"I ain't no foreigner... ain't nothing yeller 'bout me, but there is one color about me. It's a little red... that's right, I'm a redneck."
Much like the very tropes described on this site, Ethnic and National Stereotypes are things that an audience reasonably expects (for reasons good and... not so good) when confronted by an individual of a given background.
Some writers know this, and just like the tropes associated with fiction, they decide to turn it on its head
A Stereotype Flip occurs when an individual does something that runs in direct contradiction to some established stereotype based on their gender, race
, religious belief, nationality
, or country (or planet
) of origin.
This is often Truth in Television
, as no one ever fits all the given stereotypes associated with their background. If enough individuals do a Stereotype Flip, the stereotype in question may become a Discredited Trope
A Stereotype Flip is not always
a good move, however; it can sprout Unfortunate Implications
of its own. Inverting a negative stereotype can lead to Positive Discrimination
, and inverting a "model minority" stereotype is risky because portraying a minority as dumb, cowardly, and/or evil taps into much more basic forms of xenophobia than portraying them as being smart but nerdy
. Finally, even if both those pitfalls are avoided, it still must be remembered that flipping
a stereotype isn't the same as avoiding
it; flipped stereotypes are no substitute for actual well-rounded characters.
Applies to fictional backgrounds as well. If the character is deliberately
defying the "nature" of his people, it overlaps with My Species Doth Protest Too Much
. If they choose a culturally disfavored role knowingly, then Klingon Scientists Get No Respect
. Related to Square Race, Round Class
. Cultural Rebel
is generally the product of a character given the Stereotype Flip treatment. Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy
and Asian Airhead
are subtropes of this.
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Anime & Manga
- In Azumanga Daioh, Osaka breaks Tomo's expectations that the new Osakan student is going to be a loudmouth who's always trying to sell stuff. This is emphasized in the English manga, where Osaka's speech is translated with a New York City accent, which has a similar "loud and pushy" stereotype associated with it.
- In Monster, Runge's painstaking research of Tenma's past results in little more than him ascertaining that the latter is not "stereotypically" Japanese.
- A hikikomori is stereotypically a creepy, misanthropic guy, and Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei instead has Kiri Komori, who is female and friendly and a hikikomori.
- A fairly common variation in comics is to introduce a member of the fictional species, and then the civilization. Thus, Mon-El and Sodam Yat are friendly explorers from a racist and xenophobic species; Blackfire is a cruel and malicious monster from a passionate and warm species; Captain Marvel is a good-hearted protector from a race of conquerors; and Xavin is an open-minded romantic from a race of pricks.
- X-Men comic Generation X was this trope plus Five-Token Band: the girl from Kentucky was the smart one, the guy from Los Angeles was the nice one, and so on.
- The Dark Knight - Massive, terrifying, black convict (with a facial tattoo!) taking the detonator for the other boat we assumed to blow up the other boat and save himself instead throwing it out of the window. "Give it to me, and I'll do what you shoulda did ten minutes ago." Crowning Moment of Awesome?? Hell, yes!
- In one of the most memorable scenes in Remember The Titans one of the black football players is visiting his teammate who lives in a white neighborhood. A police car pulls up and an officer eyes the youth. You think it's going to be a classic Rodney King-esque scene (it is taking place in the 1960's Virginia). But.... the officer simply congratulates the youth on a well-played game and wishes him good luck for an upcoming game. The black player, and presumably the audience, are pleasantly surprised.
- The Rush Hour movies milk this trope for all it's worth. Consider the scenes where Carter reveals he actually knows Chinese and Lee reveals that he actually speaks flawless English.
- In Rush Hour 2, Carter makes fun of a black man who has immersed himself in Chinese culture and knows the same type of kung-fu as Lee.
- In the Heat of the Night: The black guy in town, played by Sidney Poitier, is not just a Scary Black Man; he's also a respected detective from Philadelphia. And in case you're wondering, They call him 'Mr. Tibbs'! Not a big deal in 2009, but a huge deal in 1967.
- Actually the bigger deal was Chief Gillespie. A white small-town, southern police chief who was clearly bigoted, who actually managed to swallow his prejudices and help the black detective solve the crime. Mega-huge deal in 1967. And a well-deserved Oscar for Rod Steiger's performance.
- One hilarious scene in Airplane!! shows June Cleaver acting as an interpreter for two black youths who speak only Jive. She, of course, despite being a little old lady is fluent in the language.
- The film American Gangster. The success of Frank Lucas' all-black Harlem based drug ring in the 1970's was apparently so unheard of that when Russell Crowe's cop character tries to tell the Feds that Lucas is the one behind the drugs, they flatly refuse to believe that "a nigger" could pull it off.
- The Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle movies are built on this trope.
- In the The Karate Kid reboot, Andre is on his way to China, and on the flight sees a Chinese guy. Naturally he takes the opportunity to practice speaking Chinese, only for the guy to say, "Dude. I'm from Detroit."
- In the Troubleshooters series, one of the terrorists is a white, blond/blue-eyed guy from the Midwest, who relies on racial stereotyping to get away with murder, not to mention pin his latest crimes on the nice Middle Eastern gardener in the neighborhood.
- The Green Mile play IS this, as the Huge Muscular Black Man who supposedly raped two young girls and killed them with his BARE hands actually has a heart of gold (and is innocent.)
- The Dresden Files has Karrin Murphy: a pretty, five-foot-nothing blond with a cute button nose who Harry has described as looking like a cheerleader or someone's favorite aunt. And she's a badass cop with a black belt in aikido who's stood up to everything from a Nigh Invulnerable hell-werewolf to the king of all incubi and once attacked a 15-foot-tall ogre with a chainsaw. Also, the local werewolf pack are all Dungeons & Dragons-playing geeks.
- Averted in the TV series, where Murphy is Hispanic and looks like she means business. Still pretty, though.
- Victorian author Wilkie Collins liked to do this to stereotypes of his day. For example, in stage melodramas, the villain was always portrayed as being incredibly thin while fat men tended to be jolly comic relief style characters. So, in The Woman in White, Collins carefully cast the fat man as the main villain of the piece, an evil Italian gangster.
- Drizzt Do'Urden is well known for being pretty much everything a Drow isn't. He's a Nice Guy and Drow... are not very nice. At all.
- It should be noted that Drizzt's popularity has induced a slew of stereotype-flipped drow characters, turning the race into an Ensemble Dark Horse for D&D players.
- In the 1632 series, the Germans are the free-wheeling individualists, and the Americans are the stuffy, bureaucratic rule-lovers, much to the surprise of the respective opposing parties.
- Played with further in that any German that is a stuffy, bureaucratic rule-lover also fits this trope: the 'downtimer' stereotype of Germans is free-wheeling individualists.
- Piggy, the Gamorrean pilot from the X-Wing Series, is the only member of his species with the intellectual capacity to pilot a starfighter. (Of course, his brain was enhanced in various procedures.)
- A Brother's Price is a kind of romance novel set in a world where women rule and men are so rare they must be secluded and protected. As such it flips a lot of romance novel gender roles on their heads and invents some entirely new ones.
- Sandy Mitchell seems to take some glee in using the Ciaphas Cain novels to turn Warhammer 40000 stereotypes on their heads. For starters, the title character is the exact opposite of the stereotypical Imperial commissar, a cowardly, self-hating man with an inflated reputation (or so he says), frequently described by fans as the type of guy commissars are supposed to shoot. Valhallan troops have a reputation for Zerg Rush tactics, but the 597th is a Badass Army of mechanized infantry that is just as happy to let the enemy come to them if the situation calls for it. In Cain's Last Stand we meet Sister Julien, a senior Sister of Battle who drinks, gambles, and is romantically involved with the schola progenium's bursar.
Live Action TV
- In an episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, During a talent competition between USC and University of Michigan football players called "All American Idol", a white guy faces up against a black guy in a rap battle and utterly schools him.
- In an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, a Vulcan greets Captain Archer....with a warm and hearty handshake, something the Vulcans... don't do. She also asks Archer about her quarters; T'Pol assumes she's displeased with the smell as Vulcans have a more heightened sense of smell than humans. Rather, she wants Archer to thank the crewman who loaned it to her.
- Nog of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine not only proves that he's more than a money-grubbing Ferengi, he also becomes a Lieutenant in Starfleet.
- Worf's lover K'ehleyr, a fellow Klingon (though half-human), actually cracks jokes, smiles, and seems to actually have other interests other than finding excuses to 'fight in glorious battle.'
- The mere fact of the original Enterprise's crew was a historic stereotype flip. A black woman who was actually not a servant. A very scrutable Asian. A Russian treated sympathetically at the height of the Cold War. One of Trek's great accomplishments was all the stereotypes it flipped.
- Hannah Montana's Alpha Bitches Amber and Ashley are played by a black girl and an Asian girl. Amber is the hottest girl in school and a Rich Bitch, a role usually restricted to blondes, and Ashley is a bitchy Asian Airhead as opposed to "model minority" Asian and Nerdy. So, less of an Unfortunate Implication as much as a case of not restricting the ethnic kids to Black Best Friend and Token Minority.
- Mohinder Suresh on Heroes.
- On the same show, DL Hawkins was initially described as the classic Scary Black Man. When he actually showed up, he turned out to be one of the nicest and most sane guys on the show, completely dedicated to his wife and son.
- 24 has been flipping stereotypes since it's pilot episode. Some specific flippers (so to speak):
- President David Palmer
- President Allison Taylor.
- The biggest Flip occurred in Season 2. The question of just who was helping the terrorists nuke LA boiled down to either the Middle-Eastern boy educated in London, or his WASP father-in-law to be. And then.....we learn the REAL identity of the terrorist. Before the show starting pulling asses; this was one of the greatest twists and a true Stereotype Freakin' Flip.
- Senor Chang on Community. One episode showed he has a Jewish brother, Rabbi Chang, opening the possibility that Senor is Jewish as well.
- Stargate SG-1:
- Colonel Samantha Carter is a gorgeous, sexy, hot blonde. She also possesses an IQ approaching Stephen Hawking's and has kicked several planets-full of asses in two galaxies. And killed the gods of a third. She also blew up a sun.
- Jack O'Neill also breaks several stereotypes, being the Kirk and not into science most of the time he'll occasionally recognize stuff first...
- Daniel Jackson fits the bill as well. He is undoubtedly an academic and a nerd, who in the course of the show, has kicked his fair share of ass, and is far too good-looking to be a standard nerd.
- It should also be duly noted that of the two scientists/specialists on the team, it's the female Carter who is the hard scientist, career military, and The Lancer, while Daniel is a civilian whose specialties are in the much fuzzier subjects of archaeology, linguistics, and anthropology, he is The Heart of the team, and even The Chick.
- In Stargate Atlantis, we have Rodney McKay. Arrogant, rude, hypochondriac, generally a pain in the ass... when he's not kicking it.
- He also ends up with a hot chick... and is the only main character who has joined the Mile High Club.
- London Tipton, an Asian Airhead, yes, but usually the spoiled socialites are blonder.
- Much like Col. Carter, Agent Sarah Walker is blonde, sweet, sexy. And an ass-kicking is never far behind whenever she's on the screen.
- Devon "Captain Awesome!" Woodcomb combs like a typical "frat boy." And while he has that silly catchphrase, played football, and loves to say "bro" and "dude"; he is also an accomplished doctor, and a genuinely caring husband and friend.
- Total slacker Morgan is usually the one who comes up the biggest when the situation gets dire, which eventually leads to him becoming store manager.
- Specifically, he totally schools the hardass General Beckman into how a Buy More is supposed to be run in order to appear legit instead of the CIA/NSA front it obviously looks like (i.e. the employees are too good at their jobs instead of slacking off).
- Casey is a hardened veteran, nostalgic for the good old 80s and the Reagan administration. He loves his guns and always wears a stony expression, except when his favorite topics (already mentioned) are brought up. For the first couple of seasons he has a standing order to kill Chuck when ordered and is perfectly willing to go through with it. When he finds out he has a daughter he never knew, he genuinely tries to be a father to her. Also, when Chuck and Sarah run away together to complete the mission, he tracks them down and is visibly angry. However, he is angry not because they disobeyed their orders but because they didn't trust him enough to include him in their plan, showing he genuinely cares about the team.
- Doctor Who:
- The Jeffersons, although they sometimes fall straight into other stereotypes.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air derived much humor from the Fish out of Water nature of a stereotypical black teen clashing with his flipped relatives in Bel Air.
- The A-Team 's Mr. T. fool! Scary Black Man with a Mohawk and a chest full of chains. You wouldn't think it, but he was actually the one the kids loved, both in the show's universe and in Real Life.
- Leverage made The Smart Guy black and The Big Guy white. Elsewhere in the series, in one episode they meet another team, their "big guy" is an attractive Jewish woman.
- Lisa Turtle from Saved by the Bell was written as a stereotypical "Jewish Princess" and cast as Black (gentile?) before the show went on the air. She was still materialistic and high maintenance, but managed to avoid many of the Unfortunate Implications of the Sassy Black Woman because of her class (somewhere between Rich Bitch and Spoiled Sweet) and Cloud Cuckoolander tendencies. Her character was the only female lead to survive the Re Tool.
- Whitley Gilbert, the Alpha Bitch on A Different World was a brash, far-from-earth Southern Belle at a (functionally) all-black college. She was played by a trained dancer and stage actress Jasmine Guy, who's acerbic characterization and well-paced slapstick soon made Whitley the Breakout Character. Harsher in Hindsight / Hilarious in Hindsight Fair for Its Day, because during The Eighties, it was seen as a step forward for a Black Woman to play a Comedic Sociopath convincingly.
- Phil Harding, regular on UK archaeology show Time Team, looks and talks like a stereotypical West Country poacher. He's also an expert in pottery and flint-knapping and can speak eruditely and at great length about them, "ooh-arr" accent and all.
- Firefly had Zoe, an ass-kicking Action Girl, who was happily married to Wash, who was very much a Non-Action Guy. It seems that not All Amazons Want Hercules.
- Danny John Jules always enjoyed playing the Cat's nerdy alter-ego 'Dwayne Dibbley on Red Dwarf because it flipped the stereotype of black people as cool jive talking characters.
- Mad TV: The "Average Asian" sketches are about an Asian guy who is expected to have stereotypical Asian abilities (knows karate, origami, good at math, plays a musical instrument, etc) by people around him but doesn't (except for ping pong, summoning ninjas, and laundry).
- In an episode of Designing Women, Julia and Suzanne are visiting their mother in Japan. While on the plane, they're sitting beside an Asian man who is sitting on Suzanne's purse. Suzanne yells at him in her typically offensive way; Julia then attempts to speak to him in Japanese. At this point he reveals that he knew he was sitting on her purse, and mentions that not only does he speak fluent English, he's actually from Georgia, and mentions that if they want to continue screaming at him, please do it in English, because he might look Asian, but in reality, "He's a Bubba." (As a bonus, he was played by Henry Cho, who's mentioned below.)
- A petite blonde young woman in a horror series is.... a vampire slayer. The entire premise of the show was to flip the stereotype.
- WWE wrestler Jimmy Wang Yang's entire current gimmick is based around this. His character (a down-home cowboy who also happens to be Korean) has him deliberately defying Asian stereotypes by being proud of his Southern heritage, and wishing to be identified by his self-admitted love of being a redneck, rather than being judged by his race.
- A similar example occurred in the Pushing Daisies episode "The Fun in Funeral," where the culprit turns out to be an Asian-American good ol' boy who killed the victim to get back Civil War memorabilia belonging to his great-grandfather (a Chinese Laborer who wandered off from the railroad and ended up joining the Confederacy).
- John Cena is an even better example, both in Kayfabe and in Real Life. Born to relative privilege in a practically all-white Boston suburb, he embraced rap music at a young age and in time became a modestly successful rapper himself. And then, once he got to WWE, he flipped the stereotype right back by having his "wigger" character "join the military" (actually, he was just training for his starring role in The Marine) and transform seemingly overnight from a rude and crude ghetto thug to an all-American hero.
- It was once extremely common for a wrestler performing a Heel Face Turn or a Face Heel Turn to completely invert their stereotypical qualities to make the transition more dramatic. An example of the latter would be Nikolai Volkoff's turnaround from being a Dirty Commie to an apple-pie American patriot, while the former is exemplified in Rick Martel's switch from soft-spoken nice guy to the arrogant Jerkass known as "The Model." Now that Black and Gray Morality is much more common in sports-entertainment, it's customary for wrestlers to simply retain (as much as possible) their old qualities when they turn: TNA's "Mr. Anderson" may be a crowd favorite now, but he's still undeniably an "Asshole."
- Korean-American Henry Cho was born and raised in Tennessee and much of his humor is quite blue collar in contrast to the stereotypically elitist affectations of Korean Americans. Henry's even acknowledged the inherent humor of an Asian person with a southern drawl.
- Canadian comedian Shaun Majumder, who is half Indian, has a stand-up bit about appearing as a minor terrorist villain on 24. He talks at length about how offensively stereotyped his character was while describing a chase scene with Jack Bauer, but the punch line is that instead of being a stereotypical brown terrorist, he's actually an over-the-top Newfoundlander.
- The Zeroth Law of Trope Examples strikes again. In Othello, Shakespeare flips not one, but three Dead Horse Tropes: the brutal, lascivious, and treacherous Moor; the promiscuous, cunning, venal Venetian lady, and the honest soldier. Othello is honorable, cool-headed (mostly), and chaste; Desdemona is almost a Purity Sue in her simplicity; and Iago...
- In Electra, Chrysothemis is very clear on the point that Electra is not behaving like a woman should at all (ie. She refuses to defer to others and accept her weakness and limits as a women, is certain to remain unmarried and neglected because of her behaviour, is stubborn and excessive in mourning her father, and is conspiring to murder her mother and step-father). Electra is a Tragic Hero, after all.
- M Butterfly has its title and plot clearly based on Madame Butterfly's, but turns out to be a deconstruction of the "demure and submissive Asian woman who lives only for her Mighty Whitey man" stereotype codified by Madame Butterfly when it's revealed that the seemingly demure and submissive Song is actually a male spy who manipulated the white diplomat Gallimard as ruthlessly as Pinkerton did with Butterfly in Madame Butterfly, and it's Gallimard who kills himself in the end out of love for a man, even crossdressing as a Japanese woman and committing suicide in the same manner Butterfly did.
- Mass Effect takes pride in introducing a hat for a species to wear and then instantly having them take it off. Liara is a shy bookworm from a planet of sociable diplomats, Garrus is a loose cannon from a species of obedient soldiers (who lampshades it by saying that he's "not a very good turian"), Wrex is a philosophical and noble leader from a species of Blood Knights.
- The second game introduces two asari who are so far outside the stereotype most of their own people tend not to mention them; a krogan warlord obsessed with producing a single perfect krogan rather than returning to the old ways; and a geth who reveals the hat placed on his race in the original game applied to only a small rebel faction.
- Not to mention the extremely civil and eloquent krogan businessman you can meet on Illium. Another one, Charr, doesn't seem to have a ounce of aggression in his body and is wooing an asari with poetry.
- None of the Katawa Shoujo characters entirely fulfil the cliche of their disability (Hanako probably comes the closest, but she is still much deeper than you'd expect), but Shizune really blows her own out of the water. She's deaf-mute, but instead of being shy and passive she's an outgoing, competitive, ruthless taskmaster who is a totally devoted Student Council President.
- The expansions to Neverwinter Nights 2 flip stereotypes with several characters. Mask of the Betrayer has Gann, a hagspawn spirit shaman who is the resident Mr. Fanservice. Hagspawn are normally ugly brutes (-2 Charisma, favored class Barbarian). Gann isn't because his parents actually loved each other.
- Safiya is everything the vast majority of Red Wizards are not, more interested in learning and teaching than accruing personal power.
- Storm of Zehir has Umoja, a druid who hams it up rather than whinging about the balance of life.
- Belueth the Calm is a Neutral Evil aasimar rogue. Aasimar are normally good (favored class Paladin) due to their celestial heritage.
- Grykk Bannersworn is half-orc paladin. Not much else needs to be said.
- Dragon Age: Origins has an example of this in one of the romance subplots related to Morrigan and Leliana. Morrigan is the 'atheist' member of the player's party who tends to hate religion whereas Leliana is the church-attending saint of the group. In a flip of a real life expectation, it's Leliana, the religious party member, who is open to a homosexual relationship with a female player character (she will also form a relationship with a male player character as well). Morrigan, the atheist party member, is strictly heterosexual and will only entertain a romantic relationship with a male player character.
- Dale Gribble of King of the Hill is a Right Wing Militia Fanatic and general Conspiracy Theorist, but against stereotype isn't racist/prejudiced in the slightest and is actually a pretty nice guy.
- There was also an episode where Khan, in grief over failing to Connie into a prep school, decided to embrace his "American" side and completely abandon his Laotian heritage and behaviors, becoming an unbearably stereotypical redneck instead of his normal stereotypical "Asian workaholic" behavior.
- On South Park, Token Black (yes, that's his name) is the richest kid in town, and his parents seem to be more educated than just about anybody else. The entire episode "Here Comes the Neighborhood" plays on this idea: as more rich and successful black people move to town, the poor white characters begin to get angry, but over class rather than race — until the very end, where Mr. Garrison basically outs himself as a racist.
- Token does actually fulfill some pretty funny stereotypes himself though: He has an astounding soul voice (Then-Mrs. Garrison claimed that it got her wet), and this little gem...
Cartman: Alright, Token, play the bass.
Token: Cartman, I told you I don't know how to-
Cartman: Token, you're black, you can play the damn bass.
Token: Cartman, that's a racist-
Cartman: TOKEN PLAY THE DAMN BASS!
(Token plays the bass perfectly)
- In Futurama, Hermes Conrad is, in many ways, exact opposite of a stereotypical Jamaican - while they're normally portrayed as being maxed and relaxed, he's an uptight, neurotic workaholic. Though he does have the limbo and reggae skills.
- Francine from American Dad was angry at her adoptive Asian parents for leaving all they had to their unseen birth daughter, Gwen. It turns out that they actually have more respect for Francine, and that Gwen is an Asian Airhead who isn't even good at math. Stan and Francine's father both agree it's terrible for children to disrespect their parents' stereotypes.
- Ren and Stimpy are flips of Animal Stereotypes. Ren is a mean dog, Stimpy is a Dumb Is Good cat.