Follow TV Tropes


Activist-Fundamentalist Antics

Go To

You (and your little group of like-minded righteous people) are right and everyone else is wrong about the most important thing in the universe. But everyone else is just too stupid, or deluded, to see how right you are! So, if you are actually righteous and really want the best for/to save them you would be willing to do anything, right? Even if it might seem a little silly or counterproductive to those who don't understand the importance of what you're trying to do!

A character pulling Activist Fundamentalist Antics is likely to scream all the wrong slogans at all the wrong places: religious gatherings, comedy festivals, family holiday dinners, even funerals. They may well make botched attempts at Easy Evangelism or Epiphany Therapy, only to come across as a general Jerkass. They are likely to step on all sorts of metaphorical toes, including their own as they trip over their own feet. One hallmark of this mentality is the desire to somehow exile and/or exterminate certain types of people. Maybe said people break taboos and/or are 'immoral', but the real issue is what they 'are' and not what they do e.g. they are the SINFUL HELL-SPAWN/children of parents who ate egg-salad sandwiches on a Tuesday IN DIRECT DEFIANCE OF GOD'S WILL. This desire to exclude or eliminate said people stems from the fact that 'their kind' is fundamentally incompatible with the Activist Fundamentalist's vision of a righteous and Small, Secluded World. For the same reason, they're most likely Egocentrically Religious. Some psychologists have argued that the reason why some cultists behave this way — so militantly, and with so much hostility — is that they are desperately trying to convince themselves of the righteousness of their cause.

When The Fundamentalist (or any other fanatic) is played this way, they can still be scary. There might be a real risk that they'll go off the deep end and bring out the Torches and Pitchforks or resort to Honor-Related Abuse. Then again, it might also turn out that whatever windmill he was fighting was No Mere Windmill after all. Extra bonus points if two or more groups are doing this at the same time against each other; this might lead to spineless authorities giving in to both sides.

Silly, scary, or both, while the person doing Activist Fundamentalist Antics is often genuinely unsympathetic, it is not always so. They can have other redeeming qualities, or be on the right track but are taking it too far. They might also be wrestling with their life, conscience, and/or world-view. It can even lead to a Crisis of Faith if things don't turn out the way their indoctrination led them to expect.

Note that a character doesn't have to be an organized activist to be this trope, taking an activist attitude is enough.

Please note that this trope relies on how attitudes and behaviors are portrayed within the narrative of a work, and is thus incapable of having Real Life examples: While everyone agrees that there are a lot of silly Activist Fundamentalist Antics in Real Life, there will never be a consensus on which groups are this trope and which ones are not.

Compare Straw Loser, Lord Error-Prone and Black-and-White Insanity. Contrast Against My Religion, where the character personally refuses to do things that he considers to be against his religion, rather than trying to bully everyone else into behaving the same way. Also contrast The Soulsaver and Soulsaving Crusader, which can contain behavior that would be this trope if it weren't justified within the narrative. A particularly over-the-top Soapbox Sadie might act this way for every new cause that pops into her head. Proactive ones may take the direct sales approach and go Knocking on Heathens' Door.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Death Note, after Kira becomes a Shadow Dictator, a program called Kira's Kingdom runs on many television networks. It's similar to the evangelical Christian programs on TBN and similar networks note  except it's about Kira. Even news programs get in on this: Kiyomi Takada, Kira's official spokesperson, runs an editorial segment where she talks about how Kira loves the people who accept him, the world is a better place under Kira, parents should train their children to love and worship Kira, etc., etc.
  • The infamous Gag Dub of Ghost Stories turned Momoko into a born-again evangelical Christian who constantly tells the other kids they're going to hell, and manages to work Jesus into nearly every sentence.

    Comic Books 
  • In The 'Verse of the Chick Tracts, a real Christian would never resort to this kind of behavior. (They sometimes do stuff that would be this trope if it wasn't for the convenient power of Easy Evangelism — such as using people's personal tragedies as a good time to tell them that they are going to hell unless they join the one true religion. But never mind that.)
  • In X-Men, Reverend William Stryker's entire deal is basically one big example of this. He started as a TV Evangelist that blamed mutants for the world's problems and claimed they were the children of the devil. He started off as a protester, before becoming leader of a para-military hate cult known as 'The Purifiers' who did this to the extreme: outright hunting and killing mutants, and trying to 'do god's work' via mass genocide. He was stopped before he could make an example by shooting Kitty Pryde on TV.
  • The Cartoon History of the Universe has a minor running gag of groups the early Muslims failed to convert dealing with missionaries making exactly the wrong pitch. Examples include trying to present monotheism as novel to Jews, pushing their own idea of modest dress in Ghana where it's extremely impractical, and promoting male dominance to a female ruler.
  • In Greg Rucka's Wonder Woman Volume 2 run, Diana's book of philosophy leads to moral crusaders (encouraged by Big Bad Veronica Cale) panicking about paganism, to the point where Wonder Girl is driven out of her school, and there are pickets at Diana's book signings chanting "Hey, ho! Hey, ho! The Amazon has got to go!" (And counter-pickets chanting "Two! Four! Six! Eight! Amazons preach love not hate!")

    Fan Works 
  • Flashman and the Throne of Swords: Among the British delegation are numerous missionaries, some of whom are too zealous for their own good. The most prominent is David Livingstone, who at one point gets arrested for preaching Christianity in a small Riverlands village and drawing the ire of the local septon. Isabel Burton also butts heads with many of the other Brits over her devout Catholicism.
  • In the Discworld fic Slipping Between Worlds, the activities of the Campaign for Equal Heights are elaborated upon, and an even more anorak grouping, the Ankh-Morpork Unidentified Flying Object Research Group, is introduced.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Easy A: Marianne's group is shown doing this. First against the basketball team, then against Olive. Picketing fellow students with hateful slogans, Westboro Baptist Church style, yay... Interestingly, Marianne and her lancer Nina are shown to be really loving and caring people. This strongly indicates that the reason they are such jerks with their antics is that they believe they don't have a choice — that it's somehow their holy duty to act as if they were psychopaths. It's shown Marianne's father is also a pastor, and a real Jerkass one who treats his faith as fact and refuses to let Olive agree to disagree (and a hypocrite, who likes to watch teenage girls strip live via webcam). So, it's likely her behavior isn't her fault, it's largely the result of her strict religious upbringing that she is trying to protect.
  • Saved!. The entire movie. They're all religious fundamentalists, but some are more saved than others (mainly the ones who are willing to question their own beliefs and choices rather than judge others for theirs).
  • God Bless America: Not only Westboro Baptist Church and the other groups featured, but also Frank himself.
  • The Ledge takes this to a very deadly level as the atheist Gavin is about to "die for his beliefs".

  • The Bible: In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus condemns the scribes and Pharisees for going far and wide to win a convert to their religion, and when they do, they make that convert "twice more the son of Hell" than themselves.
  • Christian Nation sees a radical, Dominionist Christian sect seize control of the United States and stone gays, closely censor TV and radio and kill heretics.
  • Archbishop Loris from Deryni is very much given to this. His interactions with the Mearan Pretender, Caitrin, and her husband, Sicard, are frequently punctuated with streams of invective against Deryni generally and Kelson and Duncan in particular, along with darkly dismissive assessments of the fates of Caitrin's daughter and younger son after they are taken to Kelson's court. Unfortunately for Henry Istelyn and Duncan McLain, Loris goes far beyond verbal pyrotechnics.
  • An example with a Think of the Children! Moral Guardian: An excerpt from "How I Found the Superman" by G. K. Chesterton, Daily News 1909:
    The name of Lady Hypatia Smythe-Brown (now Lady Hypatia Hagg) will never be forgotten in the East End, where she did such splendid social work. Her constant cry of "Save the children!" referred to the cruel neglect of children's eyesight involved in allowing them to play with crudely painted toys. She quoted unanswerable statistics to prove that children allowed to look at violet and vermilion often suffered from failing eyesight in their extreme old age; and it was owing to her ceaseless crusade that the pestilence of the Monkey-on-the-Stick was almost swept from Hoxton.
    The devoted worker would tramp the streets untiringly, taking away the toys from all the poor children, who were often moved to tears by her kindness. Her good work was interrupted, partly by a new interest in the creed of Zoroaster, and partly by a savage blow from an umbrella. It was inflicted by a dissolute Irish apple-woman, who, on returning from some orgy to her ill-kept apartment, found Lady Hypatia in the bedroom taking down some oleograph, which, to say the least of it, could not really elevate the mind.
  • Discworld:
    • Reg Shoe (before he was a zombie) in Night Watch is the classic useful idiot: he shouts lots of slogans, insists that the revolution happen according to his great plans, and is otherwise an insufferable Rule-Abiding Rebel. When Vimes shows up and lays out just how little anyone (including the real revolutionaries) cares about what he has to say, Reg's brain "rejected the information as contrary to whatever total fantasy was going on inside". After zombification, his antics are slightly more subdued, in that he's always going on about unfair treatment of the undead, while the other undead wish he'd shut up about it.
    • Estrella Partleigh and the Campaign For Equal Heights are another good Discworld example: where human beings take it upon themselves to agitate for the civil rights of Dwarfs, despite the fact that Dwarfs are incredibly successful in their own right and do not need humans to advocate for them. In Feet of Clay, there's a gag that a human arms merchant took on a Dwarf-sounding name (but not actually claiming to be one) for marketing reasons and the Campaign has no idea how to deal with it.
    • The antagonist of The Science of Discworld IV is the Reverend Mr Stackpole of the Church of Latter-Day Omnians, who not only insists the Disc is spherical (something most Omnians have accepted is not the case), but that somehow this means the Omnian church should have custody of Roundworld (the universe containing actually spherical planets which the wizards created by accident, and is kept on a shelf in Unseen University). The fact the Great God Om actually descends in order to personally tell him to stop talking nonsense only drives him to further heights of incoherent ranting.
      Stackpole: Om is not mocked! That is to say that our concept of the true being of Om is not mocked!
  • "Hell-Fire (1956)": Joseph Vincenzo insists on the view that nuclear weapons are Made of Evil, and that people should be afraid of Hellfire, but they ignore THE TRUTH. Our viewpoint character is disturbed by Vincenzo and changes seats to avoid the apparently religious fundamentalist.
  • Inverted in Never Let Me Go. No matter how horrible things get, no one ever shows any outrage against the system. Two of the three protagonists have emotional outbursts of disapproval and almost hate, but always aimed at themselves. It's because they were genetically engineered in that way.
  • In Sing You Home, Max becomes a born-again Christian after divorcing his wife Zoe, who has come out of the closet. Zoe wishes to use the embryos they made through in vitro fertilization so that she can have a child with her partner, Vanessa. Max's pastor, Pastor Clive, encourages him to be homophobic and eventually sue Zoe and Vanessa for the embryos.
  • In The Ship Who... series, the Society for the Protection of Intelligent Minorities or SPRIM and the Mutant Monitors or MM are generally regarded by the protagonists as well-meaning and sometimes useful but also at least a little bit absurd or worthy of mockery. When SPRIM inspects Helva's class to see if she and the other shelled children are being humanely treated it's regarded as a meddlesome visit from the Department of Child Disservices, even if they do decide she's fine after all.
    • In The City Who Fought, an adoption counselor refuses to place Joat with Simeon because he's the brain of a Space Station. Simeon sends a message to both groups and Joat edits footage of the counselor so that she's also spouting more openly bigoted remarks. Later Joat watches with satisfaction as SPRIM and MM wave signs and chant slogans against the counselor.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One Boston Legal episode had two religious groups suing each other for blasphemy-related charges.
  • In True Blood, we have the Fellowship of the Sun, a cult running on a quite scary flavor of silliness.
    • Except that Rev. Steve Newlin, the leader of said cult, is now a vampire - the very creature he campaigns against.. This could also be a case of Villain Has a Point since not only was his family assassinated by the vampires, it turns out the Authority and their fundamentalist opponents are every bit as fanatical about killing each other over their interpretation of the Vampire Bible.
    • As of Season 5: The Sanguinistas. A religious movement of fundamentalist vampires opposed to mainstreaming who have slaughtered the Authority, converted its remaining members, and have blown up at least one True Blood factory. They are also convinced they are the 'chosen ones' of Lilith.
  • Virgilia in the North And South miniseries is a particularly scary example. At first, she was merely ruining family dinners and such, but she eventually goes off the deep end and even calls down a lynch mob on her own home. The saddest part is that her family actually agreed all along with the core of her political agenda, what they can't stand is her extreme Black-and-White Morality.
  • Penn & Teller: Bullshit! is very fond of making sure to get the footage of the groups acting this way, rather than a more "rational" response stated at another date. As per Penn's own description, "Fair, and EXTREMELY biased."
  • In Parks and Recreation, there is the minor recurring character, Marcia Langman, the spokeswoman for the Society for Family Stability Foundation. In "Pawnee Zoo", she tries to get Leslie to annul a gay penguin wedding since "when gays marry, it ruins marriage for the rest of us." Later in "Time Capsule", she denounces the Twilight books as "There are girls quivering. There are boys staring deeply into girls' eyes as they quiver and so forth. There really is a tremendous amount of quivering. It is anti-Christian. It is pro-quivering."
    • What makes that second example even funnier was that another group also denounced the Twilight books for the opposite reason: they found the books too Christian (specifically Mormon, presumably because they were written by a Brigham Young University graduate).
    • Later in "Jerry's Painting" she wants to get a painting of a topless female centaur burned. Of course when the painting is changed to a male centaur she has no problem with it.
  • In various Swedish shows, we have the comedy group Grotesco performing their song "Bögarnas Fel" ("Blame Everything On The Gay Men"). One of the most famous versions was held at the extremely popular show "Singalong at Skansen" just a few days before the Stockholm Pride Parade. Here, shown with English subtitles. (Click the "subtitles" button, one of the buttons to the right at the bottom.) Of course, the wordplay jokes and some other nuances are lost in translation, but it's still hilarious. (For example, the Swedish word for Double Standard literally means "twice as much morality", which is played with in the initial speech.) Note the cheering people waving pride flags.
  • Kaamelott has the Répurgateur, the batshit inquisitor / papal envoy, who declares nearly everything (magic, mistresses, mental defects...) heretical and sends people to the stake at the drop of a hat. Absolutely no one takes him seriously, which isn't hard when even the local guy with an unspecified mental disorder can beat him in a swordfight. In the pilot, he ends up on the stake after Arthur points out that his sword Excalibur is magic, so technically Arthur is a magic user and thus should be sent to the stake. Oh, and his name is the French translation of Warhammer's Witch Hunter.
  • Vida: Los Vigilantes, the activist group Marisol gets involved with, are to oppose the gentrification of their neighborhood, with noisy protests (sometimes violent), graffiti, and harassing or insulting Latinos in the area who don't go along with their goals, whom they call "coconuts". The group's aggressive and alienating tactics do them no favors, even with people who might have otherwise been on their side.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • The Age Of The Fall in Ring of Honor, Full Impact Pro, and others. The American Healthcare system is wrong and you're going to hear about it, even though you came to watch a wrestling show. When they actually got around to talking about everything they (or rather, Jimmy Jacobs) thought was corroding society, fans actually agreed with them. That still didn't stop Age Of The Fall from being pelted with garbage when they won matches though.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • There's actually very little activism in the Imperium. Outside the Imperium, however, there is the Missionaria Galaxia, which tries to convert every single human world to the worship of the Emperor. They are often active with less-advanced worlds that lack contact with other worlds.
    • Ciaphas Cain does consider certain people, such as the Redemptionists, to be "Emperor-botherers."note  Amusingly enough, one group of them that survived an adventure with him founded a small sect that declares him a saint.
    • The Redemptionists are a sect declared too extreme for the Imperium. While Imperial authorities are fine as long as they only burn mutants, heretics, and social outcasts, problems start happening when they start burning people for not being faithful enough, i.e. not being a Redemptionist.
    • The Inquisition is divided over which methods are best suited to fight Chaos. The Puritans would declare Exterminatus on the planet just because someone looked at an Ecclesiarch funny, and the Radicals who actually use daemonic-possessed weapons and magics against daemons being certain they can control it. This being 40K, they tend to prove their points to the other side by assassination and declaring them heretics.
    • Likewise averted by Chaos worshipers in non-Imperial space: the four Chaos gods are opposed in pairs, so any cultists trying to proselytize on another's turf get chainaxed/raped/burned from inside/decomposed in seconds very quickly.

    Video Games 
  • In World of Warcraft, the Omnicidal Maniac cult Twilight's Hammer took on this role as they did their recruitment drive just before the release of Cataclysm. Oh, and [insert your own character's name here] got to run around shouting silly slogans as s/he infiltrated the cult.
  • In Slave Maker: As a result of their constant Abuse Mistake, the would-be rescuers end up "freeing" slaves against their will, resulting in slaves escaping from "freedom" and running back to their master or mistress.
  • Edna Strickland in Back to the Future: The Game seems harmless enough in her support for Prohibition in 1931. It later turns out she was the famed "Speakeasy Arsonist". And in two other timelines...
  • Sister (later Mother) Petrice in Dragon Age II goes past this into Knight Templar territory, doing all she can, up to and including murder, to spark a war with the Qunari living in the city for fear that they'll lead people away from the Chantry and into the Qun.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: Even Scary Dogmatic Aliens are not immune to this one. The Primus is introduced grumbling about The Archon spurning kett tradition in favor of his own agenda. As the game goes on, she gets more and more tetchy about it, eventually resulting in her quietly going rogue. If the player investigates, she offers them a chance at the Archon via backstabbing, so the kett can get back to their true purpose in the area. If the player leaves said mission 'till after the game's over, they find the Primus has decided anyone who sided with the Archon is not a "true" kett, and has started a mass purge, complete with examples.
  • Angry Gran: Granny takes public displays of indecency very seriously. Also, being younger and prettier than her does qualify as being indecent enough for a good old-fashioned smackdown.

    Web Comics 
  • Seymour of Sinfest often falls into this territory. See the trope illustration, where even God dismisses him as a "loony fanboy". Sinfest is actually an interesting example, because it is a series where the main characters can often see God make signs in the sky, where the Devil runs a MegaCorp, where Jesus and Buddha occasionally drop by for chilling, and where one main character is in a relationship with a reformed demon girl. Seymour's problem is not that he is trying to push the existence of his god onto characters because everyone knows that various deities exist... but that he refuses to see that there are gray areas between blind and obsessive worshiping and (for example) being genuine friends with a cute girl from hell.
  • Kankri of Homestuck from the Pre-Scratch universe is obsessed with social justice, but, lacking a real cause (and personal issues causing him to automatically reject the validity of one of the only actual causes presented to him), he ends up preaching verbosely for little reason and less benefit. In the Post-Scratch universe, he became Messianic Archetype for real because the Crapsack World of Alternia and the lingering memories of life in the Pre-Scratch universe gave him an actual cause to champion.
  • Mary, the one character in Dumbing of Age more fundie than Joyce (at least before Joyce's Character Development, which left Mary as the only fundie), actively antagonizes her roommate Roz over Roz's liberalism, blackmails Ruth into trying to start a prayer circle, and reserved the common room to put up a Hell House for Halloween five minutes after the semester began, and spent said Halloween trying to scare Becky and Dina straight (in both the 'stop sinning' and 'stop being gay' sense).

    Web Original 
  • Dino Attack RPG:
    • Pharisee has some elements of this. Basically, he believes that he has a divine right to impart justice on people he considers morally wrong and makes sure that those "wrongdoers" understand.
    • Averted by Dr. Noomi Shaw, who keeps the spiritual aspects of her character to herself and respects the opinions of others. She was deliberately written to avoid falling into this trope.
  • The Onion reports on "Christ Converts to Islam": "Millions more, however, have decried the recalcitrant Christ's apostasy, breaking ties with Him and calling His conversion "a heathen act" of "utmost blasphemy before Himself"."
  • Episode 11 of Weird school rules in Hong Kong features a skit where a student "calls out" other students for not praying before 'eating' and tries to record down their names and classes (most likely for further punishment), even when the student "called out" was just eating a single sweet or taking medicine when ill.
  • Zinnia Jones has at least two episodes on this. One about MassResistance and one about the Westboro Baptist Church.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons
    • Ned Flanders, after a certain trope he named kicked in, began protesting evolution in textbooks and other such activities.
    • Marge can actually be like this occasionally. She is unsupportive when Lisa, Bart, or Homer seek alternative means of worship (Buddhism, Catholicism, and just general disinterest in going to Church), and tends to get preachy when these things happen.
  • The South Park episode "Mr. Hankey, The Christmas Poo" ended with a ban on secular Christmas as well as religious Christmas, all thanks to Kyle's mother. They ended up staging a production by New York minimalist composer Philip Glass, which included all the children in black leotards and doing interpretive dance.
  • On Drawn Together, Princess Clara is prone to this. At one point, she wishes Xandir and his new boyfriend live happily ever after... until God throws them both in the fiery pits of Hell, of course.
  • The Equalists from The Legend of Korra are an anti-bending group. The enemy includes: The Avatar, every last bender in existence because, you know, they're inherently evil, and possibly all non-benders who are not Equalists themselves. For extra fun, they're dupes of one of the more powerful and frightening waterbenders in the world.
  • Pretty much any group led by Ms. Censordoll in Moral Orel falls under this, with her Establishing Character Moment in the first episode.
    Group Member: Are you really going to burn The Bible?
    Ms. Censordoll: Only the Jewish parts. (tears the Bible in half and tosses one half into the fire)
    • How ridiculous can their protesting get? In a flashback, they're shown protesting a wedding reception. One of the protesters was the bride herself. If that's not convincing, Ms. Cendordoll found a reason to protest The Greatest Story Ever Told, which, we remind you, is a movie about Jesus Christ. (Her excuse is that it's too long and dull, and therefore moviegoers will be tempted into whoring out of boredom.)