Undead Horse Trope

World of Warcraft uses some tropes so much, they continue into the next world.

"I'm aware it's a cliche
I am aware I'm being stupid, I'm aware of that but hey
This is just something that I gotta do..."
— "Action Movie Hero Boy," Lemon Demon

Generally, there's a standard progression as a trope ages. First, it is born. Once it's become established enough, parodies and subversions start to crop up. It ends up eventually becoming a Discredited Trope, and subversions might be common enough to be straight examples of new tropes, making it a Dead Horse Trope. Or it could just be forgotten completely.

Sometimes, however, tropes just don't want to die, and the progression skips a step. Subversions are common enough to be their own tropes, yet the original trope, even if it's the Oldest One In The Book, is still in active use and isn't even (universally — opinions vary) seen as cliched or corny. It would be a Dead Horse Trope, except it isn't actually dead. It's Undead.

Some tropes that reach this state eventually ascend into Omnipresent Tropes, ones that are more like the building blocks of a story which would severely limit writers' options if they were taken off the market. The majority remain necessities for genre and narrative reasons for which non-cliched explanations have yet to be able to provide a suitable alternative. Sometimes, they persist because of a Grandfather Clause.

Compare and contrast Cyclic Trope; contrast Dead Unicorn Trope.

Examples of tropes that haven't quite been killed off:

  • A Day in Her Apron: Almost every Dom Com features this (or some variation of it) at some point.
  • Agony Beam: Necessary to show PG suffering.
  • All Just a Dream: Keeps popping up in cheap direct-to-DVD horror movies even in this century, despite that it's sure to induce a headdesk from many viewers. Its sister trope, Or Was It a Dream?, keeps happening too. Why? Both these tropes are just too damned convenient.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Revived in Police Stop! in 1994, and Police, Camera, Action! from 2007 onwards, it's now pretty much used in crime/police documentaries, but not for parody, and it avoids being Anvilicious in its usage.
  • Animated Musical: Animation and music have always been closely related since The Silent Age of Animation; both media rely on timing and thus perfectly complement each other. Because of this, it remains a Necessary Weasel in Disney films and other family-oriented animation even as it's mocked elsewhere.
  • As You Know: Homer used it in the Iliad. Aristophanes broke the fourth wall to mock his own use of this trope. More than two millennia later, characters still lecture each other about things the others know.
  • Auto-Tune: Mocked all the time, yet a standard for all pop music since the late '90s.
  • Awful Wedded Life: A staple of comedy (especially stand-up)
  • Be Yourself: Keeps popping up in kids' shows even though older viewers might find it trite. Never mind the dubious assumption that every child (or even every adult!) has a strong and fully-developed, static sense of self which is independent of their family and their peers. "Being yourself" would be a lot easier if it weren't a difficult-to-discover moving target — but this aspect is rarely addressed.
  • Big "NO!": The parodies of this have been around for quite a while, but even so, it is still being played straight.
  • Black Guy Dies First: Has been mocked and parodied over the years but still tends to pop up in works unironically (if only for the arbitrary reason that (A) there's only one Black character, (B) they aren't the main character and (C) somebody has to die for there to be a Final Girl).
  • Broken Heel: Along with its countless variations.
  • But Thou Must!: Even in an environment that can create sophisticated software, this is still used (and no one can adequately explain why without invoking Developer Laziness).
  • Chainmail Bikini: By now, everyone who's not too busy drooling is either groaning or laughing. It's mercilessly parodied again and again for about twenty years... but it still goes on. There's certainly no denying that it is very sexy, and always will be (at least for certain people).
  • Cheat Code: Thanks to DLC, achievements, and online multiplayer, cheat codes are effectively dead for consoles. However, for the desktop computer market, it's common practice to leave the developer's console accessible, in the interest of facilitating mod testing and provisional bug workarounds. Some long-running franchises that are known for their cheat codes, such as Grand Theft Auto, also still use cheat codes for gamers to enjoy the heck out of them (although they will block achievements when used).
  • Consummation Counterfeit: A lot of people still carry certain misconceptions that the hymen always breaks, the first time a woman has sex, (It's usually worn away naturally before someone would start having sex) and that her first time is always a bloody event. And there are still places and cultures in the world where because of tradition, a new bride's family members or husband might look for the alleged "proof" that she was a virgin, which may require a bit of trickery on her part whether she's a virgin or not. And it certainly makes sense to use the trope in a period piece.
  • Courtly Love: Undead for about five hundred years now, yet still clocking up regular hours in many forms, while never just limited to Fantasy. Famous subversions appear as far back as Romeo and Juliet and The Canterbury Tales.
  • Crate Expectations: Crates in video games have been mocked to death, but won't be going away any time soon. Otherwise, how will we get our randomly generated items or climb things?
  • Crowd Song: Almost required for a musical.
  • Crunchtastic: Played straight mainly in media and advertising aimed at kids while hard to take seriously elsewhere.
  • Damsel in Distress: Has been parodied plenty, but being The Artifact for a lot of long running series (The Super Mario Bros. series itself mocks it every time it is used, though Princess Zelda's capturing is more straightlaced), and how it functions well enough for its cheapness, keeps it alive. Plus, depending on how violent or harrowing the action is, it can be a good way to set up Fanservice.
  • Death by Childbirth: Even though this is rare in developed countries, the Hand Wave that "Hey, it can still happen!" makes it a great Freudian Excuse. And there are still period pieces where it shouldn't be rare at all. (Parodied, for example, in The Dictator, where Aladeen's mother is said to have "died in childbirth", but that's only because she was immediately smothered with a pillow so that her son could be raised by the state.)
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: Plenty of parodies of this exist, but as long as digital piracy is still around (and it's not showing signs of going away anytime soon) there will always be mainstream media attacking it.
  • Disney School of Acting and Mime: The trope was and still is heavily used (and in the wrong hands, abused), even with all the ups and downs of Disney's reputation and influence throughout the years and the reputation of it sometimes being considered cliche and corny, but the origins of it have often lost its context as well—the trope drew its ham-like acting and broad gestures from vaudeville (a medium that is all but forgotten now) and silent film, which feature broad styles of acting that have long fallen out of favor in live action films and TV shows since the 70's (unless you want to be seen as an amateurish or ham actor). Animators used it then and still use it today simply because its easier to convey gestures that way than trying to make them realistic or subtle, which is usually difficult or even impossible to do in animation.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Pretty much in any comedy that started after 1992 has this is happening to husbands by their wife. There has been backlash to this Double Standard, the father getting abused or pushed around is okay, but the mother getting treated like that would create accusations of misogynistic undertones, but still not enough to stop using the trope altogether.
  • Dramatic Wind: Often parodied by having the wind blow hair or objects into the people's faces, but straight examples still invoke the desired effect.
  • Dumb and Drummer: It's certainly true that there are some very intelligent drummers out there, and certainly there was never just the stupid rock 'n' roll drummer. But there's a reason jokes about this trope are still funny here and now; even if we all know the stereotype, there will always be a drummer - or 9 out of every 10 - who fits some aspect of this trope to a T.
  • Dumb Blonde: Not much excuse for this one but it is certainly still around.
  • The Elevator from Ipanema: Most elevators these days don't play Muzak anymore, but it certainly sets the stage for many an Uncomfortable Elevator Moment.
  • Evil Laugh: Indispensible? Hardly.note  Too much fun to give up? By far. (It's about standards.)
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Subversions predate Shakespeare, but TV shows continue to play it straight when it'll move the plot along.
  • Exploding Barrels: Like Crate Expectations, it's been done to death and made fun of but sticks around anyway. Explosions are cool, after all.
  • The Four Chords of Pop: No matter how sick we are of hearing the same progression over and over, no matter how much it gets mocked, no matter how hackneyed and unoriginal these chords may be, they have been with us since 17th century Baroque music and are showing no signs of going away anytime soon. It certainly doesn't hurt that even social science has proven their efficiency and appeal to the human ear.
  • The Freak Show: When carnival sideshows made a comeback in the 1990s, this actually became more of a Resurrected Trope.
  • Free-Range Children: In the US parents haven't let their kids wander all over the town or city since the 1980s. However nearly all shows that focus on groups of children as protagonists still use this trope. The reason being it's pretty much impossible to make a kids show interesting when it features constant parental supervision.
  • Funny Bruce Lee Noises: Hackneyed, done to death, not funny any more (and surely can't have been that funny in the first place), but still used in absolutely every comedy martial arts scenario ever without exception and will be until the end of time. (If for no other reason, then because it's actually an exaggeration of Truth in Television: The Kiai, used to control breathing.)
  • Game Over and Game-Over Man: The game over screen is almost unheard of in newer first person shooters but still a part of some Nintendo classics and most JRPGs.
  • Harem Genre: This genre is in a particularly sweet spot for this. It's seen as an easy genre to be successful in: It's extremely formulaic, can be applied to any other theme you want, and can be stuffed to the gills with gratuitous fanservice to keep the audience coming. Yet because of these traits, it's also a ripe target for parody, deconstruction, and it's also been subverted on a number of occasions, where the tropes and trappings of the genre are used to tell another kind of story entirely.
  • Highly Visible Ninja: Frequently lampshaded and mocked, but also necessary for Rule of Perception and Rule of Cool.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Since realistic hacking is still boring to depict, this still occasionally shows up whenever there is a hacking scene.
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Purple Prose never dies, and both Peanuts and a yearly contest will keep it alive forever.
  • Joke Character: The first Lethal Joke Character probably came around five seconds after the first Joke Character, and both are in wide use.
  • Kawaisa: Japanese culture's fascination with all things cute has been subverted, deconstructed, and parodied six ways to Sunday for decades, by works inside and out of the country, but it's still going strong.
  • Laugh Track: Parodied and mocked as often as played straight.
  • Literal Genie: Or sometimes the Monkeys Paw genie or wishes. Wishes are seldom what you intend them to be, simply because a person could end a story very quickly with the right wish.
  • Male Gaze: This trope just doesn't want to die and is still found in every medium, despite being lampshaded since the seventies when Laura Mulvey brought it to light, even spawning its own trope. On the plus side, Female Gaze is also becoming more common.
  • Mattress Tag Gag: Discredited in the 1960s, when mattress companies clarified that only sellers were forbidden by law from removing mattress tags, and not customers. If anything the trope has become more popular since then (mainly for Poke the Poodle reasons).
  • Miles Gloriosus: Subverted for centuries, but still readers will expect the braggart is a coward, and be surprised if it's subverted, and accept it if it's played straight.
  • Million-to-One Chance: Played straight most of the time. However, most lighthearted or comedic works will subvert it or play around with it as much as possible.
  • Motivational Posters: Ubiquitous in schools and offices; mercilessly mocked everywhere else.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Played straight only when needed. Otherwise, a parody of it is a trope of its own.
  • Non-Singing Voice: Happens less and less in live action, mostly due to The Musical not being as widespread as it used to be. Movie musicals tend to cast actors who can at least carry a tune, write the score around their range and give them some song and dance training to prepare. It does still pop up in animation - Family Guy and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic still make use of it - mostly in stuff that relies on Celebrity Voice Actors. But since most professional voice actors can usually also singnote , it's not as common as it used to be.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: It seems like every other movie coming out right now is about vampires... but ones that sparkle.
  • Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: Played straight most of the time, but ripe for Lampshading or subversion.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: While this was once mostly played straight in The Golden Age of Animation because of Rule of Funny, newer works seem to be split between subverting it and playing it straight.
  • Pay Phone: Although many are disappearing from public places or being decommissioned due to the prevalence of cell phones, the trope is still played straight in a lot of works.
  • Poor Man's Porn: Due to the British (and other) government's attempt at "opt-in" filters, this trope will be played straight until governments realizes that not everything pornographic is bad,
  • "Pop!" Goes the Human: Largely discredited, as it was pretty much born from an Urban Legend that if you eat too much, you will explode. However, works that don't take themselves seriously, and/or are not going for uber-realism will still use it (since it combines Vulgar Humor with Stuff Blowing Up).
  • Power of Friendship and Power of Love: Old and cliched? Yes. Does that stop people from using them today? Definitely no. Not only that, but both of them are still two good morals to teach to people (as long as you're not anvilicious about them).
  • Prank Call: Although caller ID makes this more difficult, it is possible to circumvent this by using a caller-ID blocking button sequence on the phone (which will make it show up as, depending on the phone company) "Unavailable," "Restricted," "Unknown," or "Private Number"), making it harder to know the identity of the caller. They can also be achieved by calling from cell phones, and especially anonymous VoIP numbers, which don't show names on caller ID unless you have that person in your contacts. Furthermore, sometimes the identity of the caller is known, and the callee plays along, such as if it's All Part of the Show. So, they are still doable, even as Technology Marches On.
  • Press X to Not Die: Despite being at this point hated among gamers and critics to the point that their presence will earn significant points off review scores, these are still widely present throughout games today.
  • Previously On: Irrelevant on DVD season collections, but still in use because lots of people still watch shows as they air; or timeshifted, but without binging on several episodes at once.
  • Real Is Brown: Still used quite a bit during the 7th Generation (Xbox 360 + PlayStation 3), but good games are subverting it more and more due to the rise of real time Global Illumination, among other technologies. The 8th Generation is only seeing its use decrease further with the extra computational power present.
  • Santa Claus: He remains omnipresent in most Christmas-related episodes simply by the power of inertia. Unlikely to go away anytime soon, since he is so firmly rooted in the public consciousness and pop culture.
  • School Bullying Is Harmless: If only due to Take A Break magazines and the general 'real life' magazine genre, it's unlikely to go away anytime soon, and so survives in limbo from becoming a Dead Horse Trope, or indeed a Discredited Trope.
  • Scoring Points: Recent games removed points entirely, or goes as far as to even mock the trope. Yet even today, many casual games and shmups still play it straight (mainly as a sop to hardcore players so they can compare scores). Non-redemption arcade games also still focus on scoring points to this day, with the exception of fighting games, as it's an easy way of showing off your superior skill (or luck).
  • Silly Love Songs: If you get rid of this, the entire popular music industry is doomed.
  • Slow Clap: The reason why it's still around is that this is a real phenomenon called "mob psychology".
  • Small Reference Pools: People write what they know.
  • Staging an Intervention: In serious examples, the person being intervened on has a real problem, and the people doing the intervention have good intentions. However, this is often subjected to parody.
  • Sting: The classic "Dun dun dun!" is parodied most often or subverted by having a character say it instead. Different types of stings are still played straight, but are generally parodied.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: While often subverted with a Fake Kill Scare or other means, writers will still play it straight when they need the hero to be more angsty or go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Subverted Suspicion Aesop: While there's a reason why Subverted is in the title, aside from the fact that it can be a literal subversion, it still manages to be played straight.
  • Taking the Bullet: Despite the obvious comedic value of someone doing a Diving Save in front of something harmless (or better still, being just a bit off in the timing), this form of Heroic Sacrifice is still profound when played straight.
  • Talk About the Weather: What else are people going to make small talk about?
  • Tempting Fate: No one is ever surprised anymore whenever something bad happens after this trope is invoked, yet it's unlikely that writers will ever stop using it nonironically.
  • Training Montage: The version of this trope used in movies during the The '80s, usually set to the song "Gonna Fly Now", has been frequent parody fodder for a long time now. Training montages are still in use, but, unless it's in a comedy, they won't be set to triumphant power ballads anymore.
  • Two Decades Behind: Due to the age of most creators, and the fact that they might not stay on top of current trends or news.
  • Vendor Trash: Introduces an inventory management puzzle to treasure acquisition by withholding ready drops of currency for items of no use except to clutter inventory and offload for a handful of scratch. Such a venerable tradition of RPG games that even games that try to streamline gameplay for more action emphasis (or shoehorn RPG Elements) are frequently obligated to include it.
  • Very Special Episode: Although less used in Soap Operas and TV dramas, it's still played straight, and will keep going as long as dramas like Grey's Anatomy, Holby City, Criminal Minds, and documentaries like Police, Camera, Action! still exist.
  • A Winner Is You: Most endings of classic games from NES/SNES era were extremely simplistic. as time went by, the endings became more developed and even games with Excuse Plots started having elaborate endings, but even in the modern generations, there are still Shovelware games that have endings in the same vein as 8-bit games, even blockbuster games sometimes have it, some games with Multiple Endings have this as Easy-Mode Mockery.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: Dates back to The Canterbury Tales, still prevalent in Tabletop RPGs.
  • You Fool!: Despite being a very tired cliché that is hard to take seriously, it is still played straight.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Similar to vampires. However, it is more of a Cyclic Trope, due to the concept being kept in vogue by the extremely broad array of ways it is portrayed.