Politically-Correct History

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"History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon."

Politically-Correct History is when shows set in the past change that past to fit the cultural norms of the time in which the show is filmed—or the prejudices of those currently in power. Originally, this manifested itself through making the main characters surprisingly "enlightened" (and thus more sympathetic to a modern audience). An example of a more recent development is extras being cast without regard to race, even in historical situations where it doesn't make sense.

Conversely, people may judge the entire past by one particular era. Many people assume that all of history until The Sixties was as straitlaced as the Victorian era, or else rife with racism and the like, which causes them to assume that historically accurate characters and situations are Politically Correct History. For example, black cowboys in recent depictions of the Old West are not a Race Lift, inasmuch as many freedmen did go west; it's their absence from 1930s-50s cowboy movies that was politically correct for that era.

This is Older Than Feudalism. Even the Ancient Romans indulged in Politically-Correct History, to the point that (given the dearth of primary sources) nobody can be completely sure if any of the Roman historians we know told the truth about anything.

Naturally, historical accuracy should not be expected for works that clearly take place in The Theme Park Version of their genre: if your story already concerns King Arthur and Robin Hood teaming up to fight a Humongous Mecha, it may be to the story's detriment to depict realistic social and race relations. Racism is a heavy-thinking topic, and would likely just get in the way of the entertainment goals of the production. The true litmus test is how seriously the work appears to take itself. The more so, the less excuse there is for whitewashing.

Note that political correctness has not always been merely an accusation leveled against the political left by the political right. The term may be used to describe something "corrected" to any political dogma. What is politically correct to one group might be highly offensive to another. One of the most extreme historical examples is found in a parenting book written in 1913. The writer claimed that the Puritan gentlewoman Grace Mildmay advocated beating children black and blue to cure them of lying and other faults; he even quoted her on the subject at length. But he made it all up. Not only is the quote not found in her papers, she was actually a strong opponent of physical discipline. Nevertheless, readers lapped the fake quote up because it supported their view of child-raising. Even now, this manufactured quote can be found in modern books promoting physical discipline of children.

This is an interesting trope in that it will anger people at both ends of the Western political spectrum. People on the right will be annoyed at what seems to them like Political Correctness Gone Mad. People on the left, however, might be absolutely livid, believing that the work is being sardonic or mocking, or even that it's trying to silence social criticism with a Rose-Tinted Narrative ("See, things weren't all that bad back then, so quit whining").

What's especially frustrating about this trope is the "all-or-nothing" stance its practitioners implicitly take toward historiography. To them, either the past had to be exactly like the present or it is completely incompatible with the modern era. Very rarely do we see anything in between. It would be more reasonable show the past as what it really was - a work in progress. On the subject of race, for example, you could show nonwhite characters comfortably integrated into at least some circles of white society but disproportionately absent from the upper echelons. Or you could show white characters unwilling to actively associate with other races but still free of overt racial bigotry.

The inversion of this gives us variations of The Dung Ages. Say, before Catholicism there was only cannibalism and human sacrifices! Or, before socialism there was only endless poverty and slavery! Or, before feminism the whole of human history consisted of women in the kitchen and men beating them with horsewhips! Just as as easy, cheap, and tempting for a Writer on Board as a straight use.

See also Popular History, Fair for Its Day, Video Game Historical Revisionism, Eternal Sexual Freedom, Aluminum Christmas Trees, We All Live in America, America Wins the War, Black Vikings, Historical Hero Upgrade, and Historical Villain Upgrade. Contrast Deliberate Values Dissonance.

Compare Fractured Fairy Tale, where this is usually Played for Laughs.

For other uses of the term Politically Correct, see Political Correctness Gone Mad.

Examples of Politically-Correct History include:


  • Ancestry.com was thoroughly lambasted in 2019 for an advert, set in the antebellum South, which depicted a white man offering a black woman a ring and imploring her to “escape to the North” with him. Historically wrong as the "go north, you can get married there" shtick belongs to the Loving vs. Virginia era... a full century into the future.

Comic Books

  • One of DC Comics's many Elseworlds storylines has the Justice League of America back in Wild West times. Wonder Woman was a sheriff...and showed a heck of a lot of chest, as in her modern day outfit (though she wore pants). Sure, the town she was sheriff of was indicated to be progressive, but she spent a lot of time wandering through other towns and didn't get hassled for being a woman with guns with half her boobs hanging out. (Though to be fair, how much hassling is someone with guns going to get?)
  • Somewhat averted in Incredible Hercules, in which most of the characters from Classical Mythology whom Hercules and his young teenage Sidekick Amadeus Cho run into assume that they are having sex, even though they aren't.
  • Played with in The Sandman, in which Hob Gadling criticizes everything while accompanying his current girlfriend in a Renaissance Fair.

"It's just someone's idea of the English Middle Ages crossed with bloody Disney Land."

    • At one point, when she thinks he is feeling bad about white people enslaving black people in the past (when he is actually feeling guilty about being personally involved in the slave trade back in the day), she downplays it and mentions that most of those slaves were sold to white slave traders by other black people.
      • But since he was around at the time, he knows that it was a matter of supply and demand; the African tribes wouldn't have taken so many slaves if they didn't know they could get a good price from them by taking them to the coast and selling them to the white slave traders.
        • Also, the tendency for the transatlantic slave trade to treat slaves like cattle as opposed to indigenous slavery practices where slaves could buy their freedom and marry up was unlikely to be known by the locals.
        • Plus, the majority of them weren't selling people they perceived to be part of 'each other'--they were selling their enemies, or careless idiots, or occasionally people they just didn't need. But mostly enemies. The Ashanti empire made a killing raiding inland and then shipping the captured also-black foreigners out of Accra.
  • Both Nick Fury's Howling Commandos and Sgt. Rock's Easy Company included one African-American soldier. In Real Life the US armed forces weren't racially integrated until 1948.
    • Eventually justified, at least in the Howling Commandos; they're a special unit hand-picked by Fury himself. If he thinks an African-American soldier is a good addition to his line-up, the military isn't going to tell him no. Per Word of God, one of the intentions when creating the Howling Commandos was to include as many minorities as possible, so readers could confront any prejudices they might have against any of those ethnicities. Stan Lee even threw in a closeted Camp Gay that somehow slipped past the radar.
      • That guy was actually the troop's ladies' man, and a Camp Straight. Stan made up the gay thing years after the fact.
      • Partly an example of Reality Is Unrealistic. Black soldiers actually served in integrated rifle companies as early as 1945. Still the entire US military was not integrated until 1948. Heck, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower selectively integrated some black soldiers into his forces in 1944 in real life (he was running low on men, but even then, his aides advised strongly against it), so a small force with a leader as respected as Rock or Fury should have been able to do the same.

Fan Works

  • Averted and then enforced in the Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfic A Century Apart. Due to the death toll of the Second Impact in 1900, armies from all parts of the world, including Imperial Japan, are forced to accept women, but the older officers are still grumpy about this. If the Second Impact hadn't happened, there would be no difference.


  • Birth of a Nation (1915) portrays the conditions of slavery as mild, slaves as happy, and Reconstruction as a period of political domination of the South by corrupt, arrogant and unqualified blacks and misguided white idealists, to which the heroic Ku Klux Klan was a tragically necessary corrective. This view of Reconstruction was a commonly held one among historians of the time (including President Woodrow Wilson!), and practically unquestioned among white Southern historians. Especially striking to modern viewers is the scene where the Klansmen and Northern whites who have settled in the South join forces to, as the title card puts it, "defend their Aryan birthright."
  • Gone with the Wind portrays the relationship between Scarlett and her slaves as one of friendship rather than one of master and slave.
  • Song of the South (which skirts the line between live-action film and animation) gets criticized for portraying Uncle Remus as a happy-go-lucky Magical Negro who enjoys his life in the post-Civil War Deep South.
  • Kingdom of Heaven is essentially the tale of a bunch of 12th-century secular Humanists fighting for peace and tolerance, opposed by Templars both literal and figurative. Appropriately enough, one historical figure's name was changed from "Barisan" to "Godfrey", a homonym for his anachronistic stance on religion. Near the end of the film, Bloom's character gives a speech to the defenders of Jerusalem, in which he argues that the Christians have no special claim to the city above the claims of the Jews and Muslims. The population is shockingly open-minded about this statement. Just to make sure viewers got the point, all the priests were self-serving jerks, and the villains were turned into Templars, despite them having been secular nobles in Real Life.
    • In fairness the extended edition does it rather better, with said self serving Priest being his Jerkass older half-brother. Many of the Lords in the East, while not necessarily liking the Muslims, knew that working with them was the only way to survive. Balian doesn't have any prejudices mostly because no one ever seems to have bothered with teaching them to him, and he just sees the Muslims as people.
  • For a less obvious form, compare the amount of smoking that goes on in shows and movies made in The Fifties and The Sixties with the amount in those which are just set in the Fifties. Its easier to list the Aversions:
    • Good Night and Good Luck, in which all of the characters seem to be chain smokers. The film included a now-unbelievable period cigarette commercial to play up how things have changed; the DVD commentary mentions how many of those people died of lung cancer (Andy Rooney, who never smoked, lived much longer than his colleagues at Murrow-era CBS News).
    • The 2004 film Ike: Countdown To D-Day. Nonsmoker Tom Selleck couldn't quite match Eisenhower's smoking habit, but he did his best.
    • Smoking in movies of the time was also exaggerated, due to Product Placement. Actual smoking rates in the U.S. peaked at about 56% among men during The Fifties (and at about a third of all women during The Sixties.) So at most, just over half of all men were smokers; an outrageous number today, but not as universal as period films would have us believe.
    • Parodied in Thank You for Smoking, when Senator Finistre tries to have cigarettes in old movies digitally replaced with candy canes, etc.
  • The 1972 film of the musical 1776 originally featured a musical number in which the "conservatives" of the Continental Congress express their unwillingness to jeopardize their personal positions and wealth by supporting American independence. Though the song was historically accurate, producer Jack Warner's good friend President Richard Nixon objected to the scene on the basis that it depicted "conservatives" in a negative light, in spite of the difference in meaning between the term then and now. In an instance of Chief Executive Meddling, Warner had the sequence removed from the film at Nixon's behest, though a surviving copy can be found on the DVD.
    • The concept might have been accurate, but the phrasing was not. The conservatives' comment of "Ever to the Right/Never to the Left" would make no sense since the idea of Left and Right as political ideology would not come about until the French Revolution.
  • Mel Gibson's The Patriot was guilty of exaggerating British atrocities during the American Revolutionary War whilst downplaying similar actions from the American side to non-existence.
    • And the whole issue of slavery is written out by making the workers on the hero's plantation freedmen... in the colonial South, no less. This trope takes the cake, though, when Occum is seen reading a poster, courtesy of the Continental Congress, saying all slaves who fight for the Continental Army would be granted their freedom and given a pension. Both sides treated slaves fairly badly, in actual fact.
      • Although the Royal Governor of Georgia made this offer to those slaves willing to fight for the Crown. About a hundred and fifty who took him up on it actually survived to be evacuated with the rest of the British forces.
      • There were blacks in the Continental army in New England recruited on the same terms and in fact that encouraged abolition activists. New England never became economically dependent on slavery and so could afford a conscience much easier.
    • There was also the scene where the British burned a church containing almost an entire village, including Ben's son's new wife and her family. This is technically accurate, except it was the American military who did this, and the church contained British loyalists.
  • Master and Commander is surprisingly free of this trope. A black sailor is portrayed, but there were black sailors in the Royal Navy: he could have been a freedman, or a fugitive who thought his pursuers would not chase him out to sea, or been caught by a press gang just like a white man. By contrast officers are all white and tend to be upper-to middle class people who are easily distinguished from sailors by their education and polish. Having a doctor along who makes allusions to the theory of evolution is not implausible, as Darwin did not really invent the theory and science was an upper class pursuit. Having a gentlemanly ship's surgeon is a little harder to believe as military and naval surgery of the time was not highly regarded among occupations being less about skilled craftsmanship treating a large number of injuries with the simple and brutal treatments necessitated by the need for haste. However there was a minor revolution in surgery going on at the time, mostly in the French service, but not unknown in the British so a gentleman-surgeon in the armed forces is not impossible. Just unlikely.
  • The 2009 Sherlock Holmes in which Rachel McAdams plays Irene Adler. Adler has no problem running around London in very tight pants, and is depicted as something of a Victorian-era Catwoman. Ultimately averted because, interestingly enough, this depiction is consistent with Doyle's 1891 depiction in which Adler both flouts and manipulates Victorian stereotypes to her advantage.
  • Averted, surprisingly, in The Haunted Mansion. The hauntings are started when the butler kills the head of the family's bride-to-be the night before the wedding, to prevent the intolerable scandal of a mixed wedding. Very appropriate and realistic for the Reconstruction-era South, but astonishing to see in a Disney film. You might notice, though, that they carefully avoided actually mentioning her race as a factor. The only thing the butler explicitly said was that it was a scandal because he was marrying beneath his station, as he would have if she were just a white servant.
  • Although A Knight's Tale features a heaping helping of Anachronism Stew, the female armorer is not a part of it. Wives of tradesmen often helped their husbands work the family business, and widows were allowed to carry on their husband's business themselves. The alternative was often starvation. In the film, the woman mentions that she is the widow of an armorer.
    • Well, that's not to say that they couldn't still be looking down on her, about the same way they'd look down on an untrained apprentice trying to take up his master's work... And then there's also the fact that they referred to her as "farrier." For anyone who doesn't know that term, it would be accurate when William claims the others said she was "great with horse shoes but shite with armor."
  • Inverted in Mulan, of all the surprising places. In the original Chinese folktale, Mulan is an almost all-powerful figure who gets away with practically everything, despite being a woman—this in a time where being a girl was...not so much fun. In the Disney version, the simple repercussions of her merely being female are treated more seriously. For example, in the original story, when she reveals herself to be a woman, everyone in the army is totally cool with it. In the Disney Animated Canon version? She is automatically declared a traitor, is spared death only because the army captain Owes Her His Life, and is abandoned in the mountains to meet whatever fate may come to her despite the fact that she's injured. Mulan 2, however, plays it straight when Mulan goes on a crusade against arranged marriage. Well, she was by then a famed war hero. Granted, traditions and societies are very resistant to change, especially in a country as all-fired huge as China.
      • Mind, the original Mulan had been their general for a while and saved the empire by literal force of arms and stuff already by the time she voluntarily revealed herself. This probably helped, but does not not make a suitably dramatic story.
    • Mulan was actually criticized for taking this too far, as in this time period women were not as oppressed as would become the norm in later dynasties (beginning with the Ming Dynasty), and there was no law in China prescribing death to women impersonating a man to serve in the military, nor was that part of the original story. It was added by Disney for dramatic purposes.
    • In relation to Mulan 2, this trope is absolutely present. Famed war hero or not, there is no excuse for going against the Emperor's orders and marrying off the princesses to your own soldiers. In fact, even in the most open-minded of Chinese dynasties, something like that wouldn't go over very well. The fact that she managed to be completely pardoned for it, and be able to give a lecture about how arranged marriage is bad makes the entire film one big Politically-Correct History movie.
      • Duh! Welching on a deal the Emperor had made is insulting the Emperor's honor. Not to mention the Emperor, could conceivably have had reason to believe it in the interest of China as a whole (whether or not arranged marriage is right) to have an ally among the steppe princes.
  • In Pocahantas the title character woos John Smith by showing how well she can talk to nature spirits. Somehow that makes him fall in love with her instead of saying "begone heathen witch"-because he would certainly consider her heathen, she had just demonstrated herself to be what he would consider a witch, and while he might be able to tolerate the first and even the second if only because they had to be neighbors, it would not make him fall in love.
    • Low level animism was already known in Europe, along side a Christian ruling religion. There would have been nothing to surprise or impress John Smith about the fact that it was also known in North America. However John Smith would also likely have not thought mucking about with such things was a good idea and hence would likely have been shy of those who did.
  • Some viewers mistakenly accuse Hollywoodland of this trope, due to the presence of black patrons in an upper-class Hollywood restaurant in the 1950s. On the commentary, however, the director defends this, saying that in the 50s many of these restaurants were not segregated, and a number of popular Jazz musicians did frequent them.
  • A weird in-universe example occurs in the movie CSA: Confederate States of America, where the South won the American Civil War. After the war ends, there's a strong effort to repaint the North as misguided, with the issue of slavery swept under the rug. As the announcer put it, "The Civil War became civil". This parallels our own timeline's whitewashing of the horrors of the antebellum south.
    • It's more like an unintentional parallel of the modern refusal to acknowledge the brutality, rapaciousness, and lawlessness of Union forces.
  • Nearly all films set in any time in history prior to the 20th century depict the (noble) characters with far better hygiene than they realistically would have had. Especially noticeable is the general lack of smallpox scars pre-19th century.
  • In Annie Get Your Gun, Annie gives up her sharp-shooting career to marry Frank Butler. In reality, the opposite was true: Butler began courting Annie Oakley after losing a sharp-shooting contest to her, and their marriage helped launch Oakley's public career. Considering it was made in the 1950s, the film was politically correct history -- for its time.
    • On the other hand, Annie Oakley in real life wasn't always the brash sharpshooter which she is generally portrayed in media. If anything, she was a very quiet woman who would frequently do needlepoint in her spare time.
  • Averted in Flags of our Fathers. Ironically, director Clint Eastwood then caught flak in some circles for failing to make politically correct history by adding token minorities to the segregated units that stormed Iwo Jima. Spike Lee in particular came after Eastwood for this, but Eastwood responded by saying that the film was meant for historical accuracy and that Lee should "Shut his face." Multiple black soldiers actually are visible in the film as extras, serving in the same auxiliary roles that they would have in real life.
  • Averted seriously in Back to The Future. After arriving in 1955, Marty discovers the future mayor of Hill Valley is working as a janitor in a tiny diner and attending night school, eager to make something of himself. When Marty points out he could be mayor some day, his (white) boss loudly scoffs, "Yeah, a colored mayor, that'll be the day." Also, Marty's mother is a serious smoker, drinker, and seems very eager to get it on with the boy she's nabbed despite her claim that she "never chased a boy or called a boy or sat in a parked car with a boy!"
  • Dances with Wolves had an interesting one: Pawnee attacking a white settlement. The Pawnee were the allies of the United States.
  • This can actually become jarring in film adaptations of pre-existing works. Consider the gender politics in old film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, where Elizabeth is a strong-willed and opinionated woman and Darcy a cold, arrogant bastard, to later ones, where Elizabeth has metamorphed into a ravening bitch and Darcy her whipped puppy-man.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was incredibly progressive for his time, advocating interracial marriages and women's suffrage, in a time when both were borderline illegal and even talking about them without showing signs of repulsion would very likely lead to social suicide; however, similarly to Uncle Tom's Cabin, "A Scandal in Bohemia" has been misinterpreted nowadays by easily offended people as being denigrating towards women, because it shows "the Woman" who is able to outwit a man as someone remarkable -- (never mind that man was Sherlock Freaking Holmes). Therefore, in the 2009 movie, Irene Adler went from the only woman able to outwit Holmes (three unnamed men are also mentioned in the books) to the only person to be able to outwit Holmes.
    • Note that the offense is not just at her being the "one woman" but that the reason she outwitted him is that his plan to beat her basically relied on her being an easily-led moron, and he found it remarkable that she wasn't. Still, Fair for Its Day.
  • Played with in Wild Wild West. Jim West is treated pretty much exactly as you'd expect a black man to be treated in the late 19th century... even though he's a commissioned officer in the Army, when few black men held such a rank at the time.
  • Rockstar, set in The Eighties, has a protagonist from a churchgoing Christian family who both sings in the church choir and fronts a Heavy Metal rock band. His parents don't seem to have a problem with this. In fact, only token mention of metal music being The New Rock and Roll during that time period is made throughout the whole film.
  • In King David, starring Richard Grier, King David falls in love with Bathsheba and sends her husband, Uriah, to the front lines of an army to die. In the movie, Bathsheba claims that Uriah whips her to make David more sympathetic. In the actual story from The Bible, there is no mention of Uriah beating his wife. The whole point of the story was that even King David was a flawed person.
  • In the Chinese martial arts biopic Ip Man, there are several changes to history to make the film more Communist-friendly. In the film, the title character is a bourgeois martial arts teacher who is forced to join the working class during the Japanese invasion. He then leaves the mainland for Hong Kong to escape the Japanese. In reality, Ip Man had a day job as a police officer and never worked as a laborer. Also, he was a supporter of the Kuomintang, the enemies of the Communists. He fled to Hong Kong to escape the Communists, not the Japanese.
  • This biopic of Joseph Smith, produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has several "politically correct" elements.
    • While the church acknowledges that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy, it is not brought up in the film. Only his first wife, Emma, appears. They do something similar with Brigham Young.
    • Joseph Smith worked as a militia commander in Mormon settlements. The film does not show him performing these duties.
    • The destruction of an anti-Mormon newspaper's printing press is not shown.
    • When Smith was killed by a mob while in prison, he fought back against them with a pistol. This does not happen in the film though the details of the death scene are otherwise very accurate.
      • The film is not, however, intended to be completely accurate, as it is meant to serve as a conversion tool to teach investigators to the Church about Joseph Smith from a religious perspective, not necessarily a secular historical perspective.


  • As a genre, historical mystery fiction (and to an extent historical fiction in general) often has some amount of this in order to keep the character sympathetic. There is definitely a continuum of this though. On one end, the title character of the Brother Cadfael series is one of the most kind and humane characters imaginable and in one book/episode reacts tolerantly toward a couple who had sex in a church. On the other end, Judge Dee is a polygamist, who (in keeping with the justice system of the time) uses beatings and torture in interrogation and sentences people to horrific forms of death. However, he is notably pragmatic about using these methods and the author likely understood that any more descriptions of torture would lose the Judge the reader's sympathy. In all fairness, medieval secular mores were rather more relaxed than those preached by the Church, and Cadfael came late to his vocation. Moreover, Judge Dee hates having to watch the executions, which makes it simple to avoid too much description.
    • Not to mention that Cadfael had a child outside of wedlock, so it's not like he can be all that critical of people who have premarital sex, even if the couple did have it in a church.
      • Brother Caedfael is a Churchman. The job description does not say,"never rebuke someone for a sin vaguely similar to one you once committed." If it did there would be no Church in the first place and presuming it to be a good thing for the Church to exist, a Churchman's duties have to be done. That is like saying a policeman cannot give tickets if he once ran a red light when he was a civilian.
  • Kristina: The Girl King - It is about Queen Christina of Sweden, written as if it were her Diary. While it does mention the fact that she was more boyish than most and rejected the female stereotypes of the time, it neglects to acknowledge her quite probable lesbianism, occasional transvestism to impress her father, who wanted a son, or the speculation that she was intersex by her contemporaries.
    • In regards to the occasional transvestism, it was noted in a single "entry" that her father was often happy when she showed up wearing boys' clothes and boots, and gave her free rein to do so as she wished.
  • Parodied in Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States. A couple pages into Chapter Four: The Colonies Develop A Life-style, the Lemony Narrators interrupt the action to notify the readers that "a review committee... has determined that, so far, this history book is not making enough of an effort to include the contributions of women and minority groups. Unless some effort is undertaken to correct this situation, this book will not be approved for purchase by public school systems in absolutely vast quantities." Whereupon the narrators/authors "just now remembered... that during the colonial era women and minority groups were making many contributions, which we are certain that they will continue to do at regularly spaced intervals throughout the course of this book." Spoiler: They do... whenever the narrative remembers to mention it, anyway.
  • In the young adult book After by Francine Prose, the school slowly starts to try to brainwash the students. One of the protagonist's friends points out that the documentary playing on the bus that day is on World War II, and was stating that the atom bombs were dropped on Japanese wilderness areas. He says, " Dude, Listen to that. I don't think that's true." followed by another friend asking, "How stupid were we?"
  • Discussed in the 1632 series by Eric Flint, in which many characters are shocked at how relatively open about sexuality those in the era are, compared to their preconceptions painting the Pre-Victorian era as more restrictive. Instead, they found out that while the people of the 17th century have their hang-ups (they think women with bared legs are prostitutes), this isn't necessarily the case in a number of instances, such as in certain types of pre-marital sex. For instance, it's repeatedly pointed out that, since betrothal is considered as being tantamount to marriage, a betrothed couple is considered to be married for all intents and purposes and therefore can discreetly enjoy sexual relations without being condemned for it (the qualifier "discreetly" is there because, in technical terms, they're not officially married yet). Lampshaded in 1634: The Galileo Affair when a cardinal comments to the up-timer Catholic priest that it's questionable whether simple fornication is really any sort of serious sin at all.
    • Also brought up when it is revealed that Galileo's trial and the actions of Oliver Cromwell in Ireland were more complex issues than the uptimers thought. Not to mention the Inquisition, which, as is pointed out in The Galileo Affair and 1635: The Canon Law operated in different ways in different countries - the Roman and Venetian Inquisitions were notably less brutal than the Spanish Inquisition, which as portrayed in the 1632verse actually operates as more of a secret police for the Spanish monarchy. (It was in fact a royal Inquisition; the Pope declined to endorse or organize it when Ferdinand asked.)
      • The Habsburg dynasty in Spain did manage to appropriate for itself the right to collect tithes that would have otherwise gone to Rome and to appoint its own cardinals and bishops. So the Inquisition in Spain was effectively the monarchy's secret police. Here (as in most of the series) the author has shown his work.
    • Also averted in the case of witchcraft, where it's pointed out that at the time of the books, while witchcraft trials and executions still took place, there was also a rising tide of opinion among educated people opposed to the persecutions (one of the short stories in the first Ring of Fire collection is about a Jesuit priest who was noted for his condemnation of witchcraft trials).
    • Note that it's commented on repeatedly in the 1632verse books that "blasphemy" (in the sense of "taking the Lord's name in vain", such as exclamations of "God damn it!" and "Jesus Christ") is looked upon with much more disapproval in the 1630's than "profanity" or "obscenity" in conversation.
  • While the characters even on the good side of the Belisarius Series are often about as brutal as you would expect warriors from the sixth century to be, they are remarkably tolerant religiously to a degree that goes quite a ways beyond mere diplomacy. The title character for instance is shown not only working with what the real Belisarius would have called heretics and heathens (which the real Belisarius would have done if it was in the Empire's interest) and even getting along with them reasonably (which is imaginable enough too) but having syncretistic theological and philosophical opinions that would have been absurd in a sixth century Byzantine.
  • The German kids edutainment series Viel Spaß mit... (Have fun with... <insert people from history here>). While they don't gloss over the fact that the Romans had slaves, or that pigs would run around in medieval cities, the characters (typically from a Nuclear Family, with focus on the kids) act more like modern people, so the Values Dissonance doesn't take over and makes the protagonists unrelatable. For example, the daughter of the Roman family is married off at the age of 16 instead of 12 - the latter is mentioned as being standard then, but the family does it differently. And of course, they always treat their slaves/servants well.
  • Recent editions of Mark Twain's works that remove offensive language (one word that seems to offend above all others). This is so much the case that it's spawned uncensored versions of Twain's works.
  • J. T. Edson's The Hooded Riders had a similar premise to Birth of a Nation above. Scheming, thieving carpet-bagging scum were out to shoot practically every good Southern cowboy stone dead (even taking ex-slaves along, who fortunately couldn't shoot straight, nossir) and steal their farms in a dastardly plan to take over the United States. Dusty Fogg and his companions (one of whom is a half-Commanche dog soldier who rides a horse with no bridle and can smell your shadow a mile away) borrow the concept of wearing white hoods from the Ku Klux Klan, intimidate the sheriff's assistants and pay off the loans of every put-upon, hapless smallholder in the tri-county area. And then the President of the United States shows up, and the carpetbaggers try to murder him too! But he's saved by Dusty Fogg, the intrepid Texas Ranger! After which, the Hooded Riders renounce their KKK regalia, even though they appreciate the need for folks to protect their womanfolk from A Fate Worse Than Death, because they don't need to operate in darkness any more. The president has seen the light and now everyone knows that Reconstruction is a con. This would be almost in So Bad It's Good territory but for a fairground fight between Dusty Fogg (who just happened to have learned Jujutsu from his uncle's Japanese manservant, improbably enough) and an angry, drunk strongman who happens to be black. The strongman loses the fight, loses his temper, tries to knife the intrepid Texas Ranger and gets killed stone dead. Then everyone tells Dusty Fogg to run and hide because those new law enforcement types from the North just won't understand, and will definitely try and convict him for murder! Add in a Southern belle who knows how to talk to "colored folks" to get information out of them, by banging her fist on the table and using the right imperious tone, and you really wish J.T. Edson had stuck to his Son of Tarzan series.
  • Animorphs has a weird aversion: in one book, villains changed history to create a modern-day America in which slavery and racism are still commonplace. A lot of authors would make their heroic main characters still have the same personality and tolerance they have in the main timeline, despite having grown up in such a racist society. Not the case here though: in the alternate timeline, our main characters are okay with owning slaves, they're racist towards black people and their alien friend, they consider turning each other in for "radical tendencies" as a good Nazi would, and they support the killing of rain forest tribes because they "don't want a world filled with Primitives any more than [they] want a world filled with [alien invaders]". They revert to their normal selves only once their memory of the "real" timeline is supernaturally restored, at which point they are revolted by how they just thought and acted.
    • Note that there is a black girl on the team, who typically serves as The Heart. Being cut off from her cannot have done the white characters any emotional good.
  • The book and movie The Help received criticism for this. The book is about a woman writing a book about African-American maids in The Sixties. While it does show some of the indignities they had to face, it doesn't emphasize the things such as sexual assault and other horrors that occurred, referring to them only briefly.
  • Brother Eagle, Sister Sky by Susan Jeffers, according to a Publishers Weekly review on Amazon, is "is an adaptation of a speech delivered by Chief Seattle at treaty negotiations in the 1850s". Yet, as A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children points out, there are at least three little problems:
  1. As a review in School Library Journal describes this, "Alas, her entire stock of characters appears to have come from Sioux Central Casting, complete with Plains ponies and tipis (and one incongruous birchbark canoe lifted from the Algonquians)" and the book is "not well served by images that ignore the rich diversity of Amerindian cultures (even Seeathl's own Northwest people) in favor of cigar-store redskins in feathers and fringe" - in other words, it was The Theme Park Version that, as the annotation put it, "inspired Susan Jeffers' extraordinary full-color paintings".
  2. The historical veracity of the speech itself is, at best, uncertain to begin with. Not that reliability of the first connection matters much, because...
  3. Scavenging of New Age gold material from this speech is blatant cherry-picking. Because, "make a 'beautiful environmental statement' out of that, if you can":

...And when the last red man shall have perished...the streets of your cities and villages...will throng with the returning hosts that once filled and still love this beautiful land. The white man will never be alone. Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not altogether powerless.

  1. While the author insists that "an ancient people were a part of the land that we love and call America", that is long gone, 1854 is hardly "ancient" and Seeathl's people are still living and kicking. Specifically, her book, if A Broken Flute is any example.
  • L. Neil Smith's The North American Confederacy series. There is a major inconsistency between the special emphasis on the property rights of individual citizens that differentiates The North American Confederacy from the present timeline and the fact that slavery is abolished entirely in 1820 C.E., with no apparent backlash at all. Never mind that back then, only white people were considered to be citizens and the African-descended slaves were considered to be the property of their masters. If the individual property rights of citizens were given especial protection all along, especially with the attitudes of most white people in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, slavery would most likely have been abolished later than in our timeline, if it was abolished at all.
    • In The Gallatin Divergence, he also has 18th century characters talking about discrimination over "sexual preference". (Although he clearly considers some sexual preferences preferable to others.)
  • Averted, along with most of Hollywood History, in Horrible Histories. The nasty, brutal and political incorrect aspects are all on display, but so are the aversions. In Groovy Greeks, for instance, there is a point by point comparison of the role and privileges of Athenian and Spartan women. (Short version, Athens bad, Sparta good.)
  • The Time Scout series mostly averts this. An effort is made to be accurate to the time periods, for good and for ill.

Live Action TV

  • Hogan's Heroes showed anachronistic ethnic equality views by characters, with the only major implication of Kinchloe's blackness being that he can't impersonate Germans in person (although he's great at it over the phone). This may be excused by the idea that being in prison together forces them to ignore such issues to fight the larger enemy, and that the group has very strong unity. No excuse for most German characters not thinking much of Kinchloe's ethnicity, though.
    • Actually there is. See several examples on Black Vikings: Germany had many colonies in Africa, and several units of the German forces in Africa were staffed by natives. Also, Germans really didn't hate Africans the way they hated Jews or Gypsies. They saw them as peasants in Africa, true, but not as threats to the Fatherland.
    • Averted in the episode "The Softer They Fall". Kinchloe has a boxing match with a German to divert attention from the Wacky Antics elsewhere, and Hogan warns him not to win, since the Germans would probably kill a black man who defeated their champion.
  • Likewise, in Happy Days Howard Cunningham is revealed to be "old army-buddies" with an African-American, in order to spark even more 1950s WASP-black conflict when an African-American is not only present, but also a house-guest to the Cunninghams as an Aesop; supposedly, wise Howard Cunningham is also color-blind "from his association in the army -- " despite that he was an army cook in WWII, throughout which segregation remained official army policy.
    • Actually, being a cook in WWII might have made this plausible. Black men could still hold support positions like cooks and such without being part of the actual fighting force, so Howard Cunningham might have associated with them more than anyone else if he too were a cook.
    • Happy Days had a few episodes where race was treated differently than it was treated in reality. In one episode, Fonzie and Mr. C are on a jury where a black man is on trial. The only person who thinks the black man did it is the lone racist on the jury.
  • Brought up in-universe in one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Sisko (the Bald Black Leader Guy as well as a son of New Orleans) says he doesn't like the casino holodeck program with Vic Fontaine (guess what happened during that episode) because it's set in a politically-correct version of 1962, and as such is an insult to those oppressed in the era it is set. He points out that at that time African-Americans could be janitors or entertainers for the casino, never customers. But his love interest (also black, though only ambiguously American) responds that whatever the faults of an actual 1962 casino might have been, the holocharacter Vic and his program/joint don't deserve to suffer.
    • Subverted in "Far Beyond The Stars", which faces race issues in the 1950s head-on—bringing up the Negro Leagues, how a sci-fi magazine doesn't let readers know a black man writes for them (as well as a woman, for that matter), and includes the only usage of the word "nigger" in the entire Trek mythos.
    • Though Star Trek is usually pretty good at pointing out the errors of our past, this is played straight in the Next Generation episode "Time's Arrow" where Guinan was depicted as a wealthy socialite in the 1893 who went to parties with white people who didn't seem to have a single problem with her. In fact in the episode she's extremely well liked and respected by pretty much the entire town.
      • Although, Guinan is never really shown interacting with "the whole town"... she's mostly shown hanging around the sort of parties that Samuel Clemens goes to, which could probably be assumed to be about as tolerant as one could get during the period. (Also this was mostly a case of the show working in Whoopi Goldberg whenever her schedule would allow it and not really having the screentime to go into those sort of issues unless it was the point of the episode.)
  • The CBC Mockumentary Jimmy MacDonald's Canada, despite being about a 1960s-era conservative pundit with pseudo-fascist views on children's hockey, never has him make any ethnic slurs, beyond a dismissive reference to Italians. The character probably is a monstrous racist, but it wouldn't be very funny to present.
    • Not to mention that, statistically speaking, nonwhite ethnicities constituted a very small fraction of Canada's population prior to about 1980.
      • Except for the first nations people, who weren't called that then.
  • Sometimes-averted-sometimes-not in M*A*S*H. Black people are referred to by the historically correct term "negroes" on the show, even by the good guys. However, later episodes gave Major Houlihan second-wave feminist views, even though the show is set over ten years before The Feminine Mystique was first published. You could chalk this up to Houlihan being ahead of her time, except the episode "Inga", written by Alan Alda as a love letter to the feminist movement, seems to have all the characters acting as though the 1970s women’s' movement already happened, breaking any illusion that the show is really set in the early 1950s. (That episode won an Emmy, of course.) There's also the black Dr. Jones, who was Brother Chucked halfway through the first season, supposedly because the producers discovered that no black doctors served in the Korean War (they were wrong: the real M*A*S*H unit that was the basis of the original novel and by proxy the series itself had a black surgeon among its medical staff, who inspired the character). However, it was played as a joke that he was nicknamed "Spearchucker" because he threw the javelin in college. Of course, it was also tongue in cheek, in that everyone knew it also had racial connotations. In another episode, Hawkeye permanently turns down imminent sex with a beautiful woman, because she complains about "those gooks (Koreans) marrying our (white) people." He gives her a speech as well. In another episode, Hawkeye "schools" a redneck soldier who complains about getting a transfusion of "black blood," by painting him brown and claiming that he ordered watermelon for dinner, etc.
    • "Negro" was not at the time a synonym for "nigger", which was a vulgar term long ago and sometimes avoided by respectable people even then. It was the normal term for "black". Using it in the wrong context, as in the Star Trek episode "The Spectre of the Gun" when Abraham Lincoln says "What a charming negress" and instantly apologizes, was a different matter.
  • The BBC's Robin Hood. Tuck is black, and isn't a Friar. Though realistically, there wouldn't have been any friars at that time, so making him a "brother" instead is actually more accurate.
    • The much-earlier Abbess of Rutherford, who's as sassy as a Sassy Black Woman can be and still be a strait-laced nun, is also this. Underlined by the implication that the Sheriff is attracted to her. She's actually a professional thief posing as a nun as part of a con trick -- but no one ever questions her ruse.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel Angel comes from the ranks of lower nobility of Ireland in the 18th century, and at least once expresses distaste for the English. Well and good, except that the only Irishmen at the time who owned property and had titles were the turncoats who had converted to Protestantism and embraced the English occupation. All the others were stripped of lands and possessions; it was even illegal to offer any kind of education to a Catholic Irishman at the time.
    • He was also a rebellious teenager into his twenties, and he and his father fought constantly. It makes sense that if his father had converted and so on then Angel (or rather, Liam) would develop at least a superficial dislike for the English just to spite him.
    • Wealthy Catholics often managed to get an education in continental Europe -- an example being the nationalist politician Daniel O'Connell. Many of these wealthy Catholics happened to be staunch supporters of British rule. Also some Irish Protestant landlords during the centuries of British rule disliked the English and strongly supported Irish Independence the best-known example being Charles Stewart Parnell. Irish history isn't the clear-cut dispute between Catholics and Protestants most Irish people seem to think it is.
  • In Heroes, Kensei, who it turns out is a white guy, is allowed to roam freely in feudal Japan, a land where foreigners were executed. Not one word is said about his race. Possibly justified by the fact that he initially walks around with full samurai armor and mask and later discovers he has healing powers, meaning he doesn't care about offending the locals anymore.
  • In an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Kimberly travels back in time to Angel Grove of the 1800s. At the local saloon, the Identical Ancestors of her fellow Rangers, who are white, Latino, black woman, and Korean, respectively, are casually sharing drinks with one another. In another episode, Tommy's clone was also casually accepted in 1700's Angel Grove after the morphed White Ranger uses a magic artifact to put him in ye olde clothing - and, sidenote, this version of Angel Grove is an English settlement on the West Coast.
  • So, so, so completely averted in Deadwood. To the point where one character is called "Short N**** r General" more often than he is anything else.
    • Truth in Television considering Samuel Fields was a real person.
    • And going to bed with a Chinese prostitute is considered so far beneath a white man's dignity that the pimps have to offer their prostitutes to Deadwood's males for practically nothing.
  • Played with in Eureka, when the group goes back in time to camp Eureka in 1947. Henry is undercover as a mechanic, and he points out that although Eureka has always been progressive, no one looks twice at a black mechanic.
    • Also, Grant is visibly impressed with Allison, a half-black woman dressed as a nurse, who seems to know advanced medical techniques (for 1940s).
  • Little House On the Prairie has some examples. Filmed in the 1970s and set in the 1800s, some of the characters are anachronistic:
    • When Charles finds out a local boy is beaten by his father, he takes action to help the boy. The entire episode has a 70's "child abuse is bad" approach. It's almost a very special episode.
    • In "The Long Road Home", Charles and Mr. Edwards get a job hauling explosives with Henry (played by Lou Gossett, Jr.). In the episode, only one person shows any form of racism against Henry, although later in the episode, Henry is told he can't ride in a passenger car with the other passengers because of his color. It's not clear whether the porter is racist or is just enforcing the rules. The same porter was just as mean to Charles and Mr. Edwards in the beginning of the episode when they tried to ride in the same passenger car, but were railroad employees, not paying customers. In the end of the episode, the one racist has a change of heart and jokingly claims he was kicked out of the passenger car because he was Irish.
  • Averted, then beaten to death with a crowbar in Mad Men. Racism, sexism, and various other forms of non-PCness run rampant in the series...exactly as they would have throughout the 1960s. A few, generally younger, characters have more enlightened perspectives (particularly Peggy on sexism and Pete on racism), but for the most part, if someone's disgusted with something sexist/racist/what have you, it's for some other reason (e.g. Don's disgust with Roger's Uncle Tomfoolery in Blackface at his wedding was not so much because of the racism but because he thought his friend was making a fool of himself). Justifiable, given the Rose-Tinted Narrative that tends to surround The Sixties; but on the other hand, it might go too far in the other direction. There are no minorities except for janitors, maids, and bellhops in one of the most racially diverse cities in the country. Discrimination existed, of course, but to see diners and jazz clubs without a single non-white face begs an eyeroll or two.
  • An episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody which involved a dream wherein the characters lived in the Revolutionary War era not only failed history forever but involved the African-American character Moseby being the proprietor of an inn, which would be unlikely to say the least in the late 1700s. The Asian-American (a racial group which did not exist in the colonies at that time) London Tipton was also shown as some sort of rich heiress.
    • But, if it's a dream, it doesn't have to be accurate. Anything could have happened. It's a dream.
    • Especially if its Zack's dream.
  • Played with in Doctor Who (the revamped version, not the original series). The show regularly has black characters in historical settings (as well as the future Queen of England being black). "Hang on, why are there two black men in President Nixon's security detail?" you might ask, but it should be noted that in the real world President Kennedy was the first to hire a black Secret Service agent, and Nixon also had at least one black agent. Similarly, many of the earlier historical episodes are set in fairly cosmopolitan places (e.g. Renaissance Venice) so it's not -completely- implausible that there would be non-white characters present. (In the case of Renaissance Italy, for example, the first duke of Florence was born to a black mother; see Reality Is Unrealistic.)
    • The Nixon episode also subverts it; one of the Doctor's allies is an ex-CIA agent who was sacked because he wants to get married. Later he and Nixon have this exchange:

Nixon: This person you want to marry ... black?
Canton: Yes...
Nixon: I know what people think of me, but perhaps I'm a little more liberal than...
Canton: ...He is.
Nixon: Ah. I think the Moon's far enough for now, don't you, Mr Delaware?

    • Played straight in "The Fires of Pompeii", where Caecilius' family has a mysterious lack of slaves.
    • There is one single outright aversion. "Remembrance Of The Daleks" has the racist Mike Smith and a racist sign, pissing off Ace since her friend's flat was firebombed by skinheads. The black cafe worker who serves the Doctor mentions that his ancestor was kidnapped to be a slave, so his family became English.
    • Played with in "The Shakespeare Code". When the black Martha shows up in 1500s England and expresses concern that she will be carted off as a slave. Her concerns are brushed off and, other than Shakespeare's confusion over the politically correct term to call her, racism and slavery are not addressed. The Doctor advises that she "walk around as if she owns the place," which might work better for a white male than a black female. As it was the 16th century, mass slave deportation had not started and Martha could just as easily have been mistaken for foreign royalty, though none of the characters point this out. This might have made the Doctor's advice more practical. Either a case of Fridge Brilliance or Did Not Do the Research.
  • The Adventures of Brisco County Jr takes place in a steampunkish, deliberately anachronistic Old West where we see very little evidence of racism. The part-black, part-Cherokee Lord Bowler is treated respectfully by most of the characters (only in the pilot does one character call him a "half-breed"), and various episodes feature nonwhite characters who are treated more or less as equals to the whites, including a black woman set to become the mayor of a town.
  • The Vampire Diaries has several flashbacks to the American South during the American Civil War. Though black servants are shown, they are never referred to as slaves and are never shown being mistreated. This is discussed in detail here and here.
  • Averted in Jeeves and Wooster. Despite the rather nostalgic tone of the show it doesn’t shy away from portraying some of the unsavory elements of the time period;
    • Class prejudice, though seemingly absent in the younger generation, is something that a few of the characters have to overcome in order to get married or at any rate get the approval of their parents or guardians. At one point Aunt Agatha tries to get Bertie to buy off his uncle’s working class girlfriend
    • Race comes up a few times in the series, most notably in the episode where almost all the characters are running around in Blackface. The entire Drones Club has formed a minstrel show and Bertie Wooster blacks up to blend in with them. The whole thing is rendered more funny than offensive by the fact that all of the characters involved (including Bertie) are too dumb to know anything about the history or context of that kind of entertainment. Another episode has Bertie imitating an African chief and talking in caveman speak. Once again the incident is saved by the real chief showing up and speaking better English than Bertie. In the episodes set in America it is clear that segregation is very much in place.
    • The show points out the some aristocrats were attracted to Fascism in the interwar years. Though most of the characters find would be dictator Roderick Spode ridiculous he has his own movement and his idea about drowning foreigners coming into Britain was a big hit with the inhabitants of Totleigh on the Would
    • Pat and Mike, nuff said
  • The Winds of War and War and Remembrance strongly avert that. Non-whites appear mainly as servants in America. Bullying Jews is not just restricted to Germans, although they are the ones most obsessed with it. Some Jews turn collaborator for the sake of their lives or their loved ones. Visas are hard for refugees to get and most people either have some political reason against it or just don't want to bother. Russians come off a lot better then they really were as the Soviet Union was another totalitarian empire. However Americans at the time did often give the Soviets a lot of moral passes because of the unquestionable courage of its soldiers (which was not of course rewarded by the political interest of Soviet leadership).
  • Wednesday has a sort of in-universe example with Pilgrim Wond, an "educational" theme park in the town of Jericho, which Nevermore is located near. Wednesday never shies from an opportunity to point out that it is a "pathetic whitewash of American history" that depicts genocidal colonists positively. Indeed, as she finds out later, this is even worse than most examples of this Trope, as the founder of the town was also guilty of Fantastic Racism and mass murdered “outcasts” (a catch-all term for magical beings) in Van Helsing Hate Crimes.


  • Skyclad "discussed" (if using a bloody axe counts) attempts to gloss over less-than-pretty moments in a song aptly named "Think Back And Lie Of England".
  • The Rastafarian reggae song Rivers of Babylon is based on Psalm 137 but leaves out the infamous passage about smashing Babylonian infants against rocks.

Tabletop Games

  • Most games avert the trope by setting themselves in fantasy universes that do not experience the same gender and racial prejudices which would exist in an actual medieval setting.
    • Reign goes one step further, and actually explains why gender prejudices don't exist in a setting where they might otherwise seem to belong - it's commonly believed that riding a horse in the classical way will make a man infertile - so cavalry is composed of women and eunuchs. It does feature racial prejudices, but they're actually inverted from what most players are used to—since the sun is in a fixed position in the sky at all times, most people are dark-skinned and the whites who live in the areas of permanent shadow or night are actually the ones who are hated and feared with a reputation for being primitive savages.
  • In a more specific example, Deadlands takes place in an alternate history version of the Old West. In this version, the South freed its slaves and the Civil War's drain on manpower allowed females to gain greater social status. The rulebook stipulates that only villains be racist. If the setting was historically accurate, players would be forced to roleplay prejudiced characters.


  • Although what was "politically correct" was considered different back then, Shakespeare's King Henry VIII falls squarely into this trope, carefully avoiding the more morally ambiguous things he did, such as beheading his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
    • That was more likely because Anne Boleyn was the mother of Elizabeth I, and Shakespeare probably realised that she could not want to be reminded of her mother's execution.
    • Except that the play was said to be new in 1613, a decade after Elizabeth I had died. The reigning monarch in 1613 was James I whose own mother had been executed under the Tudors.
  • On a similar note, Macbeth goes a little out of its way to show Banquo as a victim and a cool dude in general, as, by that time, King James was on the throne and he was supposedly descended from the historical Banquo. Note in particular the scene of the kings begotten by Banquo appearing before Macbeth—the last one is supposed to be James himself.
    • The 25th Anniversary version of Les Misérables has Javert being played by a black-man, which felt very out-of-place considering the time period and his status.
  • High school theater productions are often forced to do this because of limited casting pools. If only three guys are trying out for the lead, and the best guy for the job is black (even though the character was white), well, you have to go with what you have.

Theme Parks

  • Several attractions at Disney Theme Parks are like this, most notably Pirates of the Caribbean, which was actually Bowdlerized into being more politically correct. This is probably justified, as one attraction that isn't, The American Adventure, was loaded with Unfortunate Implications.
    • The Pirates of the Carribean this troper remembers had a curiously charming scene of a coastal town being sacked which included a woman holding a barrel to cover her nudity being pursued by a pirate. Yeah that's kind of my reaction too.

Video Games

  • Much of the background story of the first Gabriel Knight game involves American pilgrims raiding an African village for slaves. This is hardly what happened in those times; in most cases, slaves were bought from African slavers, who had them on sale as spoils of tribal strife.
    • It's a gross simplification of what actually went on, but majority of the African slaves were captured by other tribes specifically to be sold for a good price to the white slave traders; wars were fought in Africa to get more slaves for sale, the slaves weren't an incidental byproduct of already existing strife.
      • They were at first. However, once both the European traders and African slavers realized how profitable it was, things really took off. Soon entire kingdoms were destroyed by the slave trade.
  • An in-world example is revealed in the first Metal Gear Solid, where Master Miller (who's really Liquid Snake) identifies Naomi Hunter as a fraud because of her family's inconsistent history: Naomi claims her Japanese-born uncle was a member of the FBI in the fifties, but Miller later points out that Edgar Hoover, a well-known racist and head of the FBI at the time, wouldn't have allowed him in the bureau.
    • It was averted when Naked Snake talked to Sigint and found out that despite the fact that Sigint's a genius, only Zero would hire him because he didn't care about him being black.
  • In Operation Darkness, K Company, 1st Platoon, or the "Wolf Pack", allows women into front line roles—something that isn't allowed even in the modern British Army, and which would be wildly anachronistic for the World War II setting of the game. Somewhat justified by the unusual nature of K Company, 1st Platoon—the British Army doesn't traditionally allow werewolves or Mad Scientists to act in front line roles, either—and Lampshaded when Jude assumes that because he's being transferred to a unit containing a woman, he's thus being moved off the front lines.
  • Pirates Of The Burning Sea provides equal male and female options for all factions. There's absolutely no way a woman would have been able to openly serve in the French, British, or Spanish navies of the time—women have long been considered unlucky to have aboard ships, and would have been considered too timid, flighty, and incompetent to serve in the military. Pirates were less traditionalist, and there were indeed some female pirates known to history... but they tended to try to pass as male. In addition to the issue with "women are bad luck", female clothes of the period were highly impractical, and it was generally not a good idea to be visibly the only woman in a crew full of rowdy sailors who have been on the sea too long.
  • The Sakura Wars series is set in the 1920s, but seems to show many more opportunities for and much less discrimination against women (and, in Sakura Wars V, people of color) than would be expected in that time period. Of course, this is a setting with demons and humongous mecha, not historical fiction.
  • Age of Empires III is notable for completely glossing over slavery and the slaughter/relocation of Native Americans. The first Expansion Pack, The WarChiefs, slightly rectifies the latter by showing the Red Cloud's War and the Battle of Little Bighorn.
  • While fighting women weren't quite as nonexistent in the 16th century as the contemporary historians would have liked to think, it's still rather amazing what the female Assassins can get away with in Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. They wear pants and openly carry swords before they join in the Order! Then again, said women always attacked by guards until you save/recruit them, so they might not exactly be "getting away with it"...
    • Happens to some extent in the sequel Revelations as well. Sofia Sartor is seemingly able to walk around Ottoman Constantinople with her hair and face uncovered and wearing a low-cut dress showing off her impressive bosom without being harassed. Note that practically all other women seen walk around in veils that cover everything except their hand and eyes. There is an optional sub-mission involving protecting a printer threatened by the Templars, though at the time the only printing press in the Ottoman empire was a Jewish one printing in Hebrew, printing in Turkish or Arabic being banned until the 18th century. The militaristic and oppressive nature of the Ottoman regime is also largely glossed over, with future sultan Suleiman the Magnificent being one of the most sympathetic characters in the narrative.
  • A major facet of Empire: Total War is your faction's participation in the 18th century's colonial/maritime economy, but Creative Assembly really tries their damnedest to ignore the fact that African slavery was arguably the most vital cog in that economy. Two of the "trade theaters" in the game are West Africa and East Africa/Madagascar, and they exclusively produce...ivory. Slavery is also glossed over on the flavor texts for the plantations; the most mention that the practice gets is the late-game "Abolition of Slavery" technology... Though Revolutionary France abolished the practice in 1789, it was reinstated by Napoleon. The long game's ending year of 1799 was decades before any American/European nation permanently abolished slavery.
  • This actually caused outcry among fans of the Battlefield series when the fifth game came out. Many complained about the inclusion of female soldiers, crying "women didn't fight in World War II!" Of course, there weren't any Allied or Axis soldiers that had cybernetic limbs or energy weapons either, something overlooked by the same complainers. EA's response was, to paraphrase, "It's a video game, not a history lesson, if you don't like it, don't buy it."

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the black Jack Fury leads white soldiers during World War II.
    • Of course, seeing as that particular WW 2 was between the Allied Nations and Hydra, as well as the Nazis it can probably be excused as an Alternate History.
    • Also the fact that Nick Fury in this show is a combination of the 616 white Fury and the Ultimate black Fury, just like the Fury in the movies.
    • Jack Fury leads the Howling Commandos, who as mentioned, are pretty diverse.
  • Subverted in the 90s X-Men cartoon, where a time-traveling Storm is told she is not welcome in a restaurant. At first, she thinks it's because she is a mutant, then once she realizes it's because she's black, she says that discrimination by race is almost quaint.
  • An episode of Justice League Unlimited featured Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern chasing a Mad Scientist back to the Wild West, where they disguised themselves as law enforcers. Nobody they met saw anything odd about a woman or a black man as a lawperson. Though this might be an unintended aversion as there were black lawmen and cowboys at the time but they sort of faded out of the limelight until recently.
    • An earlier episode, "Legends", before the series changed names, had the League follow a villain inside an in-show comic book and pair up with equivalents of the Justice Society of America, who were of course still in The Golden Age of Comic Books mentally. The Chick invites Hawkgirl to help cook. And when Green Lantern's childhood hero complimented him with "You're a credit to your people, son!", Green Lantern could only reply, "Uh... yeah." It was an incredibly subtle bit of animation where you could see John's thoughts written all over his face... he obviously knew that the other man wasn't trying to be insulting, he just came from an era where statements like that probably were the equivalent of being racially sensitive. (The fact that the present day Green Lantern did not meet an actual Golden Age DC superhero but the equivalent enabled the script to get away with more. Actually, an earlier draft of the script had just that scenario, but you tend to think that DC Comics might have a problem with any incarnation of one of their superheroes portrayed as a racist.)
  • Sabrina: The Animated Series, "Witchery Science Theater": No one in the old B-grade movie that Sabrina and friends find themselves trapped in found Sabrina's Afro-American Secret Keeper best friend the least unusual. Then again, it's a kids' show...
  • Captain Planet, a time travel episode to World War II features Caucasian, Asian and African American soldiers all in the same company. It also features a handlebar mustached Führer, who, while clearly intended to be Hitler, isn't. Strangest. Censorship. Ever.
  • The cartoon Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat has the Magistrate having three daughters and no sons. No-one says anything about it. In real life, he would have been pressured to keep trying for a son or take another wife—the Kingdom could NOT be passed down to girls! Also, in real life, no matter how dumb the Magistrate is, his wife wouldn't dare talk to him as she did (in a henpecking, almost bullying, mother-like way) or she would have been beheaded!
  • The 90s Fantastic Four cartoon had a Time Travel episode where the heroes are transported to ancient Greece during the battle of Marathon. The Thing asks whose side they're on and Reed Richards responds, "The Persians were brutal tyrants, while the Athenians invented democracy." While neither side was a bastion of liberty by today's standards, participation in Athenian democracy was denied to women, foreigners, and slaves (i.e., over two-thirds of the population). Meanwhile, while the Persians were conquerors and slavers they were conspicuous for how they tolerated the customs and institutions of the peoples they conquered.
  • Lampshaded on Histeria!. Any time their depiction of history got a little less than family-friendly, network censor Lydia Karaoke would step forward and complain.
  • A Christmas episode of The Simpsons, set at Christmastime during World War II, shows the neighborhood of the Simpson family (or, at least, the family being portrayed by the Simpsons characters) as racially integrated. Although there were some integrated neighborhoods in the 1940s, that has not commonly been portrayed in popular culture, either then or now - and it is certainly odd to see it on The Simpsons, which is famous for its cynical brand of humor and historical generalizations.
    • Not to mention it showed Marge as a combat rifleman in the war, even though women still aren't allowed in direct-combat roles in the U.S. Army. Although, to be fair, it was probably to subvert the usual wartime drama where the husband is fighting overseas as the mother stays at home and works in the munitions plant, as Homer is apparently 4-F because he's too "fat to fit in a foxhole". Although it should be noted that even the overweight, as long as they weren't morbidly obese, were also drafted in the end due to desperation.
  • The Disney-esque Anastasia shows the Tsars as benevolent, white-hat rulers and their rule as a time of prosperity. Their downfall was caused not by a popular uprising but by a "spark of unhappiness" sent across Russia by evil magician Rasputin.
    • This is played in contrast to how terrible and cold Russia became under the Soviets, with the citizens of St. Peterburg singing literally "oh since the Revolution, our lives have been so grey!" Not that the consequences of Soviet policies weren't hell on the people, but the countryside suffered worse than the cities.
  • Perhaps one of the best aversions is Liberty's Kids. Despite being an American cartoon about the American Revolution, it does not gloss over issues of slavery (especially concerning Thomas Jefferson), mob violence, the treatment of Native Americans, or other morally questionable actions by pro-Revolution parties. And it's a kids show!
  • King of the Hill had an episode dealing with this. Hank, dismayed at the fact that the school's Texas History textbook skips important events like the Alamo in favor of pop culture, produces a re-enactment of the Alamo with another man who's supposedly just as outraged. However, that man's script is a revisionist version of the story where the Texans are all brain dead, drunken cowards (and one wears a dress, to boot). The man defends his version by saying the facts are unclear (and citing Oliver Stone's JFK); after briefly considering Trashing The Set, Hank realizes it's wrong to censor someone just for disagreeing, and presages the play with a speech about the bare facts regarding the Alamo.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has this in-universe, when Aang accidentally infiltrates a Fire Nation elementary school and their history turns out to be systematic propaganda, including revising the comet-powered genocide of Aang's pacifistic race as a mighty victory over the mighty "Air Nation" armies. Given they also obviously killed all the babies,[1] this isn't a story likely to hold together long against serious examination, but it makes the majority of students who hear it much less likely to start wondering about the rightness of the cause than the truth would.
    • Under Fire Lord Zuko, what is politically correct changes dramatically from the regime probably instated by Fire Lord Azulon, who presided over the chronological bulk of the war and making it a feasible long-term project -- something Sozin almost certainly never anticipated and Ozai never had the patience for.

Real Life

  • The atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers during the Second Sino-Japanese War are glossed over in Japanese history textbooks to the anger of many Chinese and Koreans.
    • For a time, both China and Japan held "politically correct" views of this time period. In the decades immediately following the war, it was common for both Japanese and Chinese to blame a small group of Japanese militarists while ignoring the actions of individual soldiers. This kept relations between the two countries amicable. But in the 1970's, Japan became an economic powerhouse and China opened diplomatic relations with the United States, meaning that it was less important for the two countries to be friendly with one another.
    • Currently many of Japan's atrocities in WW2 are also downplayed heavily... not only in Japan, but in many Western schools as well, for fear that teaching about, say, the Rape of Nanking will be considered racist for making the Japanese look bad. Much more focus is actually given to America's dropping atomic bombs on Japan with far less attention given to the numerous factors that contributed to this decision, showing just how strikingly what's politically correct history can change... America would rather make itself look bad than make Japan look bad and potentially be called racist.
    • Some communities have erected statues commemorating the "comfort women", victims of forced prostitution in World War 2. Japan has used diplomatic pressure to attempt to get these removed.
  • Similarly, it is state policy in Turkey that the Armenian Genocide never happened. In fact, schools actively teach that the Russian Empire-backed Armenian rebels committed violent acts against the Turks (which they also did... but nowhere near the scale and efficiency of the Ottoman government).
  • Many Americans are uncomfortable with the issue of slavery, especially as it pertains to the Founding Fathers. Several Founders, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were slaveowners. Some politicians, educators, and candidates have sought to ignore or gloss over this fact.
    • It's quite interesting to compare them, seeing as how George Washington was, for the most part, a cruel slave-owner who saw his slaves as objects (guess where he got some of his teeth), while Thomas Jefferson (who abhorred the notion of slavery) was more civil to his slaves than others, keeping families together and personally disavowing flogging. In the end, however, George Washington (having grown more accepting) freed all his slaves in his will, and provided them with old age pensions and job training. Thomas Jefferson, though, only freed a small handful.
    • It is common for some Americans, particularly those in the Deep South, to de-emphasize the role of slavery in the American Civil War in order to make the South more sympathetic. It is also common for Americans to downplay racism on the Northern side of the war and portray the war as one to liberate Southern slaves. The purpose of the war, as stated by Abraham Lincoln, was to keep the Union together. Freeing Southern slaves was only a means to that end. The Emancipation Proclamation did not free slaves in slave states that remained loyal to the Union.
      • Only is a bit of a leap. People tend to have a mixture of motives and history is complicated which is kind of the theme of this whole trope. Lincoln was certainly weaponizing Emancipation. It was indeed a formidable weapon on several levels from getting a right cross at the South's economy to getting recruits in New England (which was fervently abolitionist, not coincidentally because it had already done its profiteering in the transport side before that became illegal), to ensuring support from European sympathizers. However Lincoln was definitely an abolitionist himself (and long had been) even though he would be called a racist today. This by the way shows another complication in history and perhaps reminds one that emotional inclination and moral judgement can be almost opposite from each other. In any case Lincoln had no right to declare Emancipation without framing it in strategic terms as he was not an absolute monarch. If there had been no civil war on, mass emancipation would have required a Constitutional Amendment which in turn would have required a supermajority greater then could be mustered simply because the slave states had a lock.
      • Similarly, it has become common across almost all forms of media (both fictional and educational) to heavily, heavily downplay or outright ignore the existence of war crimes committed by Union forces while they were in Confederate territory. Destruction of property, theft, rape, murder of civilians, all of it treated as if it never happened... and those rare times it is acknowledged, is often done so with a tone of "Well, it was to end slavery. Plus the slave-owning monsters had it coming."
    • Current history also tends to act as if the whole concept of slavery was something white Americans cooked up and practiced solely on black Africans, with perhaps a passing mention of slaves in the days of the Roman Empire. Ignored are the numerous other societies that practiced and still practice slavery, often involving the enslavement of whites by non-whites, because again, bringing attention to these things might be seen as racist. In fact people often make excuses for how slavery in these other societies was "not that bad"... using very similar arguments to those above regarding people trying to downplay slavery in America. (See the top section's little commentary regarding slavery of Africans by other Africans.)
      • A lot of the difference is simply that slaves in many societies did jobs that only freemen would be trusted with in the South. Islamic kingdoms for instance regularly used slave soldiers (who of course regularly became kingmakers because when you give a man a weapon he stops being a slave). But it is hard to see how a field worker would have been better off one way or another and at least the South did not officially practice polygamy (they took mistresses instead) and thus did not have as much a demand for castrated servants.
    • The three-fifths compromise of 1787 is regularly regarded as an abomination against human dignity because it says slaves are represented at three fifths or in other words every slave was three fifths of a citizen. In fact it was an abomination but that is because slavery was an abomination. In point of fact the slave states wanted full representation for slaves. Free states did not want any for the obvious reason that no slave can be trusted to vote against his owner's interest and in effect what the slave state politicians were asking was not only recognition of their ownership of people's entire lives but a permanent proxy of their votes as well. They effectively wanted to have their cake and eat it too by saying as slaveowners tend to, that slaves were animals when it was convenient for them to be and people when it was convenient. The free states naturally disliked that not necessarily because of idealistically abolitionist feelings, although that was not totally lacking, but because it gave to much power to their political rivals. The result was the Three-Fifths Compromise which mainly tells us that slavery brings all sorts of weird ramifications. And that frankly everyone had just finished one civil war and really, really, wanted to put off the next one.
  • There are claims that the USA tries to "cover up" its history of mistreatment of the native populace. This is certainly untrue in the modern day, where children may learn about the Trail of Tears as early as third grade (around age nine or so). In fact, history books place so much focus on the American colonies and resulting United States doing so that they tend to leave out that settlers in Mexico and Canada were often equally or more oppressive towards their native populations (and often well into the 20th century).
    • The Indians weren't exactly the picture of morality either. Native Americans are often depicted in media as being one-with-nature, peaceful, etc. They most certainly did not live in peace with one another, and fought constantly. Genocide was even a common occurrence between tribes.
    • On a related note, fiction is far more inclined to depict whites getting Native Americans hooked on alcohol than it is, Natives getting white immigrants hooked on tobacco.
    • And both history and the media have made the whole concept of "smallpox blankets" infamous, while a look at records only ever shows this happening once with no real evidence it was an intentional attempt to kill the natives. Also, it portrays the violation of treaties and alliances as something only the American government/white settlers did (and usually before the ink was even dry), ignoring that it was fairly common for the natives to break treaties as well.
    • And of course smallpox blankets could only be given to tribes they were at peace with and therefore would not want to exterminate (because they were business partners). Tribes that they would want to exterminate would be enemies and so couldn't be traded with.
      • One source This Troper remembers (He really can't find it) tells that there was a pay dispute between French and Allied Indians after a fort was taken. The result was in their anger the Indians sacked the fort, and among the loot were the blankets of smallpox victims which presumably were intended to be burned. The result was a plague that no one could have forseen. That may have been what Amherst was referencing because there was no way to get them to hostiles otherwise.
  • While treaty breaking was of course known to leaders of all parties, being politicians as they were, a lot of it was more subtle in that the negotiating parties would claim more control over their people then they really had or a third party who for some reason had the same skin color as the negotiators would not feel bound or whatever.
  • On a related note, most people have never heard of the Ainu. They are the native people of Hokkaido, today an integral if rural part of modern Japan, who were persecuted in a way extremely similar to what the Amerindians suffered, only much more systematic...up well into the 20th century. Once they were nearly wiped out as a culture, in 1990 the Japanese government finally admitted they existed; they'd refused to give them the name of racial minority because that would allow them all kinds of rights under international treaty.
    • The Ainu are traditionally understood as descendants of the Yemishi people, whom historical sources state were defeated and driven away toward the northeast around the year 800 by the first Yamato emperor to begin unifying parts of the main island. They are also traditionally understood as incredibly hairy; certainly they have more body hair than the Japanese. Sometimes considered surviving examples of the "Yayoi" natives who crossbred with proto-Han Chinese immigrants or invaders to produce the modern Japanese minzoku.
  • In China, there is a stigma against those who do not speak Mandarin and today speaking Mandarin is a requirement to become President. Mao Zedong's Mandarin was extremely poor, which led to questions over whether he actually understood it.
  • Historical negationism in all its forms is usually done to gloss over the atrocities of a particular group in order to make that group seem more sympathetic today. Holocaust denial, Armenian genocide denial, neo-Stalinism are all examples.
  • A great way to demonize something is to associate it with Adolf Hitler. This has resulted in Hitler being called (sometimes truthfully, other times not so much) a homosexual, an atheist, an evolutionist, an occultist, and a vegetarian. As noted on the associated page, Hitler may be evil for certain things, but these things are not necessarily evil just because Hitler (or any of the other Nazis, for that matter) engaged in them.
    • Evidently, that runs afoul of Godwin's Law fairly routinely.
  • Although Jews are the group most associated with the holocaust, the Nazi regime attempted to exterminate all kinds of unfortunate minorities- blacks, Roma, communists, the mentally and physically disabled... the common perceptions of the Allied forces as white knights usually don't take into account homosexuals freed from the concentration camps were often re-imprisoned after the camps were liberated. The laws making homosexuality illegal were largely unchanged for a couple of decades after World War II.
  • The Americans and British were hardly pictures of morality either. They had flawed regimes before the war though really probably better then most as history goes. More to the point, a lot of the things they did were most definitely in the He Who Fights Monsters category. Everyone knows about Hiroshima and Nagasaki more or less because atomic weapons seem to leave the normal category of war and become something like toying with an Eldritch Abomination. But strategic bombing was long known, and hitting a military or industrial target with bombs from that altitude is like throwing golf balls at a telephone wire from a fast moving train while another passenger is trying to brain you over the head. Thus strategic bombing tended to degenerate into area bombing which basically means dropping bombs in whatever area has the thickest gathering of poor schmucks to get blown up. And it was often frankly admitted to be aimed at the enemy's civilian morale, or in other words to be terror bombing. All this is not to say that people today should not feel proud of our ancestors for stopping tyrants. Or of the fact that the Americans and British tended to be magnanimous victors when they finally won. It is simply a recognition that at the time it was felt that almost anything was better then losing. And given who the enemy was it is hard to blame them too much.
    • Also one part of World War II was less an issue of moral approval or disapproval as how it is portrayed. The worst of the bad guys were so cinematically evil and often so...well, just plain weird, that it sometimes comes off as a Space Opera or High Fantasy. However that is complicated by the fact that for a lot of nations and factions it was mostly an issue of surviving, or pursuing their local political interests, or in general playing Realpolitik like usual. There was often not much good or bad about it though it was a bit coarse. Often it was just a playing field for a fairly normal game of chessmastery.
  • This trope is so common in totalitarian regimes that it would take a whole page to list the examples.
  • Oliver Cromwell sometimes gets this treatment in nostalgic views of English history- with him being a major democratic ruler over throwing an evil monarchy- odd for a psychotic zealot who remains the only military dictator in British history...
    • Probably that has something to do with the fact that no King wanted to provoke anything like another Cromwell again and so the effect, once he was gone was a monarchy with no further claims to absolutism. Also Cromwell was fighting originally against a Stuart monarchy which was fascinated with impertinent Continental notions of royal powers and in the process of his anti-monarchism happened to get a bit too sure of himself.
  • In the mythology of American Revolution Loyalists are often stereotyped as filthy collaborators comparable to Vichyites rounding up usual suspects. In point of fact the issue was a lot more complicated and many who laud the Revolution would have been Loyalists (imagine people who torture IRS agents, burn the American flag, shoot at cops and national guardsmen, and conduct extravagant riots, and one can see their point). Loyalists had no objection to liberty, they simply regarded the King and Parliament as its legitimate guardians. Both Loyalists and Patriots had similar ideological concepts, even if they interpreted them differently. This is complicated even more by the fact of ethnic quarrels (Scottish Highlanders tended to be loyalist because that suited their tribalistic traditions, and Southern blacks often were because it was a handy way to escape their masters). It was also complicated by the fact that many Loyalist families had cousins on the other side of the pond. As a footnote, there was a substantial opposition in Britain itself, even within the armed forces, to the point that several officers refused a commission in America. The American Revolution was a Civil War and had all the characteristics of one. Including Conflicting Loyalties, mutual atrocities, and general complexities.
    • As a by the way, despite Longfellow's poem, neither Paul Revere nor any of the couriers would have said,"The British are coming." They considered themselves British until the Declaration of Independence and it would be like Republicans or Democrats saying, "We have to beat the Americans in the next election." What they in fact said, was "The regulars are out."
  • A recent[when?] pledge signed by Republican presidential candidates Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum stated that blacks in America were more likely to live in stable two-person households while enslaved. This may be statistically true, but is rather misleading as slave families were often torn apart when members were sold. Moreover, some slave owners in the South's chattel slavery culture very much encouraged "children of fortune" (unwed pregnancy) as a means of keeping blacks subordinate.
  1. That they killed the women and old people does not apply in this context as the Fire Nation standards of Badass extend into these categories, and they would not be considered categorically helpless