In the past, we like to think, there were many more Acceptable Targets than there are today. Back then, unlike the present, an easy source of humor was to select people with a different appearance, culture, religion or gender from the assumed audience, treat them as inferior, and make fun of them.
Some of these targets are no longer popular. In some cases, times have changed, and what was funny in 1935 simply is not funny now, or at least might not be funny for the same reason it was in 1935. More importantly perhaps, changed economic and political circumstances have transformed some previously-despised target groups into valuable demographics that it is unwise to antagonise. Some feel, particularly those who would prefer to go on picking on these Once Acceptable Targets, that these changes can be "blamed" on Political Correctness Gone Mad. Black Comedy will laugh at Once Acceptable Targets as much as possible with the express purpose of causing a hostile reaction.
In popular works that have Once Acceptable Targets as only part of the work, the offending parts of the work are often changed to suit modern tastes. For example, in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, the original lyrics to the song "As some day it may happen" (a.k.a. "I've Got A Little List") contains racial slurs that modern audiences will not appreciatenote . The lyrics are therefore changed so that the overall play can be shown without the distraction of the slurs.
Incidentally, a group may be listed on this page as a Once Acceptable Target, and still be oppressed, persecuted, mocked, negatively stereotyped, or discriminated against today. It's just not quite as universally endorsed anymore.
Please keep in mind this page mentions examples from many places, but favors examples from contemporary American and Commonwealth culture. The tropers writing this page are primarily from those cultures.
Until fairly recently, in the western world, gay men were considered the same as pedophiles, and lesbians were viewed as either evil (sometimes oddly asexual) succubi who tempt pure women away from their God-given duty to be sexually available to men, or man-hating raging feminists who would enjoy nothing more than severing a man's genitalia and setting them on fire, if they were even acknowledged to exist at all. Changing times have resulted in more out-and-out gay people in Western media. Don't expect to see any bisexuals, though, unless Everyone Is Bi.
Plus, of course, the mere existence of homosexuals used to be and still is considered hilarious by many people. Possibly, this was owing to homosexuality making a lot of people uncomfortable and many people laughing to cover their discomfort. At any rate, Dick Emery's camp characters only had to allude to fancying a man, or one of the wives visiting the convicts in Porridge be shown to be a gay and there was a huge guffaw on the laugh track.
Within the LGBT community itself, cisgender gay men are often still an acceptable target. They get additional acceptable-target points for being each of the following: white, well off financially, masculine-looking and -acting, and of political persuasions outside of the LGBT norm.
- Family Guy has never been a series to shy away from making jokes at anyone's expense sooner or later. Gay jokes have been a staple since season 1, and almost every male homosexual character would be depicted as nothing short of a "flaming" Camp Gay (even an entire episode depicted to the stereotype) and lesbians almost always being Butch Lesbian. After homosexual marriage was declared constitutionally legal in the United States in 2015, Seth MacFarlane and the other showrunners made the conscious decision to exclude jokes at the expense of homosexuals, not the least of which because even they felt that the target was being played out and it was time to move on. "Trump Guy" even had Peter lampshade that they're trying to cut down on gay jokes.
- American Dad!, another MacFarlane show, opened with main character Stan Smith being staunchly homophobic as his part of his being the "ideal ultra-conservative". The show itself however was significantly (and ironically, given the show's openly political nature) more nuanced view to Those Two Guys Terry and Greg than Family Guy above, giving a fair look at their relationship and troubles as a gay couple and treating them as "just people" besides one or two one-off gags. Stan ends up befriending the two after the events of their debut episode and ends up learning his lesson and shaking off his homophobia. On its own this would just be Character Development for Stan, but it's noteworthy in that normally Stan is pretty much the Patron Saint of Aesop Amnesia, but his acceptance of gay lifestyles sticks for the rest of the show.
Transgender / Non-binary People
Whether or not trans people are or are not acceptable targets tends to vary depending on the work, the creators and the audience that the work is intended for. However, increasing media representation of non-cisgender people during the 2010s has gradually led many people to see the mocking of trans or non-binary people for their identities as being in very bad taste. While, at some point in time, it could be assumed that any depiction of this group in any artistic media would be solely hostile, it is now increasingly common for trans and non-binary people to be portrayed sympathetically, and for the people who mock or harass these groups as being Acceptable Targets themselves, as a result of their bigotry.
When Europeans carved out worldwide empires in the 15th to 19th centuries, they began buying African slaves in large quantities. Viewed as savages, indigenous Africans became an acceptable target for slavery. Many were brought to the English, Spanish, French, Dutch, or Portuguese colonies in the Americas to work as slaves alongside a dwindled population of enslaved Natives. After slavery was outlawed throughout the world, and in America after the Civil War, attitudes towards the descendants of these slaves changed little. Due to lack of education and social status, blacks have for a long time been portrayed as either big, dumb brutes or Uncle Tomfoolery. Minstrel Shows were popular forms of entertainment with Blackface performers acting like buffoons. Today, treatment varies with the setting. If the story is set in Darkest Africa, the black natives will usually be of the Noble Savage variety. In North America and Western Europe, a black person is generally portrayed as an ordinary person, albeit somewhat more streetwise than a white person, and with somewhat higher mortality. There's still the risk of a "gangsta" or Jive Turkey showing up, though. As a Positive Discrimination backlash against all this, the Magical Negro was created, but now he's a cliche, too.
- There was a Black and White Minstrel Show on British TV from the late 1950s until the 1970s.
- There is a yearly recurring 'scandal' about the Dutch use of several black servants to a white bishop in the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas. The origin of Zwarte Piet ("Black Pete") is not completely clear, opinions vary between a defeated devil or a freed Moorish slave, but his depictions are clearly blackface. Nowadays, children are often told he is black because of soot from the chimney, but that doesn't explain the full red lips or black afro.
Advertising and Marketing
- Before the 90s, there was a toothpaste brand called "Darkie". It was changed to "Darlie" for obvious reasons.
- British jam and preserves maker Robertsons, for virtually all its existence, used a "golliwog" mascot as its advertising logo. note It took a few decades of protest from black British people before Robertsons' dropped the logo in The '90s; even today many British people are likely to ask what on earth the fuss was about and bemoan not being able to get a golliwog doll anywhere.
- The Birth of a Nation (2016) serves as the Spiritual Antithesis of a certain 1915 film of the same name: whereas the latter depicts the Ku Klux Klan as the heroes and the former slaves as the villains, the former — made after a century's worth of civil rights progress — is a paean to Nat Turner, leader of the most infamous slave revolt in the US.
Franco-Belgian Comic Books
- Asterix has Baba the Pirate Lookout, a popular recurring character who is drawn in a Black Face manner and speaks in a stereotypical accent (at least in France), and is particularly grotesque in the 60s and 70s albums. He was notably absent from 1996's The Secret Weapon (possibly as an attempt to modernise) but fan outcry led to him getting a big role in the next book Obelix All At Sea, as he's easily the most likeable pirate and something of an—ahem—Ensemble Dark Horse despite his design being contemptible. Thanks to a refined character design, he's a more reasonable caricature in Asterix and Obelix's Birthday (2009), but retains noticeably bright red lips (even if they aren't grotesquely huge and rubbery any more).
- Imported Asterix books in the original French were supplied with a booklet of translator's notes explaining the more problematic and idiomatic French. It was made clear that Baba was speaking "comedy-French", playing to the accepted stereotype of how black people from former French colonies in Africa mangled the language. It might translate directly into English as "Massah, dere am a ship out dere on de starboard bow!"—i.e., poking fun at the ignorant native. Later reprints after about 1980 quietly removed the offensive comedy-black-speak, and Baba now speaks the same undifferentiated French as any other pirate.
- Earlier editions of the English translations also gave Baba a stereotypical accent, e.g. We gon bod dem, sah! Later editions removed this, and now the distinguishing feature of his speech is a weakness for puns.
- In Urbanus one of the main characters is called "Het Negerke", which roughly translates as "The Little Nigger". The fact that the comic book series often makes Take Thats to black people (such as in one album where the son removes the spaghetti to replace it with worms only to hear after dinner that they loved the meal) does not help the thing at all. He is like his family appropriately drawn in blackface (though has no accent). Modern books from the series depict the character not as stereotypically anymore as in the past, and his racist-sounding nickname has been changed to "Botswana". Urbanus: De Vuilnisheld, an animated film adaptation of the comic book series from 2019, lampshades this change of the character by briefly returning his former stereotypical external characteristics when the character starts to mutate due to radioactive waste. The scene goes further with the character losing his hands and suddenly turning into the likeness of king Leopold II of Belgium, as a reference to the horrible atrocities comitted to indigenous people during the former king's colonial rule of the Congo region.
- Allegorized in Kenzaburo Oe's "Prize Stock", which depicts a rural Japanese village in World War II capturing a downed American fighter pilot, only to discover that he's black. Having never seen - or even conceptualized - a black person before, the village people are at a complete loss at what to do with him.
- The internet during the Turn of the Millennium, in which sites like 4chan and YTMND were the main sources of memes, generally had a much higher tolerance for racist memes like "Pool's Closed Due To AIDS" and "Nigga Stole My Bike". Since then, internet culture had shifted from these sites to mainstream platforms like YouTube and Facebook, which are populated by a much broader range of demographics, and thus much harder for such memes to take off outside of specific circles.
- The notorious "Chimpout" website, described (paraphrased) as a haven for those who hate black people, was tolerated for a long time, but has been driven off at least four web-hosting platforms because of its hate speech and naked racism. About the only almost-good thing that can be said for it is that it deplored racism towards other ethnic groups and wanted none of that going on here. Chimpout is currently inactive and does not look like resurfacing any time soon.
Perhaps the most recently removed from the list of Acceptable Targets, East Asians face much less discrimination in contemporary times. In the late 19th century/early 20th century Asians were the victim of Yellow Peril stereotypes, and often made fun of for their exotic clothing and strange language, often portrayed as buck-toothed, bespectacled and with banana-yellow skin. Then WWII and the bombing of Pearl Harbor happened and all bets were off. It was especially vicious for the Japanese—You'll notice in WWII-era propaganda such as Wartime cartoons, Germans will be portrayed as brutish thugs, but not quite inhuman (usually just big and burly/ugly), but the Japanese were portrayed as an entire race of violent devils who wanted to kill everybody. A mix of the sneak attack of Pearl Harbor (compared with the Germans, who hadn't committed any major anti-American atrocities aside from standard warfare) and their non-western nature is a nasty one. Stereotypes of Asians are more positive these days, and Asians are seen as very intelligent and excelling in academics, though of course this leads to the supposedly "positive" stereotype of nerds. These days Asian men are portrayed as staunch businessmen or martial artists, and Asian women as exotic beauties or hard-working restaurant staff, but basically don't expect them to appear in films or TV much at all compared with other minorities out there.
Ethnic Indians and Middle Eastern people
In Britain, they used to be stereotypically wacky, nerdy conservative Muslims or a strange mish-mash of religions who took "true" British people's jobs but due to a very large percentage being native in the 4th generation the stereotype is dead.
Despite America's welcoming borders to immigrants from most other countries, there are still sharp restrictions on immigration. Since Mexico and the central American nations tend to be poorer economically than the U.S., some Americans fear that immigrants from these countries would be willing to work for peanuts and, thus, would steal the job market away. Unfortunately, this means that many Hispanic immigrants to the U.S. are here illegally, and so can only take off-the-radar jobs that do pay peanuts, thus reinforcing the stereotype. It's no longer acceptable to make "José Jiménez" jokes at their expense.
For a long time, people from India were portrayed in basically the same way as Native Americans, but with worse accents. However, the popularity of Bollywood productions have caused a shift in attitudes. Modern Indian characters are often either medical doctors or skilled hackers, reflecting India's strong software development industry; whether this is a positive portrayal or a perpetuation of stereotypes is an occasional source of debate. Still occasionally put behind the counter at 7-11, though. Indians and Pakistanis owning convenience stores is probably the longest lasting Indian stereotype in America with a grain of Truth in Television. See Bollywood Nerd and Operator from India for IT-related stereotypes in specific.
- Raj Koothrapali on The Big Bang Theory is a highly-regarded astrophysicist, somewhat averting the trope, but definitely pokes fun at it by turning it Up to Eleven.
- Goodness Gracious Me did much to send up and parody white British attitudes towards Indians and Pakistanis. The show took the stereotypes, turned up to eleven, and did much to render them untenable and ridiculous. The fact that Asians have a lot of preconceptions of their own is another thing...
- Citizen Khan does much the same for Pakistanis in Britain; however the show focuses on the way Pakistani-British people see both themselves and the Britain around them.
- Back in the '90s, Jonny Quest tried to avert this, by giving the Indian Hadji tremendous computer skills. Oops.
- Apu from The Simpsons, who runs the Kwik-E-Mart
- Baljeet, Danville's resident Bollywood Nerd from Phineas and Ferb.
Something of a Cyclic Trope. Until The '90s, whenever an Irish person appeared in a British Series, they would either be a drunk, a fool, or both. Later, as many Irish people became rich, they are now often lumped in with WASPs (or WCCs, as the case may be) and have started drifting back into the realm of Acceptable Targets. In the US, the Irish were a longtime acceptable target, with this peaking in the mid to late 19th century and early 20th. Stereotypes of the time usually depicted the Irish as drunken, lawless, buffoonish, and lazy. Combined with the fact that many Irish were also Catholic, (see details below) didn't help either. This is now mostly forgotten in the US, although stereotypes about drunkenness and such persist. Also a rich source of Western Terrorists, see also The Troubles. Furthermore, no matter what time period it is, Irish people are Fiery Redheads about 80% of the time, especially in non-UK media, despite red hair being rare among Irish people.note The "violent Mick" cliche sometimes sneaks back in the guise of Police Brutality, as the Irish cop remains a standard feature of crime dramas.
- Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles gave the occasional exception to the American forgetfulness, when the racist locals at one point reluctantly agree to find some land for the black and Chinese workers aiding them against an army of thugs, but firmly state "But we don't want the Irish!" Justified as the film at its core is an attack on racism and the Irish were targets of this in the era of the film (and after).
- Fawlty Towers used an Irish stereotype very common in a British Series, the feckless and dimwitted unskilled laborer. The character Mr. O'Reilly is portrayed as an incompetent foolish God-fearing Irish builder who only gets hired because he is cheap. He nearly destroys Fawlty Towers due to complete incompetence. He is juxtaposed with the far superior native British builder Mr. Stubbs.
- The Damnation Of Theron Ware, by Harold Frederic, depicts all aspects of the Irish stereotype—Catholic via Father Forbes, Fiery Redhead through Celia Madden, and violent drunkard through her ape-like brother Michael. While the portraits offered are generally more complex and nuanced than mere stereotype, and it's made very clear that Theron is ultimately at fault for trying to be something he is not while throwing aside his faith in the process, they are still blamed for his "damnation" and overall not very flattering examples of the Irish.
Native Americans / American Indians
For a long time, portrayed as either deadly savages or pathetic fools. Today, if American Indians feature in a story set in the past, they will usually be noble savages dressed in Braids, Beads and Buckskins; in a modern setting, they will tend to yearn for the old days, and often deliver An Aesop on environmentalism. Either that, or they'll be connected to the spirits and the ways of the world. Or they're poor and live in a trailer, or work high-rise construction if it's an urban setting, they are popularly assumed to never have a fear of heights. Casino ownership is increasingly prevalent in modern works.
- Among the many other national and ethnic caricatures that the titular North comes across in looking for a new family, North comes across a Hawaiian governer and his wife, and an Eskimo couple with their elderly father. The former tries to use him in an exploitative billboard campaign to promote tourism and bring pride to the state, while the latter is shown casting their own father out to sea for no other reason than Appeal to Tradition. These are two of the most controversial scenes in the film, with the former being particularly squicky, and the latter becoming the Signature Scene which crtics point to as the best representation of this film's lack of cultural sensitivity.
- Last of the Mohicans was an early aversion, but it didn't exactly take.
- In Red Dead Redemption and its prequel, Native Americans stand out as the only ethnic group that is treated entirely with total respect and sympathy. In the first game, Nastas is the one indigenous American character and he is presented as a beleaguered Nice Guy coping with the crackpot theories and idiotic science of the Innocent Bigot "researcher" Harold MacDougal. In the second game, a native American tribe's mistreatment at the hands of corrupt Government and Army officials (which the game pulls no punches in depicting) is a late-game plot point.
Poles and Finns
Were once interchangeably used (particularly in Russia) as an insult to someone's parentage (i.e., "Your father was a drunk Finn/Pole who beat your mother."). As there used to be few immigrants from those ethnic groups, and are rather quiet today, they are still occasionally derided against by those of either heritage. Poles have also had a long history of jokes about their supposed lack of intelligence, most of which have migrated to blondes.
In the UK, Poles are stereotyped as plumbers and other manual labourers.
Cold War, anyone? For an extended period of recent history there was a disproportionate number of evil Russian masterminds (according to Western media, anyway). Regardless of the fact that the Cold War was a bloodless war (not counting things like 'Nam or Korea), if you see a Russian on screen in a film more than 20 years old, he will be bloodthirsty, cunning, and likely a Magnificent Bastard . After all, if the Russians weren't incredibly cunning and evil, an argument could be made that the US didn't gain anything from the Cold War (save Nukes). In any film made within the last 20 years, Russians will probably be brilliant scientists, drinking vodka, or still pretty damn evil. And often mobsters. Also, Russian woman are often portrayed as either ugly or as a sexy female spy luring James Bond into a trap. Apparently there are no "average looking" women in fictional Russia.
- There was a brief window during World War II where Russians were America's heroic allies. Thus, Casablanca (1942) and Mission to Moscow (1943) contained some of the last depictions of sympathetic Russians for twenty years.
- In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019),the Russians are portrayed as 100% evil in the campaign, something that, while it would have flown if the game was made earlier, had come under fire for how they act. Despite the fact Russians have been the enemy in Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Opsnote , the response here has been much harsher. This may be because it is the modern government and not an Alternate History, plus the fact that, unlike the original Modern Warfare (where you spent half the missions fighting alongside the Russian government), there are no "good" Russians in this game besides the rogue mercenary who essentially betrays his country by facilitating an illegal foreign military operation on its soil.
The original Argentine national anthem was a nationalist anti-Spanish lyrical outing, which is understandable given they were fighting an independence war against Spain at the time. By 1900, though, a decree officially removed all the offensive parts from the lyrics since Spain had gone from being the evil imperialists to become the Madre Patria (something like "Mother Nation").
- It should be noted that Argentinians still tell Spaniard jokes, in which they are dumber than a brick, and we laugh at them. Actually it's not funny BECAUSE they are Spaniards (this was the case some decades ago, prompted probably by the many European immigrants who came to Argentina during the early XX century, who usually had poor educations and got crappy jobs), but the jokes themselves are still considered funny.
- For many of the same reasons, Brazilians still tell Portuguese jokes, with the Portuguese being depicted as almost inhumanly dumb.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Swedish immigrants to the United States were referred to as "Dumb Swedes". This stereotype can still be found in historical novels.
- In Finland, all Swedish people are considered gay. The historical reason for this stereotype is that Sweden decriminalized homosexuality in 1944, 27 years before Finland. Before decriminalization happened in Finland in 1971 many Finnish homosexuals moved to Sweden so they could live in peace, and the idea of homosexuality as "the Swedish disease" became common in Finnish popular culture. The stereotype of Swedish gay people still lives on in Finland today, even though the history behind it is now largely forgotten.
- In Germany, Swedes were seen as brutal, torture-loving mercenaries until far into the 19th century due to their involvement in the 30 Years War.
- In the most rural parts of the Czech Republic, mothers used "the Swedes" to frighten their children into eating their veggies and going to bed on time well into The '60s.
- Norwegians will semi-jokingly refer to Sweden as "Norway's Mexico", i.e. the place you go for cheap liquor, cheap labor and cheap one-night-stands. Swedes have a reputation as being hard workers, but also rowdy, loud, boisterous, violent and overly fond of alcohol. Since most Swedes in Norway are young, probably just moved away from home and are there to earn as much money as they can as quickly as possible (both wages and living expenses are much higher in Norway than Sweden, so this is a common way for young Swedes to build a nest egg), this stereotype has a pretty solid foundation in reality.
- It was once a stereotype in Denmark that every Swede who visited Copenhagen only came there to get wasted, to the point that a classical movie included a scene where one character pokes fun at that time another character was thrown into the water by a Swede, to which the other objects that "He wasn't a Swede at all, he was just an ordinary drunkard".
Similar to some of the other stereotypes about Scandinavian nationalities, but there's a few particular wrinkles.
- In Lake Wobegon, Norwegian bachelor farmers are portrayed as being ornery, cranky old geezers who are neglectful about personal hygiene.
- In Norway's neighbor to the east, Sweden, Norwegians are joked about as being a lot like what people in the northern United States would describe as rednecks.
- This trope reared its ugly head in a 2018 Twitter post by Donald Trump, in which he suggested that "people from places like Norway" should migrate to the United States... over people from places which he considered "shithole countries." This tweet was met with worldwide condemnation, including Norway.
- Vinesauce Joel still considers Norwegians an Acceptable Ethnic Target, to the point of dropping 5,000 nukes on Norway during his playthrough of Shadow President, just because it wasn't as cool as his home country Sweden. However, this is done out of friendly rivalry between the two countries, not genuine hatred.
Thanks to centuries of Ottoman oppression, and a few nasty genocides, Turkish people are a widespread acceptable target in the Balkans and Greece. Indeed, one of the nastiest insults (equivalent to calling someone a cunt in the west) in some Balkan regions is "Turk".
- In Scandinavia and Germany, the Asian Store-Owner commonly seen in British and American fiction will usually be replaced by an expatriate Turk. All other components of the stereotype still apply, strangely enough.
Were once both the Russian and the Western Canadian go-to group for ethnic jokes that needed the subject to be dumb, shifty, dishonest, drunken, etc. However, in Russia ethnic jokes never went out of vogue, and nowadays you can also hear Russian jokes about Ukrainians being full of misplaced nationalistic fervor.
- In Russia the Ukrainian jokes usually don't portray Ukrainians as dumb per se, but rather rustically cunning and extremely cheapskate, often too much for their own good, and lacking a sophistication/ignorant; them being largely transplanted jokes about peasants/rednecks. The thing is, Russians still have a hard time imagining Ukrainians as a different nation, and mostly view them as those ignorant cousins from the countryside. In Ukraine itself the same stereotype is used by the city dwellers against country bumpkins.
The US has a strong Protestant tradition, from the Mayflower onwards, and for much of American history Catholics were a small minority which was viewed with great suspicion. It didn't help, either, that most American Catholics were either Irish (see above) or natives of non-English speaking European countries, tossing xenophobia into the mix. Today, the Catholic "other" is Mexican. Anti-Catholic sentiment peaked in the 19th century, when it was widely believed in many Protestant circles, and claimed in many pamphlets and "true confession" novels, that the Catholic church was a secretive Satanic cabal which practiced human sacrifice and was plotting to destroy American democracy. These sentiments have waned enough over the years that John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, was able to narrowly win the 1960 presidential election, for John Kerry to come within a hair's breadth of doing the same in 2004, and for Joe Biden to be elected vice president in 2008 and president in 2020, not to mention that from 2009 (when the Catholic Justice Sotomayor replaced the Episcopalian Justice Souter), 6 of the 9 Justices of the Supreme Court have been Catholic,note and less attention than ever gets paid to their Catholicism, but even today there are a few holdouts convinced that the Church of Rome is evil. Jack Chick is probably the best known, but recent pedophilia-and-cover-up scandals have pushed the Catholic church back towards an Acceptable Target in some eyes.
- In British history, discrimination switched between Catholics and Protestants depending on the religion of the ruler at the time. The current royal family is descended from Germans, because the Catholic James II was driven from the throne in 1688, and the nearest Protestant relatives were Mary and William of Orange, the Stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, who failed to produce an heir which caused the crown to pass to Mary's sister Anne, who also produced no heir, causing the crown to pass to George of Hanover. The Act Of Settlement of 1701 remains in force, barring any Roman Catholic, or person married to one, from succession to the throne, and requiring any monarch to be a member of the Church Of England. This is partly justified in that the monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, so it helps if they're a member. Basically, it's all the fault of some fat Pommie king. Who, ironically, was a Catholic starting out, even being titled "Defender of the Faith" for attacking Luther in print.
- American Catholics were mistrusted partly because they were seen as having allegiance to a foreign power (the Vatican); Kennedy had to assure people that as President he would not be taking his marching orders from the Pope. Today, this prejudice has eased off considerably with the North American lay Catholic population becoming notorious for ignoring Papal directives such as ones against birth control and gay rights. Thus nobody bothers to ask for similar assurances from Catholic politicians and judges.
- In Ireland, the Catholic Church is very much an Acceptable Target, mainly due to the abuse scandals. One example is an episode of a political show made by the state broadcaster, RTÉ, based on a priest who had received allegations of child abuse. The show concluded that the priest was indeed a pedophile; turns out that the priest was completely innocent. Despite the director of the BBC stepping down in the wake of a similar scandal concerning Alistair McAlpine, RTÉ's director-general is still firmly in place.
For a very long time, members of the various Orthodox Christian churches were seen as evil by Catholics. Now, however, at least in the U.S., the media pretty much ignore the existence of Orthodoxy.
Essentially the reverse of the above. While Catholics were acceptable targets for Protestants, Protestants were at the same time acceptable targets for Catholics in countries with Catholic majorities. Or in the era of absolute monarchies in Europe, when the king or queen was Catholic, regardless of which brand of Christianity was most popular among the commoners. Some of the stricter conservative Protestant sects remain Acceptable Targets, though, even (or perhaps especially) to other Protestants. Whereas Catholicism is at least officially a unified religion under a single hierarchy and has been for nearly 2000 years, the same was never the case for Protestantism and thus Protestant sects can and do have incredibly bitter rivalries with each other.
As far back as recorded history can tell us, the Jews have suffered from negative portrayals in the media; and in particular, Jews have been Acceptable Targets in Christianity for longer than it's been known as Christianity. However, since a lot of screenwriters and pioneering Comic Book authors were Jewish, Jews have pretty much become ordinary people on TV; indeed, most shows will have at some point have one character revealing their Jewishness to show how racially sensitive the writers are. Also, since many comedy writers are Jewish, even non-Jews have become familiar with Jewish culture through TV sitcoms and movies by Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, among many others. These days, Jewish characters are almost guaranteed to be lawyers, doctors, accountants and other educated, white-collar professionals, and "Jewish" almost a tongue-in-cheek synonym for "good at his job". The horrors of The Holocaust also had their influence, to say the least. On the other hand, in the Arab world, Jews are still very much Acceptable Targets, largely thanks to the ArabIsraeli Conflict and accusations of human rights abuses and discriminatory behaviour by Israel in Gaza and the Occupied Territories. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is taught as fact in Saudi schools.
At one time (generally from the 1600s up until the late 19th-early 20th century, though similar sentiments also existed much earliernote ), actors, singers, and other entertainers were often viewed in a very negative light. Originally this was likely due to the fact actors traveled, showing up then leaving to never be seen again, and made a living off of pretending to be things they weren't. This idea had consequences ranging from the banning of Maypoles and other light-hearted festivals to the picketing and boycotting of theaters and the refusal by English rulers to authorize or endorse playwrights. Meanwhile, in France they were outright refused burial in churchyards (Molière was put in a pauper's grave, and even then only because the King intervened).
Eventually such views faded, for which many Shakespearean scholars can be thankful, but when the Puritans crossed over to colonize America they brought this view with them. Probably thanks to the eventual conceit that anyone could achieve the American dream but only if they "pulled themselves up by their bootstraps", and the fact that being paid to act, dance, and sing not only appeared like laziness but was generally not a very good way of making a living (see the Starving Artist), this view persisted into the early 20th century, and in the late 19th showed up a great deal in literature. Prominent examples would be Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie and Paul Laurence Dunbar's The Sport of the Gods, as well as the Willa Cather short story, "A Gold Slipper".
Nowadays, of course, it is much more feasible to make a lucrative career out of such a thing, even if the actor never becomes wildly successful. As such, it is less likely for a parent to discourage their child from following this path, although telling them that the odds of career success can be a real long shot with a lot of dues to pay is still a necessity. Certain stereotypes persist, such as the vapid self-absorbed millionaire and the limousine liberalnote , but an individual can easily shake these off through his or her actions. Of course, between the popularity of celebrity culture and the way politics (both governmental and within the acting world) enters into it, some might argue that people still disparage actors (or should), but for a different reason. Regardless, it is mostly a Discredited Trope.
Especially hand amputees wearing a hook, are almost invariably depicted as evil. Usually this is to add a creepy quality to a villainous character, and it could be made to make them look like a pirate, camp or otherwise. Given the large number of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who now have prostheses this has rapidly changed to mean that the likely assumption about anyone with this is a veteran, regardless of whether they actually are. In Canada, one of its greatest heroes is Terry Fox, a leg amputee whose attempt at an undreamed of cross-country philanthropic marathon inspired the world.
- Pirates are often depicted with peglegs or hooks, though this may be more to reinforce their badassery than villainy.
- This was also a bit of a Truth in Television, as the standard response to injury and infection on pirate ships (which were often far from ports and lacked medicines) was to take a saw to the injured or infected limb. And life at sea was generally quite dangerous, meaning that the risk of injury was ever-present.
- "Zodiac Zig" Zigurski in The Hardy Boys novel Mystery of the Flying Express (who'd lost a hand trying to crack a safe with explosives).
- Played for laughs in Arrested Development. "I'M A MONSTER!"
- Didi from My Name Is Earl. Subverted in that she really does have a legitimate reason to be upset with Earl; not only did he ditch her the morning after he slept with her when he found her prosthetic leg after she went to go make them some breakfast, but he stole money from her purse, and her car, as well as the aforementioned prosthesis. Double-subverted for the way she went about dealing with the whole situation.
Before the passage of endangered species legislation, many animals, specifically dangerous animals like lions and gorillas, tended to be portrayed as the antagonist, making it okay for the dashing lead to beat the crap out of them and even kill them at times. Nowadays, this type of treatment offends many people, not just animal activists, so this has heavily toned down (for a great example, compare the original King Kong (1933) to King Kong (2005)).
- In Tintin in the Congo, Tintin killing lots of animals in the wild, in particular killing an elephant for its tusks, was less controversial in 1930 than it is now.
- Cannibal Holocaust contained graphic scenes of real animal torture that was significant in turning the tide of thought against the abuse of animals in films, and popularized the standard of the No Animals Were Harmed label. This didn't keep there being more gratuitous Mockbusters capitalizing on the controversy which turned the animal torture Up to Eleven.
- Jaws was responsible for the demonization of sharks in public consciousness, which would result in a fierce backlash once further research was done on them. And if anything the marketing campaign for the films did even more than the films themselves to stoke fear of sharks. Even Peter Benchley, the writer of the original novel, came to regret his impact on the reputation of sharks, and became a shark conservationist.
Whether your parents were subjected to a particular ritual before your birth isn't today a matter of much merit. For most of Western history this was not the case. Historian Maggie Secara points out that in Elizabethan times you legally could not own property if you were illegitimate, could not hold public office, and could not marry. This discrimination continued into modern times, often framed in terms of the illegitimate child's "right to a name": Gene Stratton-Porter's 1904 novel Freckles is largely based around the notion of the hero's supposed bastardy, and on his use of the name "Freckles" because he has no "right" to any other. It wasn't until 1927 that the law in Texas was revised to remove the word "ILLEGITIMATE" from birth certificates. As late as 1959, Robert A. Heinlein based a story around the notion that an "Unmarried Mother" would do everything she could to conceal her—and her child's—status.
Related to amputees above, those with physical and mental disabilities are treated much, much better today than they were in the past. In the early days this would be limited to calling attention to or lightly poking fun at the condition. However as media became more edgy slurs against the disabled grew to the point where in works such as South Park they were basically a Catchphrase, oft repeated as a insult. Awareness for mental health grew and such terms were pushed back to be used by the vile villain or, on very rare occasions, the darker Anti-Hero. Today the word is all but gone, having virtually disappeared circa 2014 and only heard now really on trollish forum posts, or the occasional real-life Jerkass.
Once invariably portrayed as evil, careless, misguided, or any combination of the three.
- In Old French, left was "sinestre" and right was "dexter". Now, "gauche" is left and "droit" (which also means "straight"as in "uncrooked, unbent") is right.
- Those originally come from Latin: sinister = "left", dexter = "right". Gauche comes from a Frankish word cognate to the English word walk, while droit comes from the Latin directus (meaning "straight"), from where English got the word direct.
- Also note that gauche is still used as a synonym for something being unacceptable, unfashionable, or a politically incorrect faux pas, while adroit is a word with positive connotations (agile, quick, clever). And the word "dexterous" has also come to mean being agile and clever, while "sinister" is a synonym for dark, wicked, and evil. This even extends to people who don't have a particular hand to use in situations. If they can't use both hands the common term to use is "deux mains gauches" and if they can use them the often used term is "ambidextre".
- Right is a synonym for correct. Left looks like an abbreviation for left over. Now think about any time you've heard "right/left hand side".
- Here more to think about: right (the direction) was indeed a semantic expansion of right ("correct"). The Old English word that left (again, the direction) descended from meant "idle, weak, useless".
- In Spanish "Derecho" (a word for "right", the direction) means also just and legitimate. It is also the word for the career of Law.
- Although oddly enough, "having left hand" is slang for diplomacy skills.
- Equally odd, a windstorm that has straight-line winds doing almost as much structural damage to buildings as a tornado would do is called a derecho, so if you hear your weatherman use that word, take cover immediately.
- In Hungarian, right is "jobb", meaning "better". Left is "bal", which mostly corresponds to the English "ill-" prefix.
- In German, "rechts" (right) is associated with "Recht" (law) and "richtig" (correct), and "links" (left) with "linkisch" (bumbling) and "linken" (to snooker).
- The word ambidextrous, referring to people capable of writing or performing other tasks with both hands, literally translates as "right-handed with both hands." The implication is that using your right hand as your dominant hand is the correct way to behave, and ambidextrous people are capable of using their left hand as an extra right hand.
- This may have a (supposed) grounding in history—it also ties back into why we're supposed to shake with the right hand. Back in the days when carrying a weapon was in fashion, shaking hands was an easy way to say "hey, man, I'm not planning on killing you". The key was that you were supposed to shake with the right hand—so a left-handed person could both shake and attack.
- Inverted among the Zulu people of what is today South Africa. They used left-handed shaking as a sign of trust: because most Zulu warriors carried their weapons in their right hands and shields in their left hands, they had to drop their defenses to signal that they trusted the person to whom they were offering their hand. Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout movement, learned this character trait while he was stationed in the colonial military there and appropriated it for Scouting.
- The left hand is also the one you should supposedly use if you don't have access to toilet paper, making it exceptionally impolite to offer that hand to shake or eat with.
- In old Gaelic/Irish culture, turning one's left shoulder/side toward someone was considered a slap in the face.
- Edgar Allan Poe's story "Never Bet the Devil Your Head" and this charming little story from a 19th-century children's magazine about a careless and stubborn left-handed boy.
- A very subtle one from The Simpsons which is never given direct reference — Bart is left-handed, and is a notorious trouble-maker. On the other hand, many of Matt Groening's characters are left-handed. So while Bart is left-handed, so is Ned Flanders, who even runs a business devoted to selling southpaws products designed just for them. The fact Bart is left-handed is never directly linked to his behavior on screen.
- In American Dad!, Steve's new black girlfriend is subjected to Discriminate and Switch from Francine, who had her own left-handedness beaten out of her by nuns at her foster home.
Live-in with Parents
In the United States, being an adult that lived with their parents was socially unacceptable. People were expected to move out of their parents' home and earn a living for themselves around the ages of 18 to 21. In times where the economy was doing great, moving out to live on your own was possible; having a place of your own and a well-paying job was considered to be an adult thing to do and was a sign of a person maturing into adulthood. Young adults (or even middle aged adults) that never moved out of their parents' house (which also brought up the stereotype of the shut in nerd that lives in their parents' basement) were seen as lazy freeloaders that contributed nothing to society. Most people would also view someone who never left their parents' home as immature and needing to grow up.
When the economy entered a recession in the late 2000s, many adults could not afford to live on their own and were forced to move back in with their parents. Delaying one's eventual leave of their parents' "nest" isn't questioned so much anymore since jobs are harder to come by and inflation have caused homes to become more expensive; in many cases debt from post-secondary education also has to be factored in. Numerous media reports in the mid-2010s declared outright that most young people will never be able to afford to buy their own home and will need to rely on inheritance later mostly because of the Student Loan Debt crisis; but there are other factors as well (landlord costs being utterly exorbitant, for starters). Adult children living with their parents tend to split the bills with their parents and help around the house since it's the least they can do. Most people today will usually not bat an eye if they hear someone lives with their parents. In addition, a growing number of adult children (especially those who fail to find mates of their own - a demographic that is still considered an "acceptable target" by some) are finding themselves in the position of caregiver for their aging parents, leading to them moving back home.
To be more precise, common soldiers were often the butt of jokes in the UK and other parts of Europe during the 17-19th century period, compared to dogs, had jokes made about "selling themselves for a shilling" being uneducated, etc. The trend was in decline for a long time but was killed off fairly conclusively by the world wars, when practically everyone was either in the military or was close to someone who was.
In addition, post-Vietnam War veterans in the United States were derided by war protesters for fighting in the war (although nowhere near as much as many of the pro-war people would have you believe), and were shunned by the older generation for "losing" the war. Nowadays, even with the unpopularity of the Iraq War, which opponents endeavor to emphasize the blame on the politicians who gave the original orders to the military in the first place, the American public at large has been consistent with its support and gratitude of combat troops, and most Vietnam veterans are getting the recognition they deserve. The transition to an all-volunteer and high-tech military, with which many people enlist to further their educations, also did away with old presumptions that soldiers weren't all that smart.
Minimum Wage Workers
In United States and other parts of the world after World War II ended, the economy went into a boom and many well paying jobs returned to society. People who worked at minimum wage jobs were usually given no respect by their employers and/or the customers; the employer sees their employee as just another cog in the machine that needs to be functioning at all times to keep profits pouring in and will not put up with said employee slowing down productivity, no matter what their excuse is. Customers saw the employee nothing more than someone who is there to serve and cater to their needs and they will get what they want because the customer is always right. Working at a minimum wage job got you branded as either being lazy in finding a "real job", had zero skills, or never finished completing your education. Teenagers were also expected to get a summer job to keep themselves occupied and staying out of trouble until school was back in session.
Nowadays, changes in the economy caused a massive change of views towards people that work at minimum wage jobs. With high paying jobs dwindling and requirements for a good job going ever higher, along with money becoming harder to acquire, many people now work at least two minimum wage jobs to make ends meet and are not picky on which job they are willing to work at. Employers are more likely to keep a minimum wage worker employed if their skills are proven as a valuable asset to the company while customers are more sympathetic towards minimum wage workers (with many customers being minimum wage workers themselves). Anyone that tries to make fun of people that work a minimum wage job will usually get scorned at by others on the basis that economic hardship can hit anyone and working at a minimum wage job isn't shameful as long as said person is working hard to provide for their families.
Rape Victims (female only; only when rapist is male)
A form of misogynistic / victim-blaming wherein a victim of sexual assault was accused of "asking for it" by the way they dressed or behaved. Women were once regarded as pariahs for having been raped, but over the years, the continued rise of feminism has led to an increasingly accepting attitude towards women by men, and western society has near-universally sided with the victims, and thanks to social media, many cases involving a person or organization's sympathy with rapists and/or antagonization of victims spark national attention and an online crucifixion of the party in question.
Despite male-on-female rape becoming taboo in modern society, it still appears in the West in some forms, such as the comments which sparked the "Slut Walk" phenomena. However most "prior chastity" laws (which stated that rape of an unmarried woman was not rape if she was not a virgin) have been taken off the books. Some jurisdictions have gone further, forbidding the defense from bringing the victim's sexual history into play (with certain exceptions).
While victims of rape on either gender is tragic, in practice, this mostly applies when the rape victim is female, and the rapist is male. For reactions towards male victim and/or female perpetrator counterparts, see Male Sexual Harassment Victims under Acceptable Hard Luck Targets, and the various double standard tropes.
- A rare Gender Flipped example in Berserk Abridged. It plays much of the original series for humor, but it doesn't really play Guts' Rape as Backstory for laughs (it's at most, understated Black Comedy), and for this reason, the creator gave the series a happy ending, as there really wasn't a way to make the show's actual ending funny.
- Believe it or not, The Bible averts the victim blaming—as early as the BC era! Deuteronomy 22 states that a betrothed virgin should only be killed if she willingly sleeps with a man who is not her fiancé, and even then the man who slept with her must die too. If the virgin was outright raped, only the man must be executed. And of course, a man enticing an unbetrothed virgin to sleep with him resulted in a Shotgun Wedding.
- Not really the defining trait of F.A.T.A.L. (that would be stupidity) but the factor that best exemplifies everything wrong with the game. By the rules of the society in which the game functions, rape is barely a crime, and rapists may well be commended for their despicable act while the victim is inevitably shunned by society for the rest of her life.
Once considered to be considered weird to show die-hardness towards sports teams much like other fandoms, today they are the exception to this rule. Conversely, some people regard you as being more than a little weird if you're not big on sports—especially if you're a man.
While some sports fandoms can still be ridiculed, such as those who play fantasy sports, or fans of "That Other Football" (ex. an American Football fan in Britain or a Soccer fan in America), even they aren't as lambasted as other fandoms.
- Terry Pratchett perhaps says it best: "The main difference between Trekkies and Manchester United fans is that Trekkies never trashed a train carriage. So why are the Trekkies the social outcasts?"
- Lampshaded in this online sketch that addresses the hypocrisy then makes fun of both fans for their fandom.
Or more specifically, anyone who excels in school subjects, especially math. Generally depicted as being hopelessly socially awkward, obsessed with topics that general society doesn't care about, physically clumsy, compulsive video game players and having horrible fashion taste, it was practically standard in 90s American television for there to be one as a minor character. These days, while some of that stigma still remains, the rise of major internet companies, the increased popularity of video games, the spread of cyberwarfare capabilities and the association of the U.S. military with high tech weapons (especially drones) has gone a long way towards discrediting the stereotype and even leading to shows that portray them in a genuinely positive light.
People with Dwarfism
Those who lack in the height department have been the targets of contempt, though the odds of having a child with Achondroplasianote are 50 percent, even with a person without the gene since it's a dominant gene. Thanks to this, a person with Achondroplasia can have "normal" size child, even if the spouse has the condition too. However, in recent years, people with the condition have proven they shouldn't be taken lightly, and are often seen in many programs, including the WWE where wrestlers with the condition were able to take on those twice their sizes. On Spike TV's MANswers, it was once believed a woman with dwarfism "offering guilty services" is half price when they're actually the opposite... It's twice as costly than a normal size woman due to the rarity.
- Many midget wrestlers like Hornswoggle and most recently, El Torito, have proven a challenge, even joining the Royal Rumble through which Fandango had the embarrassment of being eliminated by the latter.
- In one episode of True Capitalist Radio, Ghost considered dwarfism "a punishment from God", and that people with it are held in such indifference that if he murdered one, the cops wouldn't care. When he saw the chatroom's reaction to this, he downplayed his statements as a joke, as though he didn't understand the implications of what he just said. For long-time listeners, this was simply another reason to troll him.
People who speak minority languages or dialects
In Flanders and the Netherlands, from the period after World War II until about the 1970s speaking a Dutch dialect instead of ABN (Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands; something that translated in English means General Civilized Dutch) was almost universally unacceptable. Teachers back then even hit kids with a ruler if so much as a single ABN word of an ABN phrase was spoken in the exact same way as in a Dutch dialect and a lot of festival events and political parties were made to promote the use of ABN. The reason why people have become laxer about it is because over time plenty of successful songs were created in those same countries that were written in Dutch dialects. The term ABN was also deleted and they talk nowadays about AN (Algemeen Nederlands; meaning General Dutch) to coincide with the change in perspective.
This attitude was not confined to the Low Countries. Everywhere a state composed of speakers of one dominant language exercised its power over minority language speakers that came within its authority, the minority language was effectively targeted for extinction. In the British Isles, once united under English dominance, the indigenous minority languages became the target of energetic attempts to destroy them. Initially done in an attempt to homogeneous the population - a people who spoke English would be less prone to rebellion than groups who spoke Welsh, Scottish or Irish - this was later seen as an act of kindness, to equip the native populations with the language of the wider world - English. All the little incivilities described above concerning Dialect Dutch were perpetrated on Welsh schoolchildren, and the rise of universal education in the nineteenth century saw to it that teaching was delivered only in English. Beatings were handed out to those who spoke Welsh in school and persistent speakers were made to wear the "Welsh Not" - a dunce's placard emphasizing Welsh was not to be spoken. English-language teaching in Scotland and Ireland was equally repressive on native languages. It was only with the birth of the Irish Republic in 1921 that Irish Gaelic was given protected status, and the destruction of the language under British rule was first halted and then reversed. A campaign of civil disobedience and resistance in Wales saw official status given to Welsh, and the language thrives today. Scottish Gaelic remains officially endangered, however.
In France, speakers of Breton (a Celtic language), Alsatian (an Alemannic dialect) and Occitan (a language spoken in the South related to Catalan Spanish) also speak bitterly concerning attempts by the Académie Française to enforce linguistic purity on France in the form of one standard dialect. This involved hardening the national heart to wipe out dialects, "argots", "slang languages", "debased forms of French" and "primitive pidgins" from within the borders of France.
Even liberal Denmark attempted to wipe out a minority language: the Nordic dialect spoken in the Faroe Islands was the subject of determined attempts to eradicate it, Denmark arguing that for the Faroese people to succeed in the wider world they must speak formal standard Danish. A campaign of resistance and civil disobedience modeled on the Welsh struggle succeeded in gaining official status for Faroese, and today this is the smallest linguistic group within the Nordic family.
The same techniques were used in the 19th and 20th centuries to eradicate Native American languages, again to reduce the risk of insurgency and as a perceived kindness - for Indians to thrive as American citizens they must learn English. Sioux Indians tell bitter tales of the brutality used in "Indian Schools" to destroy the Sioux languages. The exact same thing was done to the First Nations tribes in Canada.
In China, the Chinese authories are starting to impose their Standard Mandarin to other Chinese languages. Needless to say, it created a backlash, especially in the southern regions, where Hong Kong was situated, and whose peoples are very protective of their language. Similarly, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Mongols have been hard-hit by Chinese lingustic policies, like banning public speaking of their respective minority languages.
The Furry Fandom has ever been an odd one in the public eye whenever it dipped into it. First gaining traction in the late 80s as a hobbyist group for cartoon animal fans and artists, it steadily grew in popularity and notoriety as the internet and media began to pick up on them more. For years they were seen as strange eccentrics and harmless enough folks which, when they came into focus, they made an easy punching bag for whoever wanted to mock these weird people who wanted to dress and act like animals. The fact that furries referred to such discrimination as "fursecution" resulted in a feedback loop of even more mockery. This came to a head when the CSI episode "Fur And Loathing" came out, which depicted furries as an out-of-touch sex cult who genuinely thought they were animals trapped in a human body and dressed up in their fursuits to have wild, drug-fueled origies. To many people who weren't already in that sphere, this was their first ever view of them and that damaged the Furry Fandom's reputation for years. And not missing a beat to find a new internet punching bag, sites like SomethingAwful, 4Chan, and Encyclopedia Dramatica immediately picked up with the furry hate and more or less declared war on the fandom, doxxing and trolling furries for years.
Popular opinion began to shift however around 2010 when the furry fandom began to network more and more as internet saw more and more ease of access and widespread usage, and people began to realize that the Furry Fandom, a place that celebrated differences and creativity, was a major safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community meant that it saw an explosion of popularity and people identifying as furries. This combined with their former opposition in the aformentioned image boards either growing up and realising what they were doing was awful note or getting bored and moving on to new targets, combined with an incident in Midwest Furfest 2014 in which someone tried to pump chlorine gas into the convention's air ducts horrified everyone and generated a massive deal of symapthy for furries and served to help turn around their public image.
More pragmatically, several major US cities put in an effort to help clean up the public image of furries after realizing that with the size of the fandom, furry conventions bring in a lot of money. Pittsburgh PA, the home of Anthrocon, has been known to be overprotective of furries in the city for cons and even loans out the city police department as security detail to keep them safe. Websites like Patreon and Subscribestar also are serious about protecting furries from harassment and other forms of abuse as furry artists make up a majority of the site's revenue and userbase. Besides a few rare pockets, these days most people who wear their hatred for furries on their sleeve are either doing it because of fearing something unfamiliar, or using it to hide a more underlying bigotry like racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ect. ect.