Follow TV Tropes


Innocent Bigot

Go To

"But you're not like other gypsies. They're... evil!"
Quasimodo to Esmeralda, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney)

So you've got a really nice character who comes from a sheltered background. They could be a Sheltered Aristocrat or Spoiled Sweet, or maybe they grew up in a culturally homogeneous community, like a time traveler from a much less global society. Or maybe they're not sheltered, but are a very young child. They're not used to dealing with people from other ethnic/religious/etc. groups, but that doesn't mean they have a problem with those groups. Far from it! In fact, they probably think other cultures are really exotic and cool and wouldn't it be awesome to have a Token Black Friend? This is part of the problem.

When the Innocent Bigot meets characters who don't share their background, their ignorance will lead them to say and do things that are insensitive or downright offensive without realizing it. "Wow, I thought [members of group X] would be [insert stereotype here], but you sure are different!" Or, "I've never met a [member of indigenous group Y] before! It's really cool how you guys live in harmony with nature and stuff!" Another common variant is the male character who was taught to be chivalrous toward women and is surprised to learn that Action Girls aren't fans of male disposability, and also find it insulting to be told to stay back.

Innocent Bigotry is often portrayed as a relatively sympathetic flaw (which can lead to Unfortunate Implications if it's not ultimately suggested that the character ought to take some responsibility for thinking about whether they're doing something offensive). In fact, in a setting in which most other characters are the hardened and mean-spirited kind of bigot, the Innocent Bigot might even be the hero. If the Innocent Bigot is a minor character, it will be Played for Laughs and used to characterize them as well-meaning but also shallow and self-absorbed. If they're a major character, though, expect them to be called on their prejudice. They will be genuinely shocked and remorseful, and probably thank the person who challenged them for opening their eyes. (Rarely do they instead become defensive and hostile, as often happens in Real Life.)

Noble Bigot is a closely related trope. The difference is that the Noble Bigot has attitudes that are overtly bigoted and probably understands perfectly well that their beliefs would be considered offensive by many people, but is a good person otherwise. The Innocent Bigot holds absolutely no malice toward the people they offend and sincerely has no idea that their ideas about other cultures are ignorant, insensitive, and harmful. It is not quite this simple in Real Life, where the Innocent Bigot and the Noble Bigot can subtly overlap (e.g., a character really wants to be kind to people who are different and tries their best, but harbors feelings of fear or resentment deep down which occasionally manifest themselves as crude commentsnote ).

Very often Truth in Television, particularly due to differing social values between cultures and even between different points in a nation's history. Innocently Insensitive is the supertrope. This is a Sister Trope to Taught to Hate, where the character is malicious but the malice wasn't their own idea. The character might grow into a Troubled Sympathetic Bigot, especially if Cerebus Syndrome ensues. Other related tropes include Condescending Compassion, Fair for Its Day, The Ingenue, Mistaken for Racist, Obliviously Evil, Racist Grandma, Values Dissonance, Virginity Makes You Stupid, You Know I'm Black, Right?, You Are a Credit to Your Race, and Not Like Other Girls. For honest error rather than honest ignorance, see Noble Bigot.


    open/close all folders 

  • There was a soap ad where there are two little girls, one white and one black, with the white girl asking the black girl if her family doesn't use soap.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Cross Ange: At the beginning of the series, Ange is this. She may be prejudiced towards the Norma, but sees it as a genetic issue that she wishes to investigate once she is baptized, and her view is no different from everyone else in the World of Mana, including Misty. It naturally takes a dramatic turn when she's exposed as a Norma herself and experiences firsthand how they're treated.

  • A large part of Sarah Silverman's act is based on invoking this, via her character(s).
  • Patton Oswalt has a bit about how he was once with his very young daughter in a Starbucks and when she saw a black man with a long beard and caused her to scream "Monkey!" very loudly. Which he later found out was her thinking he was Rafiki from The Lion King.
  • Russell Peters picked up his young daughter once while he was listening to N.W.A. It's explicit rap, so inevitably she starts singing along the N-word, his attempts to replace it with "potato" in vain. (Although she wasn't using it against anyone, even accidentally; she was just singing along, making this more akin to Innocent Swearing in general.)

    Comic Books 
  • Captain America, in stories set just after he wakes up in the present day, can approach the edges of this trope. In Man out of Time, he meets his first black female doctor, and says, "Well, that's nice!" (She seems very puzzled.)
  • The French comic book The Rabbi's Cat, as well as its Animated Adaptation, feature a Tintin parody (from the Tintin in the Congo period) who is welcoming enough, but seems to think of the protagonists (a Jew and Muslim from Algeria) as completely backward, and expect them to be puzzled by concepts such as hygiene. He's also utterly oblivious of how condescending he can sound.
  • Klara Prast, a 12-year-old immigrant from the 1900s who was brought into the 21st century by the Runaways, has a tendency to say potentially insulting things to people who are different — she once mistook the Young X-Men for demons (and even after learning that mutants are not demons, could be seen staring warily at the burka-clad devout Muslim Dust) and mistook Tigra for a prostitute because of her skimpy clothing. But she doesn't actually mean to insult people; she just has a relatively limited understanding of the modern world. Subverted in Runaways (Rainbow Rowell), where she has been adopted by an interracial gay couple and gets upset when her friends insinuate that her dads might be supervillains.
  • Marv from Sin City causally uses slurs and has some embarrassingly outdated views, but he clearly has no malicious or bigoted intent behind his behavior; he's just a naive, childlike guy reared with a lot of old-fashioned ideas and attitudes. Of note is a scene where he refers to his lesbian parole officer as a dyke in the same breath as generously complimenting her, while also doing so in a way that indicates he doesn't even understand what being gay means, admitting he doesn't understand why she's a lesbian when she's pretty enough to get any man she could want but shrugging it off as a personal choice.
  • In Superman Smashes the Klan, Alexandra, one of the girls at the Unity House, is this in that she tries to be friendly but believes a lot of stereotypes about Chinese people.
  • In the Tintin story The Blue Lotus, Tintin saves a young Chinese boy named Chang from drowning. Chang is confused that Tintin would do this, explaining that he thought all "white devils" were evil. Tintin tells Chang about some of the evil things white men believe about Chinese people, and Chang laughs. The two end up becoming best friends. Fair for Its Day? Very much so. Especially when compared to Tintin in the Congo which is infamous for all its Unfortunate Implications.

    Comic Strips 
  • A common gag in the early comics of The Boondocks, when the Freemans first move to Woodcrest. Though Cindy McPhearson was the usual go-to character for this kind of joke, the teachers and principal of Huey and Riley's school were also fairly common examples of this as well — at least, before they disappeared from the strip.

    Fan Works 
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: Ax comes from a society where the disabled are ostracised, which appalls the humans. In "What if Marco was Deaf?", they spend ages explaining what sign language is and that they don't want to isolate Marco. In "What if Ax joined the team in the first book?", Jake compares his description of Andalite nothlits being treated as outcasts to ghettos.
  • Bonds Through Time: The Adventures of Inuyasha and Kagome: In their initial meeting, Sango assumes that Kagome "tamed" Inuyasha and refers to him as a "credit to his kind."
  • But You Won't Have to Do It Alone turns Usagi's '90s-typical discomfort with same-gender romance into this. It's the reason the other Senshi don't want to come out to her. She apologizes after her friends finally confide in their discomfort. It turns out that Usagi actually doesn't even know you can like both men and women. After this realization, she soon comes to figure out that she's bisexual herself.
  • In the Love Hina fic Contract Labor, it's revealed that part of the reason for Motoko's misandry is because she received bad advice about sex from her great-aunt as a child; as a result, she sincerely believes that sex could never be pleasurable for women and it simply exists to sate men's desires and produce children.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, Johanna Smith-Rhodes is from the Disc's expy of apartheid South Africa. She has never really questioned her society's attitudes to black people before. Arriving in Ankh-Morpork, aged nineteen, she still believes, in a not-really-thought-it-through sort of way, that the white race is superior and that black people are The White Man's Burden; that they are a few levels below the whites because the Gods ordained this and as such are more to be pitied than scolded. It takes a few difficult encounters — such as speaking to a black Howondalandian pupil at the Assassins' School in "Kitchen Kaffir" (a pidgin of native words drawn from several languages) and treating a girl who is a Zulu Princess on the same level as if she were a Bantu housemaid or field-hand — for her to start realising that it might be best to leave Amoral Afrikaner ways of thinking at home, and do differently.
  • Fanon has Apple from Ever After High as an oblivious lesbian who doesn't grasp same-gender relationships well (especially her own feelings for Raven, often with a heavy hint of Selective Obliviousness) due to the conservative, traditionalist nature of her upbringing. This appears in works such as The True Love Loophole and Girlfrenemies.

    Films — Animation 
  • A small example in The Croods. Guy (a Cro Magnon), to the Croods (Neanderthals). He calls them "Cavies", refers to them as "practically animals" and is visibly shocked to learn that Eep is one of them. He gets over it quickly, though, as he gets used to them.
  • Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was raised to believe that Romani are sinful and evil by his adoptive father Claude Frollo. He blatantly tells Esmeralda that she's "not like the others" because she's not evil like "other gypsies". There's some irony to this in that Quasimodo is actually Romani himself, though he doesn't know it.
  • Petrie from The Land Before Time calls Littlefoot a "flathead" several times when he first meets him. It's implied from Littlefoot's reaction — and that Longnecks seem to be a general target of prejudice in the film — that this is something along the lines of a racial slur. Furthermore, he stops using this word as the film goes on and as he gets to know Littlefoot better.
  • In The Simpsons Movie, when Mayor Quimby declares a "code black" emergency:
    Mayor Quimby: I hereby declare a state of emergency: Code Black.
    Lenny: Black? That's the worst color there is. [Lenny turns to Carl and promptly apologizes to him] No offense there, Carl.
    Carl: I get it all the time.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Blast from the Past, Adam (who was raised in a fallout shelter with only his two white parents around, and has social mores calibrated for the early 1960s as a result) greets a black postal worker by exclaiming delightedly, "Oh, my lucky stars! A Negro!" He's similarly bemused when he's told about Eve's Gay Best Friend's sexuality, believing he's simply happy and congratulating him for it.
  • Similarly, Jimmy Livingston from Bubble Boy, due to being reared by The Fundamentalist. When dealing with Pushpop, a Hindu man who's hit his Despair Event Horizon after killing a cow...
    Jimmy: Oh, that's okay, Pushpop. Your religion's all lies.
  • In Cedar Rapids, when Tim first meets his roomie, Ronald, a black man, he initially thinks he's about to be robbed. He soon gets over this, and the two become friends over the course of the movie, and later, business partners.
  • Clerks II:
    • Randal had a Racist Grandma but didn't know it, so he uses slightly obscure derogatory terms for various ethnic groups without realizing they're offensive. He then tries to make amends by "taking back" the term "porch monkey", which fails as hard as you'd expect it to.
    • Likewise, Jay seems to have been entirely ignorant of how insultingly sexist and racist his language is, being completely surprised at being informed that women don't like being called "bitches".
  • After hearing an adult say it, the little white girl in Corrina, Corrina tells her best friend, a young black girl, "I'm a nigger lover." Though the friend objects, she then realizes that she's not sure why it's a mean thing to say, either.
  • In Free Guy, when Guy discovers that Millie finds him charming and funny, he tries to keep his momentum going by telling her a joke. Unfortunately, it's a homophobic joke that Guy heard from one of the players. Millie then advises Guy not to repeat what he hears from trolls.
  • Jojo Rabbit is largely a deconstruction of this trope. Jojo is an indoctrinated 10-year-old member of Hitler Youth who has had Nazi propaganda forced down his throat when he discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in the attic. Through bonding with Elsa, he begins to doubt the Nazi ideology.
  • In Late for Dinner, two friends are on the run from the police in 1962 for killing a man in self-defense (but framed by the witness for murder). One of them is wounded, and the other's kidney is failing. They happen upon a doctor who stitches the bullet wound but, after discovering the failing kidney, offers to cryogenically freeze the two men until a cure is found. They are awoken in 1991 (and even that was by accident), and, still confused as to what happened, go to a hospital. One of them notices a black doctor and says how great it is that they're letting colored people practice medicine now. The doctor is a bit offended but doesn't show it.
  • The young Good Old Boy up-and-comer in Million Dollar Baby reassures Eddie that he "ain't got no problem with niggers." Eddie takes it in stride, accepting on good faith that the guy means well and simply doesn't know any better.
  • Padme is like this in The Phantom Menace according to most sources, as are most citizens of Naboo. They grow up learning to regard the Gungans as uncivilized savages. When the crisis in the movie threatens both races she decides to reveal herself and speak to Boss Nass personally (rather than through her decoy) and humbly beg for assistance. (It works.)
  • In Rush Hour, Jackie Chan's character inadvertently provokes a brawl after saying "What's up, my nigga?" to a black bartender right after he saw Chris Tucker's character say it, not realizing it's considered offensive when a non-black says it.

  • In Brimstone Angels, Brin is pretty freaked out upon meeting the heroine and her twin sister, believing them to be devils (to be fair, the sisters are tieflings, humanoids who bear a strong superficial resemblance to devils and suffer Fantastic Racism as a result, and he'd never actually met a tiefling before). Upon hearing other humans expressing the belief that tieflings are Always Chaotic Evil, Brin feels pretty horrible about the things he said and seeks out the twins to apologize.
  • Mary Bishop from Chrono Hustle is from the Old West, and is thus quite shocked upon finding out that the commander of a space station is a black man, only slightly less shocked than she was upon finding herself on a space station to begin with.
  • In Carl Sagan's novel Contact, the protagonist, a female physicist, gets really tired of receiving "compliments" like "You're so good at this, I forget you're a woman" from her (almost always male) classmates and teachers.
  • John in Dirge for Prester John, doesn't catch on for a long time how offensive he is. He never quite fully grasps how much Pentexore doesn't need Christianity.
  • In the Dragaera books, Aliera (an elf, sort of) considers Vlad (a human) one of her closest friends and has put her life on the line for him more than once. That doesn't stop her from obliviously having conversations about invading the human homeland right in front of him, without giving the slightest indication that it's occurred to her that might bother him. Aliera is a powerful, aristocratic Magic Knight and demigod with a Hair-Trigger Temper, so she doesn't get called on this sort of thing much.
  • While clearly a nice, well-meaning Christian girl, Elsie Dinsmore's belief that black Christians will be made white in Heaven would definitely raise more eyebrows today than in 1867 (when the first book was published).
  • In A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis' memoir of the aftermath of his wife's death, he mentions having told her once that his relationship with her felt more like his friendships with other men than any other relationship he'd ever had with a woman. She had to point out to him that it's a bit insulting if the highest compliment you can pay to a woman is that she's almost like a man, and asked what he'd think if she started praising him for his "feminine virtues". He was convinced. Some of his other books (for instance Mere Christianity) also have comments which come off this way now, saying for instance that of course men should be in charge.
  • Huckleberry Finn (a white preteen boy in the nineteenth century) is understandably like this towards Jim (a black ex-slave). Huck refers to Jim with the N-word and conflates his poor education with black people being unteachable, but he cares about Jim, tries to work to free him from slavery, and doesn't realise that some of the things he says are racist.
  • Gets briefly mentioned in Stephen King's It when the black member of the Losers recalls a time at school (in the 1950s) when another kid was earnestly telling him that "nigger" and "jig" couldn't be bad words because his father used them as compliments; his father would say that someone "worked like a nigger" or did something in "jig-time". He ends up thinking that this sort of completely innocent bigotry is actually more hurtful than open violent racism, because at least you can be angry with the latter, while it's difficult to even have that option with the former.
  • In The Nanny from Moscow by Ivan Schmelyov, the nanny in question is an old lady with a heart of gold but unflattering national stereotypes in her head. When her ward tells her they are going to India, she is very alarmed and brings up some quite horrid slurs. However, she is quick to admit how wrong she was when they do get there and the Indians treat her with nothing but respect and kindness.
  • In Running Out of Time, the main character grew up in an isolated village where the adults were required to teach the children that it was still the nineteenth century. When she is forced to go out into the 1990s-era real world, she considers asking a black girl she meets what it's like to be a "Negro" and commenting on how surprisingly smart she is. Fortunately, she leaves before getting the chance.
  • In The Secret Garden, Martha is one of the few characters who is not intentionally racist against Indian people. However, she uses the term "respectable" to refer to white people and talks about meeting an Indian girl as though it's something novel.
  • Tal Graile-Rerem of The Seventh Tower sometimes comes across this way toward Underfolk, whom he had been taught all his life were a servant class and simply lower beings than the Chosen. To his credit, he very quickly realizes how stupid this is after meeting a few of them, although he does make some insensitive comments out of habit from time to time.
  • In Spinning Silver, Wanda initially thinks of the Mandelstam family as "servants of the Devil" because they're Jewish, but despite the term doesn't have any ill feeling towards them. She asks Panovnote  Mandelstam if he's saying a magic spell over their dinner, which unsettles the Mandelstams, but he politely explains that it's a prayer. Because the Mandelstams are much kinder to Wanda than her own father, she begins to see them as family herself, and she later gets some insight to how it was for them in the village when she accompanies them to the Jewish quarter of the city and feels distinctly out-of-place there.
  • Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird initially is like this due to being a young child who lives in the Deep South during the 1930s, and as a result does not seem to realize for instance that the N-word is offensive at first. As she grows older she realizes the effects of racism and prejudice and averts this trope.
  • In the anonymously-published 1808 novel The Woman Of Colour, the biracial protagonist's young nephew calls her and her Black maid "dirty" for their dark skin. When she explains they are "quite as clean as you," he argues but does listen to her, and he comes to question the more obvious abuses of slavery when the protagonist tells him of them.
  • Yoko: When Yoko's (a Japanese girl) classmates gag at her sushi for containing seaweed and raw fish, they hurt her feelings. However, they weren't intending to be racist; they honestly didn't know that eating those things is normal in Japan. In its sequel, Yoko Writes Her Name, Yoko's classmates Olive and Sylvia see her writing in Japanese, mistake it for random scribbles, and tease her for being a "baby" (since they think she's illiterate).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Da Ali G Show: Sacha Baron Cohen's character Borat is very much this with his antisemitism. He comes across as more pitiable than malicious when, for example, he faces a sweet elderly Jewish couple and acts like they are a pair of rabid dogs which might attack him any moment.
  • Archie Bunker from All in the Family, as neighbor Lionel Jefferson reports, is a bigot because he's an idiot and doesn't know better. At Lionel's engagement party, Archie messed up big time by assuming all black people call their mothers Mammy. Naturally this didn't score points with George Jefferson or with his mother, but he was at least sincerely mistaken.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Mrs. Cooper (Sheldon's mom) has a tendency to do this a lot. She's extremely sweet and the characters love her motherly nature, but she has a lot of stereotypically conservative Texas views instilled into her, so she doesn't quite understand that offering Raj an exorcism to get rid of the foreign demons that prevent him from talking to women or referring to the Catholic church she visits as sweet "for your rosary rattlers" aren't politically correct things to say. Leonard had to offer to make her a list of politically incorrect terms she isn't allowed to say (to which she replied "that'd be mighty white of you"). Of course, when the guys visit the church they aren't a lot better; everyone but Leonard manages to get entirely the wrong end of the stick about praying for things.
    • Sheldon himself can come across as this. He unintentionally sexually harassed his assistant Alex by telling her she couldn't help herself as a woman, being a slave to her body's desires. He does the same thing to the HR woman and even later gives her a DVD set of Roots (she's black). He later gives an Asian-American (possibly) professor the complete Jackie Chan collection. After finding out that wasn't appropriate he apologizes to the former with a stereotypical black handshake.
    • Raj's Parents and Howard's mom qualify as well.
  • Big Sky: Danielle later realizes she was this with Jerrie, saying she'd been told how people who are openly bigots aren't so dangerous as ones who feel that they're progressives (such as her) that can be blind to their own failings. She apologizes for her transphobic remarks to Jerrie after this, who kindly says there's hope for her.
  • Brenda's parents in The Closer are from the south and have old-fashioned values. One Christmas, Brenda's parents gave Det. Sanchez a pair of maracas for work since he has so many at home. Sanchez just accepted them.
  • Pierce Hawthorne in Community frequently makes well-intentioned comments that the other characters consider bigoted, especially in the first season. In this case, generational differences play a role.
  • In an interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart just after Obama's election, Larry Wilmore jokingly said that the thing he most looked forward to in the coming four years was developing a sense of "black liberal guilt." He then listed off some innocent-sounding but terribly condescending comments about how much he "admired" people of other races. When Jon took offense, Larry was pretty pleased: "Oh, good, I'm getting it right. I really have to work at this stuff. It's not a second nature to me like it is with you."
  • Doctor Who:
    • Second Doctor companion Jamie has some fairly sexist beliefs, like that women should be protected from anything dangerous and how girls are better when they act like a Proper Lady. But he has no actual problem treating women as equals, and in fact doesn't even seem to know why he believes these things at all — the implication is that he's basically good-hearted but being from the 18th Century he's never had to think about gender politics much.
      Jamie: Ah, now, Lady Jennifer, I don't think you should come.
      Jennifer: Because I'm a woman?
      Jamie: No!... Er, well, in a way, yes.
      Jennifer: That settles it then. I'm certainly coming.
    • The Brigadier's British provincialism tends to cause him to be less sensitive to other cultures than the Doctor is:
      Brigadier: We are going to see the new Chinese delegate, Mister Fu Peng.
      The Doctor: Fu Peng? He must be Hokkien.
      Brigadier: No, no, no, Doctor, he's Chinese. Now, come along.
    • Adric, a companion of the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, occasionally has moments like this, largely due to his limited social skills:
      Adric: That's the trouble with women. Mindless, impatient, and bossy.
      Tegan: You chauvinist! I heard that!
      Adric: You were meant to.
      Nyssa: I heard it too. You mean this? [she brandishes a maths textbook] Mindless!
      Adric: Well, yes. But you're not a woman.
      Nyssa: I'm not?
      Adric: No, you're only a girl.
    • A partial case with William Shakespeare. When meeting Martha (who's already worried about being sold into slavery in this time), the Bard refers to her as a "delicious blackamoor lady." Martha is a bit offended by the term, but Shakespeare apologizes and asks if she would prefer any of the other terms his society claims should be used: "An Ethiop girl? A swarth? A Queen of Afric?" The Doctor points out that this is a case of political correctness, just like in modern times, so Shakespeare wasn't being offensive; in fact, he was trying to be polite.
  • Everybody Hates Chris: Miss Morello. Though seemingly well-intentioned and genuinely supportive of Chris, she constantly makes ridiculous assumptions about his family life and financial situation based on his race, and usually refuses to believe Chris when he attempts to correct her. She goes so far as to guess that Chris has at least 15 half-siblings and that his mother is single and on drugs. The height of this occurs when Chris attempts to apply for affirmative action at an elite school so that he can attend high school with his best friend Greg, and is initially accepted purely because of the ridiculous claims Miss Morello had made about Chris's family situation being a complete trainwreck. After this is discovered, Miss Morello is completely shocked and asks Chris why he would lie, to which he simply shakes his head in disdain. After becoming the principal of Chris's high school in season 4, she also does this to a Puerto Rican teacher who Chris convinces to break curriculum by showing movies in class as a learning tool, stating that she "doesn't know how they do it in Puerto Rico," but in America teachers know not to stray from curriculum.
  • How I Met Your Mother: When Marshall recalls the last time he saw him alive he remembers his dad making some well meaning, but awkward, declarations of how trustworthy the Koreans are, at one point, due to both being of an older generation on top of being raised in a small town.
  • Game of Thrones: Talisa was this in her backstory. She recalls never questioning living in slave-dependent Volantis until a slave committed a capital offense to save her brother.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street:
    • Bayliss, who's less malicious as he is blinkered in his heteronormative attitudes and unaware of his own biases. He's frequently called out by Pembleton and Lewis for repeatedly assuming that poor, black suspects are automatically guilty, and he has a deep disgust for BDSM that he doesn't seem entirely aware of.
    • Deconstructed in "Colors". Bayliss's cousin Jim shoots Turkish exchange student Hikmet Gershel in perceived self-defense, and Pembleton investigates. He pieces together that Gershel had thought he was at a KISS-themed party and had mistaken Jim's warnings for a joke, and pushed for his conviction much to Bayliss's anger. When Jim is acquitted and Bayliss confronts Pembleton about it, Pembleton bluntly tells Bayliss that Jim is unaware of his own racism, which paradoxically makes him more dangerous — now he believes he shot the student out of racism and that he intends to leave Baltimore out of guilt.
      Bayliss: My cousin could not consciously kill someone.
      Pembleton: I don't think it was premeditated. I think it was inherent. Jim's racism is so much a part of him, that he didn't have a chance to think about what he was doing. Jim is worse than a Klansman. 'Cause at least in their white sheets, they are recognizable. Your cousin's brand of bigotry is much more frightening because, like still water, it runs deep. He doesn't even see it himself.
  • Arthur from Merlin is a notable example. His best friend is a wizard, but since he doesn't know, he agrees with his father's policy that all magic users are evil. As such, there are quite a few scenes where Arthur discusses the evils of magic with Merlin, who has been working to prove him wrong. Arthur seems to veer between this and a Noble Bigot. He's often far more tolerant of magic than his father, but his natural inclination is to mistrust it. Similarly, he persecutes those who practice it simply because it's against the law in Camelot. Overall, it seems more that he doesn't actually care about magic, as long as it stays out of Camelot.
  • Morello from Orange Is the New Black asks Sophia, a trans woman, if she and her wife "share" Mother's Day. Okay, relatively innocent question. But she refers to Sophia as a "lady-man" while she's asking it. Sophia, understandably irritated, asks, "You really want to be calling me a lady-man when I got a fist full of your hair in my hand?"
    Morello: I just thought it sounded nice. I don't know these things. That's why I'm asking questions.
    Sophia: [sigh] ...We're sharing the day.
  • Peacemaker (2022): Peacemaker himself constantly makes comments about the attractiveness of his female colleagues, is often referred to as "that racist supervillain" because he seems to kill a disproportionate number of non-white criminals, and thinks climate change is a hoax because he gets all his news off Facebook. But he does genuinely intend his comments as compliments (he never comments on his plus-size coworker), he kills all criminals (and promises to be less trusting of white people so he'll kill more of them), and he has no reason to disbelieve what he hears in his Facebook bubble. Not to mention we meet his father, the explicitly white-supremacist supervillain White Dragon, who constantly disparages Peacemaker for being a "candy-ass" because apparently he doesn't kill enough people. In a way, it's the opposite of the sheltered bigot; Peacemaker's father is so much worse that he considers his son a "limp-dicked liberal commie," so it makes sense that Peacemaker would genuinely consider himself a feminist LGBT ally when that is what he's comparing himself to.
  • In almost every season of The Real World, there's one roommate who comes from a sheltered background and genuinely sees nothing wrong with their... less than enlightened views. They usually come around by the end. Examples that come to mind include Julie from the New Orleans season — a Mormon girl from Utah who would still call minorities "colored", and Mike (a.k.a. The Miz) from "Back to New York", who came from a Cleveland suburb known for its racial tension and would repeat the racist things his uncle would say, much to the other roommates' chagrin.
  • Handled very well on Scrubs:
    • Elliot was raised in an exclusive, white, upper-class environment and when she comes to work at Sacred Heart, she inadvertently offends almost everybody because she has never been in a mixed-race, mixed-class environment. She gradually learns what is offensive and eventually becomes best friends with Carla, who originally hated Elliot's ignorance and bigotry.
    • True of J.D. as well, in a less overt way. He and Turk are best friends and have a relationship that goes beyond best frienditude. Their relationship is certainly based on deep feeling and similarities — but J.D. frequently references Turk's blackness, and often in what would be an offensive way coming from someone else. Turk calls him out on it when he goes too far, but more often there's humour based around the fact that Turk is OK with J.D.'s innocent attitude to Turk's blackness. The point is that J.D. clearly regards Turk's race as the coolest thing, and any comments he makes are coming from a place of innocent admiration. Turk, for his part, is as innocent and immature as J.D. and is able to accept comments on that basis too.
  • Sesame Street: One sketch has two young boys playing Cowboys and Indians and one of them, Rick, speaking in Tonto Talk. Until a Native American boy calls them out, the two white boys didn't realise they were being offensive, since, due to what they'd seen on TV, they thought Native Americans actually talked like that.
  • Ichabod Crane of Sleepy Hollow has a moment of this in the Pilot when he asks African-American police officer Abbie Mills if she's "been emancipated." He's been asleep for the last 200+ years, so it takes some time for him to adjust. Since he does not know how the Civil War ended, it is a reasonable question. Later, he seems more bemused by a female police officer than an African-American one.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Dr. Bashir, chief medical officer of Deep Space Nine, comes from the Federation and is thus pretty much free of prejudice along gender, race, or sexual orientation lines... but he still calls working on Bajor "real frontier medicine" to the face of a Bajoran patriot. Some commentators have noted that the very name of the series implies this trope by referring to a space station located near a civilized planet as Deep Space Nine, seemingly just because it is far from Earth.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise: When Shran calls Archer "pinkskin", it's a combination of Fantastic Slur and Insult of Endearment. When his (adorable) daughter does it, it's clearly this trope.
  • The infamous Tokyo Breakfast, a spoof sitcom pilot produced for Japan One Television, is all about this trope. It features a family of Japanese hip-hop fans who keep addressing each other as "my nigga." They clearly have no idea of the connotations and history that word has in English. In the end, a black delivery guy comes to ask if anyone there ordered a case of beer, and they all look up at him and joyfully shout, "We did, nigga!"
  • Clement McDonald from Torchwood: Children of Earth. Seeing as he was institutionalized, and therefore pretty effectively cut off from the outside world, for 40 odd years, it's not surprising that some of his language comes off as... unsavoury.
    Clement: Who's the queer?

  • Magnus of The Adventure Zone: Balance playfully calls Carey, a dragon-born, "lizard." The last time, she gives him a stern "don't fucking call me that" in response.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Based on a few moments both on and off-screen, Vince Mcmahon qualifies. Particularly, calling John Cena the N-word and mistaking Michael Tarver for Shelton Benjamin.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Space 1889 this behavior would be perfectly good roleplaying in many situations. For instance, in the introductory adventure on the moon, it is perfectly reasonable for the player characters to react to the insect-like Selenites with something like: "Gosh, I thought giant ants would be stupid, hive-minded and vicious — but you're just people who just happens to look really unpleasant to us."

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • Leliana acts like this if you play as an elf. If you're Dalish, she'll earnestly tell you that you've shown her "how wrong people are about the Dalish" and how wonderful it is that you're such a spiritual people with a deep connection to the land. If you're a City Elf or an Elf Mage, she says she could see you as a servant for an Orlesian noble and that you could be paid handsomely as such. In either case, if you respond that you're offended, she will be surprised and apologize, and later thank you for helping her understand what was wrong with the way she'd been thinking.
    • When you first meet the king as anything but a human noble you'll get an appropriate variant on this and have an option to call him on it.
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance: Ike refers to the Laguz as sub-human, but only because he'd never met one before and it was the only name he knew for them. When one gets angry at him, he immediately apologizes.
  • Lonely Wolf Treat: Even though Mochi tries to be nice to Treat after Treat saves her life, she still unintentionally invokes You Are A Credit Toyour Race to defend her against the townspeople. She grows out of it after Treat asks her to stop.
    Mochi: I'm glad we could become friends! Even though you're a wolf, you've been so nice to me all day!
    Treat: Could you... stop saying that?
    Mochi: Huh? Saying what?
    Treat: ...When you say "even though you're a wolf", and try to compliment me... doesn't that assume wolves are supposed to be bad?
    Mochi: N-no! It's not that I think ALL wolves are bad... it's just, I always thought they can't resist eating bunnies like me!
    Treat: But that's the problem.
    Mochi: ...Huh? but normally... That's just how it is, right? It's just nature!
    Treat: I know... I just... don't want anyone to think I'm bad... that wolves are bad...
  • Mass Effect:
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Raiden assumes a poncho and sombrero is appropriate incognito for modern-day Mexico and doesn't seem to understand why this is wrong until his Codec contacts spell it out for him later. Passers-by laugh at the "cyborg mariachi".
  • During the controversy over the depiction of Africans in Resident Evil 5, several commentators pointed out that since Capcom is a Japanese company and Japan is fairly racially homogeneous, the individuals responsible for the game probably were genuinely unaware that imagery portraying white heroes being menaced by hordes of savage and bestial black people has a long history in racist propaganda. Capcom's American division has since pledged to communicate better with the home office when these things come up.
  • Cap'n Cuttlefish in Splatoon 2. Being a veteran of a war against the Octarians, he gets very awkward when attempting to befriend them, despite sincerely wanting to help mend the old wounds between the two species. While the original Japanese dialogue has him simply repeat ad nauseam that anyone who likes the Calamari Inkantation is a friend whenever the topic comes up, the English localization has him fall into this, attempting to shower Marina with compliments after Pearl demands that he be extra nice to the Octoling. Leading to lines like "you are so articulate" and "i don't see species". Funnily enough, he used to be good friends with an Octarian in his youth, before the war; DJ Octavio, no less.
  • Tales of Symphonia:
    • Zelos's feelings toward half-elves are like this. A bit of a subversion in that he isn't quite "innocent," in the traditional way, however the game shows his feelings as inevitably derived from a society that feels the same way he does. Zelos's initial dislike for half-elves is also pretty justified when you learn that his mother was killed by the half-elf mistress of his father (Seles's mother). So there's that. Even with the friction between him and Genis, though he thinks that Genis and Raine seem like nice enough people and never protests to them being in Lloyd's group, finding common ground in that the Church isn't fond of him either. Over the course of the game, you can see his development — by the end, he is even willing to risk his life to save a half-elf named Kate from execution by her father ( the Pope). When the group is talking to her after the rescue, he tells her "it's a good thing [she] takes after [her] mother." This culminates in a Z-Skit where he and Regal are discussing the racism against half-elves in Tethe'alla.
      Zelos: Well, anyway, now that he's out of the way, I can relax a little. And discrimination against half-elves may soften some, too.
      Regal: I wouldn't be so sure about that. Just because the Pope has fallen, does not mean people's minds will change that easily.
      Zelos: That's why they've got me to help. The great Zelos, friend of half-elves!
    • In a softer version, we have Lloyd, who at first seems to equate Desians with half-elves (as the pool of reference is mostly NPCs, the player may feel this way too). When the group goes out into the world, he learns that while Desians are half-elves, not all half-elves are Desians. Being the innocent, good-hearted idiot he is, his acceptance of this is quick. When it is revealed that both Genis and Raine are half-elves, he is surprised by the fact, but couldn't care less what their race is. He only cares about saving his best friend and teacher from being put to death by the Imperial Knights.
  • In The Walking Dead, Kenny wonders if Lee, the African-American protagonist, can pick a lock, on account of him being... "urban". Lee is mildly offended before Kenny apologises, claiming that crazy shit just comes out of his mouth because he's from Florida.
  • Young BJ Blazkowicz is revealed to have been one in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, largely due to his father being an Abusive Parent who blamed everyone else for his failing business. Upon Billy's first meeting with Billie, a young black girl, he runs down the Long List of why his daddy wouldn't want him playing with her while looking for tadpoles to catch.

  • In Dumbing of Age, Joyce frequently makes offensive remarks to non-Christians (especially atheists), due to her sheltered, homeschooled environment.
  • Teresa in Exiern really likes and admires Tiffany, a northern barbarian, to the point of calling her one of the country's greatest heroes. She also genuinely believes that northerners have physical differences in their brains that make them more violent and less literate than other ethnic groups.
  • Kankri from Homestuck tries hard to be sensitive to all different kinds of people and will eagerly rattle off social justice spiels to anyone who will listen (or, failing that, anyone who is incapable of running away) but his attempts to defend people often just come across as back-handedly offensive.
  • The Petri Dish: A Running Gag with Thaddeus. He doesn't dislike black people, in fact whenever it's Black History Month, he tries to celebrate them. Unfortunately, he does so by stroking a black person's afro, wearing a dreadlocked wig and using words like "irie" and "mon", and changing his skin to black and his hair to an afro, all the while using words like "trippin'".
  • Denmark in Scandinavia and the World, making fun of the stereotype that all Danes are racist without realizing it. As for the trope image, that particular situation is thankfully defused... until Denmark loudly asks why no one is freaked out by the talking monkey.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Emil has moments of this both in-universe and at a meta-level. Him encountering a piece of Chinese writing by chance and calling it "Kung Fu" due to not knowing the correct name serves as a reminder that the region of the world in which he lives has lost contact with Asia several decades ago. When it comes to the surviving nations to which he isn't native, he's shown asking a Finn if it's true that her country doesn't have any electricity and expressing doubts about Norway having a "proper civilization", but to otherwise have no ill feelings towards the inhabitants of either country.

    Web Videos 
  • The premise of Ask Lovecraft is that the famous horror author has been brought Back from the Dead to answer questions on the internet. While he seems to have gotten the hang of some modern technology, he has yet to acclimate to modern social norms.
  • Part of Donnie's Character Development in Demo Reel is realizing that dubbing over Tacoma's character's voices is racist and having Rebecca's Michael Bay character just be a "slut" is sexist, and by the fourth episode he's giving them better roles.
  • Cromwell in Shadowrun Corporate Sins who's a Troll just can't understand why Humans, Elves, and Dwarves get offended at being called "piggies", "twinges", and "stumps", respectively.
  • Stupid Kids: In Towner örökség (Towner legacy), when a black person visits the titular trio.
Boti: You will not believe what I found!
Bazsi: You stupid racist!
  • Asuna falls prey to this in Sword Art Online Abridged when interacting with Agil, a black player who goes by Tiffany in this treatment. She tries not to be racist around him and so resorts to painfully stilted Jive Turkey speech, which pisses him off, and apologizes for using phrases like "a pot calling the kettle black."
    Agil/Tiffany: What? It's a turn of phrase, it's got nothing to do with race.
    Asuna: I'm sorry! It's just, you look like a very angry black man.
    Tiffany: Okay, now you see that? That was racist.
    Kirito: [grinning] Ah, this is great, see? We're learnin' stuff. But in all seriousness, Tiff, could'ja check out this weapon before Asuna starts a full-on race war?

    Western Animation 
  • Allen in Allen Gregory has misinformed views over Hispanics, thinking one of the Hispanic students works as a janitor in the cafeteria because he sees him there all the time and proceeds to "fire" him, even though Allen is just a student himself. Allen gets this view from his father, Richard, who also has the same misguided views.
  • In Archer, Ron Cadillac can be guilty of this. When praising Lana's leadership abilities, he says that she seems capable, and reminds him of his head mechanic in Yonkers. "He's a black!" Her response is a shocked "Wow", to which he brightly and proudly replies "I know, head mechanic!" This is still preferable to his wife Mallory Archer, who's not so innocent.
  • More or less the plot of the Arthur episode "Dear Adil" which has the Aesop was about cultural stereotypes considering how Arthur makes false assumptions about his Turkish pen pal thanks to thinking that an Indiana Jones / Tintin-esque comic book was an accurate depiction. Although Alberto tells him not to beat himself too much considering how he had similarly weird ideas about America due to the TV shows he watched while he was still living in Ecuador.
  • Princess Clara of Drawn Together is this, although the "innocent" part started to dissolve as the series went on. In the first episode, she mistakes Foxxy for a servant and her attempts to apologize only end up ending up in her saying more racist things. Finally, she says that her father, who is "so wise," told her to cut holes in can rings to prevent them from getting lodged in people's blowholes, causing Foxxy to realize that she got her beliefs from her father.
  • In an episode of Justice League, the team ends up in a dimension that's an Affectionate Parody of The Golden Age of Comic Books, with social mores similar to those of the 1950s United States. One of the superheroes there, a white man, sincerely tells John Stewart, the African-American Green Lantern, "You're a credit to your people, son." It's clear that he genuinely means it as a compliment, and it probably is a genuinely forward-thinking thing to say by the standards of that universe. (John is obviously not pleased, but he's understanding enough to take it in the spirit it was intended.)
  • King of the Hill:
    • After advice from black comedian Booda Sack, Bobby looks up jokes about white people to develop comedy material, which leads him to a White Nationalist website. And when he shares the jokes at the comedy club, in front of a black audience, it goes as well as you would expect. He's obviously not racist, just doesn't understand what he's saying is offensive.
    • There is also Bobby's "What are ya talking about?" routine, in which he impersonates an Alter Kocker and doesn't realize that's why people are laughing.
  • In the Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness episode "Serpent's Tooth", when Fantastic Racism against snakes is flaring up in the village, Po "defends" Viper by saying she's not like other snakes, even if it is creepy that she's got no limbs and unhinges her jaw to eat. Viper does not appreciate this as much as he expected.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, unsurprisingly, has some cases of Fantastic Racism:
    • Rarity's fallen into this a couple of times. Played straight when she breaks down into tears when called a "mule", wailing about how mules are ugly and equating it to an insult, and once subverted when she described Zecora's striped coat as "garish" without realizing Zecora was a zebra and the stripes weren't a fashion statement (though she did faint at the thought of a naturally striped coat when it was pointed out).
    • Rainbow Dash, similarly, once let slip the phrase "stubborn as a mule" but immediately realized it to be an in-universe slur and apologized to a nearby mule who didn't take offense.
    • When Trenderhoof (a unicorn writer) falls for Applejack (an earth pony farmer), he remarks to her that he has "such respect for the work ethic of earth ponies." He is genuinely well-meaning with it and doesn't realize it is a case of discrimination, but Applejack is put off by it all the same.
    • Ember, the new Dragon Lord. While she doesn't hate ponies like other dragons, she clearly doesn't understand them and her behavior towards them lapses into a sort of casual, oblivious speciesism. She remarks on meeting Starlight that pony names have "lots of lights and shiny things" in them, and she has trouble telling Starlight and Twilight apart because they look the same to her; purple ponies with purple manes and shiny things for cutie marks.
  • In A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, one episode has Shaggy and Scooby excited to meet Daphne's Native American love interest... however, they greet him in Tonto Talk, not realising that's offensive. Daphne probably does, however, if her “And me embarrassed” is any indication.
  • Peridot from Steven Universe is one of these towards the Crystal Gems, resulting from the way the Homeworld caste works. An entire episode revolves around her disbelief that Pearl, who would be nothing more than a low-class servant on their home planet, has any sort of engineering prowess (her designated purpose).
  • American Ranger is the Captain America expy from Supermansion, and falls into the same trap. On a trip to the White House, he mistakes President Obama and Justice Sotomayor for servants.


Video Example(s):


Krazy Kwilting Klub

Ian and Anthony obliviously give their qwilting club Ku Klux Klan theming, causing their black friend interested in the club before the revelation to bow out.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / InnocentBigot

Media sources: