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Fair for Its Day

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"Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?"
Shylock, William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, in what seems to be a radical statement for his day (as opposed to being, as is now clear, pretty self-evident)

Something from the past that seems like a huge load of Values Dissonance. It seems laden with, say, a Rose-Tinted Narrative or a Historical Hero or Villain Upgrade.

Only... it turns out it was comparatively Fair for Its Day. Maybe the Historical Hero Upgrade or Historical Villain Upgrade wasn't that unfair a reflection on the person's views. Maybe the Rose-Tinted Narrative just wasn't rose-tinted enough for its original audience. Maybe it was even ripped apart in its own time for being downright insurrectionist, and was brave to go as far as it did. It might even completely agree with modern attitudes, but not do so Anviliciously enough for today's audiences.

This doesn't automatically make the work immune to criticism: something less dissonant than its contemporaries can still be pretty darn dissonant. Oftentimes, though, a little research will show that something cringe-worthy or laughable today is also something worthy of applause for what it stood for, and the context can be important in interpreting the work at large. Authors often work under a system of rigid censorship that decrees even mild criticism of the status quo to be going too far, even in enlightened democracies. Attempting to argue for modern values would have really been pushing your luck. (In other words, here Failure Was the Only Option.) A work that's only a little culturally subversive is more likely to escape censorship and earn public acclaim than one that goes all the way, thus ensuring its relevance - or at least survival - into the present day. (For an ironic counterpoint, consider Refuge in Audacity, which is when one has to go all the way in order to get away with being offensive.)


Leading via Fridge Logic to the Family-Unfriendly Aesop: If you risk your reputation to shift the values of a society towards more tolerance and idealism, later generations may see you not as a hero, but rather as a Rule-Abiding Rebel, or at best a well-meaning coward, hardly any less appalling than the people you fought when you were alive. This conclusion presumes the so-called Whig theory of history, which proposes that societies become infinitely more politically liberal as time passes. (It also assumes that people from the future must have absolutely no sense of history.) Another problem with this trope is that it tends to smack of condescension and presentist snobbery, as if the most unenlightened modern-day person is still fairer than the most progressive historical person.

Please remember that this trope does not mean "surprisingly enlightened for its time period." It means "more enlightened for its time period", which is not necessarily the same thing. If a vintage work has a message that comfortably fits modern audiences, that's Values Resonance. In order to qualify for Fair For Its Day, a vintage work must have negative cultural traits as well as positive ones. Even then, though, there might only be apparent dissonance: certainly, despite what Positive Discrimination would have one believe, there really are women out there who scream whenever they get frightened, or minorities who are uneducated and speak in dialect note , and the presence of one such person in a work should not be taken to mean that the creators believe all people of that type are like that (though if they are the only representatives of their respective groups, it's natural to feel suspicious).


Contrast Rule-Abiding Rebel. Innocent Bigot and Racist Grandma are related tropes. Executive Meddling and Lowest Common Denominator may also play roles, if unprejudiced creators are forced to pander to widespread prejudices among the public. The same principle applied to innovation in fictional works is "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny. Ironically, a clear counterpart to You Are a Credit to Your Race, the utterance of which was fair for its day.


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  • Levy's "you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy Levy's bread" campaign may seem a bit cringeworthy today, but back in the early 1960s, it was rare for non-WASPS in the media, including wide-reaching ad campaigns like this one, to not be featured as a racist caricature, however subtle. Jews got a bit more of a break because there are so many writers, producers, directors and other highly-placed show business creators who are Jewish.
  • In a 2015 example, Hebrew National Hot Dogs were very upfront about who they are, why kosher is better, and that you don't have to be Jewish to benefit from their high standards. "Kosher?!" "Well, they're very choosy what they put in their meat!"

    Anime and Manga 
  • Often noted in the case of Osamu Tezuka that, while the content of some of his work is offensive by modern standards, he was actually a very enlightened writer for his time and would likely appreciate the more open minded nature of today's society. A good example would be Princess Knight. While it can come across as incredibly sexist by modern standards (among other things, having it that women are naturally timid, unsuited for fighting, and enamored of pretty things like dresses), it still has a heroine who fights for her happy ending and becomes strong and brave enough to defend herself. Furthermore, while the series shows women as naturally being frail, it also showed that they can grow to be strong and most of the women were shown as being naturally brave, compassionate, and intelligent. Friebe and Hecate are shown as being good people while ignoring gender norms and engaging in unladylike behavior (and are shown to be very good at it). Meanwhile, the villain takes advantage of the kingdom's sexist laws to further his own goals, while the heroes agree that the rules limiting the rights of women are misogynistic and outdated. When the women of the kingdom finally revolt, while the whole thing is generally Played for Laughs, they do put up enough of a fight to worry the Duke, and Plastic granting women equal rights to men and letting Sapphire rule is shown as him being a true man and doing the right thing.
  • Cyborg 009 was written in the 60s and it shows - the characters tend to be portrayed rather stereotypically, with 005 and 008's designs aging very badly (008's design being done in a cringe-inducing blackface that makes him look like a humanoid monkey, even though he's not even a comic relief character). The manga, however, was one of the earliest portrayals of a multi-cultural superhero team. All of the characters are likable, no matter which country they were from. They quickly grow to be True Companions and have respect for each other's cultures. And while the portrayal of the native characters didn't age very well, the stories still draw attention to how Native Americans and the people of Africa suffer from social injustices and should have their way of life respected. In the Vietnam War arc (not present in the anime), the people of Vietnam are shown as being simple farmers who have no desire for war and are miserable. Additionally, Francoise/003 gets criticism for being The Chick and not having offensive powers, but she still was shown as being brave, proactive, and able to use her super-senses to help the team during battle. She was also clearly displeased with Stay in the Kitchen jokes made at her expense and was willing to help the team despite being a pacifist and disliking fighting.
  • Lots of people complain about Honey Kisaragi from Cutey Honey being a huge Ms. Fanservice, but she was and still is a very brave Action Girl — and one created in The '70s, who became iconic enough to inspire the anime action girls and magical girls that would follow.
  • Devilman: The part where Ryo/Satan claims to love Akira specifically because of his female side doesn't age very well with today's audience due to the homophobic undertones. However, for a manga that came in the 70s, the fact that the author let a man explicitly proclaiming his love for another man, regardless of the reason, should be given some credits. It also helps that aside from that particular instance, the love Ryo has for Akira is played seriously in the manga and is the only thing that humanizes the otherwise evil Satan.
  • Kannazuki no Miko has a nonsensical plot rife with unfortunate implications about the main character falling in love with a Psycho Lesbian who raped her. But back when it was released, yuri anime almost universally gave its characters tragic endings or shied away from making their relationship explicitly romantic, whereas Kannazuki no Miko made it clear that its female main characters were in love with each other and gave them a happy ending together (of sorts). However, the rape and overall poor handling of its yuri relationship means that it has not aged well at all.
  • While Ranma ½ has become a symbol of the LGBT community because of Ranma's ability to change genders, the story itself is much more problematic by today's standards; the reason Akane was forced through an arranged marriage with Ranma in the first place was because her tomboyishness (which was framed negatively by the story) drove off every other potential male suitor she had. In addition, Ranma had to re-learn much of his martial arts training following his curse because turning into a girl made him physically weaker.
  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Battle Tendency has recieved some critism from modern viewers for how one of the central protagonists, Lisa Lisa, doesn't get to do much and instead her skills are more of an Informed Ability. For the time period the manga ran however, Lisa Lisa was actually too amibitous for Hirohiko Araki. Shonen Manga during the late 80's was very much driven by macho men protagonists like Fist of the North Star with very few female characters being present, and those that were tended to be supporting characters. Lisa Lisa not only trained Joseph, she actively fought and was a huge threat to the Big Bad of the arc, enough to where the Big Bad Kars cheats his duel with her to knock her out, and its framed as the Darkest Hour of the arc. In fact, Araki admits he wishes he had gotten to do more with Lisa, as his publishers made him reduce her screentime to focus on Joseph to avoid any potential backlash Araki might get for not focusing on Joseph.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho often is the target of criticism by modern viewers who watch it now instead of when it came out for some out of date views on things like Homosexuality, Transgenderism, and other more modern social topics, many of which are traits of the antagonists the heroes face and are often portrayed as weird or comical in nature. When the manga came out though, very few series were willing to even have these elements in their work because of more traditional views of Japan at the time and so the series seemed fairly ahead of its time by simply addressing their existence. Furthermore, the main villain of the Chapter Black Arc, Sensui, was gay, but his sexuality was not portrayed as evil, wrong, or weird, but instead was a part of his character that was there, and he was a villain because his goals and beliefs were going to cause countless deaths. Part of this issue lies with the dub of the anime, as the dub came out during a time where these topics were seen as controversial and not allowed due to Moral Guardians at the time, so the dub had to downplay or alter these elements to avoid possible legal issues that could arise from having these elements.

    Comic Books 
  • Yellow Claw, published by Marvel precursor Atlas Comics, was named for its villain, a rather racist Yellow Peril character. But its hero, FBI agent Jimmy Woo (who has since become a SHIELD agent and leader of the Agents of Atlas), was Chinese-American, quite a rarity in those days.
  • When Marvel first ran its Sergeant Fury and his Howling Commandos, its Token Black character Gabe Jones was portrayed rather stereotypically (complete with a jazz trumpet on the cover of the very first issue), but having a black character on the team at all was quite revolutionary in that day and age, and he was generally treated as equal with the other commandos and a valued member of the strike force.
  • Luke Cage's blaxploitation origins are a bit cringe-worthy to read. Heck, in-universe he rather considers the yellow-disco-shirt-Holy-Christmas era an Old Shame. Yet he was the very first black superhero to have his own title series, he regularly served as a reserve member of the Fantastic Four, and he rapidly evolved from a generic Scary Black Man to a well-rounded character.
  • A lot of the entries in Captain Ethnic can count as this. They might be embarrassing stereotypes but they were sympathetic heroes of color in a time when almost all superheroes were still white people.
  • Will Eisner laid out a similar defense for Ebony White from The Spirit. He argued that despite his racist minstrel appearance, Ebony was a relatively competent and heroic depiction of a black Sidekick, especially for the time period he was created in.
  • Tintin has what would be considered very racist portrayals of minorities today. However, Tintin and the heroes always treated these people with respect, while the villains would not treat them this way.
    • Invoked in The Blue Lotus, where Hergé consciously defies Western stereotypes about the Chinese and makes fun of people who still believe in them.
    • This is why Nelvana chose to Bowdlerise some of the stories. In The Broken Ear, Tintin still disguises himself as a member of the boat crew, but rather than dress in blackface like in the comic book, just wears a wig and has a fake moustache. In The Red sea Sharks, the ship full of African muslims trying to make their pilgrimage to Mecca were instead changed to refugees. That makes it sound even worse.
  • It's quite jarring to see Digby saying that "The black boy's done it, sir" near the end of the first Dan Dare story, but it was remarkable that a 1950s British comic would have a black African as supreme commander of the Earth forces in the first place. Dan certainly treats him with all the respect owed to his rank.
  • Nero: Petoetje was a black Papuan native adopted by the white Flemish woman Madam Pheip. Despite being brought to Belgium he kept walking around in his native dress for several albums. This is a bit embarrassing nowadays, but at the same time no other comic strip at the time had a little black boy as part of the main cast. Not only that: Petoetje is actually smart and doesn't speak in pidgin talk.
  • Circles was first published in 2001 and the story continued up to 2004, with each chapter being a season of the year. In those times, these types of comic books were rare and few were successful. Issues like illegal marriage were much more apparent in those times. That said, the final chapters were published in 2015, nearly after all marriage was legalized in the United States where it was published and written.
  • Hal Jordan's Inuit sidekick, Tom Kalmaku, introduced during the 60s. On one hand, he had the extremely racist nickname "Pieface" and tended to say things like "great fish hooks!" when shocked. On the other hand, he was a competent minority character in an important position at Ferris Air who Hal respected as a trusted friend and equal. Nowadays, he is only every refered to by his real name and the more derogatory aspects of his early portrayal are treated as an in-universe Berserk Button.
  • Shazam: By modern standards, the Golden Age depiction of Freddy Freeman — who was regularly called a "cripple" by friends and strangers alike — is ableist. However, he was one of the very first disabled protagonists in comics, and was always portrayed as an intelligent kid and a valuable ally to Captain Marvel. In fact, some fans even argue that Freddy's Golden Age depiction is more progressive than other versions of the character, since he never struggled with the same anger or self-image issues that have plagued his modern incarnations.
  • Dust, or Sooraya Qadir of the X-Men might draw some groans today. She's a Muslim who always wears a burqa, has a very stereotypical power of sand manipulation, and was specifically rescued because she was the target of slaver terrorists. But keep in mind that she was created in December of 2002, just a little over a year after 9/11. The fact that she's always been portrayed as heroic, and is a well-defined character, and was notably one of the few mutants who never lost their powers to the Decimation event, is sure to stand out in an era where depictions of heroic Muslims were extremely hard to find in western media.
  • Gen¹³ is rather infamous today for being filled with gratuitous amounts of fanservice and stereotypes, and for having an LGBT Native-American member that wouldn't stop going off about being PC when she wasn't shy about her sexuality. However, back when the comic debuted in the mid-'90s it was rather progressive on several fronts. For one, it was one of the few teams in comics where the women outnumbered the men, with the leader and most powerful member also being Fairchild, a woman no less. It was written in a manner where the sexes weren't made a big deal of, but happened to be that way. On top of that, it was very diverse with only one member (Burnout) that filled the "safe" qualities of being a white male heterosexual. The fact that all members were treated equal, even the aforementioned Rainmaker as the LGBT character, also stands out. Rainmaker herself also fits, as in the '90s most mainstream comic writers were very scared of putting outright LGBT characters in their main stories, out of fear of a homophobic reaction hurting their sales, yet they made no attempt to portray Rainmaker as anything other than that around a decade or so before it started catching on.
  • The New Teen Titans is rather infamous today for featuring a sexual relationship between the fifty-something Deathstroke and the 14-year-old Terra, which was statutory rape. While many would say it wasn't treated with the seriousness it would be nowadays, and later retellings of the scenario alter it to avoid the situation altogether, it's worth noting that it was always portrayed as being wrong, disgusting, and a depraved act of perversion. But nowadays, with how much society has evolved, it can still seem like a regressive way of writing despite not being played as "good" in any way. What makes it dissonant specifically is that Deathstroke was always portrayed as a cool villain even then, making if offputting to some. Still, though it's a can of worms almost no one would open nowadays, and Marv Wolfman did, he made sure to write it for exactly the horror of what it was, and that much was correct.
  • The Sandman. The "A Game Of You" story arc features Wanda, a trans woman. Wanda is written as a fully fleshed-out person and, while she is only a secondary character, the story finds time to shed a sympathetic light on her struggle to have people accept her identity. At the time transgender representation in mainstream media was virtually unheard-of, so this was a huge step forward. Nowadays, however, readers with more progressive views might cringe at how the story treats Wanda in certain instances - particularly the scene in which Wanda is denied passage on the Moon's road because she is not biologically female (unwittingly touching upon a sore and contested point in contemporary LGBT and feminist discourse) and, of course, the fact that Wanda is the only member of the main cast to die in the hurricane.

    Films — Animated 
  • Sleeping Beauty:
    • Sleeping Beauty has a rather flat love story line between the prince and princess. They just meet in the forest and fall in love in a matter of seconds because they met "once upon a dream". But at the time, the previous two Disney Princesses (Snow White and Cinderella) had even less developed love interests — they functioned simply to marry the princess and whisk her away to a better life. Aurora meeting her prince and getting to talk to him properly was fairly progressive for Disney at the time. It was also the first time a Disney Prince functioned as an actual character — Philip (note: the first prince with a name) has to fight for his happy ending instead of just showing up at the end. Also worth noting is that Aurora doesn't just immediately swoon into the guy's arms. She makes arrangements to get to know him properly later — not in the forest, but in her home with her 'aunts' present.
    • Speaking of Sleeping Beauty, it can be argued that neither Aurora nor the prince are the main protagonist. That honor goes to the three good fairies who are portrayed as competent women and prove necessary help for the Prince. The antagonist is also female meaning that most of the film is driven by women which is rather feminist for the time.
  • The crows in Dumbo are often accused of acting like stereotypical black people, and the leader of them is even called Jim Crow in the credits. But on the other hand, their antics portray them as being incredibly clever, and they prove to be some of the nicer characters in the film when they teach Dumbo how to fly. In fact, they are the only characters, other than his mother and Timothy, who treat Dumbo well.
  • Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is routinely criticized for its lack of depth in the romance. But when the film was made, it was an improvement over the original fairy tale, where the prince only comes in as a Deus ex Machina at the end. At least here the prince appears much earlier in the story and has some reason to look for Snow White. He was meant to have a larger role in the film (being tormented by the Queen) but the Disney animators weren't good at drawing a convincing human male yet.
  • Disney's Cinderella is often panned by people nowadays because people believe its title and main character is a passive and submissive heroine who does nothing except wait for a man to rescue her, and who didn't directly rebel against her stepfamily's abuses. However, this is mostly a misconception, and her character was considered progressive compared to her contemporaries. Cinderella didn't wait for people to rescue her to the degree most people commonly believe. Cinderella's patience and dreams are what gave her determination to fight for the happiness and freedom that her stepfamily denied her, taking advantage of opportunities to do so in spite of her stepfamily's wishes and openly expressing her contempt for them. In addition, Cinderella never once mentions waiting or praying for a man or prince to come rescue her. In fact, she doesn't know she's dancing with the Prince at the ball until told later. Again, Cinderella makes the most of opportunities and takes risks to earn her happiness and freedom, including winning over the Prince, the only person that Cinderella has had a happy interaction with since her father died.
    Wait Disney: "She believed in dreams, all right, but she also believed in doing something about them. When Prince Charming didn't come along, she went over to the palace and got him."
  • The portrayal of the Native Americans in Peter Pan. Despite being very offensive ("What made the red man red?") by today's standards, in The ’50s, it was actually one of the more positive portrayals of Native Americans, depicting them not only trouncing the Lost Boys in combat, but also having Tiger Lily refusing to betray Peter's hideout. It's seen as an Old Shame by Disney, with contemporaries saying they would not do it like that today. However, part of this is due to the source material - which was arguably even more offensive. Reasons like this are why other adaptations try to handle the "Natives" better. Peter and the Starcatchers replaces them with a much less anachronistic Polynesian tribe who were former slaves of the British. (Justifying the fact they can communicate with the Lost Boys and have Fantastic Racism against English.)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Disney's current stance on Song of the South is that it is too racially insensitive even for a home video release. The movie is an adaptation of Joel Chandler Harris' renditions of actual African-American folk tales, with a framing tale about Harris' narrator, Uncle Remus. Remus is a sharecropper during the Reconstruction era of the United States, just after the Civil War. Sharecroppers were free men, but many were former slaves, and most lived hard lives being exploited by landowners. The film has been criticized for portraying Remus as a happy, carefree man who spends his time entertaining local white children, which was seen as whitewashing history and aligning Remus with previous stereotypes of "happy slaves" presented by slavery apologists. However, the film also presents Remus as intelligent and mature, keeping his white neighbors' family together through his care. One should also consider that the film is a cartoon for children when examining its upbeat, innocent tone. Walt Disney intended to pay tribute to the African-American folk tales he had loved as a child. He even campaigned for James Baskett, who portrayed Remus, to receive an honorary Academy Award, the first one awarded to a black man.
  • South Pacific was intended as an anti-racism musical and movie. Rodgers and Hammerstein originally intended the show to end with Cable and Liat getting married, until public and political pressure led to Cable being killed to prevent an interracial marriage from occurring on stage. However, they still had a man in a past interracial marriage (with mixed race kids) portrayed well, and his Southern love interest is shown as in the wrong for initially disliking them (although she comes to accept it over the course of the story).
  • The Charlie Chan films of the Thirties and Forties may cause some embarrassment to modern audiences, with their hero's You No Take Candle English and stereotypical "Oriental" aphorisms; however, the character was actually intended as a subversion of the then-ubiquitous Yellow Peril villain and actually did a good deal to rehabilitate the character of Asians among Westerners. It's worth noting that Charlie Chan's sons were played by Chinese-American actors and given a "Gee, Pop!" all-Americanness. In "Charlie Chan at the Olympics," Charlie's son is representing the U.S.A. as an Olympic swimmer. Earl Derr Biggers originally wrote the novels because he was appalled by the racism he witnessed when he visited California. He specifically portrayed Charlie as having learned English by studying the classics, and once inserted the clue that an impostor was pretending to be him by using the word "savvy", which Charlie would never do.
  • Broken Blossoms would be considered racist today, as the Chinese character is called "The Yellow Man", and played by a white man in yellowface. For its day, however, it was quite enlightened, as it portrayed a Chinese emigrant positively — as a Buddist missionary, no less — as opposed to the Yellow Peril depiction that was prevalent in the 1910s.
  • Frank Capra's The Bitter Tea of General Yen contains a Swedish actor in yellowface who plays General Yen, but he's a complex character who wants to teach a naive missionary the truth about human nature. He falls in love with her (played by Barbara Stanwyck), and she with him. This film shocked its audiences and flopped, but it has some very biting criticisms about missionaries and their tendency for Condescending Compassion, their racism, and their love for ideology but never practicing what they preach.
  • The portrayal of Buckwheat in many The Little Rascals shorts is considered quite offensive by many today, yet at the time it was considered fairly daring in many quarters to show a black child hanging out on a more-or-less equal basis with white children. Several episodes show Buckwheat sitting in the same classroom as white students at a time of rampant segregation. In addition, Stymie may have been illiterate, but he was a clever lad who was the main character as the brains of the outfit until he was gradually eased out due to his advancing age for Spanky to take over that role.
  • Flower Drum Song is one long list of cliches, but a Hollywood movie in the early sixties with a cast composed entirely of Asians? Unexpected. Also, while there are significant cliches, you also see many characters be as shallow and annoying as other "hep" characters from this period. To put this in perspective, the movie came out in 1961, the same year as Breakfast at Tiffany's, which had Mickey Rooney playing a Japanese landlord with no problems.
  • Sayonara, with Marlon Brando, Miiko Taka, Red Buttons, and Miyoshi Umeki. Japan is portrayed as a land of geishas, Takarazuka, kabuki, bunraku, pagoda, arched bridges, and cherry blossoms; Japanese women as delicate doll-like creatures who exist to scrub their husbands' backs — demure lotus blossom stereotype right out the wazoo. Still, when it came to sympathetic portrayals of Japan and interracial relationships in 1957, the pickings were pretty slim.
  • 1960 sci-fi B-movie 12 to the Moon features an international, multi-ethnic, mixed-gender crew, all of whom are introduced as being legitimate experts in their fields (although most of the crew are still white males). It's also notable for portraying the Soviet Russian scientist in a sympathetic light. The Frenchman, on the other hand...
  • The film of Live and Let Die may look incredibly offensive today with its seeming stereotyping of all black people as superstitious drug-dealing criminals. However, the film was surprisingly liberal for its time in showing Bond in an interracial relationship, two of the most competent agents in the film (Quarrel Jr. and Strutter) are black, and the most incompetent of the "heroes" is the racist sheriff, J.W. Pepper, who is explicitly shown as an idiot. While the black mooks are walking stereotypes, Mr. Big himself is every bit as intelligent, sophisticated and charismatic as any other Bond villain. It is also far less racist than the original Ian Fleming book.
  • The classic Hollywood western was criticized by later audiences for its negative stereotypes of Native Americans, for reinforcing Mighty Whitey and its uncritical glorification of Violence Is the Only Option. Having said that,
    • John Ford's westerns are often held up as uncritical glorifications of the Wild West, and thanks to the association with John Wayne, everyone assumes that Ford and Wayne shared the same political views. Jim Jarmusch and others criticized Ford for casting Navajos as various tribes irrespective of heterogenous differences in language and customs, but Ford westerns were shot on location in Monument Valley and used Navajos as extras on union scale at a time of segregation, and he maintained such good relations with them that he even spoke the Navajo language, and was given the honorific title "Natani Nez" ("tall leader"). Likewise, Ford always said that Wagon Master was his favorite film, one reason being that it was his only western actually set in Utah where the Navajos played themselves.
    • The Searchers in particular dwells in a strange twilight zone between unconscious racism, visceral racism, and subtle condemnation of the second element. Apart from a protagonist who's an Indian-hating lunatic yet is treated mostly sympathetically, there are murderous, rapist Comanches and the most likable full-blooded Native is an Abhorrent Admirer and Butt-Monkey. But the film at least decries the slaying of white women who have been defiled by Comanches (the characters who view this as Staking the Loved One are portrayed as heartless) and puts in a (somewhat) heroic role the quarter-breed Native Martin Pawley, who can't stomach his adopted uncle's racism and makes that very plain.
  • A lot of revisionist Westerns made in the '50s and '60s, which were daring enough to depict Native Americans sympathetically, haven't aged well, whether due to Noble Savage stereotyping or off-color casting. Broken Arrow (1950) being the best example: Jeff Chandler's Cochise was considered groundbreaking, as an honest, sympathetic, and intelligent Apache Indian — but today comes off as an improbably perfect wise man, played by a Jewish New Yorker.
  • Nicholas Ray's The Savage Innocents was shot on location in the Arctic and was intended to subvert the stereotypes of Eskimos and Inuit, a fact that a modern audience will see as fundamentally compromised on account of its casting of Anthony Quinn rather than an Inuit actor as a lead (which Robert Flaherty did with Nanook of the North), and equally offensively, for casting Japanese actress Yoko Tani as Quinn's wife. However as noted by Tag Gallagher in the context of films made in that time:
    Tag Gallagher: The Savage Innocents possibly comes closest to a non-white point of view of any film by an important [white] filmmaker; it goes out of its way to render the strange and bizarre as normal, and succeeds so well in inducting us into the alien sensibilities of its Eskimos that, by the time a white man shows up, we feel him as the abnormal one.
  • Ben-Hur: The Arab sheikh is portrayed by a white guy, Welsh actor Hugh Griffith (although some Arabs, from the more northern parts of the Middle East especially, look almost white, so it's not too much of a stretch. They also often view themselves as white, and have been called Caucasians). He's also portrayed as a decent person, has a Star of David talisman fashioned for Ben Hur, explicitly draws a parallel between the oppression of Jews and the oppression of Arabs at the hands of the Romans, and is generally one of the very few male characters with no obvious bigotry.
  • Gone with the Wind, unlike other films made in the early twentieth century, thoroughly avoided using blackface, having actual black people play the black characters. Also, Mammy was hailed at the time as a strong black female character, with Hattie McDaniel becoming the first black person to win an Academy Award with the one she received for Best Supporting Actress. Additionally, the makers of the film actively refused to give the Ku Klux Klan the glorifying treatment it received in the book. The film is also a rare example of a film that easily passes the Bechdel Test and has strong female characters.
  • In M*A*S*H, the lone black character is a former college football player nicknamed "Spear-Chucker" who's brought in as a ringer to win a game. On the other hand, he's an officer and a neurosurgeon, and his white colleagues treat him with respect (even adulation) despite the film being set in the 1950s. The film even Retcons the book by claiming his nickname referred to his time as a champion javelin thrower (though with a strong suggestion that no one buys that for a minute).
  • In Kitten With a Whip, to modern sensibilities, Jody is clearly bi-polar; a criminal, dangerous to herself and others, and in clear need of meds and psych counseling. By the standards of the day (mid-1960s), Jody would've been considered a troubled girl, in need of a firm hand to guide her on the right path (this was long before the current practice of charging youth offenders as adults came to be). Indeed, this is how she's described by the juvenile facility matron Jody hospitalized in her escape.
  • Howard Hawks was known for having some surprisingly impressive depictions of women despite the bulk of his work being made in the studio era.
    • His Girl Friday can be somewhat troubling today with Hildy's talk of wanting to "become a woman" by getting married. On the other hand, Hildy is a strong-willed, intelligent, and hardly submissive woman (some of the men even start making bets on how much time it will take before she will want to come back to the paper) and is respected by her male colleagues as an equal, as well as being acknowledged as one of their best reporters. This is all quite impressive for a movie released in 1940, but even better, she ends up overcoming her previous aspirations and sticking to her work in the newspaper, albeit on the condition of remarrying her boss and getting a proper honeymoon this time.
    • Similarly, in The Thing from Another World, the female lead really only exists as an added love interest (though to be fair the movie didn't have a whole lot in common with its source material, so this is one of the more minor changes). However, she is probably one of the most memorable characters in the movie. Much like Hildy Johnson, she is sharp-witted, intelligent, and far from submissive. Even while most of the choices are put in the hands of the men, she gets a few moments (a memorable case being when the fact that she wasn't involved with an argument among the men allowed her to be the first to notice that the Thing was cutting off the heat). Also despite being in a horror movie from the 1950's, she manages to avoid any kind of Distressed Damsel situation and never once screams in the movie (the only time she actually raised her voice was near the very end, and that was because she was trying to alert the protagonist to a very legitimate problem).
  • Them! is another 1950s monster flick that has a progressive female lead in entomologist Dr. Pat Medford. She's a competent professional who ably assists in dealing with the film's giant mutant ants, including going down with the male (non-scientist) heroes into a gassed colony to make sure the inhabitants are all dead. She does scream once, when she abruptly and unexpectedly comes face to face with one of the creatures, but beyond that moment she also never falls into the Distressed Damsel category.
  • Lawrence of Arabia
    • The film is often praised for its anti-imperial politics and providing sympathetic, complex Arab characters, and was considered fairly progressive in 1962 because of this. Today, however, the movie draws heavy criticism for focusing on Bedouin looting during the desert campaigns (which is well-documented) and the political/tribal discord among Lawrence's allies (ditto, though this angle's exaggerated in spots). Not to mention Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn playing Arabs, though for the most part both of them avoid playing their characters as stereotypes. Guinness went to extraordinary lengths to portray Feisal accurately. It worked, too. While on location he met several people who had known Feisal and were impressed by the resemblance. He listened to Omar Sharif to learn his Arabic accent. Jordanian officials and clergy worked closely with the production crew and actors, even coaching an English actor in proper recitation from the Holy Q'ran.
    • Today the film is appreciated for being an Epic Movie that dealt with homosexuality in a complex and non-judgmental fashion. The fact that David Lean and Robert Bolt refused to de-gay Lawrence by adding a token female love interest (to the extent that the movie has absolutely no women in any parts outside of extras) and otherwise resorting to standard Hollywood hypocrisy when dealing with the topic. To some extent, it makes it even more radical than big budget films made today.
  • Most early movies depicting homosexuality directly, as opposed to through coded inference, inspire critical responses from modern viewers, especially for the prevalence of the Bury Your Gays cliche. The Children's Hour (1960) has generated controversy through the unfortunate implications involving Shirley Maclaine's character Martha committing suicide after she breaks down from stress and finally confesses to Karen. Others criticize Basil Dearden's Victim (1961) for showing its gay characters as passive victims of criminals and blackmailers, focusing on their sexuality to make a social statement. However given that homosexual acts were still illegal in the UK at the time, Victim broke new ground in portraying the lead character, who eventually agrees to testify against the blackmailers, in a sympathetic way.
  • Conquest Of Space (1955) may be shocking to a modern viewer in that it seems to imply the non-existence of female astronauts, meaning that the space program is made mostly of white men. However, the one Japanese crew member we see is treated as competent, professional, and equal to his white comrades.
  • When seen today, a lot of Blaxploitation films from the 70's and 80's might come off as little more than cheap action films that just happen to have a black protagonist, but at the time the idea of a black actor making a successful career as an action star was relatively new. For a lot of black audiences at the time (and even some white viewers) having anyone that could be seen as a strong black lead that they could root for was seen as a huge step forward. The fact that there were even a few black women like Pam Grier who managed to make a successful career in these films is also remarkable when you consider that action heroines were only just starting to become popular in mainstream films.
  • Silent film The Half-Breed might have its eponymous half-breed protagonist played by a white actor in Brownface (Douglas Fairbanks), and the local natives are kind of minstrel-y figures that wind up setting fire to the forest for no reason. But in some other ways, it is remarkably enlightened for a film made in 1916. The eponymous half-Native American character is chased off his adoptive father's land by evil racist white folks. The film even goes so far as to mull on the idiocy of white supremacy, with a title card snarking about a "specimen of the 'Superior' white man" followed by a cut to a dirty alcoholic hobo.
  • Nowadays, Lincoln Perry's infamous "Stepin Fetchit" character is mainly remembered as an embarrassingly racist caricature of African-American men, the poster boy for Ethnic Scrappies, and an outdated relic of a time when casual racism was Played for Laughs—which it is. But of course, it's important to remember that Perry wrote his own material, demanded and got creative control, and had his first major studio contract in 1927. In a time when Blackface was still a popular form of entertainment, it was a pretty damn big deal that Perry was able to launch a successful film career at all. And for him to become a bona fide movie star in such a time—the first Black actor ever to become a millionaire through the movie business, in fact—was nothing short of miraculous. As demeaning as the character might seem by today's standards, there's a good reason Perry was eventually given a Special Image Award by the NAACP in 1976.
  • Glen or Glenda, directed by and starring the infamous Ed Wood, is one of the most notoriously awful movies of all time for its rambling narrative, terrible dialogue, and all of its nonsensical scenes and asides... but it's also a surprisingly open-minded film about transgender people, crossdressing, and anyone who oversteps society's "accepted" gender roles. It presents some ideas that would be laughable today, such as the idea that the titular Glen only crossdresses as Glenda because he needs a "perfect woman" in his life and that developing an interest in housework and cooking will "make" a man into a trans woman, but the movie also condemns those who would use religion to demean these people and asks that the audience be open-minded and accepting of them.
  • The movie Rain Man is criticized nowadays for introducing the stereotype that all autistic people have savant skills, and for giving out a strict criterion for autism portrayals when the condition is, in reality, loosely defined. However, the film was responsible for mainstream awareness of autism, and it opened the floodgates for introducing mentally-challenged characters in media. The book NeuroTribes points out that the general population became much more sympathetic towards autistic people as they gained a basic understanding of the condition from the movie.
  • Philadelphia is criticized for falling into the But Not Too Gay trope when depicting homosexual characters, and for portraying Andrew as a saint who happens to be gay and have AIDS. The studio imposed both elements onto the production as conditions to make the film. The studio also forced the omission of scenes showing Andrew and his partner Miguel in a more intimate light. Still, the film was a massive step forward for LGBT portrayals in cinema, to this very date.
  • The 1943 film version of For Whom the Bell Tolls featuring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman is a politically progressive work. The heroes of the film include a band of Spanish anarchist guerrillas, even if their beliefs are whitewashed into "normal" liberal patriotism. This at a time when many people in America and Europe - especially Christians and the wealthy - viewed anarchists as little more than common criminals. Also noteworthy is the lack of sexism within the guerrilla ranks, even if the Action Girl is a heteronormative tomboy and the pretty female rebel never actually fights.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's is notorious for its yellowface caricature Mr. Yunioshi, played by Mickey Rooney. However, the film does at least give him a respectable profession as an artistic photographer rather than saddle him with a stereotypical trade, such as running a laundry or restaurant. Judging by the comments of Holly's friends, he's quite talented. The film also pointedly features a mixed-race couple at Holly's party consisting of a white man and Chinese woman, putting them in the center of the frame in several scenes. This was pretty progressive for 1961, when whites were still barred from marrying Asians in nine states.

  • Around the World in 80 Days: The book's protagonist, an Englishman, falls in love with and marries an Indian princess. Although Verne describes her as fair skinned and notes that her English is perfect, most likely as an excuse to make the pairing more acceptable to his 19th century audience, featuring an interracial marriage at all is still progressive for its time period.
  • In The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri shows a surprisingly progressive (for the time) view on homosexuals: he does condemn the sin theologically by putting unrepentant sodomites in Hell, but treats individual characters with humanity, sympathy, respect and, in the case of his former teacher, Brunetto Latini, even affection. In Purgatory, repenting lustful souls share the same fate whether heterosexual or homosexual, just walking in opposite directions, with no extra punishment for the repentant sodomites.
  • H. Rider Haggard's 19th century stories about his Great White Hunter Allan Quatermain (King Solomon's Mines, Allan Quatermain, etc.) have a number of Unfortunate Implications and the occasional racist overtone, but actually try hard not to be racist. The second book, Allan Quatermain, even opens with an anti-racist essay by Quatermain. This does not make the books politically correct, mind you, and there's still a little accidental racism, but Haggard really does try, and his books are notable for pretty much lacking all the nastier stereotypes of black people, having many strong black characters, and even a sympathetic interracial romance. Admittedly, they're Star-Crossed Lovers, but Quatermain notes that the problems they face are largely circumstantial, and maybe one day such love may be quite acceptable. A notable quote from King Solomon's Mines has Quatermain talk about gentlemen:
    "What is a gentleman? I don't quite know, and yet I have had to do with niggers — no, I'll scratch that word "niggers" out, for I don't like it. I've known natives who are, and so you'll say, Harry, my boy, before you're done with this tale, and I have known mean whites with lots of money and fresh out from home, too, who ain't."
  • Rudyard Kipling rejected the notion that white people were inherently superior to non-white people. He believed that non-white people were no less capable of nobility, morality, and kindness. However, he also believed that non-whites needed the guidance of white people to better themselves, with his definition of "better" being English culture. This was a fairly common belief at the time argued by many people who rejected racism but supported British imperialism.
    • White Man's Burden has inspired a great deal of argument over what the intended message was. If read as a straight defense of imperialism, it still states that whites attained the pinnacle of civilization through chance rather than racial superiority. Therefore, non-white people can be civilized and shouldn't be excluded or abused. This would be culturally supremacist, but not actually racist. Some people insist that the poem is a parody of imperialism, refuting it altogether.
    • Several other of Kipling's poems — "Jobson's Amen" and "We and They" — are rather scathing towards the attitude that British are intrinsically superior to native people.
    • "Fuzzy-Wuzzy", which refers to the Beja by the rather unfortunate epithet of, well, "Fuzzy-Wuzzy", nevertheless acknowledges "yo're a pore benighted 'eathen, but a first-class fightin' man".
    • Gunga Din, which has the titular Indian water-carrier — viewed as lower than dirt by the British soldiers, including the narrator — end up performing a Tear Jerker of a Heroic Sacrifice to save the narrator. By the end, the soldiers' racism and Gunga Din's heroism end up as a huge subversion of the then-popular Mighty Whitey trope.
      You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
    • The 1939 Film of the Book portrays the Indian antagonists fairly sympathetically, simply fighting to get the British out. As the Indian leader notes, "our civilization was great while Englishmen lived in caves and painted their faces blue."
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin is an example in regard to Unfortunate Implications — the black characters are caricatures, but they're at least treated as human beings, and the whole point of the novel is to condemn slavery. When released, the novel outraged the Southerners, and an entire genre was created to respond to it. Over the years, supporters of slavery created In Name Only adaptions of the story that used the worst of the Blackface caricatures. It was these characterizations that stuck in the public's consciousness and gave rise to the concept of the "Uncle Tom" (the black man who was subservient to white people and was seen as a "sell out" to his own race). The book's Uncle Tom character was anything but the stereotype: he was killed for defying his owner to help other slaves.
  • Unlike other examples here, the "for its day" part in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn wasn't merely a comparatively positive portrayal that was nonetheless unfortunately marred; the caricatures in the book were part of a conscious subversion of such portrayals, as they reflect how black people look through the eyes of a racist child; as the book progresses, and Huck wises up, the black characters become less and less cartoonish. Much is made of Jim's many humorously absurd superstitions, but it should be noted that many of his suspicions are frequently vindicated, and many white characters believe things that just as if not more preposterous. As is requisite for any complex and well-rounded character, Jim has flaws and virtues like a real human being. While he's superstitious and blows off his chores note , he's also determined, clear-sighted, compassionate, and has strong moral convictions, as seen with his love for his family and his protective instincts towards Huck. Strangely, this makes the book fall into somewhat of an Uncanny Valley of race relations, with its invocation of N-Word Privileges causing more trouble than books that are legitimately prejudiced. The N-bomb was part of common parlance for the impoverished, backwards southerners depicted in the novel, so it's not like Twain's misrepresenting reality.
  • Dracula often gets critiqued for Death by Sex and treating it like independent women are deserving of death, since Lucy, who had three suitors, is one of the two main characters to die in the novel, while Mina, who's Happily Married, survives. In the actual book, Lucy has no ambitions beyond marrying a man she loves, and she has so many suitors because she's pure and innocent. Her letters to Mina makes it clear that she feels horrible for having declined proposals from two of them, meaning that she did not have a relationship with several men at once. Her death is treated as nothing short of a tragedy, and since she died before her wedding, she was most likely a virgin. Mina, on the other hand, married in the course of the story, and figured out most of the Count's plots on her own using Jonathan's journal (with some help from Van Helsing).
  • Robert A. Heinlein
    • Heinlein was given the outline for his novel Sixth Column by the racist but influential sci-fi editor John W. Campbell. He disliked the racism in the story, so he "fixed" it. Unfortunately, while it was fair for its day for having a "good guy" be Asian, it still contains enough racism to make you cringe today. He considered the story an Old Shame. His Farnham's Freehold lacks the excuse of being someone else's outline, but it tends to be more Unfortunate Implications. In his other works, the Unfortunate Implications are dialed down or absent (e.g. the narrator of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is explicitly multiracial, and the narrator of The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is half black).
    • Tunnel in the Sky is also on the receiving end of this. While it seems ridiculously 1950sish at times — like boys and girls not being allowed to go out hunting together, or girls' obsession with getting married — it would have actually been pretty radical by the standards of the time, with strong female characters, including an entire military corps made up of women in combat roles — something that we're only just now, in the 21st century, accepting. One of the strong characters is a black woman. It's also notable for depicting a society where race is not something considered important, resulting in nobody in universe seeing anything particularly noteworthy about the protagonist being black.
  • The Kouroukan Fouga may seem somehow reactionary today, but for its time, it was a revolutionary document and the first full-fledged constitution of a federation, five centuries and a half before the US got one.
  • "The Little Black Boy" from William Blake's Songs of Innocence is a statement against racism, in which the little black boy begins by noting that Dark Is Not Evil, and then saying that when all are dead and gone to Heaven, their "clouds" of white and black will be lifted and they will all be alike.
  • A non-fiction example is the first volume of The Story of Civilization, the best general history series of the 20th century. The first volume was published in 1934, and is about the origins of civilization, and the author goes out of his way in the preface to apologize for the various stupid mistakes and simplifications he makes. He also makes the point that most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice; moreover, he flat-out states that civilization has nothing to do with racial qualities. Then he goes on to call Aborigines and Africans savages (right after saying we shouldn't use the word savage), gives a now incredibly antiquated overview of neolithic life, and talks about how the loose morals of various civilizations led to their destruction.
  • Like most of the protagonists of 'boy's own' British adventure novels of the early twentieth century, John Buchan's Richard Hannay of such works as The Thirty-Nine Steps reads as being quite racist and jingoistic to a modern reader; however, when compared to his peers (such as "Bulldog" Drummond), Hannay is notable for actually being quite open-minded and empathetic towards many of the traditionally stereotyped groups of the literature of the period (such as Germans, pacifists, Jews, etc), and frequently avoids demonizing them. A lot has been made of racial slurs against Jews in The Thirty-Nine Steps, but a more careful reading shows that they are all made by one paranoid and possibly unbalanced character. In Real Life, Buchan supported Zionism to the extent that at the outbreak of World War II, he featured on Hitler's death list of pro-Semitic persons.
  • Greenmantle, the second Richard Hannay novel, is noteworthy for treating its German villains with a degree of sympathy and respect, quite surprising given that the book was written in the midst of World War I. Even Kaiser Wilhelm makes a brief cameo, coming off as a decent man manipulated by his subordinates into starting the war.
  • Heavily subverted in the Nevil Shute novel Ruined City, whose protagonist gives a modern reader the distinct impression that he would not be anywhere near so upset about his wife's infidelity save for the fact that she's chosen to conduct it with an Arab. But by the time you find this out, said protagonist already looks several kinds of jerkass for completely unrelated reasons, whereas the Arab comes over rather more sympathetically.
  • The story "The Jewish Girl" by Hans Christian Andersen, with its message that Christianity is just better than Judaism and its protagonist who just wants to convert to Christianity, is insensitive at best by modern standards. But for its time, it is fairly tolerant: Sarah goes to Heaven, without even having to be baptized.
  • The epic Arthurian poem Parzival features a half-white, half-Moor brother of the main character called Feirefiz. While the author, Wolfram von Eschenbach, claimed that Feirefiz would have skin that alternated black-and-white because of this (like a magpie), Feirefiz is treated much more decently than most other pagans in Arthurian legends — he gets baptized, sees the Holy Grail, marries the Grail-maiden, and goes back home to a happy ending. The idea that a pagan was just 'someone who isn't Christian yet' as opposed to Always Chaotic Evil was extremely advanced for the Middle Ages.
  • Orlando Furioso does something similar with the Moorish knight Sacripant, who is, to some extent, the story's Chew Toy, but is also probably the only genuinely decent person around. It's also worth noting that he gets a happy ending (although it involves converting to Christianity), while Orlando does not: Angelica's Character Development from Rich Bitch to caring human being involves her choosing Sacripant over Orlando.
  • Growltiger's Last Stand from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats uses the CH word to refer to the Siamese at one point. Howsoever, they are undeniably the heroes, and their defeat of the evil Growltiger is a Moment of Awesome.
  • Robert E. Howard:
    • While Howard was unfortunately racist (although less hysterically than his friend Lovecraft), he managed to write a few reasonably well-rounded black characters in the Solomon Kane series, not least of which is N'Longa, who is not only a native African, but also a powerful witch-doctor. His tone when referring to African natives is condescending, and he does use the nasty stereotypes a lot, but definitely not exclusively, which would have been par for the course.
    • Howard wrote many stereotypical Distressed Damsel characters (usually at the insistence of his publishers -- it let artist Margaret Brundage paint sexy girls for the covers), he also managed to create several strong female characters — Belit, Velaria, and Red Sonya in particular.
  • Arthur C. Clarke's original version of Childhood's End (1954) was extremely fair for its time, but slips up describing the Utopia: "The convenient word "nigger" was no longer tabu in polite society, but was used without embarrassment by everyone." Cringe-inducing, along with the use of 'negro', but ameliorated by the black Jan Rodricks' adventuring & subsequent appearance at the end as the last man.
  • Isaac of York in Ivanhoe is uncomfortably close to a Greedy Jew for some modern readers. He's a wealthy and cautious Jewish moneylender who really likes his wealth. Although at least one of the epigraphs from a chapter involving his character is taken from The Merchant of Venice, Isaac is actually one of the good guys. In contrast to Shylock, he repeatedly states that he loves his daughter more than all his wealth. The persecution he suffers at the hands of the Christian villains is always characterized as unjust. The heroes always treat him and his daughter fairly. and Isaac, in turn, is even capable of some measure of generosity. His greed is clearly an endearing character flaw rather than the core of his being.
  • Machiavelli's The Prince certainly qualifies. These days, it's largely considered a manual for puppy kicking, and only the most cynical dictator or greasy politician would follow it. When it was written, it was basic pragmatism and even a little hopeful. A small minority of critics go so far as to label the whole thing a satire.
    Further, he ought to entertain the people with festivals and spectacles at convenient seasons of the year; and as every city is divided into guilds or into societies, he ought to hold such bodies in esteem, and associate with them sometimes, and show himself an example of courtesy and liberality; nevertheless, always maintaining the majesty of his rank, for this he must never consent to abate in anything.
  • Julian Tuwim's Murzynek Bambo (literal translation: Bambo the little Negro) was a 1930s Polish poem for kids which was meant to teach tolerance by showing that Bambo may be black and live in Africa, but he's still the same boy as you and me, sometimes misbehaving but being a good guy after all, who loves his mom and gets good grades at school. Today it is often seen as extremely insulting and racist, mainly because it shows Bambo doing things other little boys around the world do, like climbing a (palm) tree or refusing to take a bath.
  • Struwwelpeter from Germany features a very 19th century outlook on family life and childrens' obedience, marked by its infamous spurts of grotesque violence and Dark Humour (Fingore and repeated Death of a Child, to name just a few). But it features the often-forgotten story of the Inky Boys: Three kids who tease a black boy for being black, and then get their just desserts when St Nikolas dips them into big vat of ink. When they continue to tease the boy, they just come off as the ridiculous racists they are. The black boy is called a "moor" by the narrator, which would be considered offensive today, but was very much a descriptive term back then. As you can see, the story isn't exactly pro-racism.
  • German philosopher Oswald Spengler wrote in his non-fiction book The Decline of the West that every major culture is not understandable from the POV of most other major cultures. Which he claimed was the case with westerners and Jews, too. Now, note he wrote this during a time when antisemites would spread the craziest conspiracy theories about the eeeevul Jews. And in another work, he criticized German antisemitism, pointing out that the Brits didn't mind that Benjamin Disraeli was Jewish, and only cared that he was a competent prime minister. And in yet another work, he wrote how real men don't care for the race of their women, and only choose whomever is the right mother for their kids — and may even prefer women of another race. And finally, he pointed out how in South Africa, black and white miners worked in the same mine, but the white miner was paid 2 shillings per hour for 8 hours of work per day, while the black one (though Spengler used the word "kaffer", which he likely didn't know is considered very offensive) worked 12 hours for 1 shilling (per day, not per hour).
  • The early Tom Swift (1910) novels are an interesting case. In the books, the few times characters (even the villain) reference the black friend, Eradicate's, race, he is called "black", which is more than fair for its day in books written literally twice as close to the days of legal slavery than to today. Unfortunately, the narrator calls him basically everything short of the n-word in the first book when he is in a chapter for a long time, apparently to avoid redundancy. Also, Eradicate is implied to be rather lazy, which is jarring simply because he seems to spend all of his waking day looking for work, whereas a white character living as a hobo also plays a prominent part in the book, but without implications of laziness. That said, Eradicate also saves Tom from very dangerous situations multiple times, so Mighty Whitey is averted, despite Tom fixing his stuff often (which Tom also does with most of the secondary white characters as well).
  • Live and Let Die was Ian Fleming's second 007 novel (1954) — while the book's narrative and the black dialect Bond hears in Harlem read pretty cringe-worthy, he observes they're interested in the same things as everyone else, and is glad "they're not genteel about it". One of Mister Big's mooks is instructed to hurt Leiter "considerably", but has bonded with him over their mutual love of jazz. He hurts him just a little and apologizes, as he doesn't dare cross his boss. Mister Big himself notes that black people have made major contributions to many human endeavors, and aims to be the first black super-criminal.
    • During Bond's initial briefing, even M (not a character noted for tolerance or open-mindedness) says that Mr. Big or someone like him was inevitable. "The Negro races are just beginning to throw up geniuses in all the professions — scientists, doctors, writers. It's about time they turned out a great criminal. After all, there are 250,000,000 of them in the world. Nearly a third of the white population. They've got plenty of brains and ability and guts. And now Moscow's taught one of them the technique."
  • The Land of Oz series by L. Frank Baum makes it difficult to realize that it was written more than a hundred years ago when you consider how many women are in positions of power, how many different personalities and mannerisms come with each woman, there was an all-female revolt against the Emerald City, the entire Land of Oz itself is ruled by a woman, and how little cultural quips such as women being delegated to being inside the home are mercilessly shunned by eponymous characters. It's about as quietly feminist a fantasy world as it gets, and it was written in a time nearly two decades before the United States granted women the right to vote. Though at the same time, one doesn't have to read too carefully to spot some pretty ridiculous (by today's standards) stereotypes. For instance, the soldiers of the all-female revolt mentioned above use knitting needles as their weapon of choice, and they conquer the Emerald City because the army (which is only one old man) would never dare harm a lady. Also, when the leader of the revolt, Jinjur, is expelled from her throne, she laments that she now has to go back home and milk cows. Still, Jinjur is expelled by the all-female army of real soldiers fielded by Glinda the Good, and replaced on the throne by another woman, Queen Ozma. So it's not exactly The Patriarchy Strikes Back. Baum was a suffragist himself (in fact his mother-in-law was feminist and suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage, whose views were even more radical than most women's rights activists at the time, which he channeled into his work).
  • To Kill a Mockingbird has been criticized for the use of racial epithets (even by the good guys) and for not developing black characters completely enough, and Atticus for not being as completely accepting of African-Americans as some people would like — but considering that it's set in the 1930s, just the fact that he forbids his children from using the word "nigger" and honestly argues Tom Robinson's case in court even knowing that he can't win (as well as the fact that he actually almost does win) is quite a thing in itself.
  • Italian author Emilio Salgari was revolutionary for late 19th century-early 20th century Italy, as he would have female heroines and invariably portray colonialism as the result of either greed or well-intentioned ignorance and often took the parts of the indigenous people in his novels, openly stating they had any right to oppose forced Europeanization (and putting the blame for the Indian Mutiny of 1859 firmly on the East India Company for walking over Indian customs). On the other hand, modern audiences will cringe a little at his characters, considering the various races of mankind and assuming that a determinate character is brave or a coward due to his origins, or the implied superiority of then-current European civilization (keyword current: he states that many past non-European civilizations were on par or superior to the European one of their time, and that the European superiority is due to non-European decadence and mixing foolish customs to more civilized ones). He also considered smoking a healthy habit.
  • The Silence of the Lambs centered on a Creepy Crossdresser serial killer who murdered and skinned women to make himself a woman suit. However, both the book and the film try to distinguish between real transsexuals and the villain, who only thinks he's a transsexual due to his own self-hatred, and go out of their way to point out that most transsexuals are normal, decent people who have no unusual inclination towards violence — in fact, in the book, one of the ways Lecter suggests for finding a description or photograph of the killer is to look at people who both faked their identity to the surgeon, and were turned down for the surgery for psychological reasons; the former because a criminal record for almost anything (besides, well, charges based upon them cross-dressing) disqualifies the applicant (and both Lecter and the FBI agree that Buffalo Bill almost certainly had one), and the latter because, well, there was no way that anyone as disturbed as Buffalo Bill was going to pass a psychological test of any kind.
  • Robinson Crusoe can leave a bad taste in readers' mouths due to Friday being happy to be Crusoe's slave and Robinson subsequently "Europeanizing" him, as well as never letting you forget that Friday is Crusoe's inferior. However, in the days when Carib Indians were considered devil-worshiping cannibals, Friday being described as brave, loyal, and a better Christian than Crusoe himself is a huge improvement by the standards of 1719.
    • Robinson also mentions that while the cannibals do eat people and kill their captives, it's not really their fault, as it is only in their culture to do these things, and that his own more civilized nation has also committed atrocities.
  • Several examples from British statesman Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son:
    • With regards to the Crusades, he wrote that the Christians attacked the Muslims to take land that was rightfully theirs.
    • About fox-hunting: "The poor beasts are here pursued and run down by much greater beasts than themselves".
  • H. P. Lovecraft very rarely gave any female characters important roles in his stories, but his thoughts on women's rights were actually quite progressive for his time. Whenever women do show up in his stories, it's a very minor supporting role at best. That said, in The Shadow Out of Time, the narrator describes his ex-wife, who after he apparently went mad (in actuality, his body had been swapped with an alien from the past) actually takes action and gets the rest of her family as far away from her now-abusive husband as possible. There is also talk of strong-willed and intelligent mothers (such as that of Arthur Jermyn), and one or two memorable female antagonists. This is also quite impressive compared to some of the other mythos writers of the time, some of whom did not write women at all. In contrast, his views on race were bad even by 1930s standards.
  • Lady in Waiting by Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones, a 1995 Christian self-help book, may seem overall backwards in expecting single women to do so much service. However, some parts of it are actually rather progressive. One single woman is encouraged to pursue a doctoral degree — sadly, some religious leaders and denominations still discouraged women's advanced education, stating that a woman did not need it since motherhood was a woman's true call. Another part states that a spiritually beautiful woman is interesting and has goals for herself — possibly encouraging goals other than motherhood. And just the fact that the book implies that the women reading it want to find husbands because they want romantic love and adult companionship (as compared to just seeing marriage as the way to achieving their one and only ultimate goal of having children) may seem actually revolutionary. Overall, just the fact that the book acknowledges that women could or would possibly want something in their lives other than to become mothers goes against what some groups believe.
  • The Sherlock Holmes stories feature various racist stereotypes common to the era of the 1870s to the 1890s, but there is a hint of Writer on Board in the way Holmes, Watson, and the women in the series express, to different degrees, distaste for the way divorce laws were slanted against women. Holmes also lampshades, a century-plus ago, the "American fascination with guns". There's also one story in which members of the Ku Klux Klan appear as villains. He also shows interracial marriage favorably in one story, when it was widely taboo and even illegal, with a woman having to hide her mixed race child due to this (her new husband, who is white, accepts her child though). Also, the one woman Holmes truly respects as his intellectual equal (because she managed to outsmart him) has a habit of running around London in male disguise, because that makes it easier to go wherever she wants to go. And Holmes himself dresses up like an old woman once or twice for spying purposes, which is shocking to Watson, but not really presented as morally wrong to the reader.
    • There's also a lesser-known non-Holmes mystery short story by Arthur Conan Doyle with the title The Man with the Watches[1], which is remarkably gay-positive or at least advocating for tolerance. Alright, the narrator is a homophobic / transphobic jerk, the story still ends in tragedy, and the gay couple are criminals (card sharps) willing to use violence, but the narrative supports the reading that the tragedy wouldn't have happened if the narrator hadn't been such a bigoted bully, and the surviving partner of the pair (who'd been presented as a "seducer of the innocent" by the narrator up to that point) is explicitly shown to not be evil or inhuman in the end, with the narrator even bonding with him a little over their shared grief. And for a straight, mainstream author in the Victorian era, writing this story for the family-friendly, middle-class The Strand magazine, a story that not only shows the "love that dare not speak its name" in fairly unmistakable ways at all, but also invites the reader to sympathize with the gay characters, is pretty amazing already.
  • The Nero Wolfe stories, particularly those written fairly early on, often have sympathetic characters expressing some casually racist and misogynistic views. However, Rex Stout was a fairly progressive guy for his time, and just as frequently lampoons these same views by showing them to be ludicrous, damaging, and evil. Wolfe himself, while unquestionably holding several old-fashioned and misogynistic views, seems to find these types of prejudice absurd, and usually treats everyone he encounters with an equal amount of respect. One also gets the sense in reading the stories as they progress over time that Stout often comes to find several of his earlier views embarrassing or shameful and makes a conscious effort to try and repudiate them in later stories.
    • A notable example is the 1938 novel Too Many Cooks, which is set at an exclusive restaurant/resort in West Virginia with a large number of black people working as the service staff. Derogatory terms and condescending attitudes towards African-Americans are thrown about with an abandon the modern reader may find disconcerting, but the ultimate point of the novel is that these attitudes are foolish; Wolfe makes a significant breakthrough in the case simply by gathering the service staff together, treating them with genuine respect, and appealing to their sense of decency and equity.
  • The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books had to undergo some pretty extensive rewrites (to the extent that sometimes only the title was the same) in the 1960s because of this. The original stories started back in 1927 had a lot of more offensive stereotypes, and the unfortunate habit of referring to a large number of the villains as "dark," "swarthy," and "foreign," not to mention stereotypical characters who were supposed to be the good guys. At least one scholarly article wondered whether or not it was a good thing, since rather than make minority characters more complex and three-dimensional, they just got rid of them entirely, whitewashing the entire series, leaving some scholars to say, "Sure they were offensive, but at least they were there."
  • The Lord of the Rings: While they are not humans, the orcs are often referred to as dark and swarthy while the heroic elves are usually described as fair or light-skinned. Also most of the humans who are fighting for Morgoth and Sauron are Eastern and described as sallow-skinned or swarthy. Tolkien was actually quite progressive for his day, but such descriptions might make some readers cringe today. However Tolkien at least implies that those fighting for Sauron aren't really evil but misguided and lied to. When Sam sees the body of a man who fought for Sauron he even wonders whether he was really evil and whether he would have preferred to stay at home. And in an Unbuilt Trope of Always Chaotic Evil it is claimed the Orcs are really acting out of fear and a cruel culture. Tolkien specifically said that all races participated in the Last Alliance, which means there were some Orcs fighting against Sauron.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo is a multidimensional example of this.
    • Racism: While Alexandre Dumas was a man of color, and his portrayal of people of various races and cultures was extremely advanced for the mid-1800s and the two slave characters in the book are usually treated extremely kindly and respectfully by their master, the main character is still a slaveowner, and some of the commentary on Arabic culture can leave a bad taste in modern readers' mouths.
    • Sexism:
      • Dantes seems to blame Mercedes for marrying Fernand and consider it an act of unfaithfulness. It's very arguable, though, as Mercedes defends herself by reminding him that Fernand was her closest and oldest friend and her emotional support after Dantes was imprisoned, and she had no way of knowing that Fernand was behind it. The Count later tells her that he doesn't begrudge her anything. Additionally, many of the women in the story, even if they aren't necessarily the nicest people, are independent, well-rounded characters.
      • The character Haydee is also an example. Yes, she is stereotypically quiet and submissive, yes, she is a foreign slave who is happy to be so — but she also gets a chapter or so devoted to recounting her backstory, and another showing how she testified in court to get her revenge against the man who killed her father and sold her mother into slavery.
    • Homophobia: The lesbian Eugenie Danglars is portrayed as an extremely cold, standoffish, even morally ambiguous person. However, she is also a more-or-less openly gay character in a time period when homosexuality was something of a taboo, and she and her lover Louise d'Armilly are still portrayed as fairly good people compared to many of the other characters in the novel. It also completely averts the Bury Your Gays trope (Eugenie and Louise run off together to be artists, escaping their disapproving families and presumably going on to live happy lives).
  • Heart of Darkness can seem quaint and uncomfortable to modern audiences, but Joseph Conrad was one of the only people writing criticism of the atrocities going on in the Belgian Congo. Even if the book contains some Africans depicted as cannibals, or violent hunters, or Noble Savages, Conrad's sheer indignation as he writes about the labor camps and their brutal European overseers bleeds through and is hard to argue against.
  • Can be seen in much of C.S. Lewis's work. While some of his views on gender roles, race, and sexuality may seem outdated now, he almost always did his best to treat these subjects even-handedly and with more sympathy than many readers now give him credit for. He was actually fairly progressive for his day (and still is compared to many mainline Christian writers).
    • The Calormenes may seem like offensive stereotypes of the Middle East, worshipping a God who turns out to be a demon who can't accept anything good. However it's shown that there are still good Calormenes, Emeth for example is able to get into Aslan's Country because he was devout to his religion even though he wasn't worshipping Aslan. Aslan even says anybody who does good is really doing it in his name without knowing it.
    • Although the main character of The Horse and His Boy was a "White Narnian", his companion Aravis, an intelligent and brave girl, was fully Calormen. At the end of the book it is said that Aravis ends up marrying Shasta, and hence joining the royal family of Archenland. Their interracial royal marriage is shown as a happy ending.
  • The 19th century Philip Meadows Taylor novel Seeta is typically imperialistic, treating Christianity and British culture as inherently superior to Hinduism and Indian culture. However, it sympathetically portrays a mixed-race marriage between an Englishman and an Indian woman who learns to accept British values. The story paints a picture where all races are equal and the only thing lacking in non-white populations is the right culture, which can be learned. While it all serves as a justification for colonial expansion of the British Empire, it's a very progressive take on the subject.
  • The works of Harold Bell Wright (an author in the early 1900s) exclusively portray women as either one-note embodiments of purity or immoral sluts trying to corrupt the protagonists. However, his female characters often do masculine things such as horseback riding, bushcraft and carrying a gun. They are praised for doing these things, and when Sybil note  threatens to shoot James Rutlidge, it is treated as a Moment of Awesome. At least Wright's heroines were allowed to be strong in some ways- a lot of the era's other female characters weren't.
  • In the Doctor Dolittle stories, Prince Bumpo and his parents were pretty progressive for their time period. The king was given a legitimate reason to be angry with and not trust white people (the last ones who showed up before Dr. Dolittle were shown great hospitality and responded by digging up the ground for gold, shooting elephants for their ivory, and leaving without even thanking the king) and Bumpo, despite being portrayed as a bit foolish, was still a good-hearted man. He joins Dr. Doolittle for a later adventure and the narrator (a schoolboy who is also coming along) is amazed that Bumpo treats him as a friend, since Bumpo is an adult and a prince.
  • While The Well of Loneliness does use the old-fashioned theory of 'sexual inversion' to explain the protagonist's homosexuality, which seems to imply that all lesbians are by nature masculine, it was still very radical for its time for using this biological theory of homosexuality to claim that homosexual love is just as natural as heterosexual love, and should be accepted by society. Its message was so shocking for the time that it was famously banned for 'obscenity'.
  • The Brazilian book series Sitio Do Picapau Amarelo has been accused of racism for depicting black characters and its not helped that the language used to describe them is painfully dated. On the other hand, said black characters are never depicted in anything other than a positive light with Aunt Anastasia and Uncle Barnabe being shown as very wise and intelligent. Other than race issues, the series' most well known character Emilia, was also a very headstrong and independent little girl/ragdoll which stood out in early 1900s.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder thought it was very important, when writing Little House on the Prairie, to represent the "good Indians" that argued that the other tribes should not kill the white settlers.note  To this end, she did some research on the subject, and wrote in Soldat du Chene, allegedly the chief of the Osage at the time. Unfortunately, this was probably not the man's actual name, because the book she got it from was wrong.
  • In A Confederacy of Dunces, the Camp Gay Dorian and Jive Turkey Burma came come across as somewhat as bigoted caricatures to modern readers. But Burma is clearly portrayed as a victim of Police Brutality and one of the few characters to be both sane and basically decent, while Dorian is never portrayed as a villain and is clearly the better man compared to Ignatius. And speaking of Ignatius, the ultra-conservative, Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist's bizarre mixture of contempt and condescension towards homosexuals and black people is very clearly portrayed as one of his many, many grotesque flaws.
  • Giovanni Boccaccio's opus The Decameron is remarkably even-handed with its treatment of Jews for a 14th century Christian text.
    • The second story of the first day portrays Christianity as the true religion and ends with its Jewish main character's conversion, but through the course of the text it characterizes Abraham as an honest and learned man with a Christian best friend. It also contrasts Abraham's noble qualities with the corruption of the clergy of Rome.
    • The third story of the first day goes a step further by asserting that Judaism is just as valid as Islam and Christianity. In a dialogue between Saladin and Melchizedek the Jew, who is miserly but also wise, Saladin tries to trap Melchizedek by asking him which of the three Laws (Christianity, Islam or Judaism) is the true faith. Melchizedek tells a parable through which he asserts that adherents of all three religions can never know if theirs is the true one in spite of their faith, and Saladin sees the wisdom of this.
  • Leslie Charteris's The Saint novels were almost astonishingly forward-thinking in their heyday of the thirties to sixties. In particular, it avoids most of the racism of contemporary English adventure stories, probably because Charteris was himself Asian-European. There are only a few times heroic characters use racial slurs, and it's generally portrayed as an unfortunate consequence of their upbringing that they haven't quite shaken, rather than a matter of particular conviction. The books still have issues with regional stereotyping, sexism and the like, but compared to, say, Bulldog Drummond...

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek was progressive for its day, but is still obviously a creation of the 60s.
    • The only black cast member, Lt. Uhura, is a communications officer. Her job was very similar to that of a phone operator, which is a stereotypically female occupation. Nichelle Nichols was going to leave the show at the end of the first season, but Martin Luther King convinced her into staying, because seeing a black woman on television in any role but that of a maid was groundbreaking for its day. She also protagonized the first interracial kiss on television, between Kirk and Uhura, in the episode "Plato's Stepchildren". Whoopi Goldberg credits seeing Nichols on this show as a major inspiration to her as a child, and the reason she chose to appear on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
    • Other examples include Sulu and Chekov. Sulu as a competent professional, not a cringing yellow stereotype, and Chekov as a non-evil Russian on television during the Cold War. Modern audiences may not realize just how profoundly impossible it was to depict Americans working with Russians, In Space or not. Many minor characters as well break the white-male mold; given the military setting, this is remarkable for the day.
    • Those miniskirts that are greeted with rolled eyes nowadays were considered a mark of female liberation at the time, as women who wore them were exerting their right to dress sexy instead of like timid housefraus; it was a movement similar to today's "Not Asking For It". Sure, it was fanservice too, but not just that. Also, the miniskirts weren't mandatory: some of the female background crew are shown wearing pants. The skirt uniform was an option, a distinction which can be lost on modern audiences.
    • In "The Ultimate Computer", Kirk reports to his superior officer, who turns out to be a black man. Dr. Daystrom, the creator of the M-5 computer and one of the Federation's greatest geniuses, is also black, and eventually revealed to have created the computers used on the Enterprise. In addition, Dr. McCoy's medical staff includes the eminently qualified Dr. M'Benga, who is African himself (and the staff expert on Vulcan physiology). With them, their race is a total non-issue, as you would expect with an interstellar and multi-species federation.
    • Originally, Gene Roddenberry wanted to take it a bit farther and had cast Majel Barrett as the first officer in the original version of the pilot. He even subverted the common portrayal of women as being prone to hysterics by portraying her as the cold logical type (a trait that would later be transplanted to Spock, who was originally supposed to be emotional and can be seen acting emotionally in the original pilot). Capt. Pike even called her Number One. Executive Meddling canned it, either because of negative test audience reaction (from women!) or because Barrett was Roddenberry's mistress. Or both.
    • Roddenberry actually went a bit further than most people knew when it came to having a female in the chain-of-command. When canned the idea of Majel Barrett as the second-in-command, Rodenberry then tried to slip it in the back door by having Uhura be the ship's second officer after Spock instead of Montgomery Scott, reasoning that a bridge officer would make more sense for such a task. The network didn't catch on to this trick until shooting had already started on the episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of," at which point they once again tanked the idea of a female commander for Enterprise.
    • Uhura did take the helm in a couple of early episodes. However when a similar scene was zilched in a third season episode, Nichelle Nichols found Roddenberry was responsible. He was not only going through a spectacularly messy divorce but had also begun to develop drug problems and his misogynistic traits were fermenting. He told her "You can't have females running a man's ship."
    • And then there's Khan. The official reason for the 2013 movie casting the white Benedict Cumberbatch to play him instead of an Indian actor was that the producers would have felt uncomfortable having a man of color as a villain, particularly since that version played Khan up as a terrorist. As others have pointed out, however, they actually didn't get it right in the original series either, as the Indian Sikh Khan was played by the Mexican-born Ricardo Montalban. But in 1967, casting a dark-skinned actor as a dark-skinned character was pretty progressive (remember, this was the same era that gave us Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn as Arabs and John Wayne as Genghis Khan). And Khan wasn't just a villain, mind you: he was an incredibly brilliant, charismatic world leader who was genetically bred to be superior to other humans in every conceivable way—all of which was unthinkable for a character of color at the time. The Sikh community loved the character for those aspects, and were upset when the film producers threw away the chance for a Sikh actor to play him.
    • The famous interracial kiss is often criticized for its Unfortunate Implications, because they were Kissing Under the Influence thanks to aliens. Due to the racism of the time, the showrunners and actors had to fight very, very hard to get even that to happen — the executives ordered them to shoot alternate takes without the kiss (which William Shatner deliberately messed up every time by pulling faces), they wanted Spock to kiss Uhura instead (because he was an alien, and played by a perceptibly Eurasian actor, so it didn't count), and they outright would not budge on allowing it to be consensual. Even so, stations in the Deep South refused to air the episode at all, resulting in it being the lowest rated episode of the entire original series.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • The episode "The Outcast" often gets criticism today for its blatant use of the Discount Lesbians trope in attempting to tackle LGBT rights. In a nutshell: the plot features Riker falling in love with a member of an androgynous alien species who consider attraction to gendered species to be a form of sexual perversion, leading to her being subjected to forced "psychotectic therapy" after she declares that she considers herself female, and is attracted to Riker because he is male. The intended Gay Aesop is a bit hard to swallow today, since Riker's love interest Soren is played by a woman, as are all of the other members of the androgynous J'naii species. But in 1992—when same-sex marriage was illegal in the United States—the very fact that the show attempted to tackle LGBT rights was pretty daring; for all its faults, the episode still explicitly condemned conversion therapy at a time when it was still a common "treatment" for homosexuality. And even if it was accidental, Soren's struggle to declare herself female (over the objections of her species) still made Star Trek one of the first shows ever to come anywhere close to touching the issue of transgender rights.
    • By today's standards, Whoopi Goldberg's character Guinan can come off as a rather unfortunate stereotype, since she's a pretty clear example of a "Magical Negro": a wise, worldly black woman with a humble service job who rarely gets her own stories, but spends most of her time dispensing friendly advice to the (mostly white) main characters. By the standards of her day, though, Guinan was actually quite well developed. She wasn't just a friendly bartender, she was also a centuries-old alien, plus a refugee from the Gamma Quadrant who saw her home destroyed by the Borg, and she regularly resolved episodes' plots with her wisdom and obscure knowledge. The writers never missed an opportunity to hint at her Mysterious Past, and they even hinted that she and Captain Picard were once lovers—a rare example of an interracial relationship that wasn't Played for Drama. It's also worth noting that Goldberg was quite enthusiastic about her participation in the show; she was a lifelong Star Trek fan who saw Nichelle Nichols as a personal hero, and she got the role after she specifically contacted Gene Roddenberry to express interest.
  • The M*A*S*H episode "George", in which the eponymous character is a gay soldier. By today's standards, it's a fairly weak handling of the topic; George's sexuality is entirely an Informed Attribute, and the story ultimately has very little to do with sexuality, using George as a plot device to create conflict between Frank and the others, and not giving him any real agency in a story that's supposedly about him. (In fact, George's final scene in the episode is when he tells Hawkeye he's gay; everything from that point on, including the entire conflict of the episode, is other people talking about him.) At the time, however, having an episode that treated a gay character as a decent person deserving of protection and the people targeting him as bigoted and ignorant was practically unheard of.
  • Ultraman was very similar to Star Trek in that it had a woman (Fuji) as an integral part of the Science Patrol team. By odd coincidence, Fuji occupied the same post-communications officer as Uhura, and the two shows premiered within weeks of each other! Considering that Japan's attitude toward gender roles was even more retrograde than the U.S.'s at the time, Fuji's prominent role in the team (she frequently deployed with her squad mates and fought alongside them in many of their battles, much more so in fact than Uhura did) was positively revolutionary (to be sure, Fuji sometimes served tea to the rest of the crew in classic Office Lady fashion). Ultraman even went TOS one better in that at least one episode centered around Lt. Fuji, whereas poor Uhura never got the chance to really be at the center of an episode.
    • We can also say similar things about many other female characters in the early Ultra Series, notably Anne Yuri from Ultraseven and Yuko Minami from Ultraman Ace. Both got to participate on the field even more than Fuji did, with the latter being Ultraman Ace's co-host, making their characters very progressive by the standards of late 60s-early 70s Japanese society. Unfortunately in the case of Yuko, the character was Put On The Bus because young viewers didn't respond well to the idea of an Ultra having a woman as a host.
  • On The Man from U.N.C.L.E., (which started running several years before Star Trek), Illya Kuryakin (as portrayed by David McCallum) was one of the first positive portrayals of a Russian. — more precisely, Soviet — character on Cold War-era American TV. This was all the more revolutionary because Illya was portrayed as being not just a patriotic Russian citizen, but a serving officer in the Soviet Navy (he's shown in uniform in one episode).
    • In one second-season episode, "The Indian Affairs Affair", Native Americans in Oklahoma were portrayed in what would be considered a somewhat cringeworthy manner today, but it was quite clear from the context that they were the good guys (and THRUSH was portrayed in this episode as dressing up like stereotypical "black-hat" cowboy villains and treating the Native Americans in a contemptuous manner), and the Native Americans lent crucial help to Napoleon and Illya at the episode's climax in foiling the THRUSH plot.
    • Although the first female Section II agent (that is, active combatant) was infantilizingly referred to as "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.", she was also a whip-smart and highly capable operative. The other Sections were consistently depicted as coed affairs, with women serving not just as secretariesnote  but as codebreakers, translators, medical staff, computer programmersnote , and scientists.
  • Certain episodes of Bonanza were Fair for their Day. Although it was, at heart, a cowboys-and-Indians type show, the Native Americans occasionally had hints of character depth and humanity. Little Joe used to defend an Indian boy in schoolyard fights... but then kills him when his "savage nature" shows. The Cartwrights lose track of their young cousin and panic because there are "savages" around... but then a friendly Indian brings her home safely. A neighbor is against Indian removal because he is afraid his friends will starve on a reservation, so Ben intercedes... to make sure the new reservation has fertile land. It all seems hokey and racist today, but some of these aired when American Indians had only recently been granted civil rights.
  • The Jack Benny Program is sometimes criticized for the character of Rochester, a butler who is routinely mistreated by Benny's fictional version of himself. In early episodes, Rochester is little more than a black stereotype, with lots of gags made about craps and razor blades. However, Benny became increasingly uncomfortable with racial humor and began scaling it back. After learning about the extent of the Holocaust, he demanded that all racial humor be eliminated from the show. Rochester remained poorly treated, but this is because Benny's character is an egomaniacal jerk. Rochester is also a Servile Snarker who often gets the better of his employer. Many later episodes also show that Rochester and Benny's character are actually best friends.
  • Amos And Andy was immensely popular in its day, but is today viewed with a degree of embarrassment due to its unvarnished indulgences in Minstrel Show tropes and blackface live performances. However, it was also one of the first shows to portray black people as successful businessmen. Various characters were shown as lawyers, doctors, shop owners, and the main characters run a cab company. In earlier radio days, Amos & Andy was a 15 minute daily serial program, and great attention was paid to characterization. Audiences were called upon to sympathize with the black characters' goals and feelings. The show included a significant portion of straight drama dealing with their lives, and even dabbled with social commentary during a sequence where Amos is abused by police.
  • One episode of Get Smart featured Max pretending to be a Native American to foil a plot by a Native American splinter group to destroy the US. More than a bit cringeworthy by today's standards, but the episode's climax has Max admitting that they may be justified in their grievances and he has no good reason why the splinter group should expect better treatment from the US in the future, considering all they've been through so far. Oh, and the Native Americans' master plan? Firing a giant arrow at the White House.
  • Bewitched is often attacked as a reactionary fantasy, in large part for Darrin's chauvinism and Samantha's tolerance of it. However, most of the early black-and-white episodes begin with Darrin clinging to the slightly exaggerated chauvinism of a typical television husband only to realize his mistake and apologize to Samantha by the end of the episode. Darrin's chauvinism was necessary so that he — and the men in the audience — could learn that episode's lesson against male vanity, male consumerism, and male bravado. Unfortunately, that aspect of the character was Flanderized as the series moved into color.
  • The classroom film short "The Home Economics Story" (you're probably familiar with it through Mystery Science Theater 3000) leaves itself open to mockery for its depiction of "women's work" in the 1950s. Still, it does encourage girls to go to college and get jobs (albeit to study Home Economics and become Nurses/Cooks/Teachers), and it argues that an education is important even if you are planning on being a stay-at-home wife (which at least implies that a girl might be allowed to try being something else). note 
  • The original Battlestar Galactica had, in its second episode, a case where almost all the male pilots were incapacitated by a disease. In desperation they create a squadron of all female pilots, gleaned from shuttle pilots, who turn out to be just as competent as the men at fighting the Cylons. This was 20 years before the US Military allowed women fighter pilots.
  • Carrusel may not have had any of the girls be into science, sports, or any other traditional male pursuits. But most of the girls still had career goals—and their teachers and parents encouraged the girls to pursue them. Which can be deemed enlightened, considering this was made in Mexico in 1989-1990, a very macho society with employment opportunities for women much more restricted than those of women in the USA/UK.
  • Mind Your Language is widely criticized today for its use of ethnic stereotypes, but at the time (late 1970s) it was looked upon positively for giving main roles to non-white actors who would otherwise have found it very hard to gain representation on TV.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (and the Power Rangers franchise as a whole) is often mocked for its Five-Token Band and for having a black Black Ranger and an Asian Yellow Ranger, not to mention that the Pink Ranger is a girl. The truth of the matter was that the race/color combination was an accident, only realized halfway through the first season, and was even corrected with various cast changes. note  But regardless, the portrayal of those characters was unexpectedly nuanced and universally positive: Zack the Black Ranger had his own stories, rather than just being the Black Best Friend to Jason, and Trini the Yellow Ranger was intelligent enough to understand Billy but social enough to avoid falling under Asian and Nerdy. Walter Jones (Zack) commented that if anything, it just drew more attention to the fact that the show had a multi-racial cast.
  • The Outer Limits (1963) was generally quite progressive in regards to race, with several episodes featuring dignified non-white characters. "Nightmare" in particular was an anti-racist episode. (They did have one Yellow Peril episode, "The Hundred Days of the Dragon," but this was arguably more of a Cold War story dealing with Communist China, being inspired by The Manchurian Candidate.) Unfortunately, while the show was admirably racially sensitive, by modern standards it could get pretty sexist. Most of the female characters scream a lot.
  • The Goodies:
    • The Goodies did an episode about South Africa which mocks and ridicules Apartheid. Try watching it on Youtube without wincing.
    • One episode even spoofed the popularity of The Black and White Minstrel Show (a Long Runner "light entertainment" show featuring musical numbers performed in Black Face — at that time there had been a recent attempt to Retool it by doing a series of it without the blackface, but the ratings tanked, causing it to be changed back) by combining it with a Whole Plot Reference to Roots. While most of the stereotypical jokes are aimed at Scotland and the story satirizes the concept of using something like blackface as a ratings grab, its assertion that everything's better with blackface doesn't come off as entirely ironic.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The 1960s era, owing to having a female producer, Verity Lambert, had much better written and more dynamic female characters than most other science fiction at the time - there are two equally prominent female characters who have lives outside of the male characters, Barbara in particular being very strong. (Compare with Star Trek: The Original Series, with only two recurring female crewmembers who rarely interact.) Some stories even played with 60s conceptions of gender, such as "The Aztecs" where Barbara is mistaken for the reincarnation of a male priest, causing her to point out that not all cultures consider gender to be that different, and a discussion between Susan and Barbara about whether Ian should think himself to be be looking after them. In "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", Susan also snarks at a member of La Résistance who assumes that because she's a woman that she can cook, even though we later find out that she can when she prepares and cooks a wild rabbit for a Resistance member later. Future societies are depicted in which men and women are completely equal. Even the Doctor's patronising and patriarchal attitude towards his teenage granddaughter Susan was dismantled in "The Sensorites", when he seems to realise that the reason he and Susan never argued is because he's been keeping her dependant on him. Barbara even has a no-strings-attached offscreen relationship with a handsome young Human Alien man, which is not milked for romance and for which she is never shamed. However, there's still plenty of random sexism that would never be acceptable today - such as in "The Daleks" the way the Thals, presented as unambiguously heroic, openly mock their women - sexist Out Of Character Moments when writers with a shakier grasp of gender relations try and write the female TARDIS crew-members, and how Susan is Put on a Bus by having her get married (when she's supposed to be 16). There is also a lot of pointless female screaming, and it's not always remotely appropriate for the situation - due to being a Bottle Episode, most of the implication that there is something amiss in "The Edge of Destruction" is transmitted through having Susan and Barbara shriek all the time for no visible reason. And once Verity Lambert ends her involvement with the series, portrayal of women quickly gets worse — marrying off of female TARDIS crewmembers and getting Stuffed into the Fridge begins to happen (Vicki, Katarina and Sara), and Parent Service and Damsel in Distress characters start appearing (Polly and Victoria).
    • 1960s Doctor Who also possessed relatively complex and interesting non-white cultures in some historicals, whose problems were not dealt with in a patronising way. Of course, they were all played by white people in makeup.
      • Mention has to go to "The Crusade", which tries to give a fair portrayal of the Saracens. The main villain may be a Saracen but it is made clear the others don't like him. Also the English are not portrayed as completely pure, Richard I is portrayed as quite childish and foolish at times. And the Saracen villain is finally killed by a Saracen Haroun, who apart from the TARDIS crew is probably the most heroic character in the serial.
    • The Second Doctor and Jamie Ship Tease like nobody's business, because the actors wanted to see if they could get away with it. (This was at a time when homosexuality was not yet legal, though few actors cared.) This may have contributed to the show's legendarily large LGBT Fanbase, but nowadays But Not Too Gay flirting with no emotional payoff is considered Queerbaiting and is thoroughly discredited as homophobic by fandom.
    • Similar to Star Trek "The Tenth Planet" (which aired just a month after the first episode of Star Trek) and "The Moonbase" show a future with less national distinctions. The first example even shows a black man flying a spaceship. This can make "The Tomb of the Cybermen" feel a bit awkward due to its portrayal of a black man who barely speaks and is the servant of the villains, with his main feature being his strength. However he ends up sacrificing himself to stop the Cybermen escaping. And originally he was supposed to be deaf but this didn't come across (though was retained in the novelization).
    • "The Enemy of the World" features a strong, sympathetic, vulnerable and relatively three dimensional black female character (played by an actually black woman rather than by a white woman in makeup) who gets to be tragic and kicks ass, but also includes the Doctor putting on brown face paint to pass as a Mexican (and Patrick Troughton, a white man, playing said Mexican with non-diagetic brown face paint in a dual role).
    • There's a few stinkers, but the portrayal of female companions in the 60s and 70s is generally better than in other SFF of the era, if only because the restrictions of being a children's show with a relatively sexless and nonviolent hero prevented the show from the worst excesses of sexual exploitation (and meant the Doctor was as likely as his female companions to get captured). The producers and writers were concerned about portrayal of women and tried to correct the worst problems that emerged - such as by pairing the Doctor up with a woman who was smarter than him (Zoe, Romana), or an Action Girl (Leela). Elements of gender fluidity were even touched upon, with Season 14 (1976) treating a gender-swapping alien seriously, and implying that the ability to regenerate across gender was a trait both s/he and the Doctor shared. However, there's definitely elements to these characters that are regressive by modern standards, in particular the near-total lack of any female guest stars. And when Tom Baker made a point of mentioning that he wished his replacement "whoever he or she might be, a success", it was never a serious proposal, and had only ever been intended as Flame Bait to get a media reaction, much to the disgust of Christopher Bidmead, who had genuinely wanted to cast a woman.
    • "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" was somewhat progressive by the standards of Two-Fisted Tales Yellow Peril pastiche, portraying its campy Chinese supervillain Chang as a highly intelligent Noble Demon whose reasons for resenting white Victorian society are shown to be justified; he also possesses a genuinely funny, Deadpan Snarker sense of humour, and is generally portrayed as the Doctor's Worthy Opponent. Even his opium use is shown in a context that makes it somewhat sympathetic. His boss Magnus Greel is a white man who could be read as a villainous cultural appropriator, a bellowing, misogynistic idiot who collects tacky Oriental junk out of his own pursuit of vanity. In the 70s, when mainstream comedy shows used music hall orientalist stereotypes to mock the Chinese, even this was unusual, as the campy ironic tone would have been enough to indicate it was a Genre Throwback to Fu Manchu stories. This said, Chang is played by a white man in Yellow Face; he and his Chinese cronies are all hopelessly duped by Greel's God Guise even though Greel is portrayed as an idiot; the racist idea that Chinese people all look the same is a plot point; and every character, including the Doctor, makes constant racist remarks which are supposed to be funny ("[he's in trouble] right up to his epicanthic eyebrows"). It has been observed that "Talons" follows Strictly Formula Doctor Who tropes, only instead of using Always Chaotic Evil alien races as the monster, it uses a real-world race. It aired in the UK, but in Canada, anti-defamation groups prevented its airing, and few today would find it an unfair decision.
  • The title character in Roseanne was regularly nasty to her boss, openly gay character Leon, using remarks that bordered on (or sometimes just plain were) homophobic. Her plans for his wedding to his partner Scott employed almost every gay stereotype in the book. At the same time, that episode depicted a gay wedding almost twenty years before same-sex marriage became legal in Illinois. In addition, the homophobia that is directed towards Leon is more situational in that she just despises him as a person, not because he's gay. Roseanne's lesbian/bisexual friend Nancy often fared little better. However, her coming out story was treated with seriousness and delicacy. The infamous Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss between Roseanne and Nancy's then-girlfriend was even used as an opportunity for Roseanne to confront some internalized homophobia - this in an episode that aired three years before Ellen DeGeneres' coming out story all but destroyed her career.
  • The gay storyline involving Todd on Coronation Street. Yes it involved a previously established straight character Suddenly Sexuality and carrying on an affair behind his girlfriend's back. However it still portrayed Todd sympathetically, any hostility towards him was about the fact that it was an affair (rather than it being with another man) and it eventually resulted in the entire pub standing up for Todd against Les Battersby's homophobia. This was in 2003 and was one of the first times a gay storyline had ever been done in British soaps. There was a mountain of controversy over having gay characters at all. Todd remained a series regular for at least a year, during which another gay character was introduced (and they weren't paired together). Todd was most definitely a trail blazer for the very popular Sophie and Sian pairing that followed.
  • Willow and Tara's relationship early on Buffy the Vampire Slayer reeks of Hide Your Lesbians. The network was incredibly strict on what the couple were allowed to be shown doing, the writers having to use magic as a metaphor for lovemaking. The two didn't even get to kiss on screen until they had been together for over a year. And that's not to mention the Unfortunate Implications of Willow's No Bisexuals approach. However it was a groundbreaking success for lesbians on television. The two weren't given a Gay Aesop or Positive Discrimination; they were treated as simply another couple on the show. Likewise after the show moved to a different network, they were allowed to be shown kissing and sharing a bed a lot more. This again was shocking, as lesbian couples on TV had been primarily known as affectionate rather than sexual. Just compare the evolution of Tara's popularity. When Willow chose her over Oz, fans exploded and wrote such nasty things about Amber Benson that she nearly quit the show. Two years later when Tara was killed off, Joss Whedon received death threats for letting her go.
  • In 1961 Rod Serling wrote The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Big Tall Wish" and cast black actors in all the major roles, which was completely unheard of at the time. Several future episodes followed suit and cast black actors in what would nowadays be considered "token black" roles, but back then, seeing black people on TV was so rare that even token inclusion was considered revolutionary.
  • Home Improvement is, in many ways, a standard sitcom about a family where the dimwitted husband constantly has to apologize to his Closer to Earth wife about whatever screw-up he's done. But on a closer inspection, Tim is a loving husband and father and his conflicts with Jill are more about genuine miscommunication between genders than being irresponsible or selfish (most of his DIY disasters come from trying to make Jill's life easier). The show received loads of fan letters praising the show for how well it represented marital arguments, and on multiple occasions Jill realizes that the way she treats Tim sometimes facilitates his behavior or she makes her own mistake and has to apologize to him.
  • Ally McBeal aired an episode in 1997 featuring a transgender character named Stephanie. She is well-developed and largely sympathetic, Ally gets her pronouns right for most of the episode even when talking to other people about her, and she is distinguished from a Drag Queen or cross-dresser and actually identified as suffering gender dysphoria, marking one of the first times that term was used on primetime television. Unfortunately, for all the episode got right, it checked quite a few boxes for negative trans representation: The treatment recommended by a doctor for her gender dysphoria is to embrace her birth sex and live as a man (which, for the record, was a largely discredited stance even at the time), she's played by a cis male actor, and her character is a sex worker and ends up murdered by the end of the episode because of her gender identity, which are two of the most unfortunate (and unfortunately true-to-life) tropes regarding trans characters.
  • Shaka Zulu is a South African TV miniseries that aired in 1986, during the later years of apartheid. Despite that fact and the show's 19th century historical setting, it features a predominantly Black cast, depicts European colonialism in a not-so-flattering manner; and the titular protagonist is a fully fleshed-out and (semi-)sympathetic character, even despite his moral ambiguity and more horrifying traits.
  • Friends is starting to attract this label. When viewed through the lens of the late New Tens, the show's treatment of LGBT people (transgender especially), its rigidly-defined 'acceptable' masculinity and its lack of ethnic diversity is starting to draw criticism. However, considering its beginnings in the early 1990's, the complete lack of malicious homophobia from either the characters or the show itself (via the characterisation) is remarkable. Considering that in the USA, same-sex marriage was not legalised nationwide until over a decade after the show ended, the fact that an episode with a lesbian wedding aired in the second season with not a single character note  objecting handily demonstrates the show's progressive-for-the-time credentials.
    • The criticism of the shows handling of 'traditional masculinity' is definitely earned, in episodes such as The One With Joey's Bag, where Joey is mocked throughout the episode for wearing a 'man's bag', which the others all call a woman's purse. However in some episodes where, for example, Ross is uncomfortable with his son playing with a Barbie or Rachel hiring a male Nanny to care for Emma, the show makes it clear that Ross is the one with the problem and that his issues are down to his own insecurities, such as when he used to get mocked for dressing like a girl as a child or his father mocking him for not playing sports 'like a real boy'.
  • Much like Friends, The Golden Girls has some elements that don't age terribly well. For example, the heavily stereotyped and often unrealistic portrayal of Dorothy and Sophia's Italian heritage and Rose's Scandinavian roots, the uncomfortably frequent tone-deafness on race and Phil note  being treated almost entirely as a running joke for his cross-dressing right up until the episode dealing with Dorothy's efforts to reconcile Sophia with his widow after his death can all be uncomfortable in hindsight. Nonetheless, the series consistently championed inclusive values and was often noticeably ahead of its time. Not surprisingly, Golden Girls ages very well on gender and seniors' issues, but the series also features generally sympathetic portrayals of, among others, a main character's lesbian friend, another main character's gay brother, homeless people, an interracial marriage with a twenty-year age difference, a main character facing an AIDS test, an undocumented immigrant and a transgender man. Particularly noteworthy is that despite debuting almost a full decade earlier and having a significantly older cast, the series isn't all that far behind Friends in its treatment of LGBT people: they don't appear as often and there are a couple Camp Gay stereotypes played for laughs, but the gay and lesbian characters who do get major plotlines in their episodes are portrayed very sympathetically, often to deliver an Aesop against homophobia, and the one transgender character is portrayed quite matter of factly. The Golden Girls even had an episode revolving around a same-sex wedding five years before the abovementioned Friends example, although in this case the wedding itself is unseen and Blanche is initially uncomfortable with her brother marrying another man despite having mostly come to terms with his orientation in a previous episode, but the other main characters are accepting of the idea from the get-go (taken together, "Sister of the Bride" and "The One With the Lesbian Wedding" make an interesting case study in how rapidly attitudes towards LGBT people were changing in The '90s).
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? is a bit of a Downplayed example, at least for the U.S version. The ability for the actors to improve as quickly and hilariously as they did made the show appealing for years after it ended, but many of the jokes simply do not fly well by modern standards. Various jokes like being gay treated as quirky/funny, transgender being used for comedy, or elements like Colin outright groping his fellow comedians for a joke simply do not fly by today's standards. The Downplayed element of it however was that because the show was improv comedy between friends, viewers understood that there was not any ill intent, and the fact the show started in the 1990's meant there was not as much acceptance as there was today for certain subjects the show used for comedy. The result is that the show's older seasons are still seen as hilarious and funny despite the out of date views, with the revival making an effort to avert this issue by being more open and sensible about the subject matter.

  • People who bash Al Jolson for performing in blackface may not realize that he actually helped a lot of real Black people make it big in the music business, helping to give performers such as Cab Calloway their big breaks. When filming a duet with Calloway, Jolson demanded that they be given equal treatment on the set. When reading in a newspaper that songwriters Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle had been kicked out of a restaurant because of their race, he personally invited them out to dinner despite having never met them, saying he'd punch the nose of anyone who had a problem with it. Jolson was also known as the only white man who was allowed into the all-black nightclubs in Harlem.
  • George Formby wrote and performed a series of songs about a Chinese immigrant named Mister Wu. Although they did play heavily upon the stereotypical British image of the Chinese, they also portrayed the protagonist in what for The '30s was a fairly positive light. George Formby had a dim view of racism throughout his life, as evidenced during his tour of South Africa in which he refused to play to segregated audiences and criticized local racist views.
    • Mr. Wu originated as a character in an anti-racism play, and was most famously portrayed by Lon Chaney in a silent film co-starring Anna May Wong. He was a tragic figure, a loving father who was tradition-bound to kill his cherished daughter for having romance with an English boy. Chaney dressed and made up with extreme care.
  • The first stanza of Germany's national anthem sounds ultra-nationalistic today, with a line that translates as "Germany above everything in the world..." Yet it was written before All the Little Germanies had even united, so looking past regional conflicts toward a common German identity was pretty ahead of its time.
  • "Lola" by The Kinks uses a few transphobic stereotypes, like the Unsettling Gender Reveal when the narrator possibly calls Lola a man via Ambiguous Syntax. Nonetheless, it was a pretty positive portrayal for 1970, characterizing Lola as attractive and implying that the narrator accepts her identity even after The Reveal.
  • Joni Mitchell created a character called Art Nouveau, who is Afro-American. She dressed and made up as realistically as possible to play him on several occasions. (That's him on the cover of Don Juan's Reckless Daughter.) It was Blackface, but at the time she was considered audacious for doing it, not racist. In fact, Art had his origins in her devotion to jazz, and Charles Mingus asked her to collaborate with him on what would be his final album after she invented Art.
  • "Baby, It's Cold Outside" generates controversy today that would have baffled its original 1940s audience. Modern audiences often accuse the lyrics of sounding like a date rape, with the man refusing to accept the woman's constant barrage of refusals until he finally breaks her down enough to do something against her will. The line in which she remarks, "What's in this drink?" is also seen as sounding like she's being drugged, However, when the song was written (by a man specifically to perform with his wife at cocktail parties) societal pressures were very different. A Man Is Always Eager and All Women Are Prudes were fully enforced, so courtship was a delicate game of manners where women were expected to put up a token resistance for propriety's sake, while the man's job was to pursue. The song is supposed to be a romantic couple playing out this dance of evasion and persuasion until the woman feels that propriety has been met and she can allow herself to "give in." Her line about the drink was a common excuse among sexually active women at the time, blaming the alcohol for "weakening their resolve" to maintain pure, when they actually knew exactly what they wanted. To audiences of the time, the undertone of the story was fairly risque and liberating.
  • The song "Mamma är lik sin mamma" ("Mum is like her mom") by Siw Malmkvist was about how it's the woman's job to clean the house, do the laundry and do all the household chores. Back when the song was released in 1968, it was considered to be a pretty progressive song, due to it coming out around the same time the Second Wave of Feminism was in full swing and when such "Stay in the Kitchen" stereotypes were being viewed as offensive. Nowadays, however, it's now bashed by many for the fact that it also made use of offensive male stereotypes (claiming the man of the house gives no help whatsoever - "And this is called emancipation", Siw comments dryly).

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Lee Falk's Mandrake the Magician, Mandrake's Black Best Friend and Bash Brother is Lothar, an African Prince of a federation of jungle tribes and "the strongest man alive". While this may seem stereotypical, Lothar was portrayed with great respect and dignity compared to almost any other black characters at the time. note 
  • In Rupert Bear, the Chinese Conjurer and Tiger Lily are very stereotypical, but also depicted as likable and good characters rather than Yellow Peril villains. They are also drawn as people that human beings could believably look like, rather than as the kind of extreme ethnic caricatures seen in other strips of their era.
  • For Better or for Worse was in many ways ahead of its time - however, a few things (ie, John's casual sexism towards his female coworkers or Elly, the only gay Lawrence becoming a florist) come off as rather dated today.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Until the 1960s, promotions had black wrestlers battling other black wrestlers; a notable exception was Bobo Brazil frequently battling The Sheik, an assimilated Arab from Brazil's hometown of Detroit who was generally considered white. Interestingly, you could probably argue this one either way: either the black-on-black matches were fair for their day in that black wrestlers were allowed to compete at all... or they were covertly even more fair because they avoided race riots breaking out in which the black minority in the crowds would inevitably get the short end of the stick, not to mention avoiding the possibility of the white wrestler winning every time just to satisfy white audiences' egos.
  • American Indian wrestlers mostly had savage gimmicks in the 1920s and 1930s, during the early days of gimmick characters — ergo, to promote "cowboy and Indian" angles. One retrospective, "The Idiot's Guide To Professional Wrestling" (penned by Captain Lou Albano), suggested that as a promotional tool, the wrestler would set up a teepee at city hall (or courthouse, high school, etc.), enticing people to call the local newspaper and send a reporter over to see "what the disturbance was about." The Indian wrestler would be in character and causing a disturbance, and then give the promoter the free publicity he was seeking. Later on, as Native Americans were granted civil rights, these characters were always heroes, even though they continued to be portrayed by white athletes who could "pass" for Indian or (in the case of Tatanka) men of mixed race who looked more white than anything else.
  • When purist fans talk pro wrestling history they tend to overlook, or more likely, ignore GLOW completely and indeed against González sisters, The Crush Gals and the Thunder Queens it doesn't look too impressive. The problem with doing this is that it leaves the impression women were doing a lot of nothing for about six to nine years in United States since in the 1980s if a woman was nationally known she was probably working for GLOW. And despite it proving women could carry a show, even if a camp show, there was never another successful attempt by anyone else in the country to get a women's show broadcast on that level until TNA's Knockouts Knockdown, about 31 years after GLOW ended.
  • Sable is not quite fondly remembered as far as women wrestlers goes. She had no training, had it written into her contract that she couldn't bump and was there to provide Fanservice. Despite this, she was a woman that got popular in her own right and warranted a push as a star by herself - rather than as a valet to another man. She codified the Smurfette Breakout and got the women's division resurrected just to give her something to do. What's more, Sable was presented as a woman who would stand up for herself and fight for what she believed in, even if she might have had trouble doing so outside of Kayfabe (which was of course irrelevant). In the PG Era when many Divas were forced to go through Chickification or behave like a Distressed Damsel, this is very telling.
  • Paige had hardly any character depth when she arrived in NXT. With the Red Baron "The Anti Diva" and a different look to most of the others, she was essentially reeking of Real Women Never Wear Dresses. However she still got over in her own right and proved that fans could get behind Divas if they were pushed as more than Ms. Fanservice.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Thunderbirds: Lady Penelope tends to get a fair amount of bashing today for showing glaring sexist stereotypes, including a few Eek, a Mouse!! moments, initially being a bad driver, as well as in "The Imposters" when she goes on a field mission in a rural area and she exudes feminine stereotypes like wearing high heels in a swamp. At the same time, however, she was one of the first action girls on UK TV, with her regularly getting involved in the Tracy Brother's adventures. She also would usually stay calm in the face of danger, was a pretty independent and competent female who didn't take shit from anyone, and also had a man work for her in the form of Parker (justified, though, since he was her butler). Many creators of action girls in modern day UK TV tend to cite Penelope as an influence.

  • The Bible: "An Eye For An Eye" was originally instituted to prevent Disproportionate Retribution or long-term cycles of revenge. The term isn't a call for revenge but a limit on justice: no more than an eye may be taken for an eye. In other words, the punishment must fit the crime. Later passages also imply that monetary compensation was allowed in place of literal violent punishment. Further, the version most people quote is actually a New Testament passage saying that while the law permits retribution, Christians should choose forgiveness instead.
  • Biblical treatment of women and sexuality is often considered horrible by modern standards but may have been relatively liberal at the time.
    • Ruth and Esther are Old Testament books completely dedicated to women, and in Esther's case, she saves her own people. It's also interesting to note that when David commits adultery with Bathsheba, it is David who receives the most punishment and blame for engaging with her — we do not remember Bathsheba getting punished/rebuked, but rather David. A proverb is dedicated to a strong and hard-working wife who has her own business.
    • Israelite daughters (specifically if there were no sons) were also able to inherit property as long as they married a man from their own tribe.
    • Laws commanding adulteresses and other sex offenders to be stoned sound like pretty harsh Honor-Related Abuse. Then you reread them and notice that the man too must be punished. Unusually even-handed, given that even some modern societies punish only the woman and let the man play Karma Houdini. Of course, the law wasn't always enforced that way, as demonstrated in the story of the woman caught in adultery, that mentions nothing about her lover being stoned to death along with her, even though he was caught in the act too (which in itself is not a proof for him not getting stoned, though)...
    • One of the case studies presented to Moses in the Walls of Text that make up the Covenant of Law: a man is found having sex with a woman not his wife in the middle of nowhere. The recommendation is to punish him as a rapist, because if they were simply committing adultery he wouldn't have bothered to take the woman somewhere her cries for help can't be heard.
    • Very strict early Christian divorce prohibitions may seem oppressive today, but were actually very attractive to Roman women and partly responsible for the rapid spread of the new religion. Under Roman law, it was extremely easy for a husband to divorce his wife or to take a concubine on whim, but extremely difficult for a woman to obtain a divorce even in cases of severe spousal neglect or abuse. What's more, divorce put women at a severe disadvantage; they were often considered Defiled Forever (and so it was harder to remarry), and many women were not educated (other than being taught domestic skills by their mothers), which drove many such women to begging or prostitution to support themselves and their children. (Alimony and child support did not exist, either.) The Christian conception of marriage as unbreakable but binding for both spouses (though it gives concessions for the unbelieving spouse of a mixed faith couple to initiate a divorce, at which point the believing spouse is supposed free to remarry without stigma) seemed much more egalitarian.
      • Furthermore, most modern Christians will take for granted that Jesus explicitly states that a man who transgresses his divorce prohibition is guilty of adultery. Judaism being technically polygamist, an improperly divorced Jewish man who sleeps with an unmarried woman is technically not guilty of adultery. Jesus was actually extending adultery law to be more egalitarian.
    • The Bible is also exceptionally progressive in the area of race and social status. Rahab the prostitute is given a place in the lineage of Christ. Specific OT laws are put in place (and repeated multiple times) to protect foreigners passing through Jewish settlements (reminding how the Jews were treated in Egypt as a warning to do better or else). Ruth, who was not a Jew, is given her own book. The New Testament is just as radical: Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman at the well, and later tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, where the Samaritan acts more justly than several members of the Jewish elite. Paul stresses the importance that in Christ there is neither "Jew nor Greek, male nor female," and just about every NT author emphasizes the need to share the Gospel with every tribe, tongue and nation. The most radical idea, however, is the concept that all men are equally evil as the next. That is a direct slap in the face to any kind of racial supremacy.
      • Isaac Asimov wrote an essay called "Lost in Non-Translation" in which he claims that we're too far removed in time and space from Jewish culture to understand the words "Moabite" or "Samaritan" the way the original audience would have, and suggests reading the books while mentally replacing those words with the name of some ethnic or cultural group that's despised now to understand the impact they were intended to have.
  • Sharia law gave Arab women rights that they didn't have in the pre-Islamic period, and in some cases western societies didn't have until the 20th century. It might seem unfair to 21st century Westerners that a woman is only entitled to inherit half of what a man inherits, or that women can only use fault-based divorce while a man can no-fault divorce his wife with an adequate number of witnesses, or that a woman's testimony is only worth half of a man's in court, but when you consider that in many societies—including pre-Islamic Arabia—women were not permitted to inherit at all, divorce their husbands, or testify in court, it's actually, well, pretty Fair For Its Day.
    • The Koran allows men to take up to four wives. Modern audiences (and even many Muslims in more developed and progressive countries) are disgusted by any allowance of polygamy. However there is a notable caveat to that law: The man must show no favoritism and treat all wives equally. Seeing as how polygamy at the time was usually a nobleman having his "main" wife treated as a queen and the others basically just concubines for his enjoyment this was actually relatively egalitarian.
    • Sharia law also has the concept of dhimma, which grants protection to "People of the Book" (Christians, Jews and Sabians). Granted, Christians and Jews living in al-Andalus were second-class citizens and had to pay extra taxes, but this contrasts sharply with the neighboring Spanish kingdoms, where non-Christians were persecuted, forcefully "converted" to Christianity, and eventually expelled.
      • The extra taxes were because Islamic law forbids non-Muslims from serving in the military. There was at least one occasion when a Muslim general realized that the military situation required him to withdraw his troops and protection from a non-Muslim village. Because he was withdrawing his protection, he returned the taxes he had collected from the villagers for their defense.
    • The Quran allows interfaith marriage under certain circumstances. A Muslim man is allowed to marry a Jewish or Christian woman so long as their children are raised Muslim. Muslim women, in the Sunni understanding, cannot marry non-Muslim men under any circumstances. (Shia women can marry non-Muslim men under the same rules as Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women; the Shia consider the prohibition on Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men to be an innovation introduced in the days of the Caliph Umar, whose legitimacy they do not recognize.)
  • This trope is also a counterpoint for God and religion. While killing someone for some slight of the rules may seem unfair, in the days of Exodus and Moses these were well-nigh universal laws, where disobeying a king (any king) in virtually any matter large or small would be punishable by death, and crimes such as shoplifting were dealt with by cutting off the thief's hand.
  • In The Bible, if a man slept with a woman who was not betrothed to someone elsenote , and someone found out, he legally was required to pay her father (or nearest male relative if her father was dead) the customary bride price and take her as his wife. He could not divorce her, no matter what. Note that this also could be applied to some cases where the woman was raped, not just instances of consensual sex. This was to provide for any child they may have conceived (a very real possibility in an era before effective contraceptives) and to protect the reputation of the woman's family (it also protected the woman, who would be considered Defiled Forever, ensuring that someone would be forced to support her). Also, while the rapist would be obligated to pay for her upkeep for the rest of her life, she would not be obligated to live with him.
    • Additionally, if the rapist could not afford to pay the bride price, he became a slave to the father for seven years, and was effectively removed from being a "person" as far as establishing a minyan, meaning in order for him to attend public religious services he had to be accompanied by the father.
  • 1 Timothy 2:11-12 ("A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.") may sound radically sexist by today's standards and is quite the bane of feminists everywhere, even Christians. However in the context of the time the first four words "A woman should learn" itself was a radically enlightened idea; most women living that time period wouldn't be educated at all. The remainder of the passage may still sound pretty backward, however one must consider that there were almost no women at the time with the knowledge or leadership experience to take on leadership roles. Moreover, note that Paul was speaking from personal experience; he wasn't prohibiting all women in all places and times from ever teaching or assuming authority.
    • While many people think Paul insisted on women covering their heads and having smaller roles in church leadership, recent interpretations is that he was quoting the laws of the Corinthians and their response to his initial letter, and in the next verse immediately contradicts this.
      • In the actual passage about women covering their heads (either by means of long hair or a covering), Paul explains that women should have these coverings as a sign of authority over their own heads, lest people use old theological arguments (such as "woman came from man") to claim that women should not be allowed to access God directly. (Then he immediately notes that the head-covering is not an actual Christian custom.)
    • In fact, Paul also said that everyone was equal in Christ, regardless of sex, ethnicity, or social standing, an idea widely espoused (if not always followed) today.
    • Following on from this, when listing fellow Christians in the final greetings of Colossians, there are Hebrew, Roman, male, female, and typical "slave" names, indicating that the early church was diverse in its leadership. In the same passage he lists wife's name before the husband, indicating she had a larger role than him in leadership!
    • He also commended some early-church women for their work, such as a deaconess by the name of Phoebe.
    • And, the word for "assume authority" in the 1 Timothy passage, does not appear elsewhere in the New Testament, and it is not the usual word for "authority" (exousia) which Paul and the other NT writers always use. Study of this "assume authority" word shows it is a very hard word, sometimes rendered as "usurping authority" or with the general idea of claiming undue and/or excessive authority. The bottom-line of this is that Paul was not forbidding the usual authority (exousia), but something very specific and most likely inspired by what was happening in Ephesus at the time Timothy was there. For a thorough study of this passage and others related to Paul's view on women in the NT, see this, which is part of a larger study on the role of women in the Bible.
  • The Proverbs verse about the Wife of Noble Character is used by some modern sects to demonstrate that a woman's place is in the home tending to her family and to work deemed appropriately feminine, so that they won't be tempted into sin (or tempt others into sin), and their husbands can go off and take care of their own duties. But the passage was actually written not so much to tell women what they should be doing, but to encourage men to appreciate the work their wives were doing, instead of taking their wives for granted. Indeed, woman in the poem is portrayed as strong and capable and smart. She takes care of her home and family, and her appearance, but she also runs her own business (and she is good at it, too!) Her husband respects her as an equal, his partner in every sense of the word, and he boasts about her to his friends and colleagues. Women are to follow the example of the Wife of Noble Character and use their talents and be the best person they can be... but men are to follow her husband's example and be supportive and appreciative of their wives.
    • Additionally, it must be remembered that she is a Composite Character of all the roles a "respectable" woman of that time and place could have. In other words, just because she can "do it all" doesn't mean that the reader (or reader's wife) must "do it all", or try to fit into roles she isn't suited for or doesn't want, or that her first and most important role is motherhood whether she wants that or not, or feel bad for not being The Ace. (See also, point about the passage not being meant to admonish women.)
      • You may also notice that the wife's husband is an important man busy with law and statecraft, so the wife needs to keep the house running. This basically makes her a Determined Homesteader's Wife, which is still an admired behavior in many places today.
    • Actually, in an agricultural society, the Wife of Noble Character is shown doing several examples of "men's work"; she buys and owns property and plants it herself (her arms are specifically described as being strong for tasks like these), she collects and owns the profits from the harvest (ancient Hebrew marriage contracts show us that women could own property apart from their husbands and had sole rights over both the land and the profit from it), she is an entrepreneur who transacts on equal grounds with merchants, she orders goods and services long-distance, and she is highly praised for all of it.
  • The circumstances surrounding Mary's Mystical Pregnancy. Many modern readers find it uncomfortable, given her young age (likely anywhere from 13-16), even going so far as to call it rape. In her time, though, she would have been considered an adult, because there was no concept of adolescence as we know it in her era. As for the "rape" part, there was no sex (consensual or otherwise) involved; it was a Deus ex Machina. Also, consider that the text explicitly says God told her what He wanted to do and waited for her okay before making her pregnant, instead of just going ahead and doing it even though He could. Given that in her society, women were expected to be passive vessels for childbearing to their husbands (whom they rarely got to choose), whether they wanted to or not, that's more agency than her society would have granted her.

  • Carousel: Modern audiences tend to find it disturbing that Julie could consider staying with a man who hits her. At the time it was written, though, what was unpalatable to the audience was that she would admit to being abused at all.
  • Several operas of the past were really quite progressive back in the day. Examples:
    • Madama Butterfly and Lakme were both stories about innocent women from the East being taken advantage of by men from the West. Nowadays, some people consider them mildly racist for their portrayal of Asian female stereotypes. But at the time, they were a rather loud reproach to Western people for their grabbing and crushing mentality toward Asian people and their culture. Pinkerton's and Gerald's treatment of Butterfly and Lakme respectively was repellent to any decent person, and probably more than one person left the opera house rethinking their ideas of Western superiority.
    • La Juive was an opera that really addressed anti-Semitism of the day. A Christian prince disguises himself as Jew to woo a Jewish woman, but when their relationship is discovered, the Jewish woman and her father are sentenced to death by a hateful and anti-Semitic judge. But just when it is too late, the Judge discovers that the girl who he considered so filthy was in fact his long lost daughter, who was rescued and raised by the Jewish man. This really rebuked the idea of the supposed differences between Christian and Jew in a tragic way.
    • La Traviata features the courtesan Violetta, who repents and gives up her life of debauchery in order to live with her true love, Alfredo, but is forced to leave him because the scandal of Alfredo living with a former courtesan is wreaking havoc with his family. Modern feminists might object to the fact that she has to "redeem" herself by sacrificing everything, as well as the fact that she conveniently dies in the end, "freeing" Alfredo from scandal once and for all and even urging him on her deathbed to marry "a chaste virgin." Still, the opera portrays her as an unquestionably noble, selfless heroine, and shows up the hypocrisy of the times, criticizing the social more that women who fell could never rise again. At one point, Violetta almost directly rebukes the audience by claiming "Though God forgives, man never will". Ouch.
    • The Marriage of Figaro was unquestionably far beyond fair for its day. It is true that the "happy ending" has the arrogant, lecherous Count Almaviva still fully in power and forgiven by his emotionally abused wife, with no hint that his behavior will change in any long-term way. But the play still has a denunciation of aristocratic abuse of power, which led to the play being banned across Europe and helped to inspire The French Revolution. And its gender politics are still widely praised as extremely proto-feminist.
  • The script for The Skin of Our Teeth, there are three characters that are specifically stated to be black; all of them are in servile roles (a "chair pusher" and two maids) and embody stereotypes of their race, and the script uses the term "colored" (rather than "black" or "African-American"), a term that's generally considered offensive, to denote this fact. However, when Wilder wrote the play in 1942, it was considered quite progressive to write in roles for African-American actors at all, and doing it the way that he did kept it just within the lines where theatres would still be willing to perform it at all; if he had gone any farther, the play would likely have been shelved or cast aside, making those roles worthless in any case.
  • The King and I: Yes, there are crude stereotypes and comically ignorant, misogynistic Asians speaking pidgin English, who need a white woman to civilize them. But at the same time, it also articulates the King's struggle between tradition and modernity with more insight than would normally be expected in '50s America — contrast it with the Japanese guy in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
  • William Shakespeare often wrote characters that would be considered in very poor taste today, but for his time were fairly even-handed.
    • The Merchant of Venice has created a great deal of debate over how fair it is to its Jewish villain Shylock. Shakespeare often wrote villains with understandable grievances, and Shylock is no exception. He is given a famous monologue in which he eloquently complains about the many injustices he has suffered for his faith, which puts his actions in the light of racist persecution. In the end, Shylock is forced to convert to Christianity, which is a pretty lousy fate by modern standards, but in Shakespeare's day this was seen as a merciful Happy Ending, as Shylock lives and his soul is saved. Other villains in such plays usually receive a gruesome Karmic Death.
    • Othello is about a black man who suspects his white wife is cheating on him and chokes her to death. In the original story on which the play was based, however, the Moorish character doesn't even have a name, and it ends with Desdemona lecturing the audience on why interracial marriage is evil. In his adaptation, Shakespeare gives the Moor a name and fully fleshes out his character into a sympathetic war hero who is intelligent and sensitive enough to woo Desdemona with poetry. Shakespeare also adds the character of Iago to serve as the play's villain, a white man who manipulates Othello into a jealous rage For the Evulz, and Iago ends the play with getting arrested for his crimes against the main character. In fact, the only overtly racist elements of the play are spoken by unsympathetic characters.
    • The Taming of the Shrew has a fairly sexist plot, but the standard "uppity wife" play of the time usually involved gleefully beating her into submission for the audience's amusement. By having Petruchio find a psychological solution (demonstrate how mean-spirited her behavior has been), never laying a finger on her, and letting her change in behavior be of her own choosing, it was downright enlightened. The play also shows the obedient, submissive Bianca, pretty much the epitome of a desired girl, turning out not to be quite the ideal wife her husband expected.
    • King Lear features Edmund, a version of the villainous bastard stock character popular at the time. But while he is a resentful and conniving jerk who fits every stereotype, he has a pretty darn good Freudian Excuse for hating his family and nobody but his father ever really brings up his illegitimate heritage. He even inherits his father's land and title (after scheming to have his father and brother killed of course), and goes on to woo both heirs to the throne. He even tries to undo his last acts of villainy.
    • In Cymbeline, Posthumus carries out the antiquated theatrical role of a jealous, gullible husband who attempts to kill his wife after being duped into thinking she has cheated on him. However, he departs from the several other Shakespearean (and many non-Shakespearean) examples of this role by repenting and forgiving his wife while still mistakenly believing her unfaithful, and even questioning the morality under which husbands feel justified in killing their wives "for wrying but a little".
  • Christopher Marlowe's plays tackled such conceptions as Religion Is Wrong, homosexuality and racism and his plays were cited by Orson Welles and Bertolt Brecht for having a great deal of Unbuilt Trope. While some have argued that Marlowe's The Jew of Malta is more racist than The Merchant of Venice because the Jewish villain is punished, others argue that Marlowe's play is, seen as a whole, far more sympathetic. While not free of the anti-semitism of its premise at the very least has a Jewish Villain Protagonist (where The Merchant of Venice has a Jewish Big Bad and supporting character). Barabas also makes it clear that his actions are inspired by racism and oppression at the hands of Christians and Muslims. One speech is cited by scholars to have inspired Shakespeare's famous monologue:
    Barabbas: Why, I esteem the injury far less,
    To take the lives of miserable men
    Than be the causers of their misery.
    You have my wealth, the labour of my life,
    The comfort of mine age, my children's hope;
    And therefore ne'er distinguish of the wrong.
    • Also where Shakespeare's play makes a big deal about how the Christianity being "the quality of mercy", in Marlowe's plays, all the characters (Christians, Muslims, Jew) are shown to be equally corrupt, and the play makes it clear that politics drives religion ("I count religion a childish toy/And hold there is no sin but ignorance") and the overall focus is how oppression forces minority groups to start Becoming the Mask and make them decide Then Let Me Be Evil, which makes Barabas a Byronic Hero who refuses to convert and dies defiant and unrepentant. While the forces that defeat him are not the forces of order so much as another machiavellian and corrupt authority.
  • Show Boat seems pretty racist by modern standards, but at the time it was actually considered shocking that black people were even present together in a musical with white people. It is said that the audience didn't even clap at the premiere because they were all just sitting there gawking in shock.
    • Specifically, that the ending of the entire musical was a big black baritone singing out an epic song to the Mississippi.
    • The musical also gets credit from modern critics for a sympathetic portrayal of an interracial relationship, and for portraying a single mother who works to support her child.
  • West Side Story can seem a little stereotypical today with its portrayal of Puerto Ricans, but for the time it was written in, the 1950s, it was revolutionary in that it had sympathetic minority main characters and touched on subjects such as immigration and the devastating effects of racism, poverty and gang violence. You could argue that the reason for the Puerto Rican characters seeming stereotypical is because they are immigrants, and because they're still living in segregated communities, where the "stereotypical" accents and the old folkways linger a little longer. That's not prejudice, but social realism - which was also a new idea in the 1950s. Likewise, the white gang? Eastern and Southern Europeans (like the Polish Tony) were not considered "as white" as Western Europeans at the time and weren't treated much better or differently than the Puerto Ricans (which, arguably, was part of the whole point).
  • In Abraham's Bosom: This play was probably thought of as progressive in its day, with the story being about a black laborer who dreams of bettering himself and founding a school for local children, only to be murdered by the KKK. But Abraham actually makes some of his own problems by his tendency to burst into violent rages when disrepected by white people. And even more disturbingly, the central message of the play is that he shouldn't be trying to better himself, that a black man seeking an education and hoping to rise up to the level of the white man is tragic folly.
    "Time you's learning day white is white and black is black, and Gohd made de white to always be bedder'n de black. It was so intended from the beginning."

    Video Games 
  • Tomb Raider's protagonist, Lara Croft has been seen by some as obvious fanservice for adolescent male fantasies, given her generous proportions, not really helped by the developers admitting the reason why she was a woman was so gamers wouldn't have to look at a guy's ass all day. However, at the time Lara was a pretty big step forward for women in gaming, who even when they were in lead roles in action or fighting games tended to be Damsel in Distress types. Having a female character that not only had a strong personality, but didn't have a male character coming to her rescue at any time was something few games had tried in the past and none saw the same mass-market success.note  If nothing else, the series proved that gamers—at the time largely stereotyped as violence-addicted immature adolescent males—were mature enough to at least tolerate playing a female character.
  • If you beat Metroid in under three hours, it was revealed that Samus is a girl... by showing her in a leotard, or a bikini if it was beaten under one hour. This was big at the time, however, as she was one of the first playable human female main characters. Plus, with the NES' resolution, this was practically the only way to show with certainty that she was in fact a woman and not a long-haired man.
  • Ms. Pac-Man is sometimes criticized in modern times for her Tertiary Sexual Characteristics, as the only traits distinguishing her from Pac-Man was her lipstick and the bow on her head. Yet, graphical limitations of the time period meant that there really weren't many other options to distinguish her, and she was still quite revolutionary at the time for being one of the first female video game protagonists, period. Her game ended up being the best selling arcade game of all time in the United States, proving that video games with female protagonists could not only sell, but be very, very popular with the general public.
  • Catherine has Erica. Back when the game released, she was praised for being a transgender character in a market where those weren't common at the time, and if they were in, they usually had a negative portrayal. As the years went on, however, she started getting criticized for having her gender be used as a throwaway Unsettling Gender Reveal gag, as well as coming on to Toby even though he felt uncomfortable losing his virginity to someone who was once a man, making both her look like a sexual predator and Toby come off as closed-minded.
    • It got worse with the reveal that she would be in the men-only nightmare world in Full Body, which wouldn't be fair for its day back then and is even worse now.
  • Fire Emblem Fates in the short few years since its release has been criticized for its handling of the games two same-sex Gay Option Niles and Rahjat, both of whom are polarizing characters for their personalities and how they are more Bisexual than straight up Gay. At the time of the games release though, this was considered incredibly progressive in Japan as Japan is not as ahead in their values at the West is, so having two characters as a Gay Option was incredibly progressive for Intelligent Systems, and showed how they were willing to develop their games with people like that in mind. The root of this problem lies with Values Dissonance on the usage of sexuality in games; this was progressive in Japan and was praised by many in Japanese players, but in the West where a push for more diversity in media has been going on, this came across as a token effort at best.
  • Final Fantasy IV tends to get criticized narrative for its usage of Distressed Damsel in the case of Rosa, where she has to be saved early in the game after getting a form of heat-stroke, and being kidnapped by the Big Bad, and the moments where Cecil tries to have Rydia and Rosa stay behind during battle out of fear for them being hurt. While by today's standards these would never be acceptable, and come across as very poor Stay in the Kitchen line of thinking, the game came out during a period where games finally began putting more effort into telling their stories, and so it was considered fine at the time because it nuanced writing for a game at the time. Cecil trying to protect Rosa, his love interest, and Rydia, the girl he accidentally dragged into the games events, by having them stay behind was a flaw of his that they both called him out on, and he realized he was being rude to them by attempting to do so. Both characters also were more complex then your standard female characters in RPGS, with Rosa being a Morality Chain to Cecil and being just as devoted to protecting him as he was to her, and Rydia having a at the time well written character arc when she was a child, and having a snarky attitude in her adult form, traits that while standard by game stories, were very unique at the time.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Bosko, the first Looney Tunes star, was a black boy drawn in such a simple style that he resembled Oswald the Lucky Rabbit with human ears and a bowler hat. At the very start he spoke in a Southern drawl. But the creators saw their error and tried to backtrack. Soon Bosko was shown running businesses, fighting as a musketeer alongside white musketeers, and defending his girlfriend from white bad guys. Alas, the drawing style still causes uninitiated modern viewers to presume the worst.
    • Whenever Warner Bros references Bosko in modern times (such as when he appeared on Tiny Toon Adventures,) he is always explicitly identified as just a general purpose "ink blot" Cartoon Creature along the lines of the Animaniacs heroes.
    • Speedy Gonzales has been the subject of criticism for his stereotypical Mexican qualities, but a lot of actual Hispanics had good memories of having a resourceful Latino hero on television.
      • Although, some support cast mice were portrayed in an unflattering light, although their behavior makes sense in the context that some of them are partying mice, in addition to other mice like Slowpoke Rodriguez the opposite version of Speedy or the Mexican mice who always call on Speedy to help them get cheese or be free from the oppressive rule of the "gringo pussycat" (Sylvester) or, in the much-maligned later cartoons, Daffy Duck.
    • The Merrie Melodies cartoon "Clean Pastures" featured good natured spoofs of famous black jazz musicians, and the story suggests that certain types of black music are better than others. Its title is a takeoff on the play/film Green Pastures, which has an all-black cast and is definitely fair for its day.
  • The Silent Era Felix the Cat cartoon "Uncle Tom's Crabbin'". While the blackface designs and deep south slavery setting would turn heads today, it's surprising in that it clearly shows Felix on the side of a sympathetically portrayed Uncle Tom against Simon Legree (with Tom's race and plight distinctly not being played for laughs), with Felix even helping Tom against Legree and coming out on top in the end.
  • Jonny Quest itself (the original 1960s version of which originally aired in prime time) deserves a listing here. While the character of Hadji has some clearly stereotypical characteristics ("Sim sim salabim", anyone?), he was the first dark-skinned character to be a regular in a 1960s kids' show, was always treated as Jonny's equal, as well as his best friend and adopted brother, and had tricks that amazed or confused the adults featured.
    • The 1990's version downplayed a lot of the unfortunate baggage on Hadji, including playing his philosophizing as a way for him to subtly snark at his more adventurous adoptive brother and Jessie Bannon's hotheaded tendencies. Part of that was making him the computer expert. Unfortunately, ten years later, Bollywood Nerd was its own trope.
    • Also given the realistic art style of the show, mostly avoiding Engrish, and generally being competent, none of the non-white characters were racist caricatures, at least by '60s standards. They weren't always pretty, but they were far better than portrayals from earlier decades.
    • The show has some blatant stereotypes by modern standards, including an almost complete absence of any black people (except in ''Pursuit of the Po-Ho"), plus about a second's worth of angry African natives from that episode in the opening credits.
    • In "Pursuit of the Po-Ho", Dr. Quest quietly chides another scientist for calling a Po-Ho ritual "barbaric". He says that it is, according to their standards, not the Po-Ho's.
  • Referenced in Justice League episode "Legends." Green Lantern and the others have been transported to a world with 1950s era heroes, one of whom calls the black John Stewart "a credit to your people," which he genuinely means as an enlightened compliment, and would've been such for the time period they're from.
  • The Simpsons:
    • When it first aired in 1997, the episode "Homer's Phobia" delivered what was considered a largely positive view of gay people, with the message that gays should be accepted as human beings. However, viewed today, that same episode can come across as offensive for its stereotypical depiction of gays (though the Aesop of "Gay folks are no better or worse than straight folks and don't always follow the camp or overly macho stereotype" is a fairly good message that needs to be taken to heart).
      John: Well, Homer, I gained your respect - and all I had to do was save your life! As soon as every other gay person does that, you'll be all set.
    • "Homer the Heretic" was once praised for its sympathetic treatment of non-traditional spirituality, but it's now occasionally criticized for copping out on its message by having Homer go back to church at the end. For its time, though, it was remarkably open-minded in its frank discussion of organized religion, pointing out that adhering to religious rituals isn't necessarily for everyone, and that people can practice their spiritual beliefs in all sorts of ways. And like many Simpsons episodes, it was quite adamant about showing Springfield as a multi-cultural town of many different faiths, favorably depicting Krusty's Jewish faith and Apu's Hindu faith alongside the Protestant Christian Simpsons.
    • The character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has gotten a lot of flak in the 2010s due to being viewed as a rather blatant stereotype of Indians and Southern Asians in general, along with the fact that he has a white voice actor (Hank Azaria). However, during the show's run in the 90s, he was also the first if not the only depiction of a Southern Asian to appear on mainstream television in the U.S. and is generally portrayed as a nice guy who gets along well with the other characters. The problem with that is, as the show continues on, many of his stereotypical traits don't seem to have assuaged much (if anything, they've only gotten worse), resulting in him being viewed as a racist caricature to today's world. Though interestingly, while he has been criticized by Indian-Americans and South Asian Americans, Apu is well-liked in India itself.
  • The Betty Boop cartoon "Making Stars". Despite the blatant racial stereotyping and usage of the word "colorful", the fact that the black American characters weren't in a segregated crowd was quite admirable for the 1930's, and the ending when all the babies drink from the same bottle could be interpreted as a diversity message.
  • Many British and Commonwealth cartoons, such as Rupert, have highly stereotypical depictions of foreign characters (panto accents, joke names, and theme park countries). What's often missed is that these are often only surface details, with the actual characters themselves being well-rounded and positively portrayed.
  • The Dick Tracy Show had two characters, Joe Jitsu and Go-Go Gomez, who both were drawn (and acted) very stereotypically for the time period. However, while their portrayals can be a little uncomfortable for modern viewers to watch, they are also both intelligent and capable heroes within the show's universe.

  • Disney's "It's A Small World" was and is an appeal to everyone's shared humanity. While the various stereotypical attributes (folk costume, etc.) of the animatronics in the ride haven't particularly aged well (mostly because only the most traditional societies still wear such garb on an everyday basis), it's still The Theme Park Version, no pun intended, of the possibility of a world where we can live together in peace. It's worth noting that the same mold is used to create the dolls' faces regardless of ethnicity, thus completely avoiding Facial Profiling.
  • Some Barbie toys depicted Barbie in professions that women usually didn't have in that day — nowadays some people consider that to be "sexist". Most hilariously is when some people see veterinarian as one of Barbie's jobs as sexist.
  • The Smothers Brothers sketch "Hiawatha" contains some fairly cringe-worthy jokes at the expense of Native American culture. However, it also contains Dick defending the Sioux "massacre" of Custer at the Little Bighorn, noting that it was a war and "Sitting Bull? Just doing his job." Given when the sketch was released, that was quite fair-minded.
  • The famous Superman radio miniseries "The Clan of the Fiery Cross" gets quite a lot of well-deserved praise today for being one of the first works of mainstream American pop culture to portray the Ku Klux Klan (or a thinly-veiled expy of them, at least) as villains, explicitly calling out their racism and xenophobia as "un-American" and inviting ordinary Americans to harass and disrupt them by any possible means. By today's standards, though, it might seem a bit odd that the family that Superman defends from the Klansmen are not rural or working-class African-Americans (the most frequent target of the Klan, by far), but heavily Americanized middle-class Chinese-Americans. And the story takes pains to show them as educated, well-to-do business owners who speak flawless English, as if they would have been too hard to sympathize with if they hadn't been the absolute image of respectable white-bread Americanness. As progressive as the story was, it was still a product of the 1940s; it was daring enough to take on the Klan, but not quite daring enough to show Superman siding with Black Americans.
  • The Shadow: While the pulps often reflected the stereotypes of its day, it was a policy of long-time editor John Nanovic to constantly chip away at these elements in the magazine's stories. The Shadow would be notable for having African-American, Jewish and Chinese-American characters who were useful and often crucial parts of The Shadow's team. Nanovic also instituted two important rules: First that outside of plot-relevant needs, the main villain had to be a White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant — "Fu-Manchu"-style villains, or other ethnic Big Bads were by and large out. One of the major exceptions to this rule was Shiwan Khan. Second, he dogged Gibson to drop the "Asian Speekee Engrish" Chinese characters, encouraging him to introduce Dr. Roy Tam (who spoke perfect English) and to soften the dialect of other Chinese characters.
  • British comedian Jim Davidson's stand-up routine in the seventies and eighties featured the infamous character Chalky White, a charicature of West-Indian males. While nowadays it's seen as a racist stereotype, Jim was always on Chalky's side, portraying him as a likeable, put-upon underdog.

    Real Life 
  • In 1779, Thomas Jefferson proposed a law to the Virginia Legislature that would castrate men convicted of sodomy, which seems very harsh... until you realize that the maximum punishment in Virginia at the time was death, and the legislature actually rejected it.
    • Likewise, much has been made of Jefferson's slave ownership despite his egalitarian political beliefs, but Jefferson also strongly opposed the expansion of slavery and banned the international slave trade as president. Until his dying day he was still proposing plans for the education of slaves, the regulation of the practice, and even the gradual abolition of slavery itself. Given that the expansion of slavery and trade in slaves were some of the worst parts of the slave system, Jefferson likely made a very radical humanitarian gain here. America's ban on the slave trade even preceded the celebrated British ban.
    • Jefferson also, very radically for his time, insisted ardently that even if black people were, in his words "inferior in both body and mind," that was no justification for slavery or for discriminating against them, pointing out that they were still "men". He also treated his slaves much more kindly than most masters, allowing them many holidays, breaks, and even payment on occasion, as well as refusing to use the whip or generally selling slaves. His justification for keeping his slaves was that, given the financial and legal barriers making it difficult to free slaves, it was not worth the risk as he felt they would rather be taken care of under his "protection" than cast out into a world which would not treat them well. Obviously this is incredibly paternalistic and racist by our modern standards, but when there were still many people who were ardently pro-slavery and who argued that black people were "sub-human" or not human altogether, Jefferson's emphasis on their kind treatment and humanity was cutting edge.
    • Jefferson's feelings on women and Native Americans were also progressive for the day. While Jefferson did not support women's suffrage himself, he pushed for expanded education for women and gave significant support to many early suffragettes like Frances Wright. And although Jefferson favored the assimilation of natives like most others of his time he also took great pains to protect their cultural practices, religious beliefs, and languages, which many contemporaries thought should be wiped out as "savage".
  • Abraham Lincoln, despite being known for his firm stance against slavery, held views that would be considered very racist today (a good example being his "Nobody likes you and you should get the hell out of the country for your own good" speech to some prominent black citizens). Also, as a politician, he had to balance his various interests against each other; simply outlawing slavery would massively disrupt society and the economy, and further divide the country against itself. His original plan, which ultimately only got a partial enactment in Washington, D.C., itself, was to buy out the slaveholders at the taxpayers' expense and ship the newly freed slaves back to Africa.note  Only when this plan didn't work out as he'd hoped and all the disruption and division he'd been trying to avoid happened anyway did he finally decide on a somewhat more radical course, and then only as it came to be to his political advantage. Thus, while he wasn't exactly a saintly abolitionist (and most people never were), he does earn considerable admiration as a crafty politician for having been able to compromise and cajole his way to the slaves' emancipation. (And he did hate slavery, and for entirely altruistic reasons, even if he usually didn't say so publicly.)
  • Ancient slaves were often treated more fairly (they could achieve citizenship and at some times it was expected from a rich man to free his slaves) than many Africans imported to North America. It was also not usually racial, and in a perverse sense more "equal" - it was possible for virtually anyone to become a slave assuming they fell into the wrong circumstances (debts, taken captive in war, etc.) Many powerful people were born into slavery or spent some time as slaves.
    • The Athenians, in particular, were big on slavery... but the status of the slaves was actually quite a bit better than it could have been. It was forbidden to hit a slave on the streets (you could not be certain it wasn't a free man you were hitting), the murder of a slave was tried for and punished as murder rather than destruction of property (something many later societies lacked), and quite a few slaves were effectively independent workers who only had to pay a fixed sum to their master. And of course, you could save to buy your freedom, which gave you the same social status as a fellow Greek immigrant to Athens
  • George Washington was very nearly the only one of the slave-holding Founders even to make an attempt to free his slaves. For him, the matter was excruciatingly complicated: he wanted to free his slaves late in his lifetime, but most of his slaves weren't technically his, instead being "dower slaves" owned by his wife Martha, and technically not his to do with as he wished. Further, freeing his own slaves and leaving Martha's slaves in bondage (outside of looking like gross hypocrisy) might conceivably have broken up slave families. He published a will that upon his and Martha's deaths (Martha changed the will to releasing the slaves a year after George's death, as she was uncomfortable living around people who were looking forward to her dying), all slaves the two held were to be freed and educated enough to let them enter society as free men, and those too old or infirm to enter free society were to be cared for at the expense of Washington's estate for the rest of their lives. He had the will published, but Martha's relatives (Washington himself was the last of his line) did their best to get it quashed.
  • Justice John Marshall Harlan I is famous for being the lone dissenting voice in the US Supreme Court civil rights case of Plessy v. Ferguson, saying that the doctrine of "separate but equal" was wrong, inherently discriminatory and unconstitutional. However, he spent a lot of time arguing about the evil and dangerous 'Chinamen' that, at that time, were considered so foreign and alien to American culture that they were not allowed to become American citizens. He noted that according to the law as written, even they would be allowed to sit in the white carriages of the trains, which he considered a huge demeaning slight to blacks.
  • The Inquisition is usually portrayed as a sinister and oppressive organization. However, The Papal Inquisition was the first European secret police more than anything else. The Inquisition was also revolutionarily lenient for its time, as it strictly limited the use of torture (which was very common in secular courts), allowed the defendants legal representation, and issued death sentences much less often than in municipal proceedings where petty thieves usually were sent to swing. However all this pales compared to the fact that the Inquisition rose above its contemporary courts in placing the burden of proof on the prosecution.
    • And the Spanish Inquisition ended witch trials in Spain a full century before the rest of Europe because it required scientific proof of witchcraft - not just eyewitness accounts.
    • Among protections afforded accused heretics was that if you were called before the Inquisition, you were required to make a list of all your enemies. Anyone on that list was forbidden to give evidence against you, because it was presumed to be false and motivated by spite.
    • In fact, one of the indications of the extent to which this trope applied to the Inquisition was the fact that, in many cases, accused criminals intentionally maneuvered to get their cases brought before the Inquisition, because they were confident of getting a fairer hearing than before the ordinary courts.
    • And even if torture were to be used, the Inquisitors gave the accused numerous chances to repent. They would first demand confession verbally. They would then explain, in hideous detail, what would happen to them if they did not confess. Only then, if they still did not repent for their sins, would they resort to torture.
  • While Richard Nixon is often characterized today as a backwards-looking, Archie Bunker-like racist curmudgeon, some of his personally held social views and policies of his administration were rather tolerant or even progressive by early 1970s standards. He continued the process of school desegregation and his administration regularly fought against racial discrimination in court (one of the most notable cases being when the Justice Department sued The Trump Organization for housing discrimination in 1973). His administration also enacted programs that encouraged schools to expand athletic programs for girls (yes, our current standard of girls' athletics having equal stature to boys' athletics in our schools we owe to Nixon) and encouraged girls to participate in skills education. Privately, he didn't object to giving women legal access to an abortion (even though it was partially because he believed that mixed-race babies should be aborted) and his privately-held views on homosexuality were rather tolerant and progressive for the time as well. (It's a condition they are born with and their attraction to the same gender is involuntary, and they should be left alone as long as they keep it behind closed doors. Just don't do it in public, don't encourage it and keep it away from kids.) Nixon, like many politicians of his time, seemed to possess a belief in legal equality between different racial, ethnic and gender groups with deplorable personal prejudices (particularly his obsessive antisemitism) that undeniably colored his thoughts, actions and occasionally his policies.
  • Older Than Dirt: Hammurabi's Code had a great many double standards and even triple standards, but it still compared favorably to what his contemporaries in the region were doing.
    • For that matter, "an eye for eye, a tooth for tooth" was a step up from the previous standards, since it limited the amount of retribution to the amount of harm. Also, the oft-quoted "An eye for an eye" bit in Hammurabi's code has a qualification rarely mentioned when the law is quoted: it only applied when the victim was a nobleman. For the common folk, the loss of an eye called for the payment of a piece of silver (that said, the notion that common folk were entitled to any legal recourse when injured by their betters was a huge advance in the direction of justice).
    • What Hammurabi's code did achieve, for all its failings and inequities, was to specifically define crimes and their punishments. This made law a predictable and reliable thing, which was a considerable advance over the previous levels of law-making and punishments, which were roughly equivalent to "I hope the king (or judge, or chief, etc.) is in a good mood today" before then. You might not like the place where you stood very much under the Code, but you knew where it was and that it was stable.
    • Some of it would fit right in a modern law code:
      • Section 206,"If during a quarrel one man strike another and wound him, then he shall swear, "I did not injure him wittingly," and pay the physicians," is a pretty good paraphrase of "Direct medical expenses arising from a negligent act may be claimed against the wrongdoer."
      • Section 232, "If it (the poorly constructed house) ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that has been ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means," is similarly paraphrased as "Goods damaged by the negligent construction of a building in which the goods are stored may be claimed against the wrongdoer, and restitution to be made on the damaged building."
      • Section 250, "If while an ox is passing on the street (market) some one push it, and kill it, the owner can set up no claim in the suit (against the hirer)," is the first basis for the novus actus interveniens, or "new intervening act" doctrine in negligence law. Section 245 also illustrates this concept.
      • Section 103, "If, while on the journey, an enemy take away from him anything that he had, the broker shall swear by God and be free of obligation," is the first description of force majeure (the doctrine that someone may be released from his end of a contract because overwhelming circumstances beyond his control made compliance impossible).
    • And then there was the fact that the law wasn't just written down, it was written where everyone could see it - thus ensuring that a person couldn't deceive you about what the law was and making sure you don't have access to it to check.
  • In ancient Sparta, it was believed that the ultimate goal of Spartan women was to give birth to healthy boys who would later become career soldiers. However, Sparta incidentally had a more egalitarian stance towards women's rights. Spartan women could own property, enter public spaces, and receive a proper education. Furthermore, many domestic households were matriarchal given how the men were constantly fighting abroad.
  • Many people call Dr. John Langdon Down (November 18, 1828 - October 7, 1896) ableist for claiming that 'Mongoloids' (now referred to as people with Down's Syndrome) were a throwback to an earlier stage of evolution. However, what they don't realize is that he considered mentally handicapped Caucasians to be proof that non-white races were actually human beings, something that was a topic of much debate among white people then. He also supported the rights of women, claiming that educated women produced smarter sons (contrary to the common belief that excessive education masculinized a woman and made her infertile, or produced lower-quality children).
  • Similarly, Johann Blumenbach (11 May 1752 - 22 January 1840) (who gave us the term Caucasian for white people) underwent a weird Character Development with regards to race. He initially believed that race determined a person's level of intelligence (with "Negroid" races being below all others). However, he later fell in love with a black woman and came to the conclusion that black people were just as intellectually capable as any other race (presumably he observed this personally in her).
  • The Meiji Era (1868–1912) language and educational reforms of Japan now look like efforts to eradicate dialects and enforce a single, very specific restrictive standard on people, but at the time they were enlightened efforts to create class equality and open up scholarship to the lower classes by making scientific or literary writing accessible to people who couldn't afford years of education in heavily Chinese-influenced writing.
  • The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia contains a provision that Parliament may make laws about "The people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws." The 1967 referendum finally recognizing indigenous Australians as people in fact DELETED "other than the aboriginal race in any State." This makes more sense once you realize that this provision is interpreted such that it only allows beneficial laws to be made about any one race (thus allowing Federal Indigenous Scholarships, grants, etc.) and overrode State laws that did very bad things to indigenous Australians.
  • The Irish Constitution opens In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Éire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial, [...] Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution. There was a push for it to open In the name of Our Lady of Lourdes..., an explicitly Roman Catholic opening, but they went with a version acceptable to all traditional Christians.
    • Likewise, before 1973, the Irish Constitution "recognised the special place of the Roman Catholic Church", which appears to view Catholicism specially, however it also mentioned other non-Catholic religions (like Anglicans, Methodists and Jews). Catholics wanted no mention of other religions and wanted an official state religion. The "special place" was due to the Roman Catholic Church being "the guardian of the Faith of the professed by the majority of the population", i.e. the RCC is special only due to the amount of members it has. The official church position is that RCC is special since it descended from Jesus.
  • This LIFE Magazine article from April 1938 compares photos of Franklin D. Roosevelt to photos of Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, and Adolf Hitler. It was in response to Roosevelt's infamous Reorganization Bill, which would have dramatically strengthened the Executive Branch and which many Americans were strongly opposed to (even die-hard Roosevelt fans generally see it as one of his greatest mistakes). Fast-forward three and a half years, and such an article would be seen as treasonous.
  • The exams performed in the various Empires of Imperial China from the time of the Song (10th century) onward may seem overly restrictive today, what with the fact that one highly difficult test could make or break your prospects (until you re-sat it). However, these tests were designed to break the power of the Song Empire's feudal aristocracy by allowing middle-class people to get civil service jobs. They succeeded. Their unique societal fusion of the aristocracy and middle class into the so-called 'scholar-gentry'/'literati' class was continued by the later Yuan, Ming, and Qing empires. In an era when most countries awarded positions within the administration and army based on 'divine right', 'noble' birth, and political connections this was extremely progressive if not outright revolutionary. The idea that the daily business of government and warfare would not be stopped by mere politics was pretty darned radical.
    • This system of meritocracy gained popularity in the British Empire and the United States because it was seen as a much better alternative to their then-current systems of nepotism and the spoils system. The British Army removed the last impediments to middle-class participation in the officer corps (paying the Army a year of your salary so you could be promoted) during the Crimean War of 1853-55.
      • Notably, they provided contributions to Western Education. Remember those structured essays you wrote back in school? Or how academic papers are structured? The Imperial Civil Service Exams have a lot to do with that, as their clear format and structure made it easy for the examiners to look at an essay and judge its merits by ensuring that the essays would follow specific guidelines.
  • When St. Augustine of Hippo (November 13, 354 - August 28, 430) was writing, he included a detailed treatise on sexuality that basically reaffirmed the commonly held idea that Sex Is Evil. He did, however, make it clear that a woman who was raped and did not enjoy it did not commit a sin. The "did not enjoy it" part may sound awfully insensitive and sexist nowadays, but back then (when the prevailing view was that All Women Are Lustful, with all the Unfortunate Implications that trope carries) this was rather innovative thinking for its time.
  • Medieval Germanic society had the concept of the weregild (literally, 'man-price'). If a person killed another person, they could avoid punishment by compensating the victim's family in money or material goods. There was even a standardized code in place, establishing weregild prices depending on the victim's social status and circumstances of death. The concept of applying a monetary value to a human life may seem callous to us todaynote , but considering the alternative form of retribution was the victim's family enacting a revenge killing, kicking off a blood feud that would most certainly cost more to the involved parties in loss of life and property, it was quite civilized and pragmatic.
    • The Weregild is the oldest law still in force in any common law country. It predates the common law crime of murder, and the name has been updated; it's called the tort of wrongful death. Torts to the person, the lesser cousin to the Weregild, also assign monetary values to various injured body parts, as well as the amount of money that person earned with that body part. For a modern example - take a look at OJ Simpson's misfortunes.
    • At the time, many legal systems had a very different method - charges were brought by private citizens (usually the victim themselves, or next of kin if they were dead or unable to) and more similar to what we would now call a tort case.
  • Maryland's Act of Toleration in 1649 guaranteed religious freedom - as long as you were a Christian. Given that this was the age of the Thirty Years' War, one of the most horrifying wars ever, fought in large part over rivalry between Christian sects, it's more impressive than it sounds today.
  • The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom might seem like a repressive theocracy run by a messianic lunatic, but it was also the first government in China to prohibit slavery, concubinage, foot binding, and to hold women and all races to be equal in the eyes of the law.
  • John Tharpe owned a slave plantation in Jamaica. However, he was famous for treating his slaves with dignity and respect. During a slave rebellion, other houses were burned down but his was spared.
    • Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States of America also owned slaves but treated them kindly and supported several laws that would protect slaves from abuse and even prevent the recapture of runaway slaves in free states.
    • Before the Emancipation Proclamation, Louisiana, like other Southern US states, allowed slavery. However, slaves had rights that they didn't have in other states. Slaves could seek legal action against abusive masters. Also, in accordance with Louisiana's predominant Catholic faith, even slaves were given Sundays off. During those Sundays, slaves could work their own businesses and keep whatever money they earned.
    • This was in good part due to the state's French heritage, particularly the French Code Noir which had certain articles requiring humane treatment of slaves. The very similar Spanish Code Negro was a socio-political compromise, after a number of Spanish Catholic priests who'd attempted to enforce the Church's unambiguous canon laws against chattel slavery got slaughtered for their efforts.
    • What few people also know is that black and white people were fighting for equality in Louisiana a full century before the rest of the United States. And the code Noir also forced slave purchasers to purchase entire families rather than splitting families and slave owners typically legitimized their children born to slaves and provided them with a proper education. Slave owners also had no way to pass slaves on to their children meaning that upon a slave owner's death their slaves would be freed and most slave owners would give a portion of their estate equal to the original purchase price of the slaves to each slave upon their death.
  • The British Empire, despite the damage its imperialism caused to its subjects, was the first major European empire to effectively ban the slave trade in 1807, then slavery as whole in 1833, some 30 years before America. They created the West Africa Squadron in 1807, which actively hunted down slavers, eventually destroying the Atlantic slave trade.
    • European missionaries in colonial India were known for their aggressive proselytization and callousness to the local cultures, but the areas that they were most successful in were ones that had many members of lower castes under the caste system and dalits (aka "untouchables"). People who were told their entire lives that it was a disgrace and worthy of punishment even to have their shadow fall on a higher caste person were told that everyone was equal before Christ and that God loves everyone equally.note 
    • King Edward VII of England was very liberal for his day, criticizing his nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II, for not moving with the times and being decidedly displeased with British colonial attitudes, saying in 1875 (as Prince of Wales) after a visit to India: "Just because a man has a black face and a different religion than our own, there is no reason why he should be treated as a brute."
    • For that matter, those who equate imperialism with automatic racism should know that racist loopholes in the British civil-service system in India were completely closed as early as 1906 (when the Liberals came to power in Parliament) - more than 40 years before India's actual independence. Likewise, while colonialism itself was generally disliked, the Indian civil service was highly admired, even by India's freedom fighters, who cited its focus on meritocracy and good governance. In fact, the initial complaints of the independence movement was that the civil service was "too small". It's main purpose was to support the colonial enterprise rather than general governance for the better interests of the Indian peoples.
    • Subash Chandra Bose is a hugely controversial figure in Indian and British politics. The British see him, not without justice, as a fascist stooge, while Indians see him as a potential military dictator or merely as a "freedom fighter" (a catch-all phrase in India that doesn't account for the political differences within the movement). While Bose entered into a short-sighted and naive Enemy Mine with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, he was personally a nationalist. His Indian National Army was the first non-segregated army peopled, staffed and run by Indians. There was no religious or caste divisions and it provided entry and service for women (in other words, absolutely different principles than those of his Axis allies). These features would be followed by the Post-Independence Indian military (which derives from the British Indian Army rather than Bose's unit).note 
    • Much of these egalitarian achievements however was abrogated by Napoleon Bonaparte (who restored slavery, reintroduced racist policies towards black Frenchmen) but at the same time, being a product of the Revolution, Napoleon depended on it for his legitimacy. Hence his Civil Code and features such as meritocratic advancement and modern bureaucracy as well as secular governance. Napoleon's conquests across Europe effectively marked the end of feudalism, altered the class structure of several states and brought Jews out of ghettoes, at least in Western Europe. A lot of these policies were effected before Napoleon of course but he did consolidate it.
  • When the vote was first extended to women in Britain by the Representation of the People Act 1918, it was only to women over 30 (men could vote at 21); but, considering that prior to the same Act being passed, only 60% of men (i.e. males over 21 according to the standards of the time) had the vote, it puts things into perspective.
  • Julius Caesar would be considered cruel by the standards of today (boasting about killing and enslaving millions of people can do that), but many contemporaries criticized him for being too lenient. Case in point - he once dealt with a rebellious town by cutting off the right hand of every rebel in the town (so they could not raise arms against him again). Standard Roman practice would have been to kill every living thing in the town and turn it into rubble.
    • Caesar had a desire to spare his enemies that would baffle modern politicians. He insisted that his conflict with Pompey was based on a misunderstanding, and was said to have cried over his corpse when a third party killed him. He also pardoned many of the other factions' leaders after defeating their armies, many of whom contributed to his assassination. Caesar's successor, Augustus, learned from this and co-opted Caesar's reputation for mercy, but made sure to have genuinely dangerous rivals killed before the ceasefires came.
    • Caesar is also the first person in history to have thought of the idea of life imprisonment - for treason, of all things. Everybody thought this novel punishment was ludicrous-how could you throw a man in prison for life and humiliate him when it would be far more merciful to just kill him? In fact, this very argument is still used by those opposed to the outright abolition of capital punishment.
    • Julius Caesar was actually part of the populares, i.e. the left-wing of The Roman Republic or a close approximation thereof. The optimate faction, which eventually comprised Caesar's assassins, had been aristocratic and anti-reformist and had, violently, opposed earlier Republican reformers (such as the Gracchi). Caesar was a reformist of the same mind, but also a pragmatist who wanted to avoid the same fate. He joined the army and used his military career and conquests to protect himself. As dictator-perpetuo, he instituted ideas such as citizenship for people across Rome, land distribution among the very poor, meritocratic advancement for men of talent, and an end to the purge-and-counter-purge that characterized the Republic before him.
    • While Caesar is viewed as a monster today for his deeds against "barbarians" in Gaul (where he claimed to have killed or enslaved hundreds of thousands of civilians), he was actually fairly moderate for an ancient Roman. He claimed in his commentaries that he only enacted those slaughters to protect allied tribes (and had quite a few Gallic men following him as auxiliaries), and maintained that the Gauls were not just barbarians, but a coherent society that could be civilized under Italian rule. In 49 BC, with the Lex Roscia, Julius Caesar in his capacity as consul also granted to the people of Cisalpine Gaul (modern Northern Italy) full Roman citizenship due to their loyalty, and also granted citizenship to many key Gallic figures in other allied tribes. To be fair, this was as much a pragmatic move as anything else (as these Gauls would then be more loyal to him), but it's one that earned him much criticism from the xenophobic politicians back in Rome.
    • Likewise Caesar provided rights and protection for Jews who lived in Rome at that time. He was also highly popular among the people of Roman Athens, supporting the common people and extending franchise to them rather than the aristocratic client oligarchs that had been backed by the optimates. Caesar also wanted to end Rome's dependence on slave labour (which is not exactly abolitionism but historically, a key movement towards ending slavery) and provide better conditions and opportunities for free labourers and workers. Basically, if you were a working man in Rome during the end of the supposed Republic, Julius Caesar was your man.
  • Most of Queen Elizabeth I's reign. At a time when France and the Western/'Spanish' Habsburgs were wracked by religious Civil Wars between Protestants and Catholics (i.e. the French Wars of Religion and The Eighty Years' War), she was more concerned with making sure England ran smoothly. Anglicanism was the official religion, but all she required Catholics to do was pay a small fine for not attending Anglican services, which at that time was radically permissive. She hated executing people, and would often commute sentences at the last minute, unless the crime was treason. Philip II Habsburg of Castile-Leon, Aragon, Burgundy, etc. (the late Mary's husband, who protected Elizabeth from being excommunicated by the Pope until English state-sponsored piracy/privateering in the West Indies became too problematic for him to ignore any longer) tried twice to stage a Catholic uprising against her, only to find that most of the Catholics liked her. When asked about her lenient-for-the-time attitude, she said she "had no desire to make windows into men's secret minds and hearts", preferring to keep her people fed and her country financially solvent. At the time, England was almost the only kingdom that hadn't bankrupted itself fighting religious wars (it had occasionally nearly bankrupted itself from fighting Irish rebellions, but although the Irish were Catholic, that's another story entirely).
  • Remember how Karl Marx believed that revolution was the only way workers could gain better conditions? Well, he did say all of this during a time where many countries did not give most workers the right to vote, so it seemed the only way that they could get what they wanted was through the use of force (though many of his followers joined parliaments peacefully later on, proving this wrong). Universal suffrage was one thing the Marxist parties helped to pass that most people do agree with. There are still some communist and anarchist groups that see the state, despite full suffrage, as irredeemably capitalist and insist that only a revolution can bring about real change though.
    • The idea of communism was, in Marx's view a radical extension of democracy to its logical conclusion: a society that would not only be classless but stateless, socially, scientifically and technologically advanced and automated to the extent that people could Pursue the Dream Job and truly be themselves rather than work because were born poor, or if they were middle-class run the family business and follow the careers their parents chose. Marx's original idea was in essence The American Dream, and drastically different from the socialist republics run by self-procalaimed communist parties in underdeveloped and developing nations. Marx actually praised capitalism for having gotten rid of feudalism and for creating means of production that would allow for ending want once and for all. He was absolutely against pie-in-the-sky romantic returns to the golden age, farms and rural peasantry.
    • Some of Marx's criticism is overly harsh, (such as comparing factory work to literal slavery - which was actually still a thing while he was alive) but the actual conditions of Victorian Britain were dire enough to make him see things that way. Engels' "Conditions of the Working Class in England" describing what England was like in the 1840s shows just how unbelievably miserable conditions were - Charles Dickens, if nothing, romanticized this misery.note 
  • One of the problems with appreciating the real tensions in the Cold War is to see Liberal Democracy and Egalitarian Socialism as opposites rather than dynamic entities that changed and transformed each other.
    • American Communists are usually seen as either "useful idiots" or "potential spies for Stalin" but very few people bother to wonder why Communists were respected by well-meaning and otherwise intelligent artists and intellectuals in various political parties. The reasons for that are usually because Communists championed labour rights for men and women, were heavily involved in the union movement and, most importantly, it was the American Communists who went into the deep south and organized African-American communities, which is the reason the likes of Paul Robeson and W. E. B. DuBois became members of the Communist party. They also paid for the trials of the Scottsboro Boys and persecuted Mexican workers.
    • Communist movements in Third World post-colonial nations, generally played a key role in developing film industries, raising literacy, increasing life expectancy and other poverty relief measures. The Soviet Union and Fidel Castro likewise lent crucial support to Nelson Mandela in a time when he hadn't become a global icon.
    • Recent commentators have argued that while Communism failed ultimately, numerous crimes were committed in its name and the fall of communist regimes often left behind a mess of issues, it's real legacy was to be a Victorious Loser in lending support for ideas that had formerly been considered fringe in Europe and America but later became the norm in the West via The Moral Substitute. Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program was largely intended to co-opt class resentment and introduce welfare without revolutionary violence.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower's "And I don't care what it is" speech drew a contrast between the US and "godless" communist regimes and stated that all moral and just governments needed to have a foundation in religious faith. That might sound incredibly backward and reactionary (or at least old-fashioned) to someone in a more secular society today. However the line that it takes its name from is him stating that he doesn't care about what religion it's based on, and that ones other than Christianity can be valid foundations for society, a rather progressive view at the time, and even moreso than many today hold.
  • The constitution of the Weimar Republic has been much maligned ever since the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Nazis. However, it was written during a time of military defeat and revolutionary upheaval (the national assembly was in Weimar, because Berlin was overrun by communists fighting militias in civil war like fashion). Despite all its failures (one of the most glaring being that two thirds of two thirds of the Reichstag could change the constitution and no part - not even fundamental human rights - was exempt from this) the constitution survived the 1923 hyperinflation, years of a President openly hostile to the Republic and people voting for fascists and communists in increasing numbers. It was also the first democratic constitution to ever actually become law in Germany and the first constitution ever written or drafted without an emperor. Given that the founders of the Weimar Republic had precious little to draw upon and the deck stacked against them, they manged quite phenomenally well. In fact, the constitution of The Bonn Republic explicitly includes a few pieces of the Weimar constitution, which remain the law of the land as of 2016. The Weimar constitution also guaranteed equal representation, one man one vote - and (more crucially) one woman one vote (half a year ahead of the US and even more ahead of Britain and France) and established collective bargaining as a legal right. Arguably if Hitler had been shot in 1932 or never been appointed chancellor, the constitution could have weathered that storm as well.
  • Cuius regio eius religio note  is of course incredibly drastic and did force people to either leave their homes or convert on the whim of a local ruler - sometimes several times in their lifetime. But it was a huge advance over the wanton wars between Catholics and Lutherans of earlier times, when rulers who did not like the branch of Christianity of their neighbor took it as a pretext for war. The principle of Westphalian sovereignty which was made into international law with the peace of 1648 that ended the Thirty Years' War established for the first time that no power - not even the emperor - had any right to attack a sovereign state just because its leader was Lutheran or Calvinist. This was a huge step forward, even though it did little to protect any other religion. Similarly it gave the toleration of Judaism (which depended mostly on the whims of local rulers) a bit more of a legal foundation, even though Jews were still treated worse than the preferred type of Christian and sometimes even worse than the other type of Christian.
  • Yes, the Roman Empire was a slave holding society, and much of its population lived in poverty. They also had plumbing made from lead (plumbum in Latin) and overall environmental pollution was probably worse than in many first world countries today, but they also had a remarkably meritocratic military, a relatively fair system of taxation, built roads so good they were still in use by the time the first cars came around and created a need for wider roads, established peace in Europe on a level never achieved until the end of World War II and even provided a very rudimentary system of aid to the (free) urban poor of Rome (which is incidentally where the term "proletarian" comes from). Rome was also very tolerant on the religious front with basically any type of polytheism allowed and sometimes even openly embraced (at the height of the empire there were temples for Babylonian and Egyptian goddesses in Rome) and Judaism as religio licita (allowed religion) was excluded from the need to worship the emperor.
    • If you absolutely couldn't get away from being a slave, historical documentation in Pompeii suggests you had a better chance of living a decent life if you were a slave in some parts of Rome. Some of those records show that many a successful business owner was a former slave; it was fairly common for an owner to free a slave after a period of time, and some even gave the former slave a financial leg up to build their own life. While they didn't have all the benefits of a citizen, their children did, and there doesn't appear to have been a great deal of stigma attached to marrying a former slave who'd become successful. Slaves could even receive extravagant gifts from their owners: in the ruins of Pompeii was found a heavy gold bracelet inscribed with, "To a slave girl, from her master" engraved in it. While slavery itself usually sucked, at least a Roman slave had a healthy chance of actually being freed.
  • Many argue that compulsory education laws give too much power to teachers and administrators over students, forcing kids and teenagers to sit around all day, read about stuff that doesn't interest them, socialize rather minimally, and possibly endure bullying, all with no direct paynote  or other real incentives. However, their enactment was meant in no small part to put an end to the rampant child labor that plagued the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • The slavery laws as mentoned in The Old Testament. Today, slavery is outlawed both within the US as well as countries that ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, making Somalia the only place in the world where slavery is allowed. Many of those laws were however ahead of their time, the most notable one that a master could not kill his slave without reason, as it took many centuries before a similar law was finally adopted in ancient Rome.
  • Another law from the Old Testament declared in part that the victim of a rape and her rapist were to be considered married. While this may make no sense to a modern reader, this actually invoked a number of secondary laws and traditions that dramatically alter the picture. For instance, a married man was subservient to his wife's parents and male relatives, and obligated to financially support not only her, but her entire extended family. The traditional duties of a Jewish wife of the time, meanwhile, included management of the household's finances and property holdings, with the "proper" role of the husband being advisory rather than authoritative on these matters. She was also free to delegate her husband's physical needs to a servant if she so desired. He was, of course, expected to provide said servant for her.
    • This law has been explained as being an example of why the Oral Torah/commentaries are really, really, really important. With them, the law reads as: If a man rapes a woman who isn't married or engaged, then in addition to all the usual punishments for that type of crime, if she demands it he must pay her (or her father if she's a minor) additional money and marry her, and he may never divorce her on his own initiative.
  • The Talmud laws state that the man is to be considered infertile if his wife testifies he "doesn't shoot as an arrow". Today, we would consider it a most ridiculous fertility test, but considering how many societies before and after denied the man can be at fault in these matters period...
  • Despite its modern-day associations, the guillotine was the first execution method explicitly designed to be quick and painless, at a time when purposely brutal executions like drawing and quartering were still practiced. The same goes for hanging, the gas chamber, and electric chair: while they seem pretty gruesome to us and are rarely used anymore, they were intented as "nicer" ways to kill people.
  • Many of the stereotypical "Jewish" surnames such as Rosenberg or Goldstein are actually ethnically German, and very common among pureblooded Germans. In the late 1700s, Austrian Emperor Joseph II announced that, if Jews wanted to be citizens, they had to Germanize themselves, which included taking "official" German surnames instead of traditional Hebrew ones. While the idea of stripping away someone's identity may seem highly inconsiderate, this was also the first time it was suggested that Jews, after centuries of living as eternal immigrants, could even be European citizens at all. As to why most of those Jews with German surnames are in the United States, well, let's just say there was a backlash towards the Germanization of Jews.
  • The whole idea of a "white race" in the United States, even though it was often used as a bludgeon against "nonwhite races" (particularly Sub-Saharan Africans). It can be hard to comprehend for many modern observers, but the USA of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (where 85%+ of the population was European-descended) was actually considered a very racially diverse place by many Europeans. Why? Because it classified all Europeans as one group and generally equal, which was actually a pretty radical sentiment. This was a time when Northern Italians treated Southern Italians as colonial subjects (kept in poverty via exploitation) rather than fellow citizens and regarded them as racially inferior mongrels, when the Germans regarded the Poles as a degenerate "East Baltic race" prone to violence and of limited mental faculty deserving only ethnic cleansing or death,note  when the British Army of WW-1 (per a 2004 report by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs) gave disobedient Irish troops far harsher punishments than normal because of a racial bias, when a million Irish people under British rule died in a partially-artificial famine and were regarded as deserving of it by much of the British public because of the "selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the Irish people", when Jews were regarded as treacherous "Orientals" in most European countries, etc. While some European immigrant groups did get discriminated against in the US, in particular the aforementioned southern Italians, overall it was very minor compared to what was going on in Europe at the time and people of Jewish, Polish, Neapolitan, Sicilian, etc. descent mingled with people of Anglo or German descent with little issue and without mass genocides, often rising to positions of power.
  • Freakshows are usually seen nowadays as some offensive and denigrating to people with physical disadvantages. However, back in the day they were seen as the only way to make a decent and honest living for deformed human beings. Within their circus they were treated with respect and many enjoyed some form of "celebrity status". As many freakshow performers had a weak health and were rejected by mainstream society, the freakshow was the only way to not go to the warehouses, that keep them in poor condition and gave them an even bigger stigma. Add to that the fact that many freaks were disowned by their blood families (or lost the few relatives that took care of them), so freakshows allow them to make their own families, free of prejudice. Marriages between freaks were common, as well as the more able freaks taking care of the less able.
  • Barry Goldwater, the head of the Republican Party's conservative wing for many years, was and sometimes still is caricatured as a bigoted reactionary. He was a hardline property rights advocate who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because he thought it violated the Constitution's rights to association (though he had supported desegregating the armed forces and personally helped desegregate his home city of Phoenix, he felt government involvement was unethical), and received heavy criticism for his militant anticommunism and extremely hawkish views on foreign policy. That said, in other ways he was way ahead of his time. Notably, Goldwater supported allowing women and gay people into the military back in The ’50s and The '60s, and was extremely critical of the Religious Right's growing influence in the Republican Party.
  • While David Lloyd George might be considered a little too keen to retain colonial power today, he was very enlightened for the 1920s. He generally supported participation of indigenous people in colonial government, and firmly believed that they were effectively equal to Europeans, even if he was insistent that they abide by the British cultural rules and norms.
  • The Cura Annonae aka Grain Dole in ancient Rome. Basically a program to distribute grain to peasants and other poor people, which likely saved a lot of people from starving. Unfortunately, it was so expensive it may have contributed to the eventual fall of Rome.

Alternative Title(s): Shylock Was Comparatively Positive


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