A counterstereotype is an idea or object that goes against a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. Although counterstereotypes arise in opposition to stereotypes, they may eventually become stereotypes themselves if they are too popular.
American popular literature in the 19th century contained stereotypical images of black people as grotesque and servile. In protest, a counter-stereotype arose which showed Black people as graceful and wise.
In the United States during the 1970s, in response to feminist criticism, advertising agencies chose to display counter-stereotypical images of women as sexually assertive and intellectual.
In comic books, when the superhero began in the 1930s, he was an invulnerable, unalterably benevolent figure. However, a desire for increased dramatic potential led to a move away from this stereotypical character, until in the 1980s and 1990s, the counterstereotypical angst-ridden anti-hero had become so popular as to constitute a new stereotype.
Michael Moorcock's character Elric of Melniboné—a tormented, sickly albino sorcerer with a demonic sword and a sizeable evil streak—was intended to be the polar opposite of the typical fantasy heroes of the time, who were almost universally muscular, Conan-like figures. As in the above example, Elric's success was such that he inspired an explosion of similar characters in popular fiction.
Scott Adam'sDilbert featured the character Antina, created in response to allegations that Tina the Brittle Tech Writer was too stereotypical. Antina was, of course, herself considered to be too stereotypical.
The Lazy Husband is a trope typically portraying a dysfunctional man, married but incapable of contributing equally to his partner's efforts in a relationship either practically or emotionally. This counterstereotype is used heavily in advertising but is also seen in cinema and in various TV series. It contrasts with the old-fashioned view of the man as the breadwinner and of the man as the charming and chivalrous knight.
Social psychology of counterstereotypical people
Social psychologists have found that people tend to react more negatively to counterstereotypical people than to stereotypical people. This may be because counterstereotypical people threaten the need to maintain stable and coherent stereotype systems.