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; and From Clones to Genre, for when a trope becomes too saturated within a genre to remain characteristic to a certain work. See also Follow the Leader for intentional trope invocation based off of that one particular work.
- The Earth All Along reveal is cliche for many reasons, but it's also so characteristic of Planet of the Apes that you can't "unexpectedly" reveal a planet to be Earth without the audience flashing back to Charlton Heston.
- There are particular styles of Techno Babble that are distinctly Star Trek, and a related but looser and more comedic style that is distinct to Doctor Who.
- The Karmic Twist Ending was used so famously by The Twilight Zone that viewers can't help but think of it whenever they see one elsewhere.
- On that note: modern fantasy is so inextricably connected to J. R. R. Tolkien that—to quote fantasy author Terry Pratchett—"even if [the author/writer] has said 'Bugger me, I'm not going to write like Tolkien'", audiences usually associated some part of it with his writings.
- Family Matters: Though there are earlier famous examples, a character as flamboyantly nerdish as Steve Urkel, an Extraverted Nerd character often sparked comparisons to Family Matters, for some time after the show.
- It's a Wonderful Plot — The trope is indistinguishable from the movie.
- Any time you pitch a show as X Meets Y, you're going to be compared to both X and Y.
- Star Wars
- Whole Episode Flashback, Lost, as a result of expressing usually intriguing flashbacks of various points of various characters' backgrounds in just about every consecutive episode.
- For American and Canadian audiences, Transforming Mecha will nearly always take the audience's mind to Transformers.
- Any use of a desert planet is going to bring Dune to mind. Or at least Tatooine.
- People getting powers as a genetic trait? X-Men. Also, All of the Other Reindeer applied to said empowered individuals.
- Any work in the Mons genre will inevitably get compared to Pokémon.
- Wizarding School, or otherwise any place where magical children go to train will be invariably compared to Harry Potter
- If there's a Platform Game where the Goomba Stomp is the primary method of dispensing with enemies, it will inevitably have links to Super Mario Bros., whether intentional or assumed. It's become even stronger nowadays, as Super Mario Bros. is one of the few platformers to use this mechanic anymore.
- Any Nintendo Hard video game will invariably draw comparisons to Dark Souls, to the point where it's become cliche to refer to something as "X meets Dark Souls" when a franchise entry spikes in difficulty.
- Any time two extremely different characters, usually one good and one evil, turn out to be the same person, people will think of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or Fight Club for more modern audiences.
- Any work that has a Super Mode — specifically a Golden Super Mode powered by a finite number of artifacts — will undoubtedly be compared to Dragon Ball. Sonic the Hedgehog is no stranger to this.
- Almost all My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Dark Fics are in some way connected to Cupcakes (Sergeant Sprinkles), be it through the use of the same tropes (a favorite being Rainbow Dash as the victim) or even through the use of a Shout-Out or Take That!. Even a reference to Pinkie Pie having straight hair or acting crazier than usual will do it.
- In a darker example, many tropes associated with Adolf Hitler or the Nazis have become this due to the two's infamy, even if such tropes dated before them and originally had benign connotations. For example, the swastika was originally a symbol of good luck (and was created independently in several cultures) before it became specifically associated with the Nazi party, whereas the Bellamy salute was discontinued in the United States to avoid replicating the similar Nazi salute.
- In the UK, any show using the BBC Quarry will be compared to Doctor Who, even though the series hardly uses it anymore. Actor replacement will also be referred to as 'regeneration'.
- As the trope name implies, the Indy Escape is one to Indiana Jones. If it isn't a Shout-Out in and of itself, audiences will start humming the Indiana Jones theme to themselves as they see the boulder rolling towards the character on the screen.
- The Bible is one of the most influential works in Western civilization, making every notable trope it uses characteristic to it. This even happens to mythologies, religions, and works that have been developed independently from it.
- Alliterative Title: In Flanders at least, this sort of title is considered to be a staple in Suske en Wiske comics. Putting one unironically makes people think that you are ripping them off. Still crops up in parodies of the comic (such as in the short comic Kinky en Cosy with De Gegaste Gasten).
- The Gibbering Genius trope is inextricably linked to the career of Jeff Goldblum, who played the Trope Codifier Seth Brundle in The Fly (1986) and the most famous example of the trope (Dr. Ian Malcolm) in the Jurassic Park franchise. The role of David Levinson in Independence Day was specifically written with Goldblum in mind, and he's played similar characters in several other films. The trope page originally had a folder for actors who specialize in such characters, but it's since been retitled "The Actor Everyone Associates with This Trope" since the only example listed was Goldblum.
- As the name suggests, the "Groundhog Day" Loop trope is inextricably tied to the 1993 film Groundhog Day which popularized the concept. Nearly 30 years at the time of writing, any work (especially in film) which uses the trope will inevitably attract comparisons to Groundhog Day.
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.