John Slattery as Roger Sterling – Mad Men _ Season 7, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC
You’ll definitely recognize these TV tropes, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t super tired of seeing them all the time. Trust me, they’re everywhere.
A trope is a device that commonly occurs in literature, movies, and TV, that capitalizes on stereotypes, clichés, gender expectations, and archetypes. They are universal themes that cross genre, culture, and medium. You’ll recognize them the moment you see them, because you have likely seen them a hundred times before. They’ve become so overused that they barely even register to us anymore, but I’m here to call these archetypes out.
Writers, producers, and artists use them as a shorthand to communicate the type or kind of character without having to offer a lot of exposition and background. For instance, you know exactly what to expect from a “southern gentleman” or a “damsel in distress” and you inform the universal associations immediately. It’s handy and convenient, but also a little lazy.
Since we live in a changing world, in which identity is constantly shifting and adjusting, using a trope can be tricky business. As these move out of fashion, new tropes emerge to reflect the contemporary situations and characters. Think about how often we see the “hipster” on TV versus how often we saw this character 10 years ago.
As with any stereotype, there is an inherent bias attached to the assumptions we make about a character. Because these tropes have been around for so long, some reveal antiquated values about their subjects. Others are just tired and worn out. Let me know how many you recognize in your daily TV watching, and which obvious examples I left out.
A warning that some clips may contain NSFW language.