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Offending the Creator's Own
"Hey Phoebe, maybe you can help me understand something that's baffled women since the beginning of time: Why do they continue to be represented by shows that think a woman shouldn't even tell a dude she's breaking up with him before jumping on the date wagon? Why do they set up a double standard that makes all of us look stupid?"
Something is released to the public, and something in it offends a group of people, say for instance, Buddhists. Members of that group call in to complain and express their distaste, but there's a twist: the creator of the work is also a Buddhist!
Why would a Buddhist create something that offends Buddhists? Differences in opinion, most likely. Maybe this Buddhist isn't offended by certain things that offend others, and didn't realize there would be a problem. Or maybe they did realize there would be a problem, and plowed ahead because they felt membership in the group gave them particular insight into airing uncomfortable observations. The point is, that while works must be judged on their own qualities, the personal background of an author can serve to make any accusation of bias more complex to unravel. And in a world where the differences, both real and imaginary, make interaction all the more complicated, that's saying something.
For the record, it is just as condescending to presume all members of a group must share the same opinions about what is offensive, as to presume that anyone who offers a harsh depiction of a group must be an outsider: that's the same logic that leads people to argue that something isn't offensive to a group because they have a friend from that group who's okay with it. And that way lies madness.
Note that intentionally mocking your own group, particularly for comedic reasons, is Self-Deprecation
(sometimes overlapping with N-Word Privileges
), a different trope. May result from Poe's Law
. Compare Stop Helping Me!
, Stop Being Stereotypical
. Note that this may not stop those most offended from branding the creator in question as a Category Traitor
and/or Boomerang Bigot
, wrongfully or otherwise. The inverse is Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales
, where a depiction of a group of people by an outsider that some might consider stereotypical or negative is nevertheless embraced by real members of that group. Compare My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting
, where the creator is offending their own country.
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Artworks and Exhibitions
- ''Snow White and The Madness of Truth'' was a Swedish art-installation about suicide bombing that caused a lot of controversy. It was accused of being anti-Semitic and eventually the Israeli ambassador to Sweden personally went to vandalize the installation. The artist behind the installation is Israeli-born and Jewish.
- Cartoonist Robert "Buck" Brown did a great many cartoons for Playboy, many featuring his Granny character. Others had to do with race relations, in a humorous way. One, which featured a soul food restaurant in the inner city called "Sho 'Nuff Boss Chow", started a firestorm of protest that he was a racist. Brown was African-American.
- Sex and the City 2 features a gay wedding scene. The problem? It's staged like a cross between Swan Lake and a bizarre Broadway musical number, complete with absurd, gaudy costumes. This led Salon's Andrew O'Hehir to ask: "Can a gay wedding scene staged by a gay director still be homophobic and offensive?" The answer? Yes.
- Some people complained that the Bridge to Terabithia movie contained messages mocking Christians. One character questions whether God would go around damning people to Hell, and another character says that a pagan girl would go to heaven after death for having been a good person, in spite of not being a Christian. The author of the book on which the movie is based is a Christian, though apparently a more moderate or liberal one than the Christians she offended with her open message. In fact, the author's parents were missionaries to China, and the author herself is married to a Presbyterian minister.
- Some Roman Catholics protested against Kevin Smith's Dogma as blasphemy. Smith is a practicing Roman Catholic himself, though his personal beliefs are not completely typical of the church. Smith pranked the protesters by joining their ranks for a photo-op.
- Some people criticized the film The Last Airbender because the good guys are played mostly by white actors, but evil Zuko by an Indian. The brutal Fire Nation as a whole gets a Race Lift to darker-skinned actors. Director M. Night Shyamalan is Indian himself, and indeed stated in one interview that Anti-Villain Zuko was his favorite character. Presumably, this would have been lessened after Zuko's Character Development, but considering the original movie's negative reception, we're pretty much left with a world of mighty light people beating up evil dark people.
- The film Mohammad Messenger Of God was produced and directed by Moustapha Akkad, a Muslim who consulted Muslim clerics on how to avoid giving offense (for instance, any scene where Muhammad is present is shot from his point of view to avoid depicting him). That didn't prevent an extremist attack on the film's premiere.
- Iron Sky pokes fun at Finland, which meekly admits that they are the only country that didn't think to violate treaties and arm their spaceship. They're therefore useless in the fight against Space Nazis. The director is Finnish and the film was financed in part by Finns. Since the movie ends with the non-Finnish nations murdering civilians on the moon and starting a nuclear war, you could argue that Finland comes out looking good. (If the film really wanted to insult the Finns, it would have brought up how Finland was briefly a member of the Axis during World War II.)
- The Justin Bieber documentary Never Say Never managed to offend not just Bieber's home country, but specifically his home town of Stratford, Ontario, by portraying it as a cultural wasteland to make his rise to fame a more inspirational story of overcoming the odds. Stratford is home to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, one of the most prestigious theatre festivals in the world.
- The character Borat often makes antisemitic remarks, which would be very offensive if one wouldn't know that the actor who plays him, Sacha Baron Cohen, is a very devout Jewish man himself. In fact, his fake "Khazak" language is actually Hebrew.
- Mel Brooks has occasionally been accused of being Anti Semitic - To Be or Not to Be in particular attracted this criticism. Brooks is, of course, Jewish.
- Lucio Fulci was a Catholic, though several of his pictures have been accused of being anti-Catholic (e.g. Don't Torture a Duckling was banned in the United States for years on account of a priest being depicted as a serial killer with good intentions, and City of the Living Dead starts with a priest hanging himself in a cemetery and then coming back as a murderous demon).
- Oliver Stone has come in for heavy criticism from the political right over the years for mocking the military, among other things. In fact, Stone served in the Vietnam War.
- C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia has been alternately seen as too Christian and not Christian enough, depending on whom you're asking. Lewis himself was a former atheist turned Christian via an old friend.
- In particular, some extreme fundamentalists in the USA have accused the books of being "pagan" or "occultist" due to the inclusion of supernatural beings from Classical Graeco-Roman mythology among Narnia's native sentients.
- Harry Potter is accused of being stealth propaganda for Satanists, but J. K. Rowling herself is a Christian and in interviews has stated that the magic in her books was inspired by Narnia.
- It is easy for a modern-day reader to view many of the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo (Confessions, City of God) as overly harsh and even bigoted toward non-Christians. In fact, St. Augustine was a pagan himself for a good portion of his life, and much of the condemnation in his writings arguably was aimed at himself and his former lifestyle.
- The Satanic Verses by (at the time) Muslim author Salman Rushdie became famous in no small part because it offended his own so much that the religious leader of Iran issued a fatwa against him which is technically still in effect (though Rushdie himself has said that he no longer considers his life to be in serious danger from it).
- Many Torchwood fans furiously denounced Ianto being Killed Off for Real in Children Of Earth as homophobic, even though the show's creator, Russell T. Davies, is probably the highest-profile openly gay man in British TV. Unfortunately for Russell, he's a romanticist in the 'I shall but love thee better after death' sense, and can't help killing off his couples. It's in his bones.
- In the 2005 series of Doctor Who, Rose says that the Doctor is "so gay." Russell T. Davies was the showrunner of this series at the time as well, and wrote the episode in question ("Aliens of London") himself.
- The Wire creator David Simon has gotten flak for the character of shameless drug lawyer Maurice Levy, who frequently exhibits Jewish mannerisms and stereotypes. Simon is Jewish and insisted that he knew the drug lawyers upon which Levy is based and they were all, in fact, Jewish. The sympathetic lawyer of the show is also Jewish, but you'd never know it.
- Barry Letts co-wrote and directed the Doctor Who story "Planet of the Spiders" as a deliberate parable expressing his own Buddhist beliefs. He was upset to receive letters from Buddhists protesting about the use of the "Jewel in the Lotus" mantra "Om mani padme hum" in the context of villains summoning up alien monsters, although defending himself on the grounds that the story explicitly described it as the misuse of something usually good.
- Hogan's Heroes has come under fire from various sides more or less for the implications of featuring the Third Reich in a comedic context. However, much like Mel Brooks' intent (see below), the Germans' roles were played by Jewish actors who had served in the U.S. armed forces and wouldn't have allowed the Nazis to be viewed in a positive light even once (one of them was a Holocaust survivor, two others had been in camps, and those three had lost family to Nazi atrocities). Despite using Politically Correct History in many respects and fudging some of the facts for the sake of entertainment, the show does (correctly and importantly) make distinctions between POW camps and concentration camps, and between Nazis and the Germans simply caught up in the whole mess (the former being unambiguously villains when they did appear, the latter strongly embodied by Sgt. Schultz, the Minion with an F in Evil).
- A common criticism of The Big Bang Theory among self-identified "nerds" is that it is "nerdface" and laughs at nerds rather than with them. Given that they tend to get their nerd-culture and science references meticulously correct, it can be reasoned that there are at least a few nerds working on the show, although they may simply be fact-checkers that have little to no say on the characters or story.
- Played as a subtle joke on Rome where all main characters are played by Brits:
: I would follow you to Hades, to Britain even
, if I thought we had the right.
- Mel Brooks' Hitler Rap was widely criticized as insenstive to Jews, if not actually anti-Semitic. In an interview for 60 Minutes, Brooks stated that his life's goal was to reduce Hitler to a figure of such ridiculousness that no one would ever take his ideas seriously again (If the numerous Tonys that The Producers won are any indication, it's working) Being both Jewish and a World War II veteran, if anyone has N-Word Privileges to joke about Adolf Hitler it's him.
- Jacques Brel caused a lot of controversy during his career for writing satirical songs offending the Flemish. Despite speaking French Brel called himself Flemish and thus felt he had the right to criticize his own people.
- It has been said about Madonna that only a Catholic could piss off the Catholic Church as much as she used to. Especially during the Eighties, her highly sexual persona and use of Catholic imagery (with "Like a Prayer" being the most notorious) earned her the ire of the Catholic Church more than a few times. Some have even claimed that Madonna's very name is offensive, that she chose it specifically to mock the Virgin Mary. In fact it is her actual birth name, given to her by her devoutly Catholic parents.
- Tom Araya of Slayer, one of the lead Rock Me, Asmodeus! bands, is a Catholic who said that his band's music will "never interfere with what I believe and how I feel."
- Similarly to the above, Ralph Santolla a Catholic, was a lead guitarist in Deicide, one of the most vocally anti-Christian bands in death metal.
- At one point, foul-mouthed proto-punk Ian Dury was accused of mocking the disabled with a song called "Spasticus Autisticus" by several disabled rights groups. Dury was himself disabled (partially paralysed due to childhood polio) and recorded the song as a combative response to requests that he get involved with the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, which he considered to be patronising in its whole approach to the subject. In 2012, the song got a prominent place in the opening ceremony of the London Paralympics.
- Michael Jackson's Thriller opens with a disclaimer that "Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult. - Michael Jackson", inspired by Jackson's then-current involvement with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
- Dungeons & Dragons was the target of a Satanic moral panic from Christian groups during the 80s. There were even rumors that a Christian children's charity had refused a donation made in creator Gary Gygax's name when he died, though the rumor was false. Gygax was actually an outspoken Christian, and even included a verse from the Gospel of Matthew in his e-mail signature.
- LittleBigPlanet has a song that had to be modified to have the lyrics removed, as it had verses from the Koran and "might offend Muslims", as many Muslim clerics and scholars agree not to make verses of the Qur'an incorporated into entertainment. The composer, however, is a Muslim himself.
- Sandy Petersen, one of the level designers for Doom, is a Mormon, and is quoted by John Romero as saying "I have no problems with the demons in the game. They're just cartoons. And, anyway, they're the bad guys." Students of Petersen's recent game design courses say that he has maintained this stance.
- My Ex-Boyfriend The Space Tyrant features a young, openly gay Twink in a barely-there shirt and booty shorts as its protagonist, most of the men are equally as buff and scantily clad, their spaceship has bright pink everywhere, and the doors are phallic-shaped. The developer himself is gay, but it didn't stop Steam Train fans, some of them gay men themselves, from either getting offended or rolling their eyes when Danny, Arin, and Ross decided to play it on the show.
- The Boondocks tends to be thoroughly unencumbered by political correctness in its satire of African American culture, and has more than once managed to offend black public figures despite creator Aaron Mc Gruder being black himself. The alternate history episode featuring MLK Jr. waking up from his coma only to be vocally disgusted with the current culture among African Americans (and then decried as a race traitor for voicing this opinion to their faces) was a particularly controversial (and meta) example.
- South Park: The character Cartman is a raving antisemite, who at least Once an Episode bullies Kyle for being Jewish. This has caused some moral watchdogs to accuse the show of being antisemitic, despite the fact that one of its creators, Matt Stone, is Jewish, albeit not by faith.
- And also despite the fact that there are far worse things you could accuse Cartman of...
- Family Guy: In the episode "Extra Large Medium" Chris dates a girl, Ellen, who has Down syndrome. This, and the fact that it is implied in the episode that Ellen's mother is Sarah Palin, whose son has Down syndrome, caused a lot of controversy. Yet, the role of Ellen was played by actress Andrea Fay Friedman, who has Down syndrome herself. That being said, her lines were written in a rather transparent expression of the writers' own political views.
- Of course, once Palin herself criticized the show, the voice-actress wrote an open letter telling Palin to "get a sense of humor", as seen on Palin's page on this wiki.
- A small number of Scots (mainly Scots-Americans of distant Scottish ancestry) condemned Brave for offensive ethnic caricatures (and for overshadowing the native Scottish-made film Sir Billi) despite the number of well-known Scottish actors who happily did voices for it. Conversely, Scotland as a whole embraced the movie wholeheartedly.
- The British cartoon Rastamouse was attacked by some people as ethnic stereotyping, despite its co-writer Michael de Souza being a Rastafarian from Trinidad.