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"Some of the papers ran slanderous stories saying the nuns cohabited with the marchers, and I made a bad joke about how I'd come down to get a little of that action, and Harry Belafonte grabbed me by the throat. He was not amused."

Alan King on why you should rethink inviting a stand-up comic to your civil rights march.
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This is Unacceptable Targets: the flip side of Acceptable Targets, a Sacred Cow that you dare not tip. Doing so may result in anything from "Dude, Not Funny" to the entire audience staring at you in shocked silence for a split second before breaking out the Torches and Pitchforks. Comedians and critics that gladly cross all the lines will still stop at this one, no matter how bold they are. In short, some things are just sacred.

A Dead Baby Comedy will demonstrate its meanness (depending on the writers behind it) by mocking these mercilessly; this can cause the cancellation of particular episodes considered too offensive or tasteless. If Unacceptable Targets is somehow made funny, it almost always belongs to Crosses the Line Twice category. Not to say that there is no such thing as Affectionate Parody. Humor can be constructed in a way that reveres and respects its targets or makes them appear all the more awesome . Still, comedy is a difficult business and sometimes even jokes meant to be respectful can be misinterpreted. As a result, it can sometimes be better to simply not try.

Sacred Cow is a Sub-Trope to this. Contrast with Acceptable Targets. Compare with Even Evil Has Standards, Jesus Was Way Cool, 100% Adoration Rating, The Complainer Is Always Wrong, and Too Soon. Some situations can result in heavy Unfortunate Implications, Double Standards, Positive Discrimination and Values Dissonance in which The Rival or the counterpart of the Unacceptable Target can become an Acceptable Target.

Can sometimes be difficult to separate from Once-Acceptable Targets in cases where the subjects in question were mocked at one time by one people in the dark annals of history. Perhaps a good rule of thumb to distinguish between the two is "Oh, you're mocking the Once Acceptable Target? How behind-the-times you are. I will laugh derisively at you." vs. "You're mocking the Unacceptable Target? YOU MONSTER!!!"

For less serious examples, see Unacceptable Targets/Fictional Examples.

Examples of Unacceptable Targets include:

People

The deceased in general

Script error

It is typically not a good idea to rejoice at a person's death or make fun of a deceased person. This is more so if the person died tragically and/or recently. Even if they were formerly an Acceptable Target, it's best not to say "They deserved it!" or such. While there may be some exceptions, such as those who died via the death penalty, Suicide by Cop, by sheer stupidity (see the Darwin Awards, most of the victims on 1000 Ways to Die, etc.), other similar causes, and Adolf Hitler, all we can say is Your Mileage May Vary.

Web Original

  • In Nethack, Izchak, the keeper of the lighting shop in Minetown, is never killed, even by the most hardcore mass-genocidal players. He's named after a member of the devteam who died of cancer, and killing him is considering to be very bad form.
  • Averted in YouTube Poop as Billy Mays is one of the most popular sources. To be fair many poops are made in his honour and a number of poopers have stopped creating Billy Mays YTPs after he died.

Live Action TV

  • In the infamous 'Eulogy Song' from The Chaser's War on Everything, Andrew is cut off by the rest of the team before he can start a verse about Belinda Emmett.

Professional Wrestling

  • Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero are both beloved by WWE fans, to the point where fans will cheer their names if anything relating to them is brought up, the fans will cheer. Even moreso with Owen, because of the WWE's exploitation of Eddie's death and memory. Owen was left alone for the most part.

Real Life

  • Incidentally this page itself was created on September 11,[1] whom the victims of the 9/11 tragedy are good examples of this trope. The blog Get Real Philippines argued in an entry debunking conspiracy theories that the belief in one can be considered a grave insult and a disservice to those who died in the tragedy.
  • If the individual in question was well-known enough and was generally respected, mocking any assassinated or tragically deceased leader or celebrity is considered very tasteless. Examples: Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr, Mohandas Gandhi, Anwar Sadat, John Lennon, Itzhak Rabin, Selena, and Princess Diana.
  • When Richard Nixon died, it temporarily became acceptable only to remember positive aspects of his presidency such as opening relations with Red China. This lasted until some previously unreleased Watergate tapes were discovered, which revealed him to be an even bigger racist Jerkass than the ones presented during the investigation (including statements where he said he'd tolerate abortion in the case of mixed-race babies).
  • Despite being basically a walking punchline before his death, for about six months after Michael Jackson died it was considered extremely poor taste to bring up his bizarre appearance or paedophilia charges (most people instead choosing to focus on his 80's and early 90's stardom), to the point that some videos poking fun at Michael got a ton of hate mail, despite those videos being made before he died, with little to no objections at the time. This has died down a bit, but even today people tend to walk on eggshells when making Michael Jackson jokes, for fear of reprisal. The 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland brought back the paedophiliac accusations against him however.
  • The death of a child by any means is also never to be mocked. Just ask T.J. Lane when he thought it was a good idea to mock the victims he killed... all teenagers like him. The victims' families were none to happy about it.
  • Neither is the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting worth mocking either. Leonard Pozner, whose son Noah got brutally slain in the shooting, was peppered by countless death threats and slander by the likes of Alex Jones alleging that his son either did not exist or was a paid crisis actor as part of a conspiracy to stage a mass shooting in order to give pretext for stricter gun control laws and thus, at least as far as conspiracist gun nuts are concerned, deprive them of their constitutional right to enjoy their disturbing obsession with firearms. It didn't help that the Pozners are Jewish, thus making them an easier target for antisemitic bigots to pick on them. As what Alex Jones and others have learned the hard way, with at least one namely a certain Lucy Richards sent to jail over criminal threats she made "to find out the truth", mocking or otherwise trivialising the tragic deaths of children is a line never to be crossed, and Pozner has since dedicated his life to make sure his son's legacy would never be tarnished through his non-profit organisation the HONR Network, where he and a team of volunteers extend aid to victims of conspiracy theorists and seek litigation against libel and misinformation directed towards victims of mass shootings and related tragedies.

Survivors of a tragedy

Script error

While they didn't exactly die, the above also applies to survivors of a horrific tragedy. Perhaps even more so as they are alive to at least do something about the mockery. Considering that they saw many lives die first-hand (including perhaps their friends and family), they won't take it lightly to say the least.

Real Life

  • Such examples include survivors of tragedies, whether unintended like the sinking of the Titanic or deliberate like the September 11 terrorist attacks.
  • Pretty much any war veteran.
  • People who have survived living under a tyrannical regime that caused massive loss of life (such as those of Hitler and Stalin).
  • This can also include people who suffered through a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Japan earthquake/tsunami.

Military Servicemen and Servicewomen

Watch what you say about the military, especially around loved ones of soldiers and Marines who've died while serving. This is also a specific version of the deceased in general and survivors of a tragedy, considering that it is very likely that they will see people die first hand, not to mention they may even get severely injured or even lose their lives serving.

People who have gone into space

Space travel is dangerous, and the requirements to make a career out of going up into space are astronomical. You have to be in peak physical condition, possess high intellect, endure months of specialized training, and the potential for disasters during any launch, mission, etc. can strike in the blink of an eye. The sacrifices throughout the years of astronauts, regardless of their nationality is nothing to take lightly. Much like the aforementioned case with the shell-shocked seniors, modern astronauts are around to provide a counterpoint to the mockery, and in some cases, will not deal with it for very long.

Anyone Who Puts Their Lives on the Line in General

The world can be just as dangerous as space, so it takes a lot of bravery for someone to put for lives on the line to ensure the safety of others, knowing one move can be fatal, even a foolish one deserve some credits. Many occupations like police, doctors, military and even stork clerks have dangers. Those in these fields know their lives are charge and deserve respect for doing so.

Web Comics

  • Used in-universe in Dr McNinja, with "Nasaghasts" that ruthlessly hunt down and destroy anyone who threatens or tries to harm an astronaut. Doesn't matter why you do it—if you do something mean to an astronaut, you're going down.

Real Life

  • Moon landing conspiracy theorists have fallen to the bottom of the conspiracy theory hierarchy in recent years, making the holdouts appear even more detached than the norm. When one such theorist is Bart Sibrel who approached Buzz Aldrin and breached the subject in the most professional and respectful fashion he could think of, Buzz respectfully disagreed with his opinion. Translation: he punched the conspirator in the face.
    • Even better. The guy tried to press charges and the judge dismissed the case after seeing the video claiming it was self defense and pointing out the only injury done was to his pride.
  • The surge of negative remarks towards front-line workers who risked their lives during the COVID-19 Pandemic have also led certain governments to impose penalties to those who would dare harass them or landlords who refuse lodging.

Mister Rogers

Perhaps because of his inspiration to many people across the internet when they were kids, Mister Rogers is given this treatment across the internet. Try to make fun of this man and the hive mind will eat you alive.

Advertising

  • In the late eighties when Burger King made an ad with a fake Mister Rogers explaining why BK burgers were better than McDonald's burgers, Fred Rogers said "You will stop that immediately!"... and they did. This was mainly because he looked too much like the real him, and did not want kids to get confused. By comparison, obviously no kid is going to confuse Eddie Murphy (see below) for Mister Rogers, and Murphy's sketch was broadcast safely out of the way of any typical child's viewing time.

Newspaper Comics

Live Action TV

  • A rare subversion: Fred Rogers liked Eddie Murphy's parody of his own show, "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood." To be fair, it was an Affectionate Parody, not deliberate and malicious mockery. Apparently, Eddie Murphy caught up with Mr. Rogers and told him, "You understand, we only do it because we love you."

Magazines

  • MAD made some jokes at his expense once (the "MAD Nasty File") which, given how they usually mock celebrities, seemed tame. The article claimed Rogers "...cannot possibly think as slow as he talks, or he'd still be deciding what to have for breakfast yesterday", and "...is possible the only celebrity in show business who buys sweaters at K-Mart."

Music

Web Comics

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Fox & Friends cite a University study regarding Mister Rogers and, essentially, say he ruined the children watching by giving them a sense of entitlement. All you need do is read the comments on the video for just how much hatred viewers had for the hosts by the end of it.
  • One Urban Legend shows that some folks will slander anyone; the rumor states that he was a Vietnam veteran, and according to some, was rather brutal towards enemy combatants. His ever-present sweaters supposedly concealed tattoos. Some even claim the military service was part of a plea bargain for violent crimes. Of course, this was all completely untrue; for one thing, Rogers was born in 1928, and thus was too old to have served in the Vietnam war. Also, he was working as a puppeteer during the war, so it's not like no one knows where he was at the time.
  • There is a popular myth that when Mister Rogers car was stolen it was reported on the news the same day, and the next day the car was back with a note of apology and a fresh coat of wax.
  • One of the reasons Westboro Baptist Church is so hated is because they are willing to attack him.

Troping

  • In fact, one of the working titles for this trope was "The Mr. Rogers".

Lèse majesté

In many countries that have royalty, insulting the king, queen, or their family is forbidden by law. In some of these, most people won't actually care much, and you'll get you a fine at most if the authorities notice - but in other countries, such as Morocco and Thailand, doing so will also get the population upset with you, and can end you up in prison for several years.

Dictators

Like the above, in many countries and empires that are ruled by a dictator or emperor, saying anything bad about the leader or their family is a huge crime and doing so will definitely lead to very serious repercussions. In Imperial China for instance, even saying the Emperor's real name was a capital crime.

  • The Imperial China one deserves a bit of elaboration, as it even extended to certain spellings of the emperor's name (aka style names). Laws were even enacted at points in time (and were later rescinded) to Obvious Rule Patch any possible exceptions or loopholes.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

In Turkey, it is illegal to insult the name of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who is considered to be the greatest hero of the Turkish people. In other words, this trope is backed by law. Ironically enough, censoring him out is illegal even if it is done to avoid making anything offensive about him.

Muhammad

Culturally, attacking Muhammad is one of the big no-nos in Islam, like the case with Ataturk in Turkey. Even displaying an image of him is pretty taboo,[1] since it also runs into the general creed on not depicting people or even animals in some parts of Muslim faith. Notably, however, this doesn't extend to most of the Western world, which has precipitated a load of conflicts recently and usually ends up with the artist in question being threatened with a fatwa proclaiming their death.[2] Opinions are divided over whether to portray Muhammad or not is acceptable however, even between Muslims. Some are fine with artistic depictions of Muhammad so as long as said depiction does not venture into idolatry. As a matter of fact, many of the paintings and illustrations depicting Muhammad were made by Muslims for Muslims, who certainly drew them in good faith and with reverence to their Prophet. Others take umbrage and virulently oppose such practices, preferring to leave the Prophet faceless. There are also those, notably the Sunni sect, who take the latter to the extreme and declare any and all artwork of humans and animals as idolatry and thus forbidden.

Due to sharply divided opinions over the issue, All The Tropes has chosen not to provide an image for the Muhammad article out of respect to Muslims who wish to not have their Prophet illustrated in any form; the equivalent page on The Other Tropes Wiki however has a portrayal of him from 1300 C.E., albeit based on consensus from other tropers and Muslims who were consulted over the painting and agreed to its use.

Western Animation

  • South Park has lampooned pretty much everyone and everything on the planet, at one point or another, including the show and the creators themselves. However they ran into issues when it came to lampooning Muhammad. Parker and Stone went for lampooning the fact that he's not an acceptable target, instead (particularly because 5 years before the Muhammad taboo was back in the limelight, he had been depicted with no repercussion!). Of course, the second episode of their 200th anniversary two-parter had all mention of Muhammad's name censored by the network, along with the speeches at the end (which didn't even mention Muhammad.) Comedy Central went so far as pulling it from ever airing again - they won't even let it be streamed on the show's official website. You can find it here but its being a TV rip means the bleeps are still in place.

Jesus

Directly attacking or insulting Jesus Christ is considered one of the big no-nos of Christianity. That doesn't mean people refrain from doing it, and it doesn't mean there isn't an entire religion that inverts Christianity out there (there is), but it does mean that doing so is something that will also precipitate a load of conflicts in any society with a large Christian population, especially if said Christians are of The Fundamentalist persuasion or are or are influenced by Moral Guardians. Though while you could more or less get away with parodying or trivialising Jesus and Christianity, doing the same thing with the Holy Spirit would land you in very hot water as it is considered a grave, unforgivable sin according to Matthew 12:31.[3]

This is a large reason why Crystal Dragon Jesus and especially Jesus Was Way Cool exist: the former sidesteps (sometimes quite well, other times so sloppily as to create Unfortunate Implications) the idea of a direct attack on Jesus by creating a Jesus Expy to be attacked. The latter exists as an attempt to separate Jesus from either the perceived view of Christianity and/or from religion itself.

The Monty Python film Life of Brian was often accused and caused (understandable) furore from religious groups as the film appeared to mock Jesus and His teachings; while the Pythons did consider directly lampooning Jesus and the New Testament in much the same vein as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with one proposed sketch in which Jesus' cross is falling apart because of the idiotic carpenters who built it and He angrily tells them how to do it correctly, the Pythons eventually conceded despite being non-believers as Jesus was "definitely a good guy" and they saw nothing worth parodying in His teachings: "He's not particularly funny, what he's saying isn't mockable, it's very decent stuff", said Idle later. They instead settled with satirising organised religion and political movements using the New Testament setting as a framing device and Brian Cohen as the reluctant Messiah. Also adding to Python's credit was that the troupe conducted extensive research on the source material, and during the scenes where Jesus Himself appears in the film on the Mount speaking the Beatitudes (played by Kenneth Colley), He is portrayed with respect and with a genuine aura around Him as an obvious foil to Brian and his follies.

The Virgin Mary

While Her role as Jesus' mother is downplayed somewhat by some Christian denominations as just an ordinary woman who happened to give birth to an extraordinary son (Martin Luther believed that Mary should be held in highest reverence, though he does not agree with the concept of veneration), Catholics venerate Her in such high regard that scoffing Her off or trivialising Her would unsurprisingly result in outrage from them. Cue the likes of Madonna and Lady Gaga who used the Virgin Mary and other religious imagery as part of their edgy stage persona and out of shock value, and the leagues of irate Christians who take umbrage to such use of Mary and the Rosary as part of Madonna and Gaga's acts. Even Katy Perry, who is herself no stranger to controversy, took issue and tweeted "Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling fart jokes." when outrage ensued over the use of Marian imagery in "Alejandro". It helps that Perry is a practising Christian and has previously released a gospel album under her real name.

Some have also objected to the common British epithet "bloody" (as in "Bloody hell!") as insulting to the Virgin Mary.

Clergy

Though this has somewhat been downplayed over the years, no thanks to negative stereotypes of priests as depraved kiddie-diddlers feasting on altar boys, making fun of clergy was (and still is) a big no-no in some societies especially those with a devoutly religious population such as the Philippines. The now-defunct Hays Code for one had a specific ruling forbidding filmmakers from depicting priests and ministers in a less-than-flattering light, and noted tour guide Carlos Celdran was arrested in the Philippines (albeit controversially) as per the "offending religious feelings" clause of the Revised Penal Code for disrupting a Holy Mass at the Manila Cathedral by donning a Jose Rizal costume and holding up a "DAMASO!" placard in protest of the Philippine Catholic Church's perceived interference with the passage of the enacted Reproductive Health Bill.

One bizarre (and perhaps disturbing) aversion was that of then-presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, where he was quoted as making an obscene remark towards Pope Francis, specifically when Duterte joked about getting stuck in traffic due to the Pope having a papal visit in Manila in 2015. Unsurprisingly, people and especially religious groups took umbrage, with one priest lamenting how Filipino values have "gone down the dregs", but somehow Filipinos still rooted for him to be elected president despite his brutish demeanour and callous remarks towards the Catholic Church.

Animals

Animal abuse is a terrible thing, and in some circles it is just as unforgivable to mock and abuse animals as it is people.

Real Life

  • Nothing makes 4chan Anons move fast to ruin people as people harming pets, specially kittens and puppies.
    • Just ask Kenny Glenn, who posted a video of himself and a friend abusing a cat on YouTube; after a link to the video was posted on /b/, he was identified mere hours later by /b/tards who compared the video to photos on several social networking profiles to find out his name and location, reported him to his local police, and got him, along with his friend, arrested on animal abuse charges that same week.
    • If you thought Kenny got it bad, Cheyenne Cherry (who microwaved a kitten and thought it would be fun to post about it online) got it even worse, as they not only managed to doxx her and send to her jail, but also sicced several animal groups on her. .
    • Never ever post videos of throwing puppies into a river. /b/ and Michael Bay will find you.
  • A U.S. Marine serviceman named David Motari learned a lesson about not messing with innocent little animals the hard way when outrage ensued over a video of him throwing a puppy off a cliff while he was serving in Iraq.[4] It didn't take long for irate netizens to issue death threats against the now-disgraced serviceman and his family,[5] and at least one comedian parodied the incident by role-reversing it with the dog throwing the marine off a cliff in retaliation.[6]
  • Fetishising over a bunch of animals getting torched, mutilated or otherwise stomped upon isn't going to do you any favours either. A couple named Dorma and Vicente Ridon in La Union, Philippines received a life sentence over a series of videos with scantly-clad girls doing all sorts of unspeakable acts against animals for the sake of sick fantasies. Not helping matters was that the models in these videos were underage, thereby garnering the Ridons child abuse charges as well.[7]
  • Clint Eastwood is a known lover of animals, and he and his wife keep several animals that they've rescued on their ranch, and Mr. Eastwood loves talking about how much he loves them, and how much he despises people who abuse animals. So put it this way: if you abuse animals, Clint Eastwood--Dirty Harry himself—will find you and punish you.

Once-Acceptable Targets

Some Once-Acceptable Targets can also be Unacceptable Targets at times, although not always.

Really, anyone (and anything) in some places

See also: Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement, Berserk Button, and Ban on Politics

In some groups, it is not a good idea to mock the things or persons that they like or think that it is good. In other places, this might be okay although Your Mileage May Vary on where this would be acceptable, considering that many don't want to deal with the Fan Dumb, Hate Dumb, or any Internet Backdraft involving the mockery. For example: Any religious and political views and individuals are repeatedly mocked, but you should never mock them if they are the majority of a group. In an Anime related forum or circle, it is best not to invoke Animation Age Ghetto or proclaim hatred to anime by itself. And such...

Notes

  1. Some people didn't get the memo stating 'political cartoon =/= idolatry' in the West - or did get it and considered it a case of Values Dissonance.
  2. Or actual arson.
  3. Matthew 12:31
  4. Puppy-throwing Marine is removed from Corps
  5. Monroe Marine in puppy-throwing video discharged
  6. Puppy Throws Marine Off Cliff
  7. Couple in animal 'crush' videos get life term
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