"Someone wrote this... in 1999... and didn't realize that there would be... implications... Or worse, they did understand."
— Y: Ruler of Time on Alive, when the supervirus they're dealing with came from Africa after a man ate a monkey and they call the virus Black.
The media to which TV Tropes is devoted generally exhibit greater sensitivity now than in the past, but sometimes something appears that... raises eyebrows. Even when authors are being careful with story elements, it is impossible for one or a couple of creators to really consider every perspective of the audience and just how certain tropes can be construed as troublesome. Especially when you consider just how diverse human beings are and that audiences that were ignored in the past now demand representation and respect.
This is a highly subjective Audience Reaction, and since in the past the page became bogged down in arguments about some tropers believing that concerns about such matters simply relate to political correctness rather than anything substantive, and other tropers -seeing the entire "political correctness" argument as a plausibly deniable defense of racism and other types of outdated thinking, no example may be added without proof that it's not just one person thinking. Citations are done as follows:
It's been notedseveral times that even clothing brands that market to plus-sized people tend to use extremely thin models to show their clothes, which has several effects: First, plus-sized clothing on your typical model looks enormous since it is not meant for their body type, meaning that the people who want to order it are unsure what it will look like on them, and it further stigmatizes plus-sized people because it implies that no one will want to look at them, not even other plus-sized people looking for clothing that will fit them. Several companies have caught on and now consciously try to avert this, including Kiyonna, which honestly makes an effort to have its models be people who would actually wear their clothing in their everyday lives.
Sony's infamous PSP Squirrels (seen here, here, here, parody here) played to some pretty obvious racial stereotypes and were called out on that fact by many in the industry. Keep in mind that this would not be the last time Sony ventured into the realm of racially charged advertisement, as seen by their Netherlands campaign for the PSP White
While not "clothing" per-se, a series of Huggies adverts for diapers in a denim jean pattern had a baby strutting around on a sidewalk with the intention of looking "sexy". The tagline "My diaper is full of..CHIC!" probably did not help. After it caught a lotof flack it got banned, despite being edited twice.
UK mobile phone network "Phones4U" embarked on an advertising campaign where they show a particular group of people (scout masters, yo-yo specialists) then claim that their phone rates would be wasted on such people because they have no friends (unlike their target demographic, one would assume). Said groups weren't amused.
Any commercial that markets food to parents by either having the parents hide the fact that the food is good for kids or in some cases flat out lie to the kids about what's in it. Because it's much better to lie to your kids instead of teaching them about good nutrition so they grow up with healthy habits! This blog post outlines the pros and cons of this sort of behavior, and most nutrition experts seem to come down on the side of it being harmful to the kids in the long run, and probably helps explain why so many people gain the "Freshman 15" when they enter college since they've never been taught how to properly feed themselves!
An ad campaign from The Economist aimed at women used its traditional brand of quirky humor when it said on the front, "Why should women read The Economist? They shouldn't." Then, on the inside, it said "Accomplished and intelligent people should read it." Even some women who made it to the punchline on the inside got offended, taking it to mean that a female point of view (the magazine's staff is mostly male) was invalid.
Complaints were brought against a 2012 campaign in Atlanta, GA that used such slogans as "It's hard to be a little girl if you're not." Childhood obesity is a genuine problem in the U.S., but so far it seems to be an impossible one to sensitively address.
Commentators picked up on misogyny as one of the predominant themes of the 2010 Super Bowl ad crop.
2011 and 2012 weren't much better. In fact, there was a Twitter hashtag (#NotBuyingIt) in anticipation of the rampant misogyny, with the "woman is actually a car" Fiat ad receiving the brunt of it.
The Metropolitan Police in London has come under fire for several campaigns encouraging the public to report terrorism, suggesting that the most innocuous of activities could be a possible sign of a terrorist. In particular, one radio ad was banned for implying that closing curtains or not speaking to neighbours is suspicious enough activity to merit reporting someone to the police.
Oxfam is doing donation campaigns of donating animals (Such as goats, pigs, and bees) and vegetable gardens by saying that "you are what you give" (For example, "Be a goat"). However they sure didn't think the context of this one◊, for giving tools.
An anti-drinking PSA aired in New Zealand showed a woman getting progressively more drunk on a night out and dancing with a stranger who grabs her and drags her into an alleyway. The ad received a number of complaints that it implied that being abducted/presumably raped was her own fault, and encouraged victim-blaming.
A commercial for Samsung's Smart TV shows a caveman-like guy watching The Croods and acting like an imbecile while his wife upgrades the TV through an "evolutionary kit" box. She then fantasizes about using the box on her husband, transforming into a handsome man who does all the chores for her and sets up a dinner date for her (at which point she is brought back to reality by her real husband farting loudly). The implications that Women Are Wiser and that men who don't toil away for their significant others are neanderthals were not lost on commentators. To quote a few:
"Because real men cook, clean, and raise babies. Standard men are neanderthals."
"I'm a woman - and a proud feminist - and I actually find this incredibly sexist and awful, so to non-feminists and guys in general please don't think we're all thinking this...It's actually appalling."
"After being bullied all day by feminists and being treated like dirt for no reason I come home to just smile at a comedy video, and see this as the ad that I can't skip. What did I ever do to any woman to be hated and seen as a disgusting monster?"
Anime and Manga
Defied by Nobuhiro Watsuki in Rurouni Kenshin. The minor character Hannya had a featureless death-mask of a face beneath the mask he wears in battle. Watsuki noted in the liner notes to manga volume 4 that originally he planned Hannya to have been stepped on in the womb like the Elephant Man. After thinking it through, he realized Unfortunate Implications abounded with the idea ("the shape of one's face determines the shape of one's life", as he put it). To avoid this, Watsuki altered the backstory to Hannya having intentionally mutilated his own face into that death-mask so that he could easily disguise himself as just about anything.
The now-infamous Avengers issue # 200, in which Carol Danvers suddenly becomes pregnant and gives birth at impossible rate of speed, only to learn that her baby is in fact his own father, having used "subtle boosts" from mind control machines to impregnate her in another dimension, an encounter which she has no memory of. And the Avengers are just peachy with this, even allowing her to go back to the other dimension with him despite it being clear the mind control is in effect again. The fact that this entire story was presented as a happy ending for Carol when it was published only made it a thousand times worse. Later writers seemed to recognize this, particularly Chris Claremont: When Carol next met the Avengers, Carol treated them to an epic What the Hell, Hero? rant.
Unfortunately, it got a much less tasteful handling some years later, that can basically be summed up as "Hey◊, Carol◊, tell my babydaddy and anyone else in earshot all about that horribly traumatic thing that happened to you in order to justify my neurotic fear that my baby might be a monster. Haha, man, wasn't that the weirdest time?" While being in labor isn't the best of times to care about appropriateness, holy crap.
Former Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter talked about the subject in his blog: Avengers #200. He stated he did not know what he was thinking when he allowed that tripe was published, and he apologized for that story.
It's hard to know where to begin with Terra, the star of the infamous New Teen Titans saga, The Judas Contract. She was a super-powered 16 year-old hired by the mercenary Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke the Terminator to infiltrate, spy on, and destroy the Titans (she was actually 15 when she started doing this). During her time with the Titans, it's revealed she's having a sexual affair with Slade, and the story's creators have confirmed that the purpose of this was to shock the readers at what a slutsheis, never mind that:
nothing indicates she's ever slept with anybody else
she actually seems to think Slade loves her
Slade might be committing statutory rape.
When the time comes to betray the Titans, they try to reason with her and fail, and she dies while trying to kill them, destroyed by her own powers. The story becomes quite Anvilicious at how evil she is. She's explicitly called evil, the Narrator informs us that she's both completely insane and completely responsible for her actions (which makes no sense as one would invalidate the other), even Slade later says her evil scared even him. Her death is essentially a teen suicide (in a series that was about, and originally intended for, teens) where everything is being blamed on the teen. And as for Slade, her boss and lover, the man who's decades older than her, a multiple murderer, who created the Evil Plan she was following, whose own stated intentions with that plan was to murder all the Titans, he is (comparatively speaking) Easily Forgiven by the Titans afterwards, and is treated by DC Comics as an Anti-Hero for the next several years. He's even treated as a father figure by several of the Titans he was trying to kill! This storyline exonerated the adult in this murderous partnership while trying to blame everything on the 16 year-old girl. The blogger tamaranorbust has a thorough, multi-part study on Terra, covering her appearances, her background, how she's referred to, the characters she affected, the histories of her 2 later namesakes and all of the ugly, ugly implications of her story here.
Although hardly the only flaw in Uwe Boll's series of BloodRayne movies, this article points out how Boll seemingly has "nothing but contempt" for the aggressive, sexually charged female lead character. The review points out how Rayne herself is trumped at every turn in the fight scenes by original characters, and how she is the more submissive partner in the inevitable sex scene.
It's not that Boll didn't put competent female characters in the movie. He just didn't make Rayne one of them.
The movie Christmas with The Kranks has the protagonists decide not to celebrate Christmas. The reaction this gets is pretty insane to say the least, with the neighbors harassing the Kranks endlessly to celebrate it and put up decorations like the rest of the neighborhood. They finally give in when their young adult daughter decides to come home to visit. The very fact that not celebrating Christmas is seen to be some kind of unforgivable sin is bad enough, but then the film hammers home the idea that fighting against the established conformity—no matter how much you disagree with it—will get you nowhere and you should never do otherwise. Roger Ebertnoticed.
Nick's Flick Picks givesThe Green Mile a D-, not because of the acting or film making - which he admits are fine - but because the film doesn't seem aware of the problem with a story set in the 1930s South, in which an innocent black man is shuttled around to absorb the pain of white people before being executed as a mercy. A mercy for the pain he feels. That he absorbed from white people.
Consider the creepy paedophilic themes in The Phantom of the Opera film version, due to casting younger actors than usual in the roles. Erik poses as Christine's father's ghost, starting when she arrives at the opera house at a very young age — and continues posing as her father's ghost after attempting a romantic relationship with her. The stage version never specifically says when Christine came to the Opera and the Phantom started hanging around her (and it is generally assumed that, as in the original novel, she was a young woman by that point). The massive Electra complex overtones remain, though...As Phantom of the Opera in 15 Minutes says, "Daddy issues ahoy!"
This is especially interesting as British reviewers have always taken both the Ewok/Empire and Rebel/Empire conflicts as a parable for the American Revolution: A band of heroic, rugged frontiersmen vs a repressive Empire that is famous for its starships (and who all sound like they are from Middle England). Whether this balances the implied criticism of America in RotJ or opens up a whole new set of implications depends on your perspective. This implication really is unfortunate, as the reason for the prevalence of British peoplenote Or rather, Coruscant-accented people in the Galactic Empire is to do with old union rules in the UK, which required a certain number of parts to go to British actors or a film would have to pay a tariff on release. Most directors responded by casting Brits as villainous extras.
In-Universe example with Tropic Thunder. One of the actor characters, Kirk Lazarus, who is an expy of Heath Ledger, was cast the role of Sergeant Osiris. Because of this, he had to undergo extensive surgeries to appear as African American and adopt an accent similar to ebonics to sell the effect, which led to the only other major African American character in the film, rapper Alpa Chino, to criticize him frequently for the action, as well as a news report noting the controversy.
Some critics have claimed Tolkien was racist because of his description of Orcs in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: "... they are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes; in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types." Other critics have noted Tolkien's modifier "(to Europeans)" meant he recognized different cultures have different standards of beauty (being that Mongolians are the "least lovely" to Europeans). The statement isn't "Orcs are Mongolians" but "Orcs look like degraded and repulsive versions of to-us-unpretty Mongolic physical shape." But any way you slice it, that statement is dodgy by contemporary standards.
In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, the author once compared his Dwarves to Jews - "at once native and alien in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue." In a radio interview, he said the Dwarf language was modeled to be Semitic. Though he was speaking in specific terms, as a Jewish Journal article has noted, Unfortunate Implications are there for those who want to see them - the Dwarves' main weakness as a race is their lust for riches. However, Tolkien is on record as having praised the Jewish people in a Take That against Hitler-era German publishers seeking to publish The Hobbit, when they inquired whether he was of Aryan descent: "I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by 'arisch'. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. ... But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people...". It is wise to avoid getting in a war of words with an Oxford English Professor.
Less infamous, but still problematic, was his treatment of female characters, in a time where the sexist clause was becoming less justified. The main, general issue critics have is that there are too few actual female characters, only some of which have active roles in the story, and that even the women who do have active roles in the plot (e.g. Galadriel, Eowyn) are "put on a pedestal," so to speak, in such a way that enforces their roles as exceptions to the rule of men as the movers and shakers of the world.
The young adult book series Save The Pearls has had controversysurroundingits treatment of racism. The plot revolves around a post-apocalyptic scenario where white people ("Pearls") are the minority, and black people ("Coals") are the majority and the more "privileged". As part of this, the main "Pearl" character essentially wears Black Face as an attempt to pass, and generally it ends up indulging in stereotypes about African-Americans. This is a book with an anti racism Aesop.
The vampire series The House of Night has been accused of being misogynistic in its portrayal of women other than the main character, Zoey. Zoey (also the narrator) constantly refers to other women as sluts and judges them based on their appearance. In one instance, the plot almost derails to talk about how all oral sex is demeaning to women and all women who give them are evil sluts.
Live Action TV
True Blood: As This article shows the series has a tendency to downplay rape with sentences such as "I was almost raped in Dallas, but this is so much worse." Women are very often victimized and their safety tends to depend on the men. The Hemo Erotic nature of vampire/human relationships does not help either. Sookie could be viewed as someone who voluntarily seeks out emotionally and/or physically abusive relationships with vampires like Bill and Eric. She knows that they are murderers and that they do things such as Mind Control people. But it is treated as something to be overlooked because they are sexy.
Therehavebeen many criticisms of the portrayal of female characters in The Newsroom. These tend to center around how female characters tend to have their competence undercut by naivite/personal problems to a greater extent than do male ones, and are often corrected on their ignorance by male characters. While improved over the course of the series, these features stood out because at least in initial episodes, the supposed competence of the female characters was an Informed Ability.
The Onion's A.V. Club Inventory "We Care a Lot" discusses various examples of the Charity Motivation Song, such as "We Are the World", "Do They Know It's Christmas?", and more obscure efforts, pointing out more than once that the songs and videos made for them wind up coming off as narcissistic by promoting the celebrities singing them as much as, if not more than, the cause.
Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" music video has plenty of these, a great many of which get called out in the Literal Music Videoparody of it. On the whole, the video promotes promiscuity while shaming more conservative outlooks while simultaneously flipping between two different stereotypes.
This Listverse entry that purports to highlight the ten most "intellectual" rappers plays the Mighty Whitey trope incredibly straight.
Taylor Swift songs can come off as incredibly slut-shaming and sex-negative sometimes (in Fifteen it's implied that her friend's virginity was all she had, and in Revenge it's implied that the person it's addressed to stole her boyfriend via being better at sex, just for two). See this article for a much longer explanation.
The Christmas Shoes is a contemporary Christian song (and movie) about a melancholy gentleman who helps a boy buy a pair of shoes for his mother, who is on her deathbed and expected to pass away shortly. The singer then muses to himself that God sent the kid to remind him what Christmas is all about; in other words, God killed a little boy's mother on Christmas just to guilt some unrelated curmudgeon into appreciating the holidays. That observation has been made numerous times by various critics, but the Nostalgia Chick and Patton Oswalt probably put it best.
Typographical example: Anytime the Neuland or Lithos typefaces are used in reference to African or other foreign cultures, which are virtually their only appearances since the turn of the century. The use of those two is done to evoke a "primitive" or "uncultured" feel, regardless of the true situation. More info on the topic.
Elementary schools in Gwinnett County, Georgia apparently asked kids some rather offensive math word problems. The questions include such gems as "Each tree has 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?", "If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?" and yet another asks how much cotton Fredrick picks in a day. The school district claims it's to teach kids history, but if so, it's very poorly handled.
Feminist Frequency: The idea behind the argument that Mattie Ross is not a feminist character (because she promotes more socially-accepted "masculine values" of revenge and violence as opposed to "feminine values" of cooperation and peace) is actually a much more contentious one in feminist circles than Anita Sarkeesian makes it seem. While certainly, the idea that promoting "feminine values" is an essential feminist goal has its supporters (most notably, Harvard sociologist and cultural feminist Carol Gilligan in her book In A Different Voice), there are other feminists who disagree, notably egalitarian feminist Carol Tavris in ''The Mismeasure of Women", with one of the big reasons being this trope, and the concurrent one of Men use Violence, Women use Communication. For starters, many would consider Sarkeesian to be denying Mattie's agency by assuming that she a) only has these values to get along in a "man's world" and b) has never questioned them (questioning =/= abandoning). Additionally, many feminists would also say there is a downside to the more "feminine," cooperative values - such as meekness and submission - which result in women who adopt them having less power and influence, which ultimately hurts women more than it helps them.
She shows a Double Standard toward male and female singers in her criticism of the song "All I Want For Christmas Is You": when it's sung by a girl, it's about how women only want/need a man to be happy; when it's sung by a guy like Justin Bieber, it sounds "stalkerish."
Another double standard: She lists Dracula's female minions as anti-feminist characters because they represent female sexuality as a malevolent force. While this is a valid interpretation, she makes no mention of how the lead villain, Dracula himself (a man), is essentially rape incarnate. While she was explicitly talking about female instances of "evil seducers", it was slightly out of line to discuss the characters so shorn of context.
Another example is Sarkeesian's continuous praise of non-violent resolutions and associating them with feminism. As stated above, while values such as cooperation and peace are good, the topic is much more contentious one in feminist circles than she makes it seem, as there are many different opinions amongst feminists on this subject. These values have always been around in male-dominated societies and aren't necessarily associated with feminism. How this becomes unfortunate is that she seems to give a reverse implication of "feminine is good, masculine is bad."
Along the same note she seems to regard female antagonists (and even an dark gray Anti-Hero like the main character of Revenge) as anti-feminist. This leads to the implication that that she may believe woman characters in media must always be presented as Incorruptible Pure Pureness.
Seussical: The meaner characters get R&B and Latin-inspired music, while the nice characters get vaudeville and folk-pop material. The Sour Kangaroo is based off of Aretha Franklin (R-E-S-P-E-C-K! Woo, please take that speck a-WAY!), and the monkeys... Well...
Another place where it runs into trouble is the fact that many of Seuss's stories, along with their morals, are now presented without context. For example, the army from "The Butter Battle Book" is displayed, a book Seuss wrote as his criticism of the Cold War. However, the play lacks that context, making it feel as though it's condemning every war as frivolous, when in fact, Seuss, a former political cartoonist, could be VERY pro-war depending on the issue.
The Las Vegas Sun's review of Criss Angel Believe points out that in the original (subsequently retooled) story "[T]here's a continual struggle over [Criss's] usually shirtless bod between his stage assistants, Kayala, an angelic ever-receding woman in white and Crimson, a devouring, demonic black woman. (Not even going there.)"
Duke Nukem Forever suffered a bad example of this. The game positively rejoices in a very dated portrayal of female characters as damsels to be rescued and eye candy, is (seemingly) intended to be an example of Crosses the Line Twice, in a send-up of old action games and movies (and with a fairly large helping of Self-Deprecation). However, one game mechanic, in the "Capture the Babe" multiplayer mode, which involved the babe making a bid for freedom and needing to be slapped on the arse to calm her down, didn't endear it tosomereviewers.
Other critics argue that the game's sexism and bizarre incompetency on Samus' part are merely parts of a greater whole: a romanticized abusive relationship between an otherwise capable bounty hunter and her surrogate father figure.
Mass Effect attracted criticism for a lack of same-sex romance options for a male Shepard, while female Shepards could begin a relationship with a member of a One Gender Race or a bisexual woman. They rectified this with the third installment, which has two male homosexual romance options (one new and one who has been around since the first game). Only adding it to the third game has its own issues. It's completely possible to have played a male Shepard as gay throughout ME1 and ME2, he'd just also be a Celibate Hero on top of being gay, but that just falls into this again. Plans were allegedly in place for Male Shepard to be able to pursue a relationship with Thane in Mass Effect 2, but this was cut in response to the controversy over the first game. Even so, it remains unfortunate that Female Shepard being openly lesbian is available from the very first game (even if there isn't an honest-to-god lesbian NPC on the Normandy until 3, either) while Male Shepard can't be played that way until the final installment of his journey.
In Mass Effect 3, all of the love interests, save for Jacob Taylor stays faithful towards Shepard. Jacob is the only character to outright dump Shepard because, during the time skip between Mass Effect 2 and 3, he impregnated another woman. This led to a LARGE] debate over the negativeconnotations related to his unfaithfulness and his race. To this day, it's still a touchy subject to tackle.
In the World of Warcraft Mists of Pandaria beta, Jii Firepaw, leader of the Horde-allied Pandaren, would compliment your strength if you're playing a male Pandaren, and your attractiveness if you're playing a female one. This sparked a controversy, with people complaining about, among other things, the focus on a female's appearance rather than competence in her chosen class. This ultimately led to the dialogue getting removed from the game.
The reboot of Tomb Raider seemingly featured Lara's sexual assault as a plot point in the trailers and interviews(such scenes were not in the actual game). When questioned about this, one of the game's executives claimed that the point of the assault was to encourage the player to 'protect her and care for her' because 'they don't really project themselves into the character'. This left many people understandablyless thanimpressed, including the game's lead writer and marketing department.
Bioshock Infinite, which features a class warfare between downtrodden minorities (led by Daisy Fitzroy) and a racist white society (led by Zachary Comstock), has come under criticism for its somewhat awkward use of the theme of race. The juxtaposition of Comstock and Fitzroy has been called a false equivalency, and both the main characters being white people and the main quantum mechanics story thread being independent of race have led some to question why even add race relations to the game at all.
This was invoked purposefully on one occasion by 8-Bit Theater. When Bahamut decides that Red Mage and Black Mage are Fighter's slaves, and Fighter starts referring to Red Mage as Red Slave, Black Mage points out that this would make him black slaGOOD NIGHT, EVERYBODY!
Thomas The Tank Engine, possibly the ravings of an unapologetic British imperialist. To summarize, it is extremely clear in some episodes/stories that the Engines are gentlemen (notably reporting to a knight) and the trucks and coaches are lower classes. Whether this is just translation convention or meant to be indicative, it is a very strongly British and quite rigid class system.
Mars Needs Moms, as this Something Awful review points out, risks coming across as one of the more alarmist tomes on parenting from the Fifties. The Martian women, who assume the roles of societal leaders, need to abduct human mothers to serve as templates for maternal care - because a powerful working woman apparently can't be a loving mother at the same time. The Martian men thus have no role in their society, and become somewhere between hippies and gay stereotypes. And the Martian girl explicitly says at the end that the only way for a child to truly feel loved is if they're raised by two parents, which must have been interesting for all the single parents in the audience to explain to their kids afterwards.