Tropes that Need to Die

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We’re tired of the same-old, same-old – show us something new.

Tropes are significant, recurrent themes in art; for the screen, it includes the Damsel in Distress, the Triumph of Good Over Evil, and the Faultless White Knight. However, in recent years TV and film have overplayed so many of these tropes that we can’t stand to see them on TV anymore without thinking, ‘Cliché!

The Disappearing Act

Once our heroes have defeated the boss, the rest of their evil minions go away. Any value they had in the last action sequence disappears as some up and leave while most vanish between one scene and the next.

Guilty: Avengers Assemble, Breaking Dawn Part 2.

Dumb Dads and Overbearing Mums

This trope is one that has had a substantial social and cultural impact over the decades: the stereotyped oblivious dad and the helicopter parent mum have solidified as tropes in too many TV shows. We want to see some variety beyond two stock roles for TV parents. Let’s have a look at Mac’s mum from Always Sunny who speaks only in grunts, or Eric’s dad from Sex Education who is desperately trying to understand his son, and Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls who has such a refreshing relationship with her daughter.

Guilty: The Goldbergs (Beverly and Murray), The Simpsons (Homer and Marge), Harry Potter (Mr and Mrs Weasley).

Looking for a Glow-up? Lose the glasses!

Also seen here is undoing an unnaturally tight bun/ponytail, usually followed by a L’Oréal worthy flick of the hair and bam! Instant stunner. Braces, spots, frizz – all must go, and suddenly you’ve gone from Mia Thermopolis to Princess of Genovia. For the peasants among us without a royal stylist, our braces, spots, frizz, and glasses will have to stay; hopefully, in future, we can see more characters allowed to be attractive and have decent vision at the same time.

Guilty: The Princess Diaries (Mia), Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Scooby-Doo (Velma).

Image Courtesy of Pat Loika via Wikimedia Commons.

Top Scientists Aren’t All That Smart

We’ve all seen BioChem students in Sugar five Jäger bombs into a science social but this overplayed trope is one that (probably) doesn’t extend past a Whoops Wednesday. And yet, despite three preceding films detailing exactly how it could go wrong, scientists in Jurassic World make (oh heavens) a new, bigger, stronger, and even more dangerous dinosaur that (oh my gosh, wait for it) escapes and goes on a rampage. Trial and error is not an excellent method for dinosaur creation, and these top scientists can’t even follow that.

Guilty: Jurassic Park, Prometheus, The Fly.

*To a young son, in front of fully-grown mother* “You’re in charge, now.”

This trope is just insulting. The dashing yet gruff action hero is called away and must leave his young son (additional daughters are optional) with his fully functioning and capable mother (may or may not be crying softly from a doorway in the background). ‘You’re the man of the house, now’, ‘take care of your mother’, ‘you’re in charge, now’ – these need to go. Few mothers appreciate the sentiment (or the idea of a ten-year-old telling them what to do) and a fatherless ten-year-old is not the ideal candidate to take care of an abandoned wife.

Guilty: Under the Dome, The Family Law, countless action films with morally questionable protagonists.

Insubordinate Alcoholic Loose Cannon Cop Who’s Surprisingly Good At Their Job

This one is an old one but an overdone one. Let’s collectively agree that someone who’s forced to hand in their gun and badge because they don’t listen to orders and drink on the job, probably won’t be solving the major crime that saves the day. It wouldn’t be a stretch to include James Bond in this overplayed trope either – even the chief of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service said they wouldn’t hire Bond as a spy.

Guilty ones: Gotham, Star Trek: The Original Series, Criminal Minds, NCIS.

CPR Must Involve Screaming

Straight from Hollywood’s First Aid manual – CPR will only work if you scream desperately in their face. Acceptable phrases include: ‘Wake up, goddammit!’, ‘Don’t leave me!’, ‘Don’t you dare quit!’ Hollywood CPR is clean (oral hygiene who?), pretty (did you know most casualties vomit during CPR?), and reliable (a study found that 75% were saved by CPR on TV compared to 10% in real life). CPR can be performed by anyone, according to Hollywood’s manual. They can just stumble across an unconscious person, whip out the old CPR, and the casualty will come back to life with a big gasping breath (and probably fall into the arms of their saviour).

Guilty ones: Baywatch, Jurassic Park, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Avengers Assemble.

Image Courtesy of The Walt Disney Company / Marvel Entertainment via Flickr.

“A wise man once told me…”

[…something you told me an hour ago.] This started as a decent trope: it’s interesting, cyclical, and shows some character development. Now it’s been done too many times, and it makes us groan. Let them show what they’ve learned by following their words, show us the action.

Guilty ones: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The 100.

The Over-Realistic Dream Sequence

Ah, finally, the over-realistic dream sequence to reveal some crucial plot info; this is a cop-out. Find a new way to convey the vital information we need to realise that certain characters have doubts, there’s a prophecy brewing, or there are some intense personal issues that need working out.

Guilty ones: Breaking Dawn Part 1, The Dark Knight Rises, Star Wars.

Daddy Issues as a Personality Trait

There is a whole lot to this one: the archnemesis dad (Luke Skywalker, Star Wars), parental loss (Stark children, Game of Thrones), ‘he went out for a pack of smokes’ (Will, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), overprotective dads ‘but daaad, I love him’ (Kat and Bianca, 10 Things I Hate About You)

These tropes are the most overplayed because they all produce the same not-so-subtle on-screen impact for the kids. I.e. Daddy issues that won’t be evident at first, but will eventually explain their irrational behaviour. We can see this in Kat’s ‘acting out’, Will and Arya’s lapses into semi-grief and self-doubt, and of course, the inevitable boss fight where Luke vanquishes Darth Vader. (Spoiler.)

Guilty ones: Full House (D.J. Tanner), Coronation Street (Izzy Armstrong), Meet the Parents (Pamela Byrnes).

With a whole host of new shows and films coming out that find their own, new tropes or else remake the old ones with an edge, we can feel some hope for the future of screen and expect to see more storylines that move away from the overused tropes.

*fingers crossed*

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