Deliberate Values Dissonance

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Sometimes, morals don't travel well. Often, what is appropriate to one culture or time period is repugnant to another. Thus, when dealing with other cultures, an author must make a choice. Some attach the attitudes of their country to the people in the story, resulting in a potentially anachronistic but enjoyable read.

Some, however, research the culture and make an effort to reproduce the attitudes of the time and place accurately, even when they are wildly different to what the author might consider sensible. Thus, one ends up with a deliberate case of Values Dissonance.

In Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy, this is an obvious necessity to avoid anachronisms. Readers, indeed, may criticize works for failure to reflect the actual historically accurate views—as when a Regency heroine has common 21st century views on premarital sex, which is about as likely as her wearing blue jeans—as Anachronism Stew. Be wary, though, for sometimes Reality Is Unrealistic and the deliberately different values end up just as inaccurate, but in the opposite direction.

In Fantasy some readers assume that views contained in the story reflect how the author truly thinks, because the writers build the world. However, other readers will find that modern views expressed in a non-modern society are as anachronistic in an imaginary world as in a real one; even in Fantasy, characters in a feudal society will not hold radically egalitarian views (at least, not without a really interesting Backstory) - if they did, it wouldn't stay a feudal society for very long.

Often a meditation or argument against Good Flaws, Bad Flaws. See also Your Normal Is Our Taboo. Contrast Politically-Correct History, Eternal Sexual Freedom, Fair for Its Day, The Theme Park Version. See also Unfortunate Implications, Culture Clash, No Equal-Opportunity Time Travel. Contrast Culture Justifies Anything.

Examples of Deliberate Values Dissonance include:

Anime and Manga

  • Thorfinn has no problem with his comrades raping women in Vinland Saga, though he doesn't personally join in. Likewise the slave trade is treated like a normal business by most of the people shown. The story is, of course, about Vikings, whose culture allowed such things.
  • Quite sympathetic protagonist Lawrence in Spice and Wolf considers slavery a necessary and productive trade, even after nearly being forced into slavery to pay off a debt. Meanwhile his companion, Holo, who is a wolf in human form, sees nothing wrong with killing and eating humans if the situation demands it, but refrains from such actions during the series in order to not Squick Lawrence too much. A great deal of the show's entertainment consists of the two judging each other by their own set of values, and especially in Lawrence's case coming to wrong conclusions because of it.
    • Holo's nudity in the first episode as well. She sees absolutely nothing wrong with being naked, she is a wolf after all. In fact it outright angers her that Lawrence expects her to be clothed.
  • Tenchi Muyo! Aeka is engaged to marry her biological half brother which she explains to Tenchi with little more than that's how we do things on Jurai.
    • It's played with later on in the OVA, and then outright subverted in the spinoff material. Basically, no one in the family (except Aeka), expected the marriage to go down, and the whole point was to keep anti-integration activists from supporting Aeka as an alternative to Yosho as king. This completely goes to shit when you realize that Aeka's grandmother, Seto, is adopted, and that the current king is of mixed blood himself.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, most people don't seem to mind that their government is a military dictatorship, just that it's an incredibly corrupt and amoral one.
    • The Conqueror of Shamballa movie has Ed living in Germany just as the Nazi party is rising to prominence, so there's plenty of anti-Jewish and Roma prejudice going around.

Comic Books

  • Happens frequently in The Sandman and other works by Neil Gaiman due to his attempts to portray the ancient mythology his work is based on as realistically as possible. One particularly good example is in the critically acclaimed Sandman story "Ramadan", in which the Caliph Haroun Al-Raschid, regarded as a paragon of justice by his contemporaries, has several torture chambers in his palace and not only has a harem of wives, but also several underage boys (though they appear to be at least in their teens), which were common practices at the time. Immortal characters often suffer Values Dissonance about their own actions, such as Hob Gadling's guilt over his involvement in the slave trade.
  • In the Dead Girl miniseries, dead 40s heroine Miss America and dead 00s hero the Anarchist get along poorly at first because, well... he's black. She even calls him the n-word at one point.
  • In Marshal Law, the members of the Jesus Society of America can hardly see an Asian person or hear a German word without coming to the conclusion that they've become stranded in a parallel universe where the Axis won World War II. Oh, and Marshal Law sets the record straight that these guys were legitimately not real heroes by any stretch of the imagination.
  • In Strontium Dog, during a story detailing how Johnny and Wulf first met, Wulf and his Viking pals celebrate a good raid by killing a bunch of slaves and splattering their blood everywhere. It's all in good fun.
  • Warren Ellis's Crecy is a warts-and-all depiction of the famous Battle of Crécy in 1346. The narrator acknowledges the dissonance, describing himself as "a complete bloody xenophobe who comes from a time when it was acceptable to treat people from the next village like they were subhumans" and admitting that by modern standards his side have been "acting like evil pricks", but reminds the reader that the other side are even worse.
  • Similarly to the Dead Girl example above, the Ultimate Marvel take on Captain America (comics) presents him with some rather modernly distasteful attitudes, as part of a more "realistic" take on what a soldier and average American citizen from 1940 would really be like, especially if he time-skipped to the 2000s. Case in point; when he first gets thawed out, he attacks Ultimate Nick Fury because, in the 1940s, black soldiers couldn't rise as high in the military as Nick Fury has, so he believes himself to be in some elaborate Nazi/alien trap.
    • Which was a Critical Research Failure on the author's part; the first black colonel in the US Army was in 1916, the first black general was in 1940, and even before Cap went into the ice the achievements of units such as the Tuskegee Airmen and the 761st Tank Battalion were becoming widely known.
    • Also seen when he expresses the classic Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys attitude towards the French, which is a distinctly modern attitude; the backlash from this inspired the mainstream writers to have the original Cap talk about his time with the French resistance and how brave they were.
  • At least one comic book version of Xena: Warrior Princess walked back some of the show's Anachronism Stew by showing a slight difference of attitudes toward slavery between Xena and Gabrielle. When presented with a Roman band of slaves about to be auctioned off, Gabrielle is appalled at slavery in general (not a common attitude in classical Rome) and particularly that one of the slaves is a pregnant woman. Xena, in contrast, is generally convinced that the (otherwise all-male) slaves must be criminals who've done something to deserve their condition, but makes an exception in the pregnant woman's case as it seems improbable to her that a pregnant woman could be guilty of any serious crime. The two thus agree to go buy the woman free, each for their own reasons—but leave the rest of them to be sold.
  • Atomic Robo reminds us that H.P. Lovecraft was not exactly what one would call politically correct. Take, for example, when he mistakes Robo for a pygmy dressed in ceremonial black ritual armor:

Robo: 'Scuze me.
Lovecraft: Ah! Look, it's attempting to communicate. No doubt the savage thing knows language as a house pet knows its reflection in the mirror. The sense is taken in, but the process, the meaning, is forever lost.
Robo: Yer razzin' me.
Lovecraft: See how vainly it cobbles together a string of sounds not unlike words? Take. Us. To. Magic. Thunder. Man.
Robo: Uh-huh.

  • In the comic Runaways, there's a storyline where the team finds themselves in America in the 1800s. There, they meet a girl named Klara Prast. Klara is more upset at the possibility of them recruiting her for a union than the fact that she was forced by her parents to marry a man who is old enough to be her father, and who beats her and is implied to rape her. Molly fails to realize this when Klara alludes to it. Karolina does. Later, Klara refers to Xavin in female, black form as a "negress" and is disgusted at female Xavin and Karolina being intimate. Presumably, this trope is also the reason Xavin spends the story arc primarily as a white male, as opposed to his/her usual form of a black woman.
  • The 2009 Marvel MAX Dominic Fortune series by Howard Chaykin is set in the 1930s, and is absolutely drenched in this trope. Pretty much all the main male characters throw racial, sexual and anti-semitic slurs around with careless abandon—even the ones who aren't unrepentant Nazi sympathisers—and treat women mostly as animated sex dolls who exist solely for their sexual gratification. The women also take pretty much any opportunity to get their clothes off and have sex, but that can probably be chalked up to a different trope.


  • In Back to The Future, Marty realizes that the black busboy he is talking to in 1955 is the mayor in 1985. When he says this, the café owner scoffs "A colored mayor! That'll be the day!".
    • Also, a 1955 candidate for mayor screams the slogan "progress, progress!" He immediately follows this with a series of Reaganite buzzwords.
    • Note that the first black mayor in California was Edward Duplex, in 1888, in the majority-white town of Wheatland. If the writers or the character was unaware is unknown.
  • The film Master & Commander (and presumably all the books in the series) do this, giving us lines like the ship's first officer asking permission to bring live Galapagos tortoises on board as food stock.
    • This is historically accurate, as well. The tortoises can apparently survive an insanely long time (at least a year, in some cases) without food or water, and thus were a welcomed source of fresh meat and therefore nutrients. They were stacked upside down and on top of each other so they didn't move.
      • There's good eating on one of those.
      • Take note, however that on several occasions in the novels, Stephen Maturin, ardent naturalist that he is, rebukes the men for going overboard in killing huge numbers of animals and birds.
    • Also, prepubescent boys acting as officers, commanding men at least thrice their age by the simple benefit of coming from the upper class (which didn't mean that they didn't get harsh discipline, and difficult and dangerous tasks, themselves).
      • A particularly striking example occurs early on in the series, in Post Captain, where one of the midshipmen aboard a ship that Jack is temporarily commanding is a very young boy who has been taken to sea by his father (also an officer aboard the ship) upon the death of his mother. O'Brien notes, on several occasions, that it was very common in the Royal Navy at the time for captains to enter the young sons of their friends and colleagues onto the rolls of their ship's companies as midshipmen.
      • At the time O'Brien was writing about, being an officer in the Royal Navy didn't require any particular class. He even has an older Admiral complain (round about 1812b in the series' timeline) that he, the Admiral, does not care for the new, modern notion of "passing for a gentleman" to become an officer. Becoming an officer at the time pretty much depended on your parents having a bit of money for an allowance, and probably knowing someone in the Navy to take the youngster on board for his early training. Promotions often depended on 'interest,' of course, but merit was more important.
  • In the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Anamaria's gender makes Gibbs wary of bringing her on the ship because of the belief that women bring bad luck (this is historically accurate; it was believed that bringing a woman on board caused bad luck, which could be negated if said woman was naked), but there were a few female pirates, like Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Meanwhile no one blinks at the fact that she's black, since many pirates were in fact either free blacks or escaped slaves. The...intentions of most pirates towards women is not downplayed either, leading to a few rather uncomfortable scenes.
    • The actual lack of carrying out said intentions may be a moment of Fridge Brilliance. Despite modern beliefs, pirate ships had fairly strict discipline on such matters. A pirate who carried out their... intentions was likely to be marooned or worse. After all, an unspoiled woman makes for a better ransom.
  • In Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks' deconstruction of the Western, all of the "good" townsfolk of Rock Ridge display violent racism toward blacks, Chinese and the Irish. In one scene especially the Irish. The process of gaining their trust is a fairly major plot point.
    • "These are simple farmers. People of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons!"
    • They're also all related or, by some bizarre coincidence, all have the same last name.
      • There actually was a real-world town in Minnesota that had over 100 families named "Johnson", almost none of which were related to each other.
  • In Hairspray, even Edna Turnblad is nervous about her daughter hanging out with "color people". And it still manages to be very upbeat.
  • Love and Honor is ripe with this, but the kicker is when the (truly lovable) hero throws his (also very sweet) wife out the house for, basically, being raped. She comments in all earnestness: "At least he was kind enough not to cut off my head." Though later they reconcile, he never apologizes for it.
  • Timeline, despite its poor reception, has one of the most accurate depictions of medievel values in modern fiction, moreso in the book. It's rather well summed up in the scene where the main party is escaping and the Scotsman (though Dutch in the novel), standing a few feet from the guard, with an arrow pointed at his chest says something to the effect of "Stay quiet if you value your life." The guard picks up his sword and yells "Traitors!" running at him. Before promptly being shot in the chest.
  • Help! - it may seem disconcerting to see The Beatles (especially Lennon) referring to "filthy Eastern ways" regarding their cultist pursuers, but all the deliberately stilted dialog in the movie is meant to invoke old movie and adventure novel cliches.
  • A throwaway line in Prince of Persia the Sands of Time mentions the Crown Prince having several wives.
  • Played full tilt in the Coen Brothers version of True Grit where among other examples, when a group of outlaws are about to be executed. The white bandits all get their full final words while the American Indian gets a mask over his head before he could get a single word in edgewise.
    • There was also the scene where Rooster walks into a small shack and repeatedly kicks a group of Chinese kids for no other reason because they annoy him, and The Hero Mattie Ross thinks nothing of it*
  • John Ford could show this quite artistically. He managed to depict racism in several of his movies without his hero being shown either approving of it, or going out of his way to change the world, unless the protagonist was deliberately intended to be racist as in The Searchers (which doesn't have a racist theme as such though it does have racism in it). A notable example was Big Jake where the hero's best friend is an Apache. When he goes into a Mexican inn the owner says no Indians are allowed. At when John Wayne objects his friend says he is satisfied to sleep in the stable and this is accepted (not least because they have bigger problems on their mind at the time).
  • Ip Man doesn't shy from depicting Japanese brutality towards Chinese or Western racism.
  • Mulan is just full of misogynistic songs like A Girl Worth Fighting For and Honour To Us All, which fit in with how misogynistic ancient China was. They also include a few instances of ancient Chinese fetishes, like when one of the men mentions he wants a girl "paler than the moon".
    • And when they're not going on about what women should be like, they're going on about how important it is to Be A Man.
  • Prince of Egypt plays this up with the moral ambiguity of the plagues. In biblical times, God killing the firstborn sons of your enemies was clearly a good thing. With a more modern eye and attention to characterization, it becomes a gut-wrenching event for both Moses and Ramesses.
    • Not unprecedented in Jewish tradition. Only the Partial Hallel is said at Passover while the Full Hallel is said on other holidays because rejoicing at one's freedom is appropriate gloating over your enemy's suffering isn't.


  • Is over the place in Trail of Glory by Eric Flint. Slavery and attitude towards race is front and center. Then add in the views on women, individual lives, religion…
  • In The Roman Mysteries all the characters freak out over free Romans being kidnapped and enslaved, but most of them give little thought to the enslavement of non-Romans or those born to slavery. Also, no one has a problem with 13 or 14 year old girls getting married to men in their 20's or 30's.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written several decades after the civil war. Many modern audiences fail to realize that Mark Twain meant to invoke this trope to show just how bad the South was.
  • Common in David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series, taking place in a future ruled by the Han (Chinese) with much more acceptance of casual cruelty. Holding up a frozen human head to your business associates to reminisce? They will only be bothered that you are stalling the meeting.
  • The Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe writes historical novels about the Igbo people, and doesn't fail to include disturbing cultural practices like abandoning newborn twins in the forest to die, a certain caste being forbidden to live with the rest of the people or one protagonist killing his adopted son due to an inscrutable oracular order. The point is that while many aspects of Igbo culture were good and their loss a tragedy, the novels also make it clear why so many Igbo were willing to trade them in for the colonial Anglo-Christian culture, which is also portrayed as neither wholly good or bad.
  • The Conqueror books present killing and stealing from neighbouring clans and raping girls from allied clans as positive and heroic. Granted, life in the steppes was tough, but wow.
  • The punishment of Sloan drew from this. When Eragon wonders whether he was justified in his punishment, the kings who have a concept of divine right to rule reply that he has the authority to punish people without sentencing them to death.
  • The Judge Dee stories are a good example: The hero has people beaten and tortured to give information. To be fair, in Imperial China there could be no conviction without a confession, regardless of evidence. Torture was often used after evidence was gathered to gain that conviction. There's also the issue that in mirroring the original Dee stories and other Confucian literature, Taoists, Buddhists, and Tartars/"barbarians" are generally Exclusively Evil and it's rather unlikely that a modern audience would share these prejudices.
    • At least theoretically, at the time, everybody involved in a prosecution would be severely punished at BEST if it was later proven that a conviction was erroneous. It's often a plot point—even the superhuman Judge Dee hesitates to act until he is absolutely certain, both for his sense of justice and for preserving his hide.
  • Very much the case in the Flashman series: The hero makes Gene Hunt look like Mr. PC in comparison.
  • Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell features such lovely aspects of Regency England as wildly different ages in marriage, casual racism, and class elitism, but also nicer aspects, such as a gentleman's code of honor. Faeries on the other hand are Ax Crazy sociopaths who at times seem barely aware other people have differing opinions. Also note on the author's website, she wrote reviews of herself "written" by both Strange and Norrell, in which both come across as pretty sexist. Strange has never read the book and spends the review criticizing the author's looks and unladylike behavior. Norrel comes right out and states that women have no business writing books of such sort.
  • In The Long Ships, slavery, rape and casual violence are seen as acceptable things to do. Considering the story was set in the Viking era...
  • George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series does this quite a bit.
    • Trial by combat (where each side is represented by a champion in a fight to the death, with the victor "obviously" right in the eyes of the gods) is quite popular.
    • Tyrion Lannister, who is otherwise one of the most sympathetic characters in the series, makes some rather snarky comments regarding the hill tribes' practice on not only electing their chieftens, but also allowing women to vote and hold office.
    • Arranged political marriages, often featuring underage participants.
    • In Westeros, the Lord's Right was officially abolished about one hundred years prior to the start of the series; however, it's an open secret that several noble houses still practice it. It comes as no surprise that the treacherous Boltons are among these houses; what is surprising is that the Umbers, who have otherwise been portrayed as honorable and loyal allies of the Starks, do as well.
    • Deliberate culture clash is seen in Daenerys's chapters in the first book. She (and by extension, the reader) are completely uninformed about Dothraki culture, and so many of the customs are seen as strange to her. The Dothraki are very horse-oriented and many aspects of their culture reflect that. Some of their customs include:
      • Sex from behind, called Dothraki-style.
      • No taboo against nudity.
      • The consumption of horseflesh. Dany is given a horse at her wedding and is discouraged from naming it. It is only known in the books as "her silver."
    • There are also the wildlings, whose entire culture is based on the idea that there are no laws. This becomes a source of discord between Jon and Ygritte, who occasionally argue about the differences between their cultures.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, when the gang travels back in time to the Blitz, they are shocked to hear a nice old lady call the black Yo-less "Sambo", and cook up a story about him being an African prince.
    • That said, Yo-less himself could be an example, as he was given the nickname because he was so definitively un-black in behavior and mannerisms that regular not-stereotypically-black black people were straight-up gangsta by comparison.
    • Discworld is a fantasy world, but still contains some of this. Racism is mostly replaced with Fantastic Racism (dwarfs and trolls), but some old fashioned sexism is on display, despite female heroes being common. Equal Rites features the Disc's first female wizard (as opposed to witch) getting looked down upon by other wizards, who believe a female wizard is impossible. Curiously, Granny Weatherwax shares this belief, saying that "if men were witches they'd be wizards", because there are inherent psychological differences between the genders. Esk ends up proving this false, as she can effectively be both.
      • The Watch books have some as well. Dwarfs typically don't advertise their genders (females are also bearded), and when one starts to do so it is treated as scandalous. Carrot, himself raised by dwarfs, also finds it a little disturbing, despite being a true Nice Guy. He also asumes that Angua was hired purely because she is a woman (She wasn't. It's because she's a werewolf).
      • As the series has gone on, Pratchett has slowly worked more and more of his real-world views into the series. The end result is that what was accepted as deliberate values dissonance in previous books is suddenly and jarringly depicted as always being bad in later ones.
      • On the other hand, Snuff features a rather extreme case of Deliberate Values Dissonance within the series. Does eating babies make a race Exclusively Evil? Maybe not if you see it from their point of view.
  • In Mary Renault's The King Must Die, there is mention of its hero, Theseus, taking sexual advantage of female servants/slaves starting from a young age, and this is completely appropriate behavior.
    • Her book The Persian Boy was blasted by Moral Guardians because one of its main themes is pederasty. This despite the fact that the narrator clearly states that his treatment as a child was horribly abusive. (If anything, The Persian Boy is a scathing, vicious denunciation of child sexual abuse.) Most of the main action of the novel, where the narrator finds love and happiness, takes place after he reaches adulthood.
      • Of course, the Moral Guardians were also a bit put-out by the fact that the main character finds "love and happiness" in a romance with another man. Which may have been all well and good in Ancient Greece, but apparently not so much in 1972 America.
  • In How Few Remain, an alternative history novel based on the premise of the South winning the American civil war, the word "nigger" is tossed around casually.
    • This is also seen throughout the entirety of Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series, of which How Few Remain is the first installment.
    • Also in The Guns of the South, in which time-traveling Afrikaaners are shown to be even more racist than the Confederates, treating blacks incredibly harshly and calling them "kaffir", which is even worse than "nigger". The Confederates, while fighting to preserve slavery, are rather taken aback by how poorly the time-travelers treat the blacks.
      • Not surprising, since they came from a post-apartheid South Africa and were members of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging besides, which in real-life is a notorious white supremacist militia in South Africa.
      • The virulent racism that was associated with the Deep South, only became truly prevalent after the American Civil War, which did not mean that slaves were necessarily treated kindly. Even Frederick Douglass' autobiography mentioned that despite the harsh treatment he saw and experienced on the plantation where he was born, which was about the worst done, it was relatively uncommon due to the fact that a plantation owner who abused his slaves (by their standards) would be shunned from High Society. After all, abuse taken too far is what led to slave revolts.
        • In addition, slaves were property, like animals. High Society respects people who take good care of their property. Of course, property has no rights and is there to serve you...
  • Back in the 1830's, during the Egyptian antique craze, it was common practice to publicly disassemble mummies and sell off the parts, before casually tossing what remained into the trash. Christian Jacq presents this as normal in The Mummy's Trial, while this would make any modern scientist (including himself) cringe.
  • Extremely prevalent in Colleen McCcullough's Masters of Rome series:
    • Dead girl babies are thrown out the window.
      • Which may be historically inaccurate. Tacitus wrote that infanticide, even of daughters, was a capital offence among the Germans.
    • In one of the most emotionally fraught chapters, Livia Drusa's brother Drusus not only basically imprisons her inside their home her entire life, but he also forces her to marry his friend Servilius, a man she despises. Later Drusus has a change of heart when he realizes what a weasel Servilius is.
    • Pompey telling his first wife that he has no intention of fathering a son with her, because he only married her for political reasons and she's not good enough to be the mother of his son and heir.
    • Gaius Marius' negotiation with Gaius Julius Caesar (grandfather of Caesar the Dictator) to marry his daughter Julia (that is, whichever of two Julias he prefers). This is a straightforward business transaction: Marius is a rich, rising New Man who needs a wellborn wife for status. The Julii Caesares are an impoverished patrician clan and need money for their sons' political careers, and their daughters need rich husbands. At the end, Caesar asks Marius, "Oh, and it won't cause you any distress to divorce your current wife, will it?" Marius says, "Not at all!" And goes straight home and tells his wife (without any prior hints), "I am divorcing you." It's all right because he offers her a generous settlement.
  • In The Book of the New Sun, the hero Severian is a torturer and executioner, who even at one point delivers a two-page speech about why penal torture is the best punishment and preferable on all counts to prison/hard labour, exile, or indiscriminate death penalty.
    • He apparently changes his mind later, though. When he becomes Autarch, he announces his intention to abolish his former guild. Maybe.
  • This is the entire point of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation.
  • In Alan Dean Foster's Ice Rigger, after the stranded human heroes help their Tran friends essentially slaughter all the warriors belonging to a rampaging nomadic "Horde", the good guy natives send a team to the Horde's base camp to kill off the non-combatants, including their cubs, that were travelling with them. Skua, one of the humans, points out that the locals have been suffering from Horde attacks for years, but his friend Ethan calls him out on it.
  • If nonhuman cultures are eligible for this trope, then the rabbits of Watership Down rate a mention, as Adams openly states that they feel no guilt whatsoever about using force to compel weaker rabbits to yield to them. Which is probably Truth in Television for real rabbits, but needed to be pointed out for his Lapine-speaking, story-telling versions.
  • James Ellroy's LA Quartet, set from 1947 to 1959, features even its more likeable characters occasionally indulging in racial epithets, as well as similar attitudes to Jews.
    • Indeed, in The Black Dahlia Bucky is manipulated into killing two black men by his partner, who is trying to cover up a previous crime. He doesn't seem too bothered by it, as he's too busy obsessing over the eponymous Black Dahlia.
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a historical fiction story set in 19th century China, and features the main female character making remarks about how she (and her daughters) are worthless to her family and going through foot-binding to improve their lives. The author has Shown Her Work by going to China and talking to real women who went through foot-binding, and the deliberate values dissonance is commonly viewed as the best part of this book. At least one book on the role of feet and shoes in sexuality, in its extensive discussion of footbinding, reveals that, for many centuries, footbinding was actively sought out by every single Chinese family that could afford the procedure because small, dainty feet were considered the foremost mark of beauty and sexual attractiveness in classical Chinese culture, so girls as young as 5 were sent through it at the risk of infection and even death. Footbinding was universally viewed in classical Chinese culture as improving the shape of the foot to give it beauty and sexual allure. Class issues also enter into the question; bound feet were associated with wealth in general and the upper classes, and unbound feet were considered uncouth and a mark of a woman's peasant status, and several references are made in the book to how "big footed girls" are looked down upon and relegated to servant status.
  • Harry Harrison and Tom Shippey's alternate history trilogy The Hammer and the Cross is set in 9th century Europe, the values of the historical peoples of the time are accurately represented; including their attitude toward rape, enslavement, trial-by-combat, and the social status of women and conquered peoples.
  • Ellis Peters' characters from the Brother Cadfael books adhere to medieval feudal values without losing her or the reader's sympathy. Especially Oliver's My Master, Right or Wrong attitude in a civil war doesn't one bit change the fact that she seems a little in love with him.
  • At one point in the X Wing Series there's a brief reference to an Imperial-made holofilm about daredevils who tightrope walk between Coruscant's giant skyscrapers...its tragic ending is supposed to be An Aesop against nonconformism and rebellion (Odd, as it is established that Coruscant has a system that will safely slow you down if you fall).
    • Dropping through aerial rush-hour traffic would be pretty rough on anyone who can't use the Force to control their descent, however.
  • Fever 1793 uses this in a more humorous manner. The main character is supposedly foulmouthed, and everyone reacts in a horrified manner whenever she uses her favorite profane exclamation: "Dash it all!"
  • Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin takes places in the south around the time of the American Civil War. As a result, most characters are racist. Although protagonist Abner Marsh is presented as more enlightened (he disapproves of slavery, for instance) he still liberally uses the n-word.
  • Alternate universe example: in Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald, the protagonists watch a historical play about Eldritch Abominations conquering the Earth to barely any resistance from humanity. And applaud the "happy ending" in which the only dissenter is beaten to death.
  • Often used to good effect in the Aubrey-Maturin series. One excellent example is the characters' attitude toward naval discipline and punishment; Jack Aubrey is portrayed as having liberal opinions on the subject for the day, hating indiscriminate flogging (flogging being a standard punishment at the time for offenses not reaching a court-martial level of seriousness) and doing what he can to lessen the severity of punishments issued by court-martials that he sits on. Nonetheless, he will order a set of lashes to be laid on if he deems the reason good and sufficient, e.g., for deliberate insolence toward a superior officer in The Far Side of the World or for shocking incompetence in executing a basic nautical maneuver in Clarissa Oakes (a.k.a. The Truelove in the USA).
  • Done similarly in the Temeraire series, which is basically Master and Commander WITH DRAGONS.[1] There's an amusing moment in the first book where Laurence reacts with shock and horror at the revelation that Captain Roland's daughter is 'natural born', i.e. the product of premarital sex.
  • The Second Apocalypse takes this and runs with it, being set in a world highly reminiscent of the Dark Ages, albeit with magic and Eldritch Abominations. Women are considered less than men, peasants are less than nobles, homosexuals are less than heterosexuals (even though Everyone Is Bi), and if someone is less than you, their life is completely worthless.
  • Seen somewhat in the Belisarius Series. Although many of the characters have somewhat more tolerant views than were common at the time, they're rather nonchalant about the existence of slavery. Ousanos also makes a comment about it being too bad that democracy, as the classic Greeks demonstrated, never works.
  • Joseph Conrad's novel Under Western Eyes is set in (and written during) Russia around the time of the pogroms. There's one scene where the protagonist, who is a fairly good guy, is angered by someone and mutters to himself to the effect that the person was a "dirty Jew". The British First-Person Peripheral Narrator makes a comment about how the offender wasn't Jewish and the protagonist knew that, but Russians were such extreme anti-Semites that this kind of expression was the norm.
  • Lamb the Gospel According To Biff features a more or less authentic representation of first century life in the region that Jesus would have grown up in. Slavery is referenced regularly, it's made clear that Mary Magdalene could be stoned to death for leaving her husband, and thirteen-year-olds having sex is pretty much normal.
  • For Ken Follett's novel Fall of Giants, which is dealing with the changes in society during the time of World War I, this trope is inevitable. The most obvious example among the main protagonists would be Earl Fitzherbert, an English aristocrat who is against the very principle of women's suffrage, and (although even he disapproves of the brutal way the Russian nobility treats its subjects) also against the emancipation of the lower classes.
  • Used deliberately in Orson Scott Card's Enchantment. The modern-day hero finds himself in medieval Russia and unable to understand the cultural norms. No one blinks when he finds himself naked in public, but they are scandalized when he tries to used a woman's cloak to cover himself. His reluctance to enter an arranged marriage is the highest sort of insult, and when he does get married, his wife is perplexed at his reluctance to consummate it, since her body is now his property.
  • Eliezer Yudkowsky's Three Worlds Collide is an explicit exercise in this. Set in the twenty-fifth century, it tells of Mankind's first contact with two alien species, both of which possess ethical systems that seem utterly insane both to each other and to the present.
    • 25th century Humans, who think that rape is an enjoyable activity for both parties.
    • The Super Happies, who think that anyone who doesn't abolish all pain and spend all their time having sex must be mentally deficient, and should be forcibly placed under the stewardship of a more advanced species.
    • The Baby Eaters who... well, just look at their name.
  • In The Left Hand of Darkness, on the planet Gethen, there is no gender, there has never been a great war, and rape is nonexistent. As well, incest is not a crime (at least not the first time around). Theft, however, is regarded as a serious crime - Gethen is in an Ice Age, and if you steal someone's food, you could be damning them to a death by starvation. It's In-Universe because there is a citizen of Earth observing the Gethenians.
  • The eponymous Tuareg protagonist from the book by Alberto Vazquez-Figueroa has a fifteen-year-old wife who's the mother of his son. And he isn't very fond of people suggesting that all humans (men and women, free men and slaves, Tuareg and others, smart and dumb ones, rich and poor ones, and so on) are equal. When another guy calls him a fascist for this, he just states, then he has to be a fascist (to his excuse, he doesn't know about fascism). Ironically, he saves the life of the socialist ex-president also thanks to Values Dissonance - the man was his guest, and he'll do anything for hospitality.
  • Turns up often in the Dragaera novels, to highlight both the callous attitudes of Jhereg gangsters and the alienness of Dragaeran society. Used ironically at times, as when the business Vlad sets up to conceal his office and illegal (untaxed) gambling den is a legal narcotics dealer.
  • In Kylie Chan's Hell to Heaven (the second book in the Journey to Wudang series), a boy drugs and attempts to rape Simone. Simone, the daughter of Xuan Wu, uses her powers to kill him on impulse, and is convinced she is guilty of murder, or at least manslaughter. The Jade Emperor calls her to the Celestial Plane over the incident, where he commends her for her actions - in his eyes, she was protecting her virtue, and exercising her right as a princess to pass judgment on a criminal. This just makes Simone feel even worse about the act.
  • The Kingdoms of Evil is all about Deliberate Values Dissonance.
  • The Full Matilda by David Haynes has this, with the eponymous Matilda's family being African-American servants to a white senator in Washington DC during The Roaring Twenties. This is even discussed when Matilda talks about how later on many people quit having live in servants and started hiring day maids and limo services (as opposed to having a driver and a live-in maid). The Reveal in the book is that Matilda at the age of 16 slept with the senator (who had been showing an...interest in her since she was 13) she and her family worked for in order to secure her father a house of his own, and nobody else knew but her and the senator. That scenario could probably happen now, but eventually it would come out and the senator would probably be arrested, whereas back then nobody would care because she was just a poor black girl. It would be more plausible now if she were older, but it still would cause controversy.
  • Done by Ephraim Kishon with Saadya Shabatai, the Yemenite Jew. As Kishon wrote, "they are about 2000 years behind western civilization". Used in one story where a guy wants to marry Saadya's daughter, but the father demands a high dowry-in-reverse (i.e. essentially selling his daughter).

Saadya: You see? For fifty pounds, all you get is woman like Mrs Comrade. Can't cook, can't clean, doesn't look good, only knows how to talk, talk, talk.

  • Happens a little in The Lovely Bones, about a girl named Susie who is raped and murdered by a neighbor. In the book, which takes place in The Seventies, people weren't as suspicious about strangers, but now a kid would probably know not to go into the house of a male neighbor. In fact, people would probably be very suspicious of their single male neighbor who likes to sit in his car and stare at girls.
  • In Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Great White Hunter Ned Land asks Captain Nemo’s permission to hunt some whales. Nemo denies it and he accuses Ned of being an Egomaniac Hunter. Next they see some cachalots and Nemo destroys them using the Nautilus’ spur. When Ned accuses Nemo of being The Butcher, Nemo answers that the cachalots were mischievous creatures and the Nautilus is his weapon. Verne show us that no matter how mistaken the philosophy of a Great White Hunter is, they will never do the damage that the Ubersmench can do using science.
  • Letters Back to Ancient China has Kao-tai, a time-travelling mandarin from 1000 years ago, who doesn't understand why he shouldn't have an affair with two women at the same time, as long as he can satisfy them both. Also, when he compliments one of them on her breasts, she is miffed. And he misses cooked dog. And so on.
  • The Eleventh Year Rite (aka female circumcision) is this both in and out of canon in Who Fears Death: Onyesonwu's mother is horrified when she discovers what her daughter has done (the practice having been banned in her home village), for instance, whereas it's common practice in Jwahir. Indeed, Onyesonwu subjected herself to it in order to fit in, and by doing so she gains a set of True Companions in Binta, Diti and Luyu.
  • Used to great (and disturbing) effect in Orhan Pamuk's My Name Is Red.
  • Rudyard Kipling rather liked to play both differences and similarities between the peoples, but the way One View of the Question describes the situation in Britain at the time really takes a stab at this. In a jump. From horseback. At full gallop.
  • Con Sentiency repeatedly uses such moments - some people deals with other sentient species every day, and aliens can be your good pals, colleagues or co-conspirators... but even then unrelated species are really, really alien to each other, and some are more alien than the others. Even the protagonist often needs some effort to understand fundamental world-view of the alien species or remember the context when they talk, and he was repeatedly chosen for important missions specifically for being very, very good at this.
  • Poul Anderson often uses this. In his Viking stories for instance the casual brutality and racism toward Finns(who "of course" all deal in black magic as "everybody" knows) is so blatant that he has to take the time to remind the reader that he is trying to imitate Vikings, who were not always nice.
  • Belisarius Series zig-zags. Aristocratic power and slavery are taken for granted though less as good institutions and more as part of a sad world. When one character says Democracy would never work, he is wishing it could work. Religious tolerance is at a ridiculous level for the Middle Ages at least among the good guys. On the other hand, even the good guys are cavalier about human life in a way even hardened soldiers would not be in at least some parts of the modern world.

Live Action TV

  • American Dreams being set in the early sixties plays with this trope extensively. While it contains a certain amount of nostalgia there were pains taken to give characters realistic attitudes in regards to things like race, sexuality and war. There was also a fair amount of care taken to avoid Strawmen (althought there were some arguable examples) and people's attitudes and actions were often conflicting. Pete Pryror was shown to be casually racist in his dealings as a cop but also seemed to genuinely respect Henry, his brother's Black Best Friend. Jack Pryror might have somewhat archaic views on women but allows his wife to work and offers to help his daughter attend college despite his initial misgivings. Even borderline Marty Stu JJ objects to his his sister's budding inter-racial relationship. Some critics (especially since Mad Men has come along) have said it could have hit this trope harder but many others feel that not having a specific political viewpoint gave the show a more expansive perspective on the period.
  • Gene Hunt on Life On Mars and Ashes to Ashes. His interrogation techniques makes one wonder how the writers intend the viewer to feel about the character ... Hero, Anti-Hero, Jerk with a Heart of Gold ... Villain?
    • It should be noted what context Gene Hunt exists in: he is likeable only because he exists as the foil to the ultra-liberal, modern-day-copper. It is also interesting to note that while it is possible to delight is Hunt's lines about 'tits in a jumper' and 'French, fairy bastards', not even he can get away with being endearingly racist.
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series, when a simulation of Abraham Lincoln is projected onto the Enterprise, he immediately notices Uhura is black:

Abraham Lincoln: What a charming Negress. [Uhura looks at him strangely] Oh, forgive me, my dear. I know in my time some used that term as a description of property.
Uhura: But why should I object to that term, sir? In our century, we've learned not to fear words.

    • This is actually a bit of an inaccurate portrayal of Lincoln. Although some of the plans he advocated early in his life regarding slaves (such as the government buying them, freeing them, and then sending them out of the country) would seem bothersome today due to Values Dissonance, he was remarked about at least once for not reminding people of their race.

Frederick Douglass: In his company I was never in any way reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color.

      • It was said in the series that the historical figures brought back were based on how different characters on the show imagined them; thus, Lincoln's portrayal did not need to be 100% accurate, as Kirk, who had imagined him, never met the man.
  • Lucius Vorenus from Rome was devoted to a code of honour that often seems barbaric from a modern point of view, at one point he was willing to kill his wife's illegitimate son to preserve honour. In Real Life ancient Rome, the man who did not put his wife's illegitimate newborn to death would be considered not just dishonourable but immoral. However, if the child was older and freeborn (or if the mother had been married to the biological father at the time of conception), killing it would be a felony punishable by death.
    • There was also a hilarious bit when Atia took a servant's rumors of Caesar and Octavian coming out of a pantry at the same time after making some strange noises (Caesar was having an epileptic fit) and ran with it. This also becomes a case of deliberate hypocrisy later when she beats Octavia for being in a lesbian relationship with Servilia, an enemy of the family, as immoral. Of course, in the show this relationship led to the downfall of Caesar, but that was a ways off and due to a single seemingly unimportant comment to all involved.

Atia: For what reason, I wonder, would you and Caesar possibly be skulking around in a cupboard...?
Octavian: What? We were... it was nothing.
Atia: "Nothing"? It doesn't sound like nothing. [beams] You seduced him, you sly little fox!
Octavian: I did not!
Atia: I am not clear it is decent, him being your great uncle... but who's to say what's decent in times like these? In any case, well done. Let's see Servilia compete with a soft young boy like you. What power we shall wield...!

      • This is a reference to the belief that Caesar and Octavian did have such a relationship.[2] It's referenced in Neil Gaiman's Sandman where Octavian allows Caesar to repeatedly have sex with him in return of power and prestige, that eventually allowed him to become the Emperor Augustus.
    • In Republican Rome, and during the early period of the Empire, it was quite common for slaves, particularly those with marketable skills, to purchase their own freedom, or to be manumitted after a certain number of years. These freedmen were eligible to become Roman citizens, and their children would be freeborn. In fact, many freedmen ended up owning slaves of their own.
      • These are some of the key differences between Old World and New World slavery. Old World slavery tended to more resemble what is known to day as indentured servitude as opposed to the form of slavery known in the American South the Americas.
      • The Romans and Greeks weren't the only ones with different attitudes toward slavery: the Bible describes indentured servitude as an honorable means of paying off a debt. Once the period of debt bondage (set in Leviticus) had expired, the former slave had the option of joining his master's household with all the rights and privileges of someone born to that household.
  • Mad Men is basically about this trope. Set in the early 1960s, the male characters on that show smoke like chimneys, drink like fishes, and regularly display what would today be considered firing offenses with regards to sexually harassing female co-workers. The women on the show also display period behavior, especially with regards to their married lives or with the actions of their female peers. Decidedly non-kosher shrimp cocktails are served at a lunch meeting with a Jewish family. One of the younger men working freelance for Sterling Cooper tells his colleagues he's gay, leading to a painful silence and people talking behind his back, and Betty nicknames her daughter "daddy's little lesbian" because of said daughter's love of handiwork (in fact, as one scene shows, she is a somewhat tomboyish Tsundere-in-waiting). Betty's low-speed car crash which had the kids (restrained only by the friction of their clothing against the car's vinyl seats) thrown into the footwell. And finally, one scene of the Drapers leaving all of their garbage behind after a picnic in a public park seemed so outlandish that some viewers wondered whether the show was accentuating the negative on purpose. Overall, Mad Men is very much NOT a nostalgia piece for 1960s America, but neither is it a condemnation. Everything presented to the viewers is accepted by the characters as normal, acceptable (even expected) behavior.
    • Later in the series, however, it becomes clear that many of the reprehensible actions on the show are personal and not even fair for their day.
  • Deadwood: Even the sympathetic characters toss about what would be considered ethnic slurs today: Bullock calling Mr. Wu a "Chinaman", Calamity Jane addressing General Fields as "a short nigger", Trixie making frequent anti-Semitic remarks in reference to her Jewish lover Sol, and Charlie Utter often calling Indians "heathens". Then again, the nastier characters (Swearengen and Tolliver particularly) do it even more.
    • Women (whores in particular) get it pretty bad as well, basically seen as servants/fuck machines. Even Trixie explains to Sol that "All a whore knows is her pimp" as to why she can't just leave Al behind, and Cy Tolliver treats his whores (even Joanie, who he may love) as his property.
  • Roots. Black characters are always called "niggers"; a white sailor describes them as being essentially animals, their languages being no more than grunts. Rape of black women is widespread and accepted. The owners discuss how teaching them to read - if it be possible - would only make them unhappy. (Of course, pretty much the entire point of Roots is to describe this sort of thing.)
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman featuring a female doctor/adoptive mom coming to work in a frontier town, without Politically-Correct History coming into play. "Dr. Mike" and her children were exceptionally enlightened, as might be expected, but most plots derived from the ignorance of the townsfolk over natives, Jewish immigrants, reconstruction, Darwinian evolution, or (most commonly) single mothers as doctors.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code", upon meeting Martha Jones, Shakespeare attempts to compliment and indeed flirt with her by using several terms for 'black person' that were common in the day... terms that are not by any means considered politically correct now. Needless to say, Martha is not impressed.
    • He eventually settles on my dark lady, a term that anyone who knows Shakespeare's sonnets might find a little familiar.
    • Even more so in "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood". The students mock Martha ("With hands like those, how can you tell when something's clean?"), and Joan doesn't believe that Martha could ever train as a doctor because she's black and female.
  • Quantum Leap, all the time—for example, when Sam leaps into a black man in the pre-civil rights era South, or a secretary in 1961 who's being sexually harassed by her boss.
  • Invoked in James Ellroy's LA Quartet, which is set in the 1940s and '50s and features a shocking amount of racist and anti-Semitic statements from lots of characters, including many otherwise likable protagonists. Ellroy deliberately points out how deeply ingrained into society those feelings were, that even nice people could get caught up in them.
  • In one episode of Murdoch Mysteries, Inspector Brackenreid refers to a woman with undiagnosed mental problems as an "imbecile". George is quick to correct him, "They don't use that word any more, it's insensitive. The accepted term is 'moron'."
  • The Babylon 5 episode "The Corps Is Mother, the Corps Is Father" is made of this, as all three of the episode's main characters are Psi Cops who have grown up in the Corps, and therefore been brainwashed with its skewed values since birth. Also, two of the characters are Naive Newcomers on their first mission, and the third is Bester.
  • The Unusuals has the episode "The Circle Line," which is basically a forty-three-minute-long attempt to justify the "blue wall."
  • In the Twilight Zone episode "No Time Like the Past", after the main character decides to live out the rest of his life in the year 1881, he gets into a conversation about global politics with someone from that time. The native goes on about how war is the best measure of the strength of a nation and that the United States should fight wars of conquest against Asia and South America. This angers the main character who says that going down that road will lead to disaster and untold loss of life. (He's right.) He is criticized for this belief. Of course, the whole point of that episode was to show that Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be.
  • Played for Laughs in the Boy Meets World episode "I Was a Teenage Spy," where Cory dreams he is sent back to the 1950s. When he says "butt" in class, Mr. Turner and all the other students react as if he'd said a horrible curse word.
  • Pan Am is also set in the 1960's and has some pretty clear examples in the way the stewardesses are treated, but others include the strong taboo against interracial relationships (shown in the outcome of the public display between Laura and a black sailor) and the treatment of women's sexuality.
  • In Kaamelott, King Arthur is one of the only characters to dislike torture and public executions of criminals, and he allows them nonetheless. He also has several official mistresses, and not even his wife minds it. Every character find the idea of monogamy utterly ridiculous, and when a random woman Arthur has only met once refuse to become his new mistress, the other knights see it as an affront. And even then, many warlords dislike how much of a "progressive" the king is, which in their mind clearly means "pussy".
  • A flashback episode of Heroes takes place before the civil rights movement and involves Angela Shaw (future Angela Petrelli) as a teenage girl running away from the military base with three boys her age, one of whom is Charles Devereaux, who is black. At a local diner, Charles asks Angela for a dance, but they stop when the customers (all white) stare at them and the cook tells that they don't tolerate that sort of thing there. Charles promptly uses his ability to have the customers and the employees forget this ever happened.
  • In The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, Blacks and Filipinos are are disproportionately shown as servants. And Germans and Japanese (are shown as particularly evil and on one case Germans are mocked for having a barbaric language. One character even claims that somehow Germans had a distinctive capacity for atrocity that other people didn't. And that it could be proved in their literature (whatever). In point of fact it is hardly as if people in World War 2 can be expected to feel particular love, (nor can a Jewish author for the matter of that), in that area. So the portrayal is not unreasonable.
    • Not all Germans are portrayed as evil. Sloat, a diplomat turned hero willy-nilly, has several secret meetings with a German priest bringing proof of the Holocaust (before the priest is assassinated).


  • The Twisted Toyfare Theater strip featuring the thawed out Silver Age Spider-Man took this trope to town, highlighting the fact that Silver Age Spidey's values and priorities are incredibly screwed up. As the normal Spider-Man says, "He guns downs bank robbers and punches dictators!" Also, the first thing he says after being unfrozen is "What the-?! There used to be a foreigner at the end of this fist."

Newspaper Comics

  • Beautifully played with in a Non Sequitur strip. A customer at Flo's diner was talking about all the wonderful things about The Fifties and how America going back to that time and those values would be better for everyone, and Flo replies that she agrees and will turn the diner retro, "starting with this vintage sign..." She writes something down and shows it to him, but with her back to the "camera," all we see is his horrified reaction. In the next panel, we see what the sign says: "WHITES ONLY." The man concedes, "Well, maybe not better for everyone." A Crowning Moment of Awesome for Flo.
    • This was done again, in a story arc in which Dana visits an alternate universe in which every person is given one wish. It's revealed that Clarence Thomas wished for the United States Constitution to be interpreted as the Founding Fathers originally intended...and it is implied that he is now a servant/slave because of it.


  • Old Harry's Game plays with this sometimes, especially with historically "good" or "heroic" characters, almost all of whom are in hell for one reason or another. For example, Thomas Jefferson in his first appearance relates a funny antecdote about writing the US Constitution, halfway through the line "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal" his ink ran out, and he sent his slave to get more, seeing no contradiction in this. It's also implied that Jack the Ripper was Queen Victoria's nephew, and she ordered the Prime Minister to let him rampage freely, and shielded him from justice, only concerned with the shame the scandal would bring on the Royal Family, not the deaths of her subjects. It's all completely Played for Laughs, of course.

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay did not shy from adding real-life medieval sexism (if a somewhat watered-down version) to its sourcebook depicting the Medieval Stasis nation Bretonnia; women are second-class citizens without the ability to own property or manage their own affairs, and if female characters want to be adventurers there, they'll have to pretend to be men. The opening chapter also lampshades this, stating that if you find it offensive you are at full liberty to not include it in your game and that "This is not a feature of Bretonnian society of which the author and Games Workshop approves" and furthermore that "The author and Black Library also does not approve of the arbitrary execution of peasants, fighting local wars over an insult, or worshiping the Ruinous Powers, all activities depicted herein. Just so we're clear."
    • The Warhammer setting also, in some novels, is implied to have homosexuality be regarded as an act of worshipping Slaanesh and thusly punishable by burning at the stake.
  • Warhammer 40,000 does this quite deliberately to help convey that it's a Crapsack Universe. Slavery, racism, murderous xenophobia, the glorification of ignorance and mindless zeal, religious fundamentalism—and that's just the humans!
  • Victoriana RPG makes the Values Dissonance between the setting and the players the defining characteristic of the player-characters. Reasoning that some players would be uncomfortable playing accurate Victorian values unironically, the game encourages them to create characters whose beliefs are more in line with their own sensibilities, and hence profoundly revolutionary by 19th-Century standards.
  • In Hackmaster, there is a system of Honor points, generally gained for heroic actions and lost for cowardly or heinous ones, which gives in-game benefits to characters who consistently act honorably. However, different character classes and alignments gain and lose honor for different things, so a lawful good shining knight type would gain honor for charity, defeating great foes in honest combat, and standing to fight even against overwhelming odds, while a chaotic neutral thief would gain points for successful robbery and fleeing from the aforementioned overwhelming opponent in order to poison or backstab them at a later date, and a lawful evil complete monster would be rewarded for taking slaves or torturing useful information out of someone.
    • An even straighter example is in the module Little Keep on the Borderlands. Non-humans would suffer discrimination while staying at the keep, especially races like half-orcs.
      • Justified in the case of the half-orcs; the eponymous Keep is, as its name implies, a border outpost. That border is with several hostile orc tribes, who continually raid the area around the Keep. The traditional use of half-orcs in orc tribes is as scouts and spies in human territory (after all, nobody else even remotely associated with an orc tribe is able to even partly blend in), and so any half-orc that shows up there is a potential security risk.

Video games

  • Oh, where to begin with BioShock Infinite. For starters, take this poster, or this one. And to top it all off, this takes place in the 1900s. Considering the Red Dead Redemption example below and the casual racism in some books of the time, you know it's only going to get worse.
    • Comstock, the city's ruler, is shown in posters with the caption "Hero of the Battle Of Wounded Knee". Consider what he had to do to receive that "honor".[3]
      • Also, the fact that there *was* some degree of Indian resistance at Wounded Knee, which might make it at least *possible* for that to be said with a straight face. Though considering the state of Columbia...
        • As it turns out, Columbia was a splinter society founded by extremists who even the early 1900s general population thought were taking racism way, way too far. Which is something like getting kicked out of the Hell's Angels for excessive violence.
  • Used humorously in Dwarf Fortress: elves are cannibals who eat the corpses of their enemies, but refuse to trade with you (or even go to war!) if you offer products that were made by cutting down a tree.
  • Suda 51 had this concept in mind when he designed No More Heroes. Case point: the name Travis Touchdown. It sounds like an over-the-top cool name in Japan and an incredibly stupid one in the US.
    • Which is, in the true definition of this trope, something that Japanese game designers often do accidentally, and he does deliberately. Some of Suda's other games, especially Killer7, also explore the Values Dissonance between western and Japanese players.
  • Invoked with glee by Red Dead Redemption. On the train ride at the beginning of the game you're surrounded by a bunch of city-slickers with a variety of outrageously outdated ideas of "the savages" and even whether or not man has the right to fly, let along the ability. The protagonist, having been around the block a few times, doesn't comment on the conversations, but he clearly doesn't put much stock into what any of them have to say.
    • Other examples include the newspapers saying that tobacco is good for your health, the general store keeper in Armadillo who is very vocal about his anti-Semitism, and the very best being the scandal involving a governor who let non-whites use white facilities and the like. Ah, the West.
    • One other nominee for best from the newspaper is the story about the kidnapping of Bonnie MacFarlane. The writer dismisses the idea it was for "personal" reasons as she's an old spinster clearly too ancient to marry or have children. She's 29.
    • Another special mention goes to Professor MacDougal, who thinks all Indians are savage members of a sub-human (read: sub-white) race and treats them as such. This is contrasted with Nastas, a Native American who speaks fluent English, has plenty of smarts and common sense, and treats MacDougal with a mix of weary Never Heard That One Before (most of the time) and polite anger (when the man crosses a line).
  • While King Arthur the Role Playing Wargame arguably has elements of an Anachronism Stew, 'ladies' in the game are by all means a thing to trade and use... as it probably would of been more or less back then in medieval times.
  • Gun, set in roughly the same period as Red Dead Redemption, features a bit of this, with characters making derogatory remarks about Native Americans and Irish immigrants, and male characters treating prostitutes (and indeed women in general) as pieces of meat. The approach actually backfired somewhat, as controversy arose regarding the depiction of Native Americans.
  • Not shown in the game itself, but in the spin-off short movie Lineage for Assassin's Creed II features Lorenzo de Medici having a prisoner brutally tortured to reveal his information about an upcoming political assassination, but he is still a good guy, both in the movie and in the game. In Renaissance Italy such brutal methods, along with backstabbings, poisonings and similar cloak-and-dagger manoeuvring were pretty much the norm among nobles. Of course, in a game where the main character is an assassin, the moral issues become a little gray, in any case.
  • Very much the case in Mafia II (somewhat less so in the first game), where the characters are about as racist as you can get in a game without causing a controversy. For instance: Vito asks Joe if he drove to the bar (in an African-American community), and Joe replies, "I wouldn't park my car in this neighborhood!"
  • The Fallout series uses this occasionally to show that pre-Great War society was pretty much the Fifties with higher tech, for better or for worse. In Fallout: New Vegas, you can find an employee handbook on a computer at a power plant/secret weapon facility that recommends against telling your wife about the project; after all, women are such natural gossips that she'll tell her friend, and she'll tell her friend, and the next thing you know, Red China's invading!
    • Strangely, the present in the Fallout games seems to have eliminated sexism to about the same degree as actual Real Life America (maybe even more so, seeing as women seem equal to men even in military organisations such as the NCR Army and Brotherhood). Apparently the downfall of every other aspect of society has done nothing to stop or reverse the advance of feminism, despite slavery and imperialism making a resurgence.
      • It helps that the NCR was founded by a woman (who was their most beloved leader). Also, there are so few people in the world, thanks to that whole nuclear apocalypse, that excluding anyone able-bodied on the basis of a silly thing like which sexual organs they have would be foolish in the extreme. The Legion only get away with it because they have such a huge number of troops anyway and draft all fertile women specifically into making more troops and absolutely nothing else.
      • Caesar's Legion, which is based on Roman ideals, is loaded with this, and even manages to top archaic Roman values by being violently sexist, able-ist, viciously intolerant of other cultures, fantastically racist and anti-intellectual.
        • Though Caesar's Legion is mostly In Name Only as far resembling Rome goes. The fact they are composed entirely of slaves and soldiers makes them a lot more like Sparta than Rome.
      • We get a brief glimpse of pre-War society in Fallout 4, and it would seem that differences between the sexes had been largely eliminated even before the nukes dropped—and for the same reason, specifically, that huge a need for warm bodies. For example, both men and women were eligible for the draft (as the manpower needs for World War III were that large), and as in the real-life World War II the # of able-bodied young people being drafted into the military meant that the homefront industries needed both men and women to work in them.
  • Mass Effect plays around with the Values Dissonance between different species. Salarians find the idea of honour in battle to be naive at best - if they are going to go to war with you, they won't tell you, they'll just kill you. Drell are quite happy (grateful even) to send their kids to assassin training and are so grateful to the hanar for having rescued them from their dying planet that they willing serve them and live on their homeworld, despite the climatic differences being ultimately lethal to them.
    • Naturally, it was totally subverted with the geth. The geth are a race of sentient robots who rose up, nearly killed all their masters, vanished into a hostile sector of space and now attack anyone who tries to make contact. In the first game, they join up with the villain, thinking him a god. In the second game, you meet a friendly geth named Legion who explains that only 5% of all geth joined up with the villain. The rest just want to be left alone. At various points, Legion says things like 'All intelligent species have the right to self-determination'; in other words, that freedom is the right of all sentient beings. And in the third game, you find out that the ancient war between the geth and the quarians was the quarians fault -- they not only tried to genocide the geth the instant they found out their robot servants were sentient (a fact you were told in game one), they kept on trying to kill them even after the geth refused to get violent in retaliation and made repeated attempts at diplomacy, until the geth finally fought back in utter desperation.
      • Speaking of Legion, it says that treating the geth the same as any other race is racist and thinks that the "heretic" geth spying on the others without telling them is more horrible than the heretics trying to brainwash the others.
    • Not to mention the Turian Hierarchy, a military dictatorship with 60% of their population under arms, several "client races", which encourages unquestioning obedience and very harsh punishments for infractors, that modern governments would ostensibly consider cruel and inhuman.
    • Depending on your Real Life country of origin, treason against the Citadel Council carries the death penalty, which the majority of 21st century nations have either abolished outright or not used for decades.
    • A sort of In-Universe example is the slavery and caste system that is a part of batarian culture. They claim it's an inextricable part of their culture and therefore should be protected while everyone else in the galaxy is against it.
    • The existence of the Spectres is a pretty huge example of this trope, as well. They are independent agents given free reign and total diplomatic immunity, allowing them to do anything they find necessary to protect the Council Space from hostile forces and internal chaos. For years their top agent was Saren Arterius, who routinely employed torture and made no effort to avoid civilian casualities in the course of his duty—and sometimes deliberately caused them in order to get a justifiable excuse to escalate matters into a proper bloodbath.
  • There's a mostly comedic example in Fate/hollow ataraxia with Lancer. Unlike the other Servants who are similarly temporally displaced from their origins, Lancer only superficially blends in. He's completely unable to understand why Shirou might have issue with him trying to sleep with his classmates, is ready to kill people that Shirou thinks are his friends at any time and seems to feel that anything he can take from their actual owners is his.
  • A Fantasy example; The Reconstruction portrays shra in a rather positive light overall, and the overall message seems to be that the Fantastic Racism against them is wrong. This doesn't stop most of the characters from being perfectly okay with slavery, and even those who don't treat the shra like dirt are prone to using racial slurs or calling them out on their smell.
  • This is practically the point of King of Dragon Pass, in which, in order to succeed, the player needs to act according to the very tribal morality of the Orlanthi. This includes, among other things: frequently raiding other clans to steal their cattle, fighting to avenge any attack on your own clan, never trusting a foreigner more than your own people, and always obeying your clan's traditions, no matter how barbaric they might seem.
  • The setting of Darklands averts it in some places and plays it straight in others. It is a version of 15th century Europe where women are treated with some more equality than how it happened in Real Life, meaning women can actually be adventurers and have had any kind of job (Except those related with the clergy) during her life. But on the other hand, religion, and particularly christianity, is a very focal point of the life there: Your party will suffer a Virtue hit for not bowing down to greedy clerics asking for 'donations', and anyone who is not a Christian is a Complete Monster who worships Satan and Eats Babies. And this last part is not and exaggeration.

Web Comics

  • In this page Sillice from Drowtales illustrate the difference in in-world values, which is one of the reason that characters that come across as Badass, Ax Crazy, extremist or even as Complete Monsters to people from our world sometimes are portrayed in a positive light. This along with a world of Gray and Grey Morality leads to a lot of debate among the readers.
  • Trolls in Homestuck have a lot of Values Dissonance built into their society, but it's best illustrated with Tavros' interaction with Jade where he manipulates Becquerel into rerouting a bullet that would've killed kill her grandfather instead. He sees this as a perfectly heroic act though, since in Troll society, adult members of their species don't raise young at all, and will generally mooch off of, or outright kill young trolls that they come across.
    • Terezi is also confused at first as to why Dave was raised by Bro instead of a Guardian Lusus.
    • A Running Gag involves the trolls being shocked about the humans having buckets lying around: buckets are part of the trolls' reproduction process so seeing buckets all of a sudden would be akin to being flashed.
  • Comes up fairly frequently in Dominic Deegan; most of the non-human cultures have their own distinct values, such as the werewolves being unconcerned with nudity and valuing True Companions above all else, or the Orcs approaching magic much differently than humans (for one thing, they believe ice is sacred, which allows orcs to use ice to great effect against demonic forces) but some of the clans also having extremely misogynistic values. The fanbase, as with nearly everything else, is sharply divided on this; some people feel it is perfectly justified for non-human cultures to have distinct values, while the other side claims that orc culture is insane and Mookie is a racist for depicting them so.
    • Racist against whom?
  • In Erfworld, units are compelled to serve leaders and causes by a loyalty mechanic. Parson Gotti, meanwhile, is from our world and has these strange notions of "free will" and "choice"...
  • In Twokinds, heroic-ish character Eric is a Keidran slave dealer. He's actually downright progressive in his treatment of Keidrans compared to most other human characters (he refuses to put "control spells" on his favorite slave, Kathrin, and is more than willing to deal with free Keidrans as equals), but he still sees his other two slaves, Mike and Evals, as little more than his property and refuses to sell them to Trace (who wants to free them).
    • However, he later reveals that this is because he can't... Templar law not only forbids freeing your own Keidran slaves, but actually forbids selling them to someone you know is going to free them. Doing so results in prison for the humans and reenslavement for the Keidran. Eric eventually agrees to sell his slaves to Trace anyway.
  • Subverted in Cursed Princess Club. As the setting is a mishmash of fairytales that have been told in every culture, the apparent societal values of the setting are inconsistent.

Web Originals

  • Survival of the Fittest spin-off The Program is pretty much based entirely on this trope. It's set in a militaristic, extreme nationalist version of America Twenty Minutes in The Future. So, there's a fair amount of this. Most notably, as a result of their nationalist upbringings, many characters are to some extent xenophobic and treat "foreign" looking people not too kindly, which is most prominently seen with Japanese-American Marilyn Williams and Angry Black Man Bryant Carver.
  • Land Games: The player's society is extremely imperialistic, regularly invading and conquering foreign worlds. Jayle is pretty much the only one who has a problem with this.

Western Animation

  • Occurs several times in The Venture Brothers in flashbacks and appearances of the old Team Venture: a giant in the team is called Humongoloid; Col. Gentleman refers to the Japanese Kano's "racial handicap"; and of course:

Announcer: It's The Rusty Venture Show! Brought to you by Smoking!

  • In The Simpsons episode Three Men and a Comic Book Bart sees an old Radioactive Man cartoon wherein the eponymous superhero is smoking.

Radioactive Man: Ah, these Laramie cigarettes give me the steady nerves I need to combat evil.
Fallout Boy: Gee willickers, Radioactive Man, wish I was old enough to smoke Laramies.
Radioactive Man: Sorry, Fallout Boy, not until you're sixteen *winks at camera*

  • Used in the Justice League episode Legends. It was created as an homage to the Golden Age of Comics, and featured plot-lines and events taken whole-cloth from the earlier era. However, this does not always translate too well to the current age, and Hawkgirl is rather resistant when Black Siren asks for her help making cookies and letting "the men" talk. Later, John Stewart, the (black) Green Lantern, is not entirely sure how to react when he is told that he is "a credit to [his] people." Both statements were perfectly normal (Even progressive) back in their proper age, when having black or female heroes at all was amazing, but cause discomfort when brought to modern people. The original plot for the episode planned to use actual DC Comics comics from the Golden Age, but Executive Meddling forced the creators to use the Justice Guild of America instead of the Justice Society of America.
  • Time Pervs is about Bill Clinton, Peewee Herman and Larry Flint using his time-traveling wheelchair to perv out hot women in history decide to see Helen of Troy in person, expecting an Hourglass Hottie only to find she's practically Mrs. Turnblad yet a guard lovingly talks of the same features that creep them out and are agast that they're actually turned off. Truth in Television considering Ancient Greek vs. Modern American standards of beauty.
  1. Seriously, the author has said it started out as alternate-universe slash fic.
  2. Most historians, ancient and modern, believed it was an attempt at slander by Mark Antony. Accusations of being the passive partner in a homosexual relationship were a more or less routine part of Republican political debate; Caesar himself faced them at least once
  3. Truth in Television: Twenty soldiers got the Congressional Medal of Honor after the battle, which Native American activists have tried to get rescinded.