Tropes and why they are a guilty secret

May 16, 2018

I've been talking to my students about tropes. I really do enjoy them, the good ones like the Chosen One and even the bad ones like Mary Sues. I think it is because tropes speak to a part of us. A trope flirts with our Id. Which brings up the question of why do we like the bad tropes as well. Here are some tropes that we secretly like and yet should eradicate from our literature.

 

Born Sexy Yesterday

Jenna Moreci talks about this and I bet you probably haven't heard of this trope but when you know what it is you'll realise it is everywhere. Born Sexy Yesterday is when some is good looking and is innocent of the world and yet hooks up with a love interest. Sad to say some of my favourite movies fall into this trope like 5th element and Seven of Nine. It is wrong the closer you look at it. That a common Joe can only get a woman if she is either mentally compromised or unaware of the social conventions. In the real world this translates to that she is unconscious or drunk. This trope teaches men that they can have the love of their life from a woman who doesn't have all their faculties. That the only way to have a relationship is to have a lopsided power dynamic. Scary, right?  

I should say that even guys end up born sexy yesterday but that trope doesn't do nearly as well. Like encino man or blast from the past it seems women aren't so keen on having a child as their love interest. After all a bad husband is often portrayed as just another child for the mother to take care of.

Pop Culture Detectives goes in to it more if you want to see more.

 

Manic Pixie Dream Girl

My mom is an artist and I can tell you being flighty is not what makes a good artist. A good artist practises their craft. Manic Pixie Dream Girl fetishise mentally compromised girls. Guys have a saying about dipping and crazy so even men understand why it is important to have relationships with people who are stable and not bounce off the walls nuts. Yet Manic Pixie dream girl makes it seem that a forever kind of relationship can be hand with this sweet but spontaneous outrageous character. This trope also focuses completely on the male protagonist and her own goals seem to completely disappear.

 

Vampires as lovers

If you look at Twilight it highlights just what is wrong with the whole vampire as a love interest trope. A woman has to give up her whole world to be in theirs even including the sun. Women can't keep any aspect of their previous life and has to focus everything around their vampire boyfriend who then either bites them, kills them or exposes them to a dangerous life style. Often equating being bitten to being on drugs. So not only do the women give up their worlds to focus on their main squeeze they are also then living with violence and addiction. How is this a good thing?

 

Bad guys can't shoot

I once asked the kids to think of what they would do if they were in the shoes of some of the characters in historical movies. They all said they wouldn't be afraid and that they would fight back. Despite not having a weapon or any skills or even the numbers to fight back. I blame this on the idea that the hero can't die and that the bad guy will suddenly be incompetent. This leads to a false sense of safety that makes us go into situations that are extremely dangerous. This trope is similar to good guys can drive in how dangerous it can be. 

 

In the nick of time

TV is the worst as this. Bad guy is about to shoot the victim he has tied up. They go into a monologue and just before the trigger is pulled the cops arrives and kick down the door. The math's doesn't work. The chances of anyone getting to you in time to save you is slim. Having them bang down the door seconds before you get shot, impossible. More likely something is going to go wrong for our plucky hero. I hate this one because it presupposes that the only person who can save a woman is the hero. That a woman can't get herself out of a situation. Okay, in the case of a bad guy with a gun I'm afraid the woman is screwed no matter what she does and surviving is to be lauded as a miracle.

 

The explosion I survived surely killed the monster

I love Myth Busters and they like to show films where people should have died apparently living. Explosives are dangerous. If people start thinking they are bullet proof they can get into danger as I've pointed out before.

 

Opposites Attract

Actually science says that isn't true. Mind you the biggest factor for successful relationships is apparently when guys treat women right. But this idea that people so opposite will have a smooth relationship is problematic.

 

The perfect house

I was watching Modern Family and she was complaining about how her house was a tip and so she couldn't have some family event at her house. Her house was clean. I mean a tip is when the cat has caught a mouse and a bird and has brought them into the house both alive and chased them from room to room knocking every imaginable thing off every surface. The problem with the homes in TV and movies is that unless you have a housekeeper your house usually only looks like that moments before you have a house party. It makes us all think we are somehow made wrong because we can't keep a spotless house. I'm like most women where I literally have two full time jobs. Cleaning the house is left for the weekends and the holidays. I'm happy when I have clean sheets and a bowl to eat breakfast out of. That is normal, not these spotless gleaming homes they always show.

 

Fated love/the One

Okay, I love my HEA but one problem with HEA is that they show that once you have found your One or your fated love that nothing can go wrong. That you won't fight and that every thing is romantic and the other doesn't have any annoying habits. It also makes you think you only have one possible mate out there in the world. The world is big and it that was true no one would get married as the math's would make it near impossible.

 

 

 

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