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Discredited Trope
Socrates: Ya know, Calvin, that line has been used so many times now, it's not even mildly threatening anymore.
Andy: Yeah, it actually just took all the drama out. It's like having 555 for a phone number.

Tropes Are Tools, but some have aged better than others.

Over the course of time, a trope may be overused, misused, opposed, made obsolete, subverted on many notable occasions, or just end up being widely disliked. Eventually, a trope may reach the point where it becomes one which nobody should dare use seriously and only belongs in parody, satire, homage or pastiche. Often, if one of these is used straight, people will assume it's a Red Herring.

In some cases, a trope may be discredited due to changes in our knowledge of history or science. Use of the trope in fiction may change to reflect this. See the Time Marches On index.

Notes:
  1. Just because a trope is discredited does not necessarily mean it is not Truth in Television, or that it's necessarily a Forgotten Trope.
  2. This is not bad writing because the writing itself is bad, but because the writer doesn't know its audience. After all, Tropes Are Not Bad.
  3. Just because a trope is not Truth in Television does not mean it is discredited.

Omnipresent Tropes are immune to being discredited, mostly because those tropes are too natural to the medium of storytelling to ever be considered tired cliches. Undead Horse Trope describes tropes that have been subverted and parodied dozens of times, but aren't quite discredited.

See also:
  • Dead Horse Trope, where subversions or parodies outnumber straight use in recent works.
  • Forgotten Trope, which describes tropes that aren't used in recent works at all; they may have been considered Discredited Tropes years ago, or just fell from use for other reasons.

Compare Discredited Meme.


Examples and Tropes:

    open/close all folders 

    General 
  • All Just a Dream: Too often abused as a Deus ex Machina / Stock Epileptic Tree.
  • All Gays Are Pedophiles: NO ONE with any credibility believes this anymore. It also has homophobic undertones.
  • All Women Are Prudes: Since sexual attitudes have become more relaxed, nobody plays this straight.
  • Anal Probing: Still survives in some comedic settings or jokes, but the concept of The Grays or Little Green Men or other space aliens engaging in this has become so discredited that the only way to use it is parody or a subversion. It also has the Fridge Horror of being a rape joke, unless you are using the subversion of someone actively seeking it.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Back in the day, there was much more stigma against getting divorced, and couples were expected to resolve their problems themselves or simply pretend marital problems didn't exist. These days, however, at least in the Western world, divorce has lost much of its stigma, divorce laws are more liberal (making it relatively easier for couples to get a divorce) and it's much more commonplace than it once was, so far fewer people these days are trapped in a loveless and unhappy marriage.
  • Barbaric Bully: Heightened school security in the post-Columbine era means that beating a kid up in a crowded school hallway usually comes with consequences. Not to mention that the advent of cyberbullying and the recent rash of bully-related suicides proves that a good deal of bullying is psychological rather than physical (and that psychological bullying can be just as harmful as physical bullying). Not discredited in British works due to Values Dissonance.
  • Basement-Dweller: The economic hard times of the 2010s have convinced a steadily increasing amount of young people to live with their parents, though this is still mainly due to financial desperation.
  • The Bermuda Triangle: No matter what anyone wants to say about Real Life ships and planes that have disappeared in the region, aliens, Cthulhu, dimensional portals, Atlantis, etc. are NOT behind any of it. The incidence of Real Life disappearances in the area is no higher or lower than any other part of the ocean that has similar size, weather, and maritime traffic.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: A hopelessly outdated cliche of a ghost appearance that is very difficult to play straight now.
  • Black Helicopter: Drones have made them obsolete and are more believable.
  • Book Burning: Made obsolete as of the 1990s-2000s with the advent of multiple methods of duplicating and spreading information electronically. Forced deletion of information, conspiracies to limit its release, slandering those who release information and questioning their motives/veracity with Astro Turf, banning by region, arrests and threats to those who release information, and other methods of censorship and suppression are far more common (and even those are of limited success.
  • Bowdlerize: The ability to release the uncensored version of almost anything via the internet/via DVD deleted scenes/via other means has made serious attempts to do this (outside of children's media and very religious/conservative locales) almost laughable, as everyone who wants to can easily find the "real" version.
  • Brainwashed: Is Truth in Television and does happen on a quite regular basis, but many means of doing so in fiction have been very discredited (hypnosis, drugs/a drug as sole means, magic). Realistic portrayals focus on More Than Mind Control, torture and other forms of abuse, Stockholm Syndrome, and the Dirty Social Tricks, as that is how actual brainwashing is accomplished.
  • British Royal Guards: Never used for anything other than comedic effect, but nowadays the once common gags involving a guard's effort to remain still under immense pressure have been replaced with ones where voluntary movement on the guard's part is observed, side-stepping more commonplace expectations.
  • The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House: Based on a myth about analog land lines (see the trope page), plus it's not that scary or unusual anymore with the omnipresence of cell phones.
  • Career Versus Family: Similar to the below trope, working moms are quite common, especially as the cost of raising children to adulthood increases.
  • Career Versus Man: It is entirely possible to have both; these days, a woman is not expected to give up her career when she gets married.
  • Catch Your Death of Cold (still alive and well in Japanese and possibly other East Asian media, though)
  • Cement Shoes: It's much more efficient (from both a filming and story perspective) to have the crooks just shoot the guy or bash his head in and go on their way. The victim being suddenly shot also has more shock value.
  • Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs: Modern children's cereals are made with much more of an eye towards nutrition, thanks to backlash regarding marketing junk food to kids.
  • The Chosen One: Has largely fallen out of favor due to how overused and cliche it is.
  • Christmas Cake: Along with its Western variant, the Old Maid, it's not quite gone from consciousness, but it is on its way out, thanks to changing attitudes about the role of women in society, and increased education for girls.
  • Coincidental Broadcast
  • Cut-and-Paste Note: In modern fiction, due to the prevalence of more convenient and harder to trace forms of anonymous communication. If used in any sort of forensic drama, you can bet the CSIs will admonish the culprit as an amateur and get damning evidence off the note.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Largely discredited in any story set after the widespread adoption of cell/mobile phones.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: A cardboard stereotype, clear-cut villain used in vaudeville and stage melodramas note  that got so ridiculously overused, that it became impossible to take seriously, and thus became extremely ripe for parody in cartoons. As such, this trope has almost never been played straight since, and when it does occasionally pop up, it's used as fodder for a quick villain gag or for sheer camp value (i.e. Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races, Snidely Whiplash from Dudley Do-Right, Oil Can Harry from Mighty Mouse)—in fact, the reason people even remember this trope is often because of how often the cliche has been parodied.
  • Dead Pet Sketch
  • Declarative Finger: Often used by the authors to imply that the character doing so is just trying to come across as profound, which in turn is used to imply that the character is actually saying something NON-profound.
  • Dinner with the Boss: Discredited around The Seventies to The Eighties in the United States. Most if not all work-related/work networking parties/meetings/similar, anywhere in the world, are at restaurants, bars, or other public event locations, or held at the house of the boss/senior staff rather than rank-and-file employees. In Europe and Japan (as well as Latin America and most of Asia) this was how things were all along for the most part.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Due to several Truth in Television incidents that led to Ripped from the Headlines, most countries, after around The Nineties, created ways of at least removing severely criminal or dangerous diplomatic staff.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: Still occasionally happens, but with most couples (especially those where large amounts of wealth are involved on one or both sides) having legally binding prenuptial agreements, far less likely to happen in Real Life post The Nineties, and therefore much less realistic without some explanation as to why there was no prenup.
  • Divorce Requires Death: In Western society, at least, it doesn't.
  • Does This Make Me Look Fat?:
    • You see this every day, so it's not really a plot device.
    • There's also the common variant of the trope, "Does this make my butt look big?". Because of evolving beauty standards in the 21st century, the implication that a woman has a big butt is a lot less likely to be considered an insult than it once was.
  • Dramatic Slip
  • Drunken Montage: Except when it's Played for Laughs.
  • Dumb and Drummer: With quite a few very intellectual drummers existing in Real Life, the rise of Drum And Bass, dubstep, and some very technically complex forms of Heavy Metal, all of which require musical skill and competency and some degree of intelligence - alongside the trope becoming a Discredited Meme to some degree from simple overuse - it's become a cliche. Subverting it with having the stupidity be Obfuscating Stupidity or temporary due to Alcohol-Induced Idiocy or a manic episode or the like is far more believable, especially if the band you're depicting is supposed to be expert-level musicians.
  • Dying Dream: Too often abused as a Deus ex Machina, except also common as an overused Downer Ending.
  • Essex Girl: We are in the age of The Only Way Is Essex but the trope itself is pretty much discredited nowadays. The WIGWAG(Wigan Walkden Girl, alternately Wigan Warrington Girl) [a slightly higher social demographic, as Wigan and Walkden are fairly affluent neighborhoods] - the older trope is now gone; it only survives in The Only Way Is Essex due to the legacy of the Grandfather Clause. The trope itself in general isn't obsolete, but the Essex version is. Audience reactions on this are mixed, to say the least.
  • Everybody Smokes: The global smoking rate (as measured by admitted daily smokers) as of The New Tens rests around 25 to 30 percent, with a far lower percentage (around 19 to 25 percent) in most Western First World nations, due to aggressive education campaigns about the dangers of tobacco, stricter regulation of its use and sale and promotion, and free or low-cost quitting assistance for smokers. Some populations (and some nations/regions/cities) have larger percentages of smokers, but the trope is entirely discredited anywhere outside of those specific exceptions after The Nineties.
  • Flashback Stares: Outside of comedies this is rarely used purely because it looks so silly, breaking any dramatic tension.
  • Flushing Toilet, Screaming Shower: Becoming one because newer buildings are designed with this trope in mind so it's harder to pull off.
  • Follow That Car
  • Foreign-Looking Font: Quite a few of them are seen as racist. Chop Suey, Lithos and Neuland all are seen as racist or racialized, for example, especially when used in certain contexts or to make something seem "exotic."
  • Girls Have Cooties: Unless you are aiming at a VERY young audience, using this trope will make you a laughingstock.
  • Henpecked Husband: As Many Domestic Abuse cases start to have more gender neutrality be added to them, this type of relationship is seen as either unrealistic or horrifying. Many sitcoms still use them, however, as do animé, manga and similar.
  • Hysterical Woman: Not only a Double Standard; a tired cliché.
  • Innocent Innuendo: These days, audience reactions tend not to be "whoa, are they doing it?", but "okay, what's really going on?"
  • Instant Death Bullet: Unless it's a headshot (and not even then sometimes) or the heart and one or both lungs are hit at the same time. People have survived being shot multiple times, even in vital locations, with immediate and proper medical care, especially as emergency care and trauma surgery have developed over time, and even most gunshot deaths (unless they involve the aforementioned head or heart+lung combination) aren't "instant."
  • Is There a Doctor in the House?: Now, someone would just ask someone to call Emergency Services. Especially since, due to Crippling Overspecialization, a doctor present might not even be able to help in any meaningful way (e.g. a psychiatrist or a dentist won't likely be able to do any more for someone having a heart attack or who just got hurt in an accident than a non-doctor would)
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet
  • Kawaiiko: Now that we're in the age of salarymen, Japanese sex dolls (as mentioned by Justin Lee Collins) and Japanese supermodels like Leah Dizon, this trope is very much now no longer able to be played straight. British magazine Take A Break treated it as The New Rock & Roll, but they were Two Decades Behind - the kawaii fad is known for its flaws and is a joke nowadays.
  • Leprechaun: Only in Ireland itself though, not in America or elsewhere.
  • Leave the bottle!: You won't find this in any modern bar or tavern. It's against modern ABC laws.
  • Little Green Men: The Grays have made them obsolete.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: At least in individualist modern Western society, where marriage is no longer seen as a prerequisite for sex, women are more sexually-liberated, and people aren't quite as concerned about "what the neighbors might think," it's becoming discredited. Still alive and well in historical fiction, though.
  • Man in a Bikini: It is still played straight, but is no longer used as a source of comedy nowadays. Well, except for Teen Idol shows like Hannah Montana and iCarly. Main usage is for Very Special Episodes or to promote An Aesop on tolerating crossdressers.
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Not played straight except in some romantic comedies, and even then it's considered by most to be a tired cliche.
  • Mayan Doomsday: December 21, 2012 is in the past now, and suffice to say, the world and civilization in general remain intact. It's hard to imagine any new works taking this trope seriously with that in mind.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Outdated and untrue these days, with the advent of stay-at-home dads.
  • The Natives Are Restless: This isn't the age of colonialism anymore. It still pops up in fantasy and science fiction settings where colonialism can exist, but even then, it's more likely to be used for humour.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Still largely used and accepted in animation, comics and video games, but discredited in live action media.
  • Officer O'Hara: There are still Irish-American cops in entertainment, but they tend to be less stereotypical. The whimsy and the just-off-the-boat accent tend to only be used straight in Historical Fiction these days.
  • Phone-Trace Race: Still used on occasion by very dense Hollywood hacks, but with caller ID, the popularity of shows like 24 which have mostly ditched this trope, and a general paranoia about Google and Facebook tracking your every move, writers nowadays tend to err on the side of the FBI/NSA/CIA being too good at tracking your every move.
  • Poor Man's Porn: The Internet Is for Porn, so you don't need to settle for the Victoria's Secret catalog anymore.
  • Quicksand Sucks: Except in video games.
  • Santa Claus Tropes: Santa has become such a commercial icon of Christmas and as such overexposed via countless Christmas specials and merchandise, that it is pretty much impossible to play any trope related to him straight now, unless you have a really young audience in mind or have no self-respect for yourself as a storyteller.
  • The Savage Indian: Still pops up sometimes but has mostly been replaced by the Noble Savage and the Magical Native American.
  • The Scream: Almost universally Played for Laughs nowadays.
  • Sex Equals Love
  • Shotgun Wedding: A combination of greater availability of contraception and a reduced stigma of single motherhood make this trope seem very dated today. If a woman does get pregnant, a couple doesn't have to get married, but the father is expected to provide some form of support.
  • Shrink Ray: Due to Science Marches On, this is now limited to more-or-less humorous works.
  • Small Annoying Creature: Rarely shows up anymore except as parody.
  • Smoking Is Cool/Smoking Is Glamorous: Changing attitudes towards smoking have deemed these tropes in bad taste, if not outright dangerous for the impressionable. Modern examples that play these straight are met with fierce criticism.
  • Standard Hero Reward
  • Standing in the Hall: Parodied in some Japanese works still; but not used in Real Life as much. In western countries, similar variants aren't used due to kids taking it as an opportunity to wander around the halls.
  • Stern Nun: For one thing, many teachers at modern Catholic schools are laypeople, not nuns. For another thing, after the advent of the Self-Esteem Movement of The Seventies, parents would be all up in arms if a teacher (whether a nun or a layperson) meted out those kinds of punishments. (Nuns also haven't worn those starchy white wimples since the 1970s at the latest, but you'll still occasionally see them, usually for humor.)
  • Stranger Danger: Aesops about the inherent dangers of talking to strangers were huge in the 1990s, but due to changing attitudes (coupled with the discovery that the majority of abuse comes from people that the victims know personally) it's rarely played straight.
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich
  • Trojan Gauntlet: In most places, changing sexual mores and Tech Marches On (condoms are no longer behind the counter, self service checkouts) have rendered this trope a thing of the past.
  • What Are Records?: Most kids are not as clueless about old technology as we think they are. It also helps that records have undergone a recent resurgence in popularity.
  • Wild Samoan: Obvious Unfortunate Implications and Society Marches On make this discredited now. (This doesn't apply to Professional Wrestling, the performance art that time forgot.)
  • Old magic tricks like the Disappearing Box and Saw a Woman in Half are best not done in their straight form these days, as everyone's seen them dozens of times and probably knows how those tricks are done.
  • In modern chase scenes the Fruit Cart, Sheet of Glass, and Baby Carriage are only included with at least a wink — for serious chases something else that will go splat is used.
  • The Generation Gap has pretty much become this, with Generations X and Y becoming parents and today's children growing up in an unusually similar cultural landscape to the one their parents grew up in. Fortunately, recent shows like Modern Family and Two and a Half Men have realized this, and thus, the trope has been gradually phased out of television and movies during the past decade-and-a-half or so. Today, it's relegated mostly to parody, although even that is becoming old hat.
  • High School Rocks is rarely played straight anymore. Now that shows like Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life, not to mention movies like Superbad and (to a lesser extent) Dazed and Confused, have subverted it into oblivion, it's almost impossible to take this trope seriously anymore. Waterloo Road is the show that made it become this way.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: The mainstreaming of nerd culture has rendered it more or less obsolete, as there's no longer anything especially remarkable about a self-proclaimed "nerd" having a fulfilling love life.
  • The Virgin in a White Dress. Nowadays, Western women are free to have sex lives before marriage (although it may be frowned upon in some circles), and free to choose what color dress they wear. It's entirely possible (heck, even likely) that a modern bride wearing a white dress might not be a virgin or might only be a Technical Virgin. And second, third, fourth, etc.-time brides are still allowed to wear white if they choose to.

    Comics 

    Film 

    Literature 
  • Said Bookism: In these days, it's often considered redundant, and generally considered a very obvious hallmark of amateur or inexperienced writers.
  • Prolonged Prologue: Often seen in fantasy novels. They give a lot of backstory on a world that the reader hasn't read enough of to care about yet. Most publishers say Show, Don't Tell and let the reader learn about the world through the eyes of the characters.

    Live Action Television 

    Music 
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: It's become such a cliche, especially during the second half of the twentieth century, that it's now almost impossible to play it completely straight anymore.
  • The idea of Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll seems to have more-or-less fallen by the wayside. This is probably due mostly to the vast number of drug-related deaths and rehab stints among various rock musicians in the 60's, 70's and 80's (Jimi Hendrix, Nikki Sixx, Ozzy Osbourne, etc.). However, other factors include the extensive anti-drug campaigning of the 80's, the AIDS scare mostly rendering the concept of "Free Love" obsolete, and the Grunge movement of the early-90's shifting the focus of rock away from glorified sex and drug use. Granted, sex and drugs still exist in the music business. But most of the musicians who engage in such activities, at least in Western mainstream pop and country music, are far more secretive and openly ambivalent towards them than before.

    New Media 
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: Despite still lingering today, companies have ultimately realized that the war against piracy is a lost cause, and have taken incentive to work around it instead. More recently they have been pushing a new bill (s.978, Protect IP, SOPA) to put an end to piracy forever, although all attempts so far have failed. Although in the United Kingdom, the Digital Economy Bill may keep this as not quite a discredited trope, as it seems that public opinion is against the bill, despite politicians' attempts at copyright law changes. Values Dissonance, indeed.
  • Screamers have received two major blows over the Internet's history. Initially, when flash movies and games were still the norm, there were no clear distinctions between screamers and legitimate pages, creating a minefield for fearful site goers; this meant less traffic for sites like FunnyJunk and WinterWorld. Later, with the advent of video over flash files, viewers were able to scroll to the end of the video to see if any suspicions were confirmed, removing all suspense and defeating the purpose of screamers. They have since been replaced by the trap video, which puts the scare at the beginning of the video, and aims not to make individuals jump, but to cause outrage within specific audiences. Furthermore, they've also been overshadowed by Rickrolls as the Internet's prank of choice.
  • There Are No Girls on the Internet: The online population has reflected real-world gender distributions since 2001 or so.

    Theatre 
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: Modern musicals, at least in theatre, are specifically not supposed to play this one straight anymore, though there's still a chance a song of this nature may end up as a Breakaway Pop Hit

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • Idea Bulb: An overused visual cliche that's more often known for its parodies than straight examples.
  • "I Want" Song: This became discredited for a while after Disney and its competitors milked the Broadway musical cartoon formula for all it was worth — the makers of Toy Story even intentionally avoided this, in order to distinguish it from those films. That said, there's enough nostalgia left for it now to allow it to return in recent films like The Princess and the Frog, but it's nowhere near as prevalent as it was in the past.
  • Rotoscoping: Derided as a lazy, poor substitute for actual animation by both animators and critics (thanks in part to another trope it inevitably invokes), it is almost never used in modern hand-drawn animation, let alone without irony. It's more modern equivalent, Motion Capture, is still used in CGI, but often to equal derision.

Defied TropeTrope TropesDiscussed Trope
DiscontinuityYMMVDry Docked Ship
DiscontinuityYMMV/Home PageDry Docked Ship
Box TropesPages Needing ImagesForensic Phlebotinum

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