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Values Dissonance

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"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

Tropes are common denominators. Their viewers recognize them, laugh at them or groan at them, but most of us can guess where they're coming from—specifically, what cultural values are embodied in the trope.

Unfortunately, some tropes just don't travel — or age — very well. They're fine on their home turf, where everyone understands them and knows what value system they're based on. When that trope makes the trip to another country, however, it gets seasick on the way over, arriving at port looking distinctly disheveled and finding itself among strangers who have no idea what it's talking about.

Since there are so many countries (193 UN members and 2 observers to be exact, and that's just counting those that have international recognition) and cultures in the world, it's not surprising that there are so many different outlooks on life — what's important, who's important, what constitutes justice and what qualifies as cruelty changes depending on where you are. Even in countries that speak the same language, values can be different. The UK and the USA, for example, share a language and are regarded as culturally similar to one another... but handguns are legal in the USA, whereas they are mostly banned for civilians in the UK. The UK also has no death penalty, while the US does have a legal category called “a capital crime” for certain severe federal offenses and certain very serious crimes, and circumstances of basic crimes such as murder, in the state law codes of about twenty-five states. This leads to some fundamental differences in the way the legal system is perceived, even between two countries that are alike in many other ways.

Sometimes, the difference is even closer to home. A show where the death penalty for a criminal is a good ending in a state that accepts such a measure may not be as accepted as such in a state that frowns on execution. With the multicultural nature of many places, sometimes a trope only has to go down the street to become completely unrecognizable. Differing religions, backgrounds or life experiences can mean that a person's view of a trope differs from the "standard" that said trope is derived from.

Other tropes find it difficult to age gracefully. The world being the dynamic and evolving place that it is, some aspects of the media don't quite manage to keep pace with the time and become the "Grumpy Old Men" of Tropeland.

Very often, the trope in question is An Aesop, and exporting it, or viewing it twenty years later than the time it was created, gives unfavorable results.

See also Unfortunate Implications and Discredited Trope. Also see Germans Love David Hasselhoff, in which it's critical acclaim rather than moral values that is on the line. Also see Fair for Its Day, in which the work actually has less values dissonance than its contemporaries. See Culture Clash and Innocent Bigot for when this happens in-story and Deliberate Values Dissonance for when the author is doing it on purpose. Please list that trope instead of invoking this trope on any works that do so. Also see Have a Gay Old Time and Get Thee to a Nunnery, where dialogue is interpreted differently due to this. Has similarity to Good Flaws, Bad Flaws. Also see The Generation Gap, which is a subtrope encompassing differing values among generations (for instance, between the World War II and Baby Boomer generations). Blue-and-Orange Morality is this trope exaggerated. Contrast Values Resonance. Can sometimes result in Misplaced Nationalism. And of course, it's likely to result in the exclamation, Dude, Not Funny!

An example of Values Dissonance between the United Kingdom and the US would be the use of blackface imagery, which formed the centrepiece of The BBC's Black and White Minstrel Show until 1978, with live performances continuing all the way until 1989. Blackface was/is also used in other countries, such as Japan, The BENELUX, and Australia, where it does not have the same cultural stigma or even origin.

WARNING: By its nature, this trope is highly controversial. You may well encounter a custom or belief on this page that you don't think is dissonant at all; you might even be inclined to vehemently defend it. Indeed, concepts of right or wrong or even of what is "proper" are rarely universal in the truest sense of the word. Across every period of Earth's history, just about anything has been or can potentially be justified, or at least rationalized. So if you see a value here you don't find dissonant at all, please refrain from adding your own interpretation. (However, you're welcome to contest it if you don't see how it would be dissonant to anyone, although even then, please edit with civility as usual.)

Note: Examples regarding the dissonance between time periods require a 20-year waiting period before they can be added.

Related tropes:

  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: Outside the country of origin, media is promoted to seem more exciting, subversive, or badass, without changing the actual media.
  • Americans Hate Tingle: Difference of cultural norms ensures that a work or character is despised outside of their country of origin.
  • Bad Future: A time-traveler finds the future is a dystopia.
  • Bad Present: A time-traveler from the past thinks our present is a dystopia.
  • Banned in China: A work is banned in another country, often because of featuring content that the country finds offensive or morally objectionable.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Someone (or something) that follows morality that cannot be accurately measured by our understanding of what's right and wrong. (Compared to Deliberate Values Dissonance.)
  • Bowdlerise: A work is clumsily altered in a way to remove material considered offensive somewhere else.
  • Broken Base: Disagreement on whether an aspect of a work was good or bad can be a result of values dissonance.
  • Character Perception Evolution: A character becomes more or less popular due to changes in what are considered good or bad traits.
  • Clean Dub Name: A character or object's name is changed when a work is released in a foreign market because the original language's name sounds like an offensive local word.
  • Condemned by History: A once-popular thing is obliterated by negative backlash to the extent that even those who enjoyed it at the time have since changed their opinion.
  • Creator's Culture Carryover: A work taking place in one country makes it painfully clear that the creator is from another.
  • Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle: A concept that is benign in one culture is highly offensive in others, leading to friction.
  • Cultural Cringe: A character is embarrassed by or mocks their native culture, especially in comparison to others.
  • Culturally Sensitive Adaptation: An adaptation of a work is created and elements are changed from the original in order to better align with the values of the target audience of the new work.
  • Culture Clash: Cultural differences lead to conflict.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: A story set in a different time or place intentionally depicts the setting having cultural differences that the target audience might find problematic or even immoral, usually for the sake of historical and/or cultural accuracy or to make statement about said cultural differences.
  • Discredited Trope: A trope is no longer used (or at least no longer used often or as seriously) because of how society has progressed.
  • Dub Personality Change: A dub between languages significantly alters a character's personality.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Other characters chew out someone for making a tasteless joke.
  • Ethnic Scrappy: A character is disliked for basically being an offensive racial stereotype.
  • Fair for Its Day: The work's moral might not seem very open-minded today, but it was seen as pretty progressive in its time.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: A person has to adjust to living outside of their original time period after ending up stuck in the past or future.
  • Fish out of Water: An individual is forced to live outside of their native environment.
  • Future Society, Present Values: A story set in the future has the same values as the time period in which it was created.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: A work is more popular outside of its country of origin.
  • Get Thee to a Nunnery: Something that was once raunchy innuendo is made innocuous by the passage of time.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: A scene, joke, or moment becomes worse thanks to current events.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Something that was once innocuous is made raunchy innuendo by the passage of time.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Something about a work becomes funnier or more relevant because of current events.
  • Moral Myopia: Something that is acceptable when done by one group is seen as unacceptable when another group does the exact same thing.
  • No Equal-Opportunity Time Travel: A time traveler from the future, often a member of some historically oppressed group, visits the past and learns the hard way how much life would've sucked had they lived in that time.
  • Non-Nazi Swastika: A swastika is used outside of a Nazi or white-supremacist context. This was fairly common in the West prior to the 1930s. Even now, swastikas are still used by Hindu and Buddhist cultures in their own religious context.
  • Politically Correct History: When a story set in the past deliberately whitewashes or glosses over more controversial aspects, in order to avoid alienating modern viewers.
  • Racist Grandma: An older person who (openly) expresses prejudiced and bigoted beliefs, which is attributed to them having grown up in a time when it was more common and socially acceptable to hold such views.
  • Same Content, Different Rating: As times change, content that was originally seen as harmless is now viewed as less so (or vice versa).
  • She's a Man in Japan: A character's gender is changed when a work is localized for a different country, usually to make the work better fit that country's views of gender roles and sexuality.
  • Unacceptable Targets: People and other subjects that one should never, ever mock or criticize, unless they're willing to face massive public backlash (or even worse consequences) against them.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: We're supposed to despise this character, but we find them appealing and their problems relatable.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: We're supposed to feel sorry for this character, but we're more inclined to think they've brought their troubles on themselves.
  • Values Resonance: The inverse of this trope: an older work has messages or themes which are still relevant and applicable to present-day issues.
  • Vindicated by History: A work that wasn't successful when originally released becomes better received over time.
  • Written by the Winners: A narrative is skewed to make the dominant power structure look like the heroes even when their actions are/were questionable.
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo: What's normal in one culture is forbidden in another, or vice versa.



Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Once Acceptable Target, Once Acceptable Targets


Retired School Song

Frond decides to retire the Wagstaff's school song because they never realized that some of the words to the song were a little "raw".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (27 votes)

Example of:

Main / ValuesDissonance

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