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Trope Distinctions: D-F
Part 2 of the Canonical List of Subtle Trope Distinctions. Items are sorted alphabetically by whichever trope is alphabetically first; if you're looking for one in specific, use the "Find" or "Search" function of your Web browser.


Dangerously Genre Savvy vs. Functional Genre Savvy vs. Genre Savvy vs. Wrong Genre Savvy vs. Medium Awareness

Deathbringer the Adorable vs. Fluffy the Terrible

  • These usually, but not always, refer to creatures:
    • Deathbringer the Adorable has a name that makes it sound scary and / or dangerous, but is actually very docile.
    • Fluffy the Terrible has a cute / funny / nonsensical name but is actually very dangerous and / or sinister.

Dead Person Conversation vs. Mummies at the Dinner Table vs. Of Corpse He's Alive vs. Please Wake Up vs. Talking to the Dead

  • Dead Person Conversation: The dead character speaks to the living, perhaps as a Spirit Advisor.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: The living character treats a dead body as though the dead person is still alive. The living person is usually crazy.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: The living character pretends that a dead body is still alive. This is usually part of some Zany Scheme.
  • Please Wake Up: The living character can't accept or understand the fact that someone has just died. The living person is usually a young child or in a state of shock.
  • Talking to the Dead: The living character is addressing a dead person, not expecting any sort of response.

Death by Sex vs. Out with a Bang

  • Death by Sex: A character participates in sexual intercourse and is subsequently shot to the top of the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality.
  • Out with a Bang: A character dies while participating in sexual intercourse, either because of a heart disorder, or because (s)he's killed by his/her partner.

Death Seeker vs. Kill Me Now or Forever Stay Your Hand vs. Please Kill Me If It Satisfies You

Defictionalization vs. Product Placement vs. The Red Stapler

  • Defictionalization takes place when a fictional product in a media work is turned into a real product in the real world. It is generally pre-planned.
  • The Red Stapler is when the use of a product in a work of fiction creates a demand for the product. The product may be real or fictional, but the effect is almost always unplanned.
  • Product Placement involves real world products being inserted into a work of fiction with the specific purpose of creating a demand for them.

Demonic Spiders vs. Goddamned Bats

Department of Redundancy Department vs. Shaped Like Itself

Detect Evil vs. Killing Intent

  • Detect Evil is when noticing evil requires an explicit supernatural power. Depending on the precise mechanics of the power it may detect "stereotypically evil energies" rather than evil itself, thus throwing a false positive against Dark Is Not Evil characters.
  • Killing Intent is when evil has a direct physical presence that anyone can notice. While some people may be better at spotting it than others, this is simply a result of sharper senses. It also covers general aggression, and sometimes even the most evil enemy can escape detection simply by not thinking aggressive thoughts.

The Determinator vs. Implacable Man

  • The Determinator is a character who never stops pursuing his goal, no matter how much suffering or sacrifice they take along the way.
  • Implacable Man is a character who never stops pursuing his goal because he cannot be damaged.

Deus Ex Nukina vs. Nuclear Option vs. Nuke 'em

Development Hell vs. Vaporware

  • A work that never seems to be able to be finished. The tropes are distinguished by medium:

Die for Our Ship vs. Ship-to-Ship Combat

Diesel Punk vs. Raygun Gothic

  • Raygun Gothic was the predominant aesthetic of science fiction from the Real Life 1920s through the 1950s; these days, it's mainly used for sci-fi that's deliberately trying to be retro. It's a relatively shiny and optimistic vision of the (then-) future.
  • Diesel Punk is Punk Punk fiction set in a fictionalized version of the 1920s to the 1950s. It basically bridges the gap between Steam Punk and Cyber Punk. It's a relatively recent genre; the term "dieselpunk" was coined in 2001.

Difficult but Awesome vs. Lethal Joke Character

Dirty Business vs. My God, What Have I Done?

Direct Line to the Author vs. Literary Agent Hypothesis vs. Recursive Canon vs. A True Story In My Universe

Disc One Final Boss vs. Starter Villain

Discontinuity vs. Canon Discontinuity vs. Fanon Discontinuity vs. Retcon vs. Dork Age

  • Canon Discontinuity: Certain events in a narrative are dismissed and ignored by the work itself.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Certain events in a narrative are dismissed and ignored, as if they never happened, by the fandom.
  • Retcon: Certain events in a narrative are re-presented so that things happened differently than originally portrayed.
  • Dork Age: Certain events in a narrative are considered an embarrassment or a low point by all involved, and are generally ignored, except for the occasional Continuity Gag or "What were we thinking" reference.

Discredited Trope vs. Dead Horse Trope vs. Forgotten Trope vs. Undead Horse Trope vs. Dead Unicorn Trope

Disposable Vagrant vs. Kill the Poor

  • Disposable Vagrant is when an impoverished person or persons is killed or exploited by others because anything that happens to them is unlikely to be noticed by the public or authorities at large; moreover, people targeting them usually have a personal goal to attain (i.e. completing a scientific study or research).
  • Kill the Poor is when an impoverished person or persons is killed or exploited simply for being poor; individuals targeting the poor in this scenario deliberately want to eliminate their population.

Dissonant Serenity vs. The Stoic vs. Tranquil Fury

  • Dissonant Serenity is when a character is unnaturally calm, sometimes even happy, when being violent. Insanity is usually involved.
  • Tranquil Fury implies that the character is angry within, but actively controlling and reining in this rage, rather than being outright collected.
  • Both of the above are distinct from The Stoic in that the characters using them will normally display emotions like regular people, but only become chill when a situation is serious. The Stoic is always emotionless.

Distaff Counterpart vs. Gender Bender vs. Gender Flip vs. Rule 63

  • A Distaff Counterpart/Spear Counterpart is a character who is based on another character but is of the opposite sex.
  • In Gender Bender, a character changes physical sex in the story.
  • In Gender Flip, the writers base a story on an older one while reversing the characters' sexes.
  • Rule 63 reverses the physical sex of a character and keeps them in the same universe, as if they were subject to a Gender Bender.

Dolled-Up Installment vs. In Name Only

  • A Dolled-Up Installment is when a production begins as a stand-alone project, then someone makes mention that it has a resemblance to a prior story or franchise. So instead of starting from scratch, they buy the rights and change the current script using the names from the older work.
  • In Name Only is when a production is slated from the beginning to be an adaptation, but the resulting production has only a superficial resemblance to the source material, usually with cries of Adaptation Decay.

Don't Fear The Reaper vs. Face Death with Dignity vs. Not Afraid to Die vs. Obi-Wan Moment

Do Wrong, Right vs. Even Evil Has Standards vs. Pragmatic Villainy

  • Even Evil Has Standards is when a villain doesn't do something abhorrent because even he finds it too evil.
  • Pragmatic Villainy is when a villain doesn't do something abhorrent because he knows it's not practical.
  • Do Wrong, Right is when, in the process of doing something abhorrent, someone points out how they're doing it wrong and then offer advice on how to do it properly.

Drowning My Sorrows vs. I Need a Freaking Drink vs. Liquid Courage

Dumb Is Good vs. Redemption Demotion

  • Dumb Is Good is about how dumber people are good to begin with.
  • Redemption Demotion is about someone becoming good and then becoming dumb or less useful.

Earth-Shattering Kaboom vs. The End of the World as We Know It

Easily Forgiven vs. "Get Out of Jail Free" Card vs. Karma Houdini

Easy Sex Change vs. Gender Bender vs. Transsexual vs. Gender Flip

  • Easy Sex Change has the trappings of a "realistic" sex change, but portrays it in a more simplistic manner, often minimizing the physical, psychological, and/or social issues involved.
  • Gender Bender changes a character completely into the opposite sex (usually by magic or Applied Phlebotinum), as if they were born that way to begin with. (A man turned into a woman would be able to get pregnant, etc.) Wholly impossible in Real Life (apart from a few oddities in the animal kingdom).
  • Gender Flip doesn't involve an actual sex change: A character is re-designed, out-of-universe, as the opposite gender of what the audience knew them to be. In-universe, the character actually was born that way to begin with.
  • Transsexual portrays the kind of "sex change" seen in real-life, technically referred to as Sex Reassignment Therapy, or SRT.

End of an Age vs. Götterdämmerung vs. Death of the Old Gods vs. Here There Were Dragons vs. The Magic Goes Away

Endless Game vs. Game Over vs. Unwinnable

  • Endless Game is just that — you simply continue playing from level to level until you ultimately lose.
  • A Game Over is the game declaring Exactly What It Says on the Tin: You died, ran out of lives, or failed a mission objective, so your game is over.
  • An Unwinnable situation occurs when something makes it impossible to progress in a game but doesn't result in a Game Over, forcing you to start over yourself.

Enemy Without vs. Literal Split Personality

  • An Enemy Without is a facet of a character's personality brought out into the physical world.
  • A Literal Split Personality is an entire character split in two.
    • Basic rule of thumb: if you can point to one of the instances of the character and say "that's the original one", it's a case of Enemy Without; if all the copies have an equal claim on being the original, it's a Literal Split Personality.

Epileptic Trees vs. Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory vs. Wild Mass Guessing

  • These all refer to speculation made by the audience about a show, the first two differ based on their subject.

Ethical Slut vs. Good Bad Girl

Even Better Sequel vs. Surprisingly Improved Sequel

Even the Girls Want Her / Even the Guys Want Him vs. Gay Moment vs. Stupid Sexy Flanders

Everyone Calls Him Barkeep vs. Only Known By Their Nick Name vs. No Name Given

  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep is when a character is only known by a term describing their job or some other word. For example, The Mechanist.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname is different in that a character is referred to by any old nickname, as opposed to a word or term that refers exclusively to a person's job or something else that they're known for. Otherwise, it's pretty much the same.
  • No Name Given is when a character may go by title or a nickname, but his actual name is never stated.

Evil Chancellor vs. Treacherous Advisor

Evil Twin vs. Evil Counterpart vs. Evil Knockoff vs. Criminal Doppelgänger

Example as a Thesis vs. Self-Demonstrating Article

  • Example as a Thesis means an article opens with a generic story describing a generic example of the trope in action, then proceeds with the actual definition second and examples third.
  • Self-Demonstrating Article means an article is written in such a way that it's intended to be an example of its own trope.
    • Please don't do either of these.

Expository Hairstyle Change vs. Important Haircut vs. Good Hair, Evil Hair

  • Expository Hairstyle Change is when a character's hairstyle/-color or facial hair changes in order to show you (usually subtly) that something is different (usually their personality).
  • Important Haircut is often a subtype in which a character's hair is specifically cut, almost always as a symbolic or otherwise important act. This may or may not be expository.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair is a subtype in which the change indicates a Heel-Face Turn or Face-Heel Turn.

Exalted Torturer vs. Torture Technician

Expospeak Gag vs. Layman's Terms

  • An Expospeak Gag is about complex ways of expressing simple concepts.
  • Layman's Terms is about attempts to simplify complex statements or concepts.

Face of the Band vs. I Am the Band

  • Face of the Band is when only one member of a particular band is sufficiently famous to be recognized individually by the general public, regardless of his or her role within the band.
  • I Am the Band takes place when one individual plays such a prominent role in a band's creative output and musical direction that the other members are largely irrelevant.

Fake Shemp vs. The Nth Doctor vs. The Other Darrin vs. Replacement Scrappy vs. Suspiciously Similar Substitute

  • When an actor is replaced by another actor playing the same character, with no explanation provided for the switch, it's The Other Darrin.
  • When there is an attempt to conceal the switch (e.g. not showing the substitute's face, splicing in stock footage) it's a Fake Shemp.
  • When some sort of Applied Phlebotinum is invoked in order to explain the character's change in appearance/voice, it's The Nth Doctor.
  • If the replacement is technically a different character but is written pretty much with the same role, you have a Suspiciously Similar Substitute.
  • A Replacement Scrappy involves any kind of switch which is unpopular with fans and is seen as bringing the franchise down.

Failure Hero vs. Invincible Hero vs. Showy Invincible Hero

  • A Failure Hero is a character who never accomplishes his/her goals, whether through personal failures or other elements of the story seemingly conspiring to foil the character.
  • An Invincible Hero is a character who always accomplishes his/her goals with relative ease, to the point that it's impossible to build drama around the character.
  • A Showy Invincible Hero is one whose exploits are built around Rule of Cool, and the point of the work is to show this in full effect.

Fake Ultimate Hero vs. Miles Gloriosus

The Family for the Whole Family vs. Neighborhood Friendly Gangsters

  • The Family for the Whole Family are gangsters that are really incompetent, so that gangster tropes can be used (or parodied) without anyone getting seriously hurt.
  • Neighborhood Friendly Gangsters can and do pull serious crimes off, but refrain from harming their home neighborhood or even try to protect or improve it.

Family Versus Career vs. Never a Self-Made Woman

  • In Family Versus Career, a woman with a family and a career is forced to choose between the two, usually in favor of the former and with the implication that that is what a woman should choose.
  • In Never a Self-Made Woman, whether or not a woman gives up her career is unimportant. This trope is about female characters always being less important than their lovers, brothers and fathers, and how women as a whole are unable to achieve anything of worth without the help of a man, except homemaking.

Fan Disservice vs. Fetish Retardant

Fantastic Aesop vs. Space Whale Aesop

  • The Fantastic Aesop suggests a fantastic course of action ("don't use black magic to try and resurrect the dead") which can't even be attempted in the real world.
  • The Space Whale Aesop suggests a real, viable course of action ("don't perform nuclear tests") by presenting fantastic consequences ("radiation from the tests will awaken an army of zombies").

Fantastic Drug vs. G-Rated Drug vs. I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin

Filler vs. Padding vs. Wacky Wayside Tribe

  • Filler is taking a Myth Arc-based series and interweaving additional stories that ultimately do not influence the Myth Arc. Sometimes, no one ever references the filler material because it was that unimportant.
  • Padding is when the normal story is slowed down to a crawl. No side stories are given but characters might just have a long conversation before they actually get anything accomplished.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe is when you are in the midst of the main story when troublesome, unfortunate and unrelated things happen just to give the characters a harder time.

The Film of the Book vs. The Movie

The Film of the Series vs. The Movie vs. Non-Serial Movie

  • The Film of the Series uses a different cast. (And is usually out of continuity, unless it's a years-later sequel.)
  • The Movie uses the series cast and is in continuity.
  • A Non-Serial Movie uses the series cast but is not in continuity.

Five-Bad Band vs. The Psycho Rangers vs. Quirky Miniboss Squad

  • The Five-Bad Band is a team of bad guys who are carefully organized to complement each others skills. They are most often the primary group of bad guys that the heroes have to defeat and they include specific tropes such as the Big Bad and The Dragon.
  • The Psycho Rangers are a collective Evil Counterpart to the heroes.
  • A Quirky Miniboss Squad are a group of footsoldiers or Lieutenants to the Big Bad who can include The Dragon as a leader, but in general are just a collection of skilled warriors to challenge the heroes. Their personality quirks don't necessarily dictate their defining role in the group.

Flat Earth Atheist vs. Nay-Theist

  • Flat Earth Atheist: A character who insists that gods or supernatural forces don't exist despite living in a universe where they indisputably do.
  • Nay-Theist: A character who believes in gods but refuses to accept that they deserve worship or obedience.

Flatline Plotline vs. Revival Loophole

  • A Flatline Plotline is about people briefly "dying" so they can experience death.
  • The Revival Loophole occurs when people briefly "die" to fulfill some condition that would otherwise require an actual death.

Forgotten Phlebotinum vs. Holding Back the Phlebotinum vs. It Only Works Once vs. Plot-Induced Stupidity

  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: They introduced a gimmick in one story, and could have used it later, but they forgot to.
  • Holding Back the Phlebotinum: They introduced a gimmick in one story, and could have used it later, but there's some reason why they can't use it.
  • It Only Works Once: They introduced a gimmick in one story, and could have used it later, but they explained that it doesn't work any more.
  • Plot-Induced Stupidity: A standard ability of the character could have been used, but they forgot to.

For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself vs. Your Costume Needs Work

Fragile Speedster vs. Glass Cannon vs. Squishy Wizard vs The Medic

  • A Fragile Speedster can't take punishment, but is (supposed to be) fast enough to avoid it.
  • A Glass Cannon can't take punishment, but can dish it out.
  • A Squishy Wizard can't take punishment, but has supernatural powers that gives it attack power and/or utilitarian abilities to help it out.
  • The Medic can't take punishment, but can heal up the allies who can.
    • Usually there's overlap.

Funbag Airbag vs. Marshmallow Hell

  • Marshmallow Hell is when a well-endowed woman deliberately hugs another person, (un)intentionally smushing their head between her boobs.
  • Funbag Airbag is an accidental collision between the two, which ends up with pretty much the same position (or a rebound effect).

"Funny Aneurysm" Moment vs. Harsher in Hindsight vs. Hilarious in Hindsight vs. Narm

  • A "Funny Aneurysm" Moment is when something originally intended as being funny (or lighthearted or heartwarming) makes people uncomfortable when seen in reruns or looked back upon, because of tragic later events in the series or in real life.
  • Harsher in Hindsight is when later events cause a scene that was already dark and disturbing to start with to be become even creepier.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight is when later events (in the fiction or in real life) cause a scene to be even funnier than it previously was.
  • A Narm is a scene that is not intended to be funny to begin with, but ends up being perceived that way for whatever reason.

Funny Animal vs. Petting Zoo People vs. Little Bit Beastly

  • A Funny Animal is an anthropomorphized animal with a bipedal stance and human mannerisms, but their visual style retains something of the animal's proportions. For example, Daffy Duck still has a "duck-shaped" body. Most likely to be a Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal.
  • Petting Zoo People resemble a human body with an animal's head and tail substituted. Has human mannerisms. Usually wears clothing but doesn't (necessarily) require them, character posesses the same body fur/feathers/scale as the animal. Very common in the Furry Fandom.
  • Little Bit Beastly characters resemble a human with only the animal's ears and tail present. Has human mannerisms; would be obviously naked without their clothes on.


A-CCanonical List of Subtle Trope DistinctionsG-I
A-CAdministrivia/Hyphenated TitlesG-I

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