Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Maybe when you're older.

Two posts that aren't weeks apart!? What is this madness? Eh, whatever, I don't have a lot of time to do this, so lets just get going, shall we?

Trope of the day:

Basically, the hero of your show or whatever is dismissed because of his age. Of course, the "kid" is almost always more competent than the person who's dismissing them. Complete unreality of this fact aside, it's fairly obvious why you would use this trope, especially in a show geared towards a younger audience: kids want to be acknowledge by adults. When you were seven years old, you probably wanted to do all the things that adults do; driving, staying up late, etc. Of course, your parents probably said you can't do that because you aren't a grownup. And in retrospect, they probably have a point. If someone thinks that they can be a robot when they grow up, you probably don't want them behind the wheel of a minivan.

You can, however, grow up to play one in a movie.

While in real life children usually aren't more competent than adults (although some are), seeing them on tv allows them to live out their dreams vicariously. It's really more a form of wish fulfillment more than anything else. Children like seeing someone in their position actually getting the better of the "grown-ups" because they don't usually get to see it happen. It's a novelty, and allows them to imagine themselves in that position.

Neil Patrick Harris doesn't need med school.

On a larger scale, there's the fact that a lot of people just like to root for the underdog.

From a story standpoint, someone who has to overcome adversity is a more interesting character than one who accomplishes their goals with no problems. A movie about a guy who wants to run in a race has a lot more punch if the guy has only one leg. (And even more punch if he also has a hook hand and a parrot, but that's beside the point).

At its core, this trope is about overcoming adversity, and age discrimination is as good a barrier as any.

P.S. This post doesn't have enough pictures. Therefore:

That's right: dog on a bike.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I had a pen named "Charles" once

Looks like I have in fact remembered that I have a blog. And that said blog is a half-decent excuse to avoid doing other work. So here we go.

The trope of the week is:

In short: some people like their weapons so much that they name them. And such names are usually female.

First off, this convention can be used for characterization. If you want to characterize someone as fight-happy, give them a grenade launcher named Phyllis.

You know what line from Scarface goes here.

The idea being that only someone who is really, really into blowing stuff up would name their grenade launcher. Naming something is a sign of affection, of giving value to something. By naming their gun, the character is revealing what they hold to be valuable.

Though not necessarily in the
monetary sense.

The fact that a character names a weapon also implies that the name differentiates this weapon from other weapons, whether it's because all the weapons have different names or because this one is the only one who has a name. What it means is that there is more than one weapon, which reveals more about the character. This isn't always true, obviously, but it's the connotation that counts.

For example, if you see this in
someone's basement, you know that they're
probably insane, and/or Rambo.

The other reason to give a gun a girly name is for comedic purposes. The juxtaposition of seeing a hard-boiled badass fawning over a gun like a 6-year-old girl with a teddy bear is funny, as well as encapsulating all of the above-mentioned characterization.

Long story short, you can get a lot of characterization out of the way by having a character name his bazooka "Jo".

I think I tainted my soul by
making that joke.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

There she is...

I have not, in fact, forgotten that this blog exists. I'm just on summer vacation, and as a result am extremely lazy. I'm also busy, but that's only part of the problem.

But anyway, lets get ourselves a trope. Drumroll, please:

Thanks, Charlie.

And the trope is:

In essence, this trope is about the camera focusing on somebody (such as the hero) who's just completed something dramatic or important. Then the camera cuts to someone (such as their girlfriend, hence the name) watching them. Whether the hero knows about them or not is beside the point; the point is that somebody witnessed his victory.

Or for potatoes. I'm hungry.

The importance of the fact that the hero (or whoever) is being watched is that it gives additional meaning to their actions. Sure, the hero may have achieved some sort of personal validation from their accomplishment, but there are some things that are just more meaningful when someone else knows about it. We've all been in a situation when we accomplished some sort of task, whether it's completing a difficult homework problem or trying to throw ten balls of paper into the trash without missing, where you immediately want to give somebody a high five or something. Of course, you can't because no one is there.

My personal record is 27.

The presence of an observer gives an action an impact (or more impact, if it has some inherent importance) in several ways. First of all, it increases the number of people who are directly influenced by whatever happened. Second, it often gives the observer a chance to see the hero's real identity; who he is when he doesn't know that anyone is watching. From a narrative standpoint, this allows the creator of the work to reveal more information about the character; information that the character wouldn't reveal if people were watching him. The same is true in-story; it allows the characters to learn more about each other. It's true of just about anything that observation of something (like a person), changes the way that they will act.

For example, if you see someone looking at you
like this, you probably won't do anything other than
try to get them to stop it.

This idea is important enough that psychologists actually have a term to refer to it: the Observer-Expectancy Effect. The point of this trope is to get around that problem by allowing a character to act as though unobserved, but still allow the actions to effect other characters.

Of course, it's still entirely possible that the hero does know that he's being watched, but the presence of a watcher still gives a sense of validation to the action; it gives the hero someone to high-five when he finally flips a coin and gets heads five times in a row.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Don't Hassle The Hoff

Ok I'm back. I'm writing his post while watching tv, so don't expect it to be any good. Let's see what our trope of the day is.

Not going to bother with a drum roll or fanfare or whatever.

Germans Love David Hasselhoff

The basic gist of this trope is that a character or celebrity or band or something that's only mildly popular in their home country is extremely popular in other cultures or countries. It's named for David Hasselhoff, who is a moderately well-known actor in America, but for some reason is ludicrously popular in Germany for his singing.

This man.

This isn't really a trope that manifests within fiction itself, but is at its core an audience reaction trope. The Hoff aside, the real point of this trope is that a foreign audience latches on to an aspect of a work that the "native" audience wouldn't. It's obvious that cultural differences are to blame for this.

For example, in Japan this is a legitimate fashion style.

There have always been enormous differences between cultures. The divide between Western Philosophy and Eastern Philosophy is a pretty big one. If different cultures have completely different defining views on the nature of reality, then it's a given that they're going to prefer different types of entertainment.

Most Americans have no clue
what is going on in this picture.

Of course, there's still overlap between the general preferences of different cultures; but different elements of story or characterization or musical style or whatever may receive different emphasis according to any number of factors. Then people who like different elements of the story or whatever latch onto what they like, and the rest is history.

In short:

Different philosophies = different cultural values = different entertainment preferences = The Hoff going platinum overseas.

I am aware that this post sucks. I'm working from 4 hours of sleep. Live with it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Just as planned

Okay, let's see what the "Random Item" button brings up this time.
A little fanfare?

Okay, that's good.
And the trope of the day is....

Ok, got a contributor page. Let's try this again.

More fanfare.

The trope of the day is...

Okay, that's something I can work with. To sum up this trope, whenever somebody says this phrase, they will indeed be stopped within the next five minutes of screentime. But the vast majority of people already know this. I mean, the minute that you hear a villain say this, you know that failure is a forgone conclusion. It's practically a message from the writer's straight to the viewers saying "Yeah, he's going to lose".

Five minutes after this man declares
"Everything is going according to plan!"

Yet it keeps popping up. But why?

Well, we know that the vast majority of plans fail horribly. Robert Burns pretty much hit the nail on the head when he wrote "To a Mouse". I have no idea what this poem means, but that's okay because the only part that actually matter is the lines "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley". You might recognize it as the inspiration for the title of "Of Mice and Men".

Here, have
some "culture".

But anyway, to those of you who are like myself and don't have any idea whatsoever what "Gang aft agley" is supposed to mean, there a much more pithy and not opaque summation of the same basic idea that you will probably recognize: Murphy's Law. You know how it goes. "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." And the audience expects this to carry over into media. This makes sense; if everything always went perfectly according to plan, every movie ever would be really boring.

Five minutes later, Bond was cut in half, and Goldfinger was well on his way to becoming even richer.

That might work as brief parody, but there's no way you could make a good movie out of it without adding something. Of course, this only explains why the plan fails. It doesn't explain why a character decides to go and declare how perfect their plan is before it falls apart.

The only reason that I can think of is that we like to watch prideful people get taken down a notch. When somebody displays enormous hubris, we like to see them suffer for it. We really like it. There's even a word for it. And let's face it, seeing somebody gloating is one of the most annoying things ever. Even C.S. Lewis pointed out that "every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else." Heck, in ancient Greece, hubris was a crime! Nobody likes pride. There's a reason that it's one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Not that kind of pride!

But that's really the core of this trope; a combination of the fact if the plan goes perfectly, nobody wants to watch it (In general, at least. I'm sure there are exceptions) and that we enjoy seeing somebody's failure more if they've been gloating about it. I know that I feel much less guilty about laughing at somebody's failure if they've been high and mighty about how perfect they are.

Of course, this sort of thing always happens in real life, too. The moral of the story? Plan for failure and then when nothing goes according to plan you'll actually make progress. Unless planning to plan for failure counts as a plan in itself, at which point you're screwed either way. Oh well, just don't brag about your plan and you've got a decent chance of success.

Monday, May 10, 2010

But home is where the heart is, so your real home’s in your chest

Okay, hitting the random button...and our first trope to be discussed is....drumroll please.

Ok, that's good.

So, what's the deal with this trope? Well, the page says "classic creepout device". Yeah, I'd say that the idea of having your still-beating heart ripped from your chest is indeed quite creepy. I mean, the heart is pretty important, so it stands to reason that having it removed from your body would be traumatic, even if by some miracle of science or magic or whatever you manage to survive the removal of a vital organ.

No, that's...just no.

But lets face it, the creepout factor from this comes from the whole "still beating" thing. I mean, seeing a heart pulled out without the "still beating" factor is more realistic. Okay, maybe not realistic, but realistic within the sphere of fiction. I mean, it's pretty standard Schwarzenegger or Rambo material.

Don't be surprised if he rips your heart out. It's normal.

But the fact that the heart is still beating just ups the creepiness to a whole other level*. I mean, it adds a supernatural element to what was just gratuitous violence. I mean, at first it was relatively normal, but now you're dealing with some serious voodoo crap or something. Before, there's still a chance that you could take out whoever the heart-rip-out-er is, maybe shoot him with a bazooka or something. Now, killing the guy might just turn him into a zombie or something.

This is the best case scenario.

And that's without bringing up the metaphysical implications. I mean, ever since ancient times the heart has been considered the seat of human emotion and/or consciousness. I mean, now we know that its main job is to pump blood, but we still use it symbolically. I mean, Wikipedia has a page on it and everything. You know that it's important when Wikipedia has a page on it.
In short, hundreds of years of symbolic use mean that we (subconsciously at least) equate the heart with the soul. So not only is that guy getting gruesomely killed, he's pretty much having his soul ripped out.

But yeah, the whole heart ripping this is, in fact, pretty creepy. But then, we should expect this. I mean, with all of the symbolic significance (and medical significance), it makes sense that this sort of thing would happen.

And you don't really even need the "ripped out" component for it to be freaky. A guy named Edgar Allan Poe wrote a little story called "The Tell-Tale Heart". And yeah, it's pretty creepy. Even though the heart isn't actually beating. Actually, that might make it worse.

So in short: Heart = inherent creepiness, especially when it's not where it's supposed to be.

Heart = Useless power.

Unless it's in the right hands, at least.

*I'm aware that cardiac tissue can, in fact, keep beating on its own. But it doesn't keep doing that indefinitely.