The Trope and the Anti-Trope

 This article was written by Orville E. Wright

As I talked about last time, a cliché is a type of trope that is overused. Because of this, many critics and authors have gotten into their heads that since uncreatively is bad, and clichés are uncreative, and clichés are a type of trope, therefore all tropes are bad. As I proved in my last article, tropes that become clichés are not bad in and of themselves, but the fact that they are clichés means that they have been done so many times that it is hard to find a new way to do them.

However, many do not see this. The “Tropes are bad” attitude is a common one. Since it is so common, many have done what is called a subversion of a tropes. Thanks to this process, people have created what I will call Anti-Tropes.

Anti-Tropes only exist for one reason: to not be the trope they reference. They are just subversions. They are anything from Disney making fun of love at first sight, to an anti-hero, to mocking a villain for monologuing. Generally, these tropes do nothing to help the story and just detracted from the quality. Like clichés, anti-tropes come in two kinds: the opposed trope, and the mockery of a trope.

An example of an opposed trope is the aforementioned anti-hero. The anti-hero has his own stories to tell. All the good tropes do. But, it was made from the longing for novelty. Its point is that this character is not a hero but is still good at heart. That has drama to it. But the second type, the mockery of a trope, does not.

If you do something just to mock an old trope but don’t do anything to replace the dramatic element that was lost, the story has no substance to call its own. Such tropes do not make the story better, but simply make fun of other stories the audience is supposed to know. This is fine, in its place. A little mockery is not bad, unless it detracts from the story.

The original Jane Foster — Classy!

For an example of this, we turn to comics and the new Thor, Jane Foster. Jane Foster, for thoughts who are not longtime fans of Thor or comic buffs, is Don Blake’s A.K.A. Thor’s nurse assistant and main love-interest. In the most recent set of Thor stories, she was given Thor’s powers and now claims to be Thor, despite the fact that Thor is a particular guy’s name, not a title. This whole chain of events is out of character for her. She was a nice, sweet, womanly woman with a bit of womanly sass and little else to her. Not the best character, but she was from the early years of comic books, no love-interest had much personality at the time. Now, she is a rough, tough berserker who thinks of little other than battle, which is rather Thor-ike.

The reason for this change from a sweet and kind woman to a blood-thirsty berserker is a common anti-trope I will call The Princess is a Knight. It is when a girl replaces a male lead and the starts acting like a guy, to prove that men and women are equal in all ways. It is the opposite of the Damsel in Distress cliché. It only serves to insult those who liked the male lead and to make those who like diversity like them. It serves no in story purpose.

New Jane Foster–because real women like Valkyrie or Sif aren’t good enough

In the case of Female Thor, it made an established character into someone else. In this case, it made Jane Foster, the nurse, into Tyr, the god of war. This has caused long time readers of the comic to stop reading the book and new readers to not look at it, because they want to read about Thor and Jane Foster, not about some battle-hungry guy in a Jane Foster suit.

The point of all this is that purposely mocking tropes does no one any good. It just makes the story worse. It is an all-around a bad idea for anything but a parody. But if you think of an idea that is the opposite of an existing trope but is still dramatic, your story will be far better. So, when you write your stories, be sure to take the tropes you use seriously. They are not you enemies or things to me mocked haphazardly.


Orville E. Wright, the son of L. Jagi Lamplighter and John C. Wright, is a small Pokémon plush toy brought to life by mad science.