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Whoopi Epiphany Speech
"Now that black girl knows something you don't!"
The Onion News Network video, The Strong Women in Film Award for Most Extraordinarily Intuitive Black Woman in a Motion Picture

Profoundly wise, life affirming short speech given by the poor, oppressed minority, uneducated, or mentally challenged character to the more-educated protagonist. Thus, perhaps, clearly distinguishing between the "Intelligence" and "Wisdom" attributes in Dungeons & Dragons.

Named after actress Whoopi Goldberg, whose character Celie in The Color Purple is an uneducated, viciously oppressed farmgirl who famously stands up for herself with such a speech. Her later character Guinan from Star Trek: The Next Generation, a wise, mysterious and Really 700 Years Old alien bartender, may have helped cement the trope name, though Guinan's life affirming speeches tend to be more erudite.

Subversions are frequent too. Usually takes the form of some person interrupting a fight with a comment on why they shouldn't be fighting. Instead of stopping as expected, the rioters just continue fighting.

Frequently utilized by the Magical Negro. See also Waif Prophet, Book Dumb, Simpleminded Wisdom, Wisdom from the Gutter. Note that just because the character is black, and is giving a speech, doesn't make it a Whoopi Epiphany Speech—if the character is powerful, intelligent, and respected, they don't fit this trope.


Examples

Comic Books

Film
  • Whoopi Goldberg is the Trope Namer
  • In the Robert Altman film Gosford Park, the maid Dorothy delivers a speech about what's really important to a discontent aristocrat.
  • In the end of the recent remake of Bedazzled (2000), in which the hapless hero is stuck in jail with the prospect of having sold his soul to the Devil and only one wish left to make it worthwhile. His cellmate, a gentle young black man reminds him with a smile that he can't sell something that doesn't belong to him - in this case, his soul. This man and the Devil (Hurley) are later seen playing chess.
  • The Lord of the Rings (see below). But special marks for the following end-of-film summation speech:
    Samwise: Because there's something good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for!
    Faramir: It seems at last we understand one another... Release them!
  • In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Wallace (Scott's gay roommate) delivers a dramatic speech about chasing true love... only to reveal that it's just to get him to move out of the apartment.
    Wallace: Yeah, I'm kinda banking on you moving in with Ramona so I don't have to feel guilty for kicking you out.
  • Nell Kellty does a very quiet one of these in the courtroom scene.
  • Forrest Gump spoke almost exclusively in these.
  • In The Avengers, the old German game who stands up to Loki.
    German Man: There are always men like you.
  • Freejack: After Furlong barely survives jumping off a bridge to escape capture, he encounters a random homeless dude.
    Furlong: "I'm beat."
    RHD: "You think so?"
    Furlong: "Pretty much."
    RHD: "Then you're beat. A man thinks he's beat, he's beat."

Literature
  • In Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, it sometimes seems like this is Sam's main purpose.
  • Jim from Huckleberry Finn has many of these, although they are rarely understood by anyone other than the reader. Even he doesn't realize he says them.
  • The trope is Older Than Steam at the very least. Speeches of this kind were very widespread in Spanish Golden Age literature. The Trope Maker must have been Antonio de Guevara, famous for his Danubian Farmer anecdote, where a lowly peasant eloquently criticizes the Roman Empire.
  • In Robert J. Sawyer's WWW Trilogy, Hobo (a chimpanzee bonobo hybrid) addresses the United Nations General Assembly, and tells them that the reason why they can't solve problems is that they're a room full of "thump chests" (alpha males).
  • Gosh, whenever Scout or Jem say anything at or near the end of a chapter, it's one of these. Often, it's really hard-hitting too.
  • A fellow mother in the prison waiting room delivers just such a speech to Eva In Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Live-Action TV
  • "When you can feel, that's when you know you're alive." Nelson the bartender from the British Life On Mars.
  • Baldrick's cry of "Why can't we just stop, sir? Why can't we just say, 'no more killing, let's all go home'? Why would it be stupid just to pack it in, sir? Why?"
  • Ellen's teenaged ex-boyfriend delivers an odd example in the Season Two finale of Slings and Arrows.
  • Guinevere (black and a servant) from Merlin gives one of these to Merlin after King Uther has had her father executed, during a stage when Merlin is considering letting Morgana go ahead with her assassination attempt on Uther's life. On asking Gwen what she would do if she hypothetically had control over Uther's life, she says that she wouldn't kill him as that would make her no better than he is, spurring Merlin into trying to stop the hit from going ahead.
  • And, of course, Whoopi again due to her role as mysterious bartender Guinan in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In a show full of philosophising and intellectual debating, she definitely represented the 'wise' contingent, and she had the captain's ear for whenever she felt like weighing in on an issue.
  • Donna in "The Runaway Bride" episode of Doctor Who
    Donna: Doctor! You can stop now.
    • Many of the doctor's companions function this way, serving to keep The Doctor grounded when he needs it.

Newspaper Comics
  • The "It's a very good day to me," speech by the Ethiopian taxi driver in an old strip of For Better or for Worse.
    • Also done more recently, with vaguely mentally disabled character Shannon delivering a rousing speech about tolerance to an entire high school from atop a cafeteria table.

Web Comics

Web Video

Real Life
  • Actually, Whoopi herself does this in real life anyway...

Subversions

Comic Books
  • In the winter of 1995, Bongo Comics (the company responsible for comic-book adventures involving characters from The Simpsons) presented a three-part story entitled "The Rise and Fall of Krustyland." It recounts how Krusty the Clown let everyone - and that means everyone, from ordinary citizens to the Mob - for miles around get into his amusement park free on the day that it opened. Two of the groups that attended were a troupe of Boy Scout-like youths called the Junior Campers (with Ned Flanders as their leader) and a contingent of violent inmates from the local insane asylum. Both groups somehow get trapped inside the watery funhouse ride "It's a Tiny Yet Annoying World" (obviously a No Celebrities Were Harmed send-up of Disneyland's "It's a Small World") when divine windstorms and wildfires (Krustyland had been built on a cursed Native American burial ground) break out in the park. The Tastes Like Diabetes song performed by the animatronic dolls nearly drives everyone berserk....until one of the asylum inmates attempts to mediate, urging everyone to listen to the lyrics and "join together and sing!" Both the campers and the inmates look at this guy in disgust for a beat before erupting in anger and screaming for his blood. Fortunately, the boats on the ride bust their way out of the tunnels before anything really bad can happen.

Film
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian - Brian's girlfriend tries to convince Brian's mom that he is special (while naked, as she had barged in on the two of them). It doesn't work.
    Brian's mom: He's not The Messiah! He's a very naughty boy!
    • Brian tries it too: two factions of Jewish anti-Roman agitators have met up underneath Pilate's palace - two different factions planning the same thing (to kidnap his wife), so they end up fighting each other. Brian pipes up with an inspiring speech about how they should be focusing on their common enemy (not the Judean People's Front, the Romans)... and after politely hearing him out, everyone starts right where they left off, until everyone's dead except Brian. To top it off, the whole thing is silently observed by two very amused Roman guards.
    • There's also Brian's desperate attempt to convince his unwanted multitude that they don't need to blindly follow him or anyone else... only for them to end up doing nothing more than parrot his statements about how they're all individuals and need to think for themselves.
  • In Team America: World Police, a homeless and possibly drunk man gives the hero some sage advice about assholes, pussies and dicks. This seemingly mindless rant becomes important later.
  • Subverted beautifully in the movie Deep Blue Sea when Samuel L. Jackson, whose character is the Decoy Protagonist and Sacrificial Lion of the film, gives a powerful "we've got to all pull together people if we're going to survive" speech, right before he gets chomped; nay verily, he's right in the middle of that speech.
  • Mean Girls: "I just wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school. I wish that I could bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles, and we'd all eat it and be happy."
  • Played for Laughs in Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle, when Harold is wrongfully arrested and meets a black inmate who was also wrongfully arrested.
    Tarik: Look at me. I'm fat, black, can't dance, and I have two gay fathers. People have been messing with me my whole life. I learned a long time ago there's no sense getting all riled up every time a bunch of idiots give you a hard time. In the end, the universe tends to unfold as it should. Plus I have a really large penis. That keeps me happy.

Live-Action TV
  • In the pilot episode of Community Jeff Winger sarcastically informs a cafeteria worker that TV has conditioned him to see "all middle-aged black women as cosmic mentors." She just wants him to pay for his damn tacos.
  • Subverted in Doctor Who when Rose Tyler tries it on her mother's analogue in an Alternate Universe while posing as a waitress at her birthday party, but Jackie just turns around and asks her who the hell she thinks she is.
  • Subverted in the first episode of The Sarah Silverman Program, where an old black lady gives sagely advice to Sarah.
    • "I've learned something today... Elderly black women are wise beyond their years, but younger black women are prostitutes. Good night?"
    • And let's not forget that said advice was delivered while Sarah was high on cough syrup. Or that the elderly black woman's head was attached to the body of her dog (Sarah dubs it "Elderly Black Woman Puppy").
  • In Wizards of Waverly Place when Alex gives a heartfelt speech about how you should be okay with yourself and not give in to the school Alpha Bitch, said Alpha Bitch promptly tells her that she still rules the school and orders everyone to leave, which they do.
  • The Trope Namer herself performs a subversion in "I, Borg". Instead of the typically enlightened speech, Guinan tries to convince Picard (via fencing) that the nature of the Borg can never be altered and trying to show compassion to the one they've found is futile. Guinan has pretty good reasons to feel this way, but she eventually faces the Borg individual and confronts this. It falls to Geordi of all people to deliver an Ephiphany Speech to Guinan, and it works. This leads Guinan to give another speech to Picard.
    Guinan: If you are going to use this person...
    Guinan: If you're going to use this person to destroy his entire species, you should at least look him in the eye. Otherwise, you might find that decision much harder to live with than you realize.

Western Animation
  • Recess, "The Great Can Drive": a bunch of kids are fighting over some geezer's can of food, as part of a contest to see who can get the most cans. TJ's class has just accumulated the exact same number of cans as the Ashleys' class (the scores were in the thousands), and TJ is teed off even more than if they had lost and contributed to the Ashleys' winning streak. As they fight, Mikey tells them that the true point of this whole contest is to get lots of food for the needy. After hearing this, they continue fighting over the can anyway, and the can somehow ends up knocking over the pyramid of cans they had collected, making Mikey both sad and mad.
  • Hey Arnold!, "Heat": During a heat wave, Arnold points out to a bunch of kids trying to flip over an ice-cream truck is that they're getting cranky because of the heat. And then... they just keep trying to flip it over. Mother Nature has its own, more successful, way of intervention however - rain.
    • Actually...snow. Somehow. Amusingly, the next cartoon is a snow episode.
  • Subverted by Clone High, with Toots, the blind Jazz player. He'll start a speech that sounds like it'll be the voice of reason in troubled times, but instead decides to let everyone get on with their angry mob.
    "Now, I may be blind, but I can see certain things loud and clear. This is a room full of scared people making decisions based on fear and ignorance. Now, when I left the house this evening, I intended to go to Giovanni's Italian Restaurant. I can tell I'm in the wrong place. So, if you'll excuse me, I'll leave and let you get on with your meeting."
  • Played with in an episode of South Park in which the handicapped Jimmy accidentally joins the Crips and, upon discovering their ongoing turf war with the Bloods, decides to fix the matter by locking them in a gym together overnight. To get them to stop fighting each other, he delivers a speech where the only words that actually matter are "I mean, come ON." It works.

Real Life
  • "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?" — Rodney King
    • "No, not really." — L.A.
      • For context: King said his famous piece three days into the LA riots. They went on for three more afterward.


White Man's BurdenRace TropesWild Samoan
Who's on First?DialogueWho Will Bell the Cat?
Verbal JudoSpeeches and MonologuesWindbag Politician

alternative title(s): Whoopi Epiphany; Come On The World Needs You Speech
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