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Deconstructed Trope

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"The bipedal body shape is a very practical solution for a human-sized thing made of bones and meat. But thanks to the square-cube law it stops working as well as it gets bigger. And even if we replace the bones and muscles with steel and fishing line, there are so many other problems with large, walking, combat machines. Compared to something like a tank, they're slower, harder to armor, and have a preposterously large surface area to hit. There's no reason this thing should even exist."

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 from Fan Fic are to go in Deconstruction Fic.

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  • 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 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".
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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).
  • 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.
    • It's also possibly the earliest example of why Faking the Dead isn't a good idea. If someone thinks that you're dead, you never really know how they're going to react. Juliet finds this out the hard way when Romeo, thinking she's dead, kills himself.
  • 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.



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Alternative Title(s): Trope Deconstruction


The Harsh Truth

MatPat lays it out on the table of how a workplace romance would realistically be a lot more disastrous than it is cute.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

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Main / OfficeRomance

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