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A counter stereotype 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 counter-stereotypes arise in opposition to stereotypes, they may eventually become stereotypes themselves if they are too popular.

An example is the character type called the magical negro; Spike Lee popularized this term deriding the archetype of the "super-duper magical negro" in 2001 while discussing films with students at Washington State University and at Yale University.[1][2]


  • 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.[3]
  • 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.[4]
  • 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's Dilbert 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 noble savage myth, used by supporters or admirers of indigenous peoples, is the opposite of the usual stereotypes implied by the word "savage".
  • The bear subculture, composed of gay men who embrace a hypermasculine image, has made headway in countering the old stereotypes of campiness and effeminacy.
  • 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.[5] There was once a man named Antanole Broyard who was black, but he lived his life as a white man because his skin was light and he had a white (second) wife. He was a writer, which for the time, was not something African American people did. Nor did they leave their lives with a black family for a white lady in a more upscale city. Although it would have been possible “Broyard could have struggled against the limiting conditions of his life as a black man. But because he had the opportunity, he decided not to.” A gender counter stereotype would be about gender associated words, that don’t are not as they seem. For example, “beautician” is stereotypically a woman’s career, but it is a counter stereotype if a man holds that position. Sexuality stereotypes, such as “members of the LGBT community are not religious” are often untrue. These LGBT people who are religious the counter stereotypes for this group.

Social psychology of counterstereotypical people[edit]

Social psychologists have found that people tend to react more negatively to counterstereotypical people than to stereotypical people.[6] This may be because counterstereotypical people threaten the need to maintain stable and coherent stereotype systems.

Counter Stereotypes in History Counter stereotypes are a very big deal, especially in the twentieth century, during the 1950s and the 1960s. There were women during World War II who were referred to as “Rosie the Riveters”, which meant that these “American women entered the workforce in unprecedented numbers during World War II, as widespread male enlistment left gaping holes in the industrial labor force. Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent, and by 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home.” At that time, it was very uncommon for a female to be working, much less if she already had a family. It was traditionally the husband’s role to work and be the provider for the family, while the women stayed at home to take care of the children, but with all those men away at war, woman stepped up and got jobs in factories and other industries that needed laborers. Also, around the same time and shortly after, African Americans were also going against and rising above their usual stereotypes and started protesting and trying to earn equal rights, the rights that were given to them by the amendments, as the white people living in the United States of America. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and several other civil rights activists would” help conduct non-violent protests to promote civil rights reform.” With all these changes in the American society, this gave way to The Counterculture. This group of young men and women were breaking many stereotypes of what typical young, white, middle class should be doing. As these new ideas were coming around, “the counterculture youth rejected the cultural standards of their parents, specifically racial segregation and initial widespread support for the Vietnam War” and “as the 1960s progressed, widespread tensions developed in American society that tended to flow along generational lines regarding the war in Vietnam, race relations, sexual mores, women's rights, traditional modes of authority, and a materialist interpretation of the American Dream. Thanks to widespread economic prosperity, white, middle-class youth—who made up the bulk of the counterculture—had sufficient leisure time to turn their attention to social issues.”

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Okorafor-Mbachu, Nnedi (2004-10-25). "Stephen King's Super-Duper Magical Negroes". Strange Horizons. Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  2. ^ Gonzalez, Susan (2001-03-02). "Director Spike Lee slams 'same old' black stereotypes in today's films". Yale Bulletin & Calendar (Yale University). Retrieved 2008-12-29. 
  3. ^ The All-White World of Children's Books, Nancy Larrick, Saturday Review, September 11, 1965, pp. 63 ff.
  4. ^ Madison Avenue versus The Feminine Mystique: How the Advertising Industry Responded to the Onset of the Modern Women’s Movement, Steve Craig, presented at the Popular Culture Association conference, San Antonio, Texas, March 27, 1997.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Rubin, M., Paolini, S., & Crisp, R. J. (2013). Linguistic description moderates the evaluations of counterstereotypical people. Social Psychology, 44, 289-298. doi: 10.1027/1864-9335/a000114