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.