Unbuilt Trope

An unbuilt trope is a work that seems like a deconstruction but is actually the Trope Maker itself, in many cases even the Trope Codifier that popularized the trope and often Misblamed for the current saturated use of the trope itself .

Picture the following scenario:

Boy, replacement goldfish is kind of a weird idea isn't it? Replacing someone you loved like that always struck you as kind of odd. The kind of person who would do that must not be a paragon of mental stability.

One day you decide to read an old comic. In it, a scientist's son dies and he becomes obsessed with making him anew, a perfect version that can never be beaten, at that! He's a madman! What's this... how can he yell at the little boy for not growing up? Did... he just sell his son into slavery!? Mother of Pearl! You've never seen someone really examine the morality of replacement goldfish like that!

So you buy the full stack of volumes and look at the production date. 1952? 1952! It pre-dates every replacement goldfish you've ever seen. How can someone turn this vision into that?

Because the work was the trope maker, it could freely explore the ramifications of the trope before it solidified (or in some cases, congealed) into its current form. It seems like a deconstruction, but at the time there was no trope to deconstruct; there was just an interesting idea to explore. It wasn't expected to conform to a certain pattern because the pattern had not yet been established. The trope could have taken on its current form for many reasons: the imitators could have been part of the Misaimed Fandom of the work they drew inspiration from; they may have consciously decided that the original was unsatisfying and thus needed to be Lighter and Softer or Darker and Edgier; later appearances of the trope may have decayed (or been Flanderized) compared to the original, defining appearance; they may simply have decided to take what they wanted from the story, and calling the original their inspiration caused people to assume the original was similar plotwise; or the imitators may not have had the talent required to depict the trope with the same depth that the original author did. After all, frequently a genius invents the trope and works it out with skill, and the hacks come after, only able to vaguely copy it or intentionally simplify it to make it easier to work with.

It can also go the other way around: the original is bland and unappealing (even The Lord of the Rings was considered such when it first came out), and the later authors are the ones that constructed the mythos and the popular cliches. Alternatively, the deconstructed or parodic form of the trope, rather than the original, became more popular and accepted over the long run.

Remember that this trope is not to gush about "the original" and how the rest of the works "don't get" the genius. Only about the source of the conventions in a certain genre. Just because a work came early doesn't make it better or more genuine, in the same way that sketches are not better than the final work. If a work simply is an example of a trope that's more commonly associated with a later, more well known work, you may be looking for Older Than They Think or Ur-Example.

The reverse of Seinfeld Is Unfunny and Dead Unicorn Trope. See Audience-Coloring Adaptation and Lost in Imitation for the process of how an idea can gradually lose nuance with new incarnations. Sister trope of Early Installment Weirdness. Related to "Funny Aneurysm" Moment, Hilarious in Hindsight, and Harsher in Hindsight, if it predicts a problem that won't be relevant until well after it's first shown.


Examples:

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    Fan Fic 
  • A Trekkie's Tale for its original Mary Sue character, the eponymous Mary Sue. If anything, she lacked Common Mary Sue Traits and was a Parody Sue in a Self-Insert Fic, despite being the Trope Namer. Makes sense given that this trope is Older Than They Think.
  • Innortal's original Loops in The Infinite Loops can be seen as this. The loops is about characters getting stuck in a time loop, and the wacky shenanigans that ensue in attempt to keep themselves sane. Despite the fact that the loops reset everything though, most loopers make a conscious effort to uphold a moral code, as well as make sure they don't go too far in their shenanigans. Innortal's original loopers? Not so much... Their 'stir craziness' that results in 'wacky shenanigans' often results in them resorting to some rather morally ambiguous actions to keep themselves sane, and they often treat non-loopers more as playthings than actual people because of the loops making them immortal, and them resetting back to how they originally were when the loop does. Since nothing's permanent, the loopers didn't have to worry about any major punishment for their actions, resulting in the original seven devolving into more Blue and Orange Morality as time goes on, because there's literally nothing stopping them from doing anything they want. A lot of the original sevens actions to keep themselves sane are viewed upon as terrible by the readers and future loop writers at large, and the original seven come off as major Jerkassess, a far cry from loopers that later joined in when the community formed.

     Film - Animated 
  • Classic Disney movies are associated with Prince Charming rescuing the Princess Classic from distress. Yet the first two in Snow White and Cinderella don't do much in the way of rescuing, aside from whisking the princess away to a happy ending. The first Disney prince to actually resemble the character archetype was the third in the Canon - Prince Philip from Sleeping Beauty (and even he would have failed miserably if he had not had help from supernatural beings).
  • Additionally Princess Classic in the first three Disney films has one major difference from the commonly associated list - none of the three princesses were raised in a privileged life. Snow White and Cinderella were servants, while Aurora was raised in the forest. None of them enter royal life until the end of their films.
  • Parts of The Little Mermaid make it feel almost like a Reconstruction of later Disney Princess films that follow it. For one, the heroine having a beautiful singing voice is actually a plot point and not just a stock character trait - since Ariel's voice is what Eric remembers and it's part of Ursula's plan to keep them apart. What's more is that it was the first Disney film to really merge fairy tales with Broadway - and this is fully justified by having one of the supporting characters be a concert composer. Likewise the Disney Renaissance was all about parodying or subverting Prince Charming - but Eric is this character type played completely straight, albeit with more Character Development than the previous princes.
  • The first animated film to popularise Anachronism Stew - Aladdin - had a justification for it that its numerous imitators ignore. The Genie is implied to be a time traveller, which is why he makes a lot of contemporary pop culture references.
  • Sleeping Beauty is the first Disney movie to use True Love's Kiss as the solution to a spell (earlier in Snow White, the cure was actually Love's First Kiss). But it has a completely justified in-story reason for it; as Maleficent has cursed the princess to die, Merriweather can only soften the spell by turning it into an enchanted sleep with the kiss as the escape clause. The fact that she is able to do this illustrates that Maleficent is so evil, she can't imagine someone saving the princess that way - the same reason they are able to successfully hide Aurora from her for sixteen years. So the kiss has a reason for working, rather than being a Deus ex Machina it would often be used as.

    Fairy tales 
  • Many old Fairy Tales are subject to Grimmification, being deconstructed into Darker and Edgier stories. However, many of the tales that The Brothers Grimm recorded were never meant to be kid-friendly. Some were horror stories, written by and for adults, or cautionary tales meant to scare children straight: For example, early versions of "Little Red Riding Hood" had the wolf kill the grandmother, trick Red into drinking her blood and eating her flesh, and, ultimately, eat Red. And what English readers got is actually toned down from the German; several stories were omitted in their entirety for the early English editions because they were considered too offensive, and others were changed to be more palatable.
  • The fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood" is probably the archetypal "Stranger Danger" story. However it features elements that nowadays seem like not only a deconstruction, but a particularly angry one at that. The attack happens not outside, but in a house belonging to the girl's grandmother, a place where one would think she'd be safe, and the Big, Bad Wolf preys on her by assuming the grandmother's identity. Furthermore, the attacker gaining entry into said house is not the sole responsibility of the girl. Had it been written today, "Little Red Riding Hood" would've been seen as a stinging critique of the idea of "Stranger Danger", a reminder that most child predators are relatives of the children they prey on.

    Miscellaneous 
  • The Trollface.jpg has been used countless times across the Web to illustrate the act of, well, trolling. Yet, the comic that it originated in was a demonstration of how trolls want to believe that they're driving people incoherent with rage, while the troll is actually being met with slightly annoyed indifference. It also suggests that most "trolls" are just people expressing their own moronic opinions, and then retroactively claiming they were trolling after other people criticize their opinions. And the phrase most associated with Trollface.jpg ("Problem, officer?") originally had nothing to do with trolling (and the troll face was actually referred to as the person's "cool face").
  • Many people who read Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, the book that codified free trade and capitalist economics, are often surprised to see Smith's belief that the invisible hand of the market was not applicable in all situations (such as provision of health care and education), his endorsement of unions (then illegal) as a means of preventing workers from competing against each other and thus driving down wages, and his criticism of acting purely on self-interest. Read today, The Wealth of Nations seems less like the Ayn Rand-style endorsement of laissez-faire capitalism that its reputation suggests, and more a critique of such (if not by an out-and-out Marxist, then certainly a left-leaning progressive or an old-school Tory).
  • The first well-recognized discussion of The Singularity (called the Omega Point) came to be in the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Catholic priest, and it was more like "achieving a complete union with God" rather than "becoming God".
  • The Spartan Way, when an army uses a horrifically brutal training regime, sometimes recruiting from young teens, to create the ultimate Badass Army. When the actual city of Sparta tried this some 2500 years ago, they were tactically inflexible to the point of being outright crippled. The army existed mostly to scare the Slave Race into complacency, so they couldn't operate very far from home. Since their system only produced elites, it took forever to replace losses, which in turn meant they ended up having a rather small army made up almost entirely of heavy infantry. An enemy army with a detachment of hit-and-run skirmishers - or worse, cavalry - could run circles around the Spartans, and if the Spartans lost more than a few hundred they would have to consider surrendering the entire war. To top it all off, with a Proud Warrior Race Guy mentality they didn't see any reason to adapt and evolve their fighting style; this came back to bite them in the ass in the Battle of Sphacteria (425 BCE), where Athens had the entire Spartan playbook on file and could just walk all over the precious Spartan hoplites. As a result Spartans were rarely on the offensive, and if they were it was to raid more slaves. And this is not even getting into Persian accounts, which described Sparta as thoroughly corrupt and easily bribed for allegiance.
  • Grant Wood's 1930 painting American Gothic was the trope maker of The American Gothic Couple. Contemporary and later audiences have seen it as a caricature of American countryside conservatism (Eagleland). Wood however intended the painting to be an earnest tribute to the simple countryside life, and a realistic reconstruction of the American Dream.
  • Somebody who thinks that celebrity tabloids are nothing but vapid, pointless gossip would likely be shocked if they were to read old issues of Confidential, the magazine that invented the modern celebrity tabloid in The Fifties. It was as gossipy as any of its heirs, but its reporting on celebrity misdeeds was meant to serve a point: namely, to whip up outrage and moral indignation about the 'corruption' in Hollywood through muckraking journalism of a sort that they felt the rest of the press was too afraid to touch. In particular, it was a driver of The Hollywood Blacklist, with editor Howard Rushmore (who had previously been a director of research for Senator Joe McCarthy himself) seeking to destroy alleged communists and fellow travelers in Hollywood by smearing them as sexual deviants. For all the stereotypes of the tabloids being major players in the Hollywood Hype Machine, they were originally a reactionary effort to demolish that system.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Suppose you saw a heel wrestler who wasn't all that muscular and put bobby pins in his bleached-blond hair and entered the arena to a neoclassical music score and had Chanel perfume sprayed all over his body before the match so it would disinfect any germs his opponent got on him. Wow, a Sissy Villain in wrestling! Sounds like a subversion of the big, macho, ugly Wrestling Monster, right? Well, it's Gorgeous George - the very first gimmick wrestler to become nationally popular, back in the late 1940s.
  • The poetry-spouting "Superstar" Billy Graham defied the Dumb Muscle stereotype as early as 1977, despite being one of the first major bodybuilders in wrestling. Suddenly Triple H's "blue-blood" gimmick from the mid-'90s doesn't seem so weird, does it?
  • The very first evening gown match between Sable and Luna Vachon had a different 'psychology' than the Cat Fight the rest would become known for. As it was a Distaff Counterpart to the Tuxedo Match, the gowns were torn off piece by piece - rather than in one go as in later matches.
  • The ideal WWE Diva is thought of as a Statuesque Stunner who's a slim blonde All American Face Plucky Girl. Likewise Trish Stratus is recognised as the Trope Codifier. While she ticks the blonde Plucky Girl parts, she's rather short, more of an Amazonian Beauty (as a former fitness model rather than glamour model) and Canadian to boot. The other tropes seem to come from Madusa who was the All American Face but not particularly glamorous and Sable who was a Statuesque Stunner but also a Faux Action Girl. What's notable is that none of those three were Ms. Fanservice inside the ring. While Sable and Trish were dressed sexily outside the ring, their actual gear was fairly modest.
  • Money in the Bank as a gimmick match is known for featuring a couple of wrestlers that everyone knows won't win the briefcase or get pushed as a serious title contender - but will provide some nice highspots in that kind of match. The first MITB match at WrestleMania 21 however is notable in that its only participants were guys who had either already held the title or been pushed as title contenders. Shelton Benjamin was the only mid-carder in the match and even he was enjoying a bit of a serious push as the Intercontinental Champion.

    Radio 
  • I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue comes across a Deconstructive Parody of the comedy Panel Game format, with (implicitly) cheap production values, a voraceously sexual Lovely Assistant who never shows up, a panel lineup that's barely changed since 1972, players who don't even get points, games that range from Hurricane of Puns to excuses to force the panelists to sing (with one regular guest being genuinely tone-deaf) to pure Calvinball, impenetrable Running Gags and a host who loathes everyone and everything on the show and spends most of his/her time subjecting it all to the most withering snark imaginable. It even bills itself as 'the antidote to panel games'. It was actually one of the first comedy panel games to get big in the UK. Its original parodic target were the contemporary serious panel shows, and the original joke was that it used the format as a space for doing silly and rude things rather than witty and erudite ones. Nowadays, the panel show format is almost exclusively a comedy genre and the serious games have either got Denser and Wackier (Just a Minute) or just disappeared, changing the central joke to be a swipe at the format itself.

    Stand Up Comedy 
  • Steve Harvey, a pioneer of the White Dude, Black Dude routine, went to great lengths to show how the Black Dude was just as messed up and irrational as his white counterpart, as his antics were likely to have him end up in far worse shape than if he wasn't so focused on the 'Black' way of doing things.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Despite being the Trope Namer of "Get out of Jail Free" Card, Monopoly jail is a Cardboard Prison that only requires you to roll doubles, pay $50, or use said card to get out. Furthermore, since people in jail can still collect rent and trade properties without fear of paying rent to others, staying in jail as long as possible is a good late-game strategy. In fact, players are required to leave jail after three turns whether they want to or not, whether by rolling doubles, paying the $50 bail, or playing the card. (A common House Rule is to disallow a player in jail collecting rent.)
  • Space Hulk, the 1989 board game spinoff of Warhammer 40,000, takes the time to deconstruct the Rule of Cool that would later come to define the series. The huge bulky Terminator Armor suits were originally designed for servicing plasma reactors, not military boarding actions, which you can imagine is a problem when the marines are trying to navigate claustrophobic service tunnels. The suits look awesome, sure, but that isn't doing squat against the Genestealers. What's more, the armor doesn't even work, and the Genestealers can tear right through it. It wasn't until later editions that a justification was thought up: most space hulks are filled with radiation far more lethal than the Genestealers, so the Terminator Armor is seen as a necessary handicap on the occasion it's used at all.
  • One of the earliest D&D settings, created by Gary Gygax himself, is Greyhawk - a setting which spotlighted a lot of military conflicts and citystate-based realpolitik (think the Renaissance) in its background. One of its adventures, The City of Skulls, is kicked off when the good-aligned king recruits adventurers to go on a politically motivated rescue mission (the pregenerated PCs even have political ambitions and personal grudges as their motivations for accepting the mission).

    Theatre/Opera 
  • Lysistrata created and named the Lysistrata Gambit. The play was however written as a farce; the point was to ridicule the idea of women in politics. A modern audience might however read the feminist interpretation as Serious Business. Also while many depictions of this portray it as easy for the women, due to the idea All Men Are Lustful and All Women Are Prudes, the women in Lysistrata find it just as difficult as the men and when Lysistrata first suggests the idea are horrified.
    • The play also shows the sex strike on its own isn't enough to stop the war, the women also seize the treasury to prevent the war from progressing, the idea being that the war is being prolonged by corrupt politicians so they have opportunities to enrich themselves. The sex strike helps but there are other factors.
  • Don Giovanni has an example of Playing Cyrano that predates Cyrano de Bergerac by a century. The example is pretty complicated, but what it boils down to is that Giovanni acts as Playing Cyrano to his servant, Leporello, and Donna Elvira. The only reason he does this, though, is so that he can get Elvira out of the way; he wants to seduce her chambermaid. What's more, Leporello doesn't even want Elvira; Giovanni is forcing him to seduce her. Might be worth noting that Rostand, the author of Cyrano, wrote a Fan Sequel to Moliere's Don Juan which has substantially the same plot. While this work was written several decades after Cyrano, it could have been in his mind when writing Cyrano.
  • George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion is the Trope Maker for the Pygmalion Plot, but its view of Eliza's transformation is more cynical, and, unlike in the adaptations, she has no final reconciliation with Henry Higgins. Although Shaw remained as the writer for both the play and film versions, the 'happy' ending in the film is a case of Executive Meddling.
  • Karel Čapek's classic drama R.U.R. single-handedly coined the term "robot" and invented a lot of robot-related tropes in science fiction. The catch? If you've actually read the play, you know the robots are more like vat-grown Artificial Humans, not machines. The idea of robots being non-organic only appeared in some of the early stage productions of the play, and for some reason, the image stuck, even though it contradicted the original text. It also hit a lot of other robot tropes before they were tropes. Sapient beings created by assembly line? Check. Commentary on the dangers of science run amok? Check. Robots analogous to slaves? Check. Inevitable robot rebellion leading to the extinction of the human race? Probably the original Robot Apocalypse plot.
  • There is a play in which the rich, eccentric protagonist brings the plot to a screeching halt to address the real-life competition between the theater in which his show is playing, and the theater across the street. Beyond that, the play is suffused from beginning to end with theatrical metaphors, and one of the most famous sequences includes the characters onstage watching a play even as the audience is watching them. A radical new experiment in metatheater, playing now at your favorite off-Broadway location, and critiquing the excess of artificiality in contemporary theater? No – it's Hamlet, and it's been around a while.
    • Hamlet himself is one of the first instances of an Anti-Hero. An Anti-Hero who ends up getting dozens of people killed out of petty revenge, most of whom had absolutely nothing to do with the conspiracy he's taking revenge against. Indeed, Hamlet comes off as Lethally Stupid at times. Not to mention he's so obsessed with his vengeance that he ends up abusing/neglecting his girlfriend to the point of driving her over the Despair Event Horizon and into suicide.
  • The Bastard Bastard is one of the most familiar tropes of Shakespearean-type stories. A story where the bastard is portrayed as sympathetic, justifying his evil by saying how society perceives him as evil and he is being treated as The Unfavourite? Sounds like a new idea? It was done in King Lear, with Edmund, the archetypal Bastard Bastard of fiction. Also Edmund shows he isn't entirely evil, as while dying he tries to do some good and save Cordelia.
  • Romeo and Juliet is the Trope Codifier for Star-Crossed Lovers, but the play also works as a Genre Deconstruction of the more upbeat typical Commedia dell'Arte plot. So the Zany Scheme doesn't work out, and five young people come to die. The survivors get at best a Bittersweet Ending, as the sudden deaths of their beloved children can finally make the two families lay their stupid feud to rest.
  • The Tempest
    • One notable scene between Gonzalo, Antonio and Sebastian is essentially a cynical deconstruction of Anarchism... written more than two centuries before it was a recognized philosophical system. While awed by the beauty of Prospero's island, Gonzalo waxes lyrical about the perfect self-governing utopia that he would build if he were allowed to stay there forever, before Antonio (the villain) points out that one can't force a whole population to conform to a "perfect" system unless one is willing to impose it on them by force - which contradicts the notion of a world with no authority figures.
    Gonzalo: In the commonwealth I would by contraries execute all things; for no kind of traffic would I admit; no name of magistrate; letters should not be known; riches, poverty, and use of service, none; contract, succession, bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none; no use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil; no occupation; all men idle, all; and women too, but innocent and pure; no sovereignty—
    Sebastian: Yet he would be king on it...
    Antonio: The latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning!

    Web Original 
  • Bob and George codified many of the tropes for Sprite Comics, but reading it now makes it read like a big deconstruction of the very tropes it so codified. The Author Avatar constantly gets abused, kidnapped or exploited for his control, and having him gone throws everything into chaos. The massive amounts of stupidity displayed by the cast makes them all but useless when a real threat shows up. The same characters' obsession with ice cream also leads them to making things worse when they would rather eat ice cream than stop Dr. Wily. Having No Fourth Wall means the characters constantly complain about being in a comic at all, insulting both the comic creator and its readership. Finally, the entire comic turns out to be a Shaggy Dog Story when it's revealed that Bob and George's mom set the whole comic up as a gigantic Gambit Roulette so that George would be willing to kill Bob if it came to that, both to scare Bob into not being such a Jerkass, and to toughen up George. The ending of the comic is also intentionally unsatisfying, with the characters all deciding to forget the whole thing and go to Acapulco.
  • Marble Hornets:
    • Many of the problems stem from how the protagonist lacks discretion and publicly broadcasts all his findings, actions, and plans online in a way that anyone and everyone can see what he's up to, including his (potential) enemies and allies. It would be considered a Deconstruction of the various web series in The Slender Man Mythos it wasn't the progenitor of them and is largely what the rest all follow.
    • With the use of the Ax-Crazy masked people stalking the protagonists and Totheark sending confusing and vaguely threatening video messages, it became popular in other web series to give the Slender Man proxies who acted in a similar manner. However, in Marble Hornets, it turns out the crazy masked people are not necessarily working for the Operator, whereas those whom take the closest thing to its proxies are more lucid.
    • The tendency for people in Slender Man stories to film everything is called out by another character when it's pointed out in-universe that the protagonist has no plan beyond "film everything and see what happens." Not only does this not really give them any answers, it ruins the lives of everyone around him over his insistence on doing it. Given what happens to the characters throughout the story, it's pretty hard to argue with that.
  • The Leeroy Jenkins trope is derived from the Leeroy Jenkins Video, which has gone memetic as a descriptor of players/characters who attack impulsively without thinking. However, while the eponymous individual does display that behavior in the original video, the video also shows his teammates as fitting the opposite extreme and being overly cautious and methodical in their planning. Further, the Total Party Kill which results is in part because they stuck to their original plan despite changed circumstances. The plan itself is also completely insane, and involves intentionally sabotaging themselves at every point (pulling all the enemies at once and disabling their own casters by misusing an ability are highlights). Even though the plans was doomed to fail from the very start, Leeroy Jenkins as a trope is still synonymous with wrecking plans by being reckless.
  • Whomp!: The comic that named the trope Klingon Scientists Get No Respect has him getting overpowered at the end, despite the trope usually being playing so the people are forced to realize that they should respect all their society's jobs, because they're all essential.
  • Nuzlocke Comics invented and popularized a certain Self-Imposed Challenge for Pokémon players, along with the tradition of writing a webcomic about their Trainer OC's adventure. Ruby, the writer for the original, lost his first challenge to Steven Stone, his Fire Red version challenge ended in a Pyrrhic Victory over Mewtwo, and his White version storyline has N actively murdering Ruby's Pokemon to blame it on him and his challenge.
  • A lot of the fictional reviewers that arose on the Internet were inspired by The Nostalgia Critic and The Angry Video Game Nerd. They tend to not notice that both reviewers are also massive deconstructions of the Caustic Critic trope. The Nerd is stuck in the past (the one time he reviewed a newer generation game, he was utterly bamboozled by it) and has major anger issues, while the Critic is a bitter jerk who's become a Caustic Critic largely because of his incredibly screwed up childhood which was plagued with parental abuse. Both are the Butt Monkey of their own show.
  • Zero Punctuation, meanwhile, is probably the Trope Codifier for caustic criticism on the Internet, especially in the video game community. But its causticness is almost always amped up to an absurd degree - even while implying that he actually liked the game in question—and Yahtzee frequently diverges into ranting about his own fans or himself, or rambling incoherently. The character comes off as more of an eloquent loon than a critical genius.
  • Most people know Ventrilo Harassment videos for uptight gamers getting irrationally upset over soundboards early on, while later installments feature all but one person having a good time (or in a few rare cases, everyone's having a good time). However, the first one (with Duke Nukem soundclips) actually only Peggy gets upset, the others initially find it amusing.


Alternative Title(s): Unconstructed Trope

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UnbuiltTrope