him to see his attitudes are an injustice. If you complete that quest he never quite forget them but he far more willing to let the person's actions speak.
- Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a Fantastic Racist who places the rights of the indigenous Nords above those of the immigrant Dunmer, Argonians and Khajiit, but ultimately recognises that loyalty is more important than blood and will allow non-Nords to serve in his army if he's convinced they are loyal to Skyrim and his ideals.
- Dennis Vicarth in Front Mission 3 made a few off-color remarks about the Japanese but is still willing to help Kazuki.
- The Elven hero Nasrudin in Arcanum. Founded the Elven Council, devoted much of his life to righting wrongs and fighting evil, and became the inspiration for the Panarii religion... at the same time, an arrogant supremacist who was motivated to heroics by a belief that elves were the greatest, wisest race, and who felt it was his duty to act as shepherd and protector toward what he regarded as 'lesser races.'
- Wakka from "Final Fantasy X" was a fun-loving, easy-going joker of a Big Brother figure to many in the party. He was also a devout Yevonite during the first half of the game and shared the religion's condemnation of the machina-using Al Bhed. He makes numerous disparaging remarks about the Al Bhed throughout the game, all the while looking out for his "little sister" Yuna, actually half Al Bhed. He later befriends Yuna's Al Bhed cousin Rikku. He's horrified to learn that both have Al Bhed heritage but eventually overcomes his prejudice and apologizes for his previously bigoted attitude.
- Guilio from Gungnir is quite racist against everyone the same race as his oppressors. There are also a few women on Guilio's side that see his race as nothing more than tools to be used.
- Maribelle from Fire Emblem Awakening, who is the daughter of a duke, holds some prejudice towards those of lower social class, which she speaks of constantly even to her lower class allies, even when she is trying to assist them in some way.
- Rico from Killzone hates the Helghast for invading his planet and wiping out his unit and never misses an occasion to remind it to everybody, but especially to his half-Helghan teammate Hakha. He changes over the course of the first game by slowly warming up to Hakha and even taking a bullet for him while fleeing the SD platform. In the second game, it's clear he still loathes them, but went from Kill 'em All to spare a civilian Helghast in the second game and being as horrified as everyone when their planet is nuker in the third game.
- This A Softer World strip.
- Unsounded's Duane Adelier hates all Crescians with a passion. Shartshanian Sette Frummagem holds deep suspicion for Aldishmen, including Duane.
- In When She Was Bad, Amber is openly homophobic, which only worsens her conflict with the main character Gail. Of course, it's not like she has no legitimate reasons to oppose Gail...
- Siggy in Dominic Deegan... briefly.note
- Equius of Homestuck is an alien version. He's contemptuous of his fellow trolls with blood colors too far to the red end of the rainbow and annoyed that the more purple-blooded Gamzee doesn't act like an aristocrat. He's also perfectly willing to work with lesser-blood trolls and even makes a pair of robotic legs for one on the bottom of the totem pole. His bigotry ends up getting him killed when Gamzee goes on a murderous rampage. Despite his obscene strength, he doesn't lift a finger to defend himself.
- Rudy of Kevin & Kell, while a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, has problems accepting an herbivore as his stepfather and the head of the family, yet gradually grows closer to Kevin over time, even making an anonymous call exposing himself as domesticated (a condition he finds deeply shameful) to Kevin's insurance agency so that Kevin won't lose his insurance. Even Kell, despite being in a Maligned Mixed Marriage, has some prejudice against felines; an arc focuses on her working on those prejudices.
- Cartman in South Park, surprisingly, is turning into this in the most recent seasons. After his scary encounter with "Jewpacabra" and subsequent proclaimed conversion to Judaism he argues in favor of an angry and malicious Torah/Old Testament god. And the entire plot of "Cartman Finds Love" revolves around his racist views manifesting in a need to hook Token up with the new black girl in class because they 'belong together'. The lengths he goes to prevent Kyle from mucking up is plan is pretty extraordinary.
- Cartman never actually states that he wants Token and the girl to be a couple because they are both black, but considering his attitudes in earlier episodes it's easy to think that.
- The Teen Titans episode "Troq" featured Val-Yor, an intergalactic space hero who enlists the Titans' help to defeat an otherworldly menace. Unfortunately, his people are extremely prejudiced against Starfire's people, and he repeatedly uses the slur "Troq" (meaning "nothing") when speaking to her. This prejudice appears to be the extent of his negative character, however, but it keeps him from learning a lesson in tolerance in the end and he ultimately parts with the Titans on chilly terms.
- Pakku from Avatar: The Last Airbender held sexist values for most of his life. When he was a teenager, his bigotry caused his fiancée Kanna note to leave him. After realizing this as an old man, he realizes that his ideas were wrong and starts to see women as equals. (For example, he trains Katara in combat waterbending, even though traditionally, female waterbenders are only allowed to use their powers for healing. He even admits that she's equal or better than his male students.) He even meets up with Kanna again, and after she realizes that he's changed, Kanna marries him, making him the grandfather of Sokka and Katara.
- Sokka is a bit sexist for the first few episodes, believing that women should Stay in the Kitchen and out of the fighting. After getting to know a group of female warriors firsthand and realizing their fighting capabilities, he realizes that his views were incorrect and learns to respect women and girls. Sokka's sexism then all but disappears after the first few episodes.
- A lot of characters in ThunderCats (2011) are this to some extent, most notably Tygra and Claudus, and the Cats in general. Claudus cares about and does a good job of ensuring the safety and well being of his people, and Tygra does have a good heart underneath his jerkish exterior, but both have a distinct dislike of Lizards, and Tygra holds a bad opinion of Dogs. These beliefs are common for most of the Cats living in Thundera though due to generations of conflict between the two.
- In the United States, the easiest targets would be the Founding Fathers, many of whom owned slaves. 'All men are created equal'? Several of the Founding Fathers vigorously fought against the "slavery clause" in the Declaration of Independence. A whole scene was devoted to this conflict in 1776.
- Particularly strange to modern people is that several of those founders who owned slaves still opposed slavery. Thomas Jefferson and John Jay are notable examples. They often justified this by saying that slavery had been forced on them by British economic policies; while this is a remarkably self-serving view, they did at least acknowledge that slavery was wrong.
- It's entirely possible that they knew that the abolition of slavery would take generations, but that they had bigger fish to fry at that moment. It's also possible that they doubted their own slave's ability to function in their society.
- Abraham Lincoln, while staunchly anti-slavery, did believe that white people tend to be smarter than black people.
- In his own words from the 1858 "Great Debates" with Stephen A. Douglas, "I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, or to intermarry with white people, and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the two races which I believe will forever forbid the two from living together on terms of social and political equality." Though, a number of his papers that were published posthumously suggest that those were not his beliefs, but he had to work within the political reality of the time; he was regarded as one of the most cunning politicians of his era after all. His friendship with Frederick Douglass undoubtedly helped to change his views.
- Lincoln also had a chequered history with the Indians, imposing harsh measures on the Lakota to win support from Midwestern homesteaders in the North.
- Alexander H Stephens, the Vice-President of the Confederate States of America, was a white-supremacist and a slave owner, but historically he treated his slaves with much more kindness and consideration than was usual for the time. During his pre-Civil War career as a US Congressman, he tried several times (very unsuccessfully) to get a bill passed which would have made abusing slaves and kidnapping runaway slaves living in a free state back to slavery illegal. He also held several individual black people in high regard.
- Winston Churchill was for a time a supporter of eugenics, but considered one of the great heroes of all time by many in America and Europe.
- Gandhi was against Indians helping in WWII and was struggling to remove a LOT of British power from Churchill. And Gandhi wasn't too fond of blacks. He helped many Indians in South Africa and when people asked why he didn't help blacks in the exact same situation he was dismissive towards their struggle. Now, this is because he believed blacks must inspire blacks and he was very open minded religiously but when it came to races Gandhi cared about Indians and mostly Indians.
- It was also alleged that Gandhi didn't care about the Jews, either, calling them as greedy and self-centered.
- Yet it was also alleged that he had a Jewish boyfriend, Hermann Kallenbach.
- Gandhi played this to the hilt when it came to lower caste Hindus. Although he always preached that they should be treated well and started calling them "Harijan" (children of god) but opposed institutional and legal measures that would have protected them from discrimination and always supported the institution of Caste itself. This is the main reason why B.R. Ambedkar, the most prominent campaigner against the caste system in India's history and the main author of the Indian constitution, was opposed to Gandhi politically.
- H.P. Lovecraft was a known racist most of his life, his beliefs clearly evidence in many of his works. He has no care for blacks, Jews or many other minorities. After becoming aware of the horrors of the Holocaust and the Nazi party he changed his tune considerably. It should be pointed out that Lovecraft died in 1937 so his exposure to the "horrors of the Holocaust" was minimal, to say the least.
- He was also married to a Jewish woman, making his casual antisemitism seem......very confusing.
- An urban myth states that Walt Disney was something of a casual anti-Semite in his early years, though there's never been any actual evidence to support this claim. Despite rumors to the contrary, possibly perpetuated by the Unfortunate Implications present in Song of the South, Disney was actually supportive of black rights causes (as well as rights for women and other minorities), which ended up making him a lot more progressive than (as well as often putting him at odds with) most of the other filmmakers in Hollywood at the time.
- In something of a subversion, despite making a number of racist cartoons Tex Avery actually had black friends and he gave them voice roles in those cartoons because it was the only way he could get them work.
- This was a similar case for Al Jolson. Despite being poster boy for the profoundly racist practice of Blackface, Jolson was close friends with his fellow black performers and fought to help them gain acceptance on Broadway. He's only seen as a Noble Bigot today because of Values Dissonance, since he intended his blackface act as a compliment and, believe it or not, black entertainers and audiences at the time took it as one.
- Ian Smith, the premier minister of Rhodesia. Despite all his racism, he was caring and benevolent ruler, while Mugabe was much more harsh racist. Under Smith's rule, life in Rhodesia was good for most of the people, including blacks, while Mugabe turned it into a starving hellhole and wiped out or exiled all the whites and his black opponents.
- Malcolm X, not a man known for his temperate rhetoric, was one of numerous civil rights activists to make disparaging comments about the Jews, identifying them as oppressors and drawing on age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews as greedy, unseen manipulators - all while fighting racism against blacks.
- Deconstructed by Ta-Nehisi Coates in his article "The Good, Racist People. He says the belief that racism is exclusive to "particularly evil individuals" allows Noble Bigots and the harm they cause to black people to remain invisible. He also discusses the widespread belief that if you know you are a racist - or are at least savvy enough to deny it - then that somehow makes you not racist.
- Dr. Seuss made his share of anti-Japanese cartoons, but these were mostly reflective of the times he was living in, and he deeply regretted them later in life.
- President Woodrow Wilson is noted for his domestic reforms during the Progressive Movement designed to protect people from big business, and his devotion to peace and democracy which led to the creation of the League of Nations (which would eventually be replaced with the United Nations). He was also a huge racist, and his administration segregated the federal government for the first time since the Civil War. (When civil-rights advocates criticized him for this, he expressed his belief that separatism was beneficial to people of all races.)
Mark: "So...it didn't really happen then?"
Mark: "Jesus Christ!"