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  1. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Has Subverting Cliches Become the New Cliche?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by LastMindToSanity, Nov 25, 2018.

    I'm not entirely sure how to describe it, but I think we live in a time where cliches are expected to be subverted, and that those subversions have become the new cliches.

    The dark, brooding anti-hero will have a heart of gold or an 'unexpected' sweet side. The demure princess will reveal herself to have an 'unexpectedly' rough or tough personality. The emotional center of the group, who's supposed to keep everyone in high spirits, will have some 'unexpected' severe emotional hangups that need to be addressed. The sexist jerk will be an 'unexpected' sweetheart when they find someone they actually love. The timid person will 'unexpectedly' put themselves on the line when things get the most dangerous.

    I put the air-quotes around 'unexpected' because these kinds of subversions are, to me, completely expected when I see certain character types. Not sure about you guys, but, to me, subverting cliches is the new cliche. Everywhere I see characters, whether it be in the discussions on this forum, or on tv shows, or in books, cliches are being subverted left and right. That's not a bad thing, but I think that those old cliches are no longer cliches anymore, at least, they aren't the main ones I see. Now, it's all about how this character can show a hidden side to their personality that 'no one' expects.

    Heck, the most surprised I was was when, and I forgot where I saw this, the asshole character turned out to not have a tragic life that pushed him to this, he was just an ass for the sake of being an ass. I was floored that there was a character that didn't have a deeper meaning to who they were, they were just who they were because they wanted to be.

    So, what do you guys think? Have the old cliches been replaced by the things that were meant to avoid cliches?
     
  2. Carriage Return

    Carriage Return Member

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    Last edited: Dec 31, 2018
  3. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    Your examples are not of "subverted cliches" but of cliches themselves. "The tart with a heart" and similar characters have been used in literature since the Bible onwards (and probably before that, too), they've been used in stories ever since the contemporary novel came to be, let's say the last couple of centuries have been abundant. They are kinda standard, not a "subversion" of any sort. The audience knows them and expects them as such. I think you're mostly talking about predictability and that's a different problem entirely. Predictability is annoying but it stems from something else. Mostly it's there because the authors can't do any better. It's really difficult to surprise the reader these days.
     
  4. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes definitely.
    The new crop of writers have created new clichés by trying to avoid old ones simply because they didn't understand what made them cliché in the first place. People have taken the worst examples of movies blown them up into ideals that this is how people saw people - i.e. the screaming timid woman in need of a rescue and have attempted to subvert it. What they didn't think was that the scenario itself was flawed not the fact that a 5'5 woman might need help against a 6'2 man. Write a good believable scenario with people behaving in a believable manner and you'll avoid clichés. Write the same damn scenerios and you'll find yourself just trading clichés. The kick ass woman can be as bad to me as the weak woman. They both leave someone standing looking stupid while they gloat about their abilities.
     
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  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    That time is forever. It’s not new.
     
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  6. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I did one of these back in my fanfic days, in what eventually became my most popular work in the fandom. MC 1 was rich, talented, good-looking, conceited and a complete asshole in cannon. Most stories around that time seemed to be fueled by the most elaborate backstories of how tortured deep down this guy was. Surely he had been abused, his parents were likely alcoholics who abandoned him emotionally, etc. etc.

    I wrote him as being an asshole because, following the principle of Occam's razor, I imagined he was spoiled, immature and like a lot of teenagers, pretty good at putting on a good face in front of authority figures. In my story he had two loving, involved parents who honestly hadn't realized that they'd raised an entitled little shithead until things went pear-shaped one day. OMG the drama it caused initially, even though to me it the character's motivations were perfectly clear and easily understandable on even the most surface of levels.
     
  7. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Why don't you try subverting it by not subverting them.
     
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  8. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    [​IMG]
     
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  9. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    My dude, that's next level. ;)
     
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  10. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There's nothing new under the sun. All the stories have been told, it's just how we tell them that varies, and these things go through fashions. Right now people still want the heroic stories, but they're tired of seeing the lantern-jawed white guy punch his way through uncomplicatedly evil antagonists, so we subvert that cliche by making him flawed and broken and show that the Bad Guys Have Their Reasons, or we make the hero female, or whatever. It's a phase, and like hemline lengths, it'll pass and come again. There's still enough of an audience out there for whatever tropes or cliches you want to write though, so do what feels best.
     
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  11. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I hear ya, and I think there is definitely a big market for flawed heroes with complex villains, but personally I only ever show up at the movie theater for the most basic good vs evil myth cinema, and that's what I prefer to read if I can help it. Captain America, Thor, Iron Man... they are mostly pretty basic movies, with few exceptions. I don't even think making the hero female is a subversion of the hero cliché anymore. This is coming out, and it is exactly what I want to see. I can't wait:



    I feel like there is a lot more room in genre fiction for loveable heroes we admire fighting evil people and winning.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
  12. Mark Burton

    Mark Burton Fried Egghead Contributor

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    I would find that deep and resonating if I was high, which I'm not. Just kidding!
     
  13. 18-Till-I-Die

    18-Till-I-Die Banned

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    @LastMindToSanity
    Partly yes, although what you described in the opening isn't subverting expectations, as concepts like an antihero or a villain having "reasons" (i.e., a plot twist) are neither expectations nor subversions just basic tropes in and of themselves.

    A better, more direct example would be the sequel trilogy of Star Wars...oh Lord above, that sequel trilogy. (And I know I'll get flak from the handful of fans of the sequel trilogy but screw it this is a perfectly valid argument from a former fan of SW since 1991) The fact that the people who wrote the movies literally wrote lines like "we must escape the past, kill it if we must" into the movies and openly said they were aiming to dismantle previous canon for the simplistic reasoning of "screw you it's our trilogy now!" only furthers this assessment. They went OUT OF THEIR WAY to do everything they possibly could to set up logical plot arcs and then "subvert" them by undoing those plot arcs with single lines or scenes, and then went on to shoehorn as much sociopolitical whining as possible into every line. When a SOLDIER in a REBELLION in a galactic civil war stops to tell the viewer that war=bad, peace=awesome, we shouldn't kill the bad guys cause when they go low we go high! And this is not just done in a unironic fashion but literally part of a character's arc, which CONTRADICTS the previous scenes with said character and the existence of the rebellion itself, that tells you something. And then Solo happened...Christ Almighty then Solo happened...

    ...wow...

    *wipes away a tear*

    I'm sorry I needed a second to pull myself back from near suicidal sorrow at watching a series I dedicated twenty-plus years of my life to devolve into a romcom about Chewie and NPC No.000989 teaming up with Childish Gambino and Robo Daria to fight The Evulz.

    But yeah basically that's what "subverting" expectations is, i.e. bad and a sign of almost blasphemously poor writing. I wouldn't even call it a cliche, more that it's become the standard based largely on some cockamamie idea that "old tropes" are somehow no longer politically or socially viable. It's the same mentality (which is to say the mentality of Forest Gump and Derpy Hooves' bastard offspring after a concussion) that led to the moronic demonization of the "Black Guy Dies First" trope, a trope which wasn't even a trope to begin with since in many of the founding cornerstones of the Slasher film the first characters killed on-screen were neither black nor men, and completely ignores the fact that the genre of horror movies BY DEFINITION and Slashers in particular are defined by the fact that 99% of the characters on-screen will die by the end of the movie, hence the term Final Girl...FINAL Girl, as in the last character to survive the onslaught.

    And then we delve into the even more imbecilic attempts at defending these "subversions" such as promoting things like Girl With The Dragon Spice Latte or whatever that movie is called where I'm to believe that a five-foot-tall woman who weighs as much as my left shoe is able to overpower adult men sans any kind of actual superpowers because...idk, because it would be sexist to logically portray the biological differences in muscle density and combat prowess seen in male and female sexes across the animal kingdom let alone humanity itself? Or the game Life Is Tumblr where the entire focus is on poorly written characters so self-centered, shallow and moronic they seem like caricatures of Millennials...but were sadly meant as actual characters...where the entire point is how we're overturning "traditional" gameplay in favor of tear jerky bullshit based on livejournal posts. That's "subverting" a cliche. And it's absurd.

    So yes, subverting cliches has become it's own cliche but largely it's done for purely sociopolitical reasons, and largely because if it weren't done the writers would be burned in effigy. If you want to get an idea as to what horrors this is wrought on, say, comic books go to YouTube, and check out this guy. He sadly has been to that mountaintop:
     
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  14. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    In some instances, what people call "subverting expectations" is actually horrific writing.

    In other cases, people need to realize that "subverting expectations" is not a sacred cow.

    "Hey dad, I'm hungry."

    "Hi Hungry, I'm dad. Nice to meet you."

    Hur dur, expecting subversions.

    In seriousness, I'm sick of the trend myself. Even when the term is being used correctly instead of being abused by idiot critics or professional political activists.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
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  15. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    I think one thing that gets overlooked is that you don't necessarily need to surprise the reader. A familiar plot and resolution can work just fine--the skill is to execute it well enough so that the reader won't care that they've seen it before.

    I think the key is to avoid either embracing or subverting a cliché unthinkingly, and that we only get annoyed at either when it's done so badly--when the author goes with the familiar route just because they didn't bother to stop and think if they needed to, or when a shocking swerve is thrown in for the sake of originality but makes the story worse than if it had just gone the expected route.

    Another thing I think gets missed is that originality is a good thing, but it can't carry a story by itself. When you look at the things that started new trends or changed the way people thought about a genre, they were original, but also good stories in their own right. Breaking the familiar is how genres are born and advance, but it's a mistake to think it's all you need to do.

    It took me a while to write that post because of a distracting noise on the edge of hearing. I think it might be a dog whistle?
     
  16. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    No, I think it's the sound of wind whistling through an empty space.

    I should've just quoted him or tagged him, but I was referring to @18-Till-I-Die.

    What I was saying is that even if "subverting clichés / expectations" wasn't being widely misused and abused, it wouldn't change the fact that I personally dislike the trend that the OP talked about. :-D
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
  17. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    It was my knee jerking
     
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  18. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Sad to say I agree with you. You see it in Disney all the time now. The thing I lament most is that Disney doesn't take itself seriously anymore. Look at Lion King. Look at Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast - you know, the classics. How seriously they took themselves! It was full of wonder, full of absolute majesty, and it was gorgeous. Now you don't see that anymore. It's all about what you say - that "subversion" (ever since Shrek - animation didn't even become beautiful again for so many years after Shrek. Disney's Tangled was the first one I know of that made a return to the true fairy tale. Shrek was released in 2001 whereas Tangled came out in 2010, for goodness' sake!) I wish Disney would make a return to its former majesty of art. Take pride in what you create, you know? If you're just gonna make fun of it like you're ashamed of it, why have it there in the first place? (that's not to say I don't enjoy a lot of their films still, but like you say, it's getting predictable) It's lazy, at its heart. It's an excuse not to use cliches in a fresh way, but make people laugh and suddenly it's ok and you can use all the same trope like before without adding anything new.
     
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  19. 18-Till-I-Die

    18-Till-I-Die Banned

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    @Mckk
    Yes! Precisely, that's what I fucking hate the most about all of this. In fact I would go as far as to say that's what I hate about "parody" stuff like mst3k and how it kinda started this trend: you're not mocking poor writing, you're mocking tropes you don't like, which is fine you have the right to dislike it--but if you don't then do something else! If it bothers you that this movie has a lead actor who maybe does a bad job, kinda, then don't watch it, no one is making you. If you hate all the basic plot points and tropes and concepts that horror movies were built on cause you think it's "racist" or something don't make a horror movie! Make a romcom, make erotica, make whatever but don't ruin a genre for everyone else because YOU don't like it. And yes I get it, there are certain concepts or tropes some people may not like, the impeccable square-jawed hero who can do no wrong and never loses ever (a la Superman) is one that gets under my skin like a forest of hypodermic needles. But I also don't dedicate entire stories and scripts to mocking the flaws in it.
     
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  20. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    I don't think throwing shade and making fun at tropes and genres has to ruin it for anyone. I watched Scary Movie and it didn't ruin horror for me. It did, however draw attention to certain tropes that I seriously missed and pointed out some pretty egregious cliches that I was prone to using. Yes, at times noticing these things in a film can draw me out of it, and kill the illusion, but knowledge is power, and with power comes responsibility, and we're responsible for our actions and actions have consequences. So, yeah. But I still think I came out ahead.
     
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  21. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There's a beautiful establishing shot in Leslie Neilson's Spy Hard. There's a shot of Los Angeles, with the little text in the corner telling us it is, in fact Los Angeles, but the background sound is the Muslim call to prayer. The adhan is ringing out in every city in the Islamic world whenever the filmmakers need to tell you where the scene is set.
     
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  22. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    Scream was always one of my favorite horror movies ("butt its axually a SlAsher saTiRE foXXX"). Should've never made more than one in my opinion, though.
     
  23. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    God Bless and RIP Leslie Neilson. Surely you're riding that Airplane to the great Forbidden Planet in the sky.
     
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  24. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Come to think of it, one of my favourite movies, The Big Lebowski, is a satirical take on Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep with literally (and hyperbolically) all of the tropes and cliches subverted.
     
  25. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    I worry less about my cliches, more about an ability to produce a clean draft that makes sense to anybody in the entire world aside from myself when I was writing it some 2 months ago at 11pm. Outfit rejected me, I sat scoffing at 'winner,' online whatever, a real 'twinkle twinkle little star.' [some fuckwit]

    'What a moron,' I said in great spirit of writer relations/ empathy.

    I turned to my own perfection, my pretty draft story rejected by the mobsters. I prepared to narrate:

    It read - 'I twinkled, and a star...and a little of twinkly, daddy.' It was a complete senseless garbage. I ate my foot garnished with eyelash, lovely.
     
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