A day late, a buck short. Be used to this by now regular readers. I’m sure you are!
I almost skipped this one because I struggled. Honestly I racked my one brain cell until it begged for mercy. Why did I struggle? Because I don’t really hate that many tropes and if I do dislike a trope I often find it difficult to overlook it when I read something.
I was also not too sure how to go into this one – do I pick one trope and five examples? Do I pick five tropes with an example each?? Do I pick a trope that I don’t like and a book (or other) that I liked despite of said trope??? Do I pick a trope that I don’t like and a book (or other) that managed to avert it/ do it well???? Do I just pick a trope I hate and give up trying to find examples????? Do I ask a whole bunch of rhetorical questions until my singular brain cell gives me a migraine and I start rocking back and forth uncontrollably?!
Here’s a pick ‘n’ mix blog post this week. Enjoy if you can because I’ve no clue what I’m doing and it shows! I’ve written too much on some. Sorry!
I say I don’t hate any tropes but I lied outright to you.
I hate this trope.
Let me break this down. This is usually either said by a female character in relation to herself in order to differentiate herself from other females and what is deemed ‘typical’ female behaviour or it is said by another character (usually male) to a female character to signify that she is ‘special’ because she’s not like other female characters.
Why do I hate this? Because it’s rooted in misogyny.
Females come in all shapes and sizes and have a range of interests and a whole colourful display of personality traits. Just like males! Wow! Who would have thought?! *rolls eyes* So what exactly is a typical girl that this person ‘is not like?’ Don’t know. I haven’t met a ‘typical female’ myself.
To say that someone else ‘is not like other girls’ or to classify that you yourself ‘are not like other girls’ is demeaning. It’s demeaning because it’s saying that the reference character is better than everybody else of her gender. Usually its referencing that the person isn’t feminine or maternal or exhibits any ‘female’ character traits that make other females ‘soft’ or ‘weak’ – because that’s what it’s really about isn’t it? Being feminine and female is not a good thing apparently and the less ‘typical’ traits you exhibit of your gender or the more removed you are from being female in terms of behaviour is a good thing. But again, what exactly is this ‘female behaviour’?
You know what? This trope can bite my shiny British ass.
This is one that is worryingly prevalent especially in YA stories which concerns me because we really shouldn’t be putting this shit out there to people, especially to the core YA demographic of teenage girls. We shouldn’t be pitting anyone against anyone and your personality and your interests are not developing to be competition to get a romantic interest or to prove yourself to anyone else.
This is not a compliment. This is an insult to being female.
In Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell there is a moment when Cath our MC says to her friend Reagan, “I swear I’m not that kind of girl,” and Reagan replies with something I adore.
“What kind of girl is that, Cath? The girl kind?”
This is linked to ‘Not Like Other Girls’ in that it is another take on what counts as being ‘female.’ In some ways it is a bit of a companion trope.
In ‘Not Like Other Girls’ nine times out of ten that phrase is being used because a female character is showing traits that aren’t considered to be ‘typically female’ i.e. they like fighting and they don’t exhibit emphatic traits and probably try and eat babies or something. I don’t know. The previous trope ignores that there is no such thing as a ‘typical female’ but if there were such a thing it is that female = feminine and feminine = bad so not being feminine = good.
This is very similar. Once upon a time people didn’t like the concept of women appearing to be ‘masculine’ because women had very defined gender roles. Women should be feminine and women should wear dresses. Then it became a bad thing for women to be feminine and for women to wear dresses and if you were suddenly doing your hair so it looked pretty and wore lipstick and nail polish you were less of a person and less of a woman.
Again female = feminine and feminine = bad. Whoever does these equations needs to take a class.
I’ve mentioned before but I’ll mention it again. This trope is particularly evident when it comes to these two characters:-
But oddly the adherence to this trope is down to the TV audience and not the book writer. George R.R. Martin doesn’t adhere to the Real Women Wear Dresses trope. His women of A Song of Ice and Fire range from Brienne of Tarth to Cersei Lannister to Daenerys ‘Mother of Dragon’s’ Targaryen to Margaery Tyrell to our Stark ladies above. Different women, different personalities, different fashion sense.
In George R.R. Martin’s world Brienne and Arya have just as much validity as Sansa and Margeary. In fact book Arya makes a statement that when it comes to the family and lineage that, “The woman is important too.” This is in sharp contrast to show Arya who claims, “Most girls are idiots” if they like flowers and music.
Sorry show Arya, you know nothing.
I’m going to get all serious here. Not that I haven’t been before but this is where it gets a bit icky.
This is a horrible trope which often gets downplayed in terms of its severity and has even been known to be used for laughs.
Bed Trick is when someone (Person A) pretends that they are someone else (Person B) in order to get another person (Person C) into bed with them in order to have the sexy times.
Yeah. That’s called rape. It’s rape by deception and its so far from ok. It bothers me when this trope is downplayed or even used for ‘hijinks’ because I just can’t see what’s humorous about it.
Quite often it’s used in sci-fi and fantasy due to magic or shape-shifting which makes it easier for Person A to become Person B but often in stories it just happens and people shrug their shoulders and go, ‘it’s one of those things.’ Hmmm.
If it’s used, it’s used. There are stories where a Bed Trick has an impact (and sometimes a meaningful impact, example to follow) on the plot. A trope, much like a plot device or character trait, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If the narrative presents a trope or a plot device like this in a positive or neutral way – then that’s a bad thing. It’s all about the narrative.
The best example which actually has an incredible impact on plot is this: –
(Artist: Wladyslaw T. Benda)
No clue who they are? That’s Igraine and her husband Gorlois. Except it’s not Gorlois. It’s Uther Pendragon. Yep, we’re going Arthurian Legend.
Igraine was the wife of Gorlois and Uther lusted after her so much he was driven to distraction by nothing but her beauty. Merlin, in what was a dickhead move, made it so that while Gorlois was out (fighting Uther’s army) Uther appeared to Igraine as Gorlois where he seduced her. Sorry nope. He raped her. Yep, that’s what actually happened.
This has a huge and meaningful impact on the plot. How? Why? Well Merlin knew that Arthur would be conceived from this act of deception. This is how we get Arthur. So yes, massive impact in legend. Still a horrible thing.
Apparently there is a re-telling called I Am Morgan le Fay which depicts the above but from Igraine’s point of view and the narrative accurately depicts it as the act of violation that it is.
I don’t actually dislike this trope but the reason I am including it is because I read a lot of fantasy and this is a particularly over-used trope. It’s usually done with male characters because there’s some kind of importance hinging on them that involves the need of a switch and in fantasy it is still typical that the hero is male.
It’s either the newborn infant son of a King has just died and so a living baby has been put in his place or there is some kind of prophecy/ danger scenario and a switch must happen to protect one of the babies or there is some asshole somewhere that is causing mischief and the swap is for their own ends ready to be revealed at the worst possible time.
This happens in A Song of Ice and Fire (seriously – what doesn’t happen in A Song of Ice and Fire) between Mance Rayder’s baby and Gilly’s baby (to protect Mance’s son from being burned by Melisandre) and also between an unknown baby and Aegon Targaryen (as the Targaryen sympathisers were losing the war and knew baby Aegon would be killed). Maybe. Jury’s out on whether teenage Aegon is actually Aegon at all.
The best example of ‘Switched at Birth’ occurs in this book:-
It’s a parody of birth swapping scenes and also a ribbing at ‘The Omen.’ It involves three babies, quite a nice hospital, the Chattering Order of Saint Beryl and satanic nuns that can’t count properly and would be useless at card tricks.
Is this a trope or just writing gone wrong?
The Oxford English Dictionary (according to Google) defines purple prose as ‘writing that is too elaborate or ornate’ aka ‘why use one word when 15 will do.’
I’m going to write some sentences. Normal:-
“She shouldn’t be spending so much time writing this blog post and she knew it. One look at the time on her computer and another look at the disgruntled expression on her cat’s face told her two things; it was way past bedtime and the cat was exceptionally pissed that she hadn’t been fed her dinner.”
Now I’m going to purple prose that shizzle up.
“As the dark haired, pale skinned woman sat on the comfortable, yet worn cream office chair she had the sudden, crushing realisation that once again she had wasted an hour of her life on this blog post. She could feel the sands of time as they crumbled through the hour glass of her life and she wondered how many precious minutes had been spent on the frivolity of expressing her freedom of speech. Her deep brown eyes drifted to the time on her computer as it glared at her like an angry face from the screen. Beyond her desk, but not so beyond that she couldn’t see, stood the small, fluffy black haired feline with sharp green eyes. Those very eyes were searing into her soul and another crushing realisation struck the dark haired woman. The responsibility of ensuring this innocent yet angry creatures survival was hers, it was a living animal and its need for tuna sustenance was great, so great that it had ventured up the rough, carpeted stairs to glare upon her. It’s belly, the pale skinned woman knew, must have been as empty as its shiny silver bowl.”
Elaborate scene but nothing happens. This is what purple prose is all about. Elaborate writing about a whole lot of nothing.
I don’t hate it but I don’t love it.
I can’t think of any examples of purple prose done well but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t any. Let me know if you have examples!
What are some tropes you hate? What are some tropes that you love to hate? Anything that subverts or surprises you? Let me know!