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Tragic Bigot
Eddie Valiant: Get this straight, meatball! I! Don't! Work! For toons!
Angelo: ...So what's his problem?
Dolores: A toon killed his brother.
Angelo: What?

The Tragic Bigot is a character who has developed an Irrational Hatred of a demographic, race, species, subculture, etc., as the result of a traumatic and tragic incident involving that group in the character's past. This typically manifests as the death of one or more of the bigot's loved ones, the utter ruination of the bigot's life, or something similarly horrible. As a good rule of thumb, the Tragic Bigot would be a straight-up woobie if they had come out of the incident without holding it against their tormenter's kind.

This doesn't justify the Tragic Bigot's bigotry; the Tragic Bigot is still a bigot, and their hatred is still irrational. However, when this Dark and Troubled Past is revealed, it quite often causes their peers (and the audience) to think better of them as a character, or at least not hate them as much. It often paints their bigotry in a different light, portraying it as one of the personal demons that an otherwise good character has to fight (or else succumb to entirely, if they're a villainous example).

And this is likely why this is such a common trope for bigots: compared to a regular bigot, the Tragic Bigot has a far higher capacity to be a good person underneath it all, and thus any non-villainous bigot in a story has a very good chance of being this trope. After all, straight-up bigotry is widely seen as a villainous trait.

This also, however, can make a Tragic Bigot far more hurtful. Since the Tragic Bigot is often an otherwise good person, this gives their remarks far more sting because the characters who are the subjects of their bigotry can't simply dismiss them as a Jerk Ass and a lost cause they should just ignore. In fact, depending on how tragic the Tragic Bigot is and just how many of that group took part, it can sometimes cause characters in that group to doubt themselves and maybe even fear that the Tragic Bigot could be right about them. Unless said demographic is humans, however, this rarely if ever lasts very long.

Another important distinction of the Tragic Bigot is that they aren't likely to resort to bullying or mockery like a standard bigot would. The Tragic Bigot doesn't see their hated demographic as inferior, but as evil.

Finally, the Tragic Bigot has a very high chance of redeeming themselves. One very popular method is that the Tragic Bigot runs into their old tormentors during the course of the story and defeats them this time around. If this happens, expect the Tragic Bigot's bigotry to rapidly disappear.

Of course, a Tragic Bigot can still be a villain, and when they are this trope has some serious overlap with the Tragic Villain and Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.

Compare Freudian Excuse, which is what the Tragic Bigot's backstory is. Also see Troubled Sympathetic Bigot, which a Tragic Bigot is quite likely to also be (though the reverse isn't necessarily the case).


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • One Piece
    • Many fishmen, such as Fisher Tiger, hate humans because of how humans have treated them—they made him a slave, and it is implied that most fishmen hate humans for this reason. This is subverted when Hody Jones, the Big Bad, describes what humans have done to him (personally) to make him hate them: "Nothing." He has, however, witnessed everyone he cares about being mistreated and decided to style himself as the spirit of Fishman Vengeance, lashing out against not only humans, but even fishmen sympathetic to humans.
    • Jinbe and Hatchan think Nami is this, since she has a bad childhood with Arlong (their former comrade). However, thanks to Hatchan's general kindness and Jinbe's story (as well as the incident in Sabaody involving Camie the mermaid), Nami has lost any kind of bad opinions towards fishmen. She still hates Arlong, though and the likes of Hody for their personal actions and not because of their species.
  • Pretty much everyone who hates humans in Rosario + Vampire has had a tragic encounter with them in one way or another. The biggest example is probably Ruby, whose tragic backstory (her parents both dying in a car crash with a human truck driver), while tragic, didn't reflect overly poorly on humanity (who else would there be to crash into, exactly?). However, she remains sympathetic because her Tragic Bigotry was actually nurtured and encouraged for her entire life by her psychotic witch mentor who wanted to use her in her plan to kill as many humans as possible.

Film
  • Eddie Valiant from Who Framed Roger Rabbit used to love Toontown and the toons who lived there until a toon killed his brother, which left him bitter and resentful towards toons in general, especially since he never found out which toon it was until Eddie finally confronts and defeats him at the end of the movie.
  • In Team America: World Police, Chris harbors a deep distrust of actors because he was molested by the cast after a Cats performance.
  • The Searchers: While Ethan Edwards is basically a Jerkass to everyone, he gains a little sympathy over his hatred of Comanches since a group of them killed his family and took his niece to live as one of them.
  • Derek from American History X became a neo-Nazi after his father, a fireman, was murdered by black drug dealers when he tried to extinguish a fire. Although the end of the movie shows that dear old dad was already planting some racist thoughts in a young Derek's mind prior to dad's death. These were far less racist and hurtful things than what Derek later wound up swallowing wholesale from the neo-Nazis, but nonetheless...
  • Ending up far worse than Derek was Remy, the Anti-Villain (and, believe it or not, one of the three protagonists) of John Singleton's Higher Learning (1995). At the start of the film, he's actually the most sympathetic character (largely because of his Woobieness), but after too much bullying from the black kids in his college dormitory, and then nonstop taunting from fellow skinheads who mock him for constantly ranting about doing something to avenge the white race but having never even fired a gun before, he buys a sniper rifle and murders three students, the last of which is himself. Remy never even believed in white supremacy (and how could he have, using himself as an index?); he just wanted to live in a fantasy world where his otherwise irrelevant existence automatically had meaning.

Literature
  • One of the female jury members from the first John Grisham novel A Time to Kill. Her boss is black, and unfortunately, he's a Bad Boss and a Pointy-Haired Boss. No wonder she's a hopeless case. Then again, the protagonist still wins the case.
  • Averted with Ciaphas Cain: He claims his parents were killed by kroot, to a kroot's face, but doesn't bear them any more ill-will towards them than the other xenos species. Of course, it's entirely possible he was lying.
  • Rene Vorbretten in A Civil Campaign hates Cetagandans for killing his father in battle only to find that one of his ancestors was a Cetagandan.
    • Tragic bigotry toward Cetagandans is not an uncommon attitude in Barrayar because of the brutal occupation and because bigotry is a common vice(if less fashionable in Gregor's reign then in earlier times) among Barryarans anyway. Komarrans are often bigoted toward Barrayarans for conquering them as well.

Live-Action TV
  • The wife of the coroner (both black) in Copper hates the Irish because her brothers were lynched by The Irish Mob. This causes issue, as the main character and the coroner's top client, Kevin Corcoran, is an Irish immigrant.
  • Parodied in the Scrubs episode "My Five Stages", where Dr. Kelso has a bizarre hatred of bikers that causes the Janitor to raise an eyebrow and ask why on earth he hates bikes so much. Cue flashback to Dr. Kelso as a little kid, listening to his father who is on a bicycle with tons of luggage tied to it:
    Kelso's Father: Son, Daddy's got to move on. And I just want you to know that since the car is in your mother's name, I wouldn't be able to leave the family forever if it weren't for your bike.
  • Hilariously subverted in True Blood. When an anti-supernatural hate group called "The Obamas" (named after the Obama masks they use as disguises) starts savaging Bon Temps and murdering shifters, werewolves and vampires, Sookie tries to find out who the leader, called "The Dragon," really is. When it turns out to be a woman named Sweetie Des Arts, Sookie uses her psychic powers to try and find out why she hates supernaturals so much, only to find out that it's because her husband left her for a shifter. While that would be sufficient for less extreme actions, the fact that The Dragon launched an entire genocide campaign makes it unfathomably petty.
  • G'kar in Babylon 5 is bigoted against the Centauri for their crimes against his world. He outgrows this a little when he is forced to cooperate with a Centauri and when he sees the Centauri suffering too.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Major Kira bore quite a strong grudge against Cardassians thanks to her time as a member of the Bajoran resistance. Driven home when she has a few Not So Different moments (given the Cardassians were basically Space Nazis).
  • Most Hunters in Supernatural start because someone they loved was killed by a supernatural creature. The Winchesters because the Yellow Eyed Demon killed their mother.
  • In Merlin, Uther Pendragon hates sorcerers because Nimue used magic to get his sterile wife pregnant with Arthur, not knowing that to give birth to Arthur her life would be traded. This one is made worse due to the fact it's emphasized it was completely unintentional on her part.
  • It could be argued that The Doctor is this toward Daleks. Of course, they're also Always Chaotic Evil Omnicidal Maniacs who represent such a terrible threat to all other sapient life that his entire species pulled a "Taking You with Me" on them, so you can't really call his hatred of them irrational. Especially since the aforementioned mass Heroic Sacrifice didn't work.
  • The Anti-Villain on one episode of Law & Order was a young man who, convinced he had been denied entrance to medical school because of affirmative-action quotas, went on a rampage of murdering every single woman he saw with an assault rifle, all the while muttering crude misogynist slurs under his breath. We're allowed to feel at least a little sorry for him, however, because he's clearly insane, he cries when the police corner him, and he appears pretty remorseful and well-behaved at his trial. In fact, the theme of that episode was not actually affirmative action or hate crimes, but gun control - especially when the prosecution dramatically pours out a box filled with all the rounds from the murderer's gun, demonstrating how ridiculously easy it is for an unstable individual to obtain far more ammunition than any civilian needs.
    • The killer used a semi-automatic copy of a machine pistol which he converted from Semi-Automatic to Full Automatic via Hollywood Engineering, not an Assault Rifle. (In reality any firearms company marketing a firearm to civilians which is so easily converted to full-auto fire would have already been shut down by the ATF, to say nothing of the punishment which would be levied on the heads of the company. And the ATF has a RIDICULOUSLY broad definition of 'easily converted'.) This is exactly why so-called Gun Nuts [1] don't take anti-gunners seriously, they almost never have any idea what they are talking about. This particular episode demonstrates that if you want to push an Aesop, you should try to understand the subject in question before you do. Moreover Mc Coy's pouring out of the ammunition was to demonstrate how many more bullets the murderer was able to fire in a short span of time because of the modification made possible by Hollywood Engineering. The amount of ammo acquired was never made an issue. The pouring of ammo also happened at the trial of the owner of the gun company, not the murderer. The judge later calls out Mc Coy for his blatantly, politically-motivated prosecution when he throws out the Jury verdict, and slaps Mc Coy down by reminding him that no amount of laws will stop people from killing each other with whatever means available. Meanwhile Mc Coy did nothing but manipulate the juror's emotions in the hopes of advancing his own political beliefs.
  • Roger Sterling in Mad Men has a deep-seated hatred of the Japanese because he served in the US Navy in the Pacific War and is implied to have seen Japanese soldiers commit many horrible brutalities. He purposely sabotages a deal with Honda when his colleagues go behind him for the good of their company and has an emotional talk about it with Joan later on who tells him to leave it behind.

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft setting. In Rudolph van Richten's Back Story his son Erasmus was kidnapped by a Vistani clan and sold him to a vampire. Van Richten tracked down the Vistani and (with a little help) killed all of them in a rage. When he found Erasmus, he learned that his son had been turned into a vampire and killed him. He hated all Vistani for years thereafter but eventually learned that not all Vistani are evil.

Video Games
  • Dragon Age: Origins. Teyrn Loghain mac Tir hates Orlais because of the years Ferelden spent subjugated under them and his experiences in the war that won his country's independence. It gets to the point that he would rather betray King Cailan and become the Big Bad than accept their help in fighting the darkspawn. It's tragic because he genuinely believes he's protecting his beloved homeland.
  • Rosie in Valkyria Chronicles grew up in an area heavily-populated by Darcsen people, the game's equivalent to Jews/Gypsies. She's revealed in a bonus chapter to have lost her family to Darcsen hunters, after they burned her home to the ground thinking there were Darcsens inside it. She ultimately concluded that if there had been no Darcsens in her life, her family would be alive. By the time in the story this has been revealed, she's gotten over it from her experiences with Darcsen injustice and cruelties throughout the warnote .
    • In the Japan-only Valkyria Chronicles III, Imca develops an immense hatred of Valkyria after witnessing one (specifically Selvaria Bles) destroy her hometown.
  • Dawn of War II gives us Sergeant Avitus, a very grim man whose personality is defined, at least in part, by his hatred of the Imperial Guard, and always takes the opportunity to insult them as cowards when he can. This is mostly due to his childhood, where he was under the heel of a corrupt Guard regiment, and the Kronus Campaign, where he was in direct conflict with them and lost brothers to the fighting. This slowly does get averted, though, as the game progresses and the regiment he and his brothers help out manage to prove themselves as capable allies. That then gets averted yet again in the start of Chaos Rising, where he gets attacked by traitor guardsmen, but he doesn't completely revert back to how he originally was.
  • In Final Fantasy X, the Al Bhed are societal outcasts due to their use of machina technology, which the world-wide religion Yevon teaches are blasphemous and anger Sin, the Eldritch Abomination that roams the world. That alone would probably make Religious Bruiser Wakka opposed to them, but he didn't start hating the Al Bhed until his younger brother Chappu (who Wakka practically raised after their parents died) was killed by Sin trying to fight alongside them using machina weapons rather than the sword Wakka tried to give Chappu.
    • Meanwhile, in sequel Final Fantasy X-2, the Youth League has become an opposing faction to New Yevon because of the revelation that old Yevon kept all of Spira in Medieval Stasis and kept pointlessly sacrificing Summoners to stay in power. Thankfully, the Gullwings intervene before things get too dicey.
  • In Mass Effect 2 An asari in Illium lost her wife in the Geth War and her daughters in the attack at the Citadel in Mass Effect 1, and is convinced that if only the asari exist, the galacia would be a better place. You can talk with her, get her to open up and break down in tears about this terrible tragedy and the pain it still causes her, and convincing her to honour their memory by forgiving the aliens she holds responsible... only to overhear two racist asari thoughtlessly bitching about her and her family, because she's pureblood and she married an asari.
    • Just to make this one a tiny bit worse: It's implied that Shepard may have met both of her daughters on the Citadel. One was the Presidium receptionist; the other worked for the asari Consort..
  • Taru Caplain in The Reconstruction is a misanthropic Jerkass to everyone he meets, but is especially hostile to Shra. This is because his former captain, the Shra Rehm, went into a massive Heroic BSOD after the death of Vasra. Taru, who was himself pretty broken by Vasra's death, ultimately decided that Rehm had abandoned the crew, and came to believe that all Shra were cowards.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Plays this straight and also defies it. It's played straight for Dracula, who hated the humans after they took his (also human) wife, Lisa, and burned her alive because they thought she was a witch. However Alucard, Dracula and Lisa's Dhampyr son, was there when they killed her, and her last words made sure that he at least would not go down the same path:
    Do not hate the humans. If you cannot live with them, at least do them no harm. For theirs is already a hard lot.
  • Soren in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance has a strong hatred of the laguz (a group of were-beast peoples) that comes as a shock, as it's completely out-of-place with his usual stoic demeanor and rational way of thinking. Only when Ike has a support conversation with Soren later in the game is the reason revealed: as a child, the laguz abused him because he was a Branded—a Half-Human Hybrid between beorc (stock humans) and laguz that generally is rejected by both.)

Web Comics
  • Redcloak from The Order of the Stick. Initially he hated both humans (especially Paladins) because his village was wiped out by a group of Lawful Stupid paladins (since they were mechanically an Always Chaotic Evil race and literally only existed to serve as a source of XP) and Hobgoblins (because he and other goblins were bullied by their more martially inclined brethren). He has since gotten over the latter, but not the former, as a result of this, he declares himself not a racist, but a "Specieist" since he hates all races of humans easily.
  • Jamie from Khaos Komix is first introduced as a homophobic Jerkass, and although he shows some Hidden Depths in later appearances, he still comes across as a bigot. It's only in his own POV chapter that readers find out ''why'' he acts like that.

Web Animation

Western Animation
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender , the Fire Nation has waged a century-long war against the Water Tribes and the Earth Kingdom, committed genocide against the Air Nomads, and has implemented a brutal occupation of all foreign lands they have conquered. Try to find a single person in the initial series or the subsequent comics who hates firebenders and isn't this trope. You will fail.
  • In a Courage the Cowardly Dog episode called "The Mask," a cat called "Kitty" hated all dogs because a domestic abuser of her friend Bunny is a dog.
  • In one episode of Futurama The Professor leads a group of protestors against Proposition Infinity, which would legalize Robosexuality. It turns out he hates Robosexuals because he used to be one before his robot girlfriend cheated on him with another robot, causing him to take his heartbreak out on all robots with an interest in humans.
  • The Legend of Korra has Amon, who claims to hate all benders because a firebender murdered his family. It's a lie, but he still came to hate benders because his traumatic childhood convinced him that bending was evil.
    • Hiroshi Sato also turns out to be one of these, surprisingly enough; it's because his beloved wife was murdered by firebenders.

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