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.