Why do girls always prefer the distant, aloof, handsome, dangerous dudes instead of cheerful chaps like me?”— Roger Ebert, Twilight review.
“All girls like the bad boy” is a common trope, but is it also a cliche? What’s the difference?
Since becoming an active book blogger and bookstagrammer, I’ve heard the word “trope” so often and have wondered where the word comes from and why it’s sometimes perceived as a negative. Today’s TTT topic is a freebie, so here are ten things I learned that I thought were helpful in understanding the concept.
1. What the heck is a Trope?
“A literary trope is the use of figurative language, via word, phrase or an image, for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.” Wikipedia
2. Now in plain language please! Why do people like tropes?
Common tropes like the “reluctant hero” or “friends to lovers” get used alot because they speak to us on a deep level and connect with our own experiences. They are relatable.
3. A Trope by any other name…
A trope is something that is so common that no one person can take credit for it. So when another author uses it, it’s not plagiarism – it’s just a trope. (However this recent opinion piece in PR Week wonders at what point a campaign concept moves from homage or ‘trope’ to outright idea theft?)
4. Well then, what’s an Archetype?
An archetype is a trope that is an expression of universal human desires or experiences. Unlike a cliché or an ordinary trope, archetypes never get old; they are messages that have been around for thousands of years, and no one considers them boring or cliché because they’re relevant to all of us.
5. Tropes Are Not Evil!
To call something a trope is not to call it a cliche. A cliche is a trope that has been overused and is cheesy or out of date. Remember how every 90s movie had a surfer and a goth kid and a teenage hacker? (Kidding but this is a great article on Screenrant “10 Tropes & Cliches From The ’90s That Don’t Appear In Movies Anymore”)
6. What are some of the most common tropes?
Westerns typically use the trope of bad guys wearing black hats and good guys wearing white. Fantasy or SciFi could include the “chosen one” trope, in which a main character like Harry Potter is called to defeat the dark lord. A romance novel might feature a classic boy meets girl scene and a love triangle before resolving into a happy ending.
￼7. Let’s go back to the bad boy…are they really THAT bad?
The “bad boy” appeals to the strongest female instincts: the “strong, silent guy” is a mystery to be solved; the “Troubled (and hot) with a tragic past” is someone to be comforted – he’s tough and vulnerable at the same time.
Its not really a surprise that younger women are often portrayed as prone to this trope, while older and wiser women seem much less receptive to “bad boy” vibes.
8. What are some of the worst, grossest tropes?
Girl’s-Life-Changes-Because-of-a-Boy: The main girl character has a boring or unfortunate life until they meet a boy that changes everything.
Women can only be sympathetic if they’re attractive: If a plain or overweight character is introduced, you can be sure that she’ll end up being a bitch or useless.
Idiot male is an ass**** because of personal trauma: The male character is rude and mean or condescending and we’re supposed to see it as justified because he has obviously gone through some hard times, and now this is just “part of his charm.”
9. What are some unrealistic tropes?
Eyes Broadcasting Thoughts : If you read “he saw treachery in her eyes,” stop and consider. What does treachery look like and how do your eyes communicate it? If you can’t imagine a real person doing this, then you’ve entered unrealistic trope territory.
Hate Turns to Love: Authors like to have the couple start off hating each other and then go through a rough and rocky courtship before finally admitting their true feelings. But they are so determined to get the two characters together that they skip over the reasons why they hated each other in the first place.
10. “Fridged” is a trope? What?
In my digging, I came across this article from Vox.com and had to include it as it talks about a trope I had never heard of. It’s used in the comic book trope “in which the girlfriend or wife of a hero dies to further the hero’s motivations and story.” Think Deadpool.
So did you learn anything new? What do you think about tropes? Do you have a favorite or least favorite?
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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
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This is an awesome resource for people who don’t know what a trope is…well done!
I was personally never interested in the “bad boys.” Give me a nice, thoughtful guy any day. Heh.
Hahaha I know what you mean! Do you remember that Seinfeld episode where George is the bad boy?! 😂
Bahahahaha! Yes! Seinfeld is one of my favorite shows—I come across a Seinfeld-type situation at least twice a week if not more. Hahaha!
SAME! Which makes me think… is Seinfeld it’s own trope? 🤔
It was a show full of tropes. Heh.
I always struggle to separate tropes from archetypes. You did a good job of showing how they’re connected but still different.
Very enlightening. https://pmprescott.blogspot.com/2019/12/ttt-freebie.html
This is an awesome post Jaymi. I learned a lot.
I generally deal with romance tropes which are more cut and dry
What a great topic! I’m a sucker for a good romance trope–when it’s done well. 🙂
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