Sheriff Bart: Good mornin', ma'am. And isn't it a lovely morning?
Up yours, nigger!
Racism in a regular character: depressing. Racism in a grandma: hilarious
This is a situation where the old woman who you expect to be a cookie-making nice old lady starts unexpectedly spouting obscenely offensive comments (though as the page image shows, they can do both). This is usually Played for Laughs
. This can apply to any elderly character and any kind of political incorrectness, although usually it really is racism by a grandma.
Usually the humor derives from the irony of an elderly character using language one would normally associate with a fiery young skinhead. However, it can also be Truth in Television
. Although obviously not all old people are bigots, old people are more likely to subscribe to pre-civil rights cultural beliefs and are more likely to say inappropriate thoughts out loud
. However, this tends to be counterbalanced by the fact that they were raised in a "more polite" era than ours. (More
polite, not "polite.") Take Archie Bunker
, for instance, who took care to substitute "spade" for "nigger," "hebe" for "kike," etc. It can also be accidental
if the grandma is using what was an acceptable term when she grew up
, without being aware that it is now considered derogatory
, (e.g., in the article linked earlier in this paragraph, the author recounts her negative feelings when an elderly man referred to someone as "colored" — but this was in fact the politest term for black people when the man was likely raised, and the chosen way for most black people to describe themselves back then, like the NAACP.) Furthermore, elderly people whose views about minorities really did change with the times may suddenly begin spouting offensive beliefs from their youths if they're suffering from senile dementia.
While it's tempting to think that this will soon become a Dead Horse Trope
, now that the youngest people who came of age before the mid-1960s are now in their seventies and the average life span for most Westerners is about 80, there is evidence that quite a few people actually become
bigoted with age. Bitterness about growing old can cause certain people to develop a hostile attitude against most things or even everything in the modern world - even of things that their generation helped to bring about in the first place
. For example, a recent poll (albeit a dubious one, since it took into account a very
small sampling of the U.S. population) suggested that a surprisingly large number of Baby Boomers
(now in their fifties at the youngest) are now uncomfortable with interracial marriage.
In fiction, this character is usually intended for comedy and will tend to be Affably Evil
(or, at worst, Faux Affably Evil
or a petty dog-kicker
). BEWARE: This is not true of all bigoted senior citizens; some of them can perpetrate genocide just as adroitly as their younger counterparts.
See also Nazi Grandpa
, Innocent Bigot
, Screw Politeness Im A Senior
and When I Was Your Age
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Anime & Manga
- In the manga Future Lovers, Kento's grandfather is dismayed when he finds out that his grandson is dating another man (Akira) and spends the rest of his page time shooting Death Glares at Akira and not-so-subtly indicating his disgust at their relationship. Completely Played for Laughs, with the grandfather's facial expressions being some of the funniest things in this manga.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Joseph Joestar hates Japanese people, and is shown smacking a guy just for being Japanese in the last page of Part 2. In his case, however, it's not about ethnicity - it's because ever since his daughter married a Japanese man, he almost never sees her.
- In the Cheech And Chong skit "Hey Margaret", an elderly couple, Harry (Chong) and Margaret (Cheech), see a porno movie. Everything in the movie amuses Harry, but he's disgusted when the star has sex with a black man. For Margaret, it's the exact opposite: it's the only thing in the movie that arouses her.
- George Lopez's stand-up routines always incorporate anecdotes showing just how bigoted his grandmother (the one who raised him) is/was toward black people. He stated that his retaliation for that is by hiring the darkest-skinned black nurses for her home health care needs when she grew frail and infirm.
- Frankie Boyle: "No, Granddad, we don't care how many Jews you killed!"
- In his comedy special Bigger and Blacker, Chris Rock says old black men are the most racist people. "Nothing more racist than a old black man, you know why? 'Cause the old black man went through some real racism. He ain't go through that 'I can't get a cab' shit. He was the cab! White man just jump on his back: 'Main Street!'"
- Woody Allen's Annie Hall: "Y'know, you're what Grammy Hall would call 'A real Jew!'... She hates the Jews" At a later scene when Alvy is having dinner with Annie and her family, you see her disapproving Grammy's POV of Alvy as a stereotypical Hasidic Jew. This, despite Alvy complimenting the ham Annie's mother cooked, something a religious Jew would never be allowed to eat.
- Randall's grandmother in Clerks II. She called him a porch monkey and referred to a broken bottle as a nigger knife. Randal never even realized they were offensive terms until he uses "porch monkey" in front of a black customer. Then he tries to "take the term back" by using it even more.
- Schwarzfahrer, an excellent German short, features one who keeps ranting racist remarks at another passenger. Funny twist at the end, though - two, in fact.
- Gran Torino deconstructs this trope: The whole point of the movie is that Walt realizes the people at whom he has being directing racial slurs all his life are Not So Different, that his experience as a soldier let him know much more about death than about life, and that explains why he is so lonely and sad.
- Bringing Down the House
- Mrs. Arness, though it's more that she's just out-of-touch in general: "There's a lovely Negro spiritual that Ivy's brother used to sing..."
- Mrs. Kline across the street. Unlike Arness, who's merely tactless, Kline is very much a racist.
- "Negro" was a perfectly polite and respectful word - used by blacks themselves, too - until about the early 1970s. It only got changed because those in the "Black Power" movement wanted to redeem a word that up until then had been associated with darkness and evil - and also because they associated "Negro" with the cowardly, apolitical "Uncle Tom" blacks whom they considered traitors. "Negro spiritual" is essentially a musical genre name still in use today, hardly a racial slur. Go ahead, Google it.
- In Blazing Saddles, the black sheriff wishes an elderly woman a good morning. Her reply?
"UP YOURS, NIGGER!"
- Of course only a few hours later she apologizes after said sheriff proves that he actually can do the job, if by some... unusual methods. Her attitude is justified as the story is set in 1874.
- The sweet little grandma in Wedding Crashers is pretty anti-gay. Apparently, Eleanor Roosevelt was a "rug-munching dyke" but that would be something of a subversion, as those are all very new slang.
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding has a little granny from the Greek side of the newlyweds that constantly complains about Turks: "Turci Sacramenti!" Greece was a Turkish colony for a few centuries, too, so it wouldn't be surprising if many self-professed Greeks have Turkish blood. Racism has as much to do with nationality as ethnicity and the two countries have come perilously close to going to war within living memory.
- Monty Pythons The Meaning Of Life.
"I've worked in worse places, philosophically speaking. I used to work in the Académie Française, but it didn't do me any good at all, and I once worked in the library in the Prado in Madrid, but it didn't teach me nothing, I recall. And the Library of Congress you'd have thought would hold some key, but it didn't, and neither did the Bodleian Library. In the British Museum I hoped to find some clue. I worked there from nine till six, read every volume through, but it didn't teach me nothing about life's mystery. I just kept getting older, and it got more difficult to see, till, eventually, me eyes went and me arthritis got bad. And so now I'm cleaning up in here, but I can't be really sad, 'Cause, you see, I feel that life's a game. You sometimes win or lose, And though I may be down right now, at least I don't work for Jews.
- Ghosts Of Mississippi: Byron de la Beckwith (James Woods in heavy old-man makeup) pretends to be this after the cold case against his 1963 murder of civil-rights activist Medgar Evers is reopened in the 1990s by attorney Bobby DeLaughter (Alec Baldwin). Beckwith repeatedly denies having committed the murder, all the while expressing glee that Evers is dead. As the trial is reaching its conclusion, Beckwith has a chance meeting with DeLaughter and taunts him, claiming that even if he had done the killing, none of the jurors - not even the black ones - would convict him, because they'd view him as a confused old man and feel sorry for him. (Never mind that Beckwith was more than 30 years younger at the time of the murder!) He is wrong.
- The actual Beckwith was also much like this, even to the point of seeming schizophrenic. He could seem perfectly calm and halfway reasonable when discussing his bigoted views, but as soon as he lost his temper a far more violent streak would present itself.
- Subverted in the otherwise forgettable Cabin Fever - when asked what a prominently displayed rifle is for, the elderly store owner replies "It's fer niggers." At the end of the movie, we see a group of young black people drive up to the store, prompting the owner to hurry inside. He then hands the gun to one of the group and cheerily says "What's up, my nigger?"
- In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Muriel Donnelly refuses treatment by a non-Anglo doctor until it's her only given option. She's none too happy about going to India for fast, inexpensive surgery. Her attitude, of course, improves.
- Lois McMaster Bujold's Barrayar
- Count Piotr is so anti-mutant that he tries to bribe the doctor who is treating his grandson's fetus (damaged and in an artificial womb because his mother was pregnant during a chemical attack) to kill the child. He also ejects Aral and Cordelia from Vorkosigan House, and later on it is revealed that he tried to murder Miles in his crib with his own hands, prevented only by Miles' bodyguard. Miles has a bodyguard from birth because Piotr is not the only racist grandma around. He does get a bit better later on, after Miles's intelligence begins to show; he is still a prejudiced, reactionary, embittered old man, but he not only stops trying to kill Miles, but actually becomes a (rather distant and authoritarian) mentor figure.
- Miles later meets an actual racist grandma in The Mountains Of Mourning - well, she would be a grandma if her granddaughter hadn't just been murdered for being a mutant (she had a harelip and cleft palate - not mutations, but close enough for the village she was born in). Not too surprisingly, she was the killer. As recently as her own youth, it wouldn't have been a crime.
- Funny Boy: Ammachi ("Grandma") has the most virulent reaction to Radha's relationship with Anil, and talks openly about her approval of the terrorist Tamil group, the Tigers. Possibly a subversion in that this actually isn't so far from how other family members feel at different points in the book, but Ammachi is vocal about it before the others are.
- In Harry Potter, (the portrait of) Sirius Black's deceased mother is really anti-Muggle/Muggleborn/"half-breed". However, such beliefs are rather common in the Potterverse, even among young people, Walburga Black is just really loud about it.
- Ron's Auntie Muriel: "She's a good-looking girl, but still - French."
- Carnivàle: Ben Hawkins's grandmother, the Crone. It also has an amusingly racist comic relief character in the form of Stumpy.
- This happens on Arrested Development in an episode where Tonight Someone Dies. The narrator chimes in "Alright, we'll tell you now. She's the one who dies."
- The Catherine Tate Show has Nan, an extremely bigoted, foul-mouthed, grandmother.
- Malcolm in the Middle:
- Mrs. Griffin. Besides being racist, she even despises white people not born in the United States.
- One of JD's grandmothers (Nana Hobbs) is "a teensy bit racist" (she thought Turk was a burglar).
- One opening had Turk wheeling around an old woman in a wheelchair, who cheerfully requested that he "makes sure they don't give me any black blood." His response? An offended and sincere "I'll try."
- In "My Missed Perception", there's a "senile old racist", who has to be reminded which people he hates.
- Mildred from Little Britain USA.
- Sophia from The Golden Girls is sometimes this trope, and at other times the most progressive, open-minded, and tolerant person on the face of the earth, Depending on the Writer. It doesn't help that this show has terrible continuity.
- Sophia also had a stroke, which Dorothy frequently says is the cause of her blunt outbursts. It could explain this.
- Jane from The New Normal is a crueler version of this trope.
- Hoyt's mother Maxine on True Blood. When she tries to argue with Hoyt about his vampire girlfriend, Hoyt calls her out on her hatred of everyone:
MAXINE: "Who do you think you're talking to?"
HOYT: "My mama. Who hates Methodists."
MAXINE: "I got my reasons."
HOYT: "And Catholics."
MAXINE: "Just priests and nuns."
HOYT: "African Americans."
MAXINE: "Hush. That's a secret."
- And Grandma Bellefleur of course!
- Darnell's grandma from My Name Is Earl (whose presence becomes puzzling after Darnell's backstory is revealed) is apparently one of these:
"Come out, you cheating white bitch!"
- On Parks and Recreation, Leslie once got together all the former heads of her department for a picnic. The oldest one had an outdated sexist attitude and hilariously couldn't stop talking about menstruation and how it supposedly makes women inferior.
- In ER, one old lady once said to Benton that she is uncomfortable with a black doctor examinining her. Oh, and that lady? She was black, too.
- Played with in Dollhouse, where a Racist Grandma imprint was (for God knows what reason) put on Sierra, the doll portrayed by Nepali-Australian actress Dichen Lachman. Made funnier because it had a mix of Foe Yay in it as well, also for God knows what reason.
- Community: Most sexist or racist things that Pierce says can be chalked up to being significantly older than the rest of the cast, and he's an Innocent Bigot when compared to Cornelius, his astonishingly old-timey father. Cornelius is actively malicious in his bigotry, and not only berates Pierce for associating with "minorities and Jewesses," but goes after the very white Brita and Jeff for being of Swedish and Welsh descent respectively. Shirley calls him "The Abed of racism".
- Lampshaded in an episode of Star Trek, where Abe Lincoln (it's complicated) calls Uhura a "charming negress", then promptly apologizes. (Uhura wasn't offended, as both the term, and anti-African racism, are ancient oddities in her time. Also, Abraham Lincoln.)
- An episode of Murphy Brown dealing with FYI trying out a radically different format had Murphy interviewing an "ordinary American citizen". Said citizen being a meek and extremely polite old lady...who quickly derails the interview into expressing her displeasure about the different ethnic groups in her neighborhood. This coupled with the sheer ridiculousness of the new format eventually prompts Murphy to explode at her.
- In an episode of Louie, Louis C.K. has a grandmother like this, and he is really uncomfortable having his daughters around her. He explains to his older daughter that was born in a different time.
- Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge: Alan unwittingly finds himself interviewing one when he interviews the 'The Olympic Golden Girls of 1936'.
- In Redfern Now, Corral is an Aboriginal Australian woman who is racist against all Aboriginal men, and wants her granddaughter to marry a hardworking white boy. She actually refuses to talk to her daughter because she married an Aboriginal man, and expresses distaste for Indians, people with poor English, doctors, and, in fact, almost everyone.
- Pop Pop from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a former Nazi and believes that "Kikes" are stealing his stuff.
- In "Franks Sets Sweet Dee on Fire" the gang attempts to do an expose series at on old folks home. The first lady they talk to says that the one thing she dislikes about the place "is the blacks" leading Mac and the others to immediately end the interview rather than talk to a crazy old racist.
- Jack's mother on 30 Rock:
: What happened to your eye? Did you really fall? Colleen
: I was watching TV and they started interviewing an Asian Santa Claus
and my arm went numb. Jack
: And you called me? Mother, call an ambulance! Colleen
: My father did not kill dozens of Germans so that his daughter could die in a van. Jack
: But he wasn't even in the war!
- Discussed on QI, where Jack Whitehall said he'd like to invent dentures that sense racism and clamp shut.
: The keyword would be 'but', wouldn't it? Nothing against them personally, but- *chomp*
- In an episode of the early 1990s US sitcom Home Fires the grandmother suddenly blurts out (for no apparent reason) "if there's no reverse discrimination, how come there are so many negros in the NBA?"
- Steve Dallas's mother in Bloom County:
Mom: "Look at the cute colored girl."
Steve: "You can't call them that!"
Mom: "What about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People?"
Steve: "No, no, no!"
Mom: "Well, how about Negro then?"
Steve: "You can't call them that either!"
Mom: Well, there's the United Negro College Fund..."
Steve: "No, Ma, you can't say that!"
Mom: "So what should I call them then?"
Steve: "People of color."
Mom: "People of color?"
Steve: "People of color."
Mom: "Colored people!"
Steve: "No, ma!"
- Present in the Mass Effect series, where many of the older generation that lived through the First Contact War are xenophobic or distrustful of the other alien species, with many human supremacist groups such as Cerberus and Terra Firma existing.
- Similarly, despite Pressley and Dr Chakwas being some of the nicest older crewmembers on the Normandy, the former is initially distrustful of the various aliens Shepard brings onboard and the latter admits in the third game that while she considers her a friend, she doesn't consider AI like EDI to be "alive".
- Subverted to comic effect in this strip of pictures for sad children.
- Played straight here.
- Steve's parents from Daisy Owl
- Lampshaded in Partially Clips: A girl asks her grandpa why he never gives her any advice on life. He replies that his grandpa advised him, (paraphrased) "Son, if you ever find yourself with a good woman, don't be afraid to give her a good smack now and then. Keeps her in line. And don't take no gruff from any blacks, either." He concludes that you should never give advice when you're old, because you'll inevitably come off as an insensitive and possibly racist Jerkass.
- A Softer World: We Love You, You Ignorant Prick
- The furry webcomic Goblin Hollow has Lily's grandfather and grandmother who have a problem with Lily (a cougar-African lion hybrid) dating Ben (a bear). Even Lily's father admits that Lily's grandparents are raving bigots.
- Ginger, a reoccurring character in Mike Bookseller.
- In Questionable Content there is a drink named the racist grandma. Because it tastes like "the sudden and irrevocable realization that grandma is kinda racist".
- In Better Days, Fisk and Lucy's maternal grandparents are racist towards black people. This causes some tension when their aunt brings her black boyfriend over for a visit (implied to have done so specifically to annoy her parents). Their mom asks the grandmother at one point to not use racial slurs towards the boyfriend, and the grandmother concedes that times have changed. It's also mentioned that the boyfriend can't go with the family to visit the grandfather in the hospital for this reason.
- According to The Oatmeal, this is how we'll see homophobia in the future.
- In one Something Awful "Fashion SWAT" segment, they discussed this in regard of an old lady: "In old lady hell, the candy is the delicious kind that everyone likes" "And people call them out on all the racist stuff they say" "Eh, who knows, maybe the time we get old, stuff we say will be seen weird 'Gee, I think someone should do something about all those pedophiles having sex on the streets.'"
- Lampshaded in a video done by Sarah Silverman, telling young, liberal Jews to visit their grandparents in Florida to encourage them to transcend their racial prejudices and vote for Barack Obama. She recommends holding over them the threat of no longer being visited if they don't vote for him.
- Parodied by The Onion, like everything else.
- Gene Ray: he's racist against everyone.
- In an episode of Feed Dump that aired around Thanksgiving in the United States, one of the characters said that she was thankful that her racist aunt had become too deaf to talk at dinner.
- In an episode of American Dad!, Roger feels unappreciated by Stan and runs away, disguising himself as an old lady. He befriends another old woman and they get along for a while... up until she spits on the Lincoln Memorial and says "That's for freeing the slaves, you negro-loving Yankee devil!" She spends the rest of the episode making such slurs against everyone (even other whites) so by the time Stan offers her to the CIA and claims she's the escaped alien, nobody cares.
- A Static Shock episode showed that Richie Foley's Dad was a racist. One of the few cases the change of heart is made (somewhat) realistically. At least as realistically as it can be expected in a series with superpowered individuals.
- The Simpsons: Lisa once researched her family tree. Grandpa told her about having an African-American ancestor and that he was reluctant about admitting it because his generation was racist.
- In an episode of Family Guy, Mrs. Pewterschmidt has found her husband cheating on her and leaves him. Peter suggests that Mr. Pewterschmidt get back on the dating scene, and takes him out to a club. Mr. Pewterschmidt sees a black man at the club and thinks he's a waiter or servant, and refers to him as "boy," which causes the women that Mr. Pweterschmidt was with to leave in disgust along with the black man. Mr. Pewterschmidt's first assumption upon noticing their disgust was the black man being "somebody else's" property.
- What's strange about this is that other episodes have shown Carter Pewterschmidt being very comfortable with the modern world, and even listening to pop-music groups you'd never expect a man his age (or a man, period) to even be familiar with (The Bangles, Alanis Morrissette). This is probably just for Rule of Funny.
- He also gives his own wife a hard time for being Jewish, something she's deeply regretted allowing him to do.
- In Generator Rex, there was an old lady who despises Evo's and believes that Evo's and humans don't mix. So she teams up with another Evo to set and example of it all by blowing up a cave full of humans and Evo's.