Created By: KJMackley on October 6, 2011 Last Edited By: Halen on July 25, 2013
Troped

Internal Deconstruction

A series that eventually deconstructs its own recurring tropes.

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There are several series that establish a own status quo, even if it is subject to change periodically there is usually still a basic formula that surrounds each installment. Certain conventions are also in place that are linked to the premise or the characters, as usually the main characters are responsible for everything that happens.

After some time, if the series becomes aware of itself it may start looking back and pointing out the realistic issues regarding their own conventions and how they the use their tropes. As well as taking one aspect, and either exploring it to the possible point of Mind Screw, or playing it far too simple and flat to be taken seriously. In effect, they are deconstructing themselves.

To be considered for this trope, the series in question must have established a common pattern and spend some times using it without irony. After that pattern has become a series staple, that's when they start to poke holes in it. It isn't just Growing the Beard by playing with the pattern in a smarter way.

It may be the result of Cerebus Syndrome. It may also be an Author's Saving Throw or an answer to an unrelenting Status Quo Is God.


Examples

Anime and Manga

Books
  • The The First Law series begins with a trilogy of novels that are very clearly intended as a Deconstructor Fleet of heroic fantasy/high fantasy tropes, and it is fairly grim. As the series progresses, the books get somewhat more optimistic, and Red Country feels like a case of internal deconstruction in that it shows how normal people would react to the actions of the characters from the original trilogy, and has a Lighter and Softer tone. In what might be a Lampshade Hanging, one character (a washed up actor) comments toward the end that while he used to think that only tragedies were serious works of merit, he can now see the benefits of a work with a happy ending.

Film

Live-Action TV
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • In the episode "The Zeppo", the Non-Action Guy Xander is confined to the sidelines while his friends fend off a mass demonic invasion. Meanwhile, he ends up dealing with an event that could have similarly disasterous consequences, which is treated as the main story while the so-called "apocalypse" is seen only in glimpses. The next day the others are commenting that nobody will ever know that the world almost ended last night and they stopped it, reflecting Xander's own situation. The episode basically deconstructs how the characters think they are unique and special for what they do, when there are probably plenty of other people doing the same thing all over the world.
    • The Grand Finale featured the unleashing of the Slayer power to all potential slayers, which may number into the thousands worldwide. It was portrayed as a triumphant moment of empowerment and relieving Buffy of the stress of being The Chosen One. The following year on Angel, they come across a mentally scarred girl in a mental hospital who was suddenly having violent visions of past slayers and is given enhanced strength. She mutilated and nearly killed Spike before they were able to bring her down.
    • A similar thing happens in the seventh season by deconstructing Buffy's Heroic Sacrifice of the fifth season, where she refused to let anything happen to Dawn and instead let herself die in her place. Giles points out that by doing that the world kept a relatively helpless girl and lost the slayer, and that there may come a time when she has to let go of her friends in order to save the world.
  • The Big Bang Theory has the character of Raj, who is so insecure around women that he literally cannot talk to them unless drunk or otherwise drugged up. This is largely treated as a joke, how he shuts up immediately when they're around and how he quickly becomes a smooth talker after one sip of alcohol. While never quite giving it up as a joke later episodes he confides how frustrating it is to be that socially inept while his (also very nerdy) friends are going on to have meaningful romantic relationships.

Video Games
  • Kingdom Hearts eventually deconstructed The Power of Friendship, the defining trope of the series, in Dream Drop Distance. The villains accuse Sora of only being able to wield the Keyblade because he holds Ven's heart and his bonds with the other heroes strengthen him. On his own, he would never have the Keyblade and wouldn't be strong enough to get one of his own.

Western Animation
  • In Hey Arnold!, The episode "Helga on The Couch" deconstructs what had previously been somewhat presented as an Hilariously Abusive Childhood, until that episode the fact that Helga was The Unfavorite, with a "perfect sister", a Workaholic father and an alchoholic mother (confirmed via Word of God), had been hilarious, however during her therapy session it is shown just how much that has affected her, and let's just say that no one was laughing after that. Also noticeable because after that episode, Helga's family situation were rarely showing for laughs anymore, instead whenever there was a focus on her family is was to how how messed up they were, altough with the usual touch of the They Really Do Love Each Other.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, in its first season, ends nearly every episode with Twilight Sparkle summarizing the aesop of the week by sending a "friendship report" to her mentor, Princess Celestia. Early in season two, the episode "Lesson Zero" confirms that this Once an Episode schedule actually translates to Twilight sending a new friendship report every (in-universe) week. The deconstruction comes when Twi realizes that she hasn't learned anything worth writing about this week--as the deadline approaches, Twilight becomes increasingly unhinged by her fear of failing Princess Celestia. Ultimately, this alters the status quo of the series: Celestia tells Twilight that she doesn't need to follow a rigid schedule for these reports, and she asks Twilight's friends to also start sending in reports.
  • South Park killed Kenny over and over Once an Episode till they suddenly had an episode where it was Played for Drama as a Very Special Episode. He really died and went to hell in the movie, died for a full season before coming back ...and now he's something of a Mauve Shirt.

Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • October 6, 2011
    OmarKarindu
    This is often a supertrope of Graying Morality.
  • May 27, 2013
    glisglis
    I like the idea. I think, though, maybe some of these concepts have been touched on before. Deconstructing the conventions of a series is basically a device that belongs to MetaFiction. There's some of this stuff covered in Metafiction Demanded This Index and Self Referential Humor. It sounds a lot like Self Parody and/or Deconstructed Trope connected to a longer-running franchise with a bit more clever spinning of the Self Parody and Deconstructed Trope. With a series, there's more of an opportunity to play around with this, and it definitely targets the audience more directly, because only the true fans who closely and loyally watch the series can get the subtleties. I think Series Internal Deconstruction is all about establishing a rapport between the series and the audience. At a fundamental level, the whole thing involves playing with patterns and audience expectations, repeating patterns, not repeating patterns and "disappointing" the audience's expectations after a pattern's been established, etc. It's complicated to explain how this happens, but some more examples would be helpful.

    Also, I think that some of the examples don't really make the "playing with the pattern in a smarter way" clear; they just seem like running gags.
  • May 27, 2013
    Generality
    In classic Doctor Who, the Doctor was an itinerant wanderer who would induct random humans from the contemporary time period and take them on adventures, until real-life circumstances caused the companion to be dropped, one way or the other. The new series deconstructed this by having consequences for a young woman running off with a strange man for a long period of time (the exact consequences have varied per companion). Later still, the character of the Doctor himself was given the same treatment: his habit of getting into the middle of any trouble, and of causing vast death and destruction to defeat an alien force, resulted in him being pegged by many as the greatest threat to life in the universe, with a faction arising devoted entirely to his undoing, and raising a Laser Guided Tyke Bomb to that end.
  • May 27, 2013
    MetaFour
    • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, in its first season, ends nearly every episode with Twilight Sparkle summarizing the aesop of the week by sending a "friendship report" to her mentor, Princess Celestia. Early in season two, the episode "Lesson Zero" confirms that this Once An Episode schedule actually translates to Twilight sending a new friendship report every (in-universe) week. The deconstruction comes when Twi realizes that she hasn't learned anything worth writing about this week--as the deadline approaches, Twilight becomes increasingly unhinged by her fear of failing Princess Celestia. Ultimately, this alters the status quo of the series: Celestia tells Twilight that she doesn't need to follow a rigid schedule for these reports, and she asks Twilight's friends to also start sending in reports.
  • June 11, 2013
    KJMackley
    I like there is some support of the trope but would prefer to find at least a few more examples.

    • Star Trek Into Darkness deconstructs the battlefield promotion Kirk exploited in the 09 Star Trek film, specifically making an academy cadet (who hadn't even graduated) the captain of the Federation flagship just because he proved competent when the crisis came. Into Darkness explicitly shows that Kirk has very little regard for regulations and proper reporting of away missions, which gets the Enterprise taken away from him and they would have shunted him back to the academy if Pike didn't pull some strings.
  • June 11, 2013
    reub2000
    • Scrubs deconstructs it's use of the Imagine Spot. A few episode are shown from the perspective of the other characters and show how what J.D. says makes little sense to the other characters.
  • June 11, 2013
    Duncan
  • June 19, 2013
    KJMackley
    I knew I had made a virtual copy of this YKTTW, in fact at a later time here than this older one. I'll copy/paste the examples from there.
    • The Grand Finale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer featured the unleashing of the Slayer power to all potential slayers, which may number into the thousands worldwide. It was portrayed as a triumphant moment of empowerment and relieving Buffy of the stress of being The Chosen One. The following year on Angel, they come across a mentally scarred girl in a mental hospital who was suddenly having violent visions of past slayers and is given enhanced strength. She mutilated and nearly killed Spike before they were able to bring her down.
      • A similar thing happens in the seventh season by deconstructing Buffy's Heroic Sacrifice of the fifth season, where she refused to let anything happen to Dawn and instead let herself die in her place. Giles points out that by doing that the world kept a relatively helpless girl and lost the slayer, and that there may come a time when she has to let go of her friends in order to save the world.
    • How I Met Your Mother always portrayed the closeness of their group as being a very positive thing, including Robin and Ted becoming friends again after their break-up. Come season 7 and we see that there are some real issues with them interfering with each others lives and Ted learns that in order to move on with his life he needed to stop being so close with Robin.
  • June 20, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    Rebuild Of Evangelion: Of three movies out so far, two movies go into working Shinji Ikari into an Adaptational Badass, the kind of Shinji 'with a spine' that Fanon and non-canon media like Super Robot Wars likes to portray, who will do things Beyond The Impossible to save his friends' asses.

    And then comes the third movie, which has turned the world into a crapsack hellhole beyond even the TV canon and a lot of the cast becoming bastards (almost) barely worth rooting for... and it all can be laid down to the feet of Shinji and his Beyond The Impossible Crowning Moment Of Awesome of the previous movie.

    Oops.
  • June 22, 2013
    KJMackley
    If I can get one more hat I'll launch this. Compare Decon Recon Switch (which is a deconstruction and reconstruction in the same story) and Indecisive Deconstruction (which isn't sure if it is trying to deconstruct or reconstruct anything.

    • Burn Notice spent a solid four seasons of Michael playing up being the bad guy and doing borderline criminal activities to sell those roles in the name of the greater good. As it turns out spending all your time acting like a criminal means it is hard to sell to people that you are really a good guy. The point is made especially clear when the team is pitted up against the CIA.
  • June 24, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    OK, five hats. I think it could use with a couple more examples (and maybe editing the format), but for the most part is now good to launch.
  • June 25, 2013
    StarSword
    Needs example sorting and definite formatting and namespacing cleanup.
  • June 26, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced and italicized example work names and sorted examples by media.
  • June 26, 2013
    Folamh3
  • July 14, 2013
    DAN004
    • One Piece, known for their characters unrelenting despite impossible odds, got struck hard with this when, eventually, the obstacles in front of them becomes simply too hard to break away with their power (physical and will) alone. Case in point: during Luffy's struggle on rescuing Ace, he takes more punishment than usual - busting through the harsh condition of the prison, being poisoned to near-death, having to struggle against said poison with the help of Ivankov's hormones which takes off his lifespan (and 20 hours, during which Ace is transferred to Marineford), having to fight back up to escape, needing a doping hormone (twice), and finally trying to dig in to Ace's platform (with the help of Whitebeard and co). Not to mention the taxing Gear Second that he uses repeatedly. All of them are worth it, as Ace managed to break free... only for him to be killed by Akainu (though the latter intentionally bait him first). The resulting Heroic BSOD is so great that, after he recovers from his wounds, he starts questioning his own power and worth, something he never does before.
  • July 19, 2013
    Hodor
    • The The First Law series begins with a trilogy of novels that are very clearly intended as a Deconstructor Fleet of heroic fantasy/high fantasy tropes, and it is fairly grim. As the series progresses, the books get somewhat more optimistic, and Red Country feels like a case of internal deconstruction in that it shows how normal people would react to the actions of the characters from the original trilogy, and has a Lighter And Softer tone. In what might be a Lampshade Hanging, one character (a washed up actor) comments toward the end that while he used to think that only tragedies were serious works of merit, he can now see the benefits of a work with a happy ending.
    • The original trilogy of the Earthsea series casts no judgment on the idea that wizard is a profession restricted to men, and presents in an apparently favorable light an in-universe saying "weak/wicked as women's magic". Later on, the author Ursula K Le Guin became more of a feminist and retconned/deconstructed these kind of things as being made up by male wizards to suppress women.
  • July 19, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    • Kingdom Hearts eventually deconstructed The Power Of Friendship, the defining trope of the series, in Dream Drop Distance. The villains accuse Sora of only being able to wield the Keyblade because he holds Ven's heart and his bonds with the other heroes strengthen him. On his own, he would never have the Keyblade and wouldn't be strong enough to get one of his own.
  • July 21, 2013
    Morgenthaler
    Related to Ascended Fridge Horror, a work which incorporates horrifying realistic consequences originally only reached by the audience on second thought.
  • July 21, 2013
    RoseBride
    In Hey Arnold, The episode "Helga on The Couch" deconstructs what had previously been somewhat presented as an Hilariously Abusive Childhood, until that episode the fact that Helga was The Unfavorite, with a "perfect sister", a Workaholic father and an alchoholic mother (confirmed via Word of God), had been hilarious, however during her therapy session it is shown just how much that has affected her, and let's just say that no one was laughing after that. Also noticeable because after that episode, Helga's family situation were rarely showing for laughs anymore, instead whenever there was a focus on her family is was to how how messed up they were, altough with the usual touch of the They Really Do Love Each Other
  • July 21, 2013
    thewriter
    Related to Outgrow The Trope
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=v3l8y394sazgddejqre66fak