Politically Correct History is when shows set in the past change that past to fit the cultural norms of the time in which the show is filmed — or the prejudices of those currently in power. Originally, this manifested itself through making the main characters surprisingly "enlightened" (and thus more sympathetic to a modern audience). An example of a more recent development is extras being cast without regard to race, even in historical situationswhere it doesn't make sense.
Conversely, people may judge the entire past by one particular era. Many people assume that all of history until The Sixties was as straitlaced as the Victorian era, or else rife with racism and the like, which causes them to assume that historically accurate characters and situations are Politically Correct History. For example, black cowboys in recent depictions of the Old West are not a Race Lift, inasmuch as many freedmen did go west; it's their absence from 1930s-50s cowboy movies that was politically correct for that era. And there are plenty of other examples of popular culture conditioning us to expect less-than-enlightened behavior from our ancestors.
This is Older Than Feudalism. Even the Ancient Romans indulged in Politically Correct History, to the point that (given the dearth of primary sources) nobody can be completely sure if any of the Roman historians we know told the truth about anything.
Naturally, historical accuracy should not be expected for works that clearly take place in The Theme Park Version of their genre: if your story already concerns King Arthur and Robin Hoodteaming up to fight a Humongous Mecha, it may be to the story's detriment to depict realistic social and race relations. Racism is a heavy-thinking topic, and would likely just get in the way of the entertainment goals of the production. The true litmus test is how seriously the work appears to take itself. The more so, the less excuse there is for whitewashing.
Note that political correctness has not always been merely an accusation leveled against the political left by the political right. The term may be used to describe something "corrected" to any political dogma. What is politically correct to one group might be highly offensive to another. One of the most extreme historical examples is found in a parenting book written in 1913. The writer claimed that the Puritan gentlewoman Grace Mildmay advocated beating children black and blue to cure them of lying and other faults; he even quoted her on the subject at length. But he made it all up. Not only is the quote not found in her papers, she was actually a strong opponent of physical discipline. Nevertheless, readers lapped the fake quote up because it supported their view of child-raising. Even now, this manufactured quote can be found in modern books promoting physical discipline of children.
This is an interesting trope in that it will anger people at both ends of the Western political spectrum. People on the right will be annoyed at what seems to them like Political Correctness Gone Mad. People on the left, however, might be absolutely livid, believing that the work is being sardonic or mocking, or even that it's trying to silence social criticism with a Rose Tinted Narrative ("See, things weren't all that bad back then, so quit whining").
What's especially frustrating about this trope is the "all-or-nothing" stance its practitioners implicitly take toward historiography. To them, either the past had to be exactly like the present or it is completely incompatible with the modern era. Very rarely do we see anything in between. It would be more reasonable show the past as what it really was. On the subject of race, for example, you could show nonwhite characters comfortably integrated into at least some circles of white society but disproportionately absent from the upper echelons. Or you could show white characters unwilling to actively associate with other races but still free of overt racial bigotry.
The reverse of this gets you variations of The Dung Ages. Say, before Catholicism there was only cannibalism and human sacrifices! Or, before socialism there was only endless poverty and slavery! Or, before feminism the whole of human history consisted of women in the kitchen and men beating them with horsewhips! Just as easy, cheap, and tempting for a Writer on Board as a straight use.
The direct inversion of this trope is Society Marches On. This occurs when a work tries to predict the future, possibly catching relatively minor societal details like the expanding prevalence of the computer, but missing things like the Civil Rights Movement or increased gender equality. Works like this depict a world where digital technology is everywhere, but schools are still segregated and women aren't expected to do much except push the right buttons for the auto-oven to make dinner for when her husband comes home.
See also Popular History, Fair for Its Day, Videogame Historical Revisionism, Eternal Sexual Freedom, Aluminum Christmas Trees, We All Live in America, America Wins the War, Black Vikings, Historical Hero Upgrade, Historical Villain Upgrade, and Historical Villain Downgrade.
Contrast Deliberate Values Dissonance.
Compare Fractured Fairy Tale, where this is usually Played for Laughs.
For other uses of the term Politically Correct, see Political Correctness Gone Mad.
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A Bluebell ice cream ad has a cute, gentle song about "the good old days" while some kids play outdoors and their mom call them in for a snack, harkening very much to the 50s or earlier. Only thing is, a black child is playing with them, and the boy's father sits down at the picnic table with the families of his white friends to eat. Someone seems to have forgotten that racial equality didn't really begin to take off until the late 60s and early 70s, and even then, things remained quite tenuous for years, particularly out in the countryside - even if those families themselves weren't racist, they might avoid associating with blacks due to their neighbors.
In episode 3 of Oda Nobuna no Yabou, several characters talk of marriage. While they do talk about marrying for political gain and alliances, ultimately they conclude that it's more about love. While commoners may or may not have done this in the past (and certainly in Yoshiharu's timeline), back around this time period through much of the world nobility often married for political reasons, largely in an attempt to unite lands or nations together.
Black Butler includes significant Indian and Chinese characters, as appropriate to Victorian Britain. However, they are portrayed as encountering very little, if any, racial discrimination for people living in the age of imperialism.
One of DC Comics's many Else Worlds storylines has the Justice League of America back in Wild West times. Wonder Woman was a sheriff... and showed a HECK of a lot of chest, as in her modern day outfit (though she wore pants). Sure, the town she was sheriff of was indicated to be progressive, but she spent a lot of time wandering through other towns and didn't get hassled for being a woman with guns with half her boobs hanging out.
The old west was one of the few places it was even remotely possible for a woman to rise to such a position; in some western towns women had the right to vote before the 20th century. Yes, there were a lot of prostitutes, but that only means that there were a lot of women who didn't have to bend to the will of a husband, were not held to unfair standards of chastity, and could be independent business women. There a woman like Wonder Woman could be respected in her own right instead of resented as an attacker of the entrenched patriarchal order.
Played with when Hob Gadling criticizes everything while accompanying his current girlfriend to a Renaissance Fair.
"It's just someone's idea of the English Middle Ages crossed with bloody Disney Land."
Dream's reaction to Hob Gadling's occupation as a slave trader could be considered a straight example of this trope: He tells Hob, in 1789, to find another line of work because "it is a poor thing to enslave another." This seems a bit out of character for Dream, who at this point in his timeline doesn't seem to have much compassion for anyone.
Eventually justified, at least in the Howling Commandos; they're a special unit hand-picked by Fury himself. If he thinks an African-American soldier is a good addition to his line-up, the military isn't going to tell him no. Per Word of God, one of the intentions when creating the Howling Commandos was to include as many minorities as possible, so readers could confront any prejudices they might have against any of those ethnicities. Stan Lee even threw in a Camp Straight.
Partly an example of Reality Is Unrealistic. Black soldiers actually served in integrated rifle companies as early as 1945. Still the entire US military was not integrated until 1948. Heck, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower selectively integrated some black soldiers into his forces in 1944 in real life (he was running low on men, but even then, his aides advised strongly against it), so a small force with a leader as respected as Rock or Fury should have been able to do the same.
In the modern stories of Captain America in his World War II years, Cap is depicted as a man with none of the prejudices that a typical American at that time would be considered perfectly reasonable unspoken assumptions like racism, sexism or homophobia. Often justified with Captain America representing America as it should be and what the American spirit claims to represent rather than America it may actually be (this tension drives a lot of his plotlines that involve friction with the government). Also, it's not like everyone in the era was like that - Kurt Vonnegut, to name one example, fought in the war, and Steve Rogers was an intelligent artist from liberal New York before he enlisted, so he probably wouldn't be that mainstream in his views.
Astérix is not very politically correct at all, but lapses into this occasionally (possibly to indicate how weird the Gauls are compared to the Gallo-Romans and Romans, but also possibly as part of Purely Aesthetic Era). For instance, How Obelix Fell Into The Magic Potion When He Was A Little Boy (which shows the education in the Gaul village) and The Big Fight (which shows the Roman-style education in a village run by a chief with a huge Foreign Culture Fetish for all things Roman) show little girls being educated alongside little boys, being taught things like language and Maths - and young adult Panacea is said to have returned from studying in the city with the implication it was at something like a university. We don't know very much about how the Brittanic tribes educated their children, but we do know that the Romans very rarely educated girls.
The Gauls mostly fit the popular description from Cicero - that the only two things they care about are getting drunk and fighting - but the more unsavory descriptions of their culture from the same accounts are omitted, since some of it includes cannibalism and human sacrifice that would make them much less likeable heroes, not to mention hard-to-draw behaviour like wearing complicated tattoos.
Enforced in the Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfic A Century Apart. Due to the death toll of the Second Impact in 1900, armies from all parts of the world, including Imperial Japan, are forced to accept women, but the older officers are still grumpy about this. If the Second Impact didn't happen, there would be no difference.
Films — Animated
Inverted in Mulan, of all the surprising places. In the original Chinese folktale, Mulan is an almost all-powerful figure who gets away with practically everything, despite being a woman — this in a time where being a girl was... not so much fun. In the Disney version, the simple repercussions of her merely being female are treated more seriously. For example, in the original story, when she reveals herself to be a woman, everyone in the army is totally cool with it. In the Disney Animated Canon version? She is automatically declared a traitor, is spared death only because the army captain Owes Her His Life, and is abandoned in the mountains to meet whatever fate may come to her despite the fact that she's injured.
Mind, the original Mulan had been their general for a while and saved the empire by literal force of arms and stuff already by the time she voluntarily revealed herself. This probably helped, but does not make a suitably dramatic story.
Mulan was actually criticized for taking this too far, as in this time period women were not as oppressed as would become the norm in later dynasties (beginning with the Ming Dynasty), and there was no law in China prescribing death to women impersonating a man to serve in the military, nor was that part of the original story. It was added by Disney for dramatic purposes.
Mulan 2, however, plays this trope completely straight when Mulan goes on a crusade against arranged marriage. Traditions and societies are very resistant to change, especially in a country as all-fired huge as China. Famed war hero or not, you couldn't just defy the Emperor's orders and marry off the princesses to your own soldiers. Even in the most open-minded of Chinese dynasties, something like that wouldn't have gone over very well. The fact that she managed to be completely pardoned for it and be able to give a lecture about how arranged marriage — something she was knowingly and willingly ready to do in the first movie — is bad makes the entire film one big Politically Correct History movie.
The Disney-esque Anastasia shows the Tsars as benevolent, white-hat rulers and their rule as a time of prosperity. Their downfall was caused not by injustices setting off an uprising, but by a "spark of unhappiness" sent across Russia by the evil magician Rasputin. This is played in contrast to how terrible and cold Russia became under the Soviets, with the citizens of St. Peterburg singing, "Oh, since the Revolution, our lives have been so grey!" This is what made Anastasia so infamous in Russia, because Russians know very well that war and starvation caused by the Romanovs' mismanagement of the country drove the people into revolution.
In Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which is set in 1914, the Atlantis expedition includes, among others, a female Hispanic mechanic, a half-African, half-Native American medical officer and a female second-in-command. A justification is provided, though: the team's core is comprised of mercenaries - which put petty little things like ethnicity aside in the Search for More Money - and was assembled by Crazy AwesomeEccentric Millionaire Whitmore, who doesn't care much about what people say is 'impossible'.
Films — Live-Action
Birth of a Nation (1915) portrays the conditions of slavery as mild, slaves as happy, and Reconstruction as a period of political domination of the South by corrupt, arrogant and unqualified blacks and misguided white idealists, to which the heroic Ku Klux Klan was a tragically necessary corrective. This view of Reconstruction was a commonly held one among historians of the time (including President Woodrow Wilson!), and practically unquestioned among white Southern historians. Especially striking to modern viewers is the scene where the Klansmen and Northern whites who have settled in the South join forces to, as the title card puts it, "defend their Aryan birthright."
Gone with the Wind portrays the relationship between Scarlett and her slaves as one of friendship rather than one of master and slave.
Song of the South (which skirts the line between live-action film and animation) gets criticized for portraying Uncle Remus as a happy-go-lucky Magical Negro who enjoys his life in the post-Civil War Deep South.
It often gets slightly more flak than even it deserves, when people incorrectly believe that the film is pre-Civil War in setting, and that Uncle Remus is a happy slave.
Kingdom of Heaven is essentially the tale of a bunch of 12th-century secular Humanists fighting for peace and tolerance, opposed by Templars both literal and figurative. Appropriately enough, one historical figure's name was changed from "Barisan" to "Godfrey", a homonym for his anachronistic stance on religion. Near the end of the film, Bloom's character gives a speech to the defenders of Jerusalem, in which he argues that the Christians have no special claim to the city above the claims of the Jews and Muslims. The population is shockingly open-minded about this statement. Just to make sure viewers got the point, all the priests were self-serving jerks, and the villains were turned into Templars, despite them having been secular nobles in Real Life.
Early advertising presented the film as a love story set during the Crusades rather than an examination of religious violence.
One thing that Downfall was criticized for was glossing over the part where the main character was raped repeatedly (along with thousands of other women in the city) by the Soviet forces that overran Berlin.
The final scene, showing the woman walking completely unmolested through hundreds of Russian soldiers, despite the fact she is an attractive woman wearing German army uniform, is especially jarring to those aware of the real history of the soviet conquest of Berlin.
The concept might have been accurate, but the phrasing was not. The conservatives' comment of "Ever to the Right/ Never to the Left" would make no sense since the idea of Left and Right as political ideology would not come about until the French Revolution.
Mel Gibson's The Patriot is guilty of exaggerating British atrocities during the American Revolutionary War whilst downplaying similar actions from the American side to non-existence.
And the whole issue of slavery is written out by making the workers on the hero's plantation freedmen... in the colonial South, no less. This trope takes the cake, though, when Occum is seen reading a poster, courtesy of the Continental Congress, saying all slaves who fight for the Continental Army would be granted their freedom and given a pension. Both sides treated slaves fairly badly, in actual fact.
Although the Royal Governor of Georgia made this offer to those slaves willing to fight for the Crown. About a hundred and fifty who took him up on it actually survived to be evacuated with the rest of the British forces.
There was also the scene where the British burned a church containing almost an entire village, including Ben's son's new wife and her family. This is technically accurate, except it was the American military who did this, and the church contained British loyalists.
The 2009 Sherlock Holmes in which Rachel McAdams plays Irene Adler. Adler has no problem running around London in very tight pants, and is depicted as something of a Victorian era Catwoman. Interestingly, this depiction is consistent with Doyle's 1891 depiction in which Adler both flouts and manipulates Victorian stereotypes to her advantage.
There is also the fact that, in the second film, Holmes and Watson openly and blatantly dance together in a room filled with diplomats, and receive nothing but a few odd looks. This is in a film set in a time where homosexuality was not just frowned on but illegal.
Then again, and as The Dandy trope shows, many things we consider "obviously" homosexual were not at the time. The fact that Holmes nonchalantly changes from a female dancing partner to a male one to the same female again during the same song would more likely be seen as an extravagant joke rather than as an honest confession that Holmes plays for both teams.
Although A Knight's Tale features a heaping helping of Anachronism Stew, the female armorer is not a part of it. Wives of tradesmen often helped their husbands work the family business, and widows were allowed to carry on their husband's business themselves. The alternative was often starvation. In the film, the woman mentions that she is the widow of an armorer.
Well, that's not to say that they couldn't still be looking down on her, about the same way they'd look down on an untrained apprentice trying to take up his master's work... And then there's also the fact that they referred to her as "farrier." For anyone who doesn't know that term, it would be accurate when William claims the others said she was "great with horse shoes but shite with armor."
Some viewers mistakenly accuseHollywoodland of this trope, due to the presence of black patrons in an upper-class Hollywood restaurant in the 1950s. On the commentary, however, the director defends this, saying that in the 50s many of these restaurants were not segregated, and a number of popular Jazz musicians did frequent them.
A weird in-universe example occurs in the movie CSA: The Confederate States of America, where the South won theAmerican Civil War. After the war ends, there's a strong effort to repaint the North as misguided, with the issue of slavery swept under the rug. As the announcer put it, "The Civil War became civil". This parallels our own timeline's whitewashing of the horrors of the antebellum south.
Nearly all films set in any time in history prior to the 20th century depict the (noble) characters with far better hygiene than they realistically would have had. Especially noticeable is the general lack of smallpox scars pre-19th century.
In Annie Get Your Gun, Annie gives up her sharp-shooting career to marry Frank Butler. In reality, the opposite was true: Butler began courting Annie Oakley after losing a sharp-shooting contest to her, and their marriage helped launch Oakley's public career. Considering it was made in the 50s, the film was politically correct history — for its time.
On the other hand, Annie Oakley in real life wasn't always the brash sharpshooter which she is generally portrayed in media. If anything, she was a very quiet woman who would frequently do needlepoint in her spare time.
She was also opposed to the suffrage movement. Paradoxically, her being a sharpshooter with a rifle would not have turned that many heads in the late 19th Century Midwest, and then only because she was shooting a rifle instead of the more heavily used shotgun.
Dances with Wolves had an interesting one: Pawnee attacking a white settlement. The Pawnee were the allies of the United States.
This can actually become jarring in film adaptations of pre-existing works. Consider the gender politics in old film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, where Elizabeth is a strong-willed and opinionated woman and Darcy a cold, arrogant bastard, to later ones, where Elizabeth has metamorphed into a ravening bitch and Darcy her whipped puppy-man.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was incredibly progressive for his time, advocating interracial marriages and women's suffrage, in a time when both were borderline illegal and even talking about them without showing signs of repulsion could cause one to be ostracized; however, similarly to Uncle Tom's Cabin, "A Scandal in Bohemia" has been misinterpreted nowadays by some as being denigrating towards women, because it shows "the Woman" who is able to outwit a man as someone remarkable — (never mind that man was Sherlock Freaking Holmes). Therefore, in the 2009 movie, Irene Adler went from the only woman able to outwit Holmes (three unnamed men are also mentioned in the books) to the only person to be able to outwit Holmes. Part of the reason she outwitted him was that his plan to beat her basically relied on her being an easily-led moron, and he found it remarkable that she wasn't, so in essence Holmes lost because his attitude was biased in a sexist manner.
Played with in Wild Wild West. Jim West is treated pretty much exactly as you'd expect a black man to be treated in the late 19th century... even though he's a commissioned officer in the Army, prior to when the first black man actually held such a rank at the time.
Captain America: The First Avenger was criticized for including Gabe Jones as part of the Howling Commandos, due to the fact that the army was still segregated at that point in history. However it's largely moot anyway since the Howling Commandos were handpicked by Captain America in the first place: strike forces assembled from different army units are 'temporary' and don't have to adhere to certain regimental regulations, so Cap may have found a good use for Loophole Abuse.
While the film unfortunately did not mention the segregation, it did include a scene where Japanese American soldier Jim Morita was initially regarded with suspicion by a white soldier.
Dum Dum Dugan (upon seeing Morita): "We're rescuing everyone now?"
Morita (holding up dog tags): "I'm from Fresno, ace!"
In King David, starring Richard Gere, King David falls in love with Bathsheba and sends her husband, Uriah, to the front lines of an army to die. In the movie, Bathsheba claims that Uriah whips her to make David more sympathetic. In the actual story from The Bible, there is no mention of Uriah beating his wife. The whole point of the story was that even King David was a flawed person. The film keeps a scene from the Bible in which the prophet Nathan chastises David for his sins, which leads to a Broken Aesop.
Not to mention the simple fact that a confession one's husband beat one in those days would have led to the question; "What did you do wrong?"
In the Chinese martial arts biopic Ip Man, there are several changes to history to make the film more Communist-friendly. In the film, the title character is a bourgeois martial arts teacher who is forced to join the working class during the Japanese invasion. He then leaves the mainland for Hong Kong to escape the Japanese. In reality, Ip Man had a day job as a police officer and never worked as a laborer. Also, he was a supporter of the Kuomintang, the enemies of the Communists. He fled to Hong Kong to escape the Communists, not the Japanese.
The Shirley Temple movie, The Littlest Rebel, has Shirley being friends with the slaves that work on her father's plantation. When someone questions why the slaves would want to be freed, Shirley says, "Makes you think, doesn't it?" As if there's no problem with slavery.
A Man for All Seasons: Sir Thomas More is shown as a calm and rational judge who politely but firmly discusses his views with others. In reality, he was a Knight Templar who ruthlessly suppressed "heretics", which included Protestants and anyone who dared to make unauthorised translations of The Bible into English (he did support the vernacular, but not any of the Protestant-inspired translations then extant). It also leaves out his love of Cluster F Bombs while debating Martin Luther. Of course violent and scatalogical language was common on both sides of the religious debate (read some of Martin Luther). And while More certainly supported the persecution of heretics it was never his job to do so but that of the Church of England.
The titular character in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland is rebellious in ways which girls of her day would have had trouble even conceptualizing, and holds attitudes which, while perfectly fitting in the 21st century, would have shocked and offended proto-feminists of the era. This results in an Alice who reads as a progressively feminist girl born in the 1980s or 1990s who has been inexplicably transported to Victorian England with no explanation.
Also, her father's former business partner offers her (an unmarried 19 year old girl) a 50/50 partnership in a fledgeling business as if it were no big deal and only a little strange.
Used to hilarious effect in Blazing Saddles, a movie set in a very racist version of the Wild West. The protagonist (who also happens to be black) is probably the smartest character in the film - he tricks his racist employers into dancing around while singing "Camptown Ladies", exploits the Angry Black Man stereotype to 'kidnap' himself from the middle of a lynch mob, and uses the 'servants are unnoticed' tendency to trick Mongo into accepting a delivery of explos... er... candy.
To some extent in X-Men: First Class. Sexism is still present, but the racism of the era is glossed over.
Parodied in George Orwell's 1984, where history and logic are rewritten, often to polar opposites of what they had been, based on the whims and imperatives of the Party (a party orator switches "We have always been at war with Eurasia" to "Eastasia" in mid-sentence). The protagonist is employed in the department where outdated history and contradictory facts are consigned to the "memory hole."
Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land is about a human man who grew up among genderless Martians returning to Earth, discovering sexuality, and eventually founding a free love cult. As soon as he finds out gender exists, he's adamant that homosexual contact between men is strictly forbidden.
As a genre, historical mystery fiction (and to an extent historical fiction in general) often has some amount of this in order to keep the character sympathetic. There is definitely a continuum of this though. On one end, the title character of the Brother Cadfael series is one of the most kind and humane characters imaginable and in one book/episode reacts tolerantly toward a couple who had sex in a church. On the other end, Judge Dee is a polygamist, who (in keeping with the justice system of the time) uses beatings and torture in interrogation and sentences people to horrific forms of death. However, he is notably pragmatic about using these methods and the author likely understood that any more descriptions of torture would lose the Judge the reader's sympathy. In all fairness, medieval secular mores were rather more relaxed than those preached by the Church, and Cadfael came late to his vocation. Moreover, Judge Dee hates having to watch the executions, which makes it simple to avoid too much description.
Kristina: The Girl King — It is about Queen Christina of Sweden, written as if it were her diary. While it does mention the fact that she was more boyish than most and rejected the female stereotypes of the time, it neglects to acknowledge her quite probable lesbianism, occasional cross-dressing to impress her father, who wanted a son, or the speculation that she was intersex by her contemporaries.
In regards to the occasional cross-dressing, it was noted in a single "entry" that her father was often happy when she showed up wearing boys' clothes and boots, and gave her free rein to do so as she wished.
Parodied in Dave Barry Slept Here. A couple pages into Chapter Four: The Colonies Develop A Life-style, the Lemony Narrators interrupt the action to notify the readers that "a review committee... has determined that, so far, this history book is not making enough of an effort to include the contributions of women and minority groups. Unless some effort is undertaken to correct this situation, this book will not be approved for purchase by public school systems in absolutely vast quantities." Whereupon the narrators/authors "just now remembered... that during the colonial era women and minority groups were making many contributions, which we are certain that they will continue to do at regularly spaced intervals throughout the course of this book." They do... whenever the narrative remembers to mention it, anyway.
In the young adult book After by Francine Prose, the school slowly starts to try to brainwash the students. One of the protagonist's friends points out that the documentary playing on the bus that day is on World War II, and was stating that the atom bombs were dropped on Japanese wilderness areas. He says, " Dude, Listen to that. I don't think that's true." followed by another friend asking, "How stupid were we?"
Discussed throughout the 1632 series by Eric Flint, in regards to the commonly held perceptions of history by the citizens of a 20th century town transported into the middle of the Thirty Years' War, compared to the real historical facts.
One example is a discussion between a modern man and a 17th century Russian noble about the possibility of abolishing slavery in Russia. The modern man is shocked to find that most of the upper nobility are quite indifferent to slavery, but the petty nobles and non-noble farmers are violently opposed to slavery abolition. The Russian explains that the real reason for this divide is that the cash-rich upper nobility can afford to go without slaves, but for the land-rich and cash-poor, having a major part of your property taken away along with your ability to get the crops in at harvest time for some vaguely defined moral principle with no foundation in legal or religious precedent is highly unpalatable. He then takes a dig at the American belief in the Aristocrats Are Evil trope.
The German kids edutainment series "Viel Spaß mit..." (Have fun with... <insert people from history here>). While they don't gloss over the fact that the Romans had slaves, or that pigs would run around in medieval cities, the characters (typically from a Nuclear Family, with focus on the kids) act more like modern people, so the Values Dissonance doesn't take over and make the protagonists unrelatable. For example, the daughter of the Roman family is married off at the age of 16 instead of 12 - the latter is mentioned as being standard then, but the family does it differently. And of course, they always treat their slaves / servants well.
Recent editions of Mark Twain's works that remove offensive language (one word that seems to offend above all others). This is so much the case that it's spawned uncensored versions of Twain's works.
J.T. Edson's The Hooded Riders had a similar premise to Birth of a Nation above. Scheming, thieving carpet-bagging scum were out to shoot practically every good Southern cowboy stone dead (even taking ex-slaves along, who fortunately couldn't shoot straight, nossir) and steal their farms in a dastardly plan to take over the United States. Dusty Fogg and his companions (one of whom is a half-Commanche dog soldier who rides a horse with no bridle and can smell your shadow a mile away) borrow the concept of wearing white hoods from the Ku Klux Klan, intimidate the sheriff's assistants and pay off the loans of every put-upon, hapless smallholder in the tri-county area. And then the President of the United States shows up, and the carpetbaggers try to murder him too! But he's saved by Dusty Fogg, the intrepid Texas Ranger! After which, the Hooded Riders renounce their KKK regalia, even though they appreciate the need for folks to protect their womenfolk from A Fate Worse Than Death, because they don't need to operate in darkness any more. The president has seen the light and now everyone knows that Reconstruction is a con. This would be almost in So Bad, It's Good territory but for a fairground fight between Dusty Fogg (who just happened to have learned Jujutsu from his uncle's Japanese manservant, improbably enough) and an angry, drunk strongman who happens to be black. The strongman loses the fight, loses his temper, tries to knife the intrepid Texas Ranger and gets killed stone dead. Then everyone tells Dusty Fogg to run and hide because those new law enforcement types from the North just won't understand, and will definitely try and convict him for murder! Add in a Southern belle who knows how to talk to "colored folks" to get information out of them, by banging her fist on the table and using the right imperious tone, and you really wish J.T. Edson had stuck to his Son of Tarzan series.
The book and now movie The Help is receiving criticism for this. The book is about a woman writing a book about African-American maids in The Sixties. While it does show some of the indignities they had to face, it doesn't emphasize the things such as sexual assault and other horrors that occurred, referring to them only briefly.
Brother Eagle, Sister Sky by Susan Jeffers, according to Publishers Weekly review on Amazon, is "is an adaptation of a speech delivered by Chief Seattle at treaty negotiations in the 1850s". There are only three little problems. It's "not well served by images that ignore the rich diversity of Amerindian cultures (even Sealth's own Northwest people) in favor of cigar-store redskins in feathers and fringe", as a review in School Library Journal put this — i.e. The Theme Park Version. The author insists that "an ancient people were a part of the land that we love and call America", that is long gone, while 1854 is hardly "ancient" and Seeathl's people are still living and kicking — specifically, as it turns out, her book. And scavenging of New Age gold material from this speech is plain cherry-picking — since, quoth the linked review, "make a 'beautiful environmental statement' out of that, if you can":
... And when the last red man shall have perished... the streets of your cities and villages... will throng with the returning hosts that once filled and still love this beautiful land. The white man will never be alone. Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not altogether powerless.
L. Neil Smith's The North American Confederacy series. There is a major inconsistency between the special emphasis on the property rights of individual citizens that differentiates The North American Confederacy from the present timeline and the fact that slavery is abolished entirely in 1820 C.E., with no apparent backlash at all. The author, being a libertarian, probably thought that better economic systems make better people. Never mind that back then, only white people were considered to be citizens and the African-descended slaves were considered to be the property of their masters. If the individual property rights of citizens were given especial protection all along, especially with the attitudes of most white people in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, slavery would most likely have been abolished later than in our timeline, if it was abolished at all.
In The Gallatin Divergence, he also has 18th century characters talking about discrimination over "sexual preference". (Although he clearly considers some sexual preferences preferable to others.)
In the Christian Middle Ages, legends and epics about old-time heroes often recast their protagonists as Christians, even if in their time and place they clearly would have been pagan. Beowulf, for example, has Beowulf and Hrothgar invoke the Christian god, while 6th century Scandinavia was still untouched by Christianity.
In Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series, the title character is a thinly veiled portrait of Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS, Card's faith. He's portrayed as The Paragon and the issue of polygamy is dealt with by stating that any women claiming to be married to him other than his first wife are either deluded or being put up to it by his enemies (in actual fact his plural marriages to women, along with theological sanction for them, are well recorded).
Strongly discouraged in How NOT to Write a Novel. The authors note that having a historical character who possesses liberal (or neo-conservative) viewpoints which did not even exist at the time the novel is set in, or a rebellious protagonist who questions the never-before questioned values of a historical society (from the perspective of the author's never-questioned Western values), will tend to violate a reader's Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
Live Action TV
Hogan's Heroes showed anachronistic ethnic equality views by characters, with the only major implication of Kinchloe's blackness being that he can't impersonate Germans in person (although he's great at it over the phone). This may be excused by the idea that being in prison together forces them to ignore such issues to fight the larger enemy, and that the group has very strong unity. No excuse for most German characters not thinking much of Kinchloe's ethnicity, though.
Actually there is. See several examples on Black Vikings: Germany had many colonies in Africa, and several units of the German forces in Africa were staffed by natives. Also, Germans really didn't hate Africans the way they hated Jews or Gypsies. They saw them as peasants in Africa, true, but not as threats to the Fatherland.
This is a little more complicated than that. While Germans in African colonies did not have an issue with Africans, it was a different matter in Germany itself. There was a noticeable group of mixed race people that showed especially in Western Germany after World War I—both mixed race children of German colonists in Africa who were repatriated after the loss of the colonies and those born to French colonial troops who were among the Allied soldiers who occupied Rhineland and German women. These were among the first targets for state mandated sterilization by the Nazi regime.
Likewise, in Happy Days Howard Cunningham is revealed to be "old Army buddies" with an African-American, in order to spark even more 1950s WASP-black conflict when an African-American is not only present, but also a house-guest to the Cunninghams as an Aesop; supposedly, wise Howard Cunningham is also color-blind "from his association in the Army — " despite that he was an Army cook in WWII, throughout which segregation remained official Army policy.
Actually, being a cook in WWII might have made this plausible. Black men could still hold support positions like cooks and such without being part of the actual fighting force, so Howard Cunningham might have associated with them more than anyone else if he too were a cook.
Happy Days had a few episodes where race was treated differently than it was treated in reality. In one episode, Fonzie and Mr. C are on a jury where a black man is on trial. The only person who thinks the black man did it is the lone racist on the jury.
Brought up in-universe in one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Sisko (the Bald Black Leader Guy as well as a son of New Orleans) says he doesn't like the casino holodeck program with Vic Fontaine (guess what happened during that episode) because it's set in a politically-correct version of 1962, and as such is an insult to those oppressed in the era it is set. He points out that at that time African-Americans could be janitors or entertainers for the casino, but never customers. But his love interest (also black, though only ambiguously American) responds that whatever the faults of an actual 1962 casino might have been, the holocharacter Vic and his program/joint don't deserve to suffer.
Subverted in "Far Beyond The Stars", which faces race issues in the 1950s head-on — bringing up the Negro Leagues, how a sci-fi magazine doesn't let readers know a black man writes for them (as well as a woman, for that matter), and includes the only usage of the word "nigger" in the entire Trek mythos.
Though Star Trek is usually pretty good at pointing out the errors of our past, this is played straight in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Time's Arrow", where Guinan (a Human Alien who is played by Whoopi Goldberg and thus is indistinguishable from an Earthican of African descent) is depicted as a wealthy socialite in 1893 who goes to parties with white people who don't seem to have a single problem with her. In fact in the episode she's extremely well-liked and respected by pretty much the entire town. Probably helps that Guinan is a highly-empathetic, centuries-old alien with experience to match, so she might just be that good at making friends.
The CBC MockumentaryJimmy MacDonald's Canada, despite being about a 1960s-era conservative pundit with pseudo-fascist views on children's hockey, never has him make any ethnic slurs, beyond a dismissive reference to Italians. The character probably is a monstrous racist, but it wouldn't be very funny to present.
Sometimes-averted-sometimes-not in M* A* S* H. Black people are referred to by the historically correct term "Negroes" on the show, even by the good guys. However, later episodes gave Major Houlihan second-wave feminist views, even though the show is set more than ten years before The Feminine Mystique was first published. You could chalk this up to Houlihan being ahead of her time, except that the episode "Inga", written by Alan Alda as a love letter to the feminist movement, seems to have all the characters acting as though the 1970s women’s movement already happened, breaking any illusion that the show is really set in the early 1950s. (That episode won an Emmy, of course.) There's also the black Dr. Jones, who was Brother Chucked halfway through the first season, supposedly because the producers discovered that no black doctors served in the Korean War (they were wrong: the real M*A*S*H unit that was the basis of the original novel and by proxy the series itself had a black surgeon among its medical staff). However, it was played as a joke that he was nicknamed "Spearchucker" because he threw the javelin in college. Of course, it was also tongue in cheek, in that everyone knew it also had racial connotations. In another episode, Hawkeye permanently turns down imminent sex with a beautiful woman, because she complains about "those gooks (Koreans) marrying our (white) people." He gives her a speech as well. In another episode, Hawkeye "schools" a redneck soldier who complains about getting a transfusion of "black blood," by painting him brown and claiming that he ordered watermelon for dinner, etc. Not to mention repeating the urban legend that Dr. Charles Drew, the African-American surgeon who started the US blood bank, was refused care at a Southern hospital after being in a car accident and thus died from his injuries (false, though he did protest against segregation of the blood supply).
The BBC's Robin Hood. Tuck is black, and isn't a Friar. Though realistically, there wouldn't have been any friars at that time, so making him a 'brother' instead is actually more accurate.
The much-earlier Abbess of Rutherford, who's as sassy as a Sassy Black Woman can be and still be a strait-laced nun, is also this. Underlined by the implication that the Sheriff is attracted to her. She's actually a professional thief posing as a nun as part of a con trick — but no one ever questions her ruse
And then we have Djaq, who is at least given a reason why an Arabic Muslim woman would be in Medieval England. However, after her introductory episode almost no one remarks upon the fact that a) she's obviously not English, b) she's not a Christian in a time and place where that would be unimaginable, c) she's a woman who dresses and acts like a man, and d) she's from a nation who the King of England is currently fighting.
In an episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Kimberly travels back in time to Angel Grove of the 1800s. At the local saloon, the Identical Ancestors of her fellow Rangers, who are white, Latino, black woman, and Korean, respectively, are casually sharing drinks with one another. In another episode, Tommy's clone was also casually accepted in 1700's Angel Grove after the morphed White Ranger uses a magic artifact to put him in ye olde clothing.
Played with in Eureka, when the group goes back in time to camp Eureka in 1947. Henry is undercover as a mechanic, and he points out that although Eureka has always been progressive, no one looks twice at a black mechanic.
Also, Grant is visibly impressed with Allison, a half-black woman dressed as a nurse, who seems to know advanced medical techniques (for the 1940s).
When Charles finds out a local boy is beaten by his father, he takes action to help the boy. The entire episode has a 70's "child abuse is bad" approach. It's almost a very special episode.
In "The Long Road Home", Charles and Mr. Edwards get a job hauling explosives with Henry (played by Lou Gossett, Jr.). In the episode, only one person shows any form of racism against Henry, although later in the episode, Henry is told he can't ride in a passenger car with the other passengers because of his color. It's not clear whether the porter is racist or is just enforcing the rules. The same porter was just as mean to Charles and Mr. Edwards in the beginning of the episode when they tried to ride in the same passenger car, but were railroad employees, not paying customers. In the end of the episode, the one racist has a change of heart and jokingly claims he was kicked out of the passenger car because he was Irish.
In "The Fighter," black boxer Joe Kegan goes up against local white men in almost every fight. The only time race is mentioned is when he explains to Charles that the reason he got into boxing is so he could punch white men without getting "hung." No one ever mentions his race, not even when he and his manager are renting a room.
An episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody which involved a dream wherein the characters lived in the Revolutionary War era involved the African-American character Moseby being the proprietor of an inn, which would be unlikely to say the least in the late 1700s. The Asian-American (a racial group which did not exist in the colonies at that time) London Tipton was also shown as some sort of rich heiress. It can be excused by the fact that the character having the dream is not the smartestcharacter on the show to begin with, and the fact that it was All Just a Dream in the first place, though.
Moseby's race might not have been as much of a problem in the 1700s, if he was a freedman (this was pre-cotton gin).  Sam Fraunces, a Revolutionary War-era tavern owner, may have been black. This stems largely from his nickname "Black Sam." However, often this was a white man with darker hair or skin, and the fact he owned slaves makes it even unlikelier.
Averted in the episode itself. Esteban blatantly points out how they would make a democracy (America), but how Carey (a woman) or Zac and Cody (children) would not receive a vote.
Played with in Doctor Who (the revamped version, not the original series). The show regularly has black characters in historical settings. "Hang on, why are there two black men in President Nixon's security detail?" you might ask, but it should be noted that in the real world President Kennedy was the first to hire a black Secret Service agent, and Nixon also had at least one black agent. Similarly, many of the earlier historical episodes are set in fairly cosmopolitan places (e.g. Renaissance Venice) so it's not -completely- implausible that there would be non-white characters present. (In the case of Renaissance Italy, for example, the first duke of Florence was born to a black mother; see Reality Is Unrealistic.)
The Nixon episode also subverts it; one of the Doctor's allies is an ex-FBI agent who was sacked because he wants to get married. Later he and Nixon have this exchange:
Nixon: This person you want to marry... black?
Nixon: I know what people think of me, but perhaps I'm a little more liberal than...
Canton: ...He is.
Nixon: Ah. I think the Moon's far enough for now, don't you, Mr. Delaware?
Played straight in "The Fires of Pompeii", where Caecilius' family has a mysterious lack of slaves.
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. takes place in a steampunkish, deliberately anachronistic Old West where we see very little evidence of racism. The part-black, part-Cherokee Lord Bowler is treated respectfully by most of the characters (only in the pilot does one character call him a "half-breed"), and various episodes feature nonwhite characters who are treated more or less as equals to the whites, including a black woman set to become the mayor of a town.
The Vampire Diaries has several flashbacks to the American South during the American Civil War. Though black servants are shown, they are never referred to as slaves and are never shown being mistreated. This is discussed in detail here and here.
Inexplicably, Merlin has a black (But Not Too Black) Guinevere, her brother Elyan, and the, ahem black knight Pellinore. While there may have been Africans in Arthurian Britain, it's unlikely that there were many Afro-British knights or queens.
13th century romances have the Saracen (Arab) Sir Palamedes, and the Moorish (Black Spanish) Sir Morian. The writers of Merlin have also pointed out that real-world post-Roman Britain was also short on dragons and fey.
All the angsting over Arthur being in love with a servant girl. Love marriage is a rather modern phenomenon especially for royalty. A true prince of that (or most) ages would marry for politics and have Gwen on the side for romance.
Sleepy Hollow stars a Revolutionary War-era British soldier who had a change of heart and joined the American side, and fully supported an end to slavery, as if having an anti-American racist for a main character was deemed too challenging for their audience.
While there were people opposed to slavery back then, Icabod's remarkably progressive attitudes do seem a little convenient.
He also doesn't bat an eye at homosexuality. He mentions that von Steuben was homosexual, which is accurate, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Crane would be completely unfazed by it.
Downton Abbey zig-zags its handling of politically sensitive issues. It would seem that whilst the series' creators are prepared to present attitudes towards pre-marital sex in a realistic way, they are not quite brave enough to depict their characters having a realistic, period-correct attitude towards sexuality and race — most likely for fear of offending a contemporary audience's sensitivities, and to ensure the series' hero characters remain likeable. We can all cluck our tongues in guilty amusement at Violet's out-dated, ultra-conservative views, but to show her as an actual "racist" would kill her character, no matter how realistic that may be. Examples follow:
Averted, as mentioned above, with the series' handling of issues surrounding pre-marital sex and children born out of wed-lock, both of which are viewed as the final sin, and characters are realistically ostracised and berated for their actions. As an example, Ethel having an out-of-wedlock baby with Major Bryant turns her into a destitute, social pariah.
Less realistic and more akin to this trope is the series' handling of homosexuality. While the 1920s were certainly less conservative than later decades, it seems just a little unbelievable that Thomas's homosexuality would be waved off with an "everybody's gay sometimes" from Lord Grantham, and he would receive a promotion for his trouble.
The most unrealistically PC example concerns Jack Ross, a black jazz singer. When Jack comes to Downton, Carson is rather awkward around him and makes rather innocently insensitive comments, but the Crawley family is accepting and enjoys his singing at Lord Grantham's party in a manner that is unrealistically blasé. Only Edith and Rosamund voice any kind of realistic (for the period) concern about his presence, but both Robert and Violet simply smile knowingly, shrug their shoulders, and tell Edith to chill-out, which is totally out of character for them both — especially for Violet, who is constantly affronted by any concept that offends her staunch patrician ideals. Then Jack has a romantic relationship with Lady Rose, and frequently goes out in public with her, which would be a major scandal in the 1920s (just remember that 33 years later, Emmett Till, a black teenager, was brutally murdered for speaking to a white woman). Rose doesn't care about his race and doesn't think other people should, which is fairly forgivable, given her rebellious character, and it appears 50% of her reasoning for dating him appears to be to annoy the shit out of her dreadful mother. However, Mary's handling of the matter smacks of this trope, especially with regard to the exchange below. This is the same woman who was horrified that a (white) Irishman was dating her sister, and who is amongst the most conservative, traditionalist members of the family.
Jack: If we lived in even a slightly better world, I wouldn't give in.
Mary: It may surprise you, Mr. Ross, but if we lived in a better world, I wouldn't want you to.
In Atlantis, the world with Atlantis in it is based mostly on Greek Mythology and culture. However, many of the characters seem to find public violent games, tournaments, public executions, etc. horrible. In ancient Greece, people would pay to see these. Why else would they exist?
Warm Springs: This is actually averted. The movie is set in The Twenties Georgia, with segregated public places in full view.
Tom Loyless, manager of Warm Springs inn, was forced out of the newspaper business because he had "offended the sensibilities of a local civic group." In Real Life, Tom Loyless had been one of the few newspaper editors in Georgia to support Leo Frank, whose trial and lynching led to the rebirth of the KKK.
One of the black employees in the Warm Springs inn is surprised when a polio victim from New York wants to shake his hand.
The Rastafarian reggae song Rivers of Babylon is based on Psalm 137 but leaves out the infamous passage about smashing Babylonian infants against rocks.
The video of "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club is set in Missisippi in the 1800's, but features black and white people equally on the steamboat party.
Deadlands takes place in an alternate history version of the Old West. In this version, the South freed its slaves and the Civil War's drain on manpower allowed females to gain greater social status. The rulebook stipulates that only villains be racist.
Although what was "politically correct" was considered different back then, William Shakespeare's King Henry VIII falls squarely into this trope, carefully avoiding the more morally ambiguous things he did, such as beheading his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
On a similar note, Macbeth goes a little out of its way to show Banquo as a victim and a cool dude in general, as, by that time, King James was on the throne and he was supposedly descended from the historical Banquo. Note in particular the scene of the kings begotten by Banquo appearing before Macbeth — the last one is supposed to be James himself.
HenryV has another interesting historical example. The scenes in France prominently depict the soldiers at Agincourt as a diverse (for the UK) group from England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. The real army was purely English, and Scotland was allied with France during the Hundred Years War.
Actually, the English army at Agincourt included a substantial number of Welshmen, whose skill with the longbow was crucial to the outcome of the battle. Fluellen's dramatic pre-eminence among the celtic characters may be a nod to this.
And the fact that the (vastly outnumbered) English Army had put the Po Ws to the sword in reality? Well, that's downplayed as a purely retaliatory measure because the French did it first, mentioned in a throwaway comment from good ole' Hal.
High school theater productions are often forced to do this because of limited casting pools. If only three guys are trying out for the lead, and the best guy for the job is black (even though the character was white), well, you have to go with what you have.
Or, alternatively, they do this in order to give kids of color a crack at good parts, instead of making them sit out many productions entirely or keep to the background.
Several attractions at Disney Theme Parks are like this, most notably Pirates of the Caribbean, which was actually bowdlerized into being more politically correct. This is probably justified, as one attraction that isn't, The American Adventure, was loaded with Unfortunate Implications.
Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, Texas was laid out with six sections representing the six flags that have flown over the state: Spain, France, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, The Confederacy and The United States. In the 1990's, the park renamed the Confederacy section to "Old South" for obvious reasons.
Much of the background story of the first Gabriel Knight game involves American pilgrims raiding an African village for slaves. This is hardly what happened in those times; in most cases, slaves were bought from African slavers, who had them on sale as spoils of tribal strife.
It's a gross simplification of what actually went on, but majority of the African slaves were captured by other tribes specifically to be sold for a good price to the white slave traders; wars were fought in Africa to get more slaves for sale, the slaves weren't an incidental byproduct of already existing strife.
They were at first. However, once both the European traders and African slavers realized how profitable it was, things really took off. Soon entire kingdoms were destroyed by the slave trade.
An in-world example is revealed in the first Metal Gear Solid, where Master Miller identifies Naomi Hunter as a fraud because of her family's inconsistent history: Naomi claims her Japanese-born uncle was a member of the FBI in the fifties, but Miller later points out that Edgar Hoover, a well-known racist and head of the FBI at the time, wouldn't have allowed him in the bureau.
In Operation Darkness, K Company, 1st Platoon, or the "Wolf Pack", allows women into front line roles — something that isn't allowed even in the modern British Army, and which would be wildly anachronistic for the World War II setting of the game. Somewhat justified by the unusual nature of K Company, 1st Platoon — the British Army doesn't traditionally allow werewolves or Mad Scientists to act in front line roles, either — and Lampshaded when Jude assumes that because he's being transferred to a unit containing a woman, he's thus being moved off the front lines.
Pirates Of The Burning Sea provides equal male and female options for all factions. There's absolutely no way a woman would have been able to openly serve in the French, British, or Spanish navies of the time — women have long been considered unlucky to have aboard ships, and would have been considered too timid, flighty, and incompetent to serve in the military. Pirates were less traditionalist, and there were indeed some female pirates known to history... but they tended to try to pass as male. In addition to the issue with "women are bad luck", female clothes of the period were highly impractical, and it was generally not a good idea to be visibly the only woman in a crew full of rowdy sailors who have been on the sea too long.
The Sakura Wars series is set in the 1920s, but seems to show many more opportunities for and much less discrimination against women (and, in Sakura Wars V, people of color) than would be expected in that time period. Of course, this is a setting with demons and humongous mecha, not historical fiction.
Age of Empires III is notable for completely glossing over slavery and the genocide/relocation of Native Americans. The first Expansion Pack, The WarChiefs, slightly rectifies the latter by showing the Red Cloud's War and the Battle of Little Bighorn.
While fighting women weren't quite as nonexistent in the 16th century as the contemporary historians would have liked to think, it's still rather amazing what the female Assassins can get away with in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. They wear pants and openly carry swords before they join in the Order! Then again, said women were always attacked by guards until you save/recruit them, so they might not exactly be "getting away with it"...
Happens to some extent in the sequel Revelations as well. Sofia Sartor is seemingly able to walk around Ottoman Constantinople with her hair and face uncovered and wearing a low-cut dress showing off her impressive bosom without being harassed. Note that practically all other women seen walk around in veils that cover everything except their hand and eyes. There is an optional sub-mission involving protecting a printer threatened by the Templars, though at the time the only printing press in the Ottoman empire was a Jewish one printing in Hebrew, printing in Turkish or Arabic being banned until the 18th century.
It should be noted that while low-cut dresses were a big no-no, veils weren't actually nearly as ubiquitous in this time period as you would think. They were mainly used by wealthier women who could afford slaves to do manual labour for them, but were far too complicated and pricey garments for peasant women who had to do housework and help their husbands in the fields. Although most of the time in the Ottoman empire even poor women at least wore a Hijab. Of course thats further confused by the fact that the various ethno-religious groups in the empire all had different standards of modesty for women.
A major facet of Empire: Total War is your faction's participation in the 18th century's colonial/maritime economy, but Creative Assembly really tries their damnedest to ignore the fact that African slavery was arguably the most vital cog in that economy. Two of the "trade theaters" in the game are West Africa and East Africa/Madagascar, and they exclusively produce...ivory. Slavery is also glossed over on the flavor texts for the plantations; the most mention that the practice gets is the late-game "Abolition of Slavery" technology... Though Revolutionary France abolished the practice in 1789, it was reinstated by Napoleon. The long game's ending year of 1799 was decades before any American/European nation permanently abolished slavery.
Black and white people in the same tank crew during World War II.
No Swastikas and calling Nazi Germany, just Germany despite not doing the same for the Soviet Union.
Adding the ability to give Soviet and Chinese troops better rations (although this could just be Gameplay and Story Segregation since Germans had Choclate and Americans had Cola Cases which do the same thing.)
In the Ace Patrol games, the player can have both male and female pilots, despite the events taking place during World War One and World War II, respectively, and only the Soviet Union had female combat pilots during WWII (USSR is absent in both games). The second game, at least, gives you the option to disable female pilots in order to be more historically accurate.
In 'Silent Storm'', both sides of World War II has men and women of all races serving together in all branches of the military. This would only be true for the USSR.
Most of the games in the Civilization franchise gloss over slavery. The Call To Power series explicitly has a Slaver unit (as well as an Abolitionist unit), but beyond that slavery is largely abstracted. Civs I through III basically ignore it completely; III has a different graphic for "workers" you "capture", and they work at half the normal rate but don't cost upkeep. In IV, you have the option of Slavery for your Labor civic, but all it does is lets you rush a project at the cost of population. It's mostly gone from Civ V as well, although you can demand "workers" from City States.
Rapture in Bioshock was constructed after the end of World War II and lasted into the end of the 1950s, when it all went to hell. Nonetheless, it is presented as being racially integrated and openly accepting towards homosexuality, transexualism, and pornography (although this is not to say certain period appropriate prejudices don't exist). This is justified, however, as Rapture was envisioned as a libertarian utopia that was not to be constrained by the social, political, and religious mores of its day. Both games do contain racial and sexual prejudice that lingers in some of it's citizens though. "Changing your race" or sex is treated in the manner of improving negative features, some of the splicers are overtly racist or sexist in their dialogue, and one of the main characters in the second game is a black woman who happens to live in the poorest part of the city...
Of course, seeing as that particular WW2 was between the Allied Nations and Hydra, as well as the Nazis it can probably be excused as an Alternate History.
Also the fact that Nick Fury in this show is a combination of the 616 white Fury and the Ultimate black Fury, just like the Fury in the movies.
Jack Fury leads the Howling Commandos, who as mentioned, are pretty diverse.
Subverted in the 90s X-Men cartoon, where a time-traveling Storm is told she is not welcome in a restaurant. At first, she thinks it's because she is a mutant, then once she realizes it's because she's black, she says that discrimination by race is almost quaint.
An earlier episode, "Legends," before the series changed names, had the League follow a villain inside an in-show comic book and pair up with equivalents of the Justice Society of America, who were of course still in The Golden Age of Comic Books mentally. The Chick invites Hawkgirl to help cook. And when Green Lantern's childhood hero complimented him with "You're a credit to your people, son!", Green Lantern could only reply, "Uh... yeah." It was an incredibly subtle bit of animation where you could see John's thoughts written all over his face... he obviously knew that the other man wasn't trying to be insulting, he just came from an era where statements like that probably were the equivalent of being racially sensitive. (The fact that the present day Green Lantern did not meet an actual Golden Age DC superhero but the equivalent enabled the script to get away with more. Actually, an earlier draft of the script had just that scenario, but you tend to think that DC Comics might have a problem with any incarnation of one of their superheroes portrayed as a racist.)
Captain Planet, a time travel episode to World War II features Caucasian, Asian and African American soldiers all in the same company. It also features a handlebar mustached Führer, who, while clearly intended to be Hitler, isn't. Strangest. Censorship. Ever.
The cartoon Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat has the Magistrate having three daughters and NO sons. No-one says anything about it. In real life, he would have been pressured to keep trying for a son or take another wife — the Kingdom could NOT be passed down to girls! Also, in real life, no matter how dumb the Magistrate is, his wife wouldn't dare talk to him as she did (in a henpecking, almost bullying, mother-like way) or she would have been beheaded!
The 90s Fantastic Four cartoon had a Time Travel episode where the heroes are transported to ancient Greece during the battle of Marathon. The Thing asks whose side they're on and Reed Richards responds, "The Persians were brutal tyrants, while the Athenians invented democracy." While neither side was a bastion of liberty by today's standards, participation in Athenian democracy was denied to women, foreigners, and slaves (i.e., over two-thirds of the population). Meanwhile, while the Persians were conquerors and slavers they were conspicuous for how they tolerated the customs and institutions of the peoples they conquered — their general policy was that as long as they paid proper tribute to the empire and didn't rebel, their conquered states could self-govern, maintain their traditions and beliefs, and generally go on much as they had before being conquered. This is generally believed to have been a major contributor to the success of their empire, as it tended to make rebellion a much less attractive proposition than it might otherwise be.
Lampshaded on Histeria!. Any time their depiction of history got a little less than family-friendly, network censor Lydia Karaoke would step forward and complain.
A Christmas episode of The Simpsons, set at Christmastime during World War II, shows the neighborhood of the Simpson family (or, at least, the family being portrayed by the Simpsons characters) as racially integrated. Although there were some integrated neighborhoods in the 1940s, that has not commonly been portrayed in popular culture, either then or now - and it is certainly odd to see it on The Simpsons, which is famous for its cynical brand of humor and historical generalizations.
Not to mention it showed Marge as a combat rifleman in the war, even though women still aren't allowed in direct-combat roles in the U.S. Army.
King of the Hill had an episode dealing with this. Hank, dismayed at the fact that the school's Texas History textbook skips important events like the Alamo in favor of pop culture, produces a re-enactment of the Alamo with another man who's supposedly just as outraged. However, that man's script is a revisionist version of the story where the Texans are all braindead, drunken cowards (and one wears a dress, to boot). The man defends his version by saying the facts are unclear (and citing Oliver Stone's JFK); after briefly considering trashing the set, Hank realizes it's wrong to censor someone just for disagreeing, and presages the play with a speech about the bare facts regarding the Alamo.
Avatar: The Last Airbender has this in-universe, when Aang accidentally infiltrates a Fire Nation elementary school and their history turns out to be systematic propaganda, including revising the comet-powered genocide of Aang's pacifistic race as a mighty victory over the mighty 'Air Nation' armies. Given they also obviously killed all the babiesnote That they killed the women and old people does not apply in this context as the Fire Nation standards of badass extend into these categories, and they would not be considered categorically helpless, this isn't a story likely to hold together long against serious examination, but it makes the majority of students who hear it much less likely to start wondering about the rightness of the cause than the truth would.
Under Fire Lord Zuko, what is politically correct changes dramatically from the regime probably instated by Fire Lord Azulon, who presided over the chronological bulk of the war and making it a feasible long-term project. Something Sozin almost certainly never anticipated and Ozai never had the patience for.