An attempt to profit from any new (particularly socially radical) trend or subculture while at the same time subverting or preaching against it
This was common in The Sixties
. For instance, as feminism was breaking out all over, television produced shows that featured powerful women
cheerfully suppressing their true natures in order to be a loving, compliant, submissive helpmeet to an average guy. Jeannie of I Dream of Jeannie
must hide that she was a genie, and Samantha of Bewitched
must deny her supernatural heritage to be a "good wife" to Darrin. The message was clear: even women with superpowers should be content to Stay in the Kitchen
Best of all is if these shows can fool their audiences
into thinking that they're making an edgy political point
and really cash in on the trend. An awful lot of teenagers thought The Mod Squad
, a show featuring three hip kids hired by the police to narc on their friends was really cool
. There are even those who argue that I Dream of Jeannie
had a proto-feminist sort of sexual liberation to it. But seriously: would Buffy
have put up with calling a man "master"? note
is not only inevitable but counted on. A Reactionary Fantasy, done properly, is very like a Kansas City Shuffle
: the writers get fans of the social movement when they're actually skewering it.
If it's just for an episode, rather than a series concept, see Subculture of the Week
. If the creators play their cards right (or if no one reads too closely), they may even come to be considered a Rule Abiding Rebel
, praised for being at the vanguard of a social change when they are in fact doing nothing of the kind.
Contrast Feminist Fantasy
. Only tangentially related to Michael Moorcock
's famous essay Epic Pooh
, which deals with much more overt reactionary attitudes in the fantasy genre.
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Anime and Manga
- Many anime that feature girls hugging each other in the trailers to attract yuri fanboys reveal the supposed girl/girl pairings as Bait-and-Switch Lesbians.
- The popularity of Dating Sims, Magical Girlfriend anime, and cute submissive moe girls among male otaku could be connected to the rise of feminism and female independence in Japan. There's been a rising trend of young Japanese men being unable to deal with the prospect of dating real women and instead turning to fictional idealized 2D women like those found in moe shows and dating games.
- The old "road-show" movies of the '30s-through-'60s would try to evade local censorship by setting up outside of town. They would also cover themselves by presenting the "depravity" of their films as an object lesson. Sometimes this would happen only in a "clean-up" reel that would be shown only when local law enforcement sat in.
- Several examples exist in film before television was common, e.g., Reefer Madness, Invasion USA 1952, Children of Loneliness. Feature length Very Special Episodes that show that folks Can't Get Away with Nuthin' , and that any deviation from the norm will kill you.
- Sucker Punch. Full of violence and degradation from scantily-clad women, and some exploitation of the woman, from a Big Bad Caligula. The director claims he's actually critiquing exploitation, others disagree with this and see half naked woman being abused.
- It's not hard to see many Slasher Movies of the '80s this way either. The victims of the killer are nearly always teenagers who rebelled against society through drinking, doing drugs, having sex, partying, listening to rock, and other things. The Final Girl of nearly all of these movies was invariably a Token Wholesome virgin. Starting in the late '90s, however, slasher films tended more towards subverting, parodying and/or deconstructing these aspects more than they played them straight.
- During the reign of The Hays Code (which coincided with the height of The Mafia's power), there were rules that essentially prevented villain protagonists from winning in the end. So there's a plethora of Gangster movies from the era which are 95% Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster followed by the Feds kicking in the door at the end and killing or arresting everyone just to satisfy the censors.
- Hong Kong Heroic Bloodshed films also operate like this; the Villain Protagonist can kill every damn officer on the island, just as long as someone from somewhere comes to arrest or kill him at the literal last minute of the film.
- Forrest Gump is the story of how a Good Ol' Boy who sincerely believes he lives in Eagleland type 1 finds happiness and wealth by Just Following Orders note because Dumb Is Good. It is mirrored by the story of an intelligent girl who Really Gets Around due to Abusive Parents who sincerely believes she lives in Eagleland type 2, becomes a Soap Box Sadie trying to change things for the better, and lives a life that goes From Bad to Worse (and it's implied to end with Death by Sex).
- The book (not movie) Logan's Run told Middle America to worry their heads off: those scary hippies would create a world where an eleven-year-old girl announces that she's sexually "skilled beyond all others", where fourteen is adulthood and everyone dies at twenty-one.
- Stephen King, in his study of the horror genre Danse Macabre, suggests that horror literature is inherently conservative, simply because horror is always a disruption of the world as it is — and it's shown to be scary and bad.
- A common feminist criticism of the Twilight series is that it's one of these. Let's leave it at that.
- Fifty Shades Of Gray even more so: Some call it 'progressive' for basically being porn for women, but it depicts and romanticizes a blatantly abusive relationship.
- This also comes up in the series's portrayal of kinky sex and the BDSM lifestyle. It's supposed to be 'edgy' because it deals with the subject at all, but it's really pretty puritanical about it: Christian's sexual proclivities are the product of abuse and emotional damage, lead him to behave abusively toward Anastasia, and ultimately have to be exorcised so they can have a healthy relationship.
- The psychological aspect of BDSM is completely absent. Domination and Submission are presented as the two dichotomies of the lifestyle—but it's a very false dichotomy—any expression of sexuality is fluid by nature. It uses sex to shock and sell, without having a grasp of the knowledge of sexuality that makes the BDSM lifestyle an intellectually engaging and physically rewarding subculture.
- Commonly inverted by American porn novels of the Sixties and Seventies, which would often feature introductions explaining how all this sexiness was the result of mental illness, but never mention it in the actual text.
- The New English Library was responsible for a lot of this sort of stuff in the sixties and seventies.
Live Action Television
- The Mod Squad told Middle America not to worry: those scary Hippies would sell out just like everyone else and you really didn't have to be afraid of your kids anymore because they'd eventually wind up punching a clock for the Establishment just like you. They guessed right, of course, but nobody knew that at the time.
- The Reactionary Fantasy can also be a Very Special Episode. For example, the Quincy episode "Next Stop Nowhere", which teaches us that Punk Rock kills, hence the trope name The Quincy Punk.
- Similarly, the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Way to Eden", which teaches that idealistic dreams of a perfectly enlightened and peaceful Elysian society are deadly self-delusion unless framed within socially acceptable norms. Chalk it up to Gene Roddenberry bowing to Executive Meddling. A few other TOS episodes, most infamously "The Omega Glory", were reportedly the result of this behind-the-scenes pressure.
- The novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (credited to Gene Roddenberry but ghostwritten by Allan Dean Foster) takes time in the preface to state that Kirk and the rest of Starfleet are "Old Humans" as compared to the "New Humans" who are a significant part of Earth's population and are more peaceful and enlightened. This preface inverts the impression of the episode. It is not that those people are "weirdo hippies," it is that Kirk and company are "weirdo throwbacks". "Old humans" make better space explorers. The "weirdo hippies" need the "weirdo throwbacks" to be the "rough men prepared to do violence" on their behalf.
- This is a very common trope in Foster's work, which often features Humans Are Warriors employed by other species who are psychologically incapable of doing the job themselves.
- This is also an aspect of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which, as Television Without Pity shows us, proves that any unwed man or woman who consents to and enjoys having sex (especially if the sex is in any way not "normal": obese people, furries, swingers, etc.) will almost certainly die, while rapists and rape victims often live to tell the tale.
- This sort of parses in the "fantasy" aspect of "reactionary fantasy". All this stuff we're supposed to hate and be disgusted by is often done in lurid, creepy, obsessive detail. This allows the viewing audience a double-edged thrill: they can be horrified and morally offended that it happened, and also get the kinky zing of all the descriptions of nubile teenagers tied up in leather and violated. You can see these sort of things in a lot of old "pulp lesbian novel" covers.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
- Dr. House. If sex doesn't kill you, you'll survive to have death-sentenced children. Gregory House is somehow needed to keep a decent reproductive rate on Earth.
- House has gone both ways. Cameron gets high on crystal meth taken from a patient and jumps Chase, leading to a relationship which escalates to a wedding in the Season 5 finale. House and Stacy have adulterous sex before House decides that restarting their relationship would be a bad idea. Thirteen's various escapades are a consequence of her discovery that she has Huntington's chorea, but she doesn't catch anything from them. Well, nothing worse than an incidental fungal infection which gives her cracked lips and helps House solve a case. "Another life saved by girl-on-girl action!"
- In one episode there was a submissive with a choking fetish ("Love Hurts", 1.20). While it turns out his preferred form of play has dangerous health consequences, the parents who disowned him for being kinky aren't portrayed sympathetically, and the episode ends with House suggesting to the patient's dominatrix a healthier way of humiliating him.
- Even Bones couldn't resist some Acceptable Lifestyle Targets with the episode Death in the Saddle where a man is killed by his depraved sexual partner after he told her that he was not going to see her any more. (They were into pony play.) There is even an anvilicious speech at the end by Booth stating that Good People Have Good Sex.
- The subversion/reversal to end all subversions: The Addams Family. Not only were they eccentric (read: crazy), but Gomez and Morticia kissed all the time. And all the "normal people" on the show were shocked — but the audience wasn't, and wasn't supposed to be, despite the usual behavior of married couples on early 1960s TV.
- It probably helped that the "kissing" was usually Gomez passionately and repeatedly smooching Morticia's arm from her hand up to her shoulder while she stood there with a look that can best be described as "mild amusement." She might, if she were feeling particularly affectionate, turn her head slightly to present her cheek for Gomez to kiss, and that's about as racy as it ever got.
- Bewitched: Samantha could literally have anything she wanted by simply twitching her nose yet she willingly suppressed this power on the demand of a man with whom she tried to live a normal human life of domestic bliss. This despite the fact that the magical world she comes from is a far more interesting and liberated place (although portrayed as overly hedonistic, so that Samantha should prefer life as a mortal).
- Five words: Lifetime Movie of the Week. To sum them up, even under their feminist undertones and alleged "empowerment" of "distressed women", half of the plots go on condemning whatever thing frightens middle aged suburban housewives.
- And at least half the time, the good men are right. Doesn't matter what about, they're just right. Sometimes to the point of saving the "heroine" and/or doing her thinking for her.
- Also, the movies, constantly showing women getting victimized, helps perpetuate the idea that women are natural victims.
- I Dream of Jeannie, despite Tony arguably freeing Jeannie upon being rescued in the first episode, she still follows him home and calls him master. While she'll work around his wishes, she still obeys them and is happy to be his servant (because she's in love with him).
- Sex and the City attracted quite a bit of flak during its run for how, for all its talk of being a progressive, empowering (even feminist) sitcom, the series nevertheless ended with all four female characters having found happiness by entering into committed monogamous relationships with white heterosexual men, and in two cases also by having babies.
- Between 1965 and 1973, the comics from the three major syndicates (King Features, Chicago Tribune and UFS) featured liberalism as a whole in a negative light.
- Women's wrestling in general, particularly in WWE. Even though all the WWE Divas of at least the past decade have been rigorously trained, and at roughly the same level as the male wrestlers (heck, their coach for many years, Dave Finlay, was male!), after all is said and done they still are viewed - at least by the audience if not necessarily by the bookers - as mere sexual objects, with lazy storylines and often inconsistent characterization. Male wrestlers may be sexually objectified, too, but this has happened much less frequently (Lex Luger and early Shawn Michaels come to mind, as does Cody Rhodes in our own era), and when it does happen they are often considered heels for that fact alone - and it's not at all uncommon for a Hollywood Homely male wrestler like Chris Benoit to be portrayed as a straight-up All American Face, whereas an equally plain Diva will have to contend with an "ugly" gimmick and will most likely be a heel. The "Knockouts" of TNA fare a little better, but there are still instances when a match will end with them being soundly spanked.
- The bitter irony of all this? Female wrestlers fared pretty well as far as characterization went back in the pre-feminist early days of wrestling, but were (reportedly) pimped and even raped behind the scenes. Now, it seems, the opposite is true: women in wrestling are respected in Real Life but degraded in the performances.
- Much the same fate befell the cruiserweight division, which WWE only got into by virtue of absorbing WCW. Rey Mysterio Jr did become WWE RAW World Heavyweight Champion in 2006, but he was, as they say, the exception proving the rule. A little more than a year after Mysterio's victory, the cruiserweight division lost all credibility when the title was put on a midget, and disappeared entirely shortly after. For a few years after that, WWE went back to pushing the same power-based muscleheads that had always been its bread and butter.
- Wait Till Your Father Gets Home was essentially an animated version of All in the Family, only featuring a somewhat milder Archie Bunker who typically won his arguments at the end. It helped that the protagonist was fairly moderate, especially compared to his far right-wing neighbor, who was depicted as a complete idiot.
- King of the Hill is much like the above example, where something "Modern" threatens Hank's world view and he takes the time to combat it due to everyone acting like an idiot about it. A lot of the time no one ever believes him despite knowing him for years and just committing to Aesop Amnesia and the Idiot Ball. Hank is usually portrayed as the hero by virtue of being a main character.