A deconstruction that can't make up its mind if it is examining a genre, or if it is just in
has to have at least some elements of the genre it is deconstructing, but there is a fine line. It has to fundamentally criticize the tropes of the genre, playing them straight and demonstrating the actual consequences
of the genre's tropes (good or bad). However, even standard genre pieces often do that to at least some of their genre conventions. What about works that were meant to be deconstructions, but didn't go far enough? Or works that were never meant to be deconstructions, but ended up as being viewed as such? What about works that crank up the tropes to the point of parody yet are ambiguous on whether or not they are criticizing the tropes? What about works that merely play the conventions for realism, with no critical intent
on the part of the creator, yet can still clearly be read as criticisms?
Basically, there are many questions that can be raised about what counts as a deconstruction.
There are at least three potential subtypes of Indecisive Deconstruction:
- Unintentional Deconstruction, where the work can be read as a criticism of the tropes it plays straight, even if there is no critical intent on the part of the author (or the author has not expressed any critical intent whatsoever). Half-Life, as stated below, can be read as a deconstruction of the Trope Codifier Doom, but the authors have never implied any critical intent. Twilight can also be read as a deconstruction of traditional romances, because Edward is sometimes seen as an abusive, manipulative control freak, yet Stephenie Meyer has stated she believes Edward is the perfect boyfriend (thus, no critical intent exists). It should be marked that this type of deconstruction can be either a product of very attentive and intuitive (sometimes naive) writing or the product of writing so bad that the author doesn't even understand the context and consequences of their own work.
- Partial Deconstruction, where the work deconstructs several tropes, but whether or not it actually criticizes the tropes essential to the genre (or enough of the tropes essential to the genre) is debatable. This category exists for Genre Films that throw in some deconstructed tropes but may not be deconstructions of their genre. This can be intentional or unintentional on the part of the author but can be effective or not depending on the nature and purpose of the work. This often depends on which genre the work is classified as; sometimes it becomes incidental as an author intends to deconstruct one genre but actually ends up writing it for another (a lot of tropes are common to many genres, but are only essential to a limited number).
- Attempted Deconstruction, where the work postures as a Genre Deconstruction but isn't. This is the reverse of Unintentional Deconstruction; deconstructive intent is present, but the deconstruction is hampered by too many tropes being played straight. Scream (1996) fits here. Arguably, some of the Darker and Edgier Dark Age Comic Books (which [mostly unsuccessfully] attempted to emulate Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns) also fit under this category. This is either the result of bad writing where the author doesn't really understand the consequences of the tropes they are deconstructing, or the result of a series where an author starts off with one idea but then changes to settle in another (this doesn't mean that the work is badly written, just that its purpose changed over time).
See also Indecisive Parody
and Unbuilt Trope
Compare Rule Abiding Rebel
, when a story appears to challenge metaconcepts, but doesn't. Compare and contrast Decon-Recon Switch
, where a work begins as a deconstruction but (intentionally) switches to a Reconstruction
by the end.
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Anime and Manga
- The Chuunin Exam Story Arc from Naruto deconstructs several tropes of the Shōnen action genre: The hidden motives and behind-the-scenes scheming during the Tournament Arc force the tournament to be canceled part way through. The "winner(s)", although there is only one in this arc, are picked by a panel of judges, and they reward the secondary character who forfeited; they found his decision to make a tactical retreat admirable, while Naruto's "never give up no matter what" attitude struck them as likely to get himself or his teammates killed some day. And, when Naruto finally proves himself better than his Rival, Sasuke, instead of Defeat Means Friendship, just the opposite occurs; Sasuke is so disgusted at his weakness compared to Naruto that he joins the Big Bad in exchange for power. However, so many other tropes are played straight during the arc that it's unclear if a deconstruction was intended.
- Seasons 3 and 4 of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX attempts to deconstruct its Ace invincible idiot protagonist Judai by actually having him break under the insane pressure he gets put under by virtue of being the only duelist who can ever do anything on the show. This does not work due to the fact that Judai had previously dueled with his life, the lives of his friends, and even the fate of the entire world on his shoulders multiple times before without any sort of psychological strain or difficulty, making it disingenuous that he should be unable to handle the pressure this time.
- Seasons 3 and 4 were more like really batting the point home. Nobody was really lost (not counting brainwashing) during season 2 so the pressure wasn't immediately felt. With his friends disappearing one after another right before his eyes in season 3, the reality of these life or death situations hit closer to home and cause him to snap.
- Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion was an attempted deconstruction of the Yamato Nadeshiko, and Extreme Doormat Love Interests in general, where Hideaki Anno took the trope to its logical conclusion and asked fanboys "so, is this what you want?" However, the response to that question was a resounding "yes," and Rei became not only a Fountain of Expies, but also a major Trope Maker for Moe as we understand it today.
- The obscure Image Comics character Bloodwulf. He was a parody or homage of Lobo, in that he had the look, the high body count, the serious joy in bloodletting... but he was also a devoted family man who loved his wives and kids. His few appearances were never quite clear on whether they were mocking the character, or trying to cash in, or both.
- The Harry Potter fic Deserving could be read as a deconstruction of the Fandom Specific Plot of a marriage law being instituted after the demise of Lord Voldemort, and of mpreg, but the writer's reactionary views suggest that it may not be intended to criticize these plots.
- Pokemon Revolution, by Farla, has been interpreted by more than one reviewer as a deconstruction of all the fics wherein Pokémon revolt against humans, as the ridiculously overpowered main character starts off sympathetic but very quickly Jumps Off the Slippery Slope, expressing genocidal ambitions and demands absolute loyalty from her followers, not hesitating to attack fellow Pokémon who disagree with her. However, considering Farla's other fanfics about the relationship between Pokémon and humans, it seems likely that the readers are supposed to side with the main character even after she crosses the Moral Event Horizon.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica fanfic Magica Madoka Veneficus Puella can't seem to decide whether it's a Fix Fic or a Deconstruction Fic, having elements of both. It also is borderline crack.
- Although The Legend of Total Drama Island is neither advertised nor intended as a Deconstruction Fic, it does a fair amount of decon work. This is largely a side effect of playing for drama incidents that the original played for laughs, and of the higher level of realism needed to make some of those tone-shifted incidents work.
Films — Animated
- Happily N'Ever After: comes close to deconstructing the typical Disney fairytale storyline, but since it's a kids' movie couldn't go all the way.
- More famously, Shrek does something similar — it satirizes traditional fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters left and right and turns the traditional fairy tale structure on its head — the Princess has a reason to hide in the tower, the perfect fairy tale kingdom comes at the expense of forcing all of the non-humans to live in the woods, the nasty ogre is the reluctant hero. However, there's still room for a happy ending and a dance party at the end.
- Brave is set up as a deconstruction of the normal story of a Rebellious Princess wanting to get her own way, and it does achieve this to some end (as Merida does realize that she can't just do what she wants all the time), but it doesn't go all the way, as said princess gets her way in the end.
- The 2007 film Beowulf plays the myth fairly straight for most regards, but adds elements suggesting Unreliable Narrator, all sorts of raunchiness and deviations from the myth that suggest that it is a "true" version that ended up being portrayed more heroically in the myths. However it still has a naked Beowulf backflipping when fighting Grendel and being all beardy and manly and fighting monsters. A lot of arguments come up about whether or not a particular element was meant to be taken seriously.
Films — Live-Action
- The movie Adaptation is this on purpose. First, it explicitly states all the tropes it's not going to use, and in the second half it gleefully goes all out in using them. Not for the art, but as a commentary about Executive Meddling.
- Scream (1996) was marketed as a Deconstructive Parody of the Slasher genre, but for all it did to point out as many traits as it could, it just ended up being a straight entry of the genre with genre savvy characters that still fall into all the same traps.
- Hancock can't decide whenever it wants be a deconstruction or a tragedy. The first half is basically a straight Deconstructive Parody. The second half is a different kind of deconstruction, examining the fact that superpowers don't exist in a vacuum. (You can't have Superman without Krypton, or Wonder Woman without Paradise Island.) Whether it's any good depends on the viewer.
- Wanted plays its tropes so straight that it's hard to decide what it's doing. The comicbook that it was loosely based on is a more straightforward deconstruction of supervillains and glorification of violence, as well as the Hero's Journey by turning it into a path towards evil instead of good.
- Kick-Ass sets itself up to examine the reality of normal people of superheroes like the comic book it adapts, and shows rather jarringly what would realistically happen to anyone who believes they got the skills, assets and resourcefulness satisfactory to be a costumed vigilante. However, unlike that comic book, it then becomes a Reconstruction - effectively subverting the source material's entire plot and having the lead character eventually gain many, many levels in Kick-Ass to demonstrate that either anything's possible with enough determination... or that grim realism is detrimental for a compelling plot. Of course, the original comic book went for such a self-indulgent Darker and Edgier dystopic view on humanity that you would think that it is an unintentional deconstruction of the self-absorbed emo-teenage fantasy (of the kind Frank Miller would agree with). At this point, however, it's either a very competent Stealth Parody or very sadly played straight.
- Enchanted is either this or a Decon-Recon Switch, depending on a): how self-aware you think it is of its tendency to reuse tropes it previously smashed into little pieces, and b): how convincing you think its reuse of those tropes really is.
- Last Action Hero - Affectionate Parody or straight-up lampooning of action movie tropes? The movie bounced between the two and suffered for it.
- Sucker Punch: Action-movie Fanservice, or a deconstruction of Action-movie Fanservice? Who knows?
- Good Luck Chuck sits firmly into Unintentional Deconstruction territory. As noted under Deconstructive Parody there are several elements that can be taken as criticism of some of the particularely contrived examples in the Romantic Comedy subgenre, like the loser protagonist who can't get a good girlfriend needing a literal curse for the plot to work at all, fairly realistic consequences of going to absurd lengths to woo a girl, etc. Interviews with the director and main actors suggest they viewed it as nothing other than a typical wacky Rom-Com (Jessica Alba did critique the film later on, but for different reasons).
- Don Quixote is arguably this for the knightly romances of its day. Parody was the intent, but sometimes it's not so clear where the title character lies relative to the fine line between genius and madness...
- John Green intended Looking for Alaska to be a deconstruction of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but it doesn't quite work. Realizing that Alaska didn't quite get across the destructive nature of mis-imagining people as Manic Pixie Dream Girls was a motivator in him writing Paper Towns, which does a better job of it.
- It is clear that War and Democide Never Again is intended to be a deconstruction of heroes who are massively destructive because Utopia Justifies the Means — the climax of the first book makes this obvious. However, one of the protagonists, Joy, is so much of a Jerk Sue even before she Jumps Off The Slippery Slope (and her counterpart, John, so weak-willed) that her behavior which the readers are supposed to find horrific is practically indistinguishable from her behavior which the readers are supposed to approve of, ruining the effect. Furthermore, the sequels focus less and less on deconstruction as the series goes on, and focus more and more on Wish Fulfillment and the Rule of Cool.
- Fringe would be this for the Paranormal Investigation Genre.
- Power Rangers RPM is somewhat in that it essentially Deconstructs, or at least lampshades, many of the series' tropes ("sometimes when I morph, there's a giant fireball behind me," not to mention Venjix's real reason for sending in Monsters of the Week), but also takes itself very seriously, to the point of being a Reconstruction following a Dork Age.
- Power Rangers Ninja Storm likewise tries after the low-point that was Wild-Force, by having lots of Lampshading and also trying to explain the 1 monster at a time deal (though they did it in a comedic way) and didn't seem to know if they were going to be serious or not, so it ended up failing, unlike RPM.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an Indecisive Deconstruction of the idea of The Chosen One, alternating between It Sucks to Be the Chosen One and So What Do We Do Now? and points out that it would be very bad (both for Buffy and the universe as a whole) if she actually were normal. Eventually, it gets dealt with by introducing The Chosen Many.
- Glee contains elements that parody high school underdog story shows riddled with Glurgey Very Special Episodes, such as the Deadpan Snarker dialogue and the cast's Dysfunction Junction, while at the same time the lessons are supposed to be taken seriously and the show is intended to be heartfelt. Ad then there's the matter of whether you think the entire series is in fact an attempted deconstruction of the harmonious high-school community, showing how ridiculous it is for any group of teenagers to be in the same room singing along with happy smiles together without attempting to kill each other.
- [title of show] starts out as a postmodern look at how musicals are made, pointing out and critiquing many of the common plot points. By the second act, however, it's more or less a melodrama about a theatre troupe who are totally falling apart, guys.
- Most BioWare games do this with their various settings. Knights of the Old Republic for the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Dragon Age for Tolkienesque fantasy, etc. If a Trope isn't deconstructed, it's reconstructed, or parodied, or played straight with a lampshade hung on it.
- The plot of Haze attempts to deconstruct the more arcade-style FPS' with military settings like Halo by trying to show what it would be like if war were like a video game. Specifically, all the "players" (soldiers) would be apparently be Psychopathic Manchild Jerk Jock types deluding themselves into believing their side is morally perfect when in reality the moral conflicts of war aren't easily reducible to Black and White Morality. However, only one side of the conflict is actually subjected to severe critical analysis; the initially-villains are shown to be borderline saints. Given the whole theme of the game is meant to be about the moral complexities of armed conflict, this contradicts the point.
- Half-Life can be read as a deconstruction of the Trope Codifier Doom. The basic premise (an experiment into teleportation technology goes horribly wrong) is basically the same as Doom. Like Doom, there is very little plot exposition. But unlike Doom, Half-Life showed you exactly how terrifying this kind of scenario would be if it happened in the Real World; you must think and not act like a stereotypical Space Marine in order to remain alive. And of course, this kind of experiment would require immense levels of government funding. Necessitating a large covert laboratory. And thus, when everything goes wrong the military have to be called in to keep things covert. However, the developers have at no point implied any critical intent. Thus, Half-Life is arguably an unintentional deconstruction.
- The Modern Warfare games try their hardest to show that war is hell. Bleak storylines involving meaningless death, interactive cutscenes that show the collateral damage of war, etc. But the thing is, it's still an FPS. You're still killing as many people as possible, without caring why, and getting rewarded for it.
- It is for this reason that the developers of Spec Ops: The Line were dismayed that their game includes a more traditional multiplayer component, as their attempt to do a deconstruction of the above ended up being whitewashed (and in fact possibly defied) by a multiplayer mode that doesn't carry the weight that their single player story was trying to accomplish.
- For that matter, both Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption also count. Both games are attempts by Rockstar to show the life of a gangster and outlaw as being completely horrific, with characters that are trying to redeem themselves from those lifestyles. This might work... if it weren't for the fact that more than likely, all the player will want to do is, well, embrace those lifestyles in the game and just have fun.
- While it's definitely Lighter and Softer than IV, Grand Theft Auto V may be an even more severe example. The tone is much lighter and the organized crime aspects in general are shone in a much more flattering light, but somehow that just makes the darker aspects of the story all the more jarring. For example, Michael has a completely dysfunctional family life and a mountain of debt he owes to a government agent after striking a deal to escape his life of crime, culminating in Michael and his partners later being forced to torture and kill on the government's behalf in order to return the favor, and two of the game's three endings requiring Franklin to murder one of his closest partners. And don't even get us started on Trevor.
- Far Cry 3 attempts to show the slow devolution of a protagonist into madness. On the other hand, he never seems too crazy and this is the only way to rescue his friends.