Follow TV Tropes


Persecution Flip

Go To
"Colored people had it rough. Imagine: You've been brainwashed into believing your blood is tainted. You've spent all your time assimilating and aspiring to whiteness. Then, just as you think you're closing in on the finish line, some fucking guy named Nelson Mandela comes along and flips the country on its head. Now the finish line is back where the starting line was, and the benchmark is black. Black is in charge. Black is beautiful. Black is powerful. For centuries colored people were told: Blacks are monkeys. Don't swing from the trees like them. Learn to walk upright like the white man. Then all of the sudden it's Planet of the Apes, and the monkeys have taken over."
Trevor Noah, Born a Crime

When most writers want to write about discrimination and oppression, they stick to real-world examples — after all, there are plenty of those. Some writers, however, wonder: "What if it were the other way around?" What if Black Africans had enslaved Europeans? What if India had colonised Britain, or the Aztecs had colonised Spain (perhaps giving rise to a Modern Mayincatec Empire)? What if women had all the power and men had to Stay in the Kitchen? And so on and so forth. There may be a semi-plausible Alternate History explanation for the switch, but just as often it simply is that way.

Often this is not just an interesting what-if, but a way of making a point, saying to the privileged group "well, how would you like it if...?" This tends to be Anvilicious, though not always in a bad way. The message may also be that power corrupts, and no matter who's on top, things will always suck for the group on the bottom, and discrimination of any kind is wrong.

On the other hand, in certain cases the barbarism of the now-powerful group can be played up too much and the whole thing can seem as though it came out of some dislike or distrust of the group in question ("Look how much worse things would be if they were in charge"). Or, alternatively, the work may be disparaging towards the now-oppressed group (which is usually an Acceptable Target due to being in power in the real world), and suggest that they deserve to be treated badly.

Compare Just the Introduction to the Opposites, Turned Against Their Masters, Black Like Me, and Color Me Black.

The Other Wiki has more information on this concept, particularly in real life.


    open/close all folders 

  • This South African ad shows white people disadvantaged and black people in positions of privilege. Essentially, it's a reverse of Apartheid.
  • A European anti-racism ad from The '90s had a white, blonde kid suffering from racism as he tried to live a day in an overwhelmingly black population. He was the only one white person in the entire piece, as even his adoptive family was black.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass involves Japan being occupied by the harsh Holy Britannian Empire, ironically mirroring Imperial Japan's escapades during World War II.
  • In Jyu-Oh-Sei, the Penal Colony planet of Chimera is controlled by four "Rings" (Night, Ochre, Sun, and Blanc) which are primarily divided by skin color. When Thor and Rai are sent there, the Blanc Ring is least powerful of the four, and thus the formerly pampered twins (who are about as white as one can possibly be without having Albinism) find themselves at the bottom of the social ladder
  • In Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, after a disease kills off a large percentage of the male population, feudal Japan becomes a female-dominated society, with women as leaders and warriors and men viewed as sex objects too delicate to fight (or farm, or fish, or...).note 
  • In Yuu Watase's short manga story "Perfect Lovers," a heterosexual couple is transported into an alternate dimension where homosexuality is normal and heterosexual relationships are illegal.

    Comic Books 
  • In the EC Comics story "Hate!", an all-American everyman who leads a mob to kill his Jewish neighbors by burning their house down finds out that he was adopted and that his real parents were Jewish. He then is victimized by his Jew-hating former friends.
  • In the House of M miniseries, Wanda creates a new world through her reality warping powers where mutants are the dominant species and humans are deemed second-class citizens and given the slur "Sapes." Most notably, Magneto and his family rule Genosha as an aristocracy and super-powered individuals like Spider-Man and Miss Marvel are only tentatively accepted as equals to mutants.
  • In Marvel Comics's New Warriors of all things, there is a epic storyline where the cosmic-powered supervillain the Sphinx manages to alter reality so that Egypt is a major world power and has colonized America. African-Americans are the dominant social group, while whites are treated more or less like blacks in our reality. Consequently, all the superheroes that have gotten their powers through special equipment or scientific accidents are black, including the Fantastic Four and The Avengers, with Nova being the Token White Avenger. The X-Men and related mutant characters are unchanged though, and in this reality are doubly-oppressed.
  • Jeremiah had many Native American forming nation-states in post-apocalyptic America, who conducted raids on mostly-Caucasian settlements for slaves and resources.
  • One alternate reality seen in an early issue of Black Science depicts Native Americans with advanced technology invading and in the process of conquering Europe.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the film Almost Normal, the gay protagonist enters a world where homosexuality is the norm - and straight people are the ones viewed as being "deviant".
  • Babakiueria (Barbeque Area) is an Australian film that does this with imperial Aborigines taking over and oppressing white Australians.
  • A variation in Cowboys & Aliens; even though it is not the Native Americans doing the oppressing, the white Americans still find out what it's like to be completely outmatched by an invading army they could not have imagined and getting their people captured/wiped out and their land ravaged. The tie-in comic makes it far less subtle by having a white American loudly saying the aliens "can't do that just because they've got better weapons", then receiving a dirty look from a Native.
  • The short film Love Is All You Need? is about a world in which homosexuality is the norm and a straight teen gets bullied by her peers. It was expanded into a full movie with the same basic plot in 2016.
  • A deleted song from Mary Poppins tells the story of the Chimpanzoo, a zoo where humans are locked up in cages for the animals to look at.
    "Laughs, laughs, nothing but laughs / But you know who's laughing at who? / It's the animals there who giggle and stare / at you in the Chimpanzoo!"
  • The French short film Majorité Opprimée (Oppressed Majority) has this as its focus. It tells the story of a man going through his day in a matriarchal society, facing casual sexism, street harassment, and eventually sexual assault. Women go around bare-chested, urinate in the street and catcall passing men, who are constantly objectified, belittled, and shamed for not being ‘modest’ enough. In 2018, it was remade as a full-length movie under the title Je ne suis pas un homme facile (I Am Not an Easy Man), which revolves around a male chauvinist who after getting hit on the head, wakes up to discover that women are now in charge, and he falls victim to the same type of sexism he forced women to go through.
  • Planet of the Apes involves apes keeping humans in cages and using them for experiments.
  • Predator: An alien hunts humans like humans hunt animals, down to butchering, skinning, and taking their skulls as trophies. Not even the top training and weapons of the mercenary protagonists are a match to his superior technology.
  • In Spartacus the gladiators capture some Roman slavers and force them to fight for the rebellious slaves' amusement.
  • This is the whole point of the film White Man's Burden, where blacks are the racial majority who've generally been in positions of power and privilege in America and whites are the unprivileged minority.

  • The Vienna Teng song "No Gringo" (poor Americans illegally cross the border to Mexico looking for work)
  • The Music video for 'King Rat' by Modest Mouse depicts this between whales and humans.
  • The background for Hypnosis Mic states that once women were in charge of the government, the men were made second-class and forced to live in towns outside of the capital.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Some accounts of the Amazons of Greek Myths are a race of warrior women where the men were lucky if they end up as slaves and aren't killed right out after they were used for sex for propagation. Other depictions range from the even more fantastical (the Amazons' society is all-woman and their only encounters by choice with men are when they meet with their Spear Counterparts the Gargareans for procreation; the Amazons keep the girls and send the boys to their fathers) to the more prosaic (the Amazons are a mirror image of Greek society where the women hold political power and go off to war and the men are expected to Stay in the Kitchen and at their looms).
  • Some religions' afterlife beliefs feature this as punishment. Jain, Buddhist and Hindu scriptures for instance say that those who harmed animals in this life will be harmed themselves the same way within one of the many hells. Lurid images show beastial demons forcing humans to drive carts, pull plows or butchering them for meat. The Bible has Jesus, on a vaguer note, saying "The first will be last and the last will be first" in the Kingdom of Heaven, although the details of what it entails aren't elaborated on.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the GURPS Alternate Earths Alternate History of Ezcalli, early exposure to Old World diseases from Carthaginian traders allowed Native Americans to develop resistance early, while the Roman Empire collapsed in infancy, leaving Europe open for Mongol-dominated Asia, Christian African kingdoms, and subsequent Aztec raiding fleets to plunder its squabbling villages for slaves.
  • Shadowrun:
    • With the resurgence of magic, various Native Americans take the initiative of their newfound Shaman powers and conquer a sizable portion of mid-northwest America, turning it into a coalition of Native American states. Unfortunately, they proceed to treat 'non-natives' as second-class citizens at best and target practice at worst. Ute in particular is extremely anti-Angelo, and has suffered economically as a direct resultnote .
    • The Philippine anti-Japanese resistance Huk seeks to liberate Imperial Japan conquered areas, especially an island ghetto dedicated to torturing as many non-humans as possible. Unfortunately, their ranks also include terrorists and gang lords, who are eager to capitalize on the liberated areas and kill any Japanese citizens on their way through.


    Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, when he goes to summer school (the real one), the protagonist, a famous jock, needs someone to rescue him from bullies. Lampshaded in the conversation that he has afterwards with his rescuer, Marco.

    Web Animation 
  • Ultra Fast Pony gets weird with its Fantastic Racism. Fluttershy is a former slave, and the institution of slavery in Equestria is clearly a reference to slavery in the US. Now that she's freed, Fluttershy is actually angry that slavery was completely abolished, because she wants to have slaves of her own. She tries to make the animals her slaves instead, but she's "just so bad with animals!"
    Fluttershy: Oh, I get it. It's okay to have Fluttershy do everything her owners say. But as soon as she gains ownership of her own farm, suddenly it's all "Equal rights" and "Slavery is not okay anymore!" In the name of the black smoke in the sky, I demand reparations!

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • There is a growing number of anti-bullying Internet videos such as this one which depict worlds in which being gay is the norm and heterosexuality is seen as deviant, forcing the (usually) straight protagonists to hide their sexuality or be bullied for it and ostracized by their families. Interestingly, and perhaps unfortunately, these shorts will sometimes depict a reversal of gender roles. For example, the video linked to shows a female-dominated Catholic Church, and there is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to American football being a girl's sport.
  • GregCal mostly plays this for laughs, since in the alternate universe it's from the Jewish-normative society doesn't persecute Christians so much as ignore them and be misinformed about their beliefs (just as Christians are to Jews in our universe). It offers Entertainingly Wrong information about those weird Christian holidays like "Christian Purim" (Mardi Gras) and "Yom Chelm" (April Fool's Day).
  • Barbara Daniels's Dominion over Man art series reproduces different animal-human interactions with the human playing the part of the animal.
  • In January 2018, Eli Rezkallah released a photo series called In A Parallel Universe, which takes sexist 1950s advertisements and reverses the gender roles.
  • The "Man who has it all" Facebook page started as a parody of self-help guides for working mothers, but spun into a whole world where men are the victims of Housewife, Ms. Fanservice and Token Girl tropes.
  • The Indian web series Men's World follows a man who, annoyed by what he perceives as "female privilege", prays at a temple for gender roles to be reversed. He regrets this almost as soon as it happens.
  • Piecing Together the Ashes: Reconstructing the Old World Order: In the centuries since the Deluge, the states that have emerged from the devastated Europe have become satellites and colonies of the new, more powerful nations of Africa.

    Western Animation 
  • In Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, when two white government agents shoot a time-travelling Abraham Lincoln, who's covering the Teens' escape in a wooden rocket (doesn't make much sense in-context, either), they suddenly find themselves tied to a horse-cart with a black slave driver cracking a whip at them.
  • Family Guy: One of Peter's many identical ancestors was an African slave, Nate Griffin. The flashback showing his enslavement reveals that Peter's friends Joe and Quagmire also have identical African ancestors that were friends with Nate and were enslaved and taken to America with him. On the other hand, the remaining friend (Token Black Cleveland) appears in the flashback as his identical white ancestor: the very man who went to Africa and enslaved them.
  • Futurama:
    • Chapek 9, the planet inhabited by robot separatists who hunt for any humans that may visit. Their movie industry includes spoofs of 50's monster films about humans coming from outer space to attack robots.
    • "Spanish Fry" reveals that "human horn" (noses) is considered an aphrodisiac by some alien races and that there are poachers who illegally abduct humans and steal their noses to sell. This is an obvious reference to the myth that rhinoceros horn is consumed in Asia as an aphrodisiac (it's actually sold as a cure-all remedy and status symbol, with some consumers fully knowing it does nothing except show others that they have the money to buy it).
  • Rick and Morty: In "Lawnmower Dog", dogs gain super-intelligence from one of Rick's creations and rebel against humans, turning the survivors into pets.
  • Played for Laughs in Robot Chicken (what else?):
  • In an episode of Tripping the Rift ("You Wanna Put That Where?") the crew find themselves on a gay planet where heterosexuals are condemned to die. They escape punishment by putting the community's leader as straight as a distraction, then presumably leave him to die.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man (2012), Spider-Man travels to a Gender Flipped world. Spider-Girl (real name Petra Parker) is a bit disdainful of a boy taking on her title, there's a reference to Georgia Washington, and the female Green Goblin mocks Peter, so it can be assumed that sexism went the other way in this universe. Interestingly, both of these tropes combined means that the same people still discriminated against the same people throughout history.

    Real Life 
  • This Not Always Right post has a customer attempting this. It comes off as head-scratchingly ridiculous.
  • This sort of thing has happened when different groups get the upper hand in a closely-divided country. Some prime examples are:
    • Protestants and Catholics taking turns persecuting each other during the European Wars of Religion (including the Thirty Years' War) whenever the ruler changed (either through succession, conversion, Klingon Promotion, or conquest). England's history is a prime example: Henry VIII was famous for persecuting Protestants mercilessly until that whole divorce thing, at which point he started persecuting Catholics; when his Catholic daughter Mary became Queen, she persecuted Protestants; and when Mary was succeeded by Elizabeth, she started persecuting Catholics again.
    • The same was more or less true when the Middle East was under Byzantine rule. Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Christians took the place of Protestants and Catholics, with the favor of the local governor being the variable.
    • In the interminable wars between the Byzantine and Sassanid Persian Empires in the 6th and 7th centuries, Jerusalem would inevitably change hands. Since the Byzantines were Christian and distrusted the Jews, every time they took over the city, Jerusalem would be purged of its Jewish population. Whenever the Persians—Zoroastrians who distrusted Christians as possibly loyal to Constantinople, but had no problem with the Jews—took the city, they slaughtered the Christians and spared the Jews. This happened several times over a relatively short period of time before the Muslim conquests put an end to that by destroying Persia completely and taking a huge bite out of Byzantium; when they took Jerusalem, they surprised everyone by slaughtering nobody.
    • In the 16th century, a naval arms race prompted Mediterranean navies to switch from free, volunteer oarsmen to almost all Slave Galley crews. Because enslaving someone of your religion was illegal, Christians would raid Muslims for slaves and Muslims would raid Christians. The Knight Hospitaller Jean Parisot de la Valette was captured by the Turks and became a slave in the galley of the Ottoman admiral, Dragut, until he was ransomed. Years later, La Valette captured Dragut and made him his slave, telling him, "Monsieur Dragut, it is the custom of war", to which Dragut replied, "And change of fortune." Dragut was also ransomed, and the two would go on to command the opposing armies during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, when both were in their 70s.
    • Hernán Cortés was helped in his conquest of the Aztecs by the Otomis, who had been conquered after a long war 20 years prior by the Aztecs, and particularly by the Tlaxcalans, who were being constantly invaded and on the brink of defeat when the Spanish appeared, ruling only a small territory. Under the Spanish, the Tlaxcalans became the primary occupation force in the Aztec capital and later established colonies all over Mexico, Central America and Texas. Some even took part in the Spanish conquest of the Philippines. Their privileges were unmatched by any other natives under Spanish rule, and their homeland survives today as Mexico's smallest state.
  • While many would assume that the persecution of pagans by the formerly-persecuted Christians during the fall of The Roman Empire to be a straight example of this trope, it was actually more of a subversion; several other cults which are usually considered "pagan", such as the Cult of Mithras, the Bacchic Rites, Gnostics, etc. all saw sporadic periods of persecution, much like Christians did. Once Christianity became the Roman state religion, the pagan religion of the ruling class that had once persecuted all of these religious groups was brutally persecuted and suppressed. To add further subversion, even other Christian groups whose beliefs didn't align with those of the late Roman ruling class, such as Arians, Monophysites, Ebionites, etc. also saw persecution by the Roman state church.
  • The Rwandan genocide was partially a result of this. Without getting into who was persecuting who at which time, let's just say that the Tutsis used to be in elite positions, but then the Hutus engaged in revolutions, purges, etc. By the time of the genocide, the Hutus were trying to get rid of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
    • Averted with post-Apartheid South Africa. There was the fear that the new regime would actively persecute white people with violence equal to those used by the Apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela went out of his way to make sure this did not happen and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission underscores just how far his presidency went to try and appease both white and black people.
    • Unfortunately, in neighboring Zimbabwe, the formerly dominant white minority did suffer this when Robert Mugabe came to power. They were subject to attacks so they would leave their farms, that were taken without compensation. This greatly damaged the economy, as Mugabe gave the farms to cronies of his who weren't trained in farming or neglected them.
  • A study done decades ago in a real class promoted and demoted blue- and brown-eyed pupils to show the effects and issues of racism and other -isms. The children, regardless of being told about the study, stated that they came to feel superior or inferior, and had trouble re-adjusting even years later.
  • The Stanford Prison Experiment was a study done with college students which had some be jailers, and some jailed. The jailers were somewhat oppressive, but only somewhat. After a time, they switched. The once-jailed-now-jailers were much more oppressive. The experiment's validity has been questioned, though, since it had the experimenter (Philip Zimbardo) actively involved (in the role of warden) and didn't screen whether participants who became violent were already prone to this. It cannot be replicated to find out whether its results were valid, as modern ethical rules prohibit doing so.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male, The Unfair Sex, and Men Are the Expendable Gender are full of examples of situations that would be viewed as horrifying if the genders were reversed, but because the victims are men, are played for laughs (or otherwise trivialized) instead.
  • Eminem was viciously bullied as he was growing up because he was the only white kid in an all-black neighborhood.
  • The black slaves in French Haiti hoped to receive freedom and equality after the Revolution, only to see Napoleon restoring slavery in 1802. They rebelled and nearly exterminated all whites and mulattoes in the country. Then they denied citizenship to whites for over a century, with only some (Polish, Germans) becoming "honorary black" after they married a black Haitian.note 
    • Haiti also invaded and annexed the Dominican Republic in 1822. As in the home country, the freed black slaves replaced the whites as dominant class and banned them from owning land. They also confiscated all properties of the Catholic Church and severed relations with the Vatican. The Dominicans later rebelled and secured their independence in 1844. By then, they were so fed up with Haitian black rule that "black" became synonymous with "Haitian" in the country, and black Dominicans would claim to be mixed (Trigueño) or "Indian". Nowadays, the Dominican Republic is richer than Haiti and Haitians often live there as illegal immigrants and second-class citizens.
  • Referenced by Will Smith during the promotion of Ali. He joked that, while filming in Mozambique, he felt that if he got in a fight with director Michael Mann, the police would be likelier to shoot Michael for once.
  • Nearly all the Barbarian tribes who established kingdoms on the lands of the old Western Roman Empire had been previously vassals of the Romans (Foederati).
  • The Republic of Venice, which went on to sack Constantinople and rule several Greek islands and fortresses centuries later, originated as a farflung Byzantine outpost. The Venetian leader's charge (Doge) is etymologically related to Dux (which also originated "Duke"), the Roman name for a general.
  • Jane Goodall's son Grub was born in Gombe and raised there until he was six. Sometimes, he would be placed in a large cage with his toys to keep him safe from the park's free-ranging chimps and baboons.
  • Turkish Cypriots often cited this at the hands of Greek Cypriots as justification for their establishment of Northern Cyprus, their own breakaway country.


Video Example(s):


Minority Takeover

Believing that minorities have taken over the world, Cartman imagines what his life is going to be like.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / PersecutionFlip

Media sources: