FANDOM


WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic
"But you're not like other gypsies. They're... evil!"
Quasimodo, Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame

So you've got a really nice character who comes from a sheltered background. They could be The White Prince or Spoiled Sweet, or maybe they just grew up in a community that happened to not be very diverse, or they could even be a time traveler from a period when people from different backgrounds just didn't associate with each other. They're not used to dealing with people from other ethnic/religious/etc. groups, but that doesn't mean they have a problem with those groups. Far from it! In fact, they probably think other cultures are really exotic and cool and wouldn't it be awesome to have a Black Best Friend? This is part of the problem.

When the Innocent Bigot meets characters who don't share their background, their ignorance will lead them to say and do things that are insensitive or downright offensive without realizing it. "Wow, I thought [members of group X] would be [insert stereotype here], but you sure are different!" Or, "I've never met a [member of indigenous group Y] before! It's really cool how you guys live in harmony with nature and stuff!" Another common variant is the male character who was taught to be chivalrous toward women and is surprised to learn that Action Girls find it insulting to be told to Stay in the Kitchen while he protects them.

Innocent Bigotry is often portrayed as a relatively sympathetic flaw (which can lead to Unfortunate Implications if it's not ultimately suggested that the character ought to take some responsibility for thinking about whether they're doing something offensive). In fact, in a setting in which most other characters are the hardened and mean-spirited kind of bigot, the Innocent Bigot might even be the hero. If the Innocent Bigot is a minor character, it will be Played for Laughs and used to characterize them as well-meaning but also shallow and self-absorbed. If they're a major character, though, expect them to be called on their prejudice. They will be genuinely shocked and remorseful, and probably thank the person who challenged them for opening their eyes. (Rarely do they instead become defensive and hostile, as often happens in Real Life.)

Noble Bigot is a closely related trope. The difference is that the Noble Bigot has attitudes that are outright bigoted and probably understands perfectly well that their beliefs would be considered offensive by many people, but is a fundamentally good person otherwise. The Innocent Bigot holds absolutely no malice toward the people they offend, and sincerely has no idea that their ideas about other cultures are ignorant, insensitive or harmful. It is not quite this simple in Real Life, where the Innocent Bigot and the Noble Bigot can subtly overlap (i.e., a character really wants to be kind to people who are different and tries their best, but harbors feelings of fear or resentment deep down which occasionally manifest themselves as crude comments).

Very often Truth in Television. Innocently Insensitive is the supertrope. The character might grow into a Troubled Sympathetic Bigot, especially if Cerebus Syndrome ensues. Other related tropes include Pitying Perversion, Positive Discrimination, Fair for Its Day, The Ingenue, Mistaken for Racist, Obliviously Evil, Racist Grandma, Values Dissonance, Virginity Makes You Stupid, You Know I'm Black, Right? and You Are a Credit to Your Race.

Examples of Innocent Bigot include:


Comics

  • In the Tintin story The Blue Lotus, Tintin saves a young Chinese boy named Chang from drowning. Chang is confused that Tintin would do this, explaining that he thought all "white devils" were evil. Tintin tells Chang about some of the evil things white men believe about Chinese people, and Chang laughs. The two end up becoming best friends. Fair for Its Day? Very much so.


Film

  • In Blast from the Past, the main character (who was raised in a fallout shelter with only his two white parents around, and has social mores calibrated for the early 1960's as a result) greets a black postal worker by exclaiming delightedly, "Oh, my lucky stars! A Negro!"
  • In Clerks II, Randal had a Racist Grandma but didn't know it, so he uses slightly obscure derogatory terms for various ethnic groups without realizing they're offensive.
    • Likewise, Jay seems to have been entirely ignorant of how insultingly sexist his language is, being completely surprised at being informed that women don't like being called "bitches".
  • The Twist Ending of North implies the title character may be this.


Literature

  • Huckleberry Finn is understandably like this towards Jim.
  • Comes up a lot in Everything Is Illuminated.
  • In Carl Sagan's novel Contact, the protagonist, a female physicist, gets really tired of receiving "compliments" like "You're so good at this, I forget you're a woman" from her (almost always male) classmates and teachers.
  • In Running Out of Time, the main character grew up in an isolated village where the adults were required to teach the children that it was still the nineteenth century. When she is forced to go out into the 1990's-era real world, she considers asking a black girl she meets what it's like to be a "Negro" and commenting on how surprisingly smart she is. Fortunately, she leaves before getting the chance.
  • In the Dragaera books, Aliera (an elf, sort of) considers Vlad (a human) one of her closest friends and has put her life on the line for him more than once. That doesn't stop her from obliviously having conversations about invading the human homeland right in front of him, without giving the slightest indication that it's occurred to her that might bother him. Aliera is a powerful, aristocratic Magic Knight and demigod with a Hair-Trigger Temper, so she doesn't get called on this sort of thing much.
  • Tal Graile-Rerem of The Seventh Tower sometimes comes across this way toward Underfolk, whom he had been taught all his life were a servant class and simply lower beings than the Chosen. To his credit, he very quickly realizes how stupid this is after meeting a few of them, although he does make some insensitive comments out of habit from time to time.
  • John in Dirge for Prester John, doesn't catch on for a long time how offensive he is. He never quite fully grasps how much Pentexore doesn't need Christianity.


Live Action TV

  • Pierce Hawthorne in Community frequently makes well-intentioned comments that the other characters consider bigoted, especially in the first season. In this case, generational differences play a role.
  • Chris' teacher from Everybody Hates Chris often cites things about "Chris' people", but she is very compassionate and supportive.
  • The infamous Tokyo Breakfast, a spoof sitcom pilot produced for Japan One Television, is all about this trope. It features a family of Japanese hip-hop fans who keep addressing each other as "my nigga." They clearly have no idea of the connotations and history that word has in English. At the end, a black delivery guy comes to ask if anyone there ordered a case of beer, and they all look up at him and joyfully shout, "We did, nigga!"
  • Handled very well on Scrubs. Elliot was raised in an exclusive, white, upper-class environment and when she comes to work at Sacred Heart she inadvertently offends almost everybody because she has never been in a mixed-race, mixed class environment. She gradually learns what is offensive and eventually becomes best friends with Carla, who originally hated Elliot's bigotry.
  • On Babylon 5 Vir's wife Lyndisty is lovely and sweet but has been raised to think of Narns as vicious, dangerous animals. When she is attacked in retaliation for her father's many crimes she disposes of the Narns in quick order - then sweetly and submissively leaves the coup de grace to Vir, as the head of their family. Since we never see her again we don't know if she ever learned better.
    • Somewhat Subverted, though, when we learn that she's helped her father commit mass genocide, enjoys watching Narns burn, and is personally responsible for hundreds of deaths.
  • Clement McDonald from Torchwood. Seeing as he was institutionalized, and therefore pretty effectively cut off from the outside world, for 40 odd years, it's not surprising that some of his language comes of as... unsavoury.

  "Who's the queer?"

  • In almost every season of The Real World, there's one roommate who comes from a sheltered background and genuinely sees nothing wrong with their...less than enlightened views. They usually come around by the end. Examples that come to mind include Julie from the New Orleans season--a Mormon girl from Utah who would still call minorities "colored", and Mike (aka The Miz) from "Back to New York," who came from a Cleveland suburb known for its racial tension and would repeat the racist things his uncle would say, much to the other roommates' chagrin.


Stand-Up Comedy


Video Games

  • In Dragon Age Origins, Leliana acts like this if you play as an elf. If you're Dalish, she'll earnestly tell you that you've shown her "how wrong people are about the Dalish" and how wonderful it is that you're such a spiritual people with a deep connection to the land. If you're a City Elf or an Elf Mage, she says she could see you as a servant for an Orlesian noble and that you could be paid handsomely as such. In either case, if you respond that you're offended, she will be surprised and apologize, and later thank you for helping her understand what was wrong with the way she'd been thinking.
  • In Mass Effect, Garrus will do this in conversations with other alien party members (although it might be more Noble Bigot, depending on how you interpret what's going on in his head) -- smugly telling Wrex that he'd expected all krogans to be stupid thugs, and rather snidely asking Tali whether the quarians feel bad about unleashing the geth on the galaxy. He seems to be over it by Mass Effect 2, possibly as a result of working with Shepard's crew and then his own multi-species team. In Mass Effect 3, he's clearly become very close friends with both Tali and Wrex, and apologizes to Tali for that three-year-old comment.
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance: Ike refers to the Laguz as sub-human, but only because he'd never met one before and it was the only name he knew for them. When one gets angry at him, he immediately apologizes.
  • From Tales of Symphonia Zelos's feelings toward half-elves are like this. A bit of a subversion in that he isn't quite "innocent," in the traditional way, however the game shows his feelings as inevitably derived from a society that feels the same way he does. Even with the friction between him and Genis, though he thinks that Genis and Raine seem like nice enough people and never protests to them being in Lloyd's group, finding common ground in that the Church isn't fond of him either. Over the course of the game you can see his development--by the end he is even willing to risk his life to save a half elf named Kate from execution by her father ( the Pope). When the group is talking to her after the rescue, he tells her "it's a good thing [she] takes after [her] mother." This culminates in a Z-Skit where he and Regal are discussing the racism against half-elves in Tethe'alla.

 Zelos: Well, anyway, now that he's out of the way, I can relax a little. And discrimination against half-elves may soften some, too.

Regal: I wouldn't be so sure about that. Just because the Pope has fallen, does not mean people's minds will change that easily.

Zelos: That's why they've got me to help. The great Zelos, friend of half-elves!

    • Zelos's initial dislike for half-elves is also pretty justified when you learn that his mother was killed by the half-elf mistress of his father (Seles's mother). So there's that.
    • In a softer version we have Lloyd, who at first seems to equate Desians with half-elves (as the pool of reference is mostly NPCs, the player may feel this way too, depending on how Genre Savvy they are). When the group goes out into the world, he learns that while Desians are half-elves, not all half-elves are Desians. Being the innocent, good-hearted idiot he is, his acceptance of this is quick. When it is revealed that both Genis and Raine are both half-elves, he is surprised by the fact, but couldn't care less what their race is. He only cares about saving his best friend and teacher from being put to death by the Imperial Knights.


Webcomics

  • Teresa in Exiern really likes and admires Tiffany, a northern barbarian, to the point of calling her one of the country's greatest heroes. She also genuinely believes that northerners have physical differences in their brains that make them more violent and less literate than other ethnic groups.
  • Denmark in Scandinavia and The World.
  • In Dumbing of Age, Joyce frequently makes offensive remarks to non-Christians (especially atheists), due to her sheltered, homeschooled environment.


Web Originals

  • The "Almost Politically Correct Redneck" meme.


Western Animation

  • In an episode of Justice League, the team ends up in a dimension that's an Affectionate Parody of The Golden Age of Comic Books, with social mores similar to the 1950's United States. One of the superheroes there, a white man, sincerely tells John Stewart, the African-American Green Lantern, "You're a credit to your people, son." It's clear that he genuinely means it as a compliment, and it probably is a progressive thing to say by the standards of that universe. (John is obviously not pleased, but he's understanding enough to take it in the spirit it was intended.)
    • In context it's possible to interpret "your people" as referring to the characters from the main Verse, not John's ethnicity, which is probably how it got past the radar. Doesn't help with the "son" part, though.
  • Allen in Allen Gregory has misinformed views over Hispanics, thinking one of the Hispanic students works as a janitor in the cafeteria because he sees him there all the time and proceeds to "fire" him, even though Allen is just a student himself. Allen gets this view from his father, Richard, who also has the same misguided views.
  • Princess Clara of Drawn Together was this, although the "innocent" part started to dissolve as the series went on.


Real Life

  • Very, very common.
  • In A Grief Observed, CS Lewis' memoir of the aftermath of his wife's death, he mentioned having told her once that his relationship with her felt more like his friendships with other men than any other relationship he'd ever had with a woman. She had to point out to him that it's a bit insulting if the highest compliment you can pay to a woman is that she's almost like a man.
  • During the controversy over the depiction of Africans in Resident Evil 5, several commentators pointed out that since Capcom is a Japanese company and Japan is fairly racially homogeneous, the individuals responsible for the game probably were genuinely unaware that imagery portraying white heroes being menaced by hordes of savage and bestial black people has a long history in racist propaganda. Capcom's American division has since pledged to communicate better with the home office when these things come up.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.