(regarding a "back-up marriage" pact) We still have our deal, right? If we're both still single when we're 40? Ted:
Yeah. (long pause) No. I'm sorry.
I can't do that anymore. As long as the door is even a little bit open
, I have this feeling that I'll just be waiting around to see if I win the lottery when you turn 40.
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 straight for it to be taken at face value. 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 refining the original pattern to its apex.
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
. Compare Ascended Fridge Horror
. If a series starts off idealistic and then deconstructs its own ideals
, then Graying Morality
Anime and Manga
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX had Judai/Jaden as unabashedly The Ace and The Chosen One for the first two seasons, with all major victories and Myth Arc based stories revolving around his ability to beat the toughest opponents. The third season drops some bombshells as he sees the consequences for always having to be the Hero and alienating his friends along the way. When once he was The Pollyanna, he has an emotional meltdown and he grows to have No Sense of Humor.
- Also done with Ryo Marafuji/Zane Truesdale. Like Jaden, he was The Ace of the school, but after suffering a sequence of losses and losing respect and self-worth that he had in himself, he too snapped. Unlike Jaden who shuts down, Zane lashes out with extreme brutality. It ain't pretty.
- One Piece, known for their characters unrelenting despite impossible odds, got struck hard with this when, 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 goaded into a fight, and killed, by Akainu. 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.
- Rebuild of Evangelion: Of the first three movies, two 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 (and/or wishes he was in the original canon), who will do incredible things to save his friends' lives. Then comes the third movie where things have gone straight to hell, and have gotten even worse by the time the film ends… all of which can be blamed on Shinji and him pulling a reality-bending Crowning Moment Of Awesome on the end of the second movie without knowing the collateral damage that would ensue.
- 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.
- At the end of the film, Captain Kirk and the Enterprise get sent on the five-year mission. Some viewers have suggested that this was a way of awarding the hero while getting him and his Doom Magnet of a ship as far away from Earth as possible.
- 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. 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.
- The Noon Universe novels began extremely idealistically with Noon: 22nd Century, which described a utopian future society where everyone is honest and hard-working for the good of humanity. But already in the second and third books, Escape Attempt and Far Rainbow, the authors basically show that even in a perfect society, human beings remain fundamentally flawed, so all the advances of civilization cannot prevent humanity from destroying itself and their environment. It only gets worse from there on, mirroring the Strugatsky Brothers' progressive disillusionment with Soviet ideology and goals.
- 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 deals with an event that could have similarly disastrous 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 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 given enhanced slayer strength and abilities. 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 final season of the show has Buffy rising to become a "general" for the Potential (and eventually unlocked) Slayers, and having to deal with the responsibility. This arc by itself eventually deconstructed Buffy's increasing apathy and bitchiness of the previous seasons as making her so annoying (and dangerous) to be around that the other characters decided to toss her out of her own house so they could train in peace, while the "Season Eight" comics went on to show that, while Buffy can be a very good combat commander when she feels like it, she is absolutely horrible when it comes to more long-range and "peacetime" decisions, starting with robbing a bank to fund the Slayers (and invoking Omniscient Morality License for it) and the situation escalating until the vampires and demons have become Villains With Good Publicity and the Slayers are Public Enemy Number One (and believed to be hyper-homicidal Knights Templar).
- 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 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.
- Doctor Who,
- In the classic series 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). For instance, when Rose disappeared her mother was frantic with worry and her boyfriend was accused of her murder.
- However this was touched upon in the last story of the original Classic Series run, where Ace goes home and finds she was presumed dead.
- 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. A faction arose devoted entirely to his undoing and raised a Laser Guided Tyke Bomb to that end.
- This was already being done in the Virgin New Adventures, a Darker and Edgier version of the series showing the 7th Doctor becoming more morally ambiguous.
- The First Doctor's tenure goes into this after a while. After he quickly abandons being straight-up nasty he goes on a lot of adventures which portray him as a flawed but brilliant saviour and adventurer. A whole string of companion loss, Downer Endings and problems simply too big for him to overcome soon makes it very explicit that he's just a troubled and very lonely old man, stuck in a box he can't control and with nowhere to go. Some of the more obvious examples of this are "Mission to the Unknown" (Kill 'em All, and the Doctor never even shows up), "The Daleks' Master Plan" (the Doctor wins but by committing a genocide and two of his companions die in the process), "The Massacre" (the Doctor fails to do anything to stop a genocide and Steven spends the whole story watching everything get worse while being powerless to intervene), "The Ark" (simply by arriving in a time period the Doctor is altering it for the worse, and the long-term consequences of his meddling can be absolutely disastrous) and "The Savages" (a civilisation which venerates him as a hero is actually a very classist society which ignores its real social problems to watch his adventures on viewing screens).
- "The Face of Evil". The Fourth Doctor lands on a horrible, primitive planet full of vicious monsters and warring tribes with spears, and slowly discovers that he was responsible for making it that way in the first place (by saving the day in an adventure we never see, and not bothering to think about the long-term consequences of his actions). In fact, one of the tribes worships him as their god of Evil, a merciless creature of destruction who Eats Babies.
- Scrubs deconstructs its 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. In particular, his "pause to contemplate" motion is not instantaneous like implied but J.D. in fact zones out for upwards of 30 seconds or more. People have played tricks on him in that stage and he has injured himself doing one while running.
Elliot: J.D., be sensitive. Don't act like you're at a ping pong match between a ninja and Bigfoot...
Dr. Kelso: *Gives Elliot an odd look*
Elliot: I know that made no sense, but he's totally there now in his head.
''*J.D.'s eyes dart back and forth*
Dr. Kelso: Would you look at that...
- 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.
- 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.
- The Closer explored the real life consequences of Brenda's loose interpretation of the law and her tendency to arrange for untouchable criminals to get killed. The final season of The Closer featured Brenda being sued, losing money from paying for legal reasons, and being watched constantly by her superiors.
- Star Trek gradually became a little bit more cynical of its own utopia themes, where under Roddenberry's direction The Federation was a perfect society and had to fix social wrongs they found on other planets. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the biggest example of where this happened, as half of the cast were neither Starfleet nor Federation citizens and they had this view of them as being a "sleeping giant" that could either save them or crush them with no regard with how they want to live their lives. Star Trek: Enterprise even had one episode where a noble but ignorant attempt at social change led to a lot of hurt feelings and even a suicide.
- Leverage: The team attempts to pull off one of their typical over the top-'noone could pull this off but us'-cons in "The White Rabbit Job" it goes horribly wrong and almost leads to the suicide of the mark—who it turns out wasn't actually a bad guy of the type they take down. It's a deconstruction both of the 'playing God' vigilantism of the team and the fact that the majority of their cons are overly elaborate not out of necessity but for the fun and challenge they get out of it.
- The Ultima series is not the straightest example, since its metaplot really kicked off in Ultima IV, but if you count from there, IV is extremely idealistic, introducing the series' trademark Eight Virtues (and pioneering the morality aspect in the RPG genre), but V and VI immediately start to viciously deconstruct them by driving the Virtues to logical (and radical) extremes and by flipping them on their head and showing that the result just as good, respectively. It only gets worse in the final trilogy.
- Kingdom Hearts 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. Also counts as an Internal Reconstruction as Sora acknowledges and is fine with this as it makes him part of something greater than himself.
- Touhou: The tendency of the cast to be Chaotic Neutral (read: beat up enough random youkai and the problem will solve itself) is deconstructed twice. The first time is during Phantasmagoria of Flower View, in which the Judge of Hell herself tell the characters that they will go to hell if they don't change their way. The second time is during Undefined Fantastic Object, in which the random youkai they beat up are decent folks who want their saintly leader back.
- The side materials also deconstruct fandom tendency to treat the characters as "youkai moe~", they clearly state that the youkai are either dangerous, insane, massive jerkass, or don't care one way or another about humans.
- Grand Theft Auto IV and its episodes deconstruct the Video Game Cruelty Potential elements that have been the Thematic Series' staples. The three Player Characters pull jobs for several different crime bosses, as per series tradition; however, they end up shoehorned into said bosses' conflicts, endangering their loved ones and often leaving them empty-handed. Some of the main game's missions are seen from the other two protagonists' perspectives in their episodes and vice-versa, exploring the terrible consequences of the destruction you normally leave in your wake.
- In Hey Arnold!, The episode "Helga on The Couch" deconstructs what had previously been 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 no one was laughing after that. Also noticeable because after that episode, Helga's family situation were rarely shown for laughs anymore, instead whenever there was a focus on her family it was to show how messed up they were, although with the usual touch of showing that they really do love each other.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, in its first season, ends 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 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.
- Dan Vs.' central cast consists of Dan, his only friend Chris, and Chris' wife Elise. Dan is an angry, violent little Man Child who has no regard for the property of others and regularly seeks out Disproportionate Retribution against people he thinks have wronged him. Chris and Elise, though not completely normal themselves, are at least capable of functioning in society, and they've resigned themselves to Dan's constant intrusions into their lives, and to the fact that they're the only ones with any hope of reining Dan in when he's gone too far. The episode "Dan Vs. The Neighbors" highlights how strange this relationship is: new neighbors move in next door to Dan, and they're foils for Chris and Elise by virtue of their aggressive average-ness. When Dan gets up to behavior that Chris and Elise would have shrugged off or scolded Dan over, the neighbors react by calling the police. By the end of the episode, the neighbors realize just how dangerously crazy Dan really is, so they pack up and move away.
- The episode also shows how Dan's paranoia would work in real life. Dan gets paranoid about the neighbors being too nice, thinking they're hiding something even jumping to the conclusion that they're cannibals. But instead of showing that Dan was right to be paranoid about them if only by coincidence, they turn out to be normal people who just are a lot saner/nicer than Dan is used to.
- T.U.F.F. Puppy took apart its bad guy's tendencies to give Just Between You and Me speeches in "Doom and Gloom". After another failed crime, Larry directly points out that Snaptrap's habit of announcing his evil plans to T.U.F.F. is why they keep getting arrested. When Larry forms his own criminal group, he becomes a far more successful villain by simply not telling his plans and saving the gloating for after he accomplished them. Another aspect taken apart is that due to being so used to the bad guys telling them what they were up to, T.U.F.F. is rather soft when it comes to stopping crimes without advance knowledge.