26
Mar
2011
Random Pop Culture Question of the Week
Cliches We Still Enjoy
Random Pop Culture Question of the Week is a bi-weekly journey into the headspace of the Review to Be Named gang, in which a pop-culture question is posed, answers are sought, and discussions are generated about issues and hypotheticals from throughout the realm of pop culture.

This week's question comes from our own Jordan, who asked,
What tired trope or overused cliche still works for you? What keeps it fresh or funny or affecting enough that it doesn't annoy you even with endless repetition?
With that question in mind, here are the responses from several Review to Be Named contributors. Comment and let us know what we missed!

Chris:

As the resident comics contributor, I'll offer up a comics related answer. The trope that I will always love and probably never tire of is "the old order changeth" issue, or the team gathering issue. What I'm referring to is a common practice in team books such as The Avengers, or The Teen Titans, where most of an issue, (usually the first issue of a new creative team's tenure on a title, or if it is a new book, the #1 issue, or first story arc) is devoted to a character or small group of characters going around to gather the various members that will comprise the team. Yes these issues tend to be pretty formulaic and if you've read one, you definitely have a good idea of what to expect from every subsequent type story, but I for one always enjoy these team building stories and probably always will. It's a great opportunity to introduce your characters to new readers, to tease what the team dynamic will be for the series, and it allows the writer to really explore the strengths and flaws of their characters in justifying why they are right for or why they want to (or don't want to) be on said team.

One of my favorite examples of this type of story is Brad Meltzer's first arc on Justice League of America. This arc featured Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman sitting down in the Batcave with a head shot of just about every superhero running around the DCU to have an extensive conversation about just who should be invited to join the new Justice League. All the while, a mysterious villain sets events in motion that attracts the attention of a number of other heroes who come together by following the threads of a larger conspiracy. A lot of fans panned this arc as a boring snooze fest, and yes, there really wasn't a lot of action to speak of until the arc's penultimate sixth issue, but I for one don't really ascribe to that kind of thinking. Yes I like a great action sequence, but even more I enjoy good character work. And seeing the DCU's most iconic heroes thoroughly analyzing and debating their peers lead to a whole lot of great character insights both about the heroes they were discussing and about the big three themselves. But a new Justice League was already forming without their assistance, and as we saw Green Lantern, Black Canary, and Arsenal (a twist on the usual trio of GL, Black Canary, and Green Arrow) chase down leads on their missing teammate Red Tornado, of Vixen's determination to retrieve the source of her powers after getting sucker punched by a couple C level villains, Meltzer revealed why these characters deserved to be in the League, and just how much chemistry they would possess as a team.

Jordan:
Since this was my question, I feel like I should have a direct, simple answer. Yet frequent readers of this blog should know by now that brevity is not my strong suit, so instead I have three answers this week. Deal with it.

First off, I will never get tired of that joke from old time-y movies and children's entertainment in which a group of people running from the antagonist run one way down a hall and then immediately run back the other way. This comes up most often in Muppet movies and Scooby Doo, but no matter how many times I see it, I will always laugh. It's just so completely absurd that I never get tired of it.

Next, because I'm a huge softy, I have to admit that the big speech at the end of a romantic comedy will pretty much always get to me, even if the movie isn't very good (and a whole lot of them aren't very good). My go to for a great example is the ending of When Harry Met Sally, but you can see examples of this in pretty much every romantic comedy ever made. Sure, it is a complete cliché, but something about the grand romantic gesture just warms my heart, whether I even like the rest of the movie it's in.



Finally, I know I'm supposed to find the blatant anachronism jokes in shows like Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire and the British series Life on Mars (which I'm watching as we speak) really annoying, but mostly I just find them funny. When Mad Men does its "hey, weren't things different in the "˜60s?" schtick (whether it makes the joke about everyone's alcoholism or blatant misogyny) I generally just chuckle, probably because things were different then. From a critical perspective I know these are cheap jokes and that an over-reliance on them is bad writing, but it's a dumb joke that for some reason just connects with me.

Rachel:

It didn't take much thinking for me to find my answer. I will (most likely) never get sick of the tried and true trope of the Bad Boy who's actually just a damaged softy. This is, of course, not at all surprising if you know me and my affinity for this type in real life. But for me, there's something special in a guy with a hard edge who is actually just emotionally devastated from something in his past. Extra points if said man rides a motorcycle or is an artist or possesses startling intellect or comes from the wrong side of the tracks or forms an adorably endearing bond with a cute animal or child. Tears can help, but only in moderation, because there's really nothing sexy about a cry baby.

For me personally, this goes back to James Dean and Marlon Brando, who both, really, were just sex on legs. I'm also thinking Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You, and even Robert Pattinson in the much maligned (but really not so bad) Remember Me. While this character archetype is pretty typical in shitty RomComs, I swear I buy into it every time.

Sam:

For this question I had to dig deep because, as I thought about which tropes I really enjoy, I came up empty. First let me get my secondary answer out of the way. I still have a soft spot for the buddy cop movie. One cop is by the book and the other is a rogue who is days away from retirement. They hate each other at the start of the movie and by the closing credits they're like family. Still get a kick out of it from the likes of Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour. That's a fun time at the movies as far as I'm concerned. But the trope that I really do love belongs to television.

The "will-they, won't-they", when employed with writers who have at least some foresight in terms of planning their show, makes me very happy. Maybe it's a cheap way to get the audience invested in characters but it provides real emotional development over the course of a long period of time that works best in long form narratives like a television program. The best examples of this, off the top of my head are Jim and Pam on The Office and their original British counterparts Tim and Dawn, April and Andy on Parks and Rec, (kinda) David and Keith from Six Feet Under and lastly Donna and Josh from The West Wing. There are many others (Ross and Rachel) that I don't really care about either because I didn't watch the program or it was sloppily handled. But a good "will-they, won't they" is a television trope I don't think I'll ever grow tired of.


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