Trope described: Humans live (quite far) away from race/species/distinct group of people called X. There is a lot of negative stereotypes about the X. They are all dishonorable, thieves, murderers, chronic liars. Or they are all criminally insane. Or they are all crazy inventors whose inventions are impressive but tend to explode and the inventors themselves are all cackling messes. Or they are all Lawful Stupid fanatics.

Whatever the stereotype, it is important that it is: a) negative and b) considered to be about the whole group X.

The protagonist lives their whole life believing the stereotypes. In fact, the few members of group X he meets fit the stereotype to a T.

The truth is very different. The group X is actually very like us (or protagonists). Except X live in very sheltered and closed society. As a rule, they don't let strangers in. And they don't leave their territory or try to spread it.

The only exception is their criminals and malcontents. X don't have the death penalty. Their ultimate punishment is banishment. The stereotypes exist because the only people X you're going to meet are actually criminals and generally considered unfit to live in X society.

And I don't mean Planet of Hats trope, where all Klingons are warriors, all X are spies etc. Or that there exists a stereotype that all X are warriors following warrior code of honor, because your first and every meeting with X was with their warrior caste defending their homeland. There is My Species Doth Protest Too Much, but that is about one member of Planet Of Hats species who doesn't fit the mold.

I mean that whole X group is stereotyped because the only X guys you meet are actually what group X consider to be dangerous criminals deserving of ultimate punishment banishment.

Now, my question is: what is the trope name and what are the earliest examples of it?

  • 4
    What's the earliest example you already know of? What's an example, period? Don't think I ever saw this one.
    – user14111
    Jun 15 '19 at 8:47
  • 1
    One example I know of is Miko Miyazaki from order of the stick. She is sent on a mission to capture some malcontents, but it is partially because her employers want to keep her away from their hair and from messing their plans. She is overzealous, stick in the mud, unflinching and unbending Azure City paladin. An example of Lawful Stupid. Thanks to some of her actions, the stereotype that all Azure City paladins are Lawful Stupid spreads. oots.fandom.com/wiki/Miko_Miyazaki
    – jo1storm
    Jun 15 '19 at 8:55
  • 7
    A species that sort of fits is the Pierson's Puppeteers from Larry Niven's Known Space stories. The Puppeteers are normally extremely cautious and conservative, and don't travel into space, and keep the location of their homeworld secret. So the only Puppeteers that members of other species meet are considered to be insanely reckless by their peers.
    – PM 2Ring
    Jun 15 '19 at 10:06
  • 1
    Yes, they sort of fit. The one other example I can think is from history. The stereotype is that Slavs and Slovens are lazy (that's where the words slave and slovenly come from in English). Turns out that in Middle Ages, Slavic states lost a lot of wars to proto-Englishmen and were disbanded and annexed and most of their people made slaves. So the only Slavic person you were likely to find during that period was enslaved guy who is depressed because his homeland has just been destroyed and he has been taken as a war slave. Except, I need more specific: the group doing bad PR to themselves.
    – jo1storm
    Jun 16 '19 at 5:30
  • 1
    In order for something to be a trope, it needs to occur relatively frequently. I can't say that I've ever read anything that meets your criteria, and commenters are having trouble coming up with any examples. Thus, no such trope is likely to exist.
    – Martha
    Jun 19 '19 at 15:59

It sounds like you're looking for Us vs. Them.

Without intending to resort to stereotype at all, the sorts of attitudes you list were extremely common among the educated class of ancient Grecco-Roman cultures. Celts? Barbarians. Germanics? Barbarians. Africans? Barbarians. Slavs? Barbarians. Uncouth, illiterate, uncivilised.

You can certainly find plenty of anti-Celtic rhetoric in Caesar (1st century BC). You can most likely find examples of the attitude in Herodotus (5th century BC) as well (as he treats of a number of barbarian societies scattered beyond the civilised world). Further east, the Classic of Mountains and Seas (4th century BC) clearly bases the national mythos of China (i.e., the Middle Empire) in terms of Us vs the uncivilised, uncouth hordes of Them.

It's been a while since I read it, but Us vs Them may make an appearance in Lucian's SF novella A True Story (2nd century AD).

  • We can say that Us vs Them is supertrope for this. But I am specifically looking for examples of stereotypes existing because the only people of the group being stereotyped are outcasts of that group. Like Christians stereotyping Roman pagans to having orgies as part of their religious rights, which was shocking to normally conservative Romans. Or thinking that all X are necromancers because all X are wizards and the only X you are going to meet is necromancer X who had to run from other X because necromancy is illegal on X controlled territories.
    – jo1storm
    Jun 16 '19 at 5:24
  • 1
    Hm. I'm not convinced being outcast changes the name of the trope, though. It's still us vs them --- tribalism at its best, depersonisation at its worst.
    – elemtilas
    Jun 16 '19 at 16:23

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