A TV Tropes Wiki Trope
involving the loose usage
of the term "deconstruction
Deconstructions are often Darker and Edgier
because they take a typical genre or trope and examine the likely implications of that trope that straight uses tend to ignore in the interests of Escapism
. Playing with a trope in this way is potentially a potent way to reveal the underlying Fridge Horror
of a trope or genre. Thus a cartoon version of the medieval princess becomes grittier and less colorful. However, the converse is not true; making something darker and edgier isn't necessarily a deconstruction.
If the princess is raised in a restrictive environment due to her gender, becomes a pawn in international politics, and learns to keep her head above the water by playing political intrigue using feminine wiles and her position of influence with powerful people, this is a deconstruction.
If the kingdom is invaded by a brutal neighboring nation, the royal family's murder described in Gornful
detail, and the princess repeatedly raped before being sold into slavery, this is Darker and Edgier
but not a deconstruction.
Simultaneously, deconstruction can come about by making something Lighter and Softer
, demonstrating that playing theoretically dark tropes in a lighter manner doesn't diminish the impact they can have on the story. Or in using Played for Laughs
it points out the ridiculousness of darker tropes even in a realistic setting. Or even Played for Laughs
by pointing out why these dark tropes and ideas would fail in the reality of that universe.
Again, these two aren't mutually inclusive. When a trope is deconstructed, its consequences
are subverted by playing them true to life rather than going with the conventional depiction, but not all subversions are deconstructions.
- Tap on the Head played straight: A character is rendered unconscious with a blow to the head, with no ill effects afterward.
- Subverted: For laughs - ":thump: Ow! That hurt! What'd you do that for? :thump: Stop hitting me! :thump: [attacks]"
- Deconstructed: The character hit isn't rendered unconscious, but severely concussed, still capable of limited movement or slurred speech, but not of resisting. He spends days with fuzzy vision and headaches.
When an entire genre is deconstructed, it's usually not a subversion. Watchmen
and Kingdom Come
deconstructed superheroes by giving them realistic and often unfortunate motivations, goals, and results, but both made clear from their opening pages that these were not your grandparents' comic book stories—they weren't subverting the genre because they never purported to be a straight example of the genre in the first place.
Aversion vs. Deconstruction
There are a lot of tropes out there that are necessary to some kinds of fiction
. When a woman in a bodice ripper gets kidnapped by pirates and ends up falling in love with her lusty, bearded, Byronic hero, you'll probably notice that she's surrounded by The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything
In an historical novel, she will be travelling on an India-bound member of the merchant fleet before their ship is attacked by corsairs who torture the crew for their valuables, force the ship's carpenter, cooper, and smith to join their crew, and then kidnap her for good measure. She is most definitely not surrounded by The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything
Some tropes hold up certain genres (a story set in a court that isn't full of deadly intrigue
probably won't be interesting), others are handwaves
or Plot Holes
that we accept for the sake of the story. A genre deconstruction, by making the story more realistic, will take these tropes to pieces or simply abandon them. Thus a genre deconstruction may often entail averting some tropes typical to the genre.
However, deconstructing a trope by itself doesn't entail averting the trope. Quite the opposite; deconstructing a trope means the trope is played even straighter than normal and its consequences or cause explored in detail, usually for the purpose of irony, satire or straight up horror.
Inversion vs. Deconstruction
An inverted trope is one that's turned on its head, played back to front. A High Heel-Face Turn
might be inverted by The Chick
of the Five-Man Band
being seduced to evil, or the lone man working with a group of female villains might come to the side of good.
A deconstruction would instead play the trope as straight as possible to explore how it might play in reality. The lone female villain might switch sides because, let's face it, are bad guys likely to be feminists who respect her opinions and give her equal pay? Or perhaps she was just arm candy and never really paid attention to what her boyfriend was doing. Or it turns out the heroes don't ever trust her because, used to be evil + betrayal = why would they?
The difference between reconstruction and deconstruction depend largely by what the end goal becomes. A deconstruction is about demonstrating the flaws of a trope or genre and leaves it at that. It is a situation that has no easy out. A reconstruction offers a solution on how to fix the situation via the repairs to the characters and story.
In many cases a reconstruction is a deconstruction of the original deconstruction, pointing out the flaws of the deconstruction and why that doesn't have to be the end result.
In the worst case, something labeled a "deconstruction" isn't actually an example of the trope at all; it's been shoehorned in.