White Anglo-Saxon Protestant
The White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, or WASP, is a largely American trope that today is used to describe the stereotypical "white" person in American culture. It originally referred to New Englanders, New Yorkers, and Tidewater Southerners from wealthy backgrounds, but eventually came to be applied as well to inland Southerners, Midwesterners, and Westerners of Anglo-Saxon (English) descent as well, regardless of income level. It also came to be roughly synonymous with "Protestant," so that even Protestant Irish, Dutch and Germans were eventually called WASPs. "White Protestants" wasn't as snappy a term as WASP, so usage of the term has hung around. The stereotype might even be extended to Catholics or Jews who either intermarry with Protestants or internalize Protestantism as the standard for "normal" Americans.
It became important in the mid-20th Century to point out the features of this group as a social reality. Generally WASPs were in positions of privilege and power, and could discriminate against those who were not white and not Protestant. Ethnic minorities (which may no longer be minorities in the New Millennium), non-Anglo Europeans, Jews and Catholics in particular suffered discrimination and exclusion. Critics pointed out how WASPs would see themselves as the 'true normal' or even the True Neutral
of the cultural world. This, ironically, has led to the 'generic and bland' stereotype that so many WASPs are now desperate to shed.
This can easily be conflated with the Boston Brahmin
, First Families, Secret Masters of the World stereotype. They (the two stereotypes) share a core characterization, but WASP is a straight-up acronym of a demographic label, a thing you might find in a sociology text, not having any of the Old Money, Secret Masters baggage.
Strictly speaking, it is hard to generalize about WASPs. Since a majority, albeit a slim majority, of Americans are both white and Protestant, WASP covers a lot of demographic ground. They can be either liberal or conservative politically, and fill any socioeconomic niche. This trope is primarily for figures who meet the most stereotypical WASP criteria: affluent, generic, bland personalities, usually with a little bit of stuffiness inherited from their British ancestors
and a preoccupation with keeping up appearances.
Compare and contrast with Christianity is Catholic
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- Janet Van Dyne, aka The Wasp.
- Flash Gordon, a Yale man and champion polo player.
- The Spider, Richard Wentworth.
- The Shadow, Kent Allard aka Lamont Cranston.
- The Avenger, Richard Henry Benson.
- Professor X, Charles Xavier.
- Bruce Wayne AKA Batman, Robin III Tim Drake, and former Batman expy Green Arrow, Oliver Queen, as well as many similar Crime Fighting With Cash heroes and Batman expies.
- The Yellowjackets, Chip and Muffy, in Antz.
- Jessica and her parents in The Hot Chick.
- Mississippi Burning used word for word at the not Klan meeting. This is after said meeting's speaker had repeatedly called the US government things like "atheist, Communist, Jewish, nigger-loving", among other things. Earlier in the movie the speaker had also essentially given a detailed explanation about why the county was so racist, doing things like the "Jews are all bankers in a moneymaking conspiracy" conspiracy theory and various other crackpot pieces of garbage like that.
- Omega House in Animal House. Delta House too, although they do have their share of ethnics (Polish-American John Blutarski being the most obvious).
- Pretty much everyone on the "snobs" side of Caddyshack. And in their natural element to boot!
- Most of the characters in The Philadelphia Story.
- Gordon Gekko in Wall Street tells his protege Bud Fox that he bought himself a seat on the board of the Bronx Zoo because, "One thing you gotta learn about WASPs: They love animals, but can't stand people."
- William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting in Gangs of New York, based on the real life William Poole, leader in the anti-immigrant pro-WASP "Know Nothing" movement.
- In Scent of a Woman, the very upscale and exclusive prep school Charlie goes to in New England is absolutely packed with rich WASP kids, (very much Truth in Television) and they have all the attitude and snobbery that goes along with that.
- Tom and Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby.
- The Corey family in The Rise Of Silas Lapham.
- John Carter of Mars
- Nick Carter, the Dime Novel detective
- David Innes, the hero of the Pellucidar novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
- Randolph Carter, the protagonist of H.P. Lovecraft's The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath, The Silver Key, Through The Gates Of The Silver Key, etc.. In fact, pretty much all of Lovecraft's protagonists.
- The brilliant yet sinister amateur detective Philo Vance.
- Patrick Bateman and most of the main characters in American Psycho, especially the core group at Pierce & Pierce (excepting the probably Dutch David Van Patten)
- Sherman McCoy in The Bonfireofthe Vanities.
Live Action TV
- Greg Montgomery and his parents, Edward and Kitty from Dharma and Greg. They know that they're Protestant, but they're not sure which denomination. Edward thinks they're Lutheran. Kitty reminds him that they're Episcopalian.
- Pete Campbell from Mad Men.
- Charlotte of Sex and the City was delighted to learn what a wasp was and that she was one.
- In an episode of Scrubs, J.D. and Dr. Cox have a very reserved, patrician patient who sends his wife out of the room for the dirty talk. He confirms, when J.D. asks, that he and his wife are, in fact, wasps. This makes his passionate declaration that when he makes love to his wife, he's closer to her than any other time and only then can he truly express his love for her all the more effective.
- Charles Emerson Winchester III from Mash, played by David Ogden Stiers with a full-on Boston Brahmin accent. Winchester has occasionally shown distaste for less reputable Catholic ethnicities, in one episode being heartbroken at the news of his sister getting engaged to an Italian, remarking to the (Irish) Catholic Father Mulcahy, "at least she's not marrying an Irishman".
- Emily and Richard Gilmore from Gilmore Girls (and most of the rest of the Gilmore family) are about as waspy as they come.
- Mulder of The X-Files is implied to have grown up this way; his family owned homes in Martha's Vineyard and in Connecticut and his father worked for the government. His parents don't terribly fit the stereotype "WASP" usually seen, but then we don't see much of them at all in terms of personality, so who knows?
- David Webster from Band of Brothers comes from a stereotypically WASP family, which sets him apart from most other members of Easy Company, who are of working-class and/or immigrant backgrounds.
- Mayor Randall Winston from Spin City.
- On Copper the Morehouses are rich white Methodists and are a distinct contrast to the rest of the characters who are predominantly poor Irish Catholic immigrants or free blacks.
- An episode of Family Guy contained a one-off Cutaway Gag in which Peter and Chris observe "a wasps' nest". The camera pans out to show that he's observing a WASP family having dinner. Lois's parents, Carter and Babs Pewterschmitt, are about as rich and WASP-y as you can get. One of the many reasons her father hates Peter is because Peter is Irish Catholic. That and he's a poor, fat, drunken, rude, idiotic slob. Later subverted when it is revealed that Lois' mother is Jewish. Carter is then shown treating Babs pretty much exactly the way you would expect him to treat any non-WASP.
- Charles Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons. Truth be told, different episodes of the show have provided wildly conflicting backstories for him. The episode "Rosebud" even suggested that he was Jewish, the older brother of comedian George Burns (although that was obviously a Cutaway Gag, and not to be taken seriously). More recently, it's been mentioned (in "The Color Yellow") that he is the son of a Southern slaveholder.
- Futurama brings us Judge Whitey, who only likes the "pore" people who do his pores at the spa, and has declared the other poor a mental illness.
- Jay's parents on The Critic fit this trope perfectly. There's also Republican, Vice Presidential candidate, Rich Dullwasp.
- Benjamin Franklin.
- John Winthrop, the prototypical Boston Brahmin.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (and Junior, for that matter.)
- Ralph Waldo Emerson.
- Herman Melville.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne.
- J.P. Morgan.
- Henry James.
- Richard Evelyn Byrd, explorer of the Antarctic and FFV.
- Clark Ashton Smith.
- H.P. Lovecraft.
- Katharine Hepburn.
- Eleanor Roosevelt.
- Humphrey Bogart.
- Allen Dulles: OSS station chief during World War II, CIA director from 1953-1961.
- John P. Marquand, author of The Late George Apley.
- Pat Buchanan is a Catholic, but it can be hard to tell from his writings because he tends to take for granted that Protestantism is America's default sect and would like to see fewer Latino immigrants (because, presumably, they refuse to join the mainstream and "Protestantize" themselves).