, things that simply are not done. Doing so may result in anything from
. Comedians and critics that gladly cross all the lines will still stop at this one, no matter how bold they are. In short, some things are just unacceptable.
; this can cause the cancellation of particular episodes considered too offensive or tasteless. If Unacceptable Targets is somehow made funny, it almost always belongs to the
category. Not to say that there is no such thing as
. Humor can be constructed in a way that reveres and respects its targets or makes them appear all the more awesome. Still, comedy is a difficult business and sometimes even jokes meant to be respectful can be misinterpreted. As a result, it can sometimes be better to simply not try.
, it's sometimes considered okay to use them as a vehicle for a joke, as long as the joke is not at their expense. Even so, a comedian will get attacked if the joke is perceived as too mean. (For example, a joke about how Warner Bros. mistreats
to this. Contrast with
. Compare with
. Some situations can result in heavy
in cases where the subjects in question were mocked at one time by one people in the dark annals of history. Perhaps a good rule of thumb to distinguish between the two is
The deceased in general
See Also: Never Speak Ill of the Dead
It is typically not a good idea to rejoice at a person's death
or make fun of a deceased person
. This is more so if the person died tragically and/or recently
. Even if they were formerly an Acceptable Target
, it's best not to say "They deserved it!
" or such. While there may be some exceptions, such as those who died via the death penalty
, Suicide by Cop
, by sheer stupidity
(see the Darwin Awards
, most of the victims on One Thousand Ways To Die
, etc.), other similar causes, and Adolf Hitler
- In NetHack, Izchak, the keeper of the lighting shop in Minetown, is never killed, even by the most hardcore mass-genocidal players. He's named after a member of the devteam who died of cancer, and killing him is considered to be very bad form.
- Averted in YouTube Poop as Billy Mays is one of the most popular sources, perhaps because many poops are made in his honor and a number of poopers stopped creating Billy Mays YTPs after he died.
- Also averted with Ghost's granny in True Capitalist Radio, who's as much of a chew toy as her grandson. The fact that she's dead is all the more reason for Trolls to make fun of her as a means of triggering one of Ghost's many Berserk Buttons.
- Averted by the editorial comics on The Onion website. Recently deceased celebrities including George Carlin, James Brown, and even Luciano Pavarotti are depicted in the editorial comic as burning in Hell. Given Carlin's willingness to cross all kinds of lines in his own work, he might have even laughed at that.
- Considering that the comics are actually a Stealth Parody of right-wing political cartoonists, it can be argued that they are targeting and mocking Carlin and Brown's socially conservative critics rather than the celebrities themselves.
- One of Cracked's reasons no one laughed at your joke is "It Was About Something They Won't Laugh About, Ever". Examples include "the death of a child, or genocide".
- In the infamous "Eulogy Song" from The Chaser's War on Everything, Andrew is cut off by the rest of the team before he can start a verse about Belinda Emmett, an Australian actress who died of breast cancer and had never done anything to warrant anger or ire.
- The show survived even after the hosts infamously infiltrated an APEC conference. It did not survive the backlash of mocking the Make A Wish Foundation.
- Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero are both beloved by WWE fans; if anything relating to them is brought up, the fans will cheer. Even more so with Owen, as WWE exploited Eddie in the months after his death but Owen was left alone for the most part.
- Subverted by Chris Benoit. As the above example states, wrestlers like Owen Hart, and Eddie Guerrero are looked upon as Unacceptable Targets, but due to the nature of Chris Benoit's transgressions immediately before his passing, it is a very rare example in the Pro Wrestling community to pretty much declare him fair game for all manner of off-color jokes, downright insults, open mocking, and a hearty handful of "See you in Hell's." If wrestlers like the late Eddie Guerrero are considered the holy angel of all that is untouchable, Chris Benoit is often looked as the exact opposite; The demonic anti-Christ with an "open season" sign around the gravestone. All the more surprising and ironic, today, when considering in life, they were incredibly close friends. The difference being that Eddie's death was the cumulative result of years of addiction and not double-murder-suicide. Of course, the WWE's understandable, if ham-fisted, attempts to pretend Benoit never existed may have made references to him that much more tempting to those chanters in the audience who want to mess up a show.
- There's an Irish wrestler called B-Cool who has done a spot in matches where he will suddenly scream "oh my God, it's Chris Benoit!" and start singing Benoit's music before climbing to the top rope and delivering a diving headbutt. Did we mention this is done at family shows?
- Private Eye magazine has repeatedly displayed a rather stunning aversion to this trope, mocking Michael Jackson as a "mad paedophile" in the issue following his death, taking the mickey out of Diana, mocking members of that bobsleigh team that were killed at the Olympics, and satirizing the 9/11 attacks. Sometimes this is awesome, such as an early classic marking the death of apartheid South Africa's prime minister in September 1966. "Verwoerd: A nation mourns" showed a picture of Zulu tribesmen dancing. Sometimes it is less so, and their particularly tasteless ones usually elicit a flood of complaints in the letters section (the magazine crowed a little about their response to 9/11, for instance... but in the 2001 Private Eye annual, their take on the World Trade Center is conspicuously absent). A particularly interesting example was their Diana cover; it received huge criticism, but it wasn't about the princess at all but about the reaction to her death. Hislop would later say that the magazine had said "This is an odd cultural phenomenon, let's talk about it" and the public replied "We don't want to talk about it, we want to throw flowers and buy Candle in the Wind".
Survivors of a tragedy
- If the individual in question was well-known enough and was generally respected, mocking any assassinated leader or murdered celebrity is considered very tasteless. Examples: Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, Anwar Sadat, John Lennon, Itzhak Rabin. (Oh, and Princess Diana...although she wasn't exactly assassinated.) That said, it's generally acceptable to mock some of the circumstances around how they died — for example, Lincoln saying "Ugh, somebody shoot me" in regard to how boring the play was will get laughs.
- This depends a lot on a person’s political affiliation. While many of these are despised by people with, um, troublesome views, Rabin is often criticised on both ends of the political spectrum in Israel: right-wingers think the Oslo treaties were a horrible idea because Arafat and/or the Palestinians in general were not a trustworthy partner and leftists criticise him for everything he did before he started the talks and for being an untrustworthy partner himself, and criticism of his policies is becoming gradually (though very slowly) more prevalent.
- When Richard Nixon died, it temporarily became acceptable only to remember positive aspects of his presidency such as opening relations with Red China. This lasted until some previously unreleased Watergate tapes were discovered, which revealed him to be an even bigger racist Jerk Ass than he had been presented as during the investigation.
- Despite being basically a walking punchline before his death, for about six months after Michael Jackson died it was considered extremely poor taste to bring up his bizarre appearance or pedophilia charges (most people instead choosing to focus on his 1980s and early '90s stardom, and/or considering the complex circumstances of the pedophilia allegations/charges more objectively than the media had reported them at the time), to the point that some videos poking fun at Michael got a ton of hate mail, despite those videos being made before he died, with little to no objections at the time. This has died down a bit, but even today people tend to walk on eggshells when making Michael Jackson jokes, for fear of reprisal from rabid fans.
- Subverted in the case of Jimmy Savile in England. When he died, he was much respected — particularly for his charity work — until allegations of child molestation and rape emerged about a year later. With possibly hundreds of victims to his name, he's become the best-known real life example of a Depraved Kids' Show Host; much of Top of the Pops' run and all of the shows he hosted solo have been rendered unairable.
- Played straight as well, sort of: During his life there were loads of jokes about him being vaguely creepy. You can't make jokes along those lines now, not out of respect to the dead, but because it would be shockingly tactless to his victims.
- Anytime the Westboro Baptist Church pickets a funeral, the subjects of their protest become this.
- If you live in Brazil, never mock Ayrton Senna or you will be seen as a monster.
- Once Margaret Thatcher died, plenty of people who felt screwed over by her government started rejoicing, and the press reacted in disgust. (The latter article even compares this attitude to their obituary of much more controversial Hugo Chavez: "To the millions who revered him – a third of the country, according to some polls – a messiah has fallen, and their grief will be visceral. To the millions who detested him as a thug and charlatan, it will be occasion to bid, vocally or discreetly, good riddance.")
See Also: Shell-Shocked Senior
While they didn't exactly die, the above also applies to survivors of a horrific tragedy, perhaps even moreso as they're alive to at least do something about the mockery. Considering that they saw many lives die first-hand (including perhaps their friends and family), they won't take it lightly to say the least.
People who have gone into space
- Such examples include survivors of tragedies like the Holocaust, victims of Josef Stalin and totalitarian countries, Virginia Tech and other school massacres, and September 11.
- Taken Up to Eleven in today's Germany by making this the law with Holocaust victims/survivors; the Nazi party is banned, the No Swastikas rule is law, and Holocaust denial is illegal.
- Pretty much any war veteran.
- When comedian Johnny Walker found out that a fellow comedian had lied about serving in Vietnam, he turned the man into an Acceptable Target in his own routines for the remainder of their two weeks playing comedy clubs (as part of a group). You do not tell Vietnam jokes and pretend you were there. You just don't.
- This can also include people who suffered through a natural disaster, such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the Haiti earthquake, and the Japan earthquake/tsunami.
- For more than four hundred years, a lot of Don Quixote fans had hated Alfonso Fernández de Avellaneda, a writer who published a Continuation Fic to the First part of Don Quixote. In the prologue, Avellaneda described Cervantes as a man without friends, and then he wrote: He has more tongue that hands. Cervantes was a Shell-Shocked Senior of the Battle of Lepanto, where he was wounded in his left arm. Cervantes is also known as The Cripple of Lepanto.
- After the Boston Marathon Bombings of 2013, the city of Boston adopted the slogan "Boston Strong" to demonstrate the city's resolve in the face of adversity, especially those who had either died or survived it with horrible injuries. So on two occasions when fans of rival sports teams created banners and shirts reading "Toronto Stronger" and "Chicago Stronger", Bostonians were not amused.
Space travel is dangerous, and the requirements to make a career out of going up into space are astronomical
. You have to be in peak physical condition, possess high intellect, endure months of specialized training, and the potential for disasters during any launch, mission, etc. can strike in the blink of an eye. The sacrifices throughout the years of astronauts, regardless of their nationality is nothing to take lightly. Much like the aforementioned case with the shell-shocked seniors, modern astronauts are around to provide a counterpoint to the mockery, and in some cases will not deal with it for very long.
- Used in-universe in Dr McNinja, with "Nasaghasts" that ruthlessly hunt down and destroy anyone who threatens or tries to harm an astronaut. Doesn't matter why you do it; if you do something mean to an astronaut, you're going down.
Military Servicemen and Servicewomen
- Moon landing conspiracy theorists have fallen to the bottom of the conspiracy theory hierarchy in recent years, making the holdouts appear even more detached than the norm. One such theorist, Bart Sibrel, approached Buzz Aldrin and broached the subject. Buzz... respectfully disagreed with his opinion. We mean he punched the conspirator in the face. Mr. Sibrel tried to press charges and the judge dismissed the case after seeing the video, ruling it was self defense, and taking into account that Sibrel wasn't actually injured (just bruised and publically humiliated).
Watch what you say about the military, especially around loved ones of soldiers and Marines who've died while serving. This is also a specific version of the deceased in general and survivors of a tragedy, considering that it is very likely that they will see people die first hand, not to mention they may even get severely injured or even lose their lives serving. Note that this one is Newer Than They Think
: as recently as the Vietnam War it was considered acceptable in some anti-war circles to heap abuse on returning veterans.
Humanitarian activists, professions and/or anyone who puts their life in jeopardy to help others
- See Cervantes' case at Survivors of a tragedy
- See the Westboro Baptist Church example above. Most of their funeral protests are for servicemembers killed in action.
- With a male-exclusive conscription system in Singapore, one girl was under a cyber attack after mocking the death of a serviceman. She took back her words soon, though.
Keep in Mind, it takes guts
for someone to put themselves at risk, and even a foolish one
deserves some respect if the goal is to protect someone else. The same goes for humanitarian organizations like Amnesty International, the Red Cross, Unicef, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, Human Rights Watch, ... as well as internationally respected humanitarian activists like Mahatma Gandhi
, Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, Oskar Schindler, Bob Geldof, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Desmond Tutu, Mikhail Gorbachev
, the 14th Dalai Lama,... Cynical people tend to dismiss their actions as square
or they only do it to get attention
, but the truth of the matter is that they at least try to do something right, spend a lot of time and energy doing so and lead far more admirable lives than most of us.
Administrators and Moderators of a Community
- There's something astonishing about the fact that Nelson Mandela has dedicated most of his adult life to get South Africa rid of a racist and unfair political system, spent 27 years of his life in jail for his ideals and was already more than 70 years old when he was finally released. He accomplished his goal, even became the first black president of South Africa but didn't use his power for revenge. Instead he forgave all the people who originally looked down upon him and built a new nation where everyone of any race, gender or sexuality can life together.
- A particularly moving example is Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest who was sent to Auschwitz. While he was there he witnessed the guards taking ten men away for execution. One of them begged to spared because of his wife and children, so Kolbe stepped forward and offered to go in his place. The guards agreed and thus Kolbe was sent to starve to deeath in an underground bunker. After two weeks he was the only one alive, though barely, and the Nazis gave him a lethal injection. The man whose life was spared survived the war as a result of this astonishing self sacrifice would life well into his nineties, forever grateful of Kolbe's noble deed.
- Firefighters have to risk their lives to put out a fire, especially if someone is trapped inside.
- In the case of Chernobyl, many firefighters treated the fire of the nuclear power plant as a normal fire until they noticed they were getting sick because they weren’t informed it was Reactor Number 4. You can guess what happened next.
- While many often criticize them for brutality in some cases, trustworthy police officers put their lives on the line and are often armed for a reason.
- We have an entire page about this: Acts of Kindness.
On many websites and message boards, the admins, moderators, and any of their friends
are very Unacceptable Targets. For reasons that should be obvious
. This really depends on the admins or mods in question, but should be assumed true until shown otherwise.
- Averted on the large Something Awful forums; the mods are just as likely to be made fun of as anyone else is. Part of the mod selection process involves seeing how well the prospective mod takes being ridiculed.
- Star Destroyer Dot Net makes a specific distinction in the rules between insulting a moderator in a debate (acceptable, the debates are vicious) and insulting a moderator in his official capacity as moderator (unacceptable).
- On the Nuzlocke Comics Forum, so long as you don't openly attack the mods, you can passive-aggressively disagree with them as much as you like (in fact, mods trying to fight back against such actions will find themselves being smacked down by other mods). Saying something bad about Nuzlocke however is heresy, and even the people that normally butt heads with the mods will chase you out with torches and pitchforks.
Perhaps because of his inspiration to many people across the internet when they were kids, Fred "Mister" Rogers is given this treatment across the internet. Try to make fun of this man
and the hive mind will eat you alive.
- In the late 1980s when Burger King made an ad with a fake Rogers explaining why BK burgers were better than McDonald's burgers, the real Rogers said "You will stop that immediately!"...and they did. This was mainly because the fake Rogers looked too much like the real him, and he did not want kids to get confused. By comparison, obviously no kid is going to confuse Eddie Murphy (see below) for Rogers, and Murphy's sketch was broadcast safely out of the way of any typical child's viewing time.
- A rare aversion: Rogers liked Eddie Murphy's parody of his own show ("Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood") since it was an Affectionate Parody, not deliberate and malicious mockery. Apparently, Murphy caught up with Rogers and told him "You understand, we only do it because we love you."
- His Epic Rap Battle with Mr. T is another aversion, despite him swearing and threatening to kill Mr. T at the end. Nevertheless it is one of the more restrained battles the show produced. The comments on the video pretty much unanimously declare him the winner.
TV Tropes Wiki
- Fox & Friends cite a university study regarding Rogers and, essentially, say he ruined the children watching by giving them a sense of entitlement. All you need do is read the comments on the video for just how much hatred viewers had for the hosts by the end of it.
- There is a popular myth that when Rogers' car was stolen it was reported on the news the same day, and the next day the car was back with a note of apology and a fresh coat of wax.
- One of the reasons Westboro Baptist Church is so hated is because they're willing to attack Rogers.
- In fact, one of the working titles for this trope was "The Mr. Rogers".
In many countries that have royalty, insulting the king, queen, or their family is forbidden by law. In some of these, most people won't actually care much, and you'll get you a fine at most if the authorities notice — but in other countries, such as Morocco and Thailand, doing so will also get the population upset with you, and can end you up in prison for several years. Rarely seen in English-language media because in the UK lèse majesté
as the national sport. And of course, insulting another
nation's royalty is usually fair game (at least when you're not in front of their subjects).
- Averted on a live episode of What the Fuck Is Wrong with You?. When Nash discovered that it was illegal to insult the king of Thailand, he proceeded to say "Fuck the king of Thailand!" multiple times. This led to Tara jokingly denying being associated with him in the video, due to not wanting to be arrested by the king of Thailand (despite living in New York).
Like the above, in many countries and empires that are ruled by a dictator or emperor, saying anything bad about the leader or their family is a huge crime and doing so will definitely lead to very serious repercussions. In Imperial China for instance, even saying the Emperor's real name was a capital crime. Then again, if you're not actually in
a dictatorship you're probably safe badmouthing it.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
In Turkey, it is illegal to insult the name of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who is considered to be the greatest hero of the Turkish people. In other words, this trope is backed by law
Culturally, attacking Muhammad is one of the big no-nos in Islam, like the case with Ataturk in Turkey. Even displaying an image of him is pretty taboo note
, since it also runs into the general creed on not depicting people or even animals in some parts of Muslim faith. Notably, however, this doesn't extend to most of the Western world, which has precipitated a load of conflicts recently and usually ends up with the artist in question being threatened with a fatwa proclaiming their deathnote
- The irredeemable-even-without-the-offensive-aspects film Innocence of Muslims is basically one long attack on the entire religion of Islam with every last one of the Unfortunate Implications that would imply. One scene in particular, however, gained some Internet notoriety for depicting an unflattering caricature of Muhammad -not only was it responsible for a long string of protests throughout the Middle East, it was also initially blamed for the attacks on the American embassy in Benghazi (although later revelations showed this to be untrue).
- South Park has lampooned pretty much everyone and everything on the planet, at one point or another, including the show and the creators themselves. However they ran into issues when it came to lampooning Muhammad. Parker and Stone went for lampooning the fact that he's not an acceptable target, instead (particularly because five years before the Muhammad taboo was back in the limelight, he had been depicted with no repercussion!). Of course, the second half of their 200th episode two-parter had all mention of Muhammad's name censored by the network, along with the speeches at the end (which didn't even mention Muhammad). Comedy Central went so far as pulling it from ever airing again — they won't even let it be streamed on the show's official website. You can find it here, but its being a TV rip means the bleeps are still in place.
Directly attacking or insulting Jesus Christ
is considered one of the big no-nos of Christianity. That doesn't mean people refrain from doing it, and it doesn't mean there isn't an entire religion that inverts Christianity out there (there is), but it does mean that doing so is something that will also precipitate a load of conflicts in any society with a large Christian population, especially if said Christians are of The Fundamentalist
persuasion or are or are influenced by Moral Guardians
This is a large reason why Crystal Dragon Jesus
and especially Jesus Was Way Cool
exist: the former sidesteps (sometimes quite well, other times so sloppily as to create Unfortunate Implications
) the idea of a direct attack on Jesus by creating a Jesus expy
to be attacked. The latter exists as an attempt to separate Jesus from either the perceived view of Christianity and/or from religion itself.
Bill Nye the Science Guy
Like Mister Rogers, he has inspired many to love science and critical thinking. Go on, try to call him a fraud for debunking conspiracy theories on YouTube
The Emperor and the Imperial Family of Japan
See Also: He Who Must Not Be Seen
The Japanese Imperial Family deserves a special mention here, compared with the Lèse majesté
crimes mentioned above. Japanese media (and the Japanese themselves) don't have any qualms about making fun or name-dropping any historical figure, including Prime Ministers, for the sake of it. On the other hand the Emperor and his family (and even fictional versions of him and his position) are off-limits in any way. Mentioning him in non-historical, non-educative and non-informative backgrounds is considered one of the biggest taboos in Japan, not to mention even making fun of him.
This is the reason why in many historical Japanese media he's excluded from being mentioned, even when he should be historically relevant for the plot. Normally he's replaced by another authority figure instead, like a Prime Minister or, when dealing with the Sengoku Era, with any daimyo or shogun.
Anime and Manga
- This is pretty egregious in Rurouni Kenshin, since, despise the whole setting of the story is due thanks to an Emperor (the Meiji one, especially) and Kenshin was fighting (technically) for his sake, he's never mentioned anywhere, while the Tokugawas, the ones whose Kenshin was fighting against them when he was the Battousai, are mentioned instead.
Children in General
- This is the reason why the episode "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo" from The Simpsons was banned in Japan, as the Emperor not only appears in the episode, but is mocked.
When it comes to age groups, even if the adultism is present, attacks on children are often frowned upon since the capability of defending upset children (or the children defending themselves) is very limited, although it’s a mixed bag when it comes to teenagers.
TV and Film
- Those servicing time in prison for crimes against children are often targeted for attacks by other inmates, especially if it’s sexual and/or homicidal.
- Children dying and/or have died of a terminal illness and/or disaster are also left alone because of what their families are going through. Children who survived could be suffering from Post-Trauma Stress; so further harm to them is uncalled for. Just ask the Westboro Baptist Church about their funeral protest following the Sandy Hook shooting, where 26 people (eight male, 18 female) died...and six of the female victims were teachers.
- If you’re going to bully a kid to the point the unthinkable happens, learn from what happened in Florida, even if the charges are reduced or dropped altogether. One does have to give the sheriff acknowledgment, though — he knew when the lines have been crossed, even if it means exposing the identities of those responsible despite being juveniles.
- This trope isn't universal anywhere and some cultures have no problems about hurting or killing a child. This is justified in many mindsets, especially in ancient ones, when showing mercy towards a child could really backfire against the opponent, especially if the kid turns out to be a Child Soldier, mole, spy, or anything else. The best example of this is the life of Miyamoto Musashi, who was a swordsman since he was a child and was forced to kill many kinds of opponents, including kids. Taking into account the era when he lived, this is justified.
- You've probably heard "they're just a kid!" as a common reason to dissuade people to sending child celebrities hate.
They've lived a long life and likely had moments where it matters the most
. They might have been in the military
, so the elderly must be treated with care. Sadly, like child abuse, the abuse of the elderly also exists and someone who knows the elderly will usually take action.
Of course, targeting the elderly could backfire on you — just remember that if you abuse an old man and he does a number on your ass
, or abuse an old lady and she does the same
Persons With Disabilities
It's generally not a good idea to make fun of any sort of disability. If you do, expect anything from Dude, Not Funny!
to people wanting to chew you out/kick your butt. Note, however, that persons with disabilities can and do poke fun at themselves
(Josh Blue, for instance, has cerebral palsy and gets good laughs at its expense.) It's also okay to satirize negative portrayals of disability in order to show that the people who made the original piece are bigots. For example, a recent Autism Speaks infomercial has gotten this in spades.
- Despite the fact that Southpark makes jokes at characters in the series who have disabilities, it's generally better received because 1.The jokes generally have nothing to do with their disabilities (though it may appear that way when they are first introduced as grotesque figure with a silly voice), and 2.The only time someone makes fun of a characters disability, they're usually shown to be a Jerkass, with Cartman usually making such jokes. A popular reference is the Tourettes syndrome episode, which shows the disability very realistically, with the only exception being Eric Cartman, which is justified since he's faking it. Another example are Jimmy and Timmy who have become part of the regular cast and weren't treated as some gimmicky one-shot joke characters.
More specifically, anyone who excels at school subjects. Many regions love mocking them to death for being out of touch with society and for having no social life at all (such as the US and UK), but in other regions (such as Flanders) insulting them for those reasons is going to get you labeled as someone who is jealous at best and anti-social at worst. This is because in those regions Geekiness is seen as an important social value, to the point that anyone who is not the slightest bit geeky will be mocked mercilessly.