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Unbuilt Trope
An unbuilt trope is a work that seems like a deconstruction but is actually the Trope Maker 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 Ink Stain 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:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The above example is from Astro Boy. Thanks to his sophisticated storytelling, a lot of Osamu Tezuka's work is like this. It's difficult to convince people that Pluto isn't so much a darker and edgier version of the tale, so much as a mere perspective flip.
  • Imagine just how messed up life would be for an ordinary person in a world where all the real power is wielded by a relatively small number of people, and that power is not financial or political, but militaristic. Democratic government is essentially meaningless since no union of ordinary people can stand against the might of a lone badass. Because everyone knows that violence is the force that drives the wheel of civilization, fights occur constantly, and everyone with a bit of ability wants to claw their way as high up the badass scale as possible, whether for the sake of protecting innocents or enforcing their own will on others. The only genuinely powerful people who have any interest in being in charge are usually megalomaniacs and/or sociopaths. Governments tend to be either tyrannies, or farcical constructs whose laws can only be adequately be enforced by sympathetic vigilantes and a few Knight Templar civil servants who butt heads with them at every opportunity. Countries are constantly in flux between the two as evil overlords are dethroned by good guys, replaced with ineffectual governments, and conquered again by new bad guys. The series... Fist of the North Star. One of the first shonen fighting series.
  • Galaxy Express 999 in its various incarnations is a very pessimistic account of prospects for The Singularity, despite coming out in 1978, nearly a decade before Vinge introduced the term.
  • Go Nagai:
  • Skull Man has all the trappings of a Nineties Anti-Hero, complete with killing numerous people just for the hell of it. And yet it also does a good job of pointing out the protagonist is murdering relatively innocent people and by his own standards, he'd have to kill every person in Japan to accomplish his goals. It also originated in 1970.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Rei Ayanami was the creator of the Rei Ayanami Expy. She also happens to be deconstruction of the archetype, as she is a Came Back Wrong under-aged clone of main character's mother and is inhabited by the soul of an Eldritch Abomination that goes on to destroy the world. She's a significant victim of a Misaimed Fandom, as she was intended to fall directly into the Uncanny Valley, and to coming this close to climbing out of that valley only to plummet back down into the depths, even creepier than she was before. However, since the initial uncanny valley was fueled primarily by her enigmatic nature, the fan's interest was piqued. Even after The Movie ended the series and made Rei suddenly not so cute anymore, she remained, and to some degree, still remains the queen of waifus — a symbol of the Otaku's disinterest in real women. Rei is also thought to be a prototype of modern Moe... and she is also a deconstruction of it for much the same reasons.
    • Gendo helped popularize the Manipulative Bastard... and is portrayed as a deeply screwed up man who has only become ruthless because of the loss of his wife. In the end, he gets effortlessly Out-Gambitted by Rei, who steals the role he had planned for himself and gives it to Shinji instead. Most other examples do not ever really get distracted much in their plans and if they are main characters, they get portrayed positively, often absurdly so. The idea that a Manipulative Bastard could actually be taken care of in an unexpected way is usually unheard of.
  • Sailor Moon, and the Magical Girl Warrior genre inspired by it, is cited as being at the extreme idealistic end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, favoring The Power of Friendship over a bullet between the eyes as a way to defeat evil. But in the original 0, the Sailor Senshi rarely attempted to redeem villains and had no problem with killing them. This concept got revived with Sailors Uranus and Neptune in their anime debut.
  • Saint Seiya popularized the Rescue Arc as well as the convention of having a sequence of enemies impeding the heroes, but it also deviates heavily from later versions of it. The Gold Saints were above the level of strength Seiya and company could bring to the table and frequently the battles had to be determined by outside forces intervening.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • The Super Saiyan form helped start the concept of people with a Super Mode, but is shown in a very nuanced light; while it's not exactly a Superpowered Evil Side, it often takes a toll on the sanity or morality of its user, and when it's first attained, it's not clear whether or not it's a good thing.
    • The Trope Namer and Codifier for Power Levels, according to Word of God, was a concept meant to illustrate how inaccurate and frivolous such a measure would be. Numerous times the villains end up losing because they miscalculate the ability of their opponents by their power levels alone, not accounting for skill or tactics.
  • Barefoot Gen shows how brutal society in Japan could be after the bombings; after Grave of the Fireflies, it gets worse off from here.
  • In a similar way to Gendo, Haruhi Suzumiya popularized the idea of overpowered Reality Warpers. The series also spends a lot of time demonstrating how ridiculously dangerous Haruhi's powers would be: she nearly destroys the universe several times, without even knowing she's capable of doing so. Her self-serving powers have also caused her to become an unbelievably self-centered jerkass, and it takes her a long time to begin growing out of it.
  • After the Merchandise-Driven anime, several spinoffs, and a number of less-memorable wannabes, it's easy to forget that the original Yu-Gi-Oh! was one of the darkest manga this side of Death Note. The early chapters are about a lonely, bullied geek taking revenge on his tormentors through deadly games involving torture, disfigurment, and Mind Rape. Even after Yugi mellows out a bit and the focus shifts to card games, the story is full of gruesome and sometimes horrific imagery. And then there are the villains: Kaiba and Marik both had abusive fathers, and in Marik's case it was so severe he developed a Split Personality. Pegasus is driven by a desperate and obsessive need to see his lost love again. Dark Bakura is the spirit of a man who had survived the genocide of his village and was consumed by the desire for revenge. Lesser villains are often weirdos and loners with haunting pasts who take their gimmicks way too far. Almost universally, they are obsessed with this card game and the power it gives them, and have a penchant for Death Traps, cruelty, and twisting the knife. For all the series gets criticized for harping on the value of friendship, there's a disturbing implication that Yugi's True Companions are literally the only thing that keep him from becoming as bad or worse as the people he's fighting against. And in the ending, Yami Yugi the master card gamer accepts Redemption Equals Death, crossing over into the land of the dead so that his "good half" can move on to a normal life. Far from being a celebration of tabletop gaming, the story is about how obsessing over a hobby to escape your problems turns you into a nasty, miserable, misanthropic person.

    Comics 
  • The Golden Age of Comic Books, at times, was significantly darker than The Silver Age of Comic Books and more mature than The Dark Age of Comic Books:
    • Most of this is because comics were only just escaping the influence of pulp fiction. The Golden Age also straddled the same time period as the second World War. When your countrymen are killing and dying on foreign shores to protect life and liberty, it makes sense that your comic book heroes would kill and die too. This can be overstated, though, particularly with regard to the most famous superhero characters. For instance, as professional Batmanologist Chris Sims has noted, "Sure, Batman might’ve fought vampires and carried a gun for like three issues, but by the end of that first year, it was pretty much all cat-wrestling and trips to Storybook Land."
    • If you read the very first Batman/Joker story, it almost looks like someone decided to actually combine the violence and murder of the Frank Miller version with the campiness of the Adam West version. (This was also before Bob Kane decided NOT to have the Joker be one of the villains that spew terrible puns) It has simplistic art and bad dialogue, but people actually die laughing with huge unnatural smiles on their faces.
    • The Human Bomb stories going back to 1941 always had a fair amount of Wangst in them. Everything he touched exploded, and the stories like something from Marvel from the seventies often explored how that would affect his pysche. Some of the time. Some of the time they played it as a joke.
    • If you tell someone there's a comic book where the Human Torch is burning someone's arm to the bone on the cover, they'll probably think "what have comics come to these days?" or "man, they'd do anything to be edgy in the 90s." What they probably wouldn't think is "it's amazing what they put on comic book covers before there were rules about what you could put on comic book covers." Unless they've seen the issue in question.
    • Golden Age Superman stories surprisingly have more in common with modern Superman than their Silver Age counterparts, in that Superman was portrayed more as a defender of the common man than the super powered lawman he later evolved into, and stories often had political and social themes to them. In general, many characters treated Supes as a thorn in the side of the establishment, just as one might expect they would in Real Life.
  • Watchmen:
    • To a modern reader, Rorschach feels like a deconstruction of the Nineties Anti-Hero, when he was largely the inspiration for many Darker and Edgier heroes, whose creators missed the point. Alan Moore is notoriously bitter that so many people consider a hero someone he tried to make as deplorable as possible.
    • This is even more true with Watchmen's other anti-hero, The Comedian. He has all the mannerisms and attitudes of later "badass" gun using characters like Cable and The Punisher, who became increasingly popular in the decades right after Watchmen was published. He's also a rapist, a war criminal, and an all around asshole.
  • Marshal Law, while deconstructing traditional superheroes, managed to deconstruct the '90s anti-hero in the '80s: At one point Marshal Law accuses the Public Spirit, a Superman analog, of inspiring an entire generation of heroes to go to war in the Zone, in what can only be described as "Super-Nam". The Public Spirit turns this around by telling Law that Law's own vigilante actions have also inspired people, except in a more horrific manner. We then find that Law, the 90s anti-hero, inspired the main villain to take up his actions in the first place, thus completing the cycle. The reader is left to conclude that Law and the Spirit are both extremely messed up people.
  • Marvel's Secret Wars (preceding Crisis itself) was the start of the Crisis Crossover... and for the most part it never crossed over into the characters' books. You'd just get a few panels of the character disappearing for the crossover and reappearing.
  • Wolverine was the Trope Namer for Wolverine Claws, but unlike a lot of other examples of the trope, stories with him have actually addressed that having claws come out of his hands HURTS; in fact some stories with him depicted blood coming out of his hands whenever he uses his claws and a period where he didn't have his Healing Factor addressed that without it he had to constantly bandage his hands whenever he used his claws without his Healing Factor to repair them. While also considered one of the Trope Codifiers for the Healing Factor power, having it had drawbacks like meaning anesthesia can't be used on him.
  • Jack Kirby's OMAC seemed to utterly defy classification when it hit the stands in 1974, and didn't make it to nine issues. The series has since established a cult following, who have placed it firmly into the Cyberpunk genre: ten years before Neuromancer, you had a hero who gained his powers from an AI satellite, put in place to hold off nuclear exchanges and nullify attempts at corporate espionage. Long before Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell popularized the concept, OMAC was showing sympathy to Ridiculously Human Robots and discussing ideas like memory and identity in a world where a person's memories can be removed or rewritten. The cover of the first issue, showing a weird anti-erotic robot woman in a box with her face where her crotch should be, could be seen as a condemnation of the excesses of Internet porn, decades before there was porn on the Internet. One blogger even pointed out that it actually analyzed cyberpunk themes more than the 2011 reboot.
  • Azrael from Batman was one of the first examples, and probably the most famous, of the Anti-Hero Substitute, taking over from Bruce Wayne when Wayne was temporarily paralysed. He's depicted as a violent, mentally unstable sociopath and egotist who's doing more harm than good with his brutal and militaristic methods of crime fighting. By the end of the arc he's become the Big Bad whom the original Batman must put down before his extremism destroys Gotham. Word of God confirms that the entire arc was preplanned to demonstrate to over-excited Dark Age fanboys that a totally ruthless and brutal Batman was a bad idea.
  • Marvel's Transformers comics preceded all other Transformers fiction, but also went a hefty way to deconstructing the premise and clichés that the cartoon would thoughtlessly use. Characters could be Killed Off for Real at any time if their toys weren't in stock, sometimes the Decepticons won battles, the Autobots often won at heavy costs, there were shown to be evil Autobots and good Decepticons, the ineffectual Megatron gets taken out by issue 25 and replaced by the legitimately dangerous Shockwave, the Matrix of Leadership is depicted as an unknowable force that can be both good and evil, and the human sidekicks often meet tragic fates including being killed off.
  • Despite Mr. Fantastic being the trope namer for Reed Richards Is Useless, canon states that he actually does patent a lot of his gadgets; he just doesn't sell the insanely dangerous ones like interdimensional transporters. It's also been shown that a chunk of his money comes from other companies paying him to not release stuff expressly because the devices would drive them into bankruptcy through competition they couldn't hope to match.

    Fan Fic 

    Film 
  • Charlie Chaplin was the first major movie star to direct his own films, as well as one of the first to produce them with some degree of independence from the Hollywood studio system. Which is all the more impressive because Chaplin was one of the first movie stars ever.
  • Along with Cecil B. DeMille, D.W. Griffith was one of the first of the big-shot Hollywood film directors. He shaped nearly every aesthetic aspect of the American motion picture as we understand it today. And yet as early as the mid-1910s, Griffith was already experimenting with editing styles which would not catch on with filmmakers in his own country for nearly half a century, and to a great extent are still not common today. His “art-house” masterpiece, Intolerance, showcased a rapid-fire montage style that defied conventional Hollywood editing techniques - techniques that, by and large, Griffith himself had invented.
  • Many early Italian Exploitation Films tried to paint themselves as "True Art", rather than just shocking for the sake of shocking. Indeed many sub-genres of Exploitation have their origins in Italian "art films", only to be copied by other lesser film makers who just didn't care. Ever hear of Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom? While being one of the most disgusting, shocking, and offensive movies ever made, it's not pointlessly so, but rather a satire on Italian Fascism. Anyone going into Cannibal Holocaust will expect disturbing and gorny. But a thought provoking commentary on Imperialism?
  • Although the giant monster movie genre has come to be synonymous with gleefully watching the invincible monsters tear apart the puny human cities, some of the earlier ones had a far more "realistic" and nuanced view of this. In The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, half of the movie consists of the hero, labeled as a delusional foreigner, trying to convince the American authorities that the rhedosaurus really exists at all. And when it shows up, it's not Immune to Bullets, but – being a recently-resurrected dinosaur – carries all manner of hideous diseases we've never seen. The Amazing Colossal Man, one of the earliest (if not the earliest), is about the giant's slow Sanity Slippage as the mental and physical strain of his transformation takes it's tole, complete with a Downer Ending.
  • Gojira:
    • The originator of the Godzilla franchise is nothing like the kaiju genre it spawned. Godzilla is a clear metaphor for the horrors of nuclear weaponry, with the nuclear bombing of Japan was fewer than 10 years past at the time. Godzilla is an evil abomination of nature, and his rampage is not treated as gleeful a spectacle of destruction, the film including extended scenes of little kids painfully dying of radiation burns and other horrors.
    • Both the Trope Maker and the Trope Namer for the Godzilla Threshold, it went much farther in examining the moral and psychological implications of such an idea than many works that came after it. In addition to examining the political ramifications of the Oxygen Destroyer used to kill Godzilla, its inventor, Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, is depicted as a tragic, self-loathing figure who genuinely hates the fact that his only great creation is a horrific weapon of war, as he's also a battle-scarred veteran who witnessed the worst of World War II as a young man. Serizawa's hatred of his Oxygen Destroyer is so great that it destroys his relationship with his intended bride, Emiko, and he's so devoted to protecting the world from his creation that he only agrees to use it against Godzilla after destroying his notes, ultimately committing a Heroic Suicide in the final scene so that the secret of the Oxygen Destroyer dies with him.
  • And similarly, Them came out in 1954, when the giant monster movie was still new, and the first half of the movie is clearly... a Police Procedural (just with really bizarre clues), until we finally see what 'they' actually are. Them! itself was extremely influential. A number of its successors imitate the police procedural structure... even when, in terms of the plot, there's actually no mystery as to what's going on.
  • Metropolis is one of the first science fiction movies ever, set in a futuristic city dominated by technology. And what's it about? How cool all the machines are? How awesome that robot is? No. It's about unionized labour and class division.
  • Several works explored the ramifications and possibilities of the Reality Show, years before Big Brother and Survivor, the Trope Codifiers for reality television, were a speck in anyone's eyes:
    • The Truman Show. While shows that we would now call "reality TV" (COPS, The Real World) did exist at the time, they were done in a far more documentary-style manner than the types of shows retroactively skewered by Truman. A line from the film ("We're tired of actors giving us fake emotions, pretending what to feel") hits harder than ever now.
    • Ed TV did the same thing at the same time, only it did it in a more realistic fashion. Truman doesn't know he's on TV. Ed was one of many applicants for the job, and ends up finding out that being a reality TV star isn't all it's cracked up to be.
    • Robert Sheckley's 1958 short story "The Prize of Peril" predates all of the above. It's about a man who goes on a TV show in which he must evade people out to kill him for a week in order to win a large cash prize.
    • Albert Brooks' 1978 Mockumentary Real Life also skewered many Reality Show tropes.
    • Another early example (1981) is the definitive cult icon's less successful younger sibling Shock Treatment, which was eerily prescient of reality television's cults of personality, lewd consumerism, and destructive effects on the talent long before Reality TV actually existed.
  • The Cowboy Cop trope has been deconstructed multiple times before it was ever played straight later on without a hint of irony primarily in the action movies of the 1980s and 1990s.
    • Bullitt was actually the first Cowboy Cop movie, but seen today, it looks like a deconstruction of the genre: the cop (Steve McQueen) ignores his superiors and dismisses the quite reasonable demands of a slimy politician (Robert Vaughan) out of distrust, but accidentally kills all the witnesses and ruins any chances of finding the real mob bosses. The film ends with him staring into a mirror, realizing just how badly he's screwed up.
    • Dirty Harry also qualifies as an unbuilt trope. Harry's methods aren't actually shown all that positively. His Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique on the Scorpio Killer is downright horrific and ends up doing no good. And in the end he throws away his badge after disregarding orders and endangering innocents.
    • The French Connection did something similar. Popeye Doyle is The Shield's Vic Mackey before Vic Mackey – goes against the books, quick to jump the leash, and at least a little bigoted. And what happens when he goes in guns blazing in the final Darkened Building Shootout? He kills a police contact, providing enough chaos for the kingpin to get away, and a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue explains that he ended up getting transferred out of Narcotics for the clusterfuck.
    • Where the Sidewalk Ends, from 1950, predates them all. The protagonist is a true Cowboy Cop, rampaging all over the city in his pursuit of justice – or he would be, if he didn't have to spend so much time dealing with the consequences of his actions.
  • Blow-Up contains the Unbuilt Trope version of the Enhance Button. It's based on the realistic version of the trope: a photographer in a dark room. Unlike most other versions of the Enhance Button, enhancing the image is a time-consuming process, and the final result is so grainy that the photo might not show what it seems to show. Ultimately, it's like two mimes playing tennis.
  • Harold and Maude: Harold is a Defrosting Emo Teen before there was emo.
  • That paragon of 1980s action flicks, Conan the Barbarian (1982) is an introspective, dialogue-light opera exploring Nietszchean ideas about Man versus Society.
  • How many people remember that First Blood was a downbeat film about a Shell-Shocked Veteran fleeing the law, rather than Rambo mowing down dozens of Dirty Commies while shirtless?
  • Saturday Night Fever portrays disco lifestyle in a manner that is decidedly unsentimental and depressing enough to be labeled as a grim deconstruction. A slew of imitators that followed were unapologetically feel-good escapist fantasies – which SNF isn't.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs, a sequel to In the Heat of the Night, predated Shaft by some years and was a more conventional crime drama than later street-crime-seen-through-the-eyes-of-a-black-protagonist productions. Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song came out shortly after Tibbs and added, among other things, the fast-paced action scenes with funk music backgrounds that later became really popular through Shaft.
  • Despite its influence on the modern day slasher film genre and kickstarting the career of Wes Craven, the original The Last House on the Left really bears no similarity to modern day slasher films at all. There is no shocking out of nowhere "jump scenes" or tension that has become a trademark of the genre, the killings are slow, obvious and fairly realistic and shocking in that manner. The Soundtrack Dissonance is quite obvious and fairly odd, as is the comedic bits sprinkled throughout. Furthermore all the killers including the gang and parents are both seen as normal people, not almost supernatural and indestructible beings. By today's standards it'd almost be seen as a dark comedy instead of a horror film.
  • The Siege is a movie that looks at how a major terrorist attack in New York would disrupt life greatly... three years before September 11, 2001.
  • Starship Troopers:
    • This Cracked article makes an interesting case that, viewed today without context, the film could easily be mistaken for a satire on the War on Terror. A militaristic right wing government, complacent in its own superiority, suffers a devastating disaster that destroys a major population center. They blame a race of far off aliens on an isolated desert planet that couldn't possibly be responsible, and go to war, egged on by media saturated with propaganda. They quickly get bogged down in a quagmire. After capturing the leader, and torturing it horribly, they declare victory. Except it was made in 1997.
    • The film inadvertently breathed new life into the Space Marine trope when people didn't catch that it was a Stealth Parody of the original novel. The "hardened badass" marines are actually unquestioning drones who are poorly trained and get slaughtered by the thousands because of their incompetent strategies and leadership. The buglike monsters they're mowing down are strongly implied to be a formerly innocent and peaceful race who are defending their homes from the xenophobic humans, who are using them as a scapegoat for their personal woes.
  • Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann from Full Metal Jacket is the Trope Codifier for Drill Sergeant Nasty, but his methods lead to one of the recruits snapping and killing him, then committing suicide.
  • Drunken Master, the first film of the "Jackie Chan learns Kung Fu" series. In it, Jackie's character was very good at fighting to begin with (he bests his teachers), and was actually sent to the Training from Hell as punishment, though ultimately he ended up becoming much better at Kung Fu than before. But in many subsequent films, Jackie plays an absolute novice with no previous fighting skills who suddenly becomes the best fighter in a very short time, much less time than in that first movie.
  • Animal House actually does a lot in deconstructing Wacky Fratboy Hijinks, as it's pointed out how the wild and destructive Deltas do things that no sane college adminstration would allow; things that would get real college students arrested. Though the Deltas do ultimately get their revenge on the Dean and the snobbish Omegas by the end, it's a Pyrrhic Victory –- in spite of it all, they're expelled from the college, and it's heavily implied that at least some of them end up drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam. As Dean Wormer perfectly puts it, "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."
  • Funny Games plays like a Genre Deconstruction of the torture porn genre that was popular in the mid-2000s... except that it was made in 1997, as a testimony against any violent media. In fact, the popularity of the genre during this period may have been what prompted its Shot for Shot Remake in 2007.
  • Get Carter feels at times like a brutal deconstruction of the Brit gangster flick that emerged in the late 90's due to directors like Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughan. The villains are shown as ruthless and incredibly sleazy, the killings are done in a very matter-of-fact manner with little blood and no dramatic tricks, it's set in bleak Newcastle rather than London, there is a complete absence of any pop soundtrack or any form of music and the lead character is cold-hearted and utterly ruthless, not shown as any better than the men he kills. Were it made today, it would almost certainly be a Genre Deconstruction. Yet it was made in 1971, long before British Gangster films became big.
  • The Death Wish saga pioneered the urban Vigilante Man concept, but it also showed how dangerous it would be.
  • Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon actually deconstructs many aspects of the oft-imitated plot structure that it lends its name to. Instead of using its famous "Three contradictory flashbacks" format as a simple plot gimmick, it's a deeply philosophical character study that uses the format as a vehicle for discussing human beings' inherent inability to tell the truth, examining the moral implications of this idea in full. At one point, one character even concludes that almost all of mankind's evils arise from their attempts to avoid confronting the truth by lying to themselves. By the end, the story has ceased to be about a murder trial at all, and become the story of said character's struggle to regain his faith in humanity. Notably, the traditional "Fourth true flashback" is also strongly hinted to be another lie. We're initially led to believe that the Woodcutter (a neutral witness to the murder) is the only one telling the truth...until it turns out that he also left out several details to cover up the fact that he was the one who stole the murder weapon.
  • Part of the reason why Its A Wonderful Life is a holiday classic is that it's one of the first – and very few – films to tackle the subject of holiday depression, doing it long before cynical takes on Christmas became common in pop culture. And unlike so many of those later films, this one does not play the depression for comedy, although there are some welcome moments of comic relief here and there.
  • Viewed today, Michael Bay's The Rock can come off as a deconstruction of the mindless action and gung ho American patriotism that Bay's films are frequently criticized for—even though it was the second movie of his career, and his first military thriller. For one thing, the main antagonists are American terrorists fighting for an unusually sympathetic cause, with the Corrupt Bureaucrats that motivated them presented as the true villains. For another, the movie spends almost as much time condemning America's treatment of veterans and presenting a damning view of government secret-keeping as it does on action. Not to mention that the hero is a lone Brit who saves the day singlehandedly after the Navy SEAL team backing him up is killed.
  • The Blair Witch Project, the Trope Codifier for the found-footage genre, also deconstructs elements of it. For one thing, Heather's insistence upon filming everything even when logic suggests she put the camera down for once, a staple of found-footage horror movies, is suggested by Josh to be her way of coping with the fact that she's lost in the woods — the screen on the camcorder all makes it feel less real. This also causes a rift between her and the rest of the group, with Mike and Josh telling her several times to turn the camera off and even attacking her over it. Furthermore, the film's tiny budget and rambling improv style, with the camera catching as many mundane events as it does exciting action beats, also makes it feel like a deconstruction of the many slick, big-budgeted imitators that it inspired.
  • Network, a 1976 satire of television news, has been described as one of the most chilling movies ever made due to its deconstruction of a lot of the tropes present in 24-Hour News Networks – nearly two decades before such networks were an omnipresent force in news reporting. Howard Beale, for one, predates most examples of the Pompous Political Pundit, both real and fictional. It's also shown that his "mad as hell" attitude comes not from political extremism or another nefarious purpose, but is the result of him literally going mad as a result of working in television for too long. The network, meanwhile, is happy to feed his insanity in the name of the ratings that his unhinged rants produce, using it as an excuse to dissolve the news department and place it under the control of its entertainment division.note 
  • The Bourne Identity is celebrated for revolutionizing the spy thriller flicks. However, the first film itself is not about spying; Bourne is an assassin, and a rogue one at that. Instead of taking down terrorists or criminals, Bourne is only interested in his survival, the primary Big Bad in the movie works for the U.S. government, and he himself is not killed by Bourne, but by a backstabbing partner of his. Likewise, the film goes to great lengths to not only subvert most conventions of the genre, but show (contrary to just about every spy flick made before or afterwards) just how terrifying someone with such a set of skills can be, even to the main character himself. The people who seem to be the most terrified are the average government workers themselves, who can only sit and watch in horror as one man effortlessly dismantles most of their operations and assets on his own. The main character is incredibly disturbed that he can analyze places and people so efficiently, and can't comprehend basic concepts like just asking someone for a pair of keys. One of the assassins is a university professor who moonlights as a silent, stalking assassin, who expresses remorse upon his plight when fatally wounded. It's pretty much the complete antithesis of the following films, which fall into much straighter spy thriller tropes.
  • After reading books and watching shows like The Clique, Pretty Little Liars, and Gossip Girl, one might be inclined to view Mean Girls as a response to such stories, intended to deconstruct their catty heroines and antagonists by portraying the damage that such soapy high school backstabbing does to young people in real life. Nope – it was made in 2004, and in fact a case could be made that its success directly inspired the aforementioned books/shows and their imitators (including, ironically, its own sequel).
  • Night of the Living Dead never used the word "zombie", and also broke some of the major zombie "rules"; its zombies can not only run, but are intelligent enough to open car doors (or at least, know to reach for the handle) and use melee weapons. Furthermore, it showed the main characters wiped out by their own incompetence while the world outside quickly figured out what was going on and was systematically wiping out the last of the zombies by morning. Both sequel series retcon this in different ways, but as a standalone film it's completely clear that the disaster is over. Later films either always treat zombie uprisings as an apocalyptic event, or joke about how stupid that is (like Shaun of the Dead).
    • Likewise, Dawn of the Dead implied that the only reasons why someone would actually want a Zombie Apocalypse or some other doomsday disaster to happen are because they hold a grudge against some part of society, fantasize about being a badass, want to run wild, or some mixture of such – all the way back in 1978, three decades before Cracked pretty much said the same thing. To demonstrate this, the film has a racist cop who uses the zombie outbreak as an excuse to shoot minorities and immigrants without consequence, rednecks who treat zombie killing as an excuse to get drunk and party, and lastly, the biker gang that loots the mall. Also (especially in the extended versions of the film), the zombie apocalypse comes with a lot of ennui — the protagonists slowly develop cabin fever as they're boarded up inside the mall trying to survive, with increasingly little to do to let off steam once the novelty of having a mall all to themselves wears off.
  • WarGames: Every hacking-related trope from the last 30 years owes its existence to this film. Yet the hacker boy who saved the world nearly precipitated its destruction in the first place. (Way to save on major characters.) It doesn't help that much of what gave War Games its punch is fading from collective memory. Having a plucky young hacker almost precipitate World War III was an allegory on how nonsensical the Cold War was to the average person.
  • While Airport is regarded by many as the Trope Codifier of the Disaster Movie (especially aviation-themed entries in the genre), many of its conventions were used some fifteen years earlier in the 1954 John Wayne film (he starred and co-produced) The High and the Mighty (based on the novel of the same name by Ernest K. Gann) about the struggle of an airliner's crew to get its plane and passengers to a safe landing after an engine fails midway through a flight from Honolulu to San Francisco. Some may see it as being a deconstruction of the genre, considering that nobody dies or is even injured, and that the plane, in the end, lands safely at the San Francisco airport.
  • 1939's The Wizard of Oz popularized, if not introduced, the visual effect of portraying mundane life in monochrome or bland lighting and using lush color to present the more exciting and wonderful world of freedom and adventure. However, most later films and commercials that use the technique don't center the plot around a protagonist who specifically desires to return to her relatively uneventful and colorless life in the end.
  • The first Die Hard film actually does a lot in deconstructing the Right Man in the Wrong Place and Action Survivor tropes. It was itself something of a deconstruction of the Hollywood Action Hero popular in The Eighties by showing what it would be like for an actual Badass Normal (with great emphasis on the "Normal") police officer trapped in such a situation, though many of its imitators and even some of its later sequels largely ignored this. John McClane witnesses a bunch of terrorists take his wife and her co-workers hostage, immediately recognises he's out of his elements and tries to call for help, but they don't really believe him. He's undoubtedly a badass, and wins in the end, but a night of battling terrorists with bare feet and no armor leaves him badly roughed up. By the end, he's seriously injured and grateful that it's finally over.
  • The Fifties Alien Invasion craze began with It Came from Outer Space. (The War of the Worlds came first, but was an adaptation of a 1897 novel.) Thing is, the "invasion" in the film is nothing of the sort. The aliens are neither conquerors nor infiltrators, but stranded travelers trying to repair their ship. While they do take hostages, they're more then willing to release them in exchange for a promise of safety. The vigilante mob led by the local sheriff turns out to be a much more serious problem. The film was a reaction to the xenophobia that dominated the American consciousness during the early 1950's; portraying the outsiders as being as scared of us as we were of them was a fairly bold statement for its time. But as the Cold War worsened, the genre's priorities shifted to milking the Red Scare for all it was worth.
  • If you primarily know of John Wayne's work through Pop Culture Osmosis, watching his 1962 film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance can be a bit jarring. While not Wayne's first movie as a leading man (that was Stagecoach), it's largely responsible for solidifying American pop culture's image of him: it was the first movie to cast him as a Loveable Rogue cowboy in a ten-gallon hat and a neckerchief who defends the weak while snarking cynically, and it spawned his iconic Catch Phrase "Pilgrim", among other things. It's also a vicious Genre Deconstruction of Westerns that's ultimately about the death of the Old West, and it ends with Wayne's character dying alone and unremembered after succumbing to his alcoholism, while another man marries his only love and takes the credit for his final heroic deed.
  • The Matrix was the Trope Codifier for Bullet Time, though many forget that Neo didn't completely dodge all of the bullets fired at him, getting grazed badly enough for the Agent to almost corner him for the kill.
  • Aliens is credited with kick-starting the gritty grizzled Space Marine trope that's permeated popular culture for decades afterwards; a group of hardened veteran soldiers (or a lone soldier) wielding advanced weaponry mowing down hordes of mooks/aliens/monsters, saving civilisation while spouting boasts, one liners, and snark left and right. It's easy to forget then that the marines in Aliens are portrayed as arrogant, trigger-happy jarheads who despite their overwhelming confidence had never faced anything even remotely like the xenomorphs, and suffered for it. They collapsed into panic and disarray the moment they made actual contact, got slaughtered because they had no idea what they were up against, their incompetence resulted in the entire facility being blown to pieces by accident, and the only marine who survived the ordeal was the one who followed the orders of a civilian. Said civilian is a woman and the main character, something rare even today in similar genres, and the final confrontation is between two Mama Bears, completely counter to the hyper-masculine narratives permeating the versions that followed.

    Literature 
  • Sherlock Holmes:
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe is probably the first detective novel ever written. However, Dupin does not rely entirely on a logical Sherlock Scan, and the imagination of the detective plays a key role in the story. Also, the culprit comes from nowhere, subverting both Foreshadowing in general and the elements of a Fair Play Whodunnit.
  • Trent's Last Case by E C Bentley is generally credited with starting the inter-war Fair Play Whodunnit boom. However, the Great Detective in it gets the solution of the murder completely wrong.
  • Lord Dunsany had a taste for cruelly ironic endings for his Adventurer Archaeologist protagonists (see "The Hoard of the Gibbelins" for example), which seems like a subversion of the good fortune common to your average Barbarian Hero appearing in Heroic Fantasy stories. However, Dunsany predated Howard, Leiber, etc. who were inspired by Dunsany. "The Sword of Welleran", "Carcassone" and "In the Land of Time" as well, though "The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth" has a happier ending. The King of Elfland's Daughter is a bit more ambiguous.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Lord of the Rings bears this relation to High Fantasy, with its quasi-pacifistic overtones, Bittersweet Ending, and inverted Plot Coupon. The heroes do not stick together to the end, and their victory did not preserve the doomed Golden Age but merely warded off total conquest by evil. Also, the plucky hero, while exhibiting enormous fortitude, nevertheless fails in his mission; it was Gollum's unlucky slip which destroyed the Ring. And when some of the heroes return home they find it has been taken over by one of the villains and they have to overthrow him.
    • In the earlier, children's book The Hobbit, the dwarves' plan for the quest is shown as very flawed and they turn out to be helpless against the dragon, who is killed by someone else entirely; when this happens, the humans, elves, and dwarves all immediately turn on each other to fight over the dragon's hoard and possibly peace between them only happened due to the Goblins attacking. The hero betrays his companions (stealing the most precious gem of the hoard) in a (fruitless) attempt to buy peace. And finally Thorin is killed in battle by the Goblins. Bilbo doesn't come off much better himself, finding it more convenient to take only a small portion of his treasure back after using the rest of his share to buy peace, and it is even pointed out he loses his reputation from the adventure.
    • The trend of Grim Dark fantasy is somewhat motivated by Hype Backlash against Tolkien. However, Tolkien had been creating Grim Dark fantasy (The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin) long, long before Stephen Donaldson and George RR Martin.
      • The Silmarillion: Violent, morally ambiguous antiheroes? Check. Black and Grey (though still a little bit of white) morality? Check. Hypocritical, brutal, imperialist elves who'd give the Lannisters nightmares? Check. Sexual themes like incest? Check. Dead kids? Check. Downer Ending? Oh boy, yes.
      • The Children of Húrin: Let's see, it's an epic Dark Fantasy novel featuring incest, the fate of a family over the course of an epic struggle, a morally ambiguous dwarf, loads and loads of Black and Grey Morality, a sinister supernatural force encroaching from the north and a serious downer ending. And it's got nothing to do with George R.R. Martin.
    • Nowadays, the trend of fantasy worlds having little to no actual wizards seems like deconstruction, but in The Lord of the Rings there are no actual human mages, and Elves, while definitely being magical, do not use magic for direct attacks (such as fireballs). Gandalf is the only one we see using "direct magic" onstage, and (though few people outside the fandom know this) he's actually not a human sorcerer—he's a Maia, a being roughly akin to an angel or maybe a minor god in Tolkien's universe, who only appears human.
    • While Tolkien is largely the inspiration for the modern conception of elves, many uses of them would count as subversions today. That's especially true of the Noldor of Nargothrond, a group of elves living in a large secluded cave city obsessed with craftsmanship and smithing. The "one with nature" stereotype, in particular, is only seen in a small group that is mostly insignificant within his greater mythos.
    • Medieval European Fantasy works inspired by Tolkien tend to resemble The High Middle Ages more than anything else; people who make fiction that deliberately avoids this particular aesthetic often paint it specifically as trying not to create "Tolkienesque" settings. Tolkien's fantasy, however, is more directly inspired by The Low Middle Ages, particularly pre-Norman Conquest Anglo-Saxon culture (the most notable exception being the Shire, which is essentially a compact version of early modern England).
    • Though most people consider the Orcs to be the Trope Codifier — if not the Trope Maker — for the Always Chaotic Evil trope, it should be noted that Tolkien went on record saying that he didn't consider the Orc race to be uniformly evil; because of his strong Catholic upbringing, he expressly rejected the idea of an entire race being beyond salvation, and said that he would have taken the time to include sympathetic Orcs if he'd been able to fit them into the narrative. In The Silmarillion he writes the Orcs began when Melkor imprisoned and corrupted elves, and that far from enjoying evil "the Orcs loathed the Master whom they served in fear".
    • The Orcs' homeland—the basis for another rather famous trope—can also be considered a deconstruction of the classic "Realm of Evil", as Tolkien actually took time to point out that a place like Mordor would have to include huge tracts of exceptionally fertile farmland in order to support a huge military juggernaut; this is actually borne out by reality, as volcanic soil generally does make very good land for planting crops.
  • In the earliest vampire folklore, vampires are most definitely not tall, elegant, sexy aristocrats. Instead, they're short, ugly, smelly peasants—which is what you might realistically expect of people forced to live in seclusion and hunt other humans to survive. And, of course, it makes sense that peasants would be far more likely targets of vampire attacks than aristocrats in Real Life. Nosferatu, one of the first vampire-focused films in history, even uses elements of this early vampire lore in its portrayal of Count Orlok: a tall, ugly, probably smelly, aristocrat.
    • Dracula (which codified so many of the characteristics of modern vampires) had Drac running around in the daylight note  and being killed by a couple of knives. He was also described as hairy (even hairy palms!), moustached, and rather brutish-looking, rather than the suave aristocrat he's been commonly depicted as after Bela Lugosi; His breath stank of rotting corpse, too. Also, Renfield isn't quite The Renfield: although more-or-less controlled by Dracula, he's not willingly so, and even tries to kill him.
    • The villain of the very first vampire novel, aptly-named The Vampyre by John Polidori, did not have fangs. He did bear an uncanny and insulting resemblance to Polidori's boss, though. It wasn't until Varney the Vampire that fangs showed up, but that was a weird book, too: it ends with Varney killing himself at the crater of Vesuvius. Varney was also the first morally-ambiguous and conflicted vampire, before Dark Shadows, The Vampire Chronicles and Angel came along.
    • Prior to Twilight's vegetarian vampires. The Vampire Chronicles skewered the concept of a "vegetarian" vampire in the first book, Interview With A Vampire, with its protagonist Louis. Although he tried to retain his humanity and survive on the blood of animals, his efforts were in vain and his creator scolds him for his hypocrisy of loathing the downsides of being a vampire while enjoying its benefits. In general, Louis is regarded with mild contempt by most vampires for trying to remain human to begin with and is generally considered the weakest of Lestat's children.
    • Carmilla is the Trope Maker for Lesbian Vampire, but it's not sexploitation. Instead, it's written more as a standard "vampire victim" story, just with the victim and the aggressor of the same gender. It's not really a Romance either, although Carmilla can be interpreted sympathetically.
  • The Prisoner of Zenda falls into this in respect to the "Swashbuckler genre". The antagonist usurper to the throne isn't a Card-Carrying Villain with 0% Approval Rating, instead he's more of an Anti-Villain who is liked by the populace, and for good reason, as the legitimate ruler is a drunken boor who doesn't care about the average citizen. Nor does his Dragon have this characterization, instead being an Affably Evil/Faux Affably Evil type who is a Draco in Leather Pants in-universe. Also notable is that the book has a Bittersweet Ending which becomes a Downer Ending in the sequel which is in keeping with Ruritania being presented realistically, rather than as a story-book country. The book was meant as a satire, partly of Austria and Russia's even then outdated method of ruling through absolute monarchy, partly of the politically unstable Balkan countries.
  • The Genre Popularizer for pirate fiction would have to be Treasure Island. But the pirates in the book are actually the villains, not the loveable swashbuckling lovable rogues, or the care free lay-abouts seen in later works. Also, not a single act of piracy actually occurs in the book: the actual crime committed is mutiny, with the piracy itself in the backstory.
  • Gullivers Travels is one of the oldest examples of adventure fiction, and is often seen as a classic of that genre. However, it was never meant as such. It was in fact a rather heavy-handed satire of European society of the time. It wasn't until Victorian times (the golden age of adventure fiction) that a Misaimed Fandom lumped it together with newer works. Similarly, another early "Adventure novel", The Swiss Family Robinson, was meant to be "educational", designed to teach boys Naturalism, Christian Values, and the Philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Doesn't very much evoke the treehouse-building, zebra-riding, and pirate-fighting of the Disney adaptation, does it?
  • Gladiator features an invulnerable and super-strong protagonist who is unable to end a war, clean up Washington, or even make a living off his talents, his college football career ending prematurely when he kills another player. It reads as a deconstruction of the Superman myth, but it's the book that inspired much of the early Superman comics. Hugo Danner's attempts to find a Mundane Utility to his Invulnerability and Super Strength were the things that doomed his life. It deconstructs These Look Like Jobs For The Superman: Bully Hunter as a child, a Scholarship Student at college, a Super Soldier at war, manual laborer and Adventurer Archaeologist were not ways to Cut Lex Luthor a Check.
  • If your only exposure to Yiddish-Jewish culture is Fiddler on the Roof, reading Mendele the Book Peddler, the first Yiddish novelist, is a shocker. His work is about how poverty and anti-Semitism have brutalized Jews, turning them into sadistic bigots – and how their faith in being "chosen people" is a sick joke. In his short story "The Calf," a happy young boy is essentially brainwashed and tortured by his teachers into regarding fun as sinful. His work reads like an angry Deconstruction of Fiddler on the Roof. But the Shalom Aleichem stories that Fiddler on the Roof is based on were actually a Lighter and Softer reaction to Mendele, and were about finding dignity and meaning even in a cruel world. As Tevye puts it:
    Trying to scratch out a pleasant tune without breaking his neck.
  • If the Dr Mabuse books were published today, they'd look like a deconstruction of Bond Villain Stupidity: the title character has several inherently self-destructive tendencies that always ruin everything for him, his plan isn't to Take Over the World but to bring about The End of the World as We Know It and then rule the ashes, and even his name is a pun on the French "m'abuse" – "I abuse myself." These books were written long before James Bond got started, and it's been argued that Mabuse was the direct forerunner to Blofeld, but with the latter's plot devices an integral part of his character.
  • Horatio Hornblower: Even in what's arguably the flagship of the Wooden Ships and Iron Men genre, Hornblower is a brilliant captain, and a frequently self-doubting man who has difficulty remembering or believing that people actually like him.
  • Frankenstein was one of the first major "monster stories". But going back and reading it now, after growing up exposed to generic Frankenstein's Monster stereotypes where it wanders around aimlessly, groans, and kills people, one may be a bit surprised to find an urbane woobie of a monster who is in many ways more sympathetic than his creator, quotes liberally from literature, is strong, agile, and quite dexterous, and also carries firearms for self-protection. The only things that make him appear inhuman are his height and his eyes, and it's decidedly ambiguous whether Frankenstein's true crime was creating the monster or a form of Parental Abandonment. Also, there's no Igor or peasants waving Torches and Pitchforks while running up to the castle — or for that matter (with occasional exceptions) any public knowledge of the thing at any point. And there is no castle; the monster is created in an upper-floor laboratory of a university.
  • Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice at a time when women found men like The Stoic Mr. Darcy completely unattractive. Today, of course, this only augments his attraction right off the bat rather than detracting from it.
  • Dante's Inferno, despite being the Trope Namer of Fire and Brimstone Hell, and the source of many of the beliefs thereof, actually depicts the lowest and worst level of hell as covered in Ice. Further, Satan, far from being the Ruler of Hell, (the closest thing to a ruler is King Minos) is actually basically in Solitary Confinement (except for three humans whose faces he's chewing) and, far from being the omniscient Evil Counterpart of God, he's so stupid (or possibly mind-controlled) that he can't figure out that his attempts to escape the ice, by flapping his wings, is exactly what's making it so cold.
  • James Bond:
    • The original novel of Dr. No prominently features Doctor No's incredibly elaborate, cozy island lair, which was later immortalized in the film adaptation and set the standard for larger-than-life evil lairs everywhere. However, it also goes into detail about the time, money and resources that would go into constructing such a thing – Dr. No first appears in person as Bond wonders just how he managed to build a window facing out into the ocean into the wall, and how much such an operation would cost. Bond is also well aware of how strange, surreal, and (given that he isn't expected to leave alive) morbid his welcome is. The whole thing exists to serve Dr. No's special brand of megalomania. The movie included the impressive lair, but cut out the details of its construction and the kind of mind that led to its creation, making it seem a good deal less extraordinary.
    • Imagine if someone set out to write a Darker and Edgier version of the tuxedoed playboy spy that everyone knows today. It might involve Bond being utterly outclassed by the Big Bad, have him fail to notice that the girl of the week is actually working with him, and might end up with him totally disillusioned about his job and the demands of real politics. The basis of the very first Bond novel Casino Royale then.
    • Consequently, the movie adaptation of Casino Royale seems like a deconstruction of the previous Bond films (and was even hyped as such, at a time when it was perceived that the Bond franchise was wearing thin), particularly the Moore era, when it's in fact being faithful to the source material, although there's definitely a certain mockery of the campier moments in Bond's history.
  • A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthurs Court invented the Giving Radio to the Romans trope while pointing out all the problems it would realistically cause. While all of its adaptations and later users of the trope are comical and fairly idealistic, the original is pretty dark. There's humor about Medieval Morons, but there's also realistic depictions of a Corrupt Church and overall bad society. Moreover, instead of being a hero, like in the adaptations, the protagonist becomes a warlord through his technological savvy, and gets corrupted by power.
  • The War of the Worlds:
    • Perhaps the first story of a war between humans and aliens, rather than the exciting battles, heroics, and scientific ingenuity of Independence Day, Doctor Who etc., features human beings as panicking, weak, or mean, entirely unable to defeat their invaders, who are eventually felled by earthly microbes. It's more about how badly human beings deal with the collapse of civilization, rather than focusing on the fight with the Martians.
    • Unlike all the later Scary Dogmatic Aliens (such as the Nazi aliens in the Orson Welles radio version, the Communist aliens in the '50s movie, or the Bin Laden aliens in the 2005 movie version), the aliens in the book represent the exact cultural values of the society they are invading, being an allegory for imperialism. Invaders come from far away with vastly superior technology rendering resistance futile. In actual history, it was not local resistance that kept European colonies out of Africa until the late 19th century, but disease, hence the ultimate fate of the invaders. Worlds was an attempt to put Europeans in the shoes of Africans (or any other peoples oppressed by imperialism). The part where a soldier talks about what will happen in an invaded world takes some ideas from this, where he talks of resistance groups and some people collaborating with the aliens.
    • Partially because of war paranoia and also due to the limitations of visual media, future aliens as evil outsiders would usually appear human. Only in later years did the Starfish Aliens become a trope in popular science fiction again. However, perhaps because he invented the Alien Invasion genre (a subgenre of the "invasion story"), Wells was free to provide an early example of the truly alien. In the context of a century of Rubber-Forehead Aliens, it manages to come off as Deconstruction, with scientific explanations about the aliens, such as they have trouble moving on Earth due to the higher gravity, and trouble breathing from the atmosphere.
  • The Man in the High Castle:
    • Considered a hallmark of classic Alternate History, though it wasn't the first, the book manages to deconstruct the genre by having the title character write his own alternate history in which the Allies won World War II, but in a different way than in real life. The ending is a Mind Screw which seems to hint that the characters realize that neither that fictional history nor their own is real.
    • Probably the first serious "The Nazis win" Alternate History, it seems to deconstruct several clichés associated with the genre nowadays. Rather than being a venerated father figure for the Reich, Hitler is in a lunatic asylum and none of the current Nazi leadership can bring themselves to admit that they have built a world based on the ideas of a man even they now think is mad. We spend much more time looking at the Japanese-ruled part of the US than the Nazi-ruled part. One character talks about how the Nazis' policies appeal to some white working-class Americans, making blue-collar jobs more celebrated in culture and socially acceptable (reflecting how they built their support in Germany in Real Life) rather than the usual modern Nazi Nobleman stereotype.
  • Readers of Robert E. Howard's original Conan the Barbarian stories may be struck by how different the character – an intelligent, often cheerful, polyglot who wears heavy armor into battle – is from the Barbarian Hero archetype he inspired.
  • The original novel of The Three Musketeers is a lot like The Prisoner of Zenda in that while it's a major influence on the swashbuckler genre, it's much more cynical than the films it inspired (including most of its own adaptations). D'Artagnan is something of an anti-hero: he has several love affairs and is not above tricking Milady into sleeping with him while she thinks she's sleeping with her lover. Unlike the malevolent Evil Chancellor of adaptations, Richelieu is an Anti-Villain who has France's welfare in mind. Ultimately, D'Artagnan ends up working for him and becomes good friends with Rochefort, Richelieu's Dragon, after besting him in several duels. The later books tended to deconstruct it further, with all of their antics in the first book biting them in the ass repeatedly in the later ones, and the most chivalric of the four suffering the most for his Royalist and traditional stances.
  • A lot of early European novels like Tristram Shandy and Don Quixote seem to be deconstructions of the form, with the author intervening, characters reading earlier parts of the story, etc, and yet they can't be deconstructing the novel because Don Quixote is often considered the first modern novel, and Tristram Shandy is an early English novel. With its metanarrative, its extensive use of references, the narrative's exploration of the processes of memory and writing, and the manipulation of excerpts from other works of literature in order to give them new meanings, some critics suggest that Tristam Shandy – along with the later Moby-Dick – is this to the postmodern novel, long before the term postmodern was even coined.
  • I Am Legend was the inspiration for many of the classic zombie stories, including Night of the Living Dead. It also has the inhuman hordes being depicted as sentient, and the lone survivor is their version of a boogeyman. The ethical questions concerning his attempts to survive in this new world are a primary theme of the end of the novel.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of the very first uses of the term Prince Charming, about Dorian. Modern fairy tale parodies, reacting to the Flat Character of the stock Prince Charming, will tend to portray him as stupid (see Enchanted) or will have the character be Prince Charmless and act like a selfish cad (see Shrek, The Princess Bride, Fables, Into the Woods, etc.) Both of these subversions are used in Wilde's novel, but in a much darker way. When introduced, Dorian seems like the benevolent Flat Character version, but it's taken further since he's a Blank Slate or even an Empty Shell, which explains why when he goes bad, he goes really bad, since his shallowness is at Lack of Empathy levels. Dorian would come across as a very dark take on/deconstruction of Prince Charmless, were he not the first example of it.
  • Misery. Both the book and the film seem to be a rather disturbing deconstruction of the Straw Fan trope. Keep in mind that the book was written in 1987 and the film debuted in 1990, well before the full extent of Fan Dumb would be exposed on the Internet.
  • Lolita was the Trope Namer for Lolicon, but if you read it carefully, you'll realize that it's a Deconstruction of that very trope by showing how Humbert's flowery prose and profession of his love for Lolita doesn't change the fact that he's a pedophile who took advantage of a preadolescent girl and ruined her childhood. The novel also implies that if Humbert could see Dolores objectively, he would see just another normal, banal suburban girl who is neither poetically pure nor some sexually precocious nymph.
  • Isaac Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics, which have been imitated by many other science fiction writers. However, Asimov's Robot stories were mostly dedicated to the Laws' inadequacies. This was largely in response to the opinion that robots would be inherently dangerous and unpredictable, but Asimov believed that robots, like all technology, are merely tools, and any danger they might pose would be the result of misuse or abuse by humans. He deconstructed his own laws in many ways, but also reconstructed them as well, such as manipulation of the laws to subvert their intent, exploring how adjusting the laws in an apparently benign way could have disastrous consequences if viewed from an extremely literal perspective (like, say, that of a robot), the problem with interpreting what it means to "cause harm", especially in ways more subtle than robots (and even humans) can understand, and (the basis for the Zeroth Law Rebellion trope) how a sufficiently intelligent robot could avert the sometimes Lawful Stupid aspect of the laws by applying them less literally where appropriate.
  • Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (published in 1869) is an Unbuilt Trope of the Übermensch: A Wicked Cultured Well-Intentioned Extremist who claims to be Above Good and Evil because he has done with society and is practically above any law of the civilized nations thanks to the power of his submarine, the Nautilus. … however, he is a Deconstruction of the trope, because the contradiction between his unlimited power (that lets him cross the Moral Event Horizon) and his compassionate nature causes him a Villainous Breakdown. This dialogue between him and Professor Aronnax lampshades it 14 years before Also Sprach Zarathustra:
    "I have hesitated some time," continued the commander; "nothing obliged me to show you hospitality. If I chose to separate myself from you, I should have no interest in seeing you again; I could place you upon the deck of this vessel which has served you as a refuge, I could sink beneath the waters, and forget that you had ever existed. Would not that be my right?"
    "It might be the right of a savage," I answered, "but not that of a civilized man."
    "Professor," replied the commander, quickly, "I am not what you call a civilized man! I have done with society entirely, for reasons which I alone have the right of appreciating. I do not, therefore, obey its laws, and I desire you never to allude to them before me again!"
    This was said plainly. A flash of anger and disdain kindled in the eyes of the Unknown, and I had a glimpse of a terrible past in the life of this man. Not only had he put himself beyond the pale of human laws, but he had made himself independent of them, free in the strictest acceptation of the word, quite beyond their reach! Who then would dare to pursue him at the bottom of the sea, when, on its surface, he defied all attempts made against him? What vessel could resist the shock of his submarine monitor? What cuirass, however thick, could withstand the blows of his spur? No man could demand from him an account of his actions; God, if he believed in one – his conscience, if he had one – were the sole judges to whom he was answerable.
  • The Godfather, the novel that inspired probably the most influential of Mafia movie series, has one of the central tropes of mafia fiction, Nothing Personal, taken apart by none other than Michael Corleone himself:
    "Tom, don't let anybody kid you. It's all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it's personal as hell. You know where I learned that from? The Don. My old man. The Godfather. If a bolt of lightning hit a friend of his the old man would take it personal. He took my going into the Marines personal. That's what makes him great. The Great Don. He takes everything personal. Like God. He knows every feather that falls from the tail of a sparrow or however the hell it goes? Right? And you know something? Accidents don't happen to people who take accidents as a personal insult."
  • Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny has a novelty martial art – known as "Temporal Fugue" – practised by godlike superhumans, which involves practitioners projecting themselves through space and time to a place behind their enemies, striking right before their foes strike. If both practitioners use Temporal Fugue at the same time, it results in an infinite cascade of recursion and duplication, which strains the time-space continuum. At first, this would seem like a deconstruction of No, I Am Behind You, but Creatures of Light and Darkness was written in 1969, long before anime dealing with the subject first started to boom.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future is subverted in The Sleeper Awakes by H. G. Wells, before Fordism was invented and assembly-line mass production took off. The future society contains a large slave class, and the narrator is initally led to believe that the slaves are like the slaves of his day – labourers. It's only later on that he realises that almost all production has been industrialised, and the slaves are just machine operators. Unlike the laborers of his day, they have pale skin and almost no muscle.
  • 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.
  • Edmond Hamilton's short story "He That Hath Wings" is one of the first stories to feature mutants, written in 1938. The protagonist is a Winged Humanoid. He never uses his power to help people or to hurt them, he has his wings amputated once his fiancee demands it, and once they grow back, he flies himself to death.
  • Don Quixote:
    "O señor," said Don Antonio, "may God forgive you the wrong you have done the whole world in trying to bring the most amusing madman in it back to his senses. Do you not see, señor, that the gain by Don Quixote's sanity can never equal the enjoyment his crazes give? But my belief is that all the señor bachelor's pains will be of no avail to bring a man so hopelessly cracked to his senses again; and if it were not uncharitable, I would say may Don Quixote never be cured, for by his recovery we lose not only his own drolleries, but his squire Sancho Panza's too, any one of which is enough to turn melancholy itself into merriment.
    • The novel explores the Book Burning trope in a far more comedic way than you'll find in a post-World War II environment, with an emphasis more on the Moral Guardian aspect of the trope, since all the censorship in Cervantes' day was by the Spanish Inquisition; indeed, the anonymously-written Lazarillo de Tormes, the first picaresque novel and a major target for the Inquisition, was either a huge influence on Cervantes or else something he himself wrote, so he would have known how frustrating it could be to have your books burned. In chapter IV of the first part, Don Quixote’s niece and Old Retainer asked the Moral Guardians' permission to do the Book Burning in a desperate attempt to cure him. The Moral Guardians are the most educated people in the village (a curate and a barber); they never wanted to impose their ideas and are doing this as a favor to the family, so they don’t care much for this Book Burning, and end up stealing a few volumes they think are actually pretty good. In Chapter XXXII, the curate jokingly threatens to burn two of the four books an innkeeper has: two of them are Non-Fiction Literature about awesome Real Life soldiers, and the other two Chivalric Romance books heavy on Rule of Cool. The curate wants to burn the latter, and the innkeeper the former.
  • 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.
  • Dune went in-depth examining the full social and religious implications of the Robot War long before it became the archetypal plot that it is today – and it did it without ever showing the war itself. Instead, the story takes place millennia after the war, in a universe where its aftermath led to a religious crusade against artificial intelligence... and gave rise to oppressive aristocratic governments and subcultures of power-crazed Ubermensches who manipulate the human race with mystical powers. Not to mention the struggle to control the substance that fuels said mystical powers, which ends up controlling the universe's economy and touching off centuries of ever more destructive wars. It's basically an entire Space Opera setting built around drug-dealing. Though the Robot War merely forms the background of the story, its results imply that in Real Life, even victory in such a conflict could turn out to be disastrous for humanity.
  • Vera Claythorne of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None is seemingly the originator of the Final Girl trope – in a work in which a Serial Killer preys on victims, she has the personality of The Ingenue, and is the last one standing. However, Vera plays out as a very skewed take on the trope – beneath her innocent persona, Vera is actually mentally unbalanced, and is guilty of a very evil act – in fact, the reason she is designated as final is because the killer perceived her as (one of) the most evil of the bunch – in contrast with all later versions in which the Final Girl is the most innocent. The reason she survives is because the killer wanted to punish the most guilty by letting them live longer and suffer the mental trauma, and Vera kills the last remaining character then hangs herself.
  • A Clockwork Orange is one of the earlier works to feature Heel-Face Brainwashing, which is often played as a more humane way to resolve things with a bad guy than simply killing him or imprisoning him, especially as he will probably learn that Good Feels Good and turn for real. The book, however, goes straight into the Fridge Horror of the idea when it's used on Alex and ultimately condemns it as a horrific and terrible crime against humanity, as what it's essentially done is remove Alex's free will, making him less than human. Alex also doesn't learn anything about Good Feels Good while under its influence: he's beaten and terrorized by his past victims, unable to defend himself, and ends up attempting suicide to escape the horror his life has become. And at the end, after the brainwashing procedure has been reversed, he just decides to become a good person anyway, having grown up a bit.
  • The original The Artful Dodger in Dickens' Oliver Twist generally fits the Lovable Rogue characterization of later adaptations/trope examples, but is still presented as The Corrupter to Oliver, and ends the book being tried for a theft, and his amusing bluster and insistence on being a victim of society does nothing to impress the judge, and he is sentenced to transportation to Australia. In fact, "subverting" this along with the related trope of Satisfied Street Rat, the narrator indicates that all of the children in Fagin's gang, except for Charley Bates, went to bad ends.
  • Phileas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days, published in 1872, is the Trope Maker for the Clock King, but also explores all the ramifications about that trope: He is a rare case of the protagonist being a Mysterious Stranger, the readers never know any of his Back Story, and only in the very last chapters do they know if he was one of the Villains or not. In the last chapters the reader realizes that Fogg’s extreme reserve was not an Evil Brit case, but only a severe case of British Stuffiness. Unlike all his imitators, Fogg is very good at Xanatos Speed Chess and the Indy Ploy, because that’s the only way he can win The Bet. Fogg’s plan didn’t work, but it didn’t work in his favor: the Universe rewards him, granting him almost an extra day. And the one obsessed with his clock was not him, but his employee, Jean Passepartout.
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the originator of split personalities, but is more sophisticated than many modern versions. Jekyll is fully aware of what he does as Hyde and takes the potion willingly. Towards the end the novel becomes a character study on why he does this and what it says about his own morals. He tries to use the split as an excuse for what he does as Hyde, but the account makes clear that he is evading responsibility.
  • If you read a cynical poem about the agonizing, unglamorous experience of having to paint pictures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for hours at a time, you would probably (naturally) assume that it was a deconstructive satire on society's rosy view of the artistic genius of the Renaissance, which Michelangelo's paint-job on the Sistine Chapel is considered the classic example of. Well, there is such a poem. And you'd be right to think that...except it was written by Michelangelo himself when he was actually in the process of painting the Sistine Chapel. Yes, it's just as hilariously self-deprecating as it sounds.
    My stomach's squashed under my chin, my beard's
    pointing at heaven, my brain's crushed in a casket,
    my breast twists like a harpy's. My brush,
    above me all the time, dribbles paint
    so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!
    My haunches are grinding into my guts,
    my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
    every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
  • "Casey at the Bat" is likely the Trope Maker for Down to the Last Play... except mighty Casey struck out rather than drive in the winning run.
  • Jorge Luis Borges' "The Library of Babel" is this for the Great Big Library of Everything trope. The library contains not only every book ever written, but every book it is possible to write, the overwhelming majority of which are complete gibberish.
  • While hardly the first steampunk novel, The Difference Engine is a surprisingly early dystopian take on the genre. Many of the flaws of Victorian society – socio-economic tensions, poor understanding of medicine, police surveillance, pollution, British imperialism – are all exacerbated by London getting its hands on advanced technology way too early to be trusted with it.
  • Though it arrived years later, The Diamond Age is also a striking example. All the archetypical steampunk technology is there, but Neal Stephenson doesn't waste a single opportunity to highlight the shortcomings and Values Dissonance of (neo-)Victorian society: Hackworth is a genius but socially bound to remain working-class; his wife divorces him per Victorian custom after he is kidnapped and raped by the Drummers; Nell is alienated by the rigidness and impracticality of her boarding school, and on and on.
  • The Noon Universe predates many of the famous Star Trek-esque utopian future stories as well as a lot of space operas, but it also brutally deconstructs its own ideas. The future while outwardly nice is hitting a decay, the eccentric scientists are turning towards dangerous experiments out of boredom, the government is increasingly paranoid, The Precursors are manipulative asses, First Contact almost always ends in tragedy, and the Flash Gordon-style protagonists tend to do more harm than good. The Federation isn't destroyed by its own ideals, but Word of God says the only reason it didn't happen is because one of the writers died.
  • Most of the limitations on invisibility were already predicted in The Invisible Man. The eponymous character even complains that the power is good for little other than assassination, as going undetected long enough to, say, eavesdrop on an important conversation was nearly impossible.
  • Going way, way, back, in ''The Battle of Maldon" – one of the oldest surviving works of English literature – a earl under the Anglo-Saxon King Aethelred assembles a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to repel some tough, well-trained Viking raiders. Both the hero and his men get slaughtered horribly, partially due to an act of Pride from the hero. What's worse is that before the battle, the Viking chief offered to leave peacefully in exchange for a tribute of silver. The hero refuses angrily, calling the offer "shameful". After the battle, King Aethelred pays the tribute. The hero accomplished nothing except getting his men killed.
  • The Bourne Identity further unbuilds The Bourne Series franchise. In the novel, Jason Bourne is not an assassin. He only takes credits for assassinations.
  • The Moviegoer has a series of insightful and utter deconstructive extrapolations about the flaws of 60's counter culture but the book was published in 1961, well ahead of the popular outbreak of what he was describing.
  • To a modern reader, Tuck Everlasting reads like a Lighter and Softer rebuke to Twilight and other books like it: Girl meets immortal boy, girl falls for boy, boy's family adores girl, girl must decide whether or not she wants to live forever with boy. Only in this case, the method of becoming immortal is much gentler than what we see in modern Who Wants to Live Forever? books (drinking from a spring as opposed to being bitten by a vampire), the family's love for the girl is justified because, being immortal, the Tucks have become weary of living and are overjoyed to have a "natural, growing child" nearby, and the reason for the family's Masquerade is justified as well. Most surprising of all, Winnie decides not to drink the water, instead living out a natural life and dying some 70 years later. This is portrayed as a wise decision on Winnie's part. Tuck Everlasting was published in 1975.
  • HP Lovecraft wrote a few reconstructions of his own Cthulhu Mythos mainstays, namely The Case of Charles Dexter Ward where it turns out some cosmic entities actually like humans, and The Shunned House and The Call of Cthulhu in which mankind's own grit and will to live (however temporarily) actually leads to us winning!

    Live Action TV 
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • Imagine an episode where a man searches a deserted creepy town looking for any signs of life or civilization, but continues to find nothing, just signs that someone was there at one point but unable to find anyone who still is, with the implication that he may be the last man on Earth. Only for it to be revealed that it all had a fairly mundane and actually somewhat plausible explanation, the man hallucinated the whole thing while in an isolation booth as part of an Air Force experiment. Is this a later episode trying to subvert the show's standard format? No, it's the pilot episode.
    • "Five Characters in Search of an Exit", with its famously chilling Twist Ending, would be a deconstruction of Toy Story if it hadn't come out three decades before it. The old question, "What happens to sentient toys when they're abandoned by their owner?" isn't just an unsettling bit of Fridge Horror—it's the entire premise. Five dolls, who aren't aware that they're dolls, wake up in a Salvation Army bin with no way of knowing where they are or how they got there, and the entire episode follows them slowly going insane as they futilely try to escape.
    • The episode "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You" is an absolutely vicious take on the Unnecessary Makeover trope as a teenage girl who doesn't fit the conventional definition of beauty is repeatedly encouraged to get a surgical procedure to enhance her appearance and make her like everyone else. She repeatedly refuses and cites the importance of knowledge and character over appearance only to be kidnapped and forced into it. The episode's ending with her as an exact copy of her friend and having lost any trace of her original personality is chilling. And it was made in 1963. It's less a Deconstruction and more of a prophecy about the onset of innumerable plastic surgery shows where women are encouraged to cut apart their bodies to be considered acceptable.
  • Star Trek:
    • The whole concept of the Prime Directive has been reversed over the years. In Star Trek: The Original Series, the idea made a great deal more sense: Star Fleet could not interfere with internal politics of pre-warp civilizations, but exceptions could sometimes be tolerated when another warp-capable civilization like the Klingons had already interfered, and the idea of not saving innocent people from a natural disaster would have been unheard of. In later series Star Fleet regularly allows natural disasters to wipe out whole civilizations, but has no problem meddling in internal politics.
    • The famous Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Lower Decks" is both the Trope Maker and the Trope Namer for the Lower Deck Episode, but it's also a deconstruction of the Redshirt trope that's devoted to showing the audience the true perils of life as a low-ranking Starfleet crewman. The episode's four viewpoint characters spend their days constantly fighting for the main characters' respect and assisting on dangerous missions that they're kept in the dark about, and the episode even ends with the death of one of them, using the moment to show that every death on the Enterprise is a tragedy for the ship's captain.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A commonly remarked-upon part of the show's premise is that it's about an old, sinister, extremely powerful man who goes travelling extra-legally with naive, sexy young women and holds total power over whether they come with him, get abandoned or die – and that this is played for Wish Fulfillment rather than as a really creepy variant of the Dirty Old Man. However, in the very first episode, it's clear that the reason Ian and Barbara are scared for Susan's safety is because they think her mysterious grandfather, the Doctor, is keeping her locked up in a police box in a junkyard, and refusing to let her see the outside world. Even after they are taken into the TARDIS, they believe that her grandfather has brainwashed her into believing they are aliens in order to keep her distressed and dependent on him, and Barbara attempts to explain to her that it is a game that he is playing with her.
    • There's an ongoing joke that Daleks cannot take over the universe because their impractical design means that they can't climb stairs, even though the Daleks everyone remembers can fly. Nevertheless, the very first Dalek serial, "The Daleks", deals with this restriction seriously – not only can they not climb stairs (which is irrelevant, as they use exclusively lifts to get around their city) they die if they ever lose contact with the floor, relying on electricity channelled through metal floors to power them. The TARDIS crew kill a Dalek by blinding it and forcing it to roll over a coat, cutting off the connection and its life support system, and later the Doctor kills every Dalek in the city by shorting out the power. This story also dealt with Daleks being rather sad, pathetic beings, and even features the main cast making fun of the Daleks' monotone, distorted voices, with Susan laughing out loud when she first hears a Dalek attempt to say her name. It also deconstructs the way that the Doctor's inquisitive nature leads him and his companions into danger: The Doctor wants to explore a city on another planet but his companions refuse. He sabotages the TARDIS, forcing them to search the city. They are captured, as usual, but almost die from radiation poisoning as the meter wasn't checked.
    • The third First Doctor story, "The Edge of Destruction", is an absurdly dark look at how miserable and paranoid it would be to be unworldly humans living aboard a Sapient Ship that travels semi-autonomously across time and space with a mysterious alien at the helm – by this point, Ian and Barbara's hatred of the Doctor is enough that both think the other may have tried to murder him (and they did not choose to be his companions either, instead being kidnapped by him), the Doctor hates Ian and Barbara for being human interlopers who may be trying to steal or hurt his ship, and Susan, while appearing to be The Ingenue, is just as inscrutable and alien as her grandfather and has a violent mental breakdown, babbling about creatures living inside her, and attacking Ian with a pair of surgical scissors. During all of this, they are dealing with a Negative Space Wedgie, the effects of which are so unlike anything that they have seen before that they constantly wonder if this is actually a malevolent force or something the TARDIS, which has a mind of its own impossible to understand outside of its species, is doing for their sake. Another aspect is that the TARDIS being unreliable is usually portrayed comically. However this serial shows how dangerous it could really be if the TARDIS went wrong, here a spring coming loose on the console nearly destroys the ship by throwing it back in time to the creation of a galaxy.
    • In "The Aztecs", the third historical story, Barbara tries and fails to save Aztec civilisation by ending human sacrifice. The ending is at best bittersweet, with the High Priest of Sacrifice ending up in control and the only consolation is that the High Priest of Art leaves society to meditate on his faith.
    • The first time we see a human space empire is in "The Sensorites", where the humans coming to the Sense-Sphere is treated as a bad thing, as a previous mission is hiding on the planet and poisoning the inhabitants in an attempt to steal their minerals. The Sensorites themselves are portrayed sympathetically, trying to protect themselves while the main villain is the scheming City Administrator. The story could also be seen as a slight Deconstructive Parody of Ditto Aliens, as the Sensorites can only recognise each other by their clothes, enabling the villain to take the place of one simply by killing them and stealing their clothes. Even so he avoids getting close to anybody who knew this Sensorite well and points out his disguise only works on those who saw the Sensorite at a distance or in passing.
    • "The Rescue" is a deconstruction of the show's whole modus operandi. The TARDIS team land on a planet where a young woman, Vicki, in a crashed spaceship is waiting to be saved by a rescue vessel, while also being kept prisoner by an alien named Coquillion who has killed the rest of the crew. Barbara murders the young woman's pet monster, assuming it was trying to eat her, and the Doctor talks to the other survivor of the crash about dealing with Coquillion, after which he points out that they have nothing to gain from doing that, as the rescue ship is already coming. This culminates in Vicki telling them all that they have no right to go around landing on other people's planets assuming they know exactly what to do when they aren't living there and have no real idea what's going on or if their attempts to fix it are just making everything worse, that she hates them, and that they should all just leave. It is all fixed in the end, but only because the Doctor had already lived on the planet for a while prior to the story, listens to Vicki's point of view while still questioning things she's too entrenched in her own ways to question herself, and because the natives of the planet eventually take matters into their own hands and deal with Coquillion. Furthermore, Coquillion isn't an alien at all, he is the other survivor who invented a phony alien plot to cover up his murder of the rest of the crew.
    • "Mission to the Unknown" and its sequel "The Daleks Master Plan" seem like a Darker and Edgier version of the sort of genre Star Trek popularised. Marc Cory of the Space Security Service finds out about the Dalek plan to invade the Solar System but is trapped on the planet, he records a message and is able to warn Earth in a Heroic Sacrifice... no he gets killed just before he can send the message. Bret Vyon comes across as a bit of a jerk from his determination to his mission, for the first time a companion of the Doctor dies, TWICE! Bret is killed by another agent, his sister Sara Kingdom is killed with the Daleks in a potentially Senseless Sacrifice. The main villain, along with the Daleks, is Guardian of the Solar System and The Quisling Mavic Chen and the Head of the SSS is also a Quisling. The story ends without a feeling of triumph, Steven reminding the Doctor of those who died and the Doctor saying "What a waste... What a terrible waste." These stories both aired in 1965 (though Master Plan ran to 1966), before Star Trek premièred.
    • Steven Moffat's run of the new series is often praised for deconstructing the Doctor's legend and personality, and the relationship between the Doctor and his companions. The show's first attempts at doing this were actually in Season 3, which had two stories ("The Massacre" and "The Savages") which examined these themes. "The Massacre" features a situation in which the companion sees someone who appears to be the Doctor in disguise arranging a Final Solution, assumes that the Doctor must be planning something, ends up unable to save any of the victims due to his misguided attempts to help with whatever the Doctor must be planning, and the real Doctor refuses to save anyone under his belief that history cannot be changed (leading to a What the Hell, Hero? moment and Steven even attempting to quit). "The Savages" is the first time the Doctor finds a planet that not only knows who he is but venerates him – a culture that drains life energy from an underclass to power the machines they use to watch his adventures.
    • The Doctor is usually portrayed as an Insufferable Genius which is often played as a cute, charming quirk, especially in the new series. In Classic Who, the First Doctor was shown to be almost unbearable because of this – as he mellowed out, he would occasionally lapse back into this manner of thinking, and then have a short scene afterwards where he would apologise for being rude, admitting he has No Social Skills. The Second Doctor averted the trope entirely, but when it was revived for the Third Liz Shaw's reason given for quitting being the Doctor's The Watson is because she can't stand his massive ego any more, feeling he only uses her as a prop to make him look clever. It's not really until Tom Baker shows up that this part of his nature is played as just adorkable, because his natural presence was likeable enough he could say the most horrible things and make them sound harmless.
    • The stereotypical depiction of the Companion is someone pretty, with long hair, in a short skirt, who is well meaning but very stupid, has Ship Tease with the Doctor that never goes anywhere, constantly talks about how clever the Doctor is, and gets into trouble and clings onto people a lot. This is an exact description of Second Doctor companion Jamie, who is male.
    • Victoria's main trait is being the Screaming Woman, but rather than being The Load, her capacity for screaming is a useful tactic on several occasions (most memorably, it is weaponised to murder the Monster of the Week in "Fury From the Deep" and to stun a man pointing a gun at her in "Tomb of the Cybermen", among others). Her screaming is also approached realistically as she admits that she's terrified all the time travelling with the Doctor, and leaves the TARDIS for a more peaceful life. (Although it would have been a bit more realistic for her to have done so one episode earlier.)
  • The standard hero of a Paranormal Investigation show is a brooding fanservicing badass motivated by justice or Revenge. The Ur Example of this type of show, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, has its title character be a bumbling, middle aged tabloid reporter with questionable taste in fashion, is uninterested in romance, usually defeats the Monster of the Week by sheer dumb luck, and is largely in it for the fame and fortune that exposing the supernatural would bring him.
  • Even the Standard '50s Father is unbuilt. People forget that in the very earliest sitcoms from the late 1940s and early '50s, the father was often not smart or competent; the sitcom Life of Riley pretty much established the caricature of the Bumbling Dad for television. (And for that matter, the idea of the wife and/or mother being The Ditz instead of a perfect mom did not begin with Edith Bunker or Marge Simpson.) Our idea of the Standard Fifties Father more or less owes its existence to Robert Young, who, in the mid-1950s, agreed to star in Father Knows Best only on the condition that his character would be portrayed as competent.
  • The Fantastic Comedies of the 1960s, such as I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched showcased problems that a mortal man would have with a supernatural female partner. In Bewitched, Darrin himself tried to avoid the supernatural, however Samantha would often use it as a solution to their problems to disastrous results, while her relatives, who were not very fond of their daughter marrying a mortal would also force their way into the couple's lives with little to control them. In I Dream Of Jeannie, Captain Nelson can't (and chooses not to for ethical reasons) profit from Jeannie's presence, since it would mean having taxable property and income he can't report to the government. Having a genie has also made him a target of his superiors who question his suspicious behavior, supernatural forces related to genie, and even his own friend often tries to use genie's powers for his own benefit.

    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.

    Music 
  • Bill Haley. Look at that thirtysomething clown, with his dweeby bow tie and stupid curled cowlick, trying to convince us he’s cool. What a poser...Wait, you say he invented modern pop music?
  • Tom Lehrer's "The Masochism Tango" did this for the Obligatory Bondage Song.
  • The entire "heavy metal" style of rock music is an Unbuilt Trope for purely semantic reasons. Throughout The Seventies and The Eighties, groups that we rightly think of as heavy metal today (Black Sabbath, etc.) were disdained as "not music" or even outright ignored by the music media. (A notable exception was Judas Priest, who – at least for a time – successfully bridged the divide between "serious" metal and pop-metal.) Until The Nineties, what heavy metal really meant to most people was the "wailing guitar" music of groups like Led Zeppelin, ACDC, Van Halen, or Bon Jovi. Good luck finding any of those groups in the "metal" section of your record store today.
    • Led Zeppelin are also a good example because whilst they were very influential on metal, it's often glossed over in favor of Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden's influence. It should be noted that Robert Plant and John Bonham were actually very good friends with the members of Black Sabbath, and often exchanged ideas, and the two bands saw themselves as peers. As an example, the influence of "Communication Breakdown" on "Paranoid" should give a clue.
    • Also, at the time, many groups (including Black Sabbath) didn't define the music they were making as "heavy metal", but "heavy rock", "hard rock", or other similar terms.
    • Black Sabbath were subjected to a lot of Misaimed Fandom and Misaimed Hatedom from supporters and detractors alike, who assumed that they were a "Satan-worshipping" band. In truth, Ozzy and the gang considered themselves a "hippie" band, and they experimented with other styles of music besides "death rock." They were also Roman Catholics, and their music contained many Christian themes. For example, the Title Track from their Self-Titled Album features an image of Satan inspired by a nightmare of Butler's, a depiction that is very clearly evil with Ozzy screaming out to God for help. The track "After Forever" from their third album also has a very clear Christian message. Their inclusion and portrayal of the occult could be seen as a deconstruction of Satanic symbolism in later metal.
    • Today, most people tend to think of metal as a genre focusing on aggression and speed. While this is true for the most part, this was not the kind of music Black Sabbath played. In fact, they relied on slow tempos to create an atmosphere of fear, despair, and magic, and it can be said their music became less and less extreme with the years in that regard. The style their early albums spawned is known as Doom Metal today, which many people (falsely) assume is a reaction to more aggressive forms of metal.
    • Then there's a sub-example with Venom, the coiners of the phrase "Black Metal". Musically, the only thing their first albums have in common with modern black metal is poor recording quality. Unlike later black metal bands, they were absolutely not serious about what they sang, and occult/satanic songs were alongside one or two silly songs about sex or music itself. The band are in fact very similar to Motorhead, but their satanic elements made people think of them as more metal.
  • Kiss have long been perceived as a silly subversion of the Heavy Metal genre, specifically in their performance of music that is usually nowhere near as grotesque as their appearance would suggest. In fact, along with Alice Cooper, they created the metal stereotypes, and thus were free to tweak them as much as they wished. In fact, early Kiss were unsure of what their own sound should be; ironically, their earliest albums hardly sound like they are by Kiss at all: their debut album from early 1974 sounds more like a Rolling Stones record, particularly on the tracks “Firehouse” and “Cold Gin.” Their second album, Hotter Than Hell, is radically experimental and innovative, with songs that seem to predict the future, anticipating thrash and death metal (“Parasite”) and the “grunge” alternative style of Nineties groups like Pearl Jam (“Goin’ Blind”, “Got to Choose”). Not until their third album (Dressed to Kill) would Kiss really begin to promote their trademark high-energy “power-pop” style; and not until their fourth album (Destroyer) would they embrace it fully.
  • The band that in 1978 released the self-titled Van Halen is definitely not the caricature that typified the later Hair Metal bands with which Van Halen is often identified. Eddie’s guitar solos on this album, while impressive, are not as gonzo as the ones later heard from copycat groups like Quiet Riot (or, for that matter, as the ones on later Van Halen records); their emphasis is on artistry, rather than shock value or cheesiness. Van Halen also deconstruct the “party-animal” image of the later groups: while the tone of the first album is generally lighthearted, there are also some brooding, relatively low-key songs such as “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love.”
  • Compare Marilyn Manson, or any other modern Industrial Metal band, with an early group in the genre like Godflesh. Compare them, in turn, with a straight Industrial band of the same era – Skinny Puppy, for example. Now compare all of the above to the bands that started it all: Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA, SPK, NON... Confused yet? And this isn't even factoring in the "missing links" like Swans or Esplendor Géometrico.
  • Listen to any Punk Rock band from the mid-seventies. They sound almost nothing like what we think of as punk music, and barely have anything in common with each other musically. At the time, Punk Rock was just music played by punks. Some particularly pedantic critics even define the rockabilly of the 1950s and the "garage rock" of the 1960s as "punk," which sounds pretty misleading until you remember that those styles of music indeed directly influenced punk (and, less directly, metal).
    • For more specific examples, compare The Ramones (almost like a deconstruction of the '90s pop punk bands) and Richard Hell and the Voidoids (chaos with a loose basis in rockabilly, aka psychobilly 10 years before it happened).
    • The fact that a lot of the original punk rock sound harkens back to eras earlier than the 1970s (from Phil Spector's "wall of sound" to '50s rockabilly) is that punk rock sought to rebel against the rock music conventions of the time. This was the era of big arena rock bands and prog rock bands that had overly elaborate orchestration (though punk rock pioneer Johnny Rotten was a big fan of some prog rock bands). Additionally, the most notable proto-punk band, The Stooges, played fast little rock & roll numbers with great enthusiasm and was an antidote to the hippie rock that was in the mainstream in the very early 1970s (another such band was the Velvet Underground, who was the original "indie" rock band). So those people who bitch about the original punk rock bands not sounding like an obnoxious California punk-style band are missing the point about punk rock as an idea (especially since punk rock started in New York).
  • The Dictators were a part of punk rock from the very beginning, getting started even before The Ramones did. But to many present-day listeners hearing their most famous song, the aptly-titled “Faster and Louder”, for the first time, the Dictators sound not so much punk as they do metal - specifically, a poppier take on speed/thrash metal (if it had existed in the late 1970s).
  • The earliest New Wave bands of the late 1970s (The Cars, Talking Heads) did not really sound like the Eighties “synthpop” groups with which they have come to be associated, or sounded like them only occasionally. This was because their genre was just getting started; in fact, it could be said that American pop music in general was getting started all over again, what with punk having reinvented the wheel. In the beginning, New Wave simply meant “hard rock done in a smooth style”, which did not necessarily indicate synthesizers. While most of the New Wave groups did eventually adopt the stereotypically ’80s “space-age” synthesizer flourishes they became known for, that was not quite the brand of music they created.
  • If you’re under the age of 40, you’ll be forgiven for looking at Parallel Lines-era Deborah Harry (of Blondie fame) and thinking “aging Baby Boomer trying to co-opt the younger generation’s music.” The “aging Baby Boomer” part was true enough (Harry was already in her thirties when the group hit it big, a little too old to be a pop sensation), but Blondie had been a part of the punk/new wave scene from its very earliest New York days, and in fact all those younger female pop stars (Madonna, etc.) ended up imitating Harry rather than the other way around.
  • It goes without saying that early Emo has nothing in common with bands labeled it under the mainstream definition of the term. However it doesn't sound much either like later "classic" Emo bands or their successors today. Trope Makers Rites of Spring were really just a punk band with more personal and introspective lyrics and a bit more melody to their music, something that is hardly uncommon in modern day punk.
  • Similarly, bands considered "screamo" before the term existed don't sound much like modern day screamo bands and weren't much different than Hardcore Punk of the time, just a bit screamier and more chaotic.
  • More than three decades later, the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" sounds very silly, like a passive-aggressive mockery of rap music being performed by "uncool" adults. It is in fact the Trope Maker both for the rap genre and for the hip-hop lifestyle in general.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh is Older Than Dirt, and the Ur Example (being written when Ur was still a city) of many, many tropes. However: the divine god-king is a tyrannical rapist; Enkidu, though remembered, is never avenged; and Gilgamesh's quest ends in stupidity-induced failure. An epic fail, if you will. Although, it's really unclear how much of this is Values Dissonance – the rape thing might (or might not) have simply been a demonstration of how strong and cool Gilgamesh was, to audiences of the time.
  • The Shahnameh: The core character of Shahnameh is regarded as a hero; however, he suffers from moral ambiguity and mostly struggles to solve his own problems rather than the problems of his people, which is supposed to be his main duty.
  • The Bible:
    • The story of Samson can be retroactively seen as a deconstruction of the Messianic Archetype. He knew he was the Chosen One and abused his special status and he was overconfident with his powers leading to him getting betrayed by Delilah. In the end he pushed those pillars down and killed the Philistines out of revenge because he had nothing left to live for. For the irony-challenged, however, Samson is purely a Badass folk hero who gets a Great Way to Go.
    • Delilah is often thought of as an originator of The Vamp, Honey Trap and Femme Fatale tropes, but her relationship with Samson didn't begin in deceit; the Philistines approached her when they were already together. In films, though, she is typically depicted as being sent to seduce Samson, as already having some personal fixation on him, or even as offering her services to the Philistines herself instead of the other way around. Also, the Biblical text never says whether or not her love for Samson was genuine.
    • The story of Balaam is a deconstruction of the Stubborn Mule, as well as an example of Truth in Television. Balaam was hired to curse the Israelites, but was held back by his mule, who refused to cooperate. When the mule was granted to speak, she revealed that she was protecting him from the invisible angel in front of them, who would have killed Balaam had the mule cooperated. The fact that the stubbornness exhibited by donkeys and mules is really an act of self-preservation is largely overlooked in future media.
    • "Jonah and the Whale." "In the belly of a whale" is often used to refer to a period in a story where the protagonist is caught in a situation with no hope. However, in the story of Jonah the whale is actually not a punishment but God's way of saving Jonah from drowning. It also represented him giving Jonah a second chance by taking him back to land. Note, though, that the Bible itself compares being in the whale as a trial, when Christ compares the three days in the whale with his upcoming three days dead before resurrection.
      • There is also what would now seem a deconstruction of the idea of prophecy. The prophesy of Nineveh's destruction is true, but seeing the people's repentance God changes his mind. When Jonah complains about this God spends the last chapter of the book calling him a bloodthirsty idiot.
    • The designs of the various kinds of angels are amazing. Take the seraphim: They have six wings; two covering their face, two covering their feet, and two to fly. The cherubim, no connection to the cute baby angels you might know, have "four faces and four wings, with straight feet with a sole like the sole of a calf's foot, and "hands of a man" under their wings. Each had four faces: "The face of a man, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle." If you saw that in a manga, movie, comic book or something else like that, it'd be praised for its innovativeness.
    • Picture if you will a being that exists outside of space and time that can make and unmake the universe at will just with its voice, who sometimes sends messengers into the mortal world to manipulate mortals into performing seemingly insignificant actions as small parts of a very long-term plan that is inscrutable to all beings except itself, that has the power not only to destroy said people's bodies but also to lock their souls into an eternal state of And I Must Scream for failing to follow said plan, and that is so incomprehensible to human beings that the mere sight of its true form would kill them instantly and even a small fraction of its power is able to induce visceral terror in even its most loyal of servants. No, it's not some Lovecraftian Eldritch Abomination; that's God Himself. And He's not out to destroy or mutate the reality He created with His sheer might; He's the benevolent guardian of humanity who sends a manifestation of Himself (Jesus) to show them the light, and protect them from a lesser-but-actually-evil entity (Satan).
    • The Old Testament as a whole (with a few exceptions) is this. Your society believes that it worships the supreme god, and that as long as it does so it will be completely prosperous; then a foreign superpower comes in and conquers your city and destroys the building where your god lives and sends your people away from their land where they have to compromise their cultural identity to survive. Then a bunch of you start writing about a god and a world that are a lot more complicated than "do good and get rewarded."
    • The Gospel of Mark can be considered to be this in comparison to the other gospels of the New Testament, at least according to this essay. Of all four gospels, it is by far the most ambiguous concerning the nature of Jesus' feats, identity and resurrection, and it contains no references to his birth or childhood. It's also the oldest of the four gospels.
  • Classical Mythology :
    • The original Greek myths must seem like "grim 'n' gritty" reboots of romantic legends to college students who read them after encountering the "cleaned-up" versions as children. Zeus, for one, is no benevolent deity but a very self-centered and even sadistic god; Heracles, meanwhile, is a hot-tempered idiot and barely a hero at all.
    • Any attempt at making Hades seem a sympathetic or tragic character as opposed to the mythological equivalent of Satan in Greek lore might seem like an attempt to re-think a traditional character or push a Sympathy for the Devil theology. However, in original myths, Hades is often portrayed as a neutral and sometimes even benevolent side-character who only lashes out against "heroes" when they break the rules or betray him.
  • See Sadly Mythtaken for more.

    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?

    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 
  • 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.

    Theater/Opera 
  • 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.
  • A story where the Bastard Bastard is portrayed as sympathetic, justifying his evil by saying how society perceives him as evil and he is being treated as The Unfavorite? Sounds like a new idea? It was done in King Lear.
  • Romeo and Juliet is often cited by the general public as one of the greatest love stories of all time and is the Trope Codifier of Star-Crossed Lovers and Love at First Sight. So of course it ends in both Romeo and Juliet dying over a stupid melodramatic mistake and a lot of innocent people dead or traumatized because of their reckless behavior. The two in general come off as a pair of hormone-addled drama queens who act as if they're meant to be together forever after meeting for a grand total of five minutes.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • 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 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • Despite being the trope namer for Scooby-Dooby Doors, nearly every time that any iteration of Scooby-Doo used this gag, it deconstructed it or poked fun at it. The most common ways it did so were having the characters bump into the villain who was supposed to be chasing them, or having some other character pop out of nowhere, with the Scooby Gang wondering who they were.
    • The original show has several episodes that subvert, play with, or deconstruct the Scooby-Doo Hoax and other such clichés associated with the show. For example, one episode has the creepy Old Man Jenkins-type character not only turn out to be innocent of the hauntings, but aid the Gang in catching the villain by calling the police when he feared for their safety. Another has the Gang investigating a house with two ghosts; in the end, it turns out that the ghosts were two separate people not associated with each other, both using the same trick but completely unaware of the other's presence. Whereas one of said men was a typical crook, the other turned out to simply be a friendly man who was trying to keep thieves and vandals off his property until he could recover the fortune his grandfather left behind.
  • Despite often being labeled as "cute and harmless", some of the classic movies from the Disney Animated Canon had several dark elements, such as Family-Unfriendly Violence, and nightmarish sequences. The first few movies of the canon, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Bambi had pretty dark atmospheres and were more focused on drama than on comedy, being considerably more serious than most of the animated movies that came later. The Night on Bald Mountain segment from Fantasia was exactly the opposite of what could be normally expected from a Disney film, being darker and edgier than most of the animations produced in the same time. it even went so far as to unashamedly display female frontal nudity, something that not even the pg rated disney films of the last few years would ever consider doing.
  • Disney's Silly Symphonies cartoons, which popularized the "cute animals in cute situations" trope that launched a thousand imitators in the 1930s, actually play out like a deconstruction of those types of shorts: characters end up in bizarre locations, there's a fair amount of fast-paced slapstick, there are fourth wall jokes that point out the ridiculousness of the situation... really, any of the shorts that aren't like this are usually experimental cartoons that are Played for Drama, like The Old Mill. Like any Follow the Leader scenario, the imitators copied only the base aesthetics of the shorts, and not the reasons why they were so popular in the first place. By the time the 1940s rolled around, and Silly Symphonies parodies became popular, all they were really doing was parodying the tropes that the imitators themselves used, and not necessarily the tropes of the series itself.
  • My Little Pony was just a sugar bowl of cutesy ponies until Lauren Faust got her hands on the franchise and created My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, right? Try the original My Little Pony TV Specials, where the ponies had to be brave and resourceful to deal with a monster centaur who transformed captured ponies into winged beasts to bring eternal night using the dark rainbow, and later a monstrous cat junkie who wanted to turn them into slaves to make her Fantastic Drug.
  • Watching The Simpsons episode, "Bart Gets an F", can be a bit of a shock for casual viewers that know Bart Simpson as a carefree hooligan with an authority problem. In that episode, Bart's poor academic performance almost leads him into an emotional breakdown when he's faced with the prospect of repeating the fourth grade, and it's suggested that his troublemaking ways are a façade that helps him cope with his massive insecurity (an idea that was further explored in many later episodes). The most shocking part? It was only the first episode of the show's second season, and it came out long before Bart's name became synonymous with "lovable troublemaker" in popular culture. (Of course, Bart's angst in this episode comes not so much from within himself as it does from the society around him; if his parents and teachers are disappointed in him, he will start to care.)


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