The intentional use and exploration of a trope, typically for ironic or satirical purposes. This differs from subverting a trope and Lampshade Hanging because the trope is not altered in any way, nor is any attempt made to make it more believable. It is used straight — far straighter than normal, in fact — and is examined in great detail, usually to try and show what circumstances would cause the trope to manifest in real life and/or what the real-life consequences of this trope would be, revealing some flaws beneath, like saying, "Be careful: this is what happens when you have this trope."
Alternately, the trope can be used in a manner that differs greatly from its usual context. For example, many characters in comedies display behavior that, though played for laughs in the show, could in Real Life be the end result of a mental or social anxiety problem — Yanderes, Hard Drinking Party Girls, Tsunderes, Lovable Sex Maniacs, the list goes on. A more serious show might play with these tropes by presenting identical characters as unstable or even dangerous.
If an entire genre gets this treatment (which usually happens over the course of an entire story), then it's a Genre Deconstruction, and they belong in that article, not here. Deconstructed Tropes occur in Deconstructions, but they can just as easily appear in straight examples of a genre, or even in Reconstructionist works.
It's (probably) Older Than Dirt. Ancient people might not have the term "deconstruct" or "trope" and it's hard to know exactly what tropes existed in earliest human history, but what might be the oldest preserved story, The Epic of Gilgamesh, deconstructs the idea of a perfect Femme Fatale. The goddess Ishtar lures men to their destruction, but by the time she tries this with Gilgamesh, word about what happens to her lovers has gotten around. Not being completely ruled by his private parts, Gilgamesh simply says "no". Likewise the story of Helen of Troy seems to deconstruct what really happens if there was such a thing as a woman that was clearly the World's Most Beautiful Woman — some lustful man kidnaps her and a war breaks out.
It should be noted that a deconstruction doesn't have to be Darker and Edgier than its source. If a negative trope is taken apart and shown to not necessarily be as bad as it's generally made to look, that's a Lighter and Softer deconstruction. Also, just because the trope is taken in a darker direction, it doesn't mean it's been deconstructed. Tropes darkened unrealistically don't provide the meaningful insight that a deconstruction is supposed to. For more examples of what a deconstruction is not, see Not a Deconstruction.
This can overlap with Played for Horror if the deconstruction plays up the scary consequences.
Deconstructed Character Archetype is a subtrope (insofar as character archetypes are tropes in their own right): examples of character types being deconstructed go on that page. See also Playing with a Trope for comparison with the other ways tropes can be used. May lead to a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome. When a Trope Maker seems to have done this, it's because it was an Unbuilt Trope.
Examples go in subpages:
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Film — Animated
- Film — Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Visual Novels
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- This Skittles commercial deconstructs turning everything you touch into candy. A woman brings a normal guy in to see a man who turns everything he touches into candy. After a demonstration, the normal guy says "That's awesome!" Then, the man with the candy hands explains how depressing it is to turn everything you touch into candy ("Did you feed or dress yourself this morning? I didn't.").
- This YouTube comment says it all:
Linda Stimus died yesterday at age 37. She is survived by husband Jim and two children, Louis and Emily, both under 24-hour psychiatric care. Police found Stimus in her home face down in a substance the autopsy report labeled a "mixture of 3% blood and 97% rays of sunshine" confirming her as the 6th victim of what the media has labeled The Citrus Strangler. A memorial service will be held Saturday in Benton Park where Stevie Wonder will sing his hit song "You are the Sunshine of my Life."
- This YouTube comment says it all:
- This PSA for gun control destroys the appeal behind Stuff Blowing Up, by showing a bullet passing through targets of food in magnificent showers of debris, then applying that imagery to the head of a child.
- Pet Shop Boys like to do this to individual songs. The most relevant example is their version of the so-often-covered "Always On My Mind", which, by putting it to a dance beat and singing it in a detached sort of way, makes it sound less like a love song and more like a half-hearted apology from a neglectful lover. The subject of the song probably wouldn't stick around if the words were spoken instead of sung.
- The works of Gustav Mahler could be viewed as deconstructions of Romantic era music, particularly his later symphonies. His 6th symphony, for example, takes apart the idea of the "Heroic" symphony that Beethoven codified in his 3rd. In Mahler's version, the hero is not quite so successful. He then went on to parody himself and his critics alike in his 7th symphony.
- Not quite so successful? The sixth symphony could be subtitled "Life's a bitch and then you die." Mahler burst into tears whenever he had to compose it, and took out one of the hammerblows because it was autobiographical and he was a bit skittish about having his own death sounded forth at the climax of the work.
- Many of the songs written by Serge Gainsbourg for the 60's French pop star France Gall were deconstructions of common themes in pop music and its role at the time in everyday life. The most well-known example is probably Poupée de cire, Poupée de son, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest of 1965, which deconstructs the idea of a star too young to actually understand love singing Silly Love Songs for cash that younger kids will believe.
- Khanate play crushingly slow music based on super-distorted guitar "riffs" stretched out for ten or twenty minutes, over which lie demented shrieking and arhythmic, cacophonic drumming. Their music is so alien that # 182 of Terrorizer magazine described their fourth album Clean Hands Go Foul as "musical deconstruction", explaining that it lacked "coherency, rhythm, melody, structure and all aspects of what would typically be associated with the art of songwriting". They also gave it an 8.5/10.
- Da Vinci's Notebook's song "Title of the Song" is a deconstruction of '90s boyband songs.
- Polish grunge band "Hey" is particularly fond of including deconstruction in their lyrics. One example would be the song "Mikimoto - król pereł" ("Mikimoto - king of pearls") which deconstructs popularity. The lyrics, roughly translated, go: "He was the king of this city/ With a cigarette in the place of a scepter/ He was the local saint/ With a halo of gray smoke/ He was the sluts' pet/ Quoted by the bartenders/ He was everyone's favourite/ Everyone wanted to be close with him/ He was found in the morning/ While everyone was still asleep/ Leaving a short letter behind/ About the unbearable loneliness".
- Which sounds like a translation and adaptation of the poem "Richard Corey, by Edward Arlington Robinson. (http://www.bartleby.com/104/45.html )
- The Temptations deconstructed the previously romantic view of being a runaway in "Runaway Child, Running Wild".
- "Fences" by Paramore is a deconstruction of the Rock Star Song, among some other similar stardom-related tropes. Its narrative explains how a celebrity is so reliant on their fame they've become a Stepford Smiler and are nothing without it.
Don't you know by now? You can't turn back, because this road is all you'll ever have.
- Exalted deconstructs every single trope that can be attributed to Heroism. If an Exalt is a hero, expect him to eventually step on everyone even as he believes that he's doing the right thing. He's a Hero, he believes he's a hero, he won't listen to anyone who says otherwise, and he's got more than enough firepower to blow the world to smithereens. Underwent a Decon-Recon Switch later in its run, when it became clear that overdoing the deconstruction could make people stop caring.
- Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck deconstructs the Wide-Eyed Idealist in the form of Gregers, a self-righteous meddler whose belief in exposing the family's problems so they can be solved, backfires spectacularly. The play can also be said to deconstruct Gregers´ counterpart Relling, a cynical psychologist who plays on people´s illusions. Which of the two who is morally right, is under heavy debate.
- Ibsen also deconstructs Manic Pixie Dream Girl with A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler. In Doll's House, the heroine Nora is a (seemingly) flighty, vivacious, kooky child-woman who gradually realizes that she's been so working so hard at playing this role for her more conventional husband — even through bearing him three children — that she has never really grown up and has no idea of her true self, and that their relationship is thus only a game, not adult love. She leaves him to try and learn how to be a fully formed human being. And in Hedda, the eponymous Hedda grows to find her more conventional husband boring, and when she tries to put some spice back into her life by starting an affair with a much more interesting man, she discovers that he's a commandeering, blackmailing Jerkass. The play ends with Hedda being Driven to Suicide.
- A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler are best known for their deconstruction of Happily Ever After; they criticized the institution of marriage and the nuclear family.
- Doll's house also deconstructs All Devouring Black Hole Loan Sharks: the guy who Nora owes a large debt to, Nils Krogstad, is... a human person with his own set of problems instead of a mere unidimensional Jerkass, and he does really need the money since he's just lost his job - and the boss who kicked him out is Nora's husband.. That, and having the final paying off of the loan cause more trouble than the loan itself ever did. If not for Kristine offering her help...
- And there's Dr. Ranke and his deconstruction of Unrequited Love, since loving Nora from afar is extremely painful for a man who is actually about to die.
- Name any realistic drama of Ibsen and you will bump into some kind of deconstruction: An Enemy of the People, about a political idealist who ends up with the entire society hating him, is another good example of this. And then there is his masterpiece Peer Gynt, deconstructing Norway.
- His last play When we dead awaken, where Ibsen partly deconstructs himself!
- Swedish playwright August Strindberg used some of his plays to actively deconstruct the plays of Henrik Ibsen.
- Carmen also deconstructs Manic Pixie Dream Girl: she's a gypsy woman who seduces and enchants the lead male, Don Jose, with her free-spirited nature, but quickly tires of him as he proclaims his everlasting love for her. Turns out she's not so much for the forever love, and she leaves him for someone much more exciting. As a result, he kills her out of jealousy at the end of the opera.
- Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children deconstructs the idea that war can ever be beneficial to a nation, by showing how the children are all killed because of their own best traits (courage, honour and compassion respectively).
- It also deconstructs Plucky Girl and The Determinator. The main female's pluckiness, perseverance and resourcefulness were supposed to show how dehumanized Mother Courage had become thanks to her sucky life (the deaths of her children included), as a detestable personification of the evils of capitalism. The audience embraced her instead.
- Likewise, The Threepenny Opera deconstructs the idea of the Lovable Rogue and/or Magnificent Bastard with the famous character of Mackie "Mack the Knife"/"Macheath" Messer.
- The Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh is a deconstruction of Bury Your Disabled. It plays with all three sub-types of the trope, then ends with the Iron Woobie protagonist facing the horrible realization that his days are numbered.
- Romeo and Juliet is a big deconstruction of the idea of Love at First Sight. The titular characters aren't presented as lovers who are destined to be together; they're two infatuated kids who are in way over their heads, making an already bad situation even worse.
- The fate of Ophelia in Hamlet is a sad deconstruction of It's Not You, It's My Enemies.
- Hamlet itself is a deconstruction of the revenge-tragedy genre that was extremely popular in the decades before the play was written (Shakespeare had contributed to the trend himself with Titus Andronicus). Hence, Hamlet's constant deliberation over his actions - the play has the structure of a revenge tragedy but, unlike other plays in the genre which tend not to question the motivations of their heroes, it's very serious about the moral and theological consequences of seeking vengeance.
- To Be Lawful or Good deconstructs Lawful Good, showing that "Lawful" and "Good" aspect can conflict with each other, forcing a choice that shows it doesn't offer the clear-cut morality one expects.
- Black-and-White Morality is deconstructed by:
- Black-and-White Insanity which portrays how unhealthy and damaging a viewpoint unwilling/unable to understand moral ambiguity can be.
- Anti-Hero and Anti-Villain which shows heroes and villains can have traits that would be vilified or glorified respectively if they were applied to the opposite side, making it harder to know who to root for.
- Villain Has a Point, Jerkass Has a Point, and Hypocrite Has a Point show those in the wrong can have valid points or motivations that the right side would be wrong to discount just because those making them are being reprehensible.
- The Hero is deconstructed by:
- With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility shows heroism requires hard work, selflessness and sacrifices that make it not as glamorous as one would think.
- Shoot the Dog shows heroism sometimes requires actions that would otherwise be morally reprehensible and the challenge of a moral character doing so.
- Holding Out for a Hero shows it can hurt people by making them too used to them fixing things to take care of problems themself when the heroes aren't available.
- Superhero Paradox shows the presence of heroes can cause more dangerous villains to rise up, creating new or worse problems.
- Heroic Fatigue shows that stress, responsibility, and sacrifices can wear them down to the point they're unwilling/unable to continue being a hero.
- Villains are deconstructed by:
- The Tragic Villain who shows how sympathetic characters can be forced to villainy due to thinking they have no other choice, and how stopping them isn't satisfying.
- Evil Will Fail shows that villains will inevitably fail in the long-run due to their very immorality causing them to make bad decisions.
- War Is Hell can be seen as a deconstruction of War Is Glorious. Instead of having wars depicting heroes improving themselves in positive ways, this trope depicts wars as a nightmarish land where people are traumatized in different ways.
- Guilt Complex deconstructs It's All My Fault and/or The Atoner showing their remorse could cause them to go about it in a way that makes things worse or hold them back from actually fixing their problems.
- Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse, as the title suggests, deconstructs Freudian Excuse by showing that regardless of how horrible one's life is, it will never justify the atrocities they commit.
- Magical Girl Genre Deconstruction, obviously, deconstructs Magical Girl by showing they're effectively Child Soldiers, how prepubescent-to-teenage girls would be ill-able to handle such without becoming messed up, and how the powers that be would exploit them.
- It Sucks to Be the Chosen One, of course, deconstructs The Chosen One by showing how the status can come with more problems than benefits such as losing those they care about, making sacrifices they're mentally unprepared for, and just, in general, having to deal with serious emotional baggage relating to their work.
- Broken Ace deconstructs The Ace by demonstrating how even exceptional people can suffer from serious problems, perhaps as a direct price of what makes them exceptional.
- Parody Sue deconstructs the general image of a Mary Sue and its sub-tropes (despite the name, it can be Played for Drama), emphasizing their improbable traits to show how flawed or unlikable such a "perfect" character would realistically be.
- Revenge Is Not Justice deconstructs Pay Evil unto Evil and the Well-Intentioned Extremist, by demonstrating that revenge is ultimately unjust since a character has hurt, crippled, or killed people as a direct consequence of their revenge quest.
- Stepford Smiler deconstructs Angst? What Angst?, by demonstrating that even though people show nothing on the surface, they're emotionally breaking on the inside.
- Vigilante Injustice deconstructs Vigilante Man and Obstructive Vigilantism, by showing that vigilantes are extremely unhelpful and counterproductive when they are just untrained and undisciplined civilians doing what they think is right.
- Mook Depletion deconstructs Bad Boss and We Have Reserves, by showing how a villain's callous attitude to their subordinates eventually causes trouble due to there being no more minions left to fight the heroes as the minions either are incapacitated or have abandoned their boss.
- Detrimental Determination deconstructs Determinator, showing refusing to give up or going to any length to achieve one's goal's is not an admirable trait and can cause more harm then good.
- Dystopia Is Hard deconstructs Dystopia, showing that a system that acts against the people's interests will inevitably collapse due to inefficiency, backstabbing and/or rebellion.