TV Tropes is a user-created wiki website with an absolutely astonishing amount of content on countless screenwriting cliches. For instance, “Chekhov’s Gun” (a valuable storytelling rule of thumb credited to the great Anton Chekhov: “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there”) comes with hundreds if not thousands of examples.
But when it comes to its proposed entry for “Great White Defendant,” the contributors have been pretty stumped at finding examples in TV, movies, video games, comic books, etc. in the eight years since it was first put forward:
The Bonfire Of The Vanities : the trope namer.
The district attorney in the Duke lacrosse case, Mike Nifong, seems to have thought he’d found one in the lacrosse team
Then in the comments, contributors wrangle over whether it’s bad form to list real life examples:
- It might be a good idea to avoid Real Life examples in this trope. …
- Yeah, definitely stay away from Real Life examples. Especially since it’s still kind of contentious whether the Duke boys are in fact innocent. I think this may be Too Rare To Trope.
- In an episode of Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex this accusation is reversed somewhat. Togusa ends up trying to stop a young man (and full body cyborg) from killing a girl who turned him down (he fails since the man plays dead and then shoots her out of spite) and he ( colluding with the defence and the prosecutor, who wants to blackmail Section 9) tries to accuse Togusa of being prejudiced against cyborgs.
I have a bad weakness for a movie reviewer: My eyes glaze over at plot descriptions longer than Man Bites Dog. (Oddly, Man Bites Dogs is not a TV Trope either.) I got to “full body cyborg” and that was it for my attention span …
- Yeah, it seems to me that this is the very rare inverse of a common trope* in which a minority scapegoat is sought by the police when a significant crime goes down. In any case, the wiki does seem to lack a trope for mundane race-based legal scapegoating. Maybe that’s a place to start, and if lots of examples accrue, a split could be considered down the line.
- Hmm. Surely there’s a Law And Order example, since the show’s been on so long.
Actually, the vast L&O franchise largely consists of the Hunt for the Great White Defendant.