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Majored in Western Hypocrisy

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"From the number of cannibal village chiefs with Oxford or Harvard degrees, I'd say someone better investigate what they teach in law school."
Recon 5

This trope refers to Western (often Oxbridge or Ivy League) educated foreign characters who are encountered by Westerners. Whether heroic or evil, a typical plot is for them to either be assumed to be an "ignorant native" or else use Obfuscating Stupidity as a Fauxreigner before revealing their education to Western characters.

Also frequent is a comment to the effect that while they gained skills from this education, something they experienced added to their revulsion for the West, whether it was unpleasant aspects of Western culture in general or the fact that the Westerners were racist toward the character (the latter is especially common in works taking place in time periods when racism was more openly acceptable).

This is Truth in Television to a great degree: many great universities were never racially segregated, and foreigners of the most exotic varieties were welcome to attend them, though in practice few ever did. Those who did tended to be the most upper of the upper class: the wealthiest and/or most talented from their homelands — more or less destined for greatness once they returned home.

May employ a Completely Unnecessary Translator. When a white American does the opposite of this, that's Mighty Whitey. See also You Are a Credit to Your Race, when a character gets condescendingly congratulated for their contributions to civilization. Compare We Have Those, Too, for another way someone who assumes a certain level of cultural superiority might embarrass themselves.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Area 88 manga, Asranian prince Saki Vashtar was educated in London. In spite of this (or because of it), Saki is very suspicious of western powers seeking to take advantage of Asran's civil war. He also opposes Asran selling its oil rights to foreign powers, even though it could drastically improve the standard of living of the Asranian people.

    Comic Books 
  • Black Panther:
    • The titular Panther/ T'Challa is the King of Wakanda, a historically secretive African nation, but studied abroad in his youth and earned a Ph.D. in Physics from Oxford. Wakanda also happens to be one of the most advanced societies on the planet, with a history of demolishing anyone who mistakes them for an easy target.
    • Erik Killmonger is even worse in this regard as he wants to return Wakanda to its old way, but he was raised in America and graduated from MIT.
  • Deathstroke: Christopher Priest's quasi-villainous Black Panther Captain Ersatz in Deathstroke (Rebirth) and Justice League Rebirth, the Red Lion, went to the UK's Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. (Truth in Television, The Other Wiki's page of notable Sandhurst alumni includes so many foreign dignitaries it has to separate the "Royalty" section by country.)
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: In Carl Barks's 1943 comic "Donald Duck and the Mummy's Curse", Donald is mistakenly sealed into a mummy sarcophagus that is shipped back to Egypt to be ceremonially reinterred by "the Bey of El Dagga", who wears the traditional garb of an Egyptian pharaoh and wants to purge all foreign influences from his land. When the Bey's ministers refuse to believe Huey, Dewey and Louie's story, they ask one simple question: did the mummies eat the food laid beside the sarcophagi as offerings? The ministers respond, of course they did! The Bey immediately orders them released, saying that he may be an Egyptian traditionalist, but if there's one thing he learned at "Yarvard University", it's that "mummies don't eat!"
  • Fantastic Four: Doctor Doom, the son of a doctor and a sorceress, hailed from the impoverished Central European nation of Latveria. He traveled to and began an education in the United States — being a classmate of one Reed Richards — before returning to his home country and conquering it using his vast knowledge of science and magic. This is slightly subverted in that he never completed said education. The "Doctor" in his name is entirely self-bestowed.
  • The Flash: Lawrence in the Rogues' "New Year's Evil" story is the demon-summoning nephew of a modern-day Asian warlord and has an Oxford education.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel): Taken one step further in an issue of G.I. Joe Special Missions where the Joes are tasked with escorting the crown prince of "Equatorial Kalingaland" from his Cambridge lectures to back home. They expect to find a young man who studies there, but he is revealed to be middle-aged and he teaches at Cambridge. Western Literature, specifically.
  • Green Arrow: A Nigerian warlord who calls his gang "The Whites":
    Oga: For centuries you have stolen everything from us — our land, our bodies, our diamonds and gold, our coffee, even our chocolate. In response I ate up all your strategies, your imperialist privilege — studying at Oxford, at Princeton — and brought them home as my weapon. Call it an exercise in cultural appropriation. So yes, we are the Whites. We are the pillagers, the blood-starved neo-colonialists. And you know what? We're winning. Your way works.
  • Justice League of America: Subverted in the Keith Giffen era of the Justice League. The noble savages of Kooey Kooey Kooey send a promising son to the mainland to learn at Oxford — because they want to modernize the island. They embrace Western Culture as soon as possible.
  • Rulah, Jungle Goddess: In "The Deadly Dust" (Zoot Comics #11), Rulah battles Zandu, a native dictator, who boasts of having been "educated at the white man's school" and uses western military techniques to subjugate his fellow Africans, whom he regards as primitive savages.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dr. Kengh Lee of the Chinese insurgents in Battle Beneath The Earth studied in Western universities, and is kind enough to compliment them. Then he returns to work on destroying the United States with atom bombs.
  • In The Bridge on the River Kwai, Colonel Saito studied at London Polytechnic before the war. He notes that he originally wanted to be an artist, but after finding his artistic skills lacking switched to engineering instead while also hoping to help Japan's military endeavors with the latter in the future. He brings up this bit of his personal history to Lt. Colonel Nicholson while preparing a meal of corned beef and scotch (the latter of which he claims to prefer to sake), implying that he developed his taste for these staples of British cuisine there.
  • In Carry On Up the Khyber, the Khasi of Kalabar makes a point of mentioning that he was educated at Oxford. Because it's a Carry On... film, this only comes up because of a discussion of Casual Kink.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Chattar Lal, prime minister to the Maharaja of Pankot, attended Oxford.
  • A deleted scene from Iron Man has the Persian-descended Yinsen mention how he was backgammon champion at Cambridge. Tony Stark, an MIT grad, scoffs at the mention of the place and subtly implies that he taught there once.
  • James Bond:
    • Die Another Day: The Trope Namer. What's even funnier about the line is that Colonel Moon speaks it with an air of someone who sees the Western world and its inhabitants as completely beneath him (Truth in Television as this is the cultural attitude of North Korea). Adding to his hypocrisy is his collection of Western-imported sports cars, a British girlfriend in the form of Miranda Frost, and his undergoing plastic surgery that transforms him into a British playboy with the intent of furthering his scheme of destroying the land mines in the demilitarized zone so that North Korea can retake South Korea. That the reason he received an education in the West in the first place was that his father wanted him to be a bridge between the West and North Korea makes it a bit sad.
      Colonel Moon: I know all about the UN. I studied at Oxford and Harvard. Majored in Western hypocrisy.
    • An earlier, and heroic, example in The Living Daylights, Bond and the villain's ex-girlfriend Kara are locked up in a Russian jail in Afghanistan next to an unfortunate Afghan peasant scheduled to be shot for getting too close to the base. They help each other escape and when Bond and Kara are nearly captured and killed by the Mujahideen, the Afghan resistance, the peasant speaks up for them...and soon after reveals that he is actually Kamran Shah, the deputy leader of the resistance in the region, and an Oxford-educated Cultured Badass.
      Shah: Please forgive the theatricals, it's a hangover from my Oxford days.
    • Also used in The World Is Not Enough by Bond himself. When impersonating a Russian scientist on Renard's team, Dr. Christmas Jones compliments his control of English. His response (in Russian): "I studied at Oxford" (which his real identity did). It's just passable enough to avoid immediate scrutiny, but Dr. Jones figures out he's an imposter and later confronts him...prompting Renard and his men to start a shootout before detonating their bomb.
  • Jane and the Lost City, based on the Fanservice-heavy British comic strip and set in Africa during World War II, has the main characters get captured by the "Leopard Queen", a half-naked female African tribal ruler. When Jane punches her out, the up-till-then silent Leopard Queen suddenly starts talking — and reveals that she not only understands English but styles herself as an Englishwoman, proper accent and all.
  • Martin Scorsese's Kundun averts this. The Dalai Lama learns several languages and gets an education in Western culture and is interested in modern technology like cars, radios, photographs, and movies, however, he is raised within a traditional milieu at the Potala Palace in Lhasa.
  • In Lord of War Yuri takes a moment to quickly mention that African warlord Andre Baptiste (who will kill at a moment's notice and defends practices like using Child Soldiers) is Western educated.
  • In The Mask of Fu Manchu, it is mentioned that Fu Manchu has a doctorate of philosophy from Edinburgh, a doctorate in law from Christ's College, and a doctorate in medicine from Harvard.
    My friends, out of courtesy, call me Doctor.
  • Night at the Museum: Ahkmenrah, though, of course, he couldn't have actually studied there — instead, his knowledge comes from being kept in the Cambridge Egyptology department.
  • The Peacemaker: The scientist who dismantles the Russian nuclear warhead for the terrorists is identified as a Pakistani national with a PhD in Astrophysics from Harvard. Colonel Devoe wryly comments, "that's right, people, we educated half the world's terrorists."
  • In Tora! Tora! Tora!, the trope is inverted: Admiral Yamamoto studied at Harvard and served as a liaison officer in Washington. He warns that the Americans are proud and just.

  • A famous Russian joke from the Soviet era:
    Two cannibal tribes established an alliance and conquered a third. As the victorious chiefs feast on their defeated counterpart, they have the following conversation:
    Cannibal chief 1: Not very tasty.
    Cannibal chief 2: Yep. Stringy too.
    Cannibal chief 1: *chewing* Still better than what we had to eat at the Lumumba University refectory.

    (For reference, the Patrice Lumumba University (known as the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia from 1992 to 2023) in Moscow specializes in educating foreigners, often from developing countries.)

  • Axis of Time: The monstrous Hideki.
  • Babar may be a colonial allegory, with the Elephant King representing Western-educated leaders who are looked upon favorably by European powers (in this case France).
  • The basic premise of Babel, or the Necessity of Violence deals with foreign students being given scholarships to Oxford to help Britain maintain its colonial hegemony.
  • Evelyn Waugh's novel Black Mischief has the Emperor Seth of the fictional African country Azania, who includes among his numerous titles a bachelor of arts degree at Oxford. The character is an interesting combination of strawman liberal, Well-Intentioned Extremist, and Tragic Hero.
  • A heroic example in Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series. Rescued from the sea while unconscious (the rest of his ship's crew choose death), Lieutenant Tamatsu Shinya of the Imperial Japanese Navy pretends to be ignorant of his captors' language. However, he understands them perfectly, having studied at Berkeley before the war. After finally revealing his fluency in English, he immediately offers his services to the crew of the Walker until such time as they return to our world. Indeed, he proves to be a loyal and valuable officer, eventually becoming a general in The Alliance. His education (compared to most of the Walker crew) is also what allows him to recognize the religious language of the Lemurians as Latin. He is the first to establish communication with them.
  • Discworld by Terry Pratchett
    • Pyramids: Teppic, the crown prince of Djelibeybi, is sent by his father to Ankh-Morpork to be educated at the Assassin's Guild (the closest thing to a posh British public school on the Disc), which creates Culture Clash when he comes home to assume the throne.
    • Jingo: 71-Hour Ahmed plays up his foreignness, but was likewise educated at the Assassin's Guild. He plays up his Morporkian education in Klatch, for pretty much the same reason he plays up the Klatchian stereotype in Ankh-Morpork.
  • Doctor Dolittle series: Crown Prince Bumppo of the African nation of Jolliginki. Of course, while he likes studying at Oxford (except for math, which he hates, and the silly European habit of wearing those ghastly shoes all the time) it has mostly succeeded in turning him into an Upper-Class Twit and an Ethnic Scrappy.
  • Tir Ram, the ruler of a fictional Indian state in the Doctor Who New Adventures Sherlock Holmes crossover All-Consuming Fire.
    Holmes: I am honoured to meet your Highness. May I compliment you upon your excellent grasp of our clumsy tongue.
    Tir Ram: I was at Eton and Cambridge, Mr Holmes. I even speak Hindi with an accent now.
  • Frederick Forsyth's novel The Dogs of War is kind of on the Unfortunate Implications side, as there is an Oxbridge-educated African leader who is one of the few honorable African characters in the book, with both sides of a civil war being portrayed as a bunch of savages. He represents a third group of people and eventually takes power, allowing for a somewhat optimistic ending. Also his representative, Dr. Okoye, is dismissed by the Corrupt Corporate Executive's dragon as "a witch doctor, I suppose", to which the mercenary leader responds that he's an Oxford M.D.
  • Subverted and dissected by John Steinbeck in East of Eden. Lee is a graduate of UC Berkeley and a California native speaking fluent English, although he plays the role of an Asian Speekee Engrish much of the time. However, he is firm in his belief that he is ultimately an American, not Chinese, having found himself to be even more of a stranger in China than in the United States.
  • The chief of the threatened jungle tribe in Lloyd Alexander's The El Dorado Adventure is an Oxford graduate, and the tribe's fearsomely-named "warring clans" turn out to be cricket teams.
  • Flashman and the Tiger: Flashman encounters the son of a Rupert of Hentzau Expy who describes public schools as having conditions worse than Siberia but helping to toughen him up to take on Englishmen; also, there is a character in Flashman's Lady who is an English-educated Barbary pirate.
  • Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu is one of the earliest examples.
  • The Gilded Wolves: It's not so much the hypocrisy part of it, but several of the main cast are from the Global South (in this period mostly colonised by various European empires) and studying various disciplines in Europe: Laila's from British-colonial India at a time when few Indians (let alone women) would have the opportunity to study abroad, and Enrique is actually a Filipino ilustrado (intellectual), involved with other compatriots in Europe campaigning for expanded rights from the Spanish colonisers, as happened in Real Life. Séverin, meanwhile, has Algerian ancestry, whilst Hypnos has Haitian (and thus African slave) ancestry; in other words, both of them have bloodlines rooted in French colonies.
  • Invoked in Dorothy L. Sayers' Have His Carcase. When Lord Peter Wimsey, Harriet Vane, and the local policeman all hear a story revolving around an Indian rajah who supposedly did not know about banknotes, the policeman objects: what sort of Indian rajah would not know about banknotes? Why, many of them had been educated at Oxford.
  • James Bond series:
    • The Lithuanian Julius Gorner from Devil May Care studied in England after fighting with Soviets in World War II, and developed an obsession for the country in the process.
    • Tiger Tanaka from You Only Live Twice studied in Oxford, and used as means to spy on Brits.
  • Lord Darcy novel A Study in Sorcery:
    • Some Native American warriors deliver a note to the Angevin camp by tying it to an arrow fired into the officers' tent. The attached message ends with the signature of a tribal leader, Laughs-Last, complete with the initials for his Oxbridge-awarded graduate degree.
    • Lord Darcy meets a woman who has invented a dramatic past for herself that includes a stint in the harem of the son of the Osmanli Sultan; in the course of dissecting her story, he mentions that he and the son of the Osmanli Sultan were at Oxford together.
  • Kingy in The Mockery Bird by Gerald Durrell.
  • In Oxford Days by Paul West, he analyses this trope and questions the message Hollywood is trying to give us by having the typical minority Oxbridge graduate portrayed as a villain.
  • Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series: in the prequel trilogy taking place during the hero's service in India, most of the officers of the rebellious Indian rulers' armies are European mercenaries, who have realized they can earn fortunes by training the rulers' troops to fight like, and face, the British and East India Company troops invading their lands.
  • In the Swallows and Amazons novel Missee Lee, the eponymous Pirate Queen Dragon Lady is a Cambridge graduate. Subverted in that she would much rather be back there continuing her studies, but her duties to her people come first.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne has Captain Nemo. Whether a Polish nobleman or an Indian prince, he is definitely steeped in Western culture. Ironically enough, the same culture he is at war with.
    Annorax: You're an engineer, then, Captain Nemo?
    Nemo: Yes, professor. I studied in London, Paris, and New York back in the days when I was a resident of the Earth's continents.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Referenced in Blackadder III. After the Prince has a drunken night with the Duke of Wellington's nieces, he considers fleeing as far as Mongolia to avoid the Duke's revenge. Blackadder points out that the Duke is a close personal friend of the Chief Mongol. "They were at Eton together."
  • Usutu makes a fool of Matt Parkman in Heroes. Which doubles as Hollywood Psych since Jung isn't taken any more seriously than Freud by modern psychologists.
    Usutu: You must find your totem — a spirit guide that attaches to your subconscious. It will lead you on your journey.
    Parkman: What is that, some, uh... African mystical mojo thing?
    Usutu: Carl Jung, Analytical Psychology. You don't read much, do you?
  • An episode of Jeeves and Wooster where Bertie blacks up and attempts caveman-speak to impersonate a visiting African chief is saved from cringeworthiness when the real chief shows up and turns out to have been educated in England and be better-spoken than Bertie.
  • Madam Secretary: Crown Prince Yusuf of Bahrain went to boarding school in the United States, and unusually for this trope it actually took — he plans to democratize Bahrain once he inherits the throne. Unfortunately he's assassinated at the end of his only episode after ordering a Bahraini diplomat tried for human trafficking.
  • M*A*S*H: This happened a few times, generally with the Korean/Chinese/whichever doctor getting the better of obnoxious racist Frank Burns. One of them had even gone to Colonel Blake's alma mater.
  • NCIS:
    • Ari Haswari, the terrorist mastermind for Hamas and later al-Qaeda, was educated as a doctor at the Royal Medical College in Edinburgh, Scotland (Donald "Ducky" Mallard's own alma mater).
    • Saleem Ullman, the leader of the terrorist cell in Season Seven's "Truth and Consequences", received his B.A. from Yale University, and is indignant when Tony insults their football team's record.
  • Subverted in Red Dwarf. The chief of the BEGGs (Biologically Engineered Garbage Gobblers) understands English: he explains, in the BEGG language, "La-bogo-a-row-go-bay-len... English boarding school. Bilan garoo." Kryten clarifies that the BEGG Chief once ate someone who went to an English boarding school.
  • On That '70s Show, there's a one-off gag where Fez states this is basically his goal as exchange student: to take what he's learned in America, return to his homeland, and "RULE WITH AN IRON FIST!"
  • Yes, Minister: A humorous version was used where Hacker sees a news story on the new dictator of an African country and immediately recognizes him as a school friend who also attended the London School of Economics — prestigious but not quite Oxbridge. Given that the show is on the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, the (admittedly amusing) casual racism of the British characters is complemented by the obvious corruption of the African dictator, who neatly outsmarts them by essentially beating them at their own crooked game.
    • The Remake has the Kumranistan Ambassador, who was at Oxford with Sir Humphrey, and before that went to Harrow. He's actually mildly amused by Western hypocrisy, especially when the PM gets outraged at differences between British and Kumranistani morality.
  • Referenced in The Young Ones. When the train the lads are taking to the BBC studios to film University Challenge is held up by Mexican bandits, the train driver notes that he didn't want to be a train driver, but without going to an Oxbridge school, he didn't have many career prospects. According to him, 98% of the KGB went to British public schools.

  • Spoofed by The Goon Show in the episode "The Gold Plate Robbery": Visiting Morocco, Neddie Seagoon meets an Arab nomad who went to college in Cambridge and speaks English like a native — with a broad Cockney accent.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • The biblical Moses is possibly the Ur-Example. He is the son of Israelite slaves who was adopted by Pharaoh's daughter and raised with the Egyptian royal family. He turns against them and leads his fellow Israelites to freedom.

  • Tom Stoppard’s Night and Day is set in the fictional African nation of Kambawi, whose dictator, President Mageeba, is adept at dealing with westerners thanks to his education.
    Mageeba: I have very happy memories of London. Student days, you know. I learned everything about economic theory. It has proved a great handicap.
  • In Gilbert and Sullivan’s Utopia, Limited, Utopia's crown princess Zara has been studying at Girtonnote  for five years. She returns to her Anglophilic homeland with several English advisers in tow and a plan to remodel Utopian society in England's image.

    Video Games 
  • In Tropico, one possible background for El Presidente is to have graduated from Harvard U, afterward coming back to lead a Caribbean island. A similar background exists for those educated at "Moscow U."

    Web Original 
  • Subeta's Matlal is actually an example of this, but he TALKS IN ALL CAPS, STUPID PIG DOGS, doesn't wear a shirt, and breeds poisonous frogs, because it's what people expect of a Witch Doctor.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of The Wild Thornberrys, the Thornberrys encounter a tribe of natives who were planning on cooking and eating a runaway Darwin. When Nigel tried to apologize and explain that Darwin was their pet, the chieftain revealed that he knew how to speak English thanks to language tapes. The chief then picks up a call from his friends on his cell phone and tells them that they won't be eating Darwin, so they'll just drive into town for steak.
  • The Simpsons: In "Much Apu About Nothing", Apu tells the Simpsons that he originally emigrated to the US to study computer science at the Springfield Heights Institute of Technology.

    Real Life 
  • One doesn't really have to go far in independence movements to see signs of this trope. More or less every revolution against colonial powers in the last three centuries was started by a small cadre of upper-class, Western-educated native elite, who often received their education in the coloniser's own country.
    • To a certain extent true to this day: no matter how much countries like Russia, China, North Korea, or the Arab world may rail against Western culture or politics, Western universities are still the most prestigious in the world, and these countries' elite still commonly send their children to study in Europe or America.
  • This is far Older Than Feudalism, arguably Older Than Dirt, and can easily apply to non-Western civilizations (or at least cultures which preceded the concept of "Western Civilization" as we understand it). Arminius, of the Germanic Cherusci tribe, grew up in a Romanized culture, served in the Roman military, and became a Roman citizen, but he betrayed the Romans and led the Germans to victory in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. In the Far East, many Manchu tribes immigrated into China and were heavily influenced by Chinese culture, only to conquer those very same dynasties from which they adopted so much culture and technology.
  • It's been noted that the Indian Mutiny of 1857, seen by Indians today as the true beginning of Indian nationalism, was actually started by ex-mercenaries who served the East India Company, and who had themselves worked with the English, without protest, to conquer and colonize the Sindh and the Punjab. Karl Marx, writing in London for the New York Daily Tribune, explained and defined this trope, with his typical grasp of Irony:
    "There is something in human history like retribution; and it is a rule of historical retribution that its instrument be forged not by the offended, but by the offender himself. The first blow dealt the French monarch proceeded from the nobility, not from the peasants. The Indian revolt does not commence with the Ryots, tortured, dishonored, and stripped naked by the British, but with the Sepoys, clad, fed, petted, fatted and pampered by them."
  • As accurately related in films such as Tora! Tora! Tora!, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto attended Harvard University, visited the American Naval War College and spent several years as naval attache at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. These experiences partially inspired his decision to emphasize aviation as a major arm of naval warfare, which he utilized when planning the attack on Pearl Harbor. Ironically, his experience also made him a strong opponent of his government's decision to go to war with the United States, after witnessing firsthand America's enormous industrial potential and the commitment and training of its naval officers and crews.