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Characteristic Trope

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Tropes can become discredited in a number of ways. Usually this involves overuse or changes in social values. But sometimes it doesn't even take that.

When a trope which may have been perfectly ordinary on its own is used so famously by one particular work, its meaning gets changed. Instead of what the trope had meant before, it now means it's an homage, parody or, if you're less lucky, blatant rip-off of the work which used it famously. This can get annoying for writers, since the trope may be a useful screen-metaphor in its own right, but they can't use it without creating unwanted associations.

Some tropes may be more characteristic in some circles than others. For example, while the iconic Playboy Bunny suit is too characteristic of the Playboy franchise to be seen in Western works, it's ubiquitous in anime. Fan Myopia can also play a part for works that are well-known within a specific niche, but are virtually unknown outside of that niche. A fan of YouTube Poop will immediately think of King Harkinian upon seeing an Adipose Rex in another work, but anyone who isn't familiar with either YouTube Poop or The Legend of Zelda CD-i Games won't think anything of it. This page mainly concerns tropes that are universally characteristic to a well-known work.

The dead horse counterpart to this trope would be Stock Parodies. See also Fountain of Expies for character-specific examples, One-Mario Limit for name-specific examples, Stock Shout-Outs, and Whole-Plot Reference. Compare Trope Codifier and Trope Namers, which both identify a work for becoming well known for a trope, but not necessarily laying such claims on future use of it. Contrast Ur-Example, which is when a work uses what will eventually become a trope, but wasn't actually one at the time. See also Follow the Leader for intentional trope invocation based off of that one particular work.


For that matter, most of the tropes in this catalogue which are actually named for a particular show are probably so characteristic of those shows that it's dangerous to use them if you can't handle the association. Sorry if you're disappointed about it, but you want the truth? You can't handle the truth!

See also Older Than They Think.