Created By: Folamh3 on November 14, 2012 Last Edited By: Folamh3 on January 18, 2013

Straight-Decon Switch

Starts out as a straight genre exercise, ends up as a deconstruction

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So you go to the cinema to see this new action movie everyone's talking about. As you'd expect, it's just a typical genre piece: a paper-thin Excuse Plot driven by a Card-Carrying Villain, and featuring an Invincible Hero mowing down wave after wave of Mooks in increasingly elaborate setpieces, muttering cheesy one-liners as he does so, with copious amounts of Stuff Blowing Up. Just what you'd expect from the genre.

And then, about halfway through, the film starts to delve into the protagonist's backstory, and it turns out that, rather than the heroic figure the genre usually calls for, he's an unabashed Psycho for Hire (if not indeed Villain Protagonist) who cares not one jot about the morality of his actions, while the villain's plan is no silly plot to take over the world, but rather a well-thought out and understandable scheme which puts him well into the domain of the Well-Intentioned Extremist. In fact, he may not even be the villain at all! Why, it's almost as if the screenwriter started out writing a straightforward action movie, got bored halfway through and decided to go for a full-on Genre Deconstruction instead.

This is the essence of the trope: a Genre Deconstruction which opens in such a way that an audience member unfamiliar with the work might take it for a straight example, before the deconstructive elements become apparent; a sort of Bait-and-Switch. To an extent, all deconstructions have to look like straight examples of the genre at least somewhat, because deconstructions are all about playing a genre's conventions dead straight and following them to their logical extremes. The difference here is that the ancillary aspects of the Genre Deconstruction (critical intent, a consideration of the logical consequences of the genre's conventions) aren't immediately apparent, only appearing after the work is well under way.

This can happen within a single work (as in the hypothetical example above) or within an entire franchise, with the earlier entries in the work playing a genre's conventions straight and later entries attacking those same conventions.

Sister Trope to Decon-Recon Switch (when a work opens as a Genre Deconstruction, and ends up being a Reconstruction). Depending on the degree, may be common among Indecisive Deconstructions. Compare Unbuilt Trope. For examples when this happens over the course of a franchise, compare Darker and Edgier, Cerebus Syndrome, Cerebus Retcon and Cerebus Rollercoaster.


Video Games

  • Spec Ops: The Line initially looks just like any other modern military shooter (in the vein of Modern Warfare and the like), albeit slightly darker and more cynical than most. About halfway through the game, after a Wham Episode, it moves much more firmly into deconstructive territory, attacking the genre, representations of war and the military in video games and, most of all, the player themselves. According to Word of God, this was deliberate, as a means of lulling the player into a false sense of security.

Community Feedback Replies: 6
  • November 14, 2012
    I'm not really sure how this differs from a straight up Decon. I most Decons, you have to play the trope straight (so that it's recognizable) and then deconstruct it.
  • November 14, 2012
    I would say Madoka but even mentioning it as an example is a bit of a Late Arrival Spoiler.

    ^Evangelion and Watchmen, on the other hand, are very overt about being deconstructions from practically the first few lines.

  • November 15, 2012
    Who determines what's "overt" and what isn't?
  • November 15, 2012
    Well, for example, I think even the fact that Watchmen opens with a retired superhero getting brutally murdered is a pretty good sign that it's not your average superhero comic.
  • November 15, 2012
    @The Handle - Could you provide a bit more detail on the Madoka example? I'm not familiar with it myself.
  • January 18, 2013
    @King Zeal: Subjective trope, maybe?