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Conversational Troping
aka: Conversed Trope

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"This is like one of those sitcoms where somebody says something that's misconstrued and the snooty next door neighbor got the wrong package delivered after his in-laws come to visit, somebody has two dates at one night and they have to paint white lines on the middle of the room, but this isn't a sitcom, Perry the Platypus, this is real life."
Doofenshmirtz, Phineas and Ferb

Alice: What's "conversational troping"?

Bob: It's when characters in a work talk to each other about tropes.

Alice: That sounds like a lot of other "meta tropes" I've heard of.

Bob: Sure, but there's certain things that make it unique. The characters aren't talking about tropes from their own series, so it's not Lampshade Hanging. They're not talking about tropes in a way that goes "hey, we're aware that we're fictional", so it's not Meta Fiction. They're not actively involving the viewer, so it's not Postmodernism. They're not tearing down the tropes, so it's not Deconstruction. They're just talking, in a Seinfeldian Conversation kind of way, about conventions found in media in general. Pointing them out, going, "Huh, that's interesting," idly coming up with possible reasons for them. Starting to sound real familiar, right?

Alice: Huh, that's interesting. But what's the point in using this trope?

Bob: It's often used as a Shout-Out, in a similar vein as an Affectionate Parody — or not. Sometimes it's subtle Lampshade Hanging, describing tropes that occur later in the work, or earlier, but not talking about those events. Either that, or the writers or characters just found some time to kill.

Alice: Neat. Speaking of time, aren't you supposed to be working at the Trope Co. factory right now?

Bob: If I went to work, I wouldn't be able to tell you about similar tropes — like Discussed Trope, I Always Wanted to Say That, and This Is the Part Where.... Now, why don't we go over some examples?

May contain spoilers!


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animation 
  • In Big Hero 6, when the characters are wondering who the masked villain really is, Fred passes out various Comic Books and points out that the villains are all traditionally Corrupt Corporate Executives, to suggest that Alistair Krei is the Big Bad. He's wrong. It's actually the father-substitute Evil Mentor. But he was supposed to be dead at the time, so it's a reasonable mistake.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Breaking Away: "You know how, in cartoons, when somebody gets hit in the head with a frying pan, and their head looks like the frying pan, with the handle and everything; then they go boing, and their head goes back to normal? Wouldn't that be great?"
  • In Clerks, the main characters discuss a lot of pop culture. For example:
    Randal Graves: Which did you like better? Jedi or Empire Strikes Back
    Dante Hicks: Empire.
    Randal: Blasphemy.
    Dante: Empire had the better ending. I mean, Luke gets his hand cut off, finds out Vader's his father, Han gets frozen and taken away by Boba Fett. It ends on such a down note. I mean, that's what life is, a series of down endings. All Jedi had was a bunch of Muppets.
    • Other movies in The View Askewniverse also tend to feature this, if only a little.
    • The beginning of the double-Affectionate Parody, Trooper Clerks: The Animated One-Shot (which, of course, was a two-parter):
    Trooper Randal: Which did you like better: Mallrats or Chasing Amy?
    Trooper Dante: Chasin' Amy.
    Randal: Blasphemy!
    Dante: Chasing Amy had the better story! Guy likes girl... girl likes girls... girl has sex with guy, then dumps guy for more girls — it ends on a dark note. That's what life is: A series of dark notes. All Mallrats had was a bunch of... sex jokes.
  • Gladiator: Before Maximus fights Commodus in the arena, Commodus talks about how Maximus's epic life story can honestly be called the stuff of legend. He considers just killing Maximus to be anticlimactic, so the only fitting conclusion to the story would be a final showdown in the great arena between the two, although Commodus obviously considers himself the hero in this story.
  • Hot Fuzz has the lead pair discussing various cop movie tropes, with Butterman feeling that he's missed out and Angel denying that they exist in Real Life. Of course, all of them are gloriously invoked by the end.
  • In Kill Bill Vol 2., when the Bride finally confronts Bill, he monologues about the nature of the Secret Identity in superhero comics. Bill points out that whereas most heroes have to put on the costume to become their alter egos, since Superman was born as the alien Kal-L, his alter ego is in fact Clark Kent. Bill theorizes that Clark Kent is Superman's critique of humanity, comparing him to the Bride trying to blend in when she was really born to be a killer.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Valentine discusses various tropes of Tuxedo and Martini Spy Fiction with various characters over the course of the film, showing how he is a Meta Guy on top of being a Diabolical Mastermind.
  • The film "Love And Other Disasters" is frequently punctuated by the cast discussing romance tropes, without noticing how they might apply to their present situations.
  • The Scream series has this as a constant. The killers deliberately invokes slasher movie cliches while their targets try to survive by attempting to guess which horror movie tropes the killers would invoke next — a move that just as often got them killed as it did save them. Most notably, Randy Meeks gives three rules to surviving a horror movie (don't have sex, don't drink or use drugs, and never say "I'll be right back."), and expands his rules to sequels and trilogies warnings in the later films.
  • Stand by Me has the characters talk about what Goofy is and whether or not Mighty Mouse could beat Superman.
  • Swingers features a scene where the leads are sitting around a table discussing the films of Martin Scorsese and the inherent difficulty of filming in a casino as well as their love of the one take restaurant entry shot in Goodfellas. They later emulate this shot when when entering a club and one of the first parts of the film is shot in a casino.
  • In the opening scene of Swordfish, Gabriel is discussing Ending Tropes with Stanley and Agent Roberts. He compares the hostage situation he is leading with the one in Dog Day Afternoon, and argues that it would be more realistic if the hostage takers in that movie would have been much more cruel, killing multiple hostages from the start, and getting away with the money. Stanley and Roberts argue that audiences will expect a Happy Ending, and that the bad guy can't win to force home An Aesop that crime doesn't pay. Of course, they're trying to invoke it because they don't want Gabriel to do just that to his hostages. It's all foreshadowing to this film's ending, in which Gabriel does get the money and wins.
  • Unbreakable:
    • Elijah talks about the Lantern Jaw of Justice and other stylistic traits and conventions.
    • At the end, David and Elijah's mother talk about Villain Tropes at Elijah's art gallery. She says that Elijah believes there are two main types of villains. There's the soldier villain, who fights the hero with his hands, but there's also the brilliant and evil Arch-Enemy, the really dangerous one, who fights the hero with his mind. Elijah is revealed to be the latter.

  • It's possible to do this without Lampshade Hanging and still accidentally discuss your own story. In a thriller novel entitled Beauty, the love interest talks about how all the fish in her fish tank were chosen because they reminded her of characters in a book, then adds that she originally planned to use fish for Lolita and Humbert Humbert but changed her mind. The hero goes into an aside about how Lolita is his favorite book, because of its skillful use of an Unreliable Narrator who seems nice at first but is in fact evil. Said "hero" is a plastic surgeon trying to sculpt the perfect face, so you can guess where this is going.
  • Discworld: Happens quite a bit. For example, Glenda in Unseen Academicals talks (albeit to herself) about how preposterous and formulaic her romance novels are. On a practical level this is quite an important skill on a world where storytelling conventions are more binding than the laws of physics.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • One of novels has a discussion of which member of the Fellowship everyone is. Harry objects to not being assigned Gandalf, until it is explained that Sam is the real hero of the story. And there's a throwaway line about a certain person being Boromir—said person later betraying the group.
    • When Harry sends a young man to Father Forthill for some food, a shower, and new clothes, Forthill casually asks the man to get any Pedophile Priest jokes out of the way early on.
  • Endless Night: Ellie says "There's a saying by some great writer or other that no man is a hero to his valet." (It was Hegel.) The context is her husband Michael saying of his mother, and their uncomfortable relationship, that "She knows the worst of me"—which turns out to be Foreshadowing.
  • Some of Lawrence Block's novels:
    • Burglars Can't Be Choosers:
      Bernie: Most of Peter Alan Martin's clients are ladies who came in third in a country-wide beauty contest a whole lot of years ago. I think he's the kind of agent you call when you want someone to come out of the cake at a bachelor party. Do they still have that sort of thing?
      Ellie: What sort of thing?
      Bernie: Girls popping out of cakes.
      Ellie: You're asking me? How would I know?
      Bernie: That's a point.
    • The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams:
      • Carolyn tells Bernie that she hid her owning a third cat for three months because she was afraid it would lead to her eventually becoming a Crazy Cat Lady.
      • Bernie and a customer discuss what might have happened if the Dutch hadn't lost New York.
    • Tanner on Ice:
      • Evan's cellmate comments that Mandalay beer tastes like piss.
        Stuart: S'funny how people will say that. 'Tastes like piss.' But how would they know?
      • Evan mentions his time in a Turkish jail.
        Evan: Before I knew about Midnight Express. They fed me the same meal every day. Pilaf, pilaf, and pilaf.
        Stuart: Sounds like a Russian law firm.
  • Full Metal Panic!: In the first major story arc, Sousuke, Kaname and Kurz are caught in enemy territory and surrounded. Kaname and Kurz realize they're in a Bolivian Army Ending situation, specifically referencing the Trope Namer Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (without actually naming it), with Kaname adding that she prefers happy endings. Of course, since this is only the first arc, they do get out of the situation just fine.

    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI: NY: In "Trapped," a reclusive millionaire is found dead inside his own panic room. Flack questions all of the man's help, then lists them for Stella, who bemoans that there's no butler because "in a mansion like this, it's always the butler."
  • In one scene from Dead Like Me, George, the viewpoint character for the series, informs her fellows of the roles they play in the ensemble cast. Later in the episode, the oldest and wisest of the troupe casually "breaks trope", much to George's surprise.
  • Doctor Who: "Silence in the Library" has the Doctor and Donna discussing how Time Travel can lead to Spoilers if you're not careful, with him admitting that he tries to keep her away from "major plot developments" of the future.
  • Dollhouse features an episode where the B plot has Topher programming one of the Dolls to be an ideal best friend for himself so he can have a day of perfect geeky socialization on his birthday. Since he programs her to be a geek, there winds up being a scene where they're playing video games and talking about Science Fiction tropes; among other things, they come to a mild friendly disagreement over whether Green Skinned Space Babes are a hideously stupid Cliché or not (he claims that she's just dissing "good art").
  • In one episode of Eureka, Vincent and Fargo are fairly Genre Savvy while watching a "reality show" that is actually a live feed from a biosphere experiment at Global Dynamics. Unfortunately, the Genre Savvy doesn't apply to their own crazy town.
  • About 25% of the total runtime of Freaks and Geeks consists of either the "freaks" group discussing music or the "geeks" talking comedy or sci-fi.
  • Friends has little side-jokes about this sometimes. In one episode, Chandler discusses Half Dressed Cartoon Animals with Phoebe.
  • Heroes has this happen with, of course, Hiro, the series' Ascended Fanboy. He even goes so far as to point out to his Side Kick Ando where in the story he is at certain crucial moments. Hiro firmly believes himself to be the most Genre Savvy guy around, he just doesn't quite realise he's not actually living in the genre he's an expert on. It's more than a little adorable.
  • Jane the Virgin lampshades, discusses, and converses telenovela and other romance tropes through the social circles of its aspiring romance writer protagonist Jane and her father Rogelio, who is a telenovela star.
  • Lost:
    • Boone and Locke discuss Red Shirts in "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues".
    • In "Some Like It Hoth", Hurley presents his thoughts on Star Wars: "Ewoks suck, dude". This is far from the only Star Wars discussion in the series.
  • NCIS:
    Tony: Ah, let me guess... You're that person in horror movie that decides that since all your friends are dead, you really need to go check out the demonic, breathing noise down in the basement.
    Kate: Well, it beats being the girl who twists her ankle and gets everybody else killed.
  • Occurs in Series H "History" on QI with Stephen, Alan, David Mitchell, Sandi Toksvig, and Rob Brydon digitally edited into a photo of a combat squad. David (whose face was in a somewhat goofy expression) mused that he would be killed off early, while Sandi supposed she would be the woman brought along just to work the radio, but gets forced into flying a plane. Stephen would be the hero from the First World War, Rob gets off right before the end (just when you think he'll make it), and Alan survives the whole thing.
  • Stargate SG-1:
  • After Tuvok and Paris escape from the Show Within a Show holodeck program Insurrection Alpha in Star Trek: Voyager following Seska's evil alterations of it, they and the rest of the senior staff chat about the program in the mess hall, including Captain Janeway's use of Deus ex Machina to rescue them.
  • Warehouse 13:
    • They discuss Red Shirts, when Myka feels that Artie's secrecy about their current mission could prove life-threatening for them.
      Myka: He thinks we're...
      Pete: Redshirts?
      Myka (nodding sadly): Yeah.
      Pete: First of all, we're not redshirts. And second of all... It's so cool that you knew what I meant!
    • This dialog in Season 3, Episode 3:
      New Agent Jinx (after missing during Tesla Target practice): "Firing a Ray Gun isn't as easy as it looks in the movies."
      Pete: "Hey, No. It is very hard to fire ray guns in the movies. How many times have you seen a Storm Trooper hit what he's firing at? Not once.
    • Pete also admonishes himself for missing an obvious video game trope (even using the term "trope") when he and Claudia are trapped in a virtual reality world.
  • In You're the Worst, Jimmy (a novelist) has a bunch of comments on Ferris Bueller's Day Off:
    Jimmy: Edgar, I think I know a little something about Campbellian storytelling. Ferris is the hero. Jennifer Grey is the foil. Principal Rooney is the fool. Sloane is the sidekick. Cameron's the villain.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Monokuma occasionally comments how much he enjoys using tropes and playing with the narrative structure (which is justified, since he means the narrative of the Immoral Reality Show), and in one translation he actually name drops a particular trope he enjoys: Sacrificial Lamb.
  • Sweet Fuse: At Your Side is a visual novel set entirely in a theme park in which all of the attractions are based on video games, in which the seven main characters are obligated to participate in "games" that have been made from the attractions. As a result, there's a lot of discussion about video game tropes, especially in scenes featuring Meoshi, a video game otaku.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Steven Universe:
    • When discussing the ending of The Spirit Morph Saga in "Open Book", Connie talks about how she thought the book series was, in her own words, "subverting these witch tropes", and was really self aware, only for none of that to seemingly matter in the end.
    • Steven's favorite cartoon, Crying Breakfast Friends, often acts as a parallel to his life, such as in "Reformed", where he takes an online survey to find out which characters from CBF the people in his own life most resemble; or "Cry for Help", where snippets of an episode match up to the interpersonal issues of the Gems.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Michaelangelo does this all the time. In "Night of Sh'okanabo", he lists a bunch of horror movies tropes, marking him as a "scholar" of film (the only kind of scholar he is). He also discussed horror tropes in season 1's three-parter "Notes from the Underground".
  • In The Venture Bros., this is pretty much the basis of the characters 21 and 24. They're also very Genre Savvy.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Conversed Trope, Conversed


"She's naked [on the cover]!"

"Little Girl Lost". Castle and Beckett get into it about the just-released cover art for Castle's first Nikki Heat murder mystery novel, Heat Wave, which features an expy of Beckett herself as the main character... and has her nude silhouette on the cover art. ABC published ten real-life Nikki Heat novels as tie-ins to the show, which, in keeping with this scene, almost all show the protagonist's nude silhouette on the cover.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / SexyPackaging

Media sources: