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One character assumes another has a certain item, skill, or relationship based on a stereotype, be it racial, gender, or orientation-based.

For instance, someone asks a gay character if he can design clothes, or a latino character if he has any relatives who work on cars, or a black character if he knows where to buy weed.

The character being asked is incensed, and outraged that his friend would believe such outlandish and bigoted assumptions.

Then, of course, it turns out he does, in fact, have the skill or item in question readily at hand, and calmly gives up the info with a calm "yeah, okay." This allows writers to indulge ethnic and gender assumptions with a built in Lampshade Hanging. The best way of putting it is "but he didn't know that."

Compare I Resemble That Remark. Contrast with Stop Being Stereotypical, Mistaken for Racist, Discriminate and Switch.

Examples of Stereotype Reaction Gag include:


Anime and Manga

  • Akiba in Kannagi frequently says that just because he's an Otaku, he's not likely to know much about anything Takako or the other members of the art club might ask him. Then he goes onto rattle off Wiki-length entries on that very subject. This gets even more embarrassing when Takako outgeeks him later.


Comic Books

  • Done several times in Gorsky and Butch. Apparently Gorsky knows where to get drugs and know how to open handcuffs with a paper clip. But he can't jump.


Film

  • Happens a lot between John McClane and his partner-of-circumstance Zeus in Die Hard With a Vengeance. McClane asks, for instance, "can you pick this lock?" Zeus calls him a racist ("Oh, all black dudes know how to pick locks, right?"), then when McClane calls him out on it, says that, yes, yes he can.
    • Earlier in the movie, when McClane asks if Zeus can hotwire a car, Zeus says:

  Zeus: Of course I can, I'm an electrician. [Proceeds to force-start the car without hotwiring it] Only problem is it takes too fucking long.

  • Inverted in the film Soul Man; The main character is a white student posing as black to scam a scolarship, and during a basketball game the white captain of the team enthusiastically chooses him for the team, assuming he must have skills. The viewer is then treated to a montage of dropped balls, fumbles, missed shots, awkward throws, and easy steals.


Literature

  • In The Truth Otto Chriek is an Uberwaldian stereotype who gets offended when de Worde assumes he's a vampire. Which he is.
    • Used in the earlier Carpe Jugulum with an Igor.
  • In Everworld, David asks April if he knows anything about the goddess Brigid, whom he'd just met back in the normal world. April wryly comments that she doesn't know Celtic mythology just because her family is Irish. When David is embarrassed she admits that she does know a bit about Brigid, though only because she takes time to study mythology while in the Old World.


Live Action TV

  • Law & Order: SVU episode "Inheritance": Stabler must interview witnesses in Chinatown and asks Dr. Huang to translate. Huang is initially offended at the assumption he speaks Chinese, but it turns out Stabler knew he could because he heard him order food once.
  • In one episode of The Sarah Silverman Program, Sarah phones her gay neighbours to try and get them to come round and "do some gay stuff" to a girl she's entering into a beauty pageant, by which she means to give her a makeover. Her neighbours point out to her that they are not in the least fashionable, but she insists. This is not quite an example of this trope, however, as the two are arrested before they come round, so we never get to see whether or not they turned out to be any good.
  • The sanitized A&E version of Lovejoy, about an antiques dealer who not-so-incidentally solves crimes, once included a lovely subversion of this trope with its own Lampshade Hanging. Lovejoy and an ally, a Japanese businessman, are confronted outside a restaurant by a gang of thugs; the businessman makes karate-like motions at them and they become uneasy and retreat. When Lovejoy expresses admiration, the businessman tells him he was bluffing, banking on the Western assumption that All Asians Know Martial Arts.
    • In that same episode, Lovejoy works with an antiques specialist who embodies several Jewish stereotypes, including Yiddish as a Second Language. Lovejoy later claims that the man isn't really Jewish, he simply acts that way to encourage the people he works with to make the obvious assumptions about his character, thus giving him an edge in dealing with clients.
  • On Just Shoot Me, Maya needs to do research for an article on gambling and asks Elliot if he knows any bookies. Elliot feels insulted because she had implied that since he's Italian, then he must have relatives in The Mafia. Later he discover that he is indeed "connected" and is delighted about it.
  • On The Drew Carey Show, someone asks a Jewish guy if he knows any good lawyers. After recommending several members of his family, he gets suddenly offended at the stereotypical assumption.
  • The Office plays with this trope constantly, with Michael simple-mindedly assuming people can do things that they're not actually good at. There is at least one (almost) straight use of it, however: in "Night Out," Jim asks Oscar to talk to the cleaning crew, since he's Hispanic. Oscar objects, but when he tries to speak to the cleaning crew in English, they don't understand. He then resigns to speaking to them in Spanish, and they understand him.
  • Variation occurs in an episode of Scrubs where Turk (black) tells a story to J.D. about how a white patient offended him by offering him some of his fried chicken. J.D. then points out that Turk loves fried chicken and Turk admits to going to town on it while still being offended.
    • In an earlier episode, Turk is upset about a series of promotional posters with his picture on them. He talks about how he's seen as only representing his race, instead of for who he is, and how they automatically assume he's good at basketball and that he loves Sanford and Son. JD reminds him that he does, in fact, love that show, and they both do an acapella rendition of the theme song before continuing their conversation.
  • Also played with in My Name Is Earl while relating a particular list item. During the course of events, Earl and his father have to replace a dealer's duffel bag full of marijuana, so they seek out Crabman.

 White people always wanna buy marijuana when they whisper to me like that.

 Mike: Carter, will you help us break into the Mayor's office?

Carter: Oh I see. You want to break in somewhere, you go to the black dude.

Mike: Look, if you're too sensitive-

Carter: Oh! Gay Man! Too seeeeensitiiiiiive-

Mike: If you don't wanna do this-

Carter: No, it's cool, I want in.

  • Angel sort of had one of these in season two, when Cordelia asked Gunn if he could hotwire Angel's car when she couldn't find the keys.
  • Played with in Stargate SG-1, though not with racial stereotypes so much as behavioral. Daniel, while on a trading quest with Vala, mentions her having stolen an earlier item in the chain. She vehemently denies it, saying even if she has a checkered past, how dare he assume she had stolen it. He then reminds her that she told him she stole it, at which point she shuts up.
  • In the Royal Pains episode "If I Were A Sick Man," Evan finds out that Divya is engaged to be married. When she doesn't act enthusiastic, he asks if it's an arranged marriage. She is outraged that he would assume something like that just because she's Indian... and, yes, it's a strategic marriage.
  • In 30 Rock, Jack accompanies Tracy to a therapy session to discuss some issues with his family. The therapist asks Tracy to imagine his father in a chair, and tells him to tell him how he feels. Tracy says it's too weird, so Jack stands in as his father instead. When Jack starts to act as his father, he uses a Redd Foxx-like voice. The therapist begs Jack to stop, but he goes on using the voice, and later adds a similar female voice as Tracy's mother. While the therapist tries to stop him, Tracy recognizes the voices as the voices of his parents, and resolves his issue. He does get offended when Jack uses a nerdy voice as "the white guy who hooked up with [Tracy's] mom" after his dad left.

 "WHOA! No need to resort to ugly stereotypes!"

    • In another Thirty Rock episode, Liz needs to track down a Christmas present she sent to a needy family and asks for Tracy's help in talking to the postal clerk. He's incensed that she seems to think all black people know each other, but interrupts himself mid-rant to greet the clerk like the old friend she obviously is.
  • An episode of Happy Days has Richie meeting a black guy named Sticks and asking him to fill in with his band. Sticks gets upset that he assumed he could play the drums; Richie explains that it's because of his nickname. Sticks tells him he's called "Sticks" because he's skinny; but yes, he can play the drums and happily sits in with the band.
  • In an episode of The Closer, it's subverted when rough-around-the-edges Provenza tells Hollywood Nerd Tao to talk to a Chinese family that apparently does not speak English - Tao speaks to them in English, then dryly informs Provenza that he's a third generation American, and does not speak Chinese. (He does speak Japanese, but that's because his wife is Japanese.)

 Provenza: Well, it always sounded good when you ordered Chinese.

    • Later played straight when he knows about ninjas . . . but only because he's a nerd, not because he's Asian-American.
  • Slightly inverted in an episode of Zeke and Luther, Zeke speaks to his Asian postman for help. The postman says that Zeke came to him, because Zeke assumes that "all Asian men are wise karate masters". The postman is not angry, and says that he actually is a wise karate master.
  • On the fifth season premiere of Psych, Shawn and Gus call on their Asian-American secretary to translate for the head of the Triad. Doubly subverted in that a) the secretary knows only counting numbers in Chinese, and b) the head of the Triads speaks English.


Newspaper Comics

  • A variation occurs in the comic strip Candorville, where (black) protagonist Lemont is told by a little kid that he looks just like "that one guy running for president." Lemont points out that he looks nothing like Barack Obama, and tells the kid that making assumptions like that is racist. The kid replies that he meant John McCain, as both he and Lamont look "really old." Lemont ruefully replies that he liked it better when the kid was being racist.
    • Another strip plays it perfectly straight: A white passerby asks Lemont if he knows any restaurants that have good ribs. Lemont launches into a rant about how racist it is to assume that he would know that just because he's black, and then cheerfully recommends Roscoe's Rib Shack.


Web Comics

  • In El Goonish Shive, Elliot is trying to convince his friends to attend a gender-switching party. He promises Justin that "If you come, I'll get Tedd to design me a female form with really long hair, and I'll let you style it however you want."

 Justin: Y-you're just assuming that would interest me because I'm gay.

Elliot: No, I'm assuming it would interest you because you've played with hair at every opportunity I've seen.


Western Animation

  • South Park did this several times.
    • In "Child Abduction Is Not Funny", the residents of South Park ask Mr. Kim (owner of the local Chinese restaurant, City Wok) to build a wall to keep out the Mongolian. After complaining at length he's "not a stereotype", Mr. Kim builds it anyway.
    • In "Christian Rock Hard", Cartman forms a band, and tells Token Black to get a bass from his house. Token says that he doesn't have a bass, but Cartman says, "Token, you're black. Trust me, there's a bass at your house." Token returns with a bass, and protests that he can't play it. Sure enough, as the song starts, Token's picking away like a pro, and mutters to himself "dammit."
    • A double dose in yet another episode, Cartman keeps berating Kyle, demanding that he give him his "Jew Gold," a bag of gold every Jew apparently carries around his neck. Toward the end, Cartman is proved correct, and Kyle gives him the bag...at which point Cartman asks for the real one, since he knows every Jew has a fake bag of gold to give out as a decoy. Kyle gapes at Cartman in disbelief and anger...then pulls out a second bag and throws it into a fire.
  • Subverted in the episode of Futurama with the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series has Shatner telling Takei to karate-chop one of the Planet Express crew. Takei objects to the idea that he can do karate just because he's Asian. Shatner defends this by saying that Takei never talks about himself[1]. Next scene, Takei gamely chops away, and is exactly as bad as you'd expect someone with no karate training to be.
    • This is even funnier when one knows that Takei loves to talk about himself.
  • The Simpsons, during a basketball game:

 Homer: You da man, Carl! I believe you can fly!

Carl: I am so sick of everyone assuming I'm good at basketball because I'm African-American. (leaps into the air and slam dunks) Go Carl! Go Carl! It's my birthday! It's my birthday! Three-P! You got maaail, baby!

  • On American Dad, Steve tells Toshi to bring a camera to further their latest scheme. Toshi is incensed at the idea that Steve assumes he has a camcorder just because he's Asian. But sure enough, later on, he has a camcorder.
    • Even better, in a Description Cut, we see Toshi enter a closet in his house where the shelves are lined with dozens of cameras and camcorder.
    • Played with in another episode: Steve and his friends are playing Star Trek, and Steve addresses Toshi as "Chekov". Toshi praises Steve's racial sensitivity in not instantly casting him as Sulu...at which point Barry walks in, pulling at the corners of his eyes, and says "I'm Sulu!"
  • Family Guy absolutely loves this one. To give just one example, in the infamous Lost Episode, Peter asks a Jewish man for financial advice. When the man asks how Peter knew he was a financial planner, Peter responds "Hel-LO? 'Weinstein'?"
  • In the The Legend of Korra episode "A Leaf in the Wind" Avatar Korra, sole possessor of multiple Elemental Powers and a native Water Tribemember, Downplays and Invokes this by way of Hint Dropping when she asks Pro-Bender Bolin to teach her some moves to improve her repertoire. He agrees, but isn't sure how his earthbending will translate to her waterbending. She responds that she can earthbend, and Bolin freezes up before Digging Himself Deeper, stumbling through an apology about making assumptions based on her Water Tribe clothes. After letting him squirm a little, she allows that he was right, she is a waterbender, and a firebender, too. Bolin's brother does the math:

  Mako: (Bolin's Tall, Dark and Snarky Brother) You're the Avatar, and I'm an idiot.

Notes

  1. Maybe if you showed a little interest...
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