Angela Moore: This doesn't make any sense.
Shawn Hunter: It does if you've seen as many horror movies as I have. This is classic. The locked door, the scary janitor, the bloody warning and... our soon to be first victim.
-Everyone looks at Kenny-
Kenny: Me? Why me?
Well Kenny, it's certainly not going to be any of us!
The exact opposite of Genre Blindness
. A Genre Savvy character doesn't necessarily know they're in a story
, but they do know of stories like their own and what worked in them and what didn't. More sophisticated versions will also know they can't tell which genre they are in (and are often in far more realistic or complicated genres than the stories they remember), or which characters they are.
They know every Simple Plan
is doomed to failure from the start and instead of participating, sit back and wait to get in their "I told you so", or even a "We could have avoided this
." They can spot someone being controlled by a Puppeteer Parasite
from a mile away (usually
). They're more likely to listen when they catch someone in a compromising position who sputters "It's Not What It Looks Like
They can tell fairly early that the strange old man who's offering free lollipops
is probably best avoided. And they've seen enough Horror movies
to know that when there's an ax murderer on the loose, the last
thing you want to do is either split up
, boink your significant other
, or investigate strange noises
in the Sinister Subway
. They know how to avoid getting a bad rank on the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality
The Genre Savvy live to hang lampshades
, give Aside Glances
, and say, "You just had to say it
, didn't you?" right after use of a Tempting Fate Stock Phrase
. Their exasperation
with the sheer stupidity of the entire universe
usually makes them a Deadpan Snarker
. They are likely to be told that This Is Reality
or just ignored
, and likely to be the one who always wanted to say that
. A useful person to have around if you get Trapped in TV Land
They will often try to take advantage of tropes
, either to fail embarrassingly (often because they're actually Wrong Genre Savvy
), or to achieve remarkable feats to everyone else's astonishment. The sophisticated savvy can realize that they do not know what characters they are playing, or whether they are exactly in the same genre as the books they read.
Genre savviness sometimes occurs when And You Thought It Was a Game
shows up. This is a Justified Trope
in situations where the character was initially recruited for their knowledge of the genre. (Galaxy Quest
, The Last Starfighter
, ¡Three Amigos!!
) It can also be justified through experience — hopefully, after going through dozens of Let's You and Him Fight
scenarios a superhero will eventually see them coming and start trying to avoid them ahead of time.
There are two finely-distinguished varieties of genre savvy. The first comes from being familiar with fiction.
A good example of this is the Scream
series, where the genre savvy characters are savvy because they've watched horror movies. The other kind comes from being a character in some sort of serial fiction, and having a good memory.
For example, many modern comic book superhero characters exhibit a lot of savviness, simply because they can remember all the weird things that've happened to them, and thus are not surprised when yet another evil twin shows up.
Like playing with the Fourth Wall
, having one or more Genre Savvy characters is indicative of Post Modernism
The most extreme, who know what Genre Blindness
is and that they're supposed
to be, remain Contractually Genre Blind
. On the other hand, when they're incorrect in their assumptions on what they're supposed to be, they're of the Wrong Genre Savvy
persuasion. Clever characters can be well aware of the possibility of Wrong Genre Savvy
and additionally that they may not realize what roles they are cast in, and launch many a quip and discussion about whether a certain trope is or is not in play.
While Genre Savvy can be used to add spice to a tired old plot and create self-aware, intelligent characters, it's not always the right thing to do
— a character who is too
Genre Savvy can risk puncturing their story and turning it into a joke, which is a bit of a problem if it's supposed to be taken seriously. Furthermore, it can also ruin drama and suspense; some genres require a certain amount of the Rule of Drama
and Genre Blindness
to effectively function, and in these cases the reader is always going to be asked to embrace the Anthropic Principle
and Willing Suspension of Disbelief
to some degree in order to accept the premise of the story. Otherwise, if a character knows exactly what type of story what to do to get out of their story in a quick, easy and painless fashion at every turn, they're going to do it, and consequently lead an easy, trouble-free life, and... why are we watching them again?
Furthermore, characters who are too Genre Savvy
can be just as unrealistic and unbelievable as characters who are too Genre Blind
, which can also damage the story. After all, in the real world, people don't often live their lives as if everything they do conforms to a series of overarching narrative conventions, so why would fictional characters? While the Incurable Cough of Death
may spell doom in fiction, nine out of ten times in the real world it suggests nothing more than a harmless cold, so it's not entirely unreasonable that a fictional character might initially see nothing to worry about either. The more sophisticated works frequently balance a good sense of Genre Savvy
with as many references to how this story differs from the ones the reader may have read, just to keep everyone on their toes.
When a villain instead says "screw that!" and dodges every trope
and Idiot Ball
that comes their way, they are Dangerously Genre Savvy
. When they don't, it's Death by Genre Savviness
. If a character uses his Genre Savviness just to make humorous observations, he's a Meta Guy
. When characters are not consciously Genre Savvy but regularly act within the limitations of the genre they're in anyway, they are Functional Genre Savvy
. Compare with Medium Awareness
For specific tips on surviving the world of fiction, see The Universal Genre Savvy Guide