Follow TV Tropes


All Issues Are Political Issues

Go To
Banana flambé with a side order of Straw Feminist.

"In a democracy, everything is political. And everyone."
Chancellor Palpatine, Revenge of the Sith (novel)

This trope occurs when a character starts a political discussion on an issue which the other characters don't feel to be political at all. ('Political' here is used as an umbrella term for 'political, philosophical, economic, cultural...' - in short, everything people can get into a more or less intellectual argument about).

For example, Alice and Bob are on vacation in France, and go to visit the Palace of Versailles. Bob marvels at the regal splendour of the centuries-old palace, when suddenly, Alice exclaims: 'Just think of all the misery and oppression the French people were put through so a small elite could live in such luxury! No wonder they revolted.' Bob (and every other visitor in earshot who happens to speak Alice's language) stares at her dumbfounded, then mutters something along the lines of 'I hadn't looked at it from that angle before.'

A few weeks later, back home, Alice and Bob are out shopping when they come across a seemingly innocent billboard for a certain line of women's clothing. Alice makes a remark about how the ad is degrading to women, leading Bob to ask, 'What do you mean, degrading to women?' Alice then goes off on a long rant about the ad's supposed misogynistic underpinnings.

In both cases, Alice has employed this trope: she has called attention to the political side of something of which Bob, and most other people in their Verse, were hardly aware that it had.

There is a sliding scale as to how sympathetically this is portrayed. On the negative extreme, Alice is an annoying pedant, making Serious Business out of a trivial matter; on the positive extreme, she's the Only Sane Woman of the setting, and everyone around her is shallow and/or uncaring.

Of course, this can be Played for Laughs if the issue in question is silly enough.

Please bear in mind that whether something fits this trope or not is determined by the reactions of other characters, not the reactions of the audience. Thus, if one character does this with an issue the audience would also feel to be political, it can still fit this trope if the other characters don't see it that way; and if most or all of the characters in a given setting see the political side of an issue which the audience considers non-political, it doesn't fit this trope. In other words, the disagreement "is this political or not" needs to occur between one character and the rest, not between the characters and the audience.

Not to be confused with What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?, which is about the audience seeing a political message in a work which wasn't intended to convey one. Supertrope of Everything Is Racist and Straw Feminist. Related to Windmill Political. See also Single-Issue Wonk, in which this applies for one issue for the person.


    open/close all folders 

  • Inverted and deliberately invoked in a series of adverts for the UK's Electoral Commission (aimed at increasing voter turnout) which had a man who "didn't do politics" having to give up all conversations since everything, no matter how mundane, has a political connection somewhere.


    Animated Film 

  • In Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Spider-Punk has a rebellious, anti-authoritarian and openly anarchist attitude. When he travels to Mumbattan and witnesses a giant hole start sucking up buildings after the death of police inspector Singh is prevented, he refers to this phenomenon as "a metaphor for capitalism"

  • In Black Book, there is a scene in which a group of Dutch resistance fighters drinks to the Queen; one of them refuses to drink to her, because he is a Communist (and thus opposed to the monarchy). The others don't quite see what the big deal is. This scene was probably meant to symbolise the considerable tensions that arose within the Real Life Dutch resistance movement due to Pillarisation.
  • In Reservoir Dogs, Mr. Pink gets an infamous Establishing Character Moment when he explains the political philosophy behind tipping, something the other characters had always done unquestioningly. However, Mr. White counters with his own argument about why Mr. Pink's philosophy is flawed.
  • In The Last Days of Disco, one character talks about how much fun she had seeing Lady and the Tramp with her little niece and nephew. Another replies by deconstructing the movie as promoting an unrealistic and self-destructive view towards relationships with the opposite sex, "imprinting on their little psyches the idea that smooth-talking delinquents recently escaped from the local pound are a good match for nice girls from sheltered homes."
  • A major theme in Savageland is apolitical violence and tragedy being hijacked for the sake of pushing a political agenda. In this case, a small-scale Zombie Apocalypse is twisted into a debate about border control policies, and the real problem is ignored at best, or actively covered up at worst.

  • Bernard Marx from Brave New World does this constantly. He is very much on the positive side of the sliding scale (i.e. the Only Sane Man variety).
  • Similarly, Guy Montag from Fahrenheit 451.
  • George Orwellfrom whom this trope's name is a direct quote — was truly notorious for this. His friend Cyril Connolly once said about him that he 'couldn't blow his nose without moralising on conditions in the handkerchief industry.'
    • Case in point: Orwell managed to end an essay about toads on a political note.
  • Parodied in the first Adrian Mole book, where Adrian sees youth leader Rick Lemon at the supermarket. He treats buying fruit as a political issue.
    Saw Rick Lemon dithering at the fruit counter; he said selecting fruit was an 'overtly political act'. He rejected South African apples, French golden delicious apples, Israeli oranges, Tunisian dates, and American grapefruits. In the end he selected English rhubarb, 'Although,' he said, 'the shape is phallic, possibly sexist'.
  • In Three Dark Crowns the foster families of the triplet queens are very keen on their contender winning the throne and willing to do pretty much anything to make that possible. Everything, from everyday purchases to friendships in analysed and remarked upon.
  • The page quote originates from Matthew Stover's Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith novelization. Palpatine and Anakin Skywalker are having what Skywalker feels is a moral issue about right and wrong, and when Palpatine discusses the Jedi Order's politics, Anakin states that the Jedi aren't political, resulting in Palpatine's response that, "In a democracy, everything is political, Anakin. And everyone."
  • Nothing But The Truth: Philip humming along to the Star-Spangled Banner as it played was merely his means of getting back at a teacher he hated. When she sends him to the principal's office over it, he responds by invoking the First Amendment — which leads to the whole situation snowballing into a nation-wide debate on free speech and patriotism, with the teacher villainized for allegedly oppressing him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inverted by the Penguin in Batman (1966), when he runs for Mayor of Gotham City; his campaign features "plenty of girls and bands and slogans and lots of hoopla, but remember, no politics. Issues confuse people."
  • The Big Bang Theory: Once, purely out of spite, Sheldon tried to ruin Amy's experience of watching a western movie by launching into a self-righteous tirade about the treatment of Native Americans.
  • Britta on Community does this all the time. To take one example, at one point Annie complains about how Britta once invoked the Freedom of Information Act to demand a copy of the notes Annie made in class.
  • On Friends Monica objects to one of Phoebe's friends playing at Phoebe's wedding, because of her odor. Phoebe replies her friend will shower when Tibet is free.
  • Los Espookys: Melanie Gibbons is the ditzy US ambassador in an unspecified Latin American country. One of her staff members thinks the mirror that was delivered to the office is some kind of political statement. When another staff member thinks they should get rid of it if that's the case, she cheerfully decides that maybe it's just a mirror.
  • Hetty in NCIS: Los Angeles clearly believes this, which is part of why she relies so heavily on political manipulations.
    Hetty: You can't escape politics. You either play or get played.
  • Beth on Pramface, repeatedly. In one episode she gets kicked out of a jewelry store because she gets into an argument about blood diamonds. In another, she attempts to replace all the hymnals in a church with The God Delusion.


    Video Games 
  • In Sunless Skies, your first introduction to Parliament is being asked to take sides in a heated political debate: should Parliament honor Queen Victoria by renaming Wednesday to "Victoria's Day", or should it punish her for her crimes against democracy by renaming Victoria sponge cake to "the People's Cake"? You later learn that ever since the Queen went full autocrat and flung the Parliament to the edge of Albion so they wouldn't bother her, they have all been like this.
  • Disco Elysium:
    • The Detective's political orientation is determined largely by making dialogue choices like this when discussing unrelated subjects, especially when excusing his own Alcohol-Induced Idiocy. The player can have him insist that the reason his hotel room is trashed is because he "defied bourgeoisie morality in here... defied it hard"; explain that he drunk-drove his extremely expensive patrol car into the sea "due to following the invisible hand of the market"...
    • This, apparently, was always one of the Detective's personality traits. When talking to Nix Gottleib, who knew him before his breakdown, a failed Rhetoric passive can appear in which the Detective decides "they are rejecting you for political reasons", but before he can say anything Gottleib will cut him off by clarifying that it has nothing to do with his politics and he doesn't want to hear any of his theories on the subject.
    • In particular, this is a constant gag associated with the game's communists. Dros thinks everything that isn't strictly about his own failed brand of revolutionary communism is reactionary, such as popular music, sex, or merely not being pathologically miserable all the time. In The Final Cut, the infra-materialists' supposedly revolutionary political cell is really just a get-together where they denounce various pop culture artefacts as an encapsulation of why Capitalism Is Bad, ranging from fantasy books (anti-worker) to board games (imperialist) to car racing (counterrevolutionary). If the player has the Detective internalise the Communist-aligned Mazovian Socio-Economics thought, the description explains that becoming a Communist has "made him into a very, very smart boy with something like a university degree in Truth" and that instead of wanting to organise, he now just wants to rehearse everything awful about the world by subjecting it to critical analysis.
      "Are women bourgeoisie?"
    • Fascists in the game — including the Detective, if the player chooses to have him become one — are also prone to assuming everything is political, but unlike the Communists — who at least have actual theory to work from and make points that are based on a coherent world view — their assumptions are based exclusively on gut hatred of women, minorities, foreigners, homosexuals, the modern world, and, most of all, themselves. In particular, they like to explain how their own failed romantic relationships, drowned ambitions and substance abuse habits are because the King got overthrown and now everything is degenerate forever. The exception is Measurehead, who, while being absurdly racist and self-declaring as such, pities other racists for using fascism as a coping strategy for their own unrelated failings.

  • In Ménage à 3, this trope is parodied in a Flash Back in which Yuki calls a banana flambé 'oppressive' and the waiter who is trying to serve her this dessert a 'patriarchal phallocrat.' It's parody because she does this out of her "phallophobia", not out of any genuine feminist conviction.
  • Tajel from PHD often does this.
  • Played for laughs in Sluggy Freelance here.
    Gwynn: Anyone want to split an order of buffalo fingers?
    Torg: You know, the Native American Indians used to use every part of the buffalo. Nothing went to waste. Then the white man came and killed off whole herds of buffalo for only their fingers!
    Gwynn: I'll have the spinach quiche.
    Riff: Don't get Torg started on the sociological ramifications of wimpy egg-products!
  • Homestuck has Kankri Vantas, who tends to go on long winded speeches about seemingly trivial matters that may or may not be important.

    Web Original 
  • This post on Tumblr parodies some of the users on the site who read way too much into things.
    Roses are red,
    Violets are blue,
    Um, what the hell are you talking about, you fucking asshole? Roses and violets can be any fucking color they want, and who are you to judge them? Maybe they don't even identify as roses and violets and you're just making this decision based on their appearance. Wow, go fuck yourself, you bigoted asshole.
  • Parodied by an article in The Onion, Exhausted Noam Chomsky Just Going To Try And Enjoy The Day For Once, where Chomsky tries to have a day off, but everything reminds him of oppression.
    Sources said Chomsky took what was supposed to be a refreshing drive in the countryside, only to find himself obsessing over the role petroleum plays in the economic and military policies that collude with multinational corporate powers.
    After stopping at a roadside McDonald's, Chomsky was unable to enjoy the Big Mac he purchased, due to the popular restaurant chain's participation in selling "a bill of goods" to the American people, who consume the unhealthy fast food and thereby bolster the capitalist system rather than buying from local farmers in order to equalize the distribution of wealth and eat more nutritiously.
    Chomsky also found the burger to be too salty.
  • Hardly Working: Taken to absurd levels in "The Social Consequences of Everything", where they shoot down every single idea about how to spend their day off because of social concerns, until eventually settling on literally doing nothing.
  • Zigzagged in Within the Wires "Cassette 1: Tate Modern (1971)," when artist Roimata Mangakāhia dismisses art critic Alphra Bond as hypersensitive, imagining political subversiveness and incitement to war in works she reviewed.
    Mangakāhia: Bond believed all artists benefited from war and strife, as it gave them a more interesting story to tell. ...Of course the abhorrent and simplistic
But the painting "The Charcoal Dish," of which Mangakāhia is a fan and Bond the sole detractor, may genuinely be a subversive critique of the sinister One World Order, of Wires, depicting innocent people happily served up from a giant dish-shaped building onto a laden picnic blanket, to be eaten by hidden monsters.

    Western Animation 
  • Huey from the The Boondocks always sees political conspiracies in everything. He's right roughly half the time.
  • On South Park and its associated universe, anything can escalate into Political Overcorrectness and/or into ultra-violent political discussion, even voting for a new school mascot (which makes Sean "P. Diddy" Combs appear and deliver his "true" vision of "Vote Or Die": vote, or get hunted down like a dog to the ends of the Earth and shot dead Gangsta Style).
  • The Simpsons: When Lisa and Mr Burns have just had an argument (Lisa had helped Burns recover from bankruptcy, but he used methods she found environmentally unfriendly), Burns orders her to Get Out!. Lisa retorts she can't because Marge is picking her up in a couple of hours. This forces them to awkwardly sit around, until Burns attempts to make conversation by asking her opinions on "the popular music". When Lisa replies that she believes it helps to distract people from important issues, an annoyed Burns exclaims, "My God! Are you always on?!"


Video Example(s):


A Tired Latino Man

On South Park and its associated universe, anything can escalate into Political Overcorrectness and/or into ultra-violent political discussion.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / AllIssuesArePoliticalIssues

Media sources: