A TV Tropes Wiki Trope
involving the loose usage
of the term "subversion
People tend to label any series that merely completely avoids a certain trope as a "subversion," when in fact that's called an aversion
. It's only a sub
version if the work sets up the trope, creating an expectation that the trope will be used, and then does something else. It's an a
version when the genre itself sets it up.
For instance, if the trope in question is "pre-recorded laughter that punctuates every joke in a sitcom
- Aversion: The show has no laugh track.
- Subversion: The pilot episode begins with an especially obnoxious laugh track that punctuates every line, but it turns out to be part of a Show Within a Show. After that, it's never heard again.
Aversions hardly ever need to be noted. To quote Averted Trope
, unless the trope is so universal within a genre that exceptions truly stand out, there's not much point in listing an aversion on an examples
list that serves to illustrate a trope's patterns and their prevalence. However, if works in a series make notable use of a trope, then aversion in later installments also become notable.
more subtle distinction; inverted tropes are sometimes incorrectly described as "subverted". An inverted trope is where the usual setup of the trope is in some way swapped: sex-flipped versions
are quite common, though by no means the only example.
As an example, if the trope in question is the Black Dude Dies First
- Inversion: Everyone dies except the black dude.
- Subversion: The show makes it look like the black dude is going to die first, but then he doesn't.
A trope can of course be both inverted and subverted, if the viewer or reader is led to expect the straight version only to be given an inversion of some kind, but an inverted trope is not automatically also a subverted one: there needs to be a genuine attempt to suggest that the trope is going to be used straight to qualify as a "subversion".
Worse, occasionally a slight
spin on the standard trope formula, such as the addition of a justification
, is seized upon as a subversion by the occasional fan, perhaps because they don't want to acknowledge that a trope was played deadly straight to good effect
in their favourite work.
are also listed as subversions. A Deconstructed Trope
is played completely straight, and so is not a subversion even though they subvert people's expectations of the consequences
of a trope. There's also a related problem of people mislabelling things as deconstructions or Deconstructed Tropes when they aren't
, but that's another matter.
Sometimes, when people talk of "Partial Subversion", they mean Downplayed Trope
, where the trope is still present, but to a much lesser degree.
Beware ye these abominable Weasel Words
that refer to various methods of Playing with a Trope
- "Slightly subverted in that..."
- "Semi-subverted when..."
- "Partially subverted..."
- "Actually somewhat subverted because..."
- "A possible subversion is..."
subversion plays off the expectation of a familiar trope being set up in the viewers mind. Subtle, even laudably creative, variants are not that. When a trope is
subverted it's very, very obvious: there is no "somewhat."
Sometimes, a trope isn't changed from the norm and it's still
marked as a subversion. This is most likely to happen in a trope that can be played straight in a number of ways, but one method is chosen the majority of the time. An example of this kind of trope is Down To The Last Play
. Though it doesn't have
to be the protagonists' team, it almost always
- Played Straight: The game ends in a dramatic fashion, regardless of whether or not it's the protagonists' side that's victorious.
- Subversion: The game ends anticlimactically.
Worst case scenario, the so-called "subversion
" is actually Not an Example
- Partially subverted in TV Tropes Wiki, where the word subversion is often used to mean aversion, parody, straight use in a comical context, etc.
- Also subverted outside of TV Tropes Wiki, where a totally different definition of subversion exists, unrelated to subverted expectations.
- A more concrete, media-inspired example: in science fiction settings with transporter devices, time travel or faster-than-light travel, the viewer may be reminded that a slight miscalculation could cause a traveler, spacecraft or time machine to materialize inside solid rock. This almost never happens on screen. At the end of the 2nd season of the 2000's Battlestar Galactica, a spacecraft actually does "jump" inside solid rock, killing the crew immediately. Actually showing this instead of hinting at its danger (which the audience has come to expect from the genre) is an example of a subversion.