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Dead Horse Trope

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Nobody told him that visual puns aren't funny anymore.

"For years there have been reports of the death of the Western. Now comes American Outlaws, proof that even the B Western is dead. It only wants to be a bad movie, and fails."
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A trope which has gone way beyond being a Discredited Trope to where the very act of Playing With that trope has itself become a trope.

The progression is generally:

Clever idea → TropeDiscredited Trope → Dead Horse Trope.

→ Then, if the downward slide continues, it may end up as a Forgotten Trope.

Named for the idiom "beating a dead horse", which describes continuing a course of action that is clearly pointless. If you're whipping your horse to try to make it go faster when your horse is dead, you're just wasting your time. You're not going to move any faster... or at all.

Naturally, the Dead Horse Tropes tend to be The Oldest Ones in the Book, too.

If a Dead Horse Trope is still used straight in recent works despite seemingly being used/abused to death, it's an Undead Horse Trope. If it was never really played straight in the first place (but everyone assumes it was), it's a Dead Unicorn Trope. If it's so natural to the medium of storytelling that it can still be played straight no matter how often it's used and abused, it's an Omnipresent Trope. If the trope not only makes viewers/readers groan but also makes them angry, you've probably got a Pet-Peeve Trope.

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A common cause of "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny, because it's hard to imagine yourself back into the innocent frame of mind when this was new. A related trope is Condemned by History, where something that was very popular in its day later becomes better known for the backlash against it than for its own merits.

Compare Discredited Meme.

Please put any examples on the trope pages, as it gets in the way of indexing.


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Tropes:

  • 419 Scam: Since this con is one of The Oldest Ones in the Book, most people are smart enough to know that there is no Nigerian prince on the other side of the email willing to give you a share of riches for shuffling money around. So when it's used in fiction, it's almost always parodied, most commonly by showing that the Nigerian prince is real, and dumbfounded as to why no one ever emails him back, or to show What an Idiot! someone is to fall for this trick.
  • 90% of Your Brain: It turns out that most people do indeed use all of their brain, just not all at once — the same way you won't have every light in your house on if you're not in a particular room. In fact, if you ever find yourself with all your "lights" on at once, congratulations: you're having a seizure.
  • Advanced Tech 2000: Could no longer be played straight in its original form once the calendar hit January 1, 2001. However, the trope is still being played straight, albeit with larger numbers (3000, 4000, etc.) in place of the original 2000.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: Nigh-on universal in the Drugs Are Bad days of the 80s and 90s, but nowadays seen as a joke due to people realizing that drug dealers operate nothing like this. Drugs are expensive, and dealers are huge targets for the police. So demanding people take free samples of drugs and deliberately seeking out random strangers in suburbia to give them to (especially kids, who wouldn't have money to buy drugs to begin with) is a good way to run out of money and get yourself caught. Most real drug dealers wait for people to come to them, or deal drugs to people they already know well. But it wasn't very appealing for parents to admit their kids were doing drugs because they actively sought them out or learned it from friends and family, thus the prevalence of the trope.
  • All That Glitters: Don't expect anyone to take this aesop seriously. More of a Spoof Aesop, if it were an aesop. Famous straight uses include The Merchant of Venice (where it's already regarded as an old proverb) or Don Quixote, both of which were Trope Codifiers. The Lord of the Rings inverts it: "All that is gold does not glitter." Ogden Nash once quipped that "All that glitters is sold as gold."
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: While there are Asians who speak in broken English, this is no longer treated as comedy anymore unless the author wants to come off as offensive, has the Asian equivalent of N-Word Privileges, or if it is used satirically in adult cartoons. Values Dissonance has also helped this trope die out, with Asians appearing more in works that don't involve cheap gags.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: This trope was very popular in the 1970s-1990s due to a big fact that this trope was somewhat accurate...and not just in New York City, but in many cities in the United States and the United Kingdom starting in the the mid-to-late 1960s. Crime, pollution, homelessness, economic stagnation, corruption, and major racial and political strife were part of New York City in that era, and the city almost went bankrupt in 1975 due to many residents (and hence the tax base) moving to the suburbs en masse to get away. While fiction clearly exaggerated it at times, it came from a real place. By the 1980s, the economy recovered and the population exodus slowed, but this trope was still popular, though not as much as in the 70s. However, by the mid-to-late 90s, the city had SEVERELY cleaned up its act, with crime and pollution plummeting, the economy booming, and its politics calming... and then, in 2001, a certain event occurred that turned NYC into pretty much the "Hero City" in the American consciousness. Unless one is doing a period piece, this trope is usually never played straight as of the new millennium, especially since a lot of media companies and production are in New York, and might not be happy with such a portrayal. Most mainstream fiction in New York City today (aside from just Big Applesauce) focuses on either trendy neighborhoods or the glitz and glamour among its wealthy.
  • Black Dude Dies First: After comedians started mocking its use, and general racism decreased (or at least became much less socially acceptable). It still occasionally happens but it's not expected to anymore, to the point that most examples are coincidences in modern works (or intentional parodies).
  • Blackface: Rarely appears in modern mainstream media played straight. If it shows up at all, it's generally for Black Comedy (No Pun Intended), satirical purposes, or Deliberate Values Dissonance. It still does occasionally show up in Japanese culture, but even that can be prone to controversy and creates serious headaches for exporters.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: This trope is only played for laughs now.
  • Bond Gun Barrel: Parodied so many times that it became a stock parody. It's still played straight by the James Bond franchise, either on movies or video games, because people have come to expect it and would complain if it weren't included. If you see it elsewhere, it's probably a parody. It helps that the gunbarrel POV shot has been trademarked by Danjaq (production company for the Bond films), meaning that any other use would have to be parody to avoid getting sued.
  • Anything with British Royal Guards in London, or Royal Canadian Mountiesexcept in Police Procedurals, where they are depicted more realistically.
  • Bullet Time: The Matrix inspired so many imitations and parodies in the early-to-mid 2000s that audiences got sick of it. Nowadays, it's seen as nothing more than a gimmick. It's still played straight fairly often in video games, though, often as a power-up or Anti-Frustration Feature.
  • Bully Bulldog: Science Marches On killed this trope. Since the heyday of the trope, English Bulldogs have had most of their viciousness bred out of them even after Blood Sports against Brutish Bulls were banned. They've also become less athletic to a fault due to their shortened limbs and flattened muzzles. As a result, the modern bulldog is best known as a lazy family dog and a commonplace mascot, while other breeds (Dobermans, Akitas, Staffys, Chihuahuas, etc) have taken over as the new "scary guard dogs", though the similar Pit-bull breeds still do play around this trope.
  • Chainmail Bikini. There seem to be fewer and fewer straight examples and more and more deconstructions or parodies as time goes on. While some still try to defend them on the grounds that Tropes Are Tools and Sex Sells, curiously nobody ever suggests the obvious egalitarian option of keeping the chainmail bikinis but also putting the men in chainmail banana Hammocks. If the trope has to non-ironically come into play, it is either downplayed greatly (e.g. formfitting armor and/or a Cleavage Window), or pointed out that it wasn't armor in the first place — the artists wanted her topless but put it there solely for the censors.
  • Counting Sheep: Unfortunately, proven by science to be ineffective in real life and the Serta mattress commercials have been parodying this for years, as have other shows.
  • Cow Tipping: Proven to be nothing more than an Urban Legend and there are few, if any, straight examples on the page. It might even be a Dead Unicorn Trope.
  • Curly Hair Is Ugly: In various cultures it's this, with the exception of when a bully or a jerk mocks someone for their hair and the narrative doesn't agree. It's inappropriate and sometimes even considered racist to mock someone just for having curly hair.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: It's really hard to play this one straight anymore. While everyone loves to see the crook live the high life, do cool things and commit awesome crimes, the genre conventions virtually require karma to take its due at some point.
  • The Dark Age of Comic Books: While many series have continued to get Darker and Edgier, the specific stylings of '90s comics, such as pouches, random metal ornamentation, and bizarre headpieces, have all been parodied well after they went out of style.
  • Due to their usage as far back as silent movies and early theatrical cartoons, some of the more common Death Trap conventions are dead horse tropes. Chained to a Railway and the Conveyor Belt o' Doom are prime examples. The Dastardly Whiplash mustache-twirling villain also present in such things is almost never used seriously these days.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: The original form of this stock villain character appeared in stage melodramas between the 1880s and the early 1910s, after which it was parodied in silent film; the character has been appearing only as a parody of itself for so long that the parody is now the trope and its origins are close to being forgotten altogether. For the record, even in silent film, the only work that contains a character similar to Dastardly Whiplash at all is the 1912 serial The Perils of Pauline, and in it the character is quite different from any later parodies. As Mighty Mouse had several Pauline-like episodes with such a villain (a mustachioed cat named Oil Can Harry), and Dudley Do-Right was a parody of Pauline in many ways, this led to the misconception that such a character was very common throughout all silent films.
  • A Dog Ate My Homework: Originally conceived as an excuse as it provided plausible deniability, but has been overused to the point of being a joke rather than an even remotely credible excuse.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Even if dogs being portrayed as stupid still exists to this day, nobody really truly remembers or pays attention to this characteristic in fiction/etc anymore due to how Cliched it was.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Examples as late as Bedazzled (2000) played this character type sympathetically (and even then, moving past this is part of the protagonist's Character Development). However, since the Turn of the Millennium, numerous real life high-profile news stories about obsessed assailants, including a few mass murders, have caused the trope to shift more towards its darker aspects. The "nice guys" in fiction since the 2000s blame women for rejecting them, instead of acknowledging just what factors might be at fault for their difficulties. In particular, the use of the term "friendzoned" in a way that is not related to the trope of a similar name is used as a good sign that they're not nearly as nice as they think they are. In any case, such a character type can't be played with sympathy anymore thanks to changing attitudes towards real-world versions of this type of person. If it shows up at all, the Dogged Nice Guy will be used as a Deconstructed Character Archetype.
  • Don't Eat and Swim: The idea that you have to wait thirty minutes after eating before going swimming is a myth that's been debunked hundreds of times. There are no recorded instances of drownings or near-drownings caused by cramps developed from eating. If this trope gets used at all, it's going to be exaggerated for the sake of comedy, like a character just dipping their toe in a pool and suddenly developing cramps.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: Depending on the jurisdiction, many donut shops now would either offer free donuts and coffee to law enforcement officials as a public service or, more commonly, face fines or other undesirable consequences if they gave them, as it would be considered bribery. On the other hand, this just means the cops just buy the donuts and coffee and still hang out there, so it manages to remain true even though it's a dead horse (cops are fully aware of the trope and treat it with a laugh, because who doesn't like donuts?)
  • Dunce Cap: The only time this really saw much use was in the early 20th century. Anyone trying it in real life nowadays would be setting themselves up for all kinds of trouble. Plus, with an increased focus against bullying in The New '10s, singling out a student and calling him stupid in this manner, even in fiction, would never fly.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Rarely used; frequently parodied.
  • Exploding Calendar: Pretty much everyone has done a gag at some point or another, making the joke a trope of its own.
  • Speaking of newspapers, there's the paperboy calling out "Extra Extra!"
  • The Faceless:
    • The "only shown from the knees down" variant used for character such as Nanny in Muppet Babies (1984), the parents of Cow and Chicken, and Miss Bellum in The Powerpuff Girls. The majority of the current usage of this variant of the trope is usually coupled with parodies of the Spinoff Babies formula.
    • This trope has also started to die out on the internet in the late 2010s, specifically with creators on YouTube. Although hiding your face on the internet was somewhat common when the website was first starting out, most online creators who started as this have given up on it, since nobody really cares what people online look like anyways. Newer YouTubers are more likely to flat-out defy this trope, since the chances of getting more exposure on the site are much better if you can actually see what they look like.
  • Face on a Milk Carton: Thanks to instant alert systems like the Amber Alert system (which allows missing children's names to be broadcast on television, radio and expressway signs within minutes). These days, most cell phones will also get alerts of this kind accompanied by a loud alert tone. You might still see it on Iceland-brand milk bottles, but otherwise this is almost never seen anymore in real life, and hardly ever done seriously in fiction these days. However, they still exist, in the form of dozens of posters (with age progression) at the entrances to Wal-Mart stores and some grocery store chains.
  • Faux Interracial Relationship: Died out due to better attitudes on interracial marriages.
  • Flashback Stares: Characters who stop to stare wistfully into the mid-distance are more likely to be interrupted by another character asking what they're looking at.
  • Floating Advice Reminder: Except for Coronation Street but that hasn't yet happened.
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: Due to audiences not generally finding the fact that a wrestler is a foreigner to be enough of a reason to view them as a villain, most audiences find this type of character very difficult to take seriously when played completely straight. Modern depictions of this character type will either be a parody, or at least be a villain that happens to be foreign, as opposed to a villain because they're foreign and just hate America. Another reason for this trope's decline is because, for the most part, the modern wrestling world tends to focus on what a wrestler can do, with things like where they come from and what they look like as only a footnote. WWE is about the only major company in the world that still plays this trope completely straight, even in the 2010s, and even their use of it comes with a dose of Grandfather Clause.
  • Glove Slap: Just slapping them is far more common now. Not to mention that the thin fashionable gloves used in this trope are all but dead as a men's accessory.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Straight examples are rare in these days. Playing with a Trope is more common: two devils, two angels, convincing devil and dimwit angel, the devil and the angel agree, etc.
  • Great White Hunter: A combination of accusations of racism and of an increase in animal rights. If one such hunter does show up, he'll either be laughably behind-the-times or genuinely evil. Sympathetic versions who are safari guides, game wardens, wildlife conservationists or Steve Irwin clones may show up, but they aren't hunters in the traditional sense. The only form of heroic "gentleman hunter" that still appears is one who's hunting a nonexistent or no-longer-existent species such as aliens, monsters, or dinosaurs (think Roland Tembo.)
  • Greedy Jew: Due to the Unfortunate Implications of this stereotype, it is only seem nowadays for satire or Deliberate Values Dissonance. The Lighter and Softer version All Jews Are Cheapskates is seen occasionally.
  • Helping Granny Cross the Street: The only examples you'll see in modern media involves the old lady never wanting to cross in the first place, or crankily belting the hero with their cane or handbag. Occasionally the straight version still shows up in commercials and music videos with a "good deeds, pass them on" theme.
  • Hippies are seldom played straight outside of 60s/early 70s period pieces, having been mostly replaced by New Age Retro Hippies and Granola Girls.
  • Hypno Ray: Along with hypnotism in general, unless its ability to be effective is heavily justified in-universe.
  • I Remember It Like It Was Yesterday as a segue into a Flash Back. More often than not, "it" was yesterday or maybe even "earlier today."
  • Idea Bulb: Nowadays usually has the lightbulb somehow breaking or turning off if they have a bad idea or forget, or using candles or other sources of light for characters predating the lightbulb, or possibly even taking the lightbulb out and using it in their idea.
  • Imagine the Audience Naked: As a method to calm your nerves during public speaking, imagining your audience naked/in their underwear/etc. doesn't work. Editorials and blog posts on the subject say even managing to do this at all is very unlikely, since you're probably not capable of imagining something like that in such a high-stress situation. And even if you were capable of it, this has a high likelihood of backfiring because of how needlessly distracting it is. There are many ways of calming your nerves during public speaking, but imagining your audience naked is absolutely not one of them. If a work uses this trope, it will parody the concept, usually by making the audience actually naked with the speaker thinking they've got a great imagination.
  • In a World...: Any time you hear the words "In a world..." in a trailer these days, it's parodying the trope. Announcers in trailers themselves have gone the way of the dodo as well, with trailers now almost always relying on cut-together scenes and dialogue to Show, Don't Tell.
  • Instant Cultured: Several prominent smart folks have come out in modern times without engaging in so-called "smart people" activities.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: The original plot is nowadays more commonly parodied (by the world in fact being better off if the protagonist was never born) than played straight.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: If a character does actually think it's too quiet, they're not going to say it. If this trope does get used, it'll usually be followed immediately by something that's not actually a threat making a loud noise.
  • Jail Bake: If you're planning to break out of jail, you'll have to find a more creative method if you need a file smuggled in; modern prisons have metal detectors and anything visitors bring will be searched.
  • Kawaiiko: Now that we're in the age of salarymen, Japanese sex dolls (as mentioned by Justin Lee Collins) and Japanese supermodels like Leah Dizon, this trope is very much now no longer able to be played straight. British magazine Take A Break treated it as The New Rock & Roll, but they were Two Decades Behind - the kawaii fad is known for its flaws and is a joke nowadays in its home country.
  • Knights and Knaves: The solution to this puzzle has become so well-known thanks to Pop-Cultural Osmosis that it can't be played straight anymore. If it's used at all, expect the creators to throw in a third guard, or otherwise add an element to make the puzzle much harder.
  • Lie Back and Think of England: If a woman endures sex rather than enjoys it, it's either a signal that she's had traumatic experiences with sex or that her partner is inadequate. Or she's asexual, or has something wrong physically.note 
  • Lights Off, Somebody Dies: Parodies that have pointed out the sheer amount of Fridge Logic required to make this kind of "whodunnit" plot work means that no one's going to play it straight.
  • Look Behind You: This is mainly for the fact that a lot of problems could be avoided by simply stepping aside, so that the villain could eye both the hero and whatever was behind him simultaneously.
  • Mayan Doomsday: The supposed "end of the world" date of December 21, 2012 is now safely in the distant past, and suffice to say, nothing happened on the supposed day of the apocalypse. It's hard to imagine any works playing this trope straight anymore with that in mind. The usual joke is that the calendar simply ends there, possibly because the artist ran out of room.
  • Millennium Bug: The problem was noticed in plenty of time and a lot of work was put in to make sure things went smoothly (with only two reported deaths). At this point, most people barely even remember that there was a problem, or falsely assume that the problem was never real in the first place.
  • Minstrel Shows: While it would be a stretch to say that racism is completely extinct, the more overt displays of it are certainly no longer generally acceptable.
  • New Year's Resolution: It's commonly accepted that most people can't keep their resolutions - oftentimes giving up as early as February -and thus, they're taken as empty promises at best. Even in fiction, they're always going to end in failure.
  • Nobody Here but Us Birds: Fell out of favor after bad guys in 1990s environmental movies aimed at kids started falling for it. The parodies and use of this trope to indicate "look at how dumb those Mooks are" mean that it's never going to be used in any serious context.
  • Outdated Hero vs. Improved Society: The narrative idea that the world is steadily "improving" is already generally a hard sell due to the Nostalgia Filter, whereas human nature is to long for the "good old days". Further, the concept of Black-and-White Morality has declined in favor of Graying Morality. Combining those two factors has made this trope very sparingly played straight, except in works that deliberately want to send messages about Evil Reactionaries.
  • Peeling Potatoes: At least when done by soldiers in the military on KP as a punishment. Mess halls nowadays have more efficient ways to do it.
  • Planetary Romance: The classic version (set in the Solar System, specifically Mars) has been killed by science, and is impossible to do except in a deliberate Genre Throwback that either ignores or lampshades the science. The genre as a whole is sliding into obscurity as well, due to changes in the Sci Fi Ghetto. note  Nowadays, if you want to write fantasy, you just write fantasy (thank you, J. R. R. Tolkien) and so most Planetary Romance novels are either part of Long-Runners that aren't going anywhere, or are (again) deliberate throwbacks to the classics.
  • Press Hat: Reporters no longer insert their Press credentials into a hat.
  • Prince Charming: Time was, every fairytale had a character whose main function was to be a) physically attractive and b) a socially advantageous marriage prospect for the hero/heroine, by virtue of being wealthy and/or a member of the aristocracy. Information about this character's actual personality tended to be sketchy at best, except period dramas. Remained popular through the early 1990s in the Disney Animated Canon. Nowadays princes are just as often clueless and vain, if not downright evil. See Prince Charmless, which is the current form nowadays. See what we meant by the spoof becoming a trope?
  • Quirky Ukulele: Became one in The New '10s thanks to overuse. Ukuleles in relation to quirky characters is more often mocked than played straight.
  • Racist Grandma: Although there is some (inconclusive) evidence that people become more prejudiced as they grow older, racism in any form becoming unacceptable means using this trope for comedic purposes is dead, even an Innocent Bigot. That said, today's grandmas are also evolving with the modern societal situations, ditching the trope and becoming cool grandmas instead.
  • Raw Eggs Make You Stronger: Raw eggs have no more nutritional content than cooked ones and are a salmonella hazard besides. Any modern use of this trope either plays it for laughs by having the character spit them out or refuse to drink them. Or subverts it (i.e. having the character get sick from them or by making it look like the character is going to drink raw eggs, only for them to pour them into a hot pan and cook them properly).
  • Region Coding: Alive and well in the online streaming space, but has largely disappeared from physical media. Consoles have all dropped it for games over time - with the Playstation 3 being the first notable example, and Nintendo, the last holdout, dropping it with the Nintendo Switch. As far as movies and television are concerned, most major Blu-Ray releases are region free, and the region coding in general on Blu-Rays is much more lenient than what it was on DVD. The Ultra-HD sub-format dropped it altogether.
  • Retirony: It's far more common to see this outright discussed, or otherwise played with than played straight anymore.
  • Riddle of the Sphinx: Like the case of Knights and Knaves, the answer to this riddle has become too well known, and is only parodied these days.
  • Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue...: Played with more often than not, but still used.
  • Save the Princess: Had its days as an acceptable Excuse Plot in Video Games, but those days are pretty much over. Unless you're Mario, and even then, the newer games in the series lampshade this plenty.
  • Scary Flashlight Face: Parodies of this kind of lighting are so common that this has been listed as both a horror trope and a comedy trope.
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: Not even its trope namer uses this gag seriously anymore. And even when it was used, the show subverted it or played with it every time.
  • Showdown at High Noon: No longer played straight, except in Western films or novels, but even then done as a tip of the hat to tradition.
  • Sleeping Single: An Enforced Trope by film censors implementing The Hays Code in the 1930s. It was considered kind of silly even at the time, and a couple sharing a bed wasn't even outright banned in the Code's heyday. Sitcoms from the 1960s (and occasionally beforenote ) featured couples sleeping together (even considering that TV had a stricter code than film), and this trope died along with it.
  • Slow "NO!": This trope is virtually never used straight these days thanks to all manner of comedy films using it for a quick gag.
  • Smoking Hot Sex: Two factors work against this one. Smoking in general has become less acceptable in media (as well as simply not being all that cool anymore), while overuse in the 70s/80s has made it hard to even parody the trope without seeming cliche.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: It isn't commonly used in Real Life, despite what stereotypes suggest.
  • Spinning Paper: Once a staple of B-movies, both overuse and the decline of newspapers as a medium have made examples that aren't parody or strictly humorous exceedingly rare.
  • Spinoff Babies: Serious attempts at this after the Turn of the Millennium are exceedingly rare due to how cliché and ridiculous the premise is (not to mention that it will inevitably be compared to Muppet Babies (1984) and will have to measure up to the shockingly high standard that show set). Parodies of it are far more common nowadays.
  • Standard '50s Father: Doesn't hold up so well now that The '50s are over. The Bumbling Dad, originally a rejection of this trope, eventually become so prevalent in modern media that a sensible, competent father (in a sitcom, anyway) is now the subversion. The presence of well-meaning, intelligent (but still quirky) father figures saw a revival in the 1980s, but it has also become a remnant of that period, not to mention tragic in retrospect in cases where Reality Subtext (most notoriously in the case of Bill Cosby) undermines the character.
  • Status Cell Phone: Since the latter days of the 2000s, cellphone ownership rates have risen to the point where it's practically expected for someone to own one. The trope is more commonly inverted these days, with a character lacking a cellphone to be more notable because of poverty or being out of touch.
  • Stern Nuns beating students at Catholic school. At least in the United States, nuns stopped doing this a long time ago (and also a good many Catholic schoolteachers are lay people), and yet Hollywood and TV shows constantly act like it's still standard procedure, as sitcom parents often threaten their rebellious teen with a transfer to a school run by nuns, implying that they will be beaten.
  • Subverted Suspicion Aesop: This type of Suspicion Aesop is NEVER played straight — there's a reason that Subverted is in the title. Sometimes a Double Subversion is put on it, but it's never played straight. The closest thing to the original version of the trope is Sheep in Sheep's Clothing, but even then it's because the suspecting character expects the subversion to be in play.
  • Superheroes Wear Capes: This was pretty common during The Golden Age of Comic Books, but fell out of favor over time. Few superheroes are unironically given capes anymore, with it seeming nowadays that most are only given capes for the purposes of demonstrating a reason not to wear them; those who do have them and haven't been wearing them since the '30s or '40s usually hearken back to a time to when capes were more popular or reflect a character's use of the Good Old Ways.
  • "Super Sentai" Stance: Almost universally made fun of in these days. Except of course within such series, and even then it'll be lampshaded.
  • Take Me to Your Leader: There is some Truth in Television in the sense that an explorer in a distant land, upon meeting some of the locals, might wish to speak with whoever's in charge around here. But the form of this where visiting extraterrestrials request this is almost never played straight anymore. This is usually replaced in most fiction (mainly movies) with We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill - the alien captain will simply vaporize everyone in the room the moment someone says "hello," or he and his unit are mindless Starfish Aliens with no concept of diplomacy, or the local General Ripper will ignore protocol and blast a hole in the alien's chest long before any leader is summoned. Even stories that are about communication with aliens will usually eschew this line as a cliche, or else combine it with an "I Always Wanted to Say That"-type line.
  • The Talk: Considering the proliferation of the Internet and other knowledge resources, this scene usually cannot be taken seriously by writers or audiences, unless it's in a period drama or coming-of-age story set before the Information Age, or if it's regarding a family with sheltered children. And even then, the "talk" itself might be either vague or incomplete on the parent's part, or the parent might be so jittery about giving the talk that they avoid it altogether. Alternately, the father glibly and eagerly goes into great detail on sex, either out of his own odd sex tastes or to deliberately disgust his son into celibacy.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: More like an Undead, cyclic trope that alternates with Knight in Shining Armor. Because of both of these tropes in combination with The Hero and Anti-Hero, a story can keep the audience in suspense about where exactly it will land on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. On the most literal level, however, this trope is still alive and well. After all, Americans and northern Europeans are on the average taller than other peoples; black and brown are still the most common hair colors; and Hollywood Homely has yet to become a widespread, non-ironic look for protagonists.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Or at least a specific variant of it in Professional Wrestling: "Divas" vs. "women wrestlers." Women's wrestling switched from average-looking women in singlets wrestling a piss-break match to gorgeous yet unathletic women providing fanservice. Bookers would often place the "Divas" (the "performers" who were almost always the Face) in feuds against more skilled female wrestlers (the "technicians" who were almost always the Heel) in an attempt to show fans that the "diva" wasn't just a Ms. Fanservice. This feuding extended to the fandom as well, as the rise of the Smart Mark made more fans side with the women wrestlers and shame the "diva" types as being Faux Action Girls. As such, the "diva" type of female performer in pro wrestling shows was gradually phased out. Couple that with the rise of Internet subcultures, and the "diva" type is almost never played straight anymore.
  • There Are No Rules: There's almost certainly at least one rule nowadays.
  • This Is My Boomstick: Not played straight very often after the Turn of the Millennium. If the trope gets used past then, it's often subverted by having the technology not work, break upon arrival, or be so esoteric that there's no practical use for it in the time period (like taking an ethernet cable to The Middle Ages).
  • Toast of Tardiness: This one got run into the ground in the 70s, and as a result, pretty much every single use of it is in a parody.
  • Tonto Talk: Portraying Native Americans as speaking stereotyped broken English is now seen as racially insensitive. The trope survives mostly in parodies: Either someone will attempt to speak to a Native American character in this patois, only to receive a bemused response in perfectly articulate English. Or a Native character will speak Elective Broken Language to make fun of the racist stereotype.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Never mind that most people wouldn't own any torches or pitchforks anyway, this type of mob is only ever used in parodies or as a gag. Any work that plays mob mentality straight typically involves throwing stones and bottles, smashing windows, and lots of shouting.
  • Underwear of Power: In Super Hero comics, the underwear (actually trunks) over your tights variety was widely influenced by circus "strongmen" of the early 20th century, though it has fallen out of use as a garment in real life due to recent innovations of elastic fibers such as spandex, which prevented tearing of their costumes while performing their stunts. Since modern times it's hard to modernize trunks as a garment not only by superheroes but also by other modern characters.
  • Vampire Vords: Strongly associated with "old", Bela Lugosi-style vampires. Neither the modern "sexy" vampires or the few genuinely threatening ones in modern fiction talk this way, because it's silly. Bela himself didn't even talk that way; initially memorizing his English lines phonetically, he tended to pronounce "w" as "wh".
  • Venus Is Wet: Common when the only thing known about Venus was the permanent cloud cover over its entire surface, stomped flat when unmanned space probes reveal that the clouds are sulfuric acid, the atmosphere is largely carbon dioxide, and due to the resulting greenhouse effect the temperature at the planet's dry and barren surface is around 480°C (900°F). Now only appears as part of a Genre Throwback. The few modern stories that still use this trope generally invoke terraforming as an explanation.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: More likely to be spoofed than played straight, especially considering that the popularity of traditional Eastern martial arts has waned in the West in favor of mixed martial arts.
  • What Are You in For?: In Real Life (at least in UK prisons) they often already know - they read the daily court case roundup in the local paper so already know who's been sentenced for what and how long. In countries where this is not the case (Russia, for example), they still either already know or will soon be able to verify your words, using the rumor telegraph and illegally smuggling notes and letters from facility to facility.
  • When I Was Your Age...: Now a days, this trope is almost always exaggerated to the point of parody, with such nonsense as "we had to walk uphill both ways the whole time", or "we had to walk through a 130 degree blizzard."
  • Wire Dilemma: 9/11, The Troubles and 30 years of terrorists hiding grenades inside dead cows and cars instead of metal boxes marked "BOMB" have stomped this one flat. If it's used at all it will be some subversion, such as all the wires being the same color, or the person with the wire cutters getting fed up and throwing the bomb out the window.
  • Working on the Chain Gang: The punishment was once very commonplace in Southern US states up until the mid-1950s, with Georgia being the last to abolish it in '55. Today only a single county in Arizona remains as the one place that still makes use of chain gangs, although inmates serving on these ones aren't shackled together anymore. Nowadays, chain gangs mostly just exist in period pieces in media that involve prisoners in the early half of the 20th Century. Replaced with "community service" nowadays; usually a crew of guys filling potholes on the highway or picking up litter in the park, but these activities aren't gritty or sexy enough for Hollywood so they rarely show up in media. Prisoners nowadays are more likely to be employed in indoor factories, making anything from license plates to combat gear for the Army.
  • You Always Hear the Bullet: The page mostly hosts aversions of the trope, since it's just not used any more.
  • You Meddling Kids: It's little more than a Stock Parody now, with even its originator making fun of it.


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