Once Acceptable Targets
In the past, we like to think, there were many more Acceptable Targets than there are today. Back then, unlike the present, an easy source of humor was to select people with a different appearance, culture, religion or gender from the assumed audience, treat them as inferior, and make fun of them. Some of these targets are no longer popular. In some cases, times have changed, and what was funny in 1935 simply is not funny now. More importantly perhaps, changed economic and political circumstances have transformed some previously-despised target groups into valuable demographics that it is unwise to antagonise. Some feel, particularly those who would prefer to go on picking on these Once Acceptable Targets, that these changes can be "blamed" on Political Correctness Gone Mad. Black Comedy will laugh at Once Acceptable Targets as much as possible with the express purpose of causing a hostile reaction. In popular works that have Once Acceptable Targets as only part of the work, the offending parts of the work are often changed to suit modern tastes. For example, in Gilbert and Sullivan's 'The Mikado', the original lyrics to the song 'As some day it may happen' contains racial slurs that modern audiences will not appreciate. The lyrics are therefore changed so that the overall play can be shown without the distraction of the slurs. Incidentally, a group may be listed on this page as a Once Acceptable Target, and still be oppressed, persecuted, mocked, negatively stereotyped or discriminated against today. It's just not quite as universally endorsed anymore. See also Acceptable Targets, Unacceptable Targets, Positive Discrimination, Values Dissonance.
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Homosexuals: Until fairly recently, in the western world, gay men were considered the same as pedophiles, and lesbians were viewed as either evil (sometimes oddly asexual) succubi who tempt pure women away from their God-given duty to be sexually available to men, or man-hating raging feminists who would enjoy nothing more than severing a man's genitalia and set them on fire, if they were even acknowledged to exist at all. Changing times have resulted in more out-and-out gay people in Western media. Don't expect to see any bisexuals, though, unless Everyone Is Bi. Plus, of course, the mere existence of homosexuals used to be and still is considered hilarious. Possibly, this was owing to homosexuality making a lot of people uncomfortable and many people laughing to cover their discomfort. At any rate, Dick Emery's camp characters only had to allude to fancying a man, or one of the wives visiting the convicts in Porridge be shown to be a gay and there was a huge guffaw on the laugh track.
Pretty much everyone who is not English, French, or German. Unless they invaded your country, then they were fair game as well. (Like, if you're from England or France!) Black People: When Europeans carved out worldwide empires in the 15th to 19th centuries, they began buying African slaves in large quantities. Viewed as savages, indigenous Africans became an acceptable target for slavery. Many were brought to the English, Spanish, French, Dutch, or Portuguese colonies in the Americas to work as slaves alongside a dwindled population of enslaved Natives. After slavery was outlawed throughout the world, and in America after the Civil War, attitudes towards the descendants of these slaves changed little. Due to lack of education and social status, blacks have for a long time been portrayed as either big, dumb brutes or Uncle Tomfoolery. Minstrel Shows were popular forms of entertainment with Blackface performers acting like buffoons. Today, treatment varies with the setting. If the story is set in Darkest Africa, the black natives will usually be of the Noble Savage variety. In North America and Western Europe, a black person is generally portrayed as an ordinary person, albeit somewhat more streetwise than a white person, and with somewhat higher mortality. There's still the risk of a "gangsta" or Jive Turkey showing up, though. As a Positive Discrimination backlash against all this, the Magical Negro was created, but now he's a cliche, too.
- There was a Black and White Minstrel Show on British TV from the late 1950s until the 1970s.
- Japan, too. The average Japanese person has had very little interaction with black people, or foreigners in general and tend towards xenophobia. Still, you think they could do a Google search.
- Weirdest thing is, When this was popular, they didn't think it was silly. They thought it was COOL.
- This YouTube video about the "B-gyaru" (short for "Black gyaru") subculture pretty much sums up the point.
- Weirdest thing is, When this was popular, they didn't think it was silly. They thought it was COOL.
- There is a yearly recurring 'scandal' about the Dutch use of several black servants to a white bishop in the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas. The origin of Zwarte Piet ("Black Pete") is not completely clear, opinions vary between a defeated devil or a freed Moorish slave, but his depictions are clearly blackface. Nowadays, children are often told he is black because of soot from the chimney, but that doesn't explain the full red lips or black afro.
- Astérix has a popular recurring character who is drawn in a Black Face manner and speaks in a stereotypical accent (at least in France), and is particularly grotesque in the 60s and 70s albums. He was notably absent from 1996's The Secret Weapon (possibly as an attempt to modernise) but fan outcry led to him getting a big role in the next book Obelix All At Sea, as he's easily the most likeable pirate and something of an - ahem - Ensemble Darkhorse despite his design being contemptible. Thanks to a refined character design, he's a more reasonable caricature in Asterix and Obelix's Birthday (2009), but retains noticeably bright red lips (even if they aren't grotesquely huge and rubbery any more).
- In Urbanus one of the main characters is called "Het Negerke", which roughly translates as "The Little Nigger". The fact that the comic book series often makes Take Thats to black people (such as in one album where the son removes the spaghetti to replace it with worms only to hear after dinner that they loved the meal) does not help the thing at all. He is like his family appropriately drawn in blackface (though has no accent).
- Raj Koothrapali on The Big Bang Theory is a highly-regarded astrophysicist, somewhat averting the trope, but definitely pokes fun at it by turning it Up to Eleven.
- Goodness Gracious Me did much to send up and parody white British attitudes towards Indians and Pakistanis. The show took the stereotypes, turned up to eleven, and did much to render them untenable and ridiculous. The fact Asians have a lot of preconceptions of their own is another thing...
- Back in the '90s, Jonny Quest tried to avert this, by giving the Indian Hadji tremendous computer skills. Oops.
- Apu from The Simpsons, who runs the Kwik-E-Mart
- Baljeet, Danville's resident Bollywood Nerd from Phineas and Ferb.
- Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles gave the occasional exception to the American forgetfulness, when the racist locals at one point reluctantly agree to find some land for the black and Chinese workers aiding them against an army of thugs, but firmly state "But we don't want the Irish!"
- The Damnation of Theron Ware, by Harold Frederic, depicts all aspects of the Irish stereotype—Catholic via Father Forbes, Fiery Redhead through Celia Madden, and violent drunkard through her ape-like brother Michael. While the portraits offered are generally more complex and nuanced than mere stereotype, and it's made very clear that Theron is ultimately at fault for trying to be something he is not while throwing aside his faith in the process, they are still blamed for his "damnation" and overall not very flattering examples of the Irish.
- Last of the Mohicans was an early aversion, but it didn't exactly take.
- There was a brief window during World War II where Russians were America's heroic allies. Thus, Casablanca (1942) and Mission to Moscow (1943) contained some of the last depictions of sympathetic Russians for twenty years.
- It should be noted that we still tell Spaniard jokes, in which they are dumber than a brick, and we laugh at them. Actually it´s not funny BECAUSE they are Spaniards (this was the case some decades ago, impulsed probably by the many European inmigrants who came to Argentina during the early XX century, who usually had poor educations and got crappy jobs), but the jokes themselves are still considered funny.
- In Finland, all Swedish people are considered "fags". The historical reason for this stereotype is that Sweden decriminalized homosexuality in 1944, 27 years before Finland. Before decriminalization happened in Finland in 1971 many Finnish homosexuals moved to Sweden so they could live in peace, and the idea of homosexuality as "the Swedish disease" became common in Finnish popular culture. The stereotype of "Swedish fags" still lives on in Finland today, even though the history behind it is now largely forgotten.
- In Lake Wobegon, Norwegian bachelor farmers are portrayed as being ornery, cranky old geezers who are neglectful about personal hygiene.
- In Norway's neighbor to the east, Sweden, Norwegians are joked about as being a lot like what people in the northern United States would describe as rednecks.
- In Russia the Ukrainian jokes usually don't portray Ukrainians as dumb per se, but rather rustically cunning and extremely cheapskate, often too much for their own good, and lacking a sophistication/ignorant; them being largely transplanted jokes about peasants/rednecks. The thing is, Russians still have hard time imagining Ukrainians as a different nation, and mostly view them as those ignorant cousins from the countryside. In Ukraine itself the same stereotype is used by the city wellers against country bumpkins.
Catholics: The US has a strong Protestant tradition, from the Mayflower onwards, and for much of American history Catholics were a small minority which was viewed with great suspicion. It didn't help, either, that most American Catholics were either Irish (see above) or natives of non-English speaking European countries, tossing xenophobia into the mix. Anti-Catholic sentiment peaked in the 19th century, when it was widely believed in many Protestant circles, and claimed in many pamphlets and "true confession" novels, that the Catholic church was a secretive Satanic cabal which practiced human sacrifice and was plotting to destroy American democracy. These sentiments have waned enough over the years that John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, was able to narrowly win the 1960 presidential election, for John Kerry to come within a hair's breadth of doing the same in 2004, and for Joe Biden to be elected vice president in 2008, not to mention 6 of the current 9 Supreme Court justices, but even today there are a few holdouts convinced that the Church of Rome is evil. Jack Chick is probably the best known, but recent pedophilia-and-coverup scandals have pushed the Catholic church back towards an Acceptable Target in some eyes.
- In British history, discrimination switched between Catholics and Protestants depending on the religion of the ruler at the time. The current royal family is descended from Germans, because the Catholic James II was driven from the throne in 1688, and the nearest Protestant relatives were Mary and William of Orange, the Stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, who failed to produce an heir which caused the crown to pass to Mary's sister Anne, who also produced no heir, causing the crown to pass to George of Hanover. The Act Of Settlement of 1701 remains in force, barring any Roman Catholic, or person married to one, from succession to the throne, and requiring any monarch to be a member of the Church Of England. (This is partly justified in that the monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, so it helps if they're a member. Basically, it's all the fault of some fat Pommie king. Who, ironically, was a Catholic.)
- American Catholics were mistrusted partly because they were seen as having allegiance to a foreign power (the Vatican); Kennedy had to assure people that as President he would not be taking his marching orders from the Pope. Today, this prejudice has eased off considerably with the North American lay Catholic population becoming notorious for ignoring Papal directives such as ones against birth control and gay rights.
- In Ireland, the Catholic Church is very much an Acceptable Target, mainly due to the abuse scandals. One example is an episode of a political show made by the state broadcaster, RTÉ, based on a priest who had received allegations of child abuse. The show concluded that the priest was indeed a pedophile; turns out that the priest was completely innocent. Despite the director of the BBC stepping down in the wake of a similar scandal concerning Alistair McAlpine, RTÉ's director-general is still firmly in place.
Actors: At one time (generally from the 1600s up until the late 19th-early 20th century), actors, singers, and other entertainers were often viewed in a very negative light. Originally this was likely due to the Puritans and their views of anything filled with frivolity and fun, or which glamorized dishonesty (since pretending to be someone else, or telling fictional stories, is a form of lying) as a horrible sin. This idea had consequences ranging from the banning of Maypoles and other light-hearted festivals to the picketing and boycotting of theaters and the refusal by English rulers to authorize or endorse playwrights. Eventually such views faded, for which many Shakespearean scholars can be thankful, but when the Puritans crossed over to colonize America they brought this view with them. Probably thanks to the eventual conceit that anyone could achieve the American dream but only if they "pulled themselves up by their bootstraps", and the fact that being paid to act, dance, and sing not only appeared like laziness but was generally not a very good way of making a living (see the Starving Artist), this view persisted into the early 20th century, and in the late 19th showed up a great deal in literature. Prominent examples would be Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie and Paul Laurence Dunbar's The Sport of the Gods, as well as the Willa Cather short story, "A Gold Slipper". Nowadays, of course, it is much more feasible to make a lucrative career out of such a thing, even if the actor never becomes wildly successful. As such, it is less likely for a parent to discourage their child from following this path, although telling them that the odds of career success can be a real long shot with a lot of dues to pay is still a necessity. Certain stereotypes persist, such as the vapid self-absorbed millionaire and the limousine liberalnote , but an individual can easily shake these off through his or her actions. Of course, between the popularity of celebrity culture and the way politics (both governmental and within the acting world) enters into it, some might argue that people still disparage actors (or should), but for a different reason. Regardless, it is mostly a Discredited Trope. Amputees: Especially hand amputees wearing a hook, are almost invariably depicted as evil. Usually this is to add a creepy quality to a villainous character, and it could be made to make them look like a pirate, camp or otherwise. Given the large number of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who now have prostheses this has rapidly changed to mean that the likely assumption about anyone with this is a veteran, regardless of whether they actually are. In Canada, one of its greatest heroes is Terry Fox, a leg amputee whose attempt at an undreamed of cross-country philanthropic marathon inspired the world.
- Pirates are often depicted with peglegs or hooks, though this may be more to reinforce their badassery than villainy.
- This was also a bit of a Truth in Television, as the standard response to injury and infection on pirate ships (which were often far from ports and lacked medicines) was to take a saw to the injured or infected limb.
- "Zodiac Zig" Zigurski in The Hardy Boys novel Mystery of the Flying Express (who'd lost a hand trying to crack a safe with explosives).
- Played for laughs in Arrested Development "I'M A MONSTER!"
- Didi from My Name Is Earl. Subverted in that she really does have a legitimate reason to be upset with Earl; not only did he ditch her the morning after he slept with her when he found her prosthetic leg after she went to go make them some breakfast, but he stole money from her purse, and her car, as well as the aforementioned prosthesis. Double-subverted for the way she went about dealing with the whole situation.
- Cannibal Holocaust contained graphic scenes of real animal torture that was significant in turning the tide of thought against the abuse of animals in films, and popularised the standard of the No Animals Were Harmed label. This didn't keep there being more gratuitous Mockbusters capitalising on the controversy which turned the animal torture Up to Eleven.
- In Old French, left was "sinestre" and right was "dexter". Now, "gauche" is left and "droit" (which also means "straight"—as in "uncrooked, unbent") is right.
- Those originally come from Latin: sinister = "left", dexter = "right". Gauche comes from a Frankish word cognate to the English word walk, while droit comes from the Latin directus (meaning "straight"), from where English got the word direct.
- Also note that gauche is still used as a synonym for something being unacceptable, unfashionable, or a politically incorrect faux pas, while adroit is a word with positive connotations (agile, quick, clever). And the word "dexterous" has also come to mean being agile and clever, while "sinister" is a synonym for dark, wicked, and evil.
- Right is a synonym for correct. Left looks like an abbreviation for left over. Now think about any time you've heard "right/left hand side".
- Here more to think about: right (the direction) was indeed a semantic expansion of right ("correct"). The Old English word that left (again, the direction) descended from meant "idle, weak, useless".
- In Spanish "Derecho" (a word for "right", the direction) means also just and legitimate. It is also the word for the career of Law.
- Although oddly enough, "having left hand" is slang for diplomacy skills.
- Equally odd, a windstorm that has straight-line winds doing almost as much structural damage to buildings as a tornado would do is called a derecho, so if you hear your weatherman use that word, take cover immediately
- In Hungarian, right is "jobb", meaning "better". Left is "bal", which mostly corresponds to the English "ill-" prefix.
- The word ambidextrous, referring to people capable of writing or performing other tasks with both hands, literally translates as "right-handed with both hands." The implication is that using your right hand as your dominant hand is the correct way to behave, and ambidextrous people are capable of using their left hand as an extra right hand.
- This may have a (supposed) grounding in history—it also ties back into why we're supposed to shake with the right hand. Back in the days when carrying a weapon was in fashion, shaking hands was an easy way to say "hey, man, I'm not planning on killing you". The key was that you were supposed to shake with the right hand—so a left-handed person could both shake and attack.
- Inverted among the Zulu people of what is today South Africa. They used left-handed shaking as a sign of trust: because most Zulu warriors carried their weapons in their right hands and shields in their left hands, they had to drop their defenses to signal that they trusted the person to whom they were offering their hand. Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout movement, learned this character trait while he was stationed in the colonial military there and appropriated it for Scouting.
- The left hand is also the one you should supposedly use if you don't have access to toilet paper, making it exceptionally impolite to offer that hand to shake.
- Edgar Allan Poe's story "Never Bet the Devil Your Head" and this charming little story from a 19th-century children's magazine about a careless and stubborn left-handed boy.
- A very subtle one from The Simpsons which is never given direct reference — Bart is left-handed, and is a notorious trouble-maker.
- It should also be noted that many (maybe most) of Matt Groening's characters are left-handed. So while Bart is left-handed, so is Ned Flanders.
- In American Dad!, Steve's new black girlfriend is subjected to Discriminate and Switch from Francine, who had her own left-handedness beaten out of her by nuns at her foster home.
- A rare Gender Flipped example in Berserk Abridged. It plays much of the original series for humor, but it doesn't really play Guts' Rape as Backstory for laughs (it's at most, understated Black Comedy), and for this reason, the creator gave the series a happy ending, as there really wasn't a way to make the show's actual ending funny.
- Not really the defining trait of FATAL (that would be stupidity) but the factor that best exemplifies everything wrong with the game. By the rules of the society in which the game functions, rape is barely a crime, and rapists may well be commended for their despicable act while the victim is inevitably shunned by society for the rest of her life.
- Terry Pratchett perhaps says it best: "The main difference between Trekkies and Manchester United fans is that Trekkies never trashed a train carriage. So why are the Trekkies the social outcasts?"
- Lampshaded in this online sketch that addresses the hypocrisy then makes fun of both fans for their fandom.
- Many midget wrestlers like Hornswoggle and most recently, El Torito, have proven a challenge, even joining the Royal Rumble through Fandango had the embarrassment of being eliminated by the latter.
- This Sonic the Hedgehog commercial might just show as how "great" Nintendo fanboys were seen back then.
- A Sony focus group found that teenage boys would not want to admit to owning a Super NES. Most teenagers preferred to say that they owned a Genesis.