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A counter-stereotype, reverse stereotype, or anti-stereotype is the reverse of a stereotype. 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 USA 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 a character called "Antina", created in response to allegations that Tina the Brittle Tech Writer was too stereotypical. Antina was, of course, 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 partners 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 the man as the charming and chivalrous knight.[5]

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.

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