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Internal Deconstruction

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Robin: (regarding a "back-up marriage" pact) We still have our deal, right? If we're both still single when we're 40?
Ted: Yeah. (long pause) No. I'm sorry. I can't do that anymore. As long as the door is even a little bit open, I have this feeling that I'll just be waiting around to see if I win the lottery when you turn 40.

There are several series that establish a own status quo, even if it is subject to change periodically there is usually still a basic formula that surrounds each installment. Certain conventions are also in place that are linked to the premise or the characters, as usually the main characters are responsible for everything that happens.

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After some time, if the series becomes aware of itself it may start looking back and pointing out the realistic issues regarding their own conventions and how they the use their tropes. As well as taking one aspect, and either exploring it to the possible point of Mind Screw, or playing it far too straight for it to be taken at face value. In effect, they are deconstructing themselves.

To be considered for this trope, the series in question must have established a common pattern and spend some times using it without irony. After that pattern has become a series staple, that's when they start to poke holes in it. It isn't just Growing the Beard by refining the original pattern to its apex.

It may be the result of Cerebus Syndrome. It may also be an Author's Saving Throw or an answer to an unrelenting Status Quo Is God. Compare Ascended Fridge Horror. If a series starts off idealistic and then deconstructs its own ideals, then Graying Morality may ensue.

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Examples

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     Anime and Manga 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX had Judai/Jaden as unabashedly The Ace and The Chosen One for the first two seasons, with all major victories and Myth Arc based stories revolving around his ability to beat the toughest opponents. The third season drops some bombshells as he sees the consequences for always having to be the Hero and alienating his friends along the way. When once he was The Pollyanna, he has an emotional meltdown and he grows to have No Sense of Humor.
    • Also done with Ryo Marafuji/Zane Truesdale. Like Jaden, he was The Ace of the school, but after suffering a sequence of losses and losing respect and self-worth that he had in himself, he too snapped. Unlike Jaden who shuts down, Zane lashes out with extreme brutality. It ain't pretty.
    • In general, GX heavily deconstructs the franchise’s notorious Serious Business treatment of Duel Monsters, with the protagonists growing more and more disillusioned with the game because it’s just not enjoyable when people are constantly being put in stressful, life-threatening situations by it. The absurdity of treating a card game as a life-or-death matter is repeatedly called out, and Judai himself starts to outright hate the game after awhile, desperately trying to convince others to stop taking it so seriously only to get ignored or shouted down. In the end, he’s only able to find any enjoyment from the game when he meets a kindred spirit in Yugi, playing a duel with zero stakes behind it at all.
  • And a later series, Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V shows the potential dangers of powers that can make a simple game a Duel to the Death by giving the power to almost everybody. An entire army uses it to enact genocide, and the survivors take the same power to fight back. It's not pretty on either side. The series has a lot of examples that are franchise-specific rather than series-specific, but a particularly obvious example is when the lesson Yuya learns in episode 53 is deconstructed in episode 56.
  • One Piece, known for their characters unrelenting despite impossible odds, got struck hard with this when, the obstacles in front of them becomes simply too hard to break away with their power (physical and will) alone. Case in point: during Luffy's struggle on rescuing Ace, he takes more punishment than usual — busting through the harsh condition of the prison, being poisoned to near-death, having to struggle against said poison with the help of Ivankov's hormones which takes off his lifespan (and 20 hours, during which Ace is transferred to Marineford), having to fight back up to escape, needing a doping hormone (twice), and finally trying to dig in to Ace's platform (with the help of Whitebeard and co). Not to mention the taxing Gear Second that he uses repeatedly. All of them are worth it, as Ace managed to break free... only for him to be goaded into a fight, and killed, by Akainu. The resulting Heroic BSoD is so great that, after he recovers from his wounds, he starts questioning his own power and worth, something he never does before.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion: Of the first three movies, two go into working Shinji Ikari into an Adaptational Badass, the kind of Shinji 'with a spine' that Fanon and non-canon media like Super Robot Wars likes to portray (and/or wishes he was in the original canon), who will do incredible things to save his friends' lives. Then comes the third movie where things have gone straight to hell, and have gotten even worse by the time the film ends… all of which can be blamed on Shinji and him pulling a reality-bending Moment of Awesome on the end of the second movie without knowing the collateral damage that would ensue.
    • And by that same token, the third movie also takes great pains to point out the mental gynmastics required for the people to blame everything that's gone wrong solely on Shinji's shoulders while accepting none of the responsibility for their own actions. Misato turns into a second Gendo, Asuka almost kills him at least once...
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion deconstructs the original series' ending by showing just how damaging losing Madoka in the finale was to Homura, as well as Homura's intense devotion in general. Although there were a few hints that Homura's devotion were unhealthy in the series, the movie goes as far as to show that Homura would go against Madoka, become the devil and steal Madoka's power just because it would make Madoka safer and happier.
  • Bleach: The first movie briefly deals with the consequences of Ichigo's habit of leaving his physical body lying around when he transforms into a Soul Reaper. By the time he gets back to it, a small crowd has gathered around his lifeless body while a team of paramedics are trying to resuscitate him.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 had a few instances of Deconstructing tropes from previous Gundam series examples of which would be showing the corpse of Neil Dylandy to show everyone that he is indeed very dead, a very realistic portrayal of just how hopeless Rebellious Princess's Marina's situation is (her nation is now gone and her country never gotten better beforehand) and Wang Liu Mei as a more realistic representation of a celebrity gaining political power.
    • The Movie has a different ending; a Happily Ever After and World Peace for everyone through an Assimilation Plot, including the aliens who killed countless human soldiers. It preaches that war is the product of misunderstandings and everyone would get along as long as we didn't miscommunicate. This may also be considered a deconstruction of the traditional Gundam ending, which is often bittersweet, if not a complete downer. Also because not only do the resident Expy Newtypes really are the next stage in human evolution and really do lead humanity to glory, the usual denial of this becoming of a Gundam trope in itself. Thereby Reconstructing the typical shonen mecha genre.
  • Digimon Tamers is this toward the first two seasons of Digimon. The real consequences of having a highly powerful and destructive monster as a pet/friend are really explored here. (although the original Adventure gave glimpses at this, this was the season that really dives into the concept)

    Audio Plays 
  • A Big Finish Doctor Who story, "The Gathering", suggests that traveling with the Doctor can poison your mind. When the Doctor revisits Tegan late in life, it turns out she left the TARDIS disenchanted with her previous lifestyle, turned away friends, lost herself in a boring job and resented pretty much her entire life. She also has a brain tumor, which is hinted to be a side-effect of TARDIS travel (It is alien...).

    Comic Books 
  • Warren Ellis deconstructed much of his own oeuvre in Doktor Sleepless, in which a very typical Ellis protagonist, who in particular is a hybrid of the motivations and objectives of Elijah Snow from Planetary with the personality of Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan, is finally revealed to be an Omnicidal Maniac Villain Protagonist.
  • IDW’s Transformers comics deconstruct many of the franchise’s hallmarks:
    • The “Robots in Disguise” element is taken to its logical conclusion; the Autobot/Decepticon conflict is a morally grey, cloak and dagger affair, with the Decepticons infiltrating governments to destroy them from within and the Autobots being forced to take on the role of Benevolent Conspiracy.
    • The franchise’s usual Adventure Towns involved the Autobots traveling to alien planets and saving them from Decepticons. Here, the Transformers are pariahs wanted dead by much of the galactic community expressly because other planets keep getting dragged into their war.
    • Unlike in many previous versions, the Autobots and Decepticons are not the only factions on Cybertron. There are numerous Neutral factions... most of which hate Bots and Cons alike, blaming them and their conflict for Cybertron’s devastation.
    • Transforming isn’t just a toy gimmick; it’s a massive part of Transformer culture and life. The Action Masters are reimagined as Transformers who refuse to transform for religious reasons, receiving quite a bit of discrimination for it.
    • Many other gimmicks from the toyline are given disturbing twists. Pretenders are horrific abominations of science created by basically fusing Transformers and organics. The Headmasters give Transformers a massive intelligence and reflex boost, with terrifying trade offs like having their original heads removed painfully. Micromasters are human-sized because they used to be human (or at least, human like aliens), prior to being experimented on by an Evilutionary Biologist. And so on.
    • War Is Hell is full effect. Battles between Transformers are treated with realistic and horrifying brutality, and Anyone Can Die. Earth ends up being devastated by the Decepticons partway in and spends the most of the story’s remainder recovering.
    • The Forever War doesn’t last forever; about halfway through it ends and stays ended. The rest of the series is spent dealing with the aftermath, especially how difficult it is for the Autobots and Decepticons to adjust to life without war. Many of them do not handle it well, with some having full-on nervous breakdowns.
  • One Spider-Man storyline deconstructed Kingpin's Badass Normal status and his ability to fight on an even level with Spider-Man, who could lift trucks, move faster than the eye can see and see the Kingpin's attacks coming before he even tried to launch them. Usually, they can still have a fight, but then the Kingpin had Aunt May shot just for giggles. Spider-Man broke into the prison where the Kingpin was held and utterly floored the Fat Man, coming within a hair's breadth of killing him without even being touched, and made it extremely clear to everyone that the only reason that the Kingpin had ever fought effectively against him was because Spidey didn't want to kill him and was holding back.
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    Films — Animation 
  • As the series goes on, Toy Story explores the Fridge Horror and implications of toys as living creatures more and more:
    • The first film's villain proves to be... a normal kid. A mean one who plays way too rough with his toys and loves to break or experiment with them, but a normal kid nonetheless. Yet from the perspective of the toys, he may as well be a God of Evil. Also, Buzz initially doesn’t know he’s a toy, instead believing the made-up backstory on his packaging; when he realizes the truth upon seeing a toy commercial for himself, he nearly has a nervous breakdown.
    • The second film has Jessie (who's owner callously threw her out after growing up), Wheezy (an old broken squeaky toy who’s spent years forgotten on a shelf), and Stinky Pete (a shelfwarmer toy who became a disillusioned Green-Eyed Monster after spending a lifetime trapped on a dime store shelf, watching all the other toys be sold to loving homes).
    • The third film is all about what happens to toys when their owners grow up or just lose track of them. The short film Small Fry similarly has Buzz meeting the sort of cheap kids meal toys that usually end up thrown out or forgotten.
    • Toy Story That Time Forgot involves a group of action figures who don’t know they’re toys due to their leader hiding the truth from them, both to secure his own power and because he believes they can’t handle the emotional turmoil of learning the truth.
    • Throughout the series, toys accept that their purpose is to love and be loved by a human child. Woody, Buzz, and all the others adore their human kid Andy, and Woody in particular has appointed himself as a sort of guardian angel for the boy. However, Toy Story 4 begins after Andy has grown up and passed the toys on to a new child, Bonnie. The others adjust quickly, but Woody realizes that he's not going to be loved by Bonnie in the same way, to the point that she's more interested in playing with literal trash than with him. In the end, this is rectified by Woody realizing that he should follow his own heart, reuniting with Bo Peep to live as a lost toy.
  • Teen Titans Go! To the Movies deconstructs its parent series by showing the Titans' constant engagement in Comedic Sociopathy has led them to be regarded as jokes in the superhero community, to the point that Batman's belt is given more respect than them.

     Films — Live Action 
  • The Last Jedi takes apart several hallmark elements of Star Wars.
  • The Matrix Reloaded deconstructs Neo's true purpose in life and is considered a systemic anomaly by the Architect who explains it all to Neo.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness deconstructs the battlefield promotion Kirk exploited in Star Trek (2009), specifically making an academy cadet (who hadn't even graduated) the captain of the Federation flagship just because he proved competent when the crisis came. Into Darkness explicitly shows that Kirk has very little regard for regulations and proper reporting of away missions, which gets the Enterprise taken away from him and they would have shunted him back to the academy if Pike didn't pull some strings.
  • The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll plays around with tropes commonly found in Jekyll and Hyde adaptations, showing that there's downsides to being Jekyll as well as Hyde, and Jekyll devoting all of his time to his work wouldn't result in his love staying with him regardless. It also has Jekyll killing the Veronica of the relationship by accident, when in most adaptations Hyde kills her on purpose.
  • [REC] 3: Génesis, the third film in the [REC] series of Spanish found-footage zombie movies, features a response to a common complaint about found-footage films: why don't they just put the camera down and run? This movie needs only one scene to answer that question. Another character grabs the camera and smashes it. The rest of the movie is a traditionally-shot horror film.
  • A major criticism of The Purge was that its premise, in which an authoritarian American government establishes an annual holiday where all crime is legal in order to Kill the Poor, was wasted on a ho-hum home invasion thriller that only used the setup to explain why the police weren't coming. James DeMonaco, the creator of the film, seemingly took that criticism to heart when he made the sequels, which are all about exploring the full implications of the Purge on society and how people would behave. The biggest deconstruction came in the fourth film, The First Purge, where it's revealed that the Purge initially wasn't the murder holiday that the films portrayed it as — most people just used it as an opportunity to hold the biggest, rowdiest block parties ever or otherwise engage in harmlessly loutish behavior, forcing the government to deploy death squads in order to get its desired result.

     Literature 
  • The The First Law series begins with a trilogy of novels that are very clearly intended as a Deconstructor Fleet of heroic fantasy/high fantasy tropes. Red Country feels like a case of internal deconstruction in that it shows how normal people would react to the actions of the characters from the original trilogy.
  • The Noon Universe novels began extremely idealistically with Noon: 22nd Century, which described a utopian future society where everyone is honest and hard-working for the good of humanity. But already in the second and third books, Escape Attempt and Far Rainbow, the authors basically show that even in a perfect society, human beings remain fundamentally flawed, so all the advances of civilization cannot prevent humanity from destroying itself and their environment. It only gets worse from there on, mirroring the Strugatsky Brothers' progressive disillusionment with Soviet ideology and goals.
  • The late-period Saint short story "The Spanish Cow" internally deconstructs Simon Templar's more snobbish tendencies, and overall Karmic Thief attitude, by having him come close to seducing and stealing from an unattractive, middle-aged, poorly-educated wealthy woman because he dislikes her. He only realises at the last moment that he is about to do something truly cruel and evil to a completely non-villainous person just because he thinks that she isn't cool and sexy enough to deserve her lifestyle.
  • By Word of God, Kameron Hurley started writing the Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy because of her dissatisfaction with the way that Action Girls in SF and Urban Fantasy were often written: as having been made that way against their wills, lamenting their inability to achieve Acceptable Feminine Goals, and benefiting from Beauty Is Never Tarnished to keep them sexy for male audience members. She decided to create a female character who actually was a gender-swapped version of a truly badass male action hero. Then she decided that action heroes of that kind were basically assholes regardless of gender, explaining why the books become gradually less approving of Nix as a person as they go on.

     Live Action TV 
  • Adam Ruins Everything deconstructs its own premise in the episode "Emily Ruins Adam", pointing out how Adam's attempt to fix things by going around and giving impromptu lectures just makes people dislike him and come off more like he's personally attacking them.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • In the episode "The Zeppo", the Non-Action Guy Xander is confined to the sidelines while his friends fend off a mass demonic invasion. Meanwhile, he deals with an event that could have similarly disastrous consequences, which is treated as the main story while the so-called "apocalypse" is seen only in glimpses. The next day the others are commenting that nobody will ever know that the world almost ended last night and they stopped it, reflecting Xander's own situation. The episode deconstructs how the characters think they are unique and special for what they do, when there are probably plenty of other people doing the same thing all over the world.
    • The Grand Finale featured the unleashing of the Slayer power to all potential slayers, which may number into the thousands worldwide. It was portrayed as a triumphant moment of empowerment and relieving Buffy of the stress of being The Chosen One. The following year on Angel, they come across a mentally scarred girl in a mental hospital who was suddenly given enhanced slayer strength and abilities. She mutilated and nearly killed Spike before they were able to bring her down. The "Season Eight" comics would end up showcasing how bad an idea this was even further by having a recurring villain that was a terrorist with Slayer powers.
    • A similar thing happens in the seventh season by deconstructing Buffy's Heroic Sacrifice of the fifth season, where she refused to let anything happen to Dawn and instead let herself die in her place. Giles points out that by doing that the world kept a relatively helpless girl and lost the slayer, and that there may come a time when she has to let go of her friends in order to save the world.
    • The final season of the show has Buffy rising to become a "general" for the Potential (and eventually unlocked) Slayers, and having to deal with the responsibility. This arc by itself eventually deconstructed Buffy's increasing apathy and bitchiness of the previous seasons as making her so annoying (and dangerous) to be around that the other characters decided to toss her out of her own house so they could train in peace, while the "Season Eight" comics went on to show that, while Buffy can be a very good combat commander when she feels like it, she is absolutely horrible when it comes to more long-range and "peacetime" decisions, starting with robbing a bank to fund the Slayers (and invoking Omniscient Morality License for it) and the situation escalating until the vampires and demons have become Villains With Good Publicity and the Slayers are Public Enemy Number One (and believed to be hyper-homicidal Knights Templar).
  • The Big Bang Theory has the character of Raj, who is so insecure around women that he literally cannot talk to them unless drunk or drugged up. This is largely treated as a joke; how he shuts up immediately when they're around and how he quickly becomes a smooth talker after one sip of alcohol. While never quite giving it up as a joke later episodes he confides how frustrating it is to be that socially inept while his (also very nerdy) friends are going on to have meaningful romantic relationships.
  • Doctor Who,
    • In the classic series The Doctor was an itinerant wanderer who would induct random humans from the contemporary time period and take them on adventures until real-life circumstances caused the companion to be dropped, one way or the other. The new series deconstructed this by having consequences for a young woman running off with a strange man for a long period of time (the exact consequences have varied per companion). For example, when Rose disappeared her mother was frantic with worry and her boyfriend was accused of her murder. A similar idea had previously been touched upon in the last story of the original Classic Series, where Ace goes home and finds she was presumed dead.
    • Later still, the character of the Doctor himself was given the same treatment: his habit of getting into the middle of any trouble, and of causing vast death and destruction to defeat an alien force resulted in him being pegged by many as the greatest threat to life in the universe. A faction arose devoted entirely to his undoing and raised a Laser Guided Tyke Bomb to that end.
    • This was already being done in the Virgin New Adventures, a Darker and Edgier version of the series showing the 7th Doctor becoming more morally ambiguous. It could even be considered this began well before the Classic Series ended, in "Resurrection of the Daleks" companion Tegan leaves because she can't handle the violence.
    • The First Doctor's tenure goes into this after a while. After he quickly abandons being straight-up nasty he goes on a lot of adventures which portray him as a flawed but brilliant saviour and adventurer. A whole string of companion loss, Downer Endings and problems simply too big for him to overcome soon makes it very explicit that he's just a troubled and very lonely old man, stuck in a box he can't control and with nowhere to go. Some of the more obvious examples of this are "Mission to the Unknown" (Kill ’Em All, and the Doctor never even shows up), "The Daleks' Master Plan" (the Doctor wins but by committing a genocide and two of his companions die in the process), "The Massacre" (the Doctor fails to do anything to stop a genocide and Steven spends the whole story watching everything get worse while being powerless to intervene), "The Ark" (simply by arriving in a time period the Doctor is altering it for the worse, and the long-term consequences of his meddling can be absolutely disastrous) and "The Savages" (a civilisation which venerates him as a hero is actually a very classist society which ignores its real social problems to watch his adventures on viewing screens).
    • "The Face of Evil". The Fourth Doctor lands on a horrible, primitive planet full of vicious monsters and warring tribes with spears, and slowly discovers that he was responsible for making it that way in the first place (by saving the day in an adventure we never see, and not bothering to think about the long-term consequences of his actions). In fact, one of the tribes worships him as their god of Evil, a merciless creature of destruction who Eats Babies.
  • Scrubs deconstructs its use of the Imagine Spot. A few episode are shown from the perspective of the other characters and show how what J.D. says makes little sense to the other characters. In particular, his "pause to contemplate" motion is not instantaneous like implied but J.D. in fact zones out for upwards of 30 seconds or more. People have played tricks on him in that stage and he has injured himself doing one while running.
    Elliot: J.D., be sensitive. Don't act like you're at a ping pong match between a ninja and Bigfoot...
    Dr. Kelso: *Gives Elliot an odd look*
    Elliot: I know that made no sense, but he's totally there now in his head.
    *J.D.'s eyes dart back and forth*
    Dr. Kelso: Would you look at that...
  • How I Met Your Mother always portrayed the closeness of their group as being a very positive thing, including Robin and Ted becoming friends again after their break-up. Come season 7 and we see that there are some real issues with them interfering with each others lives and Ted learns that in order to move on with his life he needed to stop being so close with Robin.
  • Burn Notice spent a solid four seasons of Michael playing up being the bad guy and doing borderline criminal activities to sell those roles in the name of the greater good. As it turns out spending all your time acting like a criminal means it is hard to sell to people that you are really a good guy. The point is made especially clear when the team is pitted up against the CIA.
  • The Closer explored the real life consequences of Brenda's loose interpretation of the law and her tendency to arrange for untouchable criminals to get killed. The final season of The Closer featured Brenda being sued, losing money from paying for legal reasons, and being watched constantly by her superiors.
  • Star Trek gradually became a little bit more cynical of its own utopia themes, where under Roddenberry's direction The Federation was a perfect society and had to fix social wrongs they found on other planets. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the biggest example of where this happened, as half of the cast were neither Starfleet nor Federation citizens and they had this view of them as being a "sleeping giant" that could either save them or crush them with no regard with how they want to live their lives. Star Trek: Enterprise even had one episode where a noble but ignorant attempt at social change led to a lot of hurt feelings and even a suicide.
  • Leverage: The team attempts to pull off one of their typical over the top-'noone could pull this off but us'-cons in "The White Rabbit Job" it goes horribly wrong and almost leads to the suicide of the mark—who it turns out wasn't actually a bad guy of the type they take down. It's a deconstruction both of the 'playing God' vigilantism of the team and the fact that the majority of their cons are overly elaborate not out of necessity but for the fun and challenge they get out of it.
  • The Repilot of Community shows the darker implications of Greendale being a Sucky School that the past four seasons had for the most part ignored. All the main characters' lives have gone down the toilet (again) thanks to the poor education they received there, and the school itself is facing a lawsuit by another former student for the exact same reasons. The cast resolves to return to Greendale and form a committee to make it a better place.
  • The Blacklist is basically picking apart the FBI's relationship with Reddington. Recently, his business has come under attack by a mysterious enemy who is sending assassins after his people. However, due to the fact that Red is sending the FBI after these criminals because it solely affects him, the FBI is slowly getting fed up with his demands and now questioning the viability of their arrangement. Ressler gets especially when he misses his brother surgery due to a mission. His brother survives, but he is still pissed.
  • The Vampire Diaries deconstructs the whole premise where a vampire "turns off his/her humanity" in season eight, when the siren Sybil arrives. After she shows him a vision of what Hell looks like, Damon gets scared and turns off his humanity. While a vampire tends to do horrible things with his humanity turned off, Sybil ends up taking advantage of this and puts him under her complete control. She is even able to erase his memories of Elena to further control him. As a result, he kills Tyler under her orders and alienates all of his friends while being loyal to Sybil.
  • American Housewife deconstructs Katie's relationship with the other mothers in her town with the second season premiere. She attempts to apologize to all of them with an online video, but can't act sincere enough. Afterward, one of them tells her that the real problem is how she has treated them in the past. No one wants to be near someone who openly looks down on their lifestyle and acts like she is better than them for not participating. Katie's later attempts to fix things fail because she can't seem to stop insulting them as lonely and bored housewives living off their husbands' money. So, she has to resort to volunteering for the Spring Gala, something she really didn't want to do.
  • Cobra Kai: The series deconstructs Johnny's characterization as the spoiled, rich bully who embraced Cobra Kai's thuggery in the first The Karate Kid movie by showing that he was actually an emotionally abused youth who found an escape from his abusive stepdad and real mentorship (even if it was wrong) from Kreese and the Cobra Kai dojo. While Daniel's victory at the All-Valley tournament was a great accomplishment for him, for Johnny the loss caused him to lose the girl he loved, his surrogate father figure, and the one thing in his life that gave him meaning.
    Johnny: Just because you live in a nice house doesn't mean nice things are going on inside.
    • The series also takes to deconstructing the revenge on bullies and the inherent problems to Cobra Kai training. Unlike Miyagi-Do which trains a person both on and off the battlefield in equal balance, Cobra Kai isn't meant for out the ring lifestyle. Johnny had ideals that the Cobra Kai mentality can be put to good use and the positive traits to his dojo can be used to toughen up some victims and help give them the confidence to fight back and stand up for themselves. Unfortunately, it's only after the tournament that Johnny finally gets a massive wake up call: Without proper emotional training and restraint especially to bullying victims; The Cobra Kai mentality and training can only produce violent thugs and bullies; and when Johnny sees what he created, he's actually equally disgusted and horrified. Things get a whole lot worse in the second season when Kreese takes over the dojo and the students that became bullies grew a hell of a lot worse, becoming Rival Dojos with the newly-reborn Miyagi school out of sheer Jerkass hatred and ending in a full-blown bloodbath of a fight that puts many kids in the hospital, including Johnny's own (estranged) son. The season ends with Johnny being nothing but horrified.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim deconstructs a scenario that crops up occasionally in the franchise. Often in Kamen Rider, Wet Means Defeated; with The Dragon or some other tougher-than-usual enemy roughing up a heroic Rider and throwing them into a nearby body of water. This allows the Rider to climb out, take time to regroup, and then come back for a rematch. In Gaim, Zangetsu fights and gets blown into the water... and is presumed dead for the rest of the series. Even when he turns up alive in the epilogue, he's in a coma thanks to oxygen deprivation.

     Video Games 
  • The Ultima series is not the straightest example, since its metaplot really kicked off in Ultima IV, but if you count from there, IV is extremely idealistic, introducing the series' trademark Eight Virtues (and pioneering the morality aspect in the RPG genre), but V and VI immediately start to viciously deconstruct them by driving the Virtues to logical (and radical) extremes and by flipping them on their head and showing that the result just as good, respectively. It only gets worse in the final trilogy.
    • Ultima IV is one itself to the previous games, taking on the series' Black and White Morality. All the major villains are gone, and instead of becoming a utopia, Britannia falls into moral decay without some kind of great evil to oppose it. To the hero falls the less glamorous task of merely being good, rather than defeating evil.
  • Kingdom Hearts deconstructed The Power of Friendship, the defining trope of the series, in Dream Drop Distance. The villains accuse Sora of only being able to wield the Keyblade because he holds Ven's heart and his bonds with the other heroes strengthen him. On his own, he would never have the Keyblade and wouldn't be strong enough to get one of his own. Also counts as an Internal Reconstruction as Sora acknowledges and is fine with this as it makes him part of something greater than himself.
  • Touhou: As the series continued to grow, many of the tropes and concepts introduced in earlier entries that used to be taken for granted starts to become increasingly questioned. Things such as the tense political climate, cultural isolation, the meaning of being human in a fantasy land, social segregation and more are put under scrutiny revealing that the characters are fighting to maintain what is, at best, an unstable illusion. And with numerous characters and new power-blocks trying to swing it towards their vision of what it should be, it could all come crashing down at a moments notice.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • Grand Theft Auto IV and its episodes deconstruct the Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster! elements that have been the Thematic Series' staples. The three Player Characters pull jobs for several different crime bosses, as per series tradition; however, they end up shoehorned into said bosses' conflicts, endangering their loved ones and often leaving them empty-handed. Some of the main game's missions are seen from the other two protagonists' perspectives in their episodes and vice-versa, exploring the terrible consequences of the destruction you normally leave in your wake.
    • Grand Theft Auto V, meanwhile, deconstructs the typical GTA protagonist from three separate angles with its protagonists. Michael is this character after he's already won, having settled down on his ill-gotten gains and entered Witness Protection, only to grow so bored with domestic suburban life that he gets back into crime simply because he has nothing better to do and Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!. Franklin, meanwhile, is this character when he's just starting out and rising through the ranks of the criminal underworld; halfway through the game, after he's gotten a real taste of bigger scores than he can make just hustling, he fully leaves the gang banger lifestyle behind, moving into a mansion and becoming a full-time associate of Michael's. (Compare him to CJ from San Andreas, whose ultimate goal, even after building a criminal empire across San Fierro and Las Venturas, was always to reclaim the Grove Street Families' home turf in Los Santos.) And last but certainly not least, Trevor is the sort of person who would fully engage in the Video Game Cruelty Potential endemic to GTA and other Wide Open Sandbox games: an Ax-Crazy psychopath of a drug lord who lives in a trailer in the desert and repulses everybody around him, even close friends and associates, and is strongly implied to have a legitimate mental illness.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords: Chris Avellone hated how the Force was used in the Expanded Universe, considering it a blatant Happy Ending Override. As such, he dedicated the game's storyline to deconstructing exactly that.
  • Pokémon deconstructed its villainous teams two times:
    • In Pokémon Black and White, Team Plasma's grunts consist mainly of Hypocritical Jerkasses, N's worldview is shown to be flawed, and Ghetsis openly admits that their basic motivation is a lie.
    • In Pokémon Sun and Moon, Team Skull isn't portrayed seriously at all, and they're literally just a street gang. They aren't even the real bad guys.
  • The Imperial Agent's storyline in Star Wars The Old Republic deconstructs the Sith Empire, showing just how unstable and volatile such a society would be. While the Sith are in charge it is the agents of Imperial Intelligence, average men and women with no force powers, that perform the thankless tasks necessary to actually keep everything running. Mitigating the damage caused by the sith's infighting or incompetence, and making sure that the overzealous and bloodthirsty officers in the military don't do anything too stupid in addition to their regular duties. When the Sith have Intelligence disbanded things swiftly go down hill for the Empire, since there is no one around to be the Only Sane Employee, as well as conduct espionage and keep the Empire safe form unseen threats.
  • Spider-Man (PS4) deconstructs the entire underlying Aesop of the franchise ("With great power, Comes Great Responsibility") by having it pretty much be Doctor Octopus’s motive; he believes that those with power, like himself and Spider-Man, have a responsibility to use it for the benefit of "those beneath us", because they're just too stupid and helpless to do it themselves. He also tries to use it as an excuse for the monstrous crimes he committed in his quest for revenge, claiming he was the only person willing to do what was supposedly "necessary" for his responsibility.
  • Devil Survivor includes an examination of some of the core elements of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise.
    • The obvious deconstruction is "what happens when you give demon-summoning power to random schlubs?" The locked-down Tokyo quickly becomes a war zone as Yakuza, renegade police, and ordinary citizens kill each other with demons, self-proclaimed "heroes" turn into tyrants, and the only ones who initially seem to have a clue are being manipulated by the Big Bad. The demon-summoning power that's at the core of the franchise really isn't a good thing for the average person, and can in fact be just as apocalyptic as the nuclear missiles from the first game.
    • The conceit that God Is Evil also gets looked at. In DS, humans have become powerful enough to effectively challenge God, and in fact they struck the first blow. Viewed in this context, putting Humanity on Trial to determine whether they can still be trusted with free will and stewardship over the Earth looks pretty reasonable, but it also sets God against humanity, and one possible answer to God's Ordeal is to continue the war the Shomonkai started and defeat God, saving humanity from His retribution and freeing them from divine control. On the other hand, there are plenty of other solutions to the Ordeal, and God (through Remiel) will do His best to help you succeed. In the end, God can't really be called evil in this game, but neither is He perfectly good, either.

     Web Original 
  • Newer works in SCP Foundation, itself a deconstruction of the Urban Fantasy genre, increasingly question the implications of a shadowy organisation with more power than many world governments being tasked to preserve normalcy in the world. Especially from 2016 onward, several entries such as SCP-3985 have explored how quickly such an organisation can become unaccountably self-serving and corrupt. Other entries, such as SCP-4000 and SCP-3293, go a step further and deconstruct the basic premise of containing anomalies (especially sapient ones) and its moral and ethical implications, especially considering how far the Foundation can go to do it.
    • Other entries deconstruct the entire Ancient Conspiracy angle of the Foundation by applying Science Marches On / Society Marches On; SCP-1851-EX is the desire for slaves to escape to freedom labeled as an anomalous phenomenon, while SCP-2750 portrays skinwalkers as a Native American ethnic group that was driven to near-extinction by pogroms when a Foundation precursor group took the prejudices and superstitions of rival tribes at face value.

     Western Animation 
  • In Hey Arnold!, The episode "Helga on The Couch" deconstructs what had previously been presented as an Hilariously Abusive Childhood. Until that episode the fact that Helga was The Unfavorite, with a "perfect sister", a Workaholic father and an alcoholic mother (confirmed via Word of God), had been hilarious, however during her therapy session it is shown just how much that has affected her, and no one was laughing after that. Also noticeable because after that episode, Helga's family situation were rarely shown for laughs anymore, instead whenever there was a focus on her family it was to show how messed up they were, although with the usual touch of showing that they really do love each other.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, in its first season, ends every episode with Twilight Sparkle summarizing the aesop of the week by sending a "friendship report" to her mentor, Princess Celestia. Early in season two, the episode "Lesson Zero" confirms that this Once an Episode schedule translates to Twilight sending a new friendship report every (in-universe) week. The deconstruction comes when Twi realizes that she hasn't learned anything worth writing about this week—as the deadline approaches, Twilight becomes increasingly unhinged by her fear of failing Princess Celestia. Ultimately, this alters the status quo of the series: Celestia tells Twilight that she doesn't need to follow a rigid schedule for these reports, and she asks Twilight's friends to also start sending in reports.
  • South Park killed Kenny over and over Once an Episode till they suddenly had an episode where it was Played for Drama as a Very Special Episode. He really died and went to hell in the movie, died for a full season before coming back ...and now he's something of a Mauve Shirt.
  • Dan Vs.' central cast consists of Dan, his only friend Chris, and Chris' wife Elise. Dan is an angry, violent little Manchild who has no regard for the property of others and regularly seeks out Disproportionate Retribution against people he thinks have wronged him. Chris and Elise, though not completely normal themselves, are at least capable of functioning in society, and they've resigned themselves to Dan's constant intrusions into their lives, and to the fact that they're the only ones with any hope of reining Dan in when he's gone too far. The episode "Dan Vs. The Neighbors" highlights how strange this relationship is: new neighbors move in next door to Dan, and they're foils for Chris and Elise by virtue of their aggressive average-ness. When Dan gets up to behavior that Chris and Elise would have shrugged off or scolded Dan over, the neighbors react by calling the police. By the end of the episode, the neighbors realize just how dangerously crazy Dan really is, so they pack up and move away.
    • The episode also shows how Dan's paranoia would work in real life. Dan gets paranoid about the neighbors being too nice, thinking they're hiding something even jumping to the conclusion that they're cannibals. But instead of showing that Dan was right to be paranoid about them if only by coincidence, they turn out to be normal people who just are a lot saner/nicer than Dan is used to.
  • T.U.F.F. Puppy took apart its bad guy's tendencies to give Just Between You and Me speeches in "Doom and Gloom". After another failed crime, Larry directly points out that Snaptrap's habit of announcing his evil plans to T.U.F.F. is why they keep getting arrested. When Larry forms his own criminal group, he becomes a far more successful villain by simply not telling his plans and saving the gloating for after he accomplished them. Another aspect taken apart is that due to being so used to the bad guys telling them what they were up to, T.U.F.F. is rather soft when it comes to stopping crimes without advance knowledge.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show picks apart some of the tropes used in Ed, Edd n Eddy.
    • The scams? It's a Noodle Incident, but the failed scam is precisely why the Eds are in danger.
    • The Amusing Injuries? The kid's injuries would be funny if they actually went away.
    • Eddy's big brother, who he hypes up all the time? He lied. Eddy's big brother is actually abusive.
  • Regular Show did this with the episode "Eggscelent" by showing what happens when the standard formula of the show isn't Played for Laughs. Rigby pursuing a goal while not thinking about what his actions could cause? Sends himself into a coma because of an egg allergy. Benson gets on the duo's case over not doing their jobs? Treated like a Kick the Dog moment and gets Benson punched in the face for being a Jerkass. The antagonists of the episode being selfish jerks that come into conflict with the cast because of petty or bizarre reasons? All wind up being a Well-Intentioned Extremist who are only acting against the park crew because of each being a Punch-Clock Villain that can't provide help for legal reasons while trying to prevent a problem the crew is entirely unaware of.
  • The final season of Samurai Jack savagely deconstructs the show's status quo and conventions; after a fifty year Time Skip, Jack is succumbing to suicidal despair over his perpetual failure to get back to the past, while Aku is steadily going insane because Jack just won't die and seems to have stopped aging. The usage of Mecha-Mooks and Never Say "Die" in earlier seasons gets thrown out fast; not only is Jack forced to kill humans in battle (nearly having a mental breakdown after the first time he does), but his inner voice subtly mocks him for acting like none of those robots he's been butchering for years were sentient. In the end, the status quo is utterly destroyed. Jack finally gets back home and kills Aku. No fake-outs, no Sequel Hooks, no last minute twists. The future is changed and the series ends.
  • Steven Universe does a lot of this in later seasons, picking apart the conventions and setting it spent the first season or so establishing:
    • Early on, Steven's adventures with the Crystal Gems are mostly kept separate from his mundane life with the citizens of Beach City. As the show progresses, the two threads begin intersecting more and more, showing what happens when normal people get involved in magical adventures; nothing good. The Beach City residents are put in increasingly life-threatening situations by Gem involvement, being attacked by monsters or endangered by ancient technology. Mayor Dewey’s political career is destroyed by his inability to protect the town from Gem threats, Connie's parents are initially very upset to learn about her dangerous adventuring with Steven and the Crystal Gems, and Lars is left changed for life by dying and being brought back by Steven’s healing powers when he gets dragged into the conflict with Homeworld.
    • Season one largely depicts Fusion in a very positive light, as not only a powerful boon in battle, but an expression of love between people, whether it's romantic, platonic, or familial. Then in the season one finale, Jasper practically forces Lapis Lazuli into fusing, with the resulting fusion being a violent, dysfunctional monster. From that point on, Fusion is depicted much more uncertainly; some Gems are addicted to the Power High it gives them, many think it's disgusting and profane, it's not always that enjoyable, and Jasper ends up turning herself into a monster when tries to fuse with a Gem infected by The Corruption.
    • Steven's All-Loving Hero status is practically his defining trait, and he always goes out of his way to help everyone he can, even villains. In the first two seasons this is played completely straight. Then in season three he tries to help Jasper and the Ruby Squad... and they cruelly reject him, with Jasper saying she doesn’t want his help and Eyeball repaying his kindness by trying to murder him. Later when it's revealed Rose Quartz was really Pink Diamond in disguise, Steven tries to play damage control among the Crystal Gems like usual, only for Amethyst to eventually snap that it isn't Steven's job to look after everyone, as well as that the Crystal Gems are adults and it isn't right of them to dump all their issues on a kid. She also tries to get Steven to talk about how he feels for once, noting that he's always bottling up his own emotions and issues to help people. And when he tries to help the Diamond Authority see the error of their ways, they mostly just ignore him and when they do listen, it's only after a lot of fighting to make them do so.
    • As the show progresses, it parodies it’s own Animated Musical status more and more; it’s made very clear that the characters really are just randomly bursting into song. Lars complains about people singing instead of helping him work, Sapphire deliberately annoys Jasper with a repetitive song, Steven tries to sing only to be disrupted by his cellphone ringing, and when the Crystal Gems are temporarily mind-wiped, Steven is so used to people spontaneously singing that he finds it unsettling when they don’t do so.
    • The movie heavily criticizes the show’s reliance on The Power of Friendship and Defeat Equals Friendship, pointing out that friendships can’t work without trust and work between both parties; Steven tries to befriend Spinel and seemingly succeeds, only for a simple misunderstanding to make her turn on him again because her Start of Darkness has left her deeply paranoid. And even when Steven does talk her down, she refuses his offer to stay on Earth with the Crystal Gems, feeling she’s done too much to alienate them and the people of Beach City for it be a healthy situation. The movie also deconstructs the Earn Your Happy Ending note season five ended on, noting that life is ever-changing and expecting it to stop at Happily Ever After is unrealistic and impractical. The Crystal Gems will always have some sort of work to do.
  • The Simpsons does this on occasion; probably the best-known example is the episode "Homer's Enemy", which introduces a "realistic" character into the show who is so frustrated by Homer's status in Springfield that it (accidentally) kills him. The resulting Broken Base and discussion about what this says about Homer, Springfield and even Frank Grimes himself was the actual objective of the writers (who said in the episode commentary that it's "an exercise in frustration").

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