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TV Tropes: Love 'em or Loathe 'em

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I've come to realize that I love the "It's A Wonderful Plot" trope, as clichéd as it is. Particularly the twists that show how HAPPY everyone would have been had the person not been born/come to town, etc.

"Married With Children" did this perfectly--Al is so incensed at seeing how happy and fortunate his family would have been without him that he decides to live just to continue making their lives hell.

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12 hours ago, Camille said:

I've come to realize that I love the "It's A Wonderful Plot" trope, as clichéd as it is. Particularly the twists that show how HAPPY everyone would have been had the person not been born/come to town, etc.

Dallas did something similar with JR. 

Spoiler

He had s guardian DEVIL who tried to get him to commit suicide! 

I thought it was nice change of pace!

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22 hours ago, magicdog said:

Dallas did something similar with JR. 

  Hide contents

He had s guardian DEVIL who tried to get him to commit suicide! 

I thought it was nice change of pace!

Spoiler

I laughed so hard when he revealed himself to be the Devil. It just so fit. Of course a guardian Angel wouldn't visit JR. But a guardian Devil would. 

 

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I hate "Funny Aneurysm Moments".

Much like Harsher In Hindsight, I know writers can't predict the future, but it really sucks when something that was supposed to be funny ends up being very unfunny because of real life tragedies.

For example, the "humorous" subplot of a "Strong Medicine" episode has the staff doing an emergency drill for a nuclear or terrorist attack. Despite someone explicitly asking, "You mean like the World Trade Center bombing in '93?", the whole thing is played for laughs and like those organizing it are overreacting and being ridiculous.

The 9/11 attack took place ONE MONTH after the episode aired.

I cringe every time I rewatch it.

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I don't have a lot of patience for the Idiot Character Trope, but I'll take the Well-Meaning Lovable Idiot Character over the Pompous Asshole Idiot Character any day of the week.

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On 12/29/2019 at 1:42 AM, Camille said:

I've come to realize that I love the "It's A Wonderful Plot" trope, as clichéd as it is. Particularly the twists that show how HAPPY everyone would have been had the person not been born/come to town, etc.

I have to say, I love this trope as well.  Done well, it is fascinating to see how a single 'regular' person has affected events and the other people's lives around them for good or for bad and how those people would have otherwise turned out if that person were not here.  All the ripple effects. 

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18 minutes ago, DearEvette said:

  Done well, it is fascinating to see how a single 'regular' person has affected events and the other people's lives around them for good or for bad and how those people would have otherwise turned out if that person were not here.  All the ripple effects. 

Indeed. I was rewatching the trope namer itself last week and had a real Fridge Horror moment at the line "Every man on that transport died! Harry wasn't there to save them because you weren't there to save Harry!"

Anywhere from 20-100 men, each with their own web of now grieving friends and family, good deeds that they didn't get to perform, etc.

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1 hour ago, DearEvette said:

Done well, it is fascinating to see how a single 'regular' person has affected events and the other people's lives around them for good or for bad and how those people would have otherwise turned out if that person were not here. 

The key point is 'done well.' The series finale of Highlander did this rather well because they literally had centuries upon which the main character could reflect. Or as we said, really flipping it on its head when Married With Children did it. That's really the only show where it could have fit and the casting of Sam Kinison was the only person who could have played that role to make it work.

Doing it for the sake of doing it or having it be the plot unto itself never really works.

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Character Outlives Actor trope.

Lime Street - only eight episodes and one dealt with Samantha Reed Smith's death by having her character supposedly soaping herself up in the shower and all we see is Maia Brewton's Margaret Ann character saying "Elizabeth!, Elizabeth!" excitedly to the closed bathroom door.

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28 minutes ago, PaulBMA said:

Character Outlives Actor trope.

I think my favorite of this is LaGuardia on Cagney & Lacey.  He was the most tertiary of the squad characters, and well past eligible for retirement even when the show opened, so it wasn't remotely weird for this most supporting of supporting characters to no longer be involved with cases without any fanfare.  When Sidney Clute died (of cancer), LaGuardia wasn't killed, he was just quietly said to have retired (to spend time with his new wife/girlfriend, whom we'd "met") but continued to be occasionally mentioned by the rest of the squad - and the actor remained in the opening credits for the remainder of the series.

 

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How about the trope of the titular hero being an incompetent moron while the sidekick does all the work? It's fun at first but it gets kind of old after a while.

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Lime Street, again. The B-plot of "The Mystery of Flight 401" is young Elizabeth (Samantha Reed Smith) preparing for her first date with a boy..

Would a real life 13 year old on her first date wear THIS instead of a top and trousers. The boy stands her up in the end.

524046509_LimeStreet-S0102-_TheMysteryofFlight401_.mp4_snapshot_42.45_2019_01.03_22_30_39.thumb.jpg.656ae4c994b4c0754c95a8aa1de60047.jpg

 

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3 hours ago, DoctorAtomic said:

It worked on Inspector Gadget but that's about it. 

Hong Kong Phooey?

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2 hours ago, PaulBMA said:

Lime Street, again. The B-plot of "The Mystery of Flight 401" is young Elizabeth (Samantha Reed Smith) preparing for her first date with a boy..

Would a real life 13 year old on her first date wear THIS instead of a top and trousers. The boy stands her up in the end.

524046509_LimeStreet-S0102-_TheMysteryofFlight401_.mp4_snapshot_42.45_2019_01.03_22_30_39.thumb.jpg.656ae4c994b4c0754c95a8aa1de60047.jpg

 

Not even in the 80s, which is probably the last time anyone willingly wore such a dress, and even then it was probably a bridesmaid's dress. (I know my dress like that was for a wedding.)

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4 hours ago, DoctorAtomic said:

It worked on Inspector Gadget but that's about it.

Zapp Brannigan and Kif Kroker?

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2 hours ago, auntlada said:

Not even in the 80s, which is probably the last time anyone willingly wore such a dress, and even then it was probably a bridesmaid's dress. (I know my dress like that was for a wedding.)

Poor Elizabeth (Samantha Reed Smith) looks even worse in the dress when she's shown lying in it on her bed, having been stood up by her date:

1027172663_LimeStreet-S0102-_TheMysteryofFlight401_.mp4_snapshot_44.13_2015_10.07_02_30_55.thumb.jpg.4be8273346639e32cdceddf4e663d851.jpg

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47 minutes ago, PaulBMA said:

Poor Elizabeth (Samantha Reed Smith) looks even worse in the dress when she's shown lying in it on her bed, having been stood up by her date:

1027172663_LimeStreet-S0102-_TheMysteryofFlight401_.mp4_snapshot_44.13_2015_10.07_02_30_55.thumb.jpg.4be8273346639e32cdceddf4e663d851.jpg

Are those dyed to match shoes?

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4 hours ago, Lugal said:

Zapp Brannigan and Kif Kroker?

Kif had his own issues though and he got preggo by Leela!

 

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6 hours ago, auntlada said:

Are those dyed to match shoes?

I don't know. I'm a cis-gender male but you have a point that it says more about the writers that the character is in a fancy blue satin dress even though it's only meant to be a mundane first date. Both the character (Elizabeth Culver) and the actress (Samantha Reed Smith) are meant to be only thirteen.

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10 minutes ago, janie jones said:

Was the date a dance?

You beat me to it.

Because, yeah, if that's how she was dressed to go get pizza, it's ridiculous.  But if it was to go to the school dance, it's not.  (Assuming this was in the '80s, which is what the dress and hair suggest.)

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Lime Street "fell apart" with Samantha Reed Smith's death but even with her, it didn't have the support it needed from ABC top brass to save it from The Golden Girls. Put it on an hour later against the eighties Twilight Zone and it might have found an audience and survived a few seasons.

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The Male Friend That Acts Like An Overprotective Big Brother, who feels entitled to butt in on and judge the female character's love life. Fuck that shit.

I could easily list countless examples with one Xander Harris, but I just saw an episode of Family Matters when Steve follows Laura to her cheerleading convention just to spy and Laura because he was afraid she was going to have sex with her boyfriend. She ultimately doesn't, but it was a choice she easily could have come to on her own without Steve's interference. 

Word of advice to Xander, Steve, and all the other Nice Guy Male Friends that I'll paraphrase from Easy A: whoever and whenever your female friend decides to have sex with, the amazing thing is it is none of your goddamn business.

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On 8/29/2019 at 5:44 AM, GHScorpiosRule said:

The person who created this gif needs to learn the difference between coarse and course. Because Sand is the former, not the latter.

Sorry, the Grammar Nazi in me can't let shit like this slide.

And yet you capitalize "sand".  😉

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3 minutes ago, GHScorpiosRule said:

Purely for Emphasis! See what I did here?😜

 

I can only see it if the stress is on the second syllable.  🙂

 

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The wonderful thing about that episode of Lime Street is that they end up putting Samantha Reed Smith's character in the most eighties-fantastic dress possible but show her trying on dresses that are a lot more subtle (and better) in an earlier scene.

Oh well...

@Bastet @janie jones @auntlada

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2 hours ago, PaulBMA said:

The wonderful thing about that episode of Lime Street is that they end up putting Samantha Reed Smith's character in the most eighties-fantastic dress possible but show her trying on dresses that are a lot more subtle (and better) in an earlier scene.

Oh well...

@Bastet @janie jones @auntlada

That doesn't answer my question though.  Where were they going on the date?

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5 hours ago, janie jones said:

That doesn't answer my question though.  Where were they going on the date?

the episode of "Lime Street" in question can be found here:

 

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Has there ever, in the history of media, been a time when someone says that someone "looks like you've seen a ghost" and the person they are talking to/about didnt just see a ghost/someone they thought died/someone who died in a previous timeline or universe/someone who came back from the dead? 

Can we just retire that line, please?

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12 minutes ago, tennisgurl said:

Has there ever, in the history of media, been a time when someone says that someone "looks like you've seen a ghost" and the person they are talking to/about didnt just see a ghost/someone they thought died/someone who died in a previous timeline or universe/someone who came back from the dead? 

Can we just retire that line, please?

Or maybe have someone (like Lily Munster) say 'Looks like you've seen a living person' then the other individual could respond, 'Nah, I saw a ghost!'

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2 hours ago, tennisgurl said:

Has there ever, in the history of media, been a time when someone says that someone "looks like you've seen a ghost" and the person they are talking to/about didnt just see a ghost/someone they thought died/someone who died in a previous timeline or universe/someone who came back from the dead? 

Can we just retire that line, please?

When I was a kid, there was an Are You Afraid of the Dark episode with the kids playing hide and seek in the graveyard that ended on that line (the twist was the main characters found out that the kids they were playing with were actually dead) and it was the button on an episode that scared the shiiiiiiit out of me. Zeebo the clown never gave me nightmares but The Tale of Old Man Corcoran sure did. 

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Oooh, I remember that episode. Yes. Very creepy, indeed. There were a lot of episodes of that show that scared the bejesus out of me. 

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19 hours ago, kiddo82 said:

When I was a kid, there was an Are You Afraid of the Dark episode with the kids playing hide and seek in the graveyard

I remember that one it was so spooky! That one always stuck with me since I was a kid, especially when they look at the grave and see the picture is the main kid they were hanging out with! Spooky! That one and the one with the girls getting their faces stolen really gave me the willies! 

I admit, I do enjoy the "they were a ghost all along!" reveal, possibly because that episode shocked me so much as a kid! Yeah its overdone to the point of cliche and parody, but when done well, it can still be very effective and shocking and/chilling.

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18 minutes ago, tennisgurl said:

I remember that one it was so spooky! That one always stuck with me since I was a kid, especially when they look at the grave and see the picture is the main kid they were hanging out with! Spooky!

Yeah!  I can still see the picture of the kid's face and it was spooky as hell!  I think that's what pushed me over the edge into nightmare territory.  I always loved/feared that one because it seemed like it could actually happen.  Some of the monster ones were just too outlandish.  That's why I agree that when done right the "he was a ghost all along" trope can be very effective.

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7 minutes ago, kiddo82 said:

I always loved/feared that one because it seemed like it could actually happen. 

Same here! I know it sounds silly, but as a kid, that seemed somehow more real to me than the plastic faced monsters that showed up a lot! I also moved around a lot growing up, and usually ended up making friends with the local neighborhood kids, so I think the idea that I could move to a new place, make new friends, then find out that the kids are hiding a secret was especially creepy to me. 

Its the kind of trope that needs to be deployed very well to work, because when it doesent it can come off as silly or predictable or out of nowhere, but when it works, its a great twist. 

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On 1/12/2020 at 10:51 PM, tennisgurl said:

Has there ever, in the history of media, been a time when someone says that someone "looks like you've seen a ghost" and the person they are talking to/about didnt just see a ghost/someone they thought died/someone who died in a previous timeline or universe/someone who came back from the dead? 

Can we just retire that line, please?

That can't happen until human beings stop seeing ghosts - which I think will happen NEVER.

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I start with the caveat that I don't dismiss any tropes outright, since I believe there are great stories that can be written using any of them. It just takes a great author to know how to use them right.

That said, if there's a few that I'm tired of:

  • Henpecked Husband- I get that writers probably want to poke fun at their nagging wives. Fine. Problem is, too many of them go overboard and I begin to wonder why the man fell in love with the woman in the first place. There's nagging and then there's abuse.
  • Bumbling Dad/Parenting The Husband- This is just so overdone. Very few of them are even done right to begin with (Homer Simpson and, for a darker version, Al Bundy come to mind in this regard), but you can't sit through any commercial, show or movie these days without the wife being the only mature, responsible and smart one next to a husband who's either stupid or an overgrown manchild...or both. Let's have some competent fathers for once (more than just the dad in the Alexa ad).
  • Tomboyish Name- Before I get jumped on and people start telling me "there's X!", I'm fully aware there's exceptions. Problem is, it's still too common to have a female character with an ambiguous or "masculine" name, especially if the character is the lead and does a "masculine" job, like being a police officer or being a kickass ninja. Maybe I'm in the minority (hopefully not), but I can get behind a show about a kickass female spy named Maggie (if it's good, of course).
  • The Mary Sue/Anti-Mary Sue- While I think the writing for female characters is getting a bit better, you still get a lot of prominent female characters that are either hyper-competent at everything (and have no weaknesses) or have so many flaws that you wonder how they even got their socks on this morning. It's like Hollywood is afraid that audiences can't get behind a female character unless we're wowed by their abilities or feel truly sympathetic about her, when the truth is I just want a truly believable, well-rounded character. A woman who faces struggles and challenges but is smart enough and capable enough to overcome them.
  • "Identity" plots- A white, likely Christian, heterosexual male character can have "normal" struggles and challenges. Everyone else has to struggle with their identity- a person of colour must fight racism, a female character must fight sexism, a gay or lesbian character must fight homophobia, etc. They're never allowed to have different struggles, because they're too closely identified by their, well, identity. I think things are getting better in this regard, I still feel we need more progress here.
  • Token diversity- I'm not against diverse casts at all- more diversity is needed, I think. No, the issue I have is when you get a studio that seems to go out of its way to make sure they've got an ensemble from every "identifiable group" you can think of, or "reverse whitewash" or "reverse gender flip" just so they can appear "progressive". Newsflash, guys- you're not fooling anyone with how "woke" you think you appear.
  • Won't Hit A Girl/Designated Catfight- No, I'm not advocating gender-related violence. What I'm tired of is having this female character who has no problem fighting men having to deal with men who don't want to fight her simply because she's a woman. Or its corollary- shows that only allow women to hurt other women. One, it's not realistic and two, if I've got a male hero who has no qualms about snuffing out his male adversaries with violence, you'd think he'd also have no second thoughts about doing the same with a female adversary. I get there are people who might not like the sight of a man hitting a woman no matter the context, but I also think it does female characters no favours if we keep treating their "badassery" as something that isn't as strong as male badassery.
  • Rape Is A Special Kind Of Evil- All I'm going to say about this one is that we can have characters aplenty who have no issue at all killing anyone and everything that so much as breathes on them and are as violent and as ruthless as they come...but they'll never rape anyone. Why? It's patently ridiculous to think that if you've got someone who disrespects people so much that they don't even care about preserving the most important part of them- their lives- that they'd stop short of rape, when everything about the character says they would do something like that. I'm not saying we should depict rape more often or make rapists sympathetic (though I do find it curious we can have sympathetic serial killers)- I'm saying if you're going to create a character who's a complete monster, create a complete monster.
  • White Male Lead- It's getting better in this regard, but I still think we have too many execs who think that unless a character is specifically described to be anything but a white, heterosexual, likely Christian male, the character must be cast with a white, heterosexual, likely Christian male. Executives could learn from Geena Davis, who once said that we could fix our diversity problem if, say, "when you have a script that calls for the two main characters to be detectives, just cast them as women so the other characters can act like it's normal and don't think twice about having women as cops". I'm paraphrasing but I know I've seen some rendition of that quote and I believe it- unless diversity is "normalized", it's not going to take root.
  • Alternate Timelines always being worse than the original one- Again, I know there are exceptions, but more often than not, if you have characters who go back in time, change something there and then try to go back to their original spot in their own time, they'll find the "changed" timeline results in a world and a universe they don't like, forcing them to go back in time and reverse their changes so they can go back to the universe they know and like. I think I understand why this storyline keeps getting used- writers are afraid audiences wouldn't root for the characters to go back to their original timeline unless it's shown that timeline is actually better than the altered one- but I still see it way too much.
  • "Joker"-type criminals- I'm not talking about The Joker himself, because he's a great character. No, it's all his imitators, the cackling, pure evil monsters whose only motivation for committing evil is "just to be evil". Yawn. It's been done way too much, and, not only are those imitators flat and boring, they forget that The Joker himself was well-rounded character. If you're going to write a criminal, write one that has believable motivations or at least has a logic behind what they're doing- evil "for the sake of evil" is just flat out boring.
  • The Villain Sue- This is popular on police procedurals, but you can find them almost anywhere. It seems more often than not, when Hollywood seeks to create an "ultimate Big Bad", they wind up with some character that is unbelievably smart, unbelievably lucky and has unbelievable abilities, just so the villain can get away and frustrate the poor characters tasked to chase them. If there's one commonality with all these "criminal masterminds", it's that they're poorly thought out (if at all), leading to the inevitable conclusion where the heroes only save the day because the writer saved them caught a break at the right moment to catch their Big Bad (to wit, Bruno Heller- who helmed The Mentalist- even admitted that he didn't know the identity of his Big Bad until halfway into season four...and people wonder why the Red John storyline fell flat). It's gotten so bad that I dread a TV series that introduces a "Big Bad" type character, because far too often, they're poorly written and they just don't end well. If we could have just one creator that understands that writing a Big Bad involves careful thought and planning- and treating their creation like you would with other characters- we just might get one criminal mastermind worthy of their stature.
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It strikes me that the joker is some white dude who didn't benefit from the privilege he thought he should be getting. You could also say batman is using his to unilaterally decide what he thinks is right for society. 

There was a meme going around that Bruce Wayne could do more fire Gotham by paying his fair share in taxes. 

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5 hours ago, Danielg342 said:

Tomboyish Name- Before I get jumped on and people start telling me "there's X!", I'm fully aware there's exceptions. Problem is, it's still too common to have a female character with an ambiguous or "masculine" name, especially if the character is the lead and does a "masculine" job, like being a police officer or being a kickass ninja. Maybe I'm in the minority (hopefully not), but I can get behind a show about a kickass female spy named Maggie (if it's good, of course).

This one is rooted in the idea that women suck, so to be accepted they need to be like a guy. It's basically saying "Maxine "Max" St. John" is only a badass because she's not girly. If she went by the more feminine name Maxine, she wouldn't be able to play with the boys. She is only acceptable as a tough police officer because she is "one of the guys". UGH!!!!!

 

5 hours ago, Danielg342 said:

The Villain Sue-

Nothing will get me to stop watching a show quite as much as the Villain Sue. Just...UGH Well, the Detective Sue will turn me off as well. I just can't relate to a "right all the time" flawed in ways that aren't their fault and only make them even more Sueish for having to overcome the insane mother/broken home/abusive dad/etc. Perfect characters are freaking boring. I have no interest in watching two very self important people play cat and mouse for an hour then come out at a draw because they have finally met their match. 

That's probably the trope there, the "finally met their match" trope. It isn't just detective shows where the genius dick meets their criminal mental soulmate. It's actually worse in soaps/romances. The playboy who never plans to settle down or the career woman who never wants kids, who always thinks about themselves until they "meet their match", the person who challenges everything they thought they knew about themselves and about life and they finally settle down because "the one" is just so perfect that they can give our hero/heroine a complete personality makeover in a matter of weeks/months. 

And the extension of that: City folk are wrong about everything and they just haven't gone to the right small town to see how life really should be. 

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1 hour ago, Mabinogia said:

And the extension of that: City folk are wrong about everything and they just haven't gone to the right small town to see how life really should be. 

Especially since, having grown up in a small town I can tell you, not all of them are the charming settings where everyone helps everyone else at the drop of a hat  like you see on tv all the time (something that's been discussed in the Faux Life thread).

It's not a trope, but it kind of fits here:  I'm tired of the extreme sex and violence in streaming and cable tv shows.  I don't mind it on occasion, but a lot of it isn't necessary.  We're watching White Collar and rewatching Numb3rs and Chuck and are really enjoying them.  They were popular shows, so it's not like it can't be done.  I did hear that a lot of times, they'll throw in something sexual or violent if they think that a scene is going to cause the audience to get bored.  So, I guess the trope is using sex and violence to substitute lack of anything interesting.  If that's the case, send the writers back to the room and if it's still not working, find other writers. 

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If there's a professor on a show there will be invariably the 'book smart'/'street smart' scene even though there's loads of 'book smart' people who started their own companies or are generally able to make it through life.

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8 hours ago, Danielg342 said:

"Identity" plots- A white, likely Christian, heterosexual male character can have "normal" struggles and challenges. Everyone else has to struggle with their identity- a person of colour must fight racism, a female character must fight sexism, a gay or lesbian character must fight homophobia, etc. They're never allowed to have different struggles, because they're too closely identified by their, well, identity. I think things are getting better in this regard, I still feel we need more progress here.

Kill it with fire!  I hate this so hard.  Especially when you have an ensemble show and the cis, straight, white, typically more prominent characters get to have these great plotlines and then when the less prominent typically POC or LGBTQ or disabled character finally gets a storyline or even has on ongoing storyline it is usually about their identity as a POC or LGTBTQ or disabled person.  They can't be in the middle of a terrible love triangle where one lover is married and the other one is a stalker.  No.  They have to be stopped by the police or beaten by a homophobe outside a bar or something.

 

8 hours ago, Danielg342 said:

The Villain Sue- This is popular on police procedurals, but you can find them almost anywhere. It seems more often than not, when Hollywood seeks to create an "ultimate Big Bad", they wind up with some character that is unbelievably smart, unbelievably lucky and has unbelievable abilities, just so the villain can get away and frustrate the poor characters tasked to chase them.

Also another kill it with fire plot line.  And so funny since I just read an article that talks about how tv and fiction really like to play up the idea of the Moriarty type killer, who is super smart and super calculated and plays the police like chess pieces, but in fact most criminals -- especially those who are high profile habitual  criminals like spree or serial killers -- are not caught because they are smart, but because of the mishandling or downright incompetence in the investigation by the police.

 

3 hours ago, Mabinogia said:

This one is rooted in the idea that women suck, so to be accepted they need to be like a guy. It's basically saying "Maxine "Max" St. John" is only a badass because she's not girly. If she went by the more feminine name Maxine, she wouldn't be able to play with the boys. She is only acceptable as a tough police officer because she is "one of the guys". UGH!!!!!

An off shoot is the 'Not like other girls' trope.  There is another thread on here, the gender on tv thread. think, where someone had a really nice analysis of this trope.  it is a combo of the Mary Sue + the Tomboy trope. She is thin and pretty and sexy but she also belches, talks sports and eats everything in sight.  She is basically the construct of the male version of the perfect woman who is both a sexy girl and one of the guys.  And she is singular because she is not like other girls!

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No one on tv gets 'normal' hungover - like you maybe sleep later or just have a bad headache. Or you just go to the diner with your friends and have a good bacon and eggs.

On tv you're on death's door - constant vomiting, you have to wear sunglasses, the slightest noise gives you vertigo.

Even if you do throw up, you typically sober up. It's not the day after.

 

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39 minutes ago, DearEvette said:

An off shoot is the 'Not like other girls' trope.  There is another thread on here, the gender on tv thread. think, where someone had a really nice analysis of this trope.  it is a combo of the Mary Sue + the Tomboy trope. She is thin and pretty and sexy but she also belches, talks sports and eats everything in sight.  She is basically the construct of the male version of the perfect woman who is both a sexy girl and one of the guys.  And she is singular because she is not like other girls!

Stump Town.  I sat through half an hour of the show and gave up.

 

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