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Partial subversions?:

One of the tips that comes up in editing says that a trope cannot be subverted any more than a woman can be a little bit pregnant.

For one thing, this implies that something either is a trope or is not, which in turn implies either that tropes whose extent of use is more of a sliding scale than all-or-nothing presence (Evil Is Sexy comes to mind) cannot be subverted, or that have some sort of cutoff between being subverted and being played straight.

For another, though, it is also implying that tropes only vary in one dimension. What about tropes that have two or more components to them?

Closer to Earth comes to mind. It has at least a component with respect to intelligence (the idea that girls are smarter than guys) and a component with respect to morality. (The idea that girls are more virtuous than guys.) Obviously, these notions need not correspond; a work can portray girls as smarter than and LESS virtuous than guys. VG Cats might be an example of this; it most certainly plays the intelligence component straight, but the moral component is apparently inverted. Oh, and from what I have heard, the Pokémon Anime does this with Jessie and James.

So, does this mean such tropes ought to be split, or should we state that some components are inverted or subverted while others are played straight or exaggerated?

To me, partial subversions are more coincidences than actual examples of the trope, and often come about as an excuse to shoehorn things that are not quite examples. Plus, the example you provided is Not a Subversion.

 3 Ironeye, Sat, 11th Jun '11 1:54:59 AM from SoCal Relationship Status: Falling within your bell curve
Cutmaster-san
Last time this came up (actually quite a while ago), the conclusion was that if a trope has multiple parts, a subversion in any part makes a subversion of the trope. For an example, let's take a look at a trope that's easier to subvert (given that it relates to a single character, rather than to thematic content): Wise Tree.

The Wise Tree dispenses knowledge, is helpful, is unable to fight, and is morally good (or maybe uninvolved with the conflict). So, let's say the village wise man sends our hero to the Great Tree for advice. Assuming that there is no indication that trees walk in this setting, the trope has been set up. As you want it, to subvert this trope, the tree would need to:
  • Not say anything useful,
  • Not do anything helpful,
  • Be evil, and
  • Be mobile enough to smack people around
Of course, this just raises the question of whether or not this would actually count as a normal subversion, since it's still a tree and therefore still fits one of the criteria for the trope. In this directly obviously lies madness, since the only way to subvert the trope would be for there to be no tree at all. Hence there obviously must be some standard for the "base" that can still be present while still being considered a "full" subversion, and I'm afraid that this will simply turn out to be either arbitrary or silly.

Let's consider for a second your other idea: splitting each component into its own trope. The problem is that this trope is a package deal. Aside from the trope dealing with a character type that has all of the listed traits, the split would just look silly:
  • Tree that dispenses wisdom and is always willing to help the hero
  • Tree that dispenses wisdom and is on the side of good
  • Tree that dispenses wisdom and is unable to interfere directly by virtue of being a tree.

We can't split the trope without being ridiculous, and we can't sensibly allow for partial subversions without the only overlap between full subversion and played straight being "it's a tree". I think you'll find a similar situation for most of the character and characterization tropes: allowing for a partial subversion means that a normal subversion is only for when the actual characterization has nothing at all to do with expectations. Normal subversion of Knight Templar? A character seems to be one, but turns out to have ideals that are not admirable, doesn't take things too far, isn't blinded by their ideals, isn't tyrannical, and isn't evil. Hard-ass good guy turns out to actually be reasonable? Merely a partial subversion, since he still has sympathetic ideals. Fanatical paladin turns out to be cultist trying to destroy the world? Nope, he's still a villain.

And here we see why the idea of a partial subversion doesn't help: all but a tiny percentage of the subversions will be partial ones, and the normal subversions will be reserved for cases where the apparent state and the actual state are so far separated that they have nothing in common.

This is one reason why it comes down to the question: Are any of your expectations (with regards to this trope in the work) subverted? (Y/N)

edited 11th Jun '11 1:55:21 AM by Ironeye

I'm bad, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad. There's no one I'd rather be than me.
[up][up] Why is it not a subversion?

[up] So, a subversion of a component counts as a subversion of the trope then? What if a component is uncertain, like how Closer to Earth says "often" morally superior rather than "always" morally superior?

edited 12th Jun '11 2:12:47 PM by neoYTPism

 5 Ironeye, Sun, 12th Jun '11 2:30:42 PM from SoCal Relationship Status: Falling within your bell curve
Cutmaster-san
"Often" traits don't count, since they're not a required component. It may be interesting to note in an example when it does not satisfy one of the "often" traits, but that does not make it a subversion. We have in at least one case (Metal Slime) rewritten a description because almost every criterion for the trope was of the "often" type, making the strict definition so broad as to match the trope's supertrope. In some cases, where the "often" trait is not required, but its opposite would be a surprise, we use something like "often _______ (but if not, then ________)" to account for variants other than the most common one. For an example of this, you can take a look at Wise Tree: while the tree is "almost always" good, it is "on occasion" neutral and detached. Here, a straight example need not satisfy the "on the side of good" clause, but if it doesn't, it does need to fit the second option—a tree that is secretly evil would still be a subversion.
I'm bad, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad. There's no one I'd rather be than me.
I have seen what I call a "halfway subversion" where a single action is split between two groups and the groups react differently. For example (this comes from a Malcolm in the Middle episode) you have a girl who embodies the She's All Grown Up trope. We, the audience, can see that this trope is in effect due to flashbacks seeing the girl was very overweight as a teenager, and now is exceptionally attractive. Then you have a character who only knew her as the overweight teenager and never sees that she has grown up (due to only talking with her over the phone).

In other words the trope is used straight, but something skews it to where it's normal effects are subverted. I'm not sure how to explain it better.

 7 Fighteer, Mon, 13th Jun '11 6:16:13 AM from the Time Vortex Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
I think that's another Not a Subversion. It's simply not in effect at all for the people who did not know her, or who don't know she's "grown up". Averted, not subverted. Subverted would be everybody talking up the big entrance of Dorky Girl from Days Past, only to have her be just as dorky as she was before — or maybe into BDSM.

edited 13th Jun '11 6:19:03 AM by Fighteer

Ironically, the pursuit of the definition of happiness does not appear to be a happiness-maximizing behavior.
What about things that are inverted in a way, played straight in another, and which to count depends on your interpretation? To illustrate, I will cite an example from the Brains: Evil; Brawn: Good page...
  • Sort-of inverted in Beauty and the Beast, which has the smart Belle on the side of good and the dumb, muscle-bound Gaston as the main villain. Still, Gaston is defeated in a physical battle with the Beast, who is not particularly intelligent.

So, it is inverted with Belle and Gaston, played (arguably) straight with Gaston and Beast, and the combination of the two can't seem to be classified as either.

 9 Madrugada, Mon, 13th Jun '11 6:48:20 PM Relationship Status: In season
Zzzzzzzzzz
I'd say that it isn't used. It's not subverted or inverted or played with at all. Brains: Evil; Brawn: Good doesn't really come into play in Beauty And The Beast because it applies to Smart-versus-Strong conflict. In Beauty and the Beast, the conflict isn't "smart versus strong" as much as it's "Kind versus Selfish" and "Compassion versus Intolerance".

It's a shoehorned example. When you have to look at it and say "Well, Beauty doesn't fit because she's Smart but not Evil, and Gaston doesn't fit because he's Brawny but not Good, and the Beast is Brawny and Good, but Dumb" then it really doesn't even have the component parts of the trope. Not every trope can be applied to every story. This is a trope that doesn't apply to this story.
'He strutted across the bedroom, his hard manhood pointing the way' sounds like he owns a badly named seeing-eye dog. 'Sit, Hard Manhood!
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Total posts: 9
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