An Unbuilt Trope
is a work that seems
like a Deconstruction
but is actually
the Trope Maker
itself. This is often because later appearances of the trope have decayed
(or been Flanderized
) compared to the original, defining appearance.
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.
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?
Simple: Because said 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 too dark and thus needed to be Lighter and Softer
; 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 plot-wise; 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 (many Sci-Fi Trope Makers suffer from this, and even The Lord of the Rings
was considered such when it first came out); the later authors are the ones that constructed the mythos and the popular cliches. Alternatively, the deconstructed
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
and Lost In Imitation
. 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.
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Anime and Manga
- The above example is from Astro Boy. Thanks to his sophisticated story telling, 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.
- Mazinger Z built off the concepts in Gigantor to create the Super Robot genre. However, the series also featured multiple deconstructions of Super Robot tropes, such as the main character nearly destroying a town while learning to pilot his Humongous Mecha. A later episode even has the villains take over a Japanese village, at which point they systematically slaughter any civilians they consider "useless" and then use women in the village as Human Shields for their latest weapon.
- Great Mazinger introduced the Hot Blooded Ace Pilot archetype with Tetsuya, who turned out to lack a sense of self worth and constantly feared being replaced due to a massive inferiority complex, which causes him to abuse his adopted sister and later results in the death of his adoptive father.
- Go Nagai's Violence Jack started After the End manga in Japan. It devoted its entire first chapter to showing in loving detail a Nightmare Fuel, Gorn filled account of The End of the World as We Know It. Things go From Bad to Worse after that, with a Villain Protagonist who fights and kills out of mere curiosity or boredom. Compared to that later series such as Fist of the North Star can be seen as Lighter and Softer
- 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.
- Rei Ayanami of Neon Genesis Evangelion 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 her love interest's mother inhabited by the soul of an Eldritch Abomination that goes on to destroy the world.
- The original Sailor Moon manga, the inspiration for the Magical Girl Warrior genre, regularly featured the heroes casually killing villains rather than attempting to redeem them.
- 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 helped start the concept of people with a Super Mode, but also showed the genocide of an entire race with such an ability by an enemy who wanted to destroy the group while they were still "normal".
- 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 due to the fact that 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 literally die laughing with huge unnatural smiles on their faces.
- The Human Bomb going back to 1941 stories 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 effect 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.
- To one who reads Watchmen today, the character of Rorschach feels like a deconstruction of the Nineties Anti-Hero, when he was in fact largely the inspiration for many Darker and Edgier heroes, whose creators missed the point. Ironically, Alan Moore ended up popularizing the Anti Heroes he set out to deconstruct.
- 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 pretty much 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 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 Codifers for the Healing Factor power, having it had drawbacks like meaning anesthesia can't be used on him
- 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.
- Similarly, the original Godzilla deliberately equates the monster with the A-Bomb, and examines the political ramifications of the Applied Phlebotinum that kills him. Neither is Godzilla's rampage a gleefully sociopathic scene of destruction: there are extended scenes of little kids painfully dying of radiation burns, and before that is a scene of a mother and her three children, crouching in an alleyway, the mother attempting to comfort her children before Godzilla kills them all.
"Another minute... just another minute... and then we'll all be with your daddy."
- 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.
- Possibly M, as the child-murderer and implied pedophile is presented sympathetically, which by modern standards comes across as a reaction against the Pedo Hunt idea.
- Well, it definitely was a reaction against mob justice, which says a lot about the social and political climate in Germany shortly before the rise of Hitler.
- 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:
- 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.
- Speaking of Cowboy Cop, 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 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 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 indeed 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.
- This cracked article makes an interesting case that Starship Troopers, viewed today without context, 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 progadanda. 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.
- 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."
- The original Night of the Living Dead was the progenitor for the entire Zombie Apocalypse genre, and spawned decades worth of imitators and lookalikes that follow a standard format: society is overrun, and the survivors are left to fend for themselves. However, Night was subverted everything that followed it. The film doesn't dwell too much on the zombies, has little to no gore, has intelligent zombies (who know how to run, operate a car door and smash a vehicle's headlights) and focuses on how tensions in society were building to a fever pitch. It also subverted the entire genre - the zombie outbreak is contained (and resolved) after a couple days by roving posses who head across the country to take out everything that is undead.
- 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.
- Dr. No is a rather odd James Bond film: it has no elaborate gadgets or flamboyant henchmen, its deaths are brutally cold and efficient (and are not followed by any bad puns - the closest it gets is Bond flatly informing a novice assassin of his mistakes before killing him), there is only one car chase, and the eponymous villain does not reveal all of his plan to Bond. Overall, it contains surprisingly few of the cliches of the series it created, presenting a relatively realistic take on the "Cold War espionage" plot before Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig made the Darker and Edgier approach the norm again.
- Notably, this is actually a realistic reflection of Ian Fleming's original novels (see "Literature"), which were substantially toned down and made more lighthearted for the later film adaptations, further driving home Bond's Unbuilt Trope status.
- Dr. No's immediate sequel, From Russia With Love, began the tradition of Bond getting gadgets but he receives something much more practical than he would be known for in later installments: a briefcase with a hidden knife, a tear gas booby trap, a takedown survival rifle, some gold coins and a Cyanide Pill. No laser wristwatches or bullet cigarettes or anything too fancy. Everything he gets is potentially multipurpose rather than something that would only be handy if the plot were designed around it. Many of these gadgets - like the briefcase-knife and takedown rifle - were even based on real-life spy kits.
- Many people associated the Roger Moore era as being the time when Bond became Lighter and Softer - but it was actually the last Connery film (Diamonds Are Forever) that started that trend (granted, it was also the last film before the Moore era, which just kept it going).
- Death Wish saga pioneered the urban Vigilante Man concept, but it also showed how dangerous it would be.
- The original Prom Night 1980 was among the first Slasher Movies released in the eighties, which contains some of the typical cliches (the title, death by decapitation, a masked killer etc.) of the era. However, the Unbuiltness is evident by its killer, who isn't silent, slow-walking or a heavy damage shrugging monstrosity. Instead, he's some guy in a ski mask who makes mistakes like any other person would (at one point he rushes after his victim, and in the hurry forgets his axe) and is ultimately defeated by a blow to the head with a blunt instrument.
- Though it's certainly not the first superhero film, Daredevil actually deconstructed many aspects of superhero stories back in 2003, when the 2000s superhero movie craze was still in its infancy. It also may be the first movie ever to try the "gritty and realistic" approach to superhero films that Batman Begins is often credited with starting. Aside from the costumes, it's essentially a gritty crime drama about an all too human vigilante whose constant injuries from fighting criminals have left him covered in scars and dependent on painkillers, it fully examines the implications of the hero's typical Honor Before Reason mentality (showing us that Matt Murdock's idealism has left his legal practice struggling because he refuses to represent wealthy clients who he knows to be guilty), and it ends with a Pyrrhic Victory, as Matt puts the Kingpin behind bars (fully aware that he'll be freed soon) but fails to save his love interest.
- 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 (like most of its imitators do), 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" (which has grown into a common conclusion for Rashomon Plots) 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.
- Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is obviously the basis for the oft-parodied naming scheme The Good, The Bad, and The X, but its title is meant ironically, as it's used specifically to point out how tenuous the characters' respective labels are: "The Good" is an amoral vigilante who repeatedly betrays his allies for personal profit, "The Bad" (though the least sympathetic) appears the most respectable to outsiders, and "The Ugly" has the most fleshed-out and sympathetic backstory of the three.
- Part of the reason why It's 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.
- In Clerks, the famous "Death Star contractors" scene both describes the No Endor Holocaust trope, then deconstructs it seconds later. In the scene, Randal makes the observation that, since the second Death Star was still under construction at the time the Rebels destroyed it, it probably had innocent civilian contractors on board who where killed needlessly when it was destroyed. This idea is then taken apart seconds later by a costumer who happens to be an actual contractor: he overhears the conversation, then tells Dante and Randal the story of how he was supposed to do work on a mafia boss's house, but conned the job off on his friend when he found out whose house it was—leaving said friend to be shot dead by a rival gang when they put a hit out on the mafia boss's house. The contractor comes to the conclusion that, if the contractors were stupid enough to take a job inside a giant target like the Death Star, they have nobody to blame but themselves for their deaths.
- According to Lucas, the contractors were evil Geonosians, though he may have been joking.
- Planet of the Apes brutally deconstructs the "Civilized Apes" trope it helped to popularise, by depicting the Apes as having the same potential for cruelty and kindness as their human relatives, and showing that just because a species is "civilized" doesn't mean it's not still capable of animalistic savagery. It also deconstructs the Humans Are The Real Monsters trope, by showing that while yes, humans have been know to be rather cruel, that when the roles are reversed, the intelligent apes are just as brutal with their experimentation and exploitation of humans as the humans ever where with the Apes.
- What if somebody told you about a mystery novel where a brilliant Victorian detective spends seven chapters relentlessly hunting down a murderer who, instead of being a hardened criminal or an evil genius, turns out to be a completely sympathetic vigilante who was just trying to avenge his wife (but dies for his efforts anyway), and where the murder victims themselves are the closest things in the story to actual "villains"? Sounds like a deconstruction of the Black and White Morality of old-fashioned "superhero detective" stories, right? Nope. That's the plot of A Study in Scarlet—the 1887 novel that first introduced the world to Sherlock Holmes.
- In the same novel, Sherlock Holmes, Master of Disguise… is completely fooled by a mysterious crook posing as an old lady.
- The Hound Of The Baskervilles also gives us the Ur Example of the Scooby-Doo Hoax in a gritty mystery where the perpetrator is a hardened criminal who actually kills people, and specifically uses the charade because he knows that it's less likely to be investigated by the police than a string of more conventional murders. This was all written about 68 years before Scooby-Doo ever saw the light of day, but it shows how horrifying the archetypal "fake haunting" plot would be if it actually happened.
- Many of the original short stories look like a deconstruction, when in fact they're unbuilt tropes. It isn't Always Murder, much of the time Everybody Lives. Sometimes, no actual crime was even committed (which is Lampshaded by Watson). Sometimes, even when a crime is committed, Holmes will let the criminal go if he takes pity on them, or because it'd cause more scandal than it was worth if they were caught. Sometimes, even if the crime is a murder, if Holmes decides the murder victim was enough of an Asshole Victim, he'll let the killer go free.
- Sherlock Holmes is the Trope Namer for Sherlock Scan (maybe Dupin was the Ur Example) but the trope is deconstructed in The Sign of Four, when Holmes deduces that Watson's brother was a scoundrel by studying his pocket watch. This is Watson's Berserk Button, and he accuses Holmes of knowing the sad story of his brother's destiny beforehand, and of using Phony Psychic techniques to claim he deduced it from a simple watch. In a rare moment of humility, Holmes recognizes that he is a Insufferable Genius, and that he has hurt his friend's feelings by doing the Sherlock Scan For Science! without thinking into the consequences.
- Lord Dunsany's stories are this way. He 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 Sword and Sorcery 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 Elflands Daughter is a bit more ambiguous. Keep in mind that H. P. Lovecraft admired Lord Dunsany as much as any (then-)living writer.
- Think about a book that consists of a handful of tough-minded individualists, most of them from working class backgrounds, fighting against an increasingly corrupt and despotic US run by a collusion of power-hungry politicians and Corrupt Corporate Executives? And one where the heroes have several "Screw the Money, I Have Rules!" moments? It's Atlas Shrugged.
- The Lord of the Rings bears this relation to High Fantasy, with its quasi-pacifistic overtones, Bittersweet Ending, and inverted Plot Coupon. Additionally "subversions" in that the heroes do not stick together to the end, and their victory meant the end, not the salvation, of a golden age. And the plucky hero, while exhibiting enormous fortitude, nevertheless fails in his mission; it was Gollum's unlucky slip which destroyed the Ring.
- Even the earlier, children's book The Hobbit does this. The dwarves 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. The hero betrays his companions (stealing the most precious gem of the hoard) in a (fruitless) attempt to buy peace.
- The current 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 Hurin) long, long before Stephen Donaldson and George R. R. Martin.
- Also nowadays, the trend of fantasy worlds actually 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 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).
- Early cyberpunk featured downtrodden, lost-in-the-cracks criminal protagonists in a decaying 1984/Soviet Russia/Ayn Rand style dystopia, where technology and power is in the hands of a small, wealthy elite. Soon after the subgenre was heavily populated by Badass Gunslingers armed with a BFG in one hand and a Katana in the other, using total information freedom to overthrow the establishment. On the flip side, Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination featured a revenge-driven, cybernetically enhanced Nietzschean protagonist striking out against authority in a dystopian world, in 1956, twenty-eight years before Neuromancer.
- 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.
- For that matter, Dracula (which codified so many of the characteristics of modern vampires) had Drac running around in the daylight * 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.
- 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, but 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 also 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.
- Gulliver's 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. Even his college football career ends 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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 and quotes liberally from literature. He 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. And although it's up for a lot of interpretation, the monster is probably not Always Chaotic Evil.
- 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.
- What castle? The monster is created in an upper-floor laboratory of an university.
- The physical abilities are also subject to this: the typical view of the creature is that he is slow and inarticulate, with only physical strength that it possesses little control over. In contrast, the creature in the book is strong, agile, and quite dexterous; as noted above, he also knows how to use firearms by the end.
- 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.
- Another interpretation is that Satan knows he's causing the cold with his wings, but is literally unable to help himself; his desire to return to Heaven is too strong for him to overcome.
- 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. ("One million dollars.") 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.
- The film version of Dr. No was the Trope Maker for the megalomaniacal Bond villain and was repeated with characterisation of other villains in later films - when Dr. No is actually the 6th Bond book and the title character's megalomania was treated as something unusual and unlike the previous villains (some of whom then became the villains in future Bond films due to them being made in Anachronic Order). Confused yet?
- Speaking of Bond, 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. Pretty much 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.
- 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 pretty much 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, the H.G. Wells book, is perhaps the first story of a war between humans and aliens. But rather than the exciting battles, heroics, and scientific ingenuity of e.g. Independence Day or Doctor Who, it 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.
- It was 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. The War of the Worlds was an attempt to put Europeans in the shoes of Africans (or any other peoples oppressed by imperialism).
- Additionally, 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 recent years has the Starfish Alien become a trope in popular science fiction again. However, perhaps because he invented the Alien Invasion genre (a subgenre of the "invasion story"), he 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.
- Though it wasn't the first, The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick is considered a hallmark of classic Alternate History, but 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.
- Also an Unbuilt Trope in a different way: this is probably the first serious "The Nazis win" Alternate History, but 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.
- This is because the word barbarian did not necessarily mean "latter-day Neanderthal caveman", but simply a foreigner (from Greek barbaros, "foreigner"). Barbarians in this sense of the word were not necessarily uncivilized, and many of them even became naturalized Roman citizens and served in the provincial governments. The first barbarians to widely act truly "barbaric" were the ones who invaded Rome during the latter days of the empire: the Goths, the Vandals, and the Huns.
- 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.
- Rule Number Seven: A new art form will be codified quickly, so that parodies of the format will appear within a decade. Consider the blowing curtains trope seen in a LOT of early music videos, played for laughs by Weird Al. Tristam Shandy parodied Pamela and the other early novels of its era.
- 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 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 quite interesting in relation to Prince Charming and Prince Charmless. The novel is one of the very first uses of the term Prince Charming, which makes it kind of an Unbuilt Trope example, since it's used about Dorian (although of course there are later, straight examples of Prince Charming). 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 actually be Prince Charmless and act like a selfish cad (see Shrek, 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.
"...one will have any doubt that those are laborious triflers who spend their time on useless literary problems, of whom even among the Romans there is now a great number. It was once a foible confined to the Greeks to inquire into what number of rowers Ulysses had, whether the Iliad or the Odyssey was written first, whether moreover they belong to the same author, and various other matters of this stamp, which, if you keep them to yourself, in no way pleasure your secret soul, and, if you publish them, make you seem more of a bore than a scholar."
- 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.
- 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.
- "Little Red Riding Hood" is probably the archetypal "Stranger Danger" story. However it features elements that nowadays seem like deconstruction:
- The attack doesn't happen outside. It happens inside a house belonging to the girl's relative.
- Immediately prior to the attack the girl considered the attacker as one of her relatives and not a stranger.
- The attacker gaining entry into said house is not sole responsibility of the girl.
- 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:
- Sancho Panza is not a villain, but he is the first example of exploring Cut Lex Luthor a Check, someone who realizes that he can get rich if he works for himself and not The Hero: He follows Don Quixote under the promise of a governorship in the future, but when he hears Don Quixote's claims about having the recipe of the Balsam of Fierabras, a Healing Potion from a Chivalric Romance that could revive a man cut in half, Sancho analyzes how to get rich with that: He quits the promise and only wants the recipe, planning to be rich selling it to sick and wounded people. He even asks Don Quixote how much it would cost to make it. Once sure that it’s profitable, Sancho helps Don Quixote prepare the potion. The potion seems to help heal Don Quixote, but makes Sancho very sick, so he concludes it only works with Knights, and Don Quixote is the only Knight left, making it not profitable.
- The first part of the novel established firmly Quixote's character as a Lord Error-Prone, but Misaimed Fandom considered him the Ur Example of a Mad Dreamer. In the second part, Cervantes decides to explore all the ramifications of a Mad Dreamer: It shows us a lot of people – Nobles, bandits, soldiers – holding Don Quixote in higher esteem within the work for his imagination and vivacity, organizing a Massive Multiplayer Scam that convinces Don Quixote he really is an Knight Errant… because they want to mock him. The Only Sane Man calls Don Quixote a fool for making all the others be as mad as he. Only when the novel finishes, Don Quixote realizes that, even when he lived the life of a Knight Errant exactly as the Chivalric Romance books said, he didn’t do any good to anyone. So those books were lies. The Fan Disillusionment is so great, he dies. The really disturbing part is that the novel claims a Family Unfriendly Aesop because this is the best scenario for a Mad Dreamer: He could never be as famous or lovable sane than he is as insane:
- Many old Fairy Tales are subject to Grimmification, being deconstructed into Darker and Edgier stories. However, many of the tales that the Grimm Brothers 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. Snow White's wicked stepmother who wanted to eat her internal organs? Remove the "step" from the equation.
- 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. 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 Unfortunate Implications 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.
- Everyone remembers Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle as an expose of the slaughterhouse and meat-packing industries, inspiring muckrakers then and since. All of the "see also" entries on That Other Wiki's page for the book are links to pages about Super Size Me, Food Inc, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Fast Food Nation,and the like. But the packinghouse scenes were just one of the plot points in the Jungle. Sinclair intended the work to convey the message, "America needs Socialism." He later wrote, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."
- 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 except for Charley Bates, all of the children in Fagin's gang went to bad ends.
- Phileas Fogg from Around the World in Eighty Days published at 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 they know if he was one of the Villains or not. At 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.
Live Action TV
- Imagine an episode of The Twilight Zone 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 still being unable to find anyone now with it appearing he may be the last man on Earth. Only for it to be revealed that it all had a fairly mundane and realistic explanation, the man hallucinated the whole thing while in an isolation booth as part of an Air Force experiment. Sounds like a subversion of the show's standard format...except it's actually the pilot episode.
- For that matter, the 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.
- Some have noted that the whole concept of the Prime Directive in Star Trek has been reversed over the years. In the original series, the idea made a great deal more sense: Star Fleet could not interfere with internal politics of pre-warp civilizations, however 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 Trollface.jpg has been used in countless comics illustrating the act of, well, trolling, yet the comic that it originated in◊ was a demonstration of how trolls want people to believe that they're driving people insane with rage while actually being met with slightly annoyed indifference.
- 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.
- 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, AC/DC, Van Halen, or Bon Jovi. Good luck finding any of those groups in the "metal" section of your record store today.
- Also, at the time, many groups (including Black Sabbath) didn't define the music they were making as "heavy metal", but "heavy rock" or other similar terms.
- Black Sabbath were subjected to a lot of Misaimed Fandom from some supporters, who assumed that they were a "Satan-worshipping" band (which even more detractors also assumed). In truth, Ozzy and the gang were Roman Catholics, they considered themselves a "hippie" band, and they experimented with other styles of music besides "death rock." Their music contained many Christian themes. The Title Track from their Self-Titled Album features an image of Satan inspired by a nightmare of Butler's. This depiction of Satan is very clearly evil with Ozzy screaming out to God for help. The track "After Forever" from their third album has a very clear Christian message. Their inclusion 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 focussing 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 bad sound 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.
- 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 completely missing the point about punk rock as an idea (especially since punk rock started in New York).
- 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.
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.
- Of course this comes with it being the oldest known work of written literature. However, it may be that it was simply Deconstructing older written works that haven't survived, or simply oral tradition (Gilgamesh would have obviously been an oral folk tale long before it was ever put to paper... er... clay.)
- Also, it's really unclear how much of this is Values Dissonance — the psychotic 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
- Similar to Gilgamesh example above, 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- See Sadly Mythtaken for more.
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.
- 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 de Bergerac, 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 mechanical androids. 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.
- At about the same time, children's novelist L. Frank Baum was spinning tales of fanciful "mechanical men" in his Oz books, so Capek's play may have gotten confused with those accounts. Or maybe people were thinking of the ambulatory metal statues that assisted the god Hephaestos in his forge in the old Greek myths. Really, automatons and mechanical men had existed in many forms in folklore and literature for a very long time, so it would have been a much more familiar concept to audiences than organic beings constructed from artificial organs.
- 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.
- Many of the problems in Marble Hornets stem from the fact that 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 if not for the fact that it's the progenitor of them and is largely what the rest all follow.
- 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 dis86play 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).
- Whomp: http://www.whompcomic.com/2011/08/01/the-smartest-klingon/ 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.
- 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. That's the original Disneyfication.
- The Night On Bald Mountain segment from Fantasia (Another early movie from the Disney Animated Canon) 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.
- 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 pretty much 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.