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Whoopi Epiphany Speech

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"In my defense, I stopped Sinestro from conquering you all." "But did you stop Jim Crow from segregating us?"

Tracy Gill: Aisha Tyler walked away with the award for "Best Extraordinarily Intuitive Black Female".
Jim Hagerty: Wow, now that black girl knows something you don't.

A profoundly wise, life-affirming monologue given by a poor/oppressed minority/uneducated/mentally challenged character to a more-privileged one, who is deeply moved by it and changes their outlook/actions accordingly. The speech may use simplistic language but will, at its core, be extremely well-structured and insightful.

Named after actress Whoopi Goldberg, whose character Celie in The Color Purple (1985) is an uneducated, viciously oppressed farmgirl who famously stands up for herself with such a speech. Her later character Guinan from Star Trek: The Next Generation, a wise Really 700 Years Old bartender, may have helped cement the trope name, although Guinan's life-affirming speeches tended to be more erudite.

Subversions usually take the form of some person interrupting a fight with a comment on why they shouldn't be fighting. Instead of stopping as expected, the rioters just resume fighting.

The Magical Negro frequently dispenses Whoopi Epiphany Speeches. See also Waif Prophet, Book Dumb, Simpleminded Wisdom, and Wisdom from the Gutter. Note that just because the character is black, and gives a speech, doesn't make it a Whoopi Epiphany Speech — if the character is powerful, educated or generally respected, they don't fit this trope.


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    Comic Books 
  • The famous "You've done a lot for the purple skins, but what have you done for the black skins?", speech delivered to Green Lantern in the '70s.
  • In the winter of 1995, Bongo Comics (the company responsible for comic-book adventures involving characters from The Simpsons) presented a three-part story entitled "The Rise and Fall of Krustyland." It recounts how Krusty the Clown let everyone - and that means everyone, from ordinary citizens to the Mob - for miles around get into his amusement park free on the day that it opened. Two of the groups that attended were a troupe of Boy Scout-like youths called the Junior Campers (with Ned Flanders as their leader) and a contingent of violent inmates from the local insane asylum. Both groups somehow get trapped inside the watery funhouse ride "It's a Tiny Yet Annoying World" (obviously a No Celebrities Were Harmed send-up of Disneyland's "It's a Small World") when divine windstorms and wildfires (Krustyland had been built on a cursed Native American burial ground) break out in the park. The Sickeningly Sweet song performed by the animatronic dolls nearly drives everyone berserk... until one of the asylum inmates attempts to mediate, urging everyone to listen to the lyrics and "join together and sing!" Both the campers and the inmates look at this guy in disgust for a beat before erupting in anger and screaming for his blood. Fortunately, the boats on the ride bust their way out of the tunnels before anything really bad can happen.

    Comic Strips 
  • The "It's a very good day to me," speech by the Ethiopian taxi driver in an old strip of For Better or for Worse.
    • Also done more recently, with vaguely mentally disabled character Shannon delivering a rousing speech about tolerance to an entire high school from atop a cafeteria table.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Whoopi Goldberg is the Trope Namer.
  • In The Grizzlies, Inuit student Miranda gives one to white history teacher Russ, twice. Once when he berates a student for not focusing on lacrosse training, and once when he packs to leave.
    Miranda: We Inuit love this land because we can see for miles. We notice every little thing. But you? You only see right here. Right in front of your face. All of us have made sacrifices to be here. All of us. You really think Zach doesn't want to play? You've been to his house. Did you not see? His family is starving. He has to hunt. Get a clue.
  • In the Robert Altman film Gosford Park, the maid Dorothy delivers a speech about what's really important to a discontented aristocrat.
  • In the end of the remake of Bedazzled (2000), in which the hapless hero is stuck in jail with the prospect of having sold his soul to the Devil and only one wish left to make it worthwhile. His cellmate, a gentle young black man reminds him with a smile that he can't sell something that doesn't belong to him — in this case, his soul. This man and the Devil (Hurley) are later seen playing chess, implying that he's either God or some kind of angel.
  • In the film Nell, Kellty gives a very quiet one in the courtroom scene.
  • In The Avengers, the old German man who stands up to Loki's attempt at intimidating a crowd
  • Freejack: After Furlong barely survives jumping off a bridge to escape capture, he encounters a random homeless dude.
    Furlong: I'm beat.
    RHD: You think so?
    Furlong: Pretty much.
    RHD: Then you're beat. A man thinks he's beat, he's beat.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian
    • Brian's girlfriend tries to convince Brian's mom that he is special (while naked, as she had barged in on the two of them). It doesn't work.
    Brian's mom: He's not The Messiah! He's a very naughty boy!
    • Brian tries it too: two factions of Jewish anti-Roman agitators have met up underneath Pilate's palace - two different factions planning the same thing (to kidnap his wife), so they end up fighting each other. Brian pipes up with an inspiring speech about how they should be focusing on their common enemy (not the Judean People's Front, the Romans)... and after politely hearing him out, everyone starts right where they left off, until everyone's dead except Brian. To top it off, the whole thing is silently observed by two very amused Roman guards.
    • There's also Brian's desperate attempt to convince his unwanted multitude that they don't need to blindly follow him or anyone else... only for them to end up doing nothing more than parrot his statements about how they're all individuals and need to think for themselves.
  • Subverted in the movie Deep Blue Sea when Samuel L. Jackson, whose character is the Decoy Protagonist and Sacrificial Lion of the film, gives a powerful "we've got to all pull together people if we're going to survive" speech, right before he gets chomped; nay verily, he's right in the middle of that speech.
  • Mean Girls: "I just wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school. I wish that I could bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles, and we'd all eat it and be happy."
  • Played for Laughs in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, when Harold is wrongfully arrested and meets a black inmate who was also wrongfully arrested.
    Tarik: Look at me. I'm fat, black, can't dance, and I have two gay fathers. People have been messing with me my whole life. I learned a long time ago there's no sense getting all riled up every time a bunch of idiots give you a hard time. In the end, the universe tends to unfold as it should. Plus I have a really large penis. That keeps me happy.
    • The speech inspires Harold to hijack the extreme sports punks' car.
  • The Man Who Invented Christmas is about Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol. In his first draft, Tiny Tim was Killed Off for Real. His maid Tara - a young Irish girl who would definitely be an oppressed minority in the 19th century - gives him a speech about why it's important that Tiny Tim should live.
    Wallace: Yeah, I'm kinda banking on you moving in with Ramona so I don't have to feel guilty for kicking you out.
  • In Team America: World Police, a homeless and possibly drunk man gives the hero some sage advice about assholes, pussies and dicks. This seemingly mindless rant becomes important later.

  • The trope is Older Than Steam at the very least. Speeches of this kind were very widespread in Spanish Golden Age literature. The Trope Maker must have been Antonio de Guevara, famous for his Danubian Farmer anecdote, where a lowly peasant eloquently criticizes the Roman Empire.
  • In Robert J. Sawyer's WWW Trilogy, Hobo (a chimpanzee bonobo hybrid) addresses the United Nations General Assembly, and tells them that the reason why they can't solve problems is that they're a room full of "thump chests" (alpha males).
  • A fellow mother in the prison waiting room delivers just such a speech to Eva In Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder: Baldrick's cry of "Why can't we just stop, sir? Why can't we just say, 'no more killing, let's all go home'? Why would it be stupid just to pack it in, sir? Why?"
  • In the pilot episode of Community Jeff Winger sarcastically informs a cafeteria worker that TV has conditioned him to see "all middle-aged black women as cosmic mentors." She just wants him to pay for his damn tacos.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Many of the Doctor's companions function this way, serving to keep the Doctor grounded when he needs it.
    • "Rise of the Cybermen": Subverted when Rose Tyler tries it on her mother's analogue in an Alternate Universe while posing as a waitress at her birthday party, but Jackie just turns around and asks her who the hell she thinks she is.
    • Donna in "The Runaway Bride":
      Donna: Doctor! You can stop now.
    • "Evolution of the Daleks" crosses it with a Sedgwick Speech and plays with the trope when Solomon, the (black) leader of a Hooverville in New York City, tries to negotiate with the Daleks by appealing to their non-existent better natures. He's killed immediately afterwards... but the Cult of Skaro's leader, Dalek Sec, whose recent transformation into a Half-Human Hybrid has led to him beginning to develop morality, is visibly moved.
  • Whoopi tries to deliver one about how overworked and pressured people in her line of work are while on the stand as a social worker in Law & Order: SVU. Subverted by the fact that she has knowingly neglected actually caring for children in favor of paperwork and self-advancement, and the ultimate objective of her speech is to evade responsibility (legally and morally) for a child's death. Despite the message being an important one, the speech rings hollow with both the characters and the audience as a result.
  • "When you can feel, that's when you know you're alive." Nelson the bartender from the British Life on Mars.
  • Guinevere (black and a servant) from Merlin gives one of these to Merlin after King Uther has had her father executed, during a stage when Merlin is considering letting Morgana go ahead with her assassination attempt on Uther's life. On asking Gwen what she would do if she hypothetically had control over Uther's life, she says that she wouldn't kill him as that would make her no better than he is, spurring Merlin into trying to stop the hit from going ahead.
  • Subverted in the first episode of The Sarah Silverman Program, where an old black lady gives sagely advice to Sarah.
    • "I've learned something today... Elderly black women are wise beyond their years, but younger black women are prostitutes. Good night?"
    • And let's not forget that said advice was delivered while Sarah was high on cough syrup. Or that the elderly black woman's head was attached to the body of her dog (Sarah dubs it "Elderly Black Woman Puppy").
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • "The Measure of a Man": Guinan gives one that serves as a wake-up call for Picard, making him realize that more than Data's freedom is at stake.
      Guinan: Consider that in the history of many worlds, there have always been disposable creatures. They do the dirty work. They do the work that no one else wants to do because it's too difficult or too hazardous. And an army of Datas, all disposable... You don't have to think about their welfare, you don't think about how they feel. Whole generations of disposable people.
    • "I, Borg": Instead of the typically enlightened speech, Guinan tries to convince Picard (via fencing) that the nature of the Borg can never be altered and trying to show compassion to the one they've found is futile. It falls to Geordi of all people to deliver an Epiphany Speech to Guinan, and it works; Guinan has good reasons to feel as she does, but she eventually faces the Borg individual and confronts this. This leads Guinan to give another speech to Picard (who also has good reasons to have a dislike of the Borg).
      Guinan: If you are going to use this person...
      Picard: It's not a person, dammit, it's a Borg!
      Guinan: If you're going to use this person to destroy his entire species, you should at least look him in the eye. Otherwise, you might find that decision much harder to live with than you realize.
  • In Wizards of Waverly Place when Alex gives a heartfelt speech about how you should be okay with yourself and not give in to the school Alpha Bitch, said Alpha Bitch promptly tells her that she still rules the school and orders everyone to leave, which they do.
  • The Young Ones: Parodied/subverted in the episode "Boring". During a fight, wannabe anarchist Rick suddenly decides to try appealing to everybody's better nature:
    Rick: Guys! Guys! Look at us! Squabbling! Bickewing, like childwen! What's happened to us? We never used to be like this!
    The others immediately point out that they have, in fact, always been like this.

  • The title character from Frank Zappa's Thing-Fish, a black man who was mutated by a man-made virus, lectures a suburban white couple about a number of societal problems, particularly their uptight behavior.


    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • Humorously subverted by Clone High, with Toots, the blind Jazz player. He'll start a speech that sounds like it'll be the voice of reason in troubled times, but instead decides to let everyone get on with their angry mob.
    "Now, I may be blind, but I can see certain things loud and clear. This is a room full of scared people making decisions based on fear and ignorance. Now, when I left the house this evening, I intended to go to Giovanni's Italian Restaurant. I can tell I'm in the wrong place. So, if you'll excuse me, I'll leave and let you get on with your meeting."
  • Recess: "The Great Can Drive" has the kids fighting over some geezer's can of food, as part of a contest to see who can get the most cans. TJ's class had just accumulated the exact same number of cans as the Ashleys' class (the scores were in the thousands), and TJ is teed off even more than if they had lost and contributed to the Ashleys' winning streak. As they fight, Mikey tries to remind them that the true point of this whole contest is to get collect food for the needy. After hearing this, they continue fighting over the can anyway, which somehow results in the entire collection of cans falling and breaking open, wasting the food and infuriating Mikey.
  • Takes a very dark turn in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power when Double Trouble, a non-binary shapeshifter, delivers a Breaking Speech to Catra by telling her that even though she had been hurt in the past by the people she trusted, it is ultimately her own deeds that drive others away.
  • Played with in an episode of South Park in which the handicapped Jimmy accidentally joins the Crips and, upon discovering their ongoing turf war with the Bloods, decides to fix the matter by locking them in a gym together overnight. To get them to stop fighting each other, he delivers a speech where the only words that actually matter are "I mean, come ON."
  • Steven Universe: Future: In "Little Graduation", when Steven's horror at his friends moving away leads him to accidentally summoning a shrinking forcefield to literally force them all together it is ultimately the non-binary Shep, who only appears in this episode, that saves the day by summing up Steven's abandonment issues and telling him that he can't force his friends to stay by his side forever.

    Real Life 
  • Rodney King said this famous piece three days into the LA riots. They went on for three more days afterward.
    "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?" — King

Alternative Title(s): Whoopi Epiphany, Come On The World Needs You Speech