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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.

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, Hundred-Percent 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!!!"

Examples of Unacceptable Targets include:


The deceased in general

See Also: Never Speak Ill of the Dead

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.
  • If the individual in question was well-known enough and was generally respected, mocking any assassinated 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. (Oh, and Princess Diana... although she wasn't exactly assassinated.)
  • 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.
  • 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 pedophilia 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.

Survivors of a tragedy

See Also: Shell Shocked Senior

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 like the Holocaust and September 11.
  • Pretty much any war veteran.
  • 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

Administrators and Moderators of a Community

On many websites and message boards, the admins, moderators, and any of their friends are very Unacceptable Targets. For reasons that should be obvious. This really depends on the admins or mods in question, but should be assumed true until shown otherwise.

TV Tropes Wiki

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.


  • 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."


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.
  • 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.
  • In the 90's, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) used the theme song of Mister Rogers show and had an impersonator who sounded just like him spreading homophobic and racist messages trough video recordings and phone messages that were circulating through schools. Mr Rogers and his company sued, and won

TV Tropes Wiki

  • 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.


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.

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.


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[2], 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[3].

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 it being a TV rip means the bleeps are still in place.


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.

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.


Works and Creators of any work that is considered as "True Art"

See Also: It's Popular, Now It Sucks, True Art, Sacred Cow, Defensive Fans, Critical Dissonance, and Public Medium Ignorance.

An example of this when it comes to media instead of people: Whenever and wherever the It's Popular, Now It Sucks trope is in effect, any media that fits any of the True Art categories; as well as their creators, are granted immunity to any form of criticism in any way in these areas. In other words, these are works which are met with near universal approval and are outside the bounds of criticism for some even if flaws are present. Covering anything from a whole series down to props within that universe, these works are considered so either out of respect, nostalgia or plain fan love.

Unfortunately, this also means a fair critique cannot be made against it at any point in time as it'll be met with the same revulsion as Squick-inducing Shipping or trolling. Furthermore, many of these works tend to get a free pass when it comes to flaws that popular works would be slammed if they didn't bear such a pass. An unfortunate amount of Fan Dumb, Fandom Heresy, Hypocritical Fandom, Nostalgia Filter, and The Law of Fan Jackassery tend to come from this.

Comic Books

  • The comic community site Scans Daily seems to have a rule of "the more mainstream it is, the more critical we are." High-profile works in particular seem to be prone to getting picked apart, while lesser known comics are considered off limits to criticism.


  • People have noticed that in most recent years, the majority of Oscar winners and nominees for best picture have been both low budget and low box-office. Recent examples of these include The Hurt Locker and The Artist following older examples such as Annie Hall and Citizen Kane.

Live Action TV


  • Anything listed as a "Classic" or "oldies" tends to fall into this as time marches on. If you actually say you do not like bands such as The Beatles today and aren't very old, you WILL be treated like a heretic.
  • If a musician died young, it's usually a bad idea to criticize their music (see also: Dead Artists Are Better) because people who do like them will treat you like you just sprouted horns and a tail. God help you if you say in public that you don't care for music made by John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, or countless other dead musicians.


  • The Mac OS (or anything made by Apple for that matter) has gotten this treatment (and arguably still does) back in the day in that any sort of criticism of the Mac (or simply preferring Windows over Mac) is bound to get you burned to a crisp. This is less frequent today due to the resurgence of Apple as well as some of the controversies Apple has been involved in as a new-found Mega Corp and all, but you can still find some very Defensive Fans in some areas.
  • Depending on where you are, don't trash Linux. You will be accused of "supporting the evil Micro$oft empire." (although you can also say the same for Mac OS). Exceptions may be granted if you choose instead to bag on a particular Linux distribution though.

Video Games

Web Original

  • In the modding community - if you ever, in any way criticise AlienSlof (a female modder responsible for creating much of The Elder Scrolls male-oriented Rule 34 and fetish mods), you are a Complete Monster and you will have every member of the community against you.[4]

TV Tropes Wiki


ANONYMOUS and their affiliated websites (4chan, Encyclopedia Dramatica, Something Awful, etc.) have a nearly unlimited list of Acceptable Targets. Yet even in their circles they have Unacceptable Targets, one of which is the title character of Yotsuba&!. You do not ask for Rule 34 of Yotsuba; they will destroy you. Without regret.

Web Original

TV Tropes Wiki

  • In fact, one of the working titles for this trope was "Yotsuba Is Off Limits".


Pets (Especially Cats)

Another one of ANONYMOUS's Unacceptable Targets. You absolutely do not mess with cats and let them find out about it. /b/ will find you, and /b/ will punish you.

Real Life

  • 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 got it even worse.
  • Never EVER post videos of throwing puppies into a river. /b/and Michael Bay will find you.
  • 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...


  1. of 2010.
  2. Some people didn't get the memo stating 'political cartoon =/= idolatry' in the West
  3. Or actual arson
  4. To be fair, she's one of the only people making Male-oriented mods for Oblivion, and she actually gets criticized and insulted quite often (Usually by people accusing her of being a gay man) and has, in fact, removed mods from websites multiple times over insults. The main reason she gets such vigorous defending is because she's one of the few Female modders out there. Still, there does get to be a bit of a Double Standard when female-oriented mods made by men that are just as explicit, or even less (some of Slof's mods border on hardcore porn), can be called perverted without backlash.
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