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This trope occurs when a character starts a political discussion on an issue which the other characters don't feel to be political at all. ('Political' here is used as an umbrella term for 'political, philosophical, economic, cultural...' - in short, everything people can get into a more or less intellectual argument about).

For example, Alice and Bob are on vacation in France, and go to visit the Palace of Versailles. Bob marvels at the regal splendour of the centuries-old palace, when suddenly, Alice exclaims: 'Just think of all the misery and oppression the French people were put through so a small elite could live in such luxury! No wonder they revolted.' Bob (and every other visitor in earshot who happens to speak Alice's language) stares at her dumbfounded, then mutters something along the lines of 'I hadn't looked at it from that angle before.'

A few weeks later, back home, Alice and Bob are out shopping when they come across a seemingly innocent billboard for a certain line of women's clothing. Alice makes a remark about how the ad is degrading to women, leading Bob to ask, 'What do you mean, degrading to women?' Alice then goes off on a long tract about the ad's supposed misogynistic tendencies.

In both cases, Alice has employed this trope: she has called attention to the political side of something of which Bob, and most other people in their Verse, were hardly aware that it has a political side.

There is a sliding scale as to how sympathetically this is portrayed. On the negative extreme, Alice is an annoying pedant, making Serious Business out of a trivial matter; on the positive extreme, she's the Only Sane Woman of the setting, and everyone around her is shallow and/or uncaring. Can lead to Good Is Boring, as having a political opinion looks less cool than not caring.

Of course, this can be Played for Laughs if the issue in question is silly enough.

Please bear in mind that, for non-Real Life examples, whether something fits this trope or not is determined by the reactions of other characters, not the reactions of the audience. Thus, if one character does this with an issue the audience would also feel to be political, it can still fit this trope if the other characters don't see it that way; and if most or all of the characters in a given setting see the political side of an issue which the audience considers non-political, it doesn't fit this trope. In other words, the disagreement "is this political or not" needs to occur between one character and the rest, not between the characters and the audience.

Not to be confused with What Do You Mean It's Not Political?, which is about the audience seeing a political message in a work which wasn't intended to convey one. Supertrope of Everything Is Racist. Related to Windmill Political.

Examples:


Advertising

  • Inverted and deliberately invoked in a series of adverts for the UK's Electoral Commission (aimed at increasing voter turnout) which had a man who "didn't do politics" having to give up all conversations since everything, no matter how mundane, has a political connection somewhere.

Film

  • In Reservoir Dogs, Mr. Pink gets an infamous Establishing Character Moment when he explains the political philosophy behind tipping, something the other characters had always done unquestioningly. However, Mr. White counters with his own argument about why Mr. Pink's philosophy is flawed.
  • In Zwartboek, there is a scene in which a group of Dutch resistance fighters drinks to the Queen; one of them refuses to drink to her, because he is a Communist (and thus opposed to the monarchy). The others don't quite see what the big deal is. This scene was probably meant to symbolise the considerable tensions that arose within the Real Life Dutch resistance movement due to ideological differences.

Live Action Television

  • Inverted by the Penguin in the 1960s Batman television series, when he runs for Mayor of Gotham City; his campaign features 'plenty of girls and bands and slogans and lots of hoopla, but remember, no politics. Issues confuse people.'
  • Britta on Community does this all the time

Literature

  • Bernard Marx from Brave New World does this constantly. He is very much on the positive side of the sliding scale (i.e. the Only Sane Man variety).
  • Similarly, Guy Montag from Fahrenheit 451.
  • Hermione Granger is prone to this in Harry Potter. Most memorably, there was a long-running subplot of her being a twit about the issue of sentient-rights for house-elves; because she was the only one who cared and Rowling wrote her treating the issue idiotically, the fandom for the most part concluded that it was not a real issue.
    • The moral question with house-elves was apparently not whether the system was okay but that people oughtn't to abuse it, since it was cruel to take advantage of absolute loyalty and submission.

Theatre

Web Comics

  • In Ménage à 3, this trope is parodied in a Flash Back in which Yuki calls a banana flambé 'oppressive' and the waiter who is trying to serve her this dessert a 'patriarchal phallocrat.' It's parody because she does this out of her "phallophobia", not out of any genuine feminist conviction.
  • Tajel from PHD often does this.
  • Played for laughs in Sluggy Freelance here.

 Gwynn: Anyone want to split an order of buffalo fingers?

Torg: You know, the Native American Indians used to use every part of the buffalo. Nothing went to waste. Then the white man came and killed off whole herds of buffalo for only their fingers!

Gwynn: I'll have the spinach quiche.

Riff: Don't get Torg started on the sociological ramifications of wimpy egg-products!

Western Animation

  • Huey from the Boondocks always sees political conspiracies in everything. He's right roughly half the time.

Real Life

  • George Orwell - from whom this trope's name is a direct quote - was truly notorious for this. His friend Cyril Connolly once said about him that he 'couldn't blow his nose without moralizing on conditions in the handkerchief industry.'
    • Case in point: Orwell managed to end an essay about toads on a political note.
  • In the "science wars" of The Eighties and The Nineties, the supposed neutrality and objectivity of the exact sciences was called into question; in other words, the assumption that the exact sciences were "non-political" was challenged.
  • Any country in a period of heavy political polarisation tends to do this, from the point of view of other countries. The current "culture wars" in the U.S., in which hardly any issue gets left out of the big "Liberal" vs. "Conservative" conflict, are a particularly egregious example.
  • Feminism has a tendency to do this. The most well-known example is calling attention to the use of male pronouns when referring to human beings in general; decades ago, everybody did this without much thought, but then feminists pointed out that it wasn't very fair towards women.
    • An oft-quoted feminist slogan is "the personal is political."
    • Third-wave feminism in particular has promoted the idea that one can make a feminist critique of anything, even something seen as apolitical or vapid like certain segments of popular culture. There are magazines such as Bitch which specialize in this, and it's percolated to other anti-oppression movements (such as anti-racism or LGBT rights) and to the social justice movement in general, as seen with the blogs Racialicious and Sociological Images.
  • Marxism and the various theories and ideologies that have derived from it tend to adopt this approach. To simplify, according to these perspectives nothing can be truly apolitical since everything is informed by politics to some degree or other. As such, to be apolitical is essentially the same as tacitly condoning the status quo, since even if you disagree with the status quo by not speaking up against it in the name of 'neutrality' or being 'apolitical' it simply means that nothing's going to change. As such, many Marxist thinkers tend to disdain the supposedly 'apolitical' even more than they disdain their opponents, since their opponents are at least taking a position on things and standing their ground.
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