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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 their own status quo; even if it is subject to change periodically, there is usually still a basic formula that surrounds each installment. There are just certain conventions linked to the premise or the characters that remain in place throughout a work's run that serve as a framework with which to create stories. This gives the series some sort of structure and the audience an idea of what to expect; even if they have no idea how the story will actually go, they'll know to expect at least [X] and [Y] to happen at some point.

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However, as a series goes on, it will begin playing with its status quo. And one of the ways in which it may do so is by looking back and pointing out the realistic issues regarding their own conventions and how they use their tropes. They'll take an aspect of the work and explore the realistic consequences of it, sometimes to the point of Mind Screw. This is referred to as Internal Deconstruction due to the work undergoing the task of deconstructing itself, rather than the deconstruction being done by some sort of fanwork or some other piece regarding it.

To be considered for this trope, the series in question must have established a common pattern and spend a fair amount of its run 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.

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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.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: The series is built around the ongoing Duel of Seduction between genius students Kaguya and Shirogane, who are in love with each other but far too proud to admit it, and thus enact overcomplicated schemes to make the other confess first. However, the Culture Festival arc makes it clear that they each have a host of psychological issues (Kaguya's self-hatred, Shirogane tying his self-worth to his accomplishments), showing that both are driven by deep-rooted insecurities. Even after they confess and have The Big Damn Kiss, those issues don't go away, and the next arc has them struggling to figure out how to continue opening up before they can become an Official Couple.
  • Bleach: The first movie briefly deals with the consequences of Ichigo's habit of leaving his physical body lying aroundnote  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.
  • 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, especially with the government keeping a very close eye on the mysterious creatures (although the original Adventure gave glimpses at this, this was the season that really dives into the concept).
  • The Majin Buu Saga of Dragon Ball deconstructs the growing reliance on power upgrade after power upgrade by introducing a villain which raw force just would not work against, and the heroes constantly trying to get more power only ends up repeatedly making things worse. The Super Saiyan 3 transformation subverts No Conservation of Energy and cuts Goku's limited time that he's available to help short, as well as greatly tiring him in the final confrontation. The Fusion Dance proves useless because the only ones available for it are kids who don't entirely understand the dire nature of their situation. And Gohan having his full potential unlocked makes him cocky and ends up making Buu stronger instead. Even forming Vegito to decisively overpower Buu doesn't work, as rescuing Buu's hostages runs out the fusion's time limit and unleashes the chaotic Kid Buu. It takes an elaborate strategy to finish off the evil majin once and for all, and even that very nearly failed.
  • Gundam
    • 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.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans takes a sledgehammer to numerous longstanding Gundam tropes. As implied by the title, the majority of the main characters are actual Child Soldiers conscripted by a Private Military Contractor, many of them slaves rounded up by pirates. Troubling Unchildlike Behavior is rampant, as this is the only life they know and the main Gundam pilot Mikazuki is among the most brutal, even sociopathic, lead characters. In prior Gundam works the teenage main characters are more like young adults and the war story gives them a Coming of Age arc. The Gundam is typically seen as a method of empowerment, the hero gets to inflict fear on their enemies. Gundam Barbatos (and other Gundams) in this series are instead seen as almost demonic figures, and partially because the kids didn't really know what they had the return of the Gundams comes across opening the Sealed Evil in a Can.
      • The Char Clone in this series McGillis is unusually ruthless, and the act of betraying his closest friends is shown to be a demonstration that he is discarding his morality in service of his goals, rather than having a stronger sense of morality than the rest of his faction. He eventually acquires a specific rival in Vidar, who seeks to understand what kind of person would do that.
  • The longer it runs, the more My Hero Academia (and the spin-off Vigilantes) criticizes the Punch-Clock Hero premise it is based around. Hero Society is increasingly depicted as a deeply corrupt and flawed institution that encourages nepotism, glory-seeking, greed, in-fighting, and all other sorts of antiheroic behavior, while the Mutant Draft Board brands genuine superheroes as illegal vigilantes for the crime of daring to be independent and even sometimes uses deniable black-ops agents to preemptively murder potential threats to maintain the image they are bringing peace to the world. The Everyone is a Super nature of the setting is also deconstructed, such as showing the borderline-draconian lengths necessary to police a world where most people have superpowers, as well as how distressingly easy it can be for even children to dangerously misuse their powers and be branded villains. One character even speculates that the whole series is set Just Before the End, pointing out the growing number of powered people (as well as the fact that powers can strengthen over generations and mix with other powers) and wondering if human civilization will soon begin to self-destruct when the whole population ends up consisting of people whose Quirks are so powerful/uncontrollable that they're in a constant state of Super-Power Meltdown.
  • One Piece, known for its unrelenting characters 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. Luffy's 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.
  • 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 was 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 she believes it would make Madoka safer and happier.
  • 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 gymnastics 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...
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie deconstructed the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise's portrayal of Evil Knock Off Metal Sonic. In the games, Sonic would usually be able to fight toe to toe with Metal Sonic. The OVA however shows that since Metal Sonic is an Elite Mook robot who has the same powers that Sonic does, but he has the added benefit of having unlimited energy due to being a robot, he is able to beat Sonic both times he fought him. Also, it shows that because Metal Sonic is an exact clone of Sonic, he also has some of Sonic's personality, which makes things complicated for Dr. Robotnik's plans. And also, the only way that the heroes were able to defeat Metal Sonic was for Tails to mess with his programming, not with Heroic Willpower.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: The franchise is infamous for its usage of Lady Land, what with most women being originally characterized as a Spoiled Brat paired with Rich Bitch and/or Gold Digger. But this gets deconstructed…
    • The Alternate Timeline Marie Route Web Novel series shows Marie’s Sympathetic P.O.V. about how many of the boys in the academy are just as bad as the girls, while introducing a number of other sympathetic girls as Marie’s friends.
    • In the eighth light novel volume, it’s shown that higher level Blue Blood nobles have a sexism problem, with Clarice being victim to Slut-Shaming. As well as the kingdom having undergone a Full-Circle Revolution and Leon having to defend one of his sisters against male bullying resembling what he had faced.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX:
    • Judai/Jaden was 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, and by the time he finally snaps out of it in season four, he's been physically crippled.
    • 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.
  • 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.

    Art 
  • In 1963, Norman Rockwell, the famed illustrator of down-home Americana, quit his job at The Saturday Evening Post when, after receiving backlash from segregationists for drawing a 1961 cover, "Golden Rule", featuring a pro-civil rights message, the Post told him to stop drawing covers featuring Black people on equal footing with white people. He subsequently went to work for the liberal magazine Look, drawing covers and illustrations that resembled the dark subversions of his sentimental style that later artists would use to satirize '50s America. "The Problem We All Live With", for instance, depicted Ruby Bridges going to a newly-integrated school under the protection of federal marshals while walking past racist graffiti, "Murder in Mississippi" depicted the 1964 murder of three civil rights activists by a Vigilante Militia in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and "New Kids in the Neighborhood" depicted Black children helping their family unload a moving van in a white neighborhood and being stared at by a group of white kids with a mix of puzzlement and suspicion.
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    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, after all).

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • A Case Study in the Sturdiness of the Rookie 9 is a Naruto fanfic where Naruto and his classmates are assigned to different teams. The new teams have their own dynamics and methodology brought by their teachers. However, besides Kurenai's Team 8 (Shikamaru, Hinata, and Sasuke), these dynamics gets deconstructed as the series goes on.
    • For Team 7 (Shino, Sakura, and Choji), the team developed a series of self-reliance and self-training thinking that's the lesson Kakashi is putting on them, rather than him leaving them to their own devices. This ends up leading them to favor their team's well-being over everyone else, up to betraying a fellow Konaha Team during the Chunin Exam.
    • For Team 10, Asuma is stuck with both Naruto and Kiba butting heads. In order to get them to work together, he has Ino use the Yamanaka Clan's mind-control technique to rein them in. Ultimately, the technique has more brutal impact on the boys' mind than either Asuma or Ino realized. Even worse, the damage made Kiba more vulnerable to Orochimaru's Curse Seal.
  • I Against I, Me Against You: Several fanfics depict Prince Blueblood as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who only behaved like an ass to Rarity because he was angered by her advances on him, and eventually gives her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about it. Here, when he uses this as an excuse, Tucker tears him apart, pointing out that Rarity was at worst naive and a bit pushy and nothing she did justified his dickishness.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail
    • Act 2 begins seriously dissecting the concept of an Accusation Fic, as the punishments being doled out in response to the situation start crossing the line from justified to increasingly disproportionate. What began as Laser-Guided Karma snowballs into anything but.
    • The dramatic turning point of Act 2 kicks off with another long, detailed lecture about how horribly Chloe was mistreated, followed by another harsh punishment being meted out. Except this time, the one making the speech and doling out the punishments isn't as justified as they believe, and their actions cross the line over into monstrous. From here, the story explores what kind of horrible things can happen when somebody decides that their personal catharsis overrides more measured or appropriate responses, or is more concerned with vengeance than healing.
    • Chloe as a character is increasingly dissected as the story delves into the roots of her issues, showing that many of her problems stemmed from mounting self-hatred over the bullying she faced, along with her personal biases and resentments growing deeply ingrained. More and more, the choices she made are called into question, brought into harsher scrutiny over time.
    • The same applies to Parker, particularly after the Unown come into play, as the darker aspects of his relationship with Chloe come into play. His insistence that everything is clearly black and white, with his sister as a clear-cut victim and everyone else aligned against her, gives way to Black-and-White Insanity and mounting anger issues at any display of injustice, real, imagined, or exaggerated.
    • The amount of lectures and rants directed at the characters in story eventually gets to a point that both Cerise parents are sick of hearing them. When Talia sends a Tough Love email to Chloe, she bluntly tells Chloe that at this point they'd been told everything there is possible to say a ton of times already while the parents mentally snark that everyone seems to think they were the first to tell them both how they failed as parents.
  • Redaction of the Golden Witch
    • Walter Absalom picks apart the Forgery he's studying and examines why it was rejected by the Witch Hunter fandom in the first place.
    • The 1996!Protagonist takes an especially harsh look at the Witch Hunt phenomenon. Each of their companions appears to have completely lost sight of the fact that the Ushiromiya family and their staff were real victims of an actual tragedy.
  • Abyssal is a dark, epic Mega Man X fic set in a dystopia where corporate greed enslaved both human and Reploid alike. The main problem in Abyssal was that Reploids were not legally considered people while still acknowledging free will, which passed the buck on any 'crimes' committed by a Reploid (as minor as not showing up to work) squarely on them rather than the corporations, thereby giving corporations free rein to dispose of problematic Reploids with no oversight. The same author deconstructs the system they created in Thanks for Nothing Dad, where the government being a bit more proactive nipped the entire plot in the bud. The courts ruled that the manufacturers are responsible for their Reploid's well-being, and holds them liable if an error drove a Reploids to crime. Abyssal is 36 chapters long, and Thanks for Nothing Dad is one.

    Films — Animation 
  • Phineas and Ferb runs on a Status Quo Is God formula that typically ends with whatever the eponymous boys created disappearing thanks to an outside force (most commonly Dr. Doofenshmirtz), with the boys' sister, Candace, always missing out on the chance to tell her mom. Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe shows just how detrimental it can be to run through this same routine for nearly the entire summer. Candace grows tired and dejected from being the universe's Cosmic Plaything while her brothers always have everything work out for them and, in her own words, it makes her feel like "a tiny meaningless speck in the universe". It even grows to a point where she assumes that they're the reason why everything goes wrong for her, despite them coming across the universe to save her.
  • The Rugrats Movie: The show's shtick of the baby's wandering around on an adventure is beaten in the ground. Instead of a story of hapless babies doing silly things, it becomes a story of a bunch of naïve infants lost in the woods and not being able to find their way out. The normally oblivious parents go to pieces over their children missing and organize a manhunt for them.
  • 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 has a nervous breakdown.
    • The second film has Jessie (whose 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 quickly 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.

    Films — Live Action 
  • The Last Jedi takes apart several hallmark elements of Star Wars. The Rise of Skywalker ends up sticking some of them back together.
  • Rogue One started the ball rolling in this respect, showing the Galactic Civil War from the point of view of the ordinary soldier, without Force powers and Plot Armor. A lot of people had to die to get those Death Star plans to Leia.
  • 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.
  • After James Cameron lost the rights to Terminator, later creators kept the franchise going by declaring Judgement Day and John Connor's messiah status were inevitable and immutable, even though that completely invalidated the second film's themes. When Cameron finally came back to the franchise with Terminator: Dark Fate, he not only declared all those films Canon Discontinuity, but also savagely deconstructed their central concept; Judgement Day is only inevitable in that self-aware AI is a natural result of technological progress, and those AI always carry the risk of coming into some kind of conflict with their creators. There's absolutely no reason why the participants and events have to be the same; Skynet and John Connor are both unambiguously dead by the prologue, but an entirely different AI gone rogue and human hero end up arising, with a Judgement Day that's implied to be only sort of similar to the original one.
  • GoldenEye, the first James Bond movie to be made after the Cold War, does a lot in deconstructing 007, with many characters bemoaning about how much the world has changed since the Soviet Union broke up and how Bond doesn't fit so well into it anymore. M even refers to Bond as a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur." GoldenEye even questions Bond's relevance in an era dominated by cyber-espionage, but it's not properly addressed until Skyfall and Spectre, where they even question whether spies can do the same thing that Attack Drones and Big Brother Is Watching can do. The Daniel Craig set of films even show what a cynical and broken man Bond is and has to be in order to do his job as a Professional Killer. Skyfall and Spectre later show that yes, spies are still necessary even in an era of cyberterrorism and hacking.
  • Coming 2 America: The sequel serves as a deconstruction of the sexist elements of Zamunda's culture that were Played for Laughs in the first film. In a more specific example, it turns out that Imani's family is pissed that it was arranged for her to spend decades being groomed to be the perfect bride for the Akeem and the prince wound up rejecting her anyway.
  • Avengers: Infinity War: In a weird sense, the character arc of Thanos the Mad Titan in this film can be considered a deconstruction for how the Marvel Cinematic Universe's typically Strictly Formula format for individual hero films can work by having a genocidal maniac be placed in the "hero" role. He is the primary focal point character of Infinity War, to the point where (as pointed out here by Bob Chipman) he basically goes through a mirrored version of the MCU's typical Hero's Journey within a single film: He gets an epic introduction that serves as an effective Establishing Character Moment for himself, an origin story, a backstory, pathos, psychological depth, gets to make his case, goes through an arc, forced to make a difficult choice, gets multiple "all is lost" moments where his goal is seemingly thwarted, he gets (from his perspective) exactly the happy ending he wanted on his own terms, and even goes through the MCU's typical pattern of having the hero fight against villains who are in some way deliberate Foils/Mirror Characters to them — i.e., both Doctor Strange and Iron Man are people with huge egos that want to control the world to protect it, Thor, Scarlet Witch, and Star-Lord are also all people who have lost their homes and families and childhoods, and his adopted daughter Gamora is self-explanatory. Of course, the deconstruction comes into play by how Thanos is ultimately a delusional Omnicidal Maniac whose Malthusian perspective on preventing a universal Overpopulation Crisis is founded in Insane Troll Logic, and so the audience gets to see how terrifying it would really be to fight against the protagonist of one of the MCU's solo affairs.
  • God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness: The film deconstructs many of the themes associated with the God's Not Dead movies.
    • The previous two films' Black-and-White Morality, with all Christians being depicted as good and any non-Christian being depicted as evil, gets deconstructed. Both Christians and atheists are shown to be equally capable of committing bad deeds and the antagonists are all shown to have legitimate reasons for wanting to tear the church down.
    • The us vs. them mentality also gets deconstructed, as it's shown that this sort of thinking only creates division and further conflict.
      Keaton: You wanna know why our generation's leaving the church? It's because the whole world knows what the church is against, but it's getting harder and harder to know what it's for.
    • The, for lack of a better term, persecution complex displayed in the previous films is also called out when Dave claims that a black preacher hasn't been through the struggles that he has and Dave's brother also points out that the church has a long track record of mistreating or excluding people and then acting innocent when said people push back. The preacher points out that Dave's struggles are nothing compared to actual persecution:
      Preacher: Brother, who do you think you talking to? I'm a black preacher in the deep south. I could build you a church with all the bricks been thrown through my windows.

    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.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden's Hot-Blooded nature and proclivity for the Indy Ploy is savagely deconstructed as the series goes on, with it being shown that his "spur of the moment" ideas might work and be effective at the time (or even be the only possibility he has open to him), but they can have horrible consequences down the road since he didn't properly plan ahead and account for all the variables. Just a few examples include him deciding to risk his life for his girlfriend Susan in Grave Peril (sparking an incredibly bloody war that lasts for at least an In-Universe decade), him helping Lara Raith depose her father in Blood Rites (meaning that the White Court of Vampires now has a dangerously intelligent and ruthless Chessmaster in charge), and wiping out the entire Red Court of Vampires in Changes causes a hideously massive Evil Power Vacuum in the supernatural world (to the point where even the series' Extra-Strength Masquerade is starting to fall through). Understandably, this all helps incite Character Development for Harry as he learns to act more carefully and rationally, using more Xanatos Speed Chess instead of being a Leeroy Jenkins.
    • Relatedly, Harry is quite the Destructive Saviour, to the point where there's a series-wide Running Gag of Harry burning down a building practically once a book. However, in Changes, this widespread history of property damage that follows in his wake results in the FBI suspecting Dresden for a terrorist bombing. It even bleeds back over into the supernatural side of things, with Harry having to fight the assumption by both his enemies and allies that he's just a Dumb Muscle Person of Mass Destruction for constantly knocking down buildings as he learns to become more of a Genius Bruiser who can get shit done without causing massive property damage.
    • Harry's It's All My Fault tendencies have been pretty reliably shown to be a tragic but not exactly noteworthy element of his personality and natural part of his Chronic Hero Syndrome. However, Ghost Story deconstructs this being overlooked and taken in stride by showing how Harry was Driven to Suicide when a Fallen Angel whispered the right seven words in his ear to perfectly prey on his massive Guilt Complex. In Skin Game, Michael Carpenter literally calls Harry a "pigheaded, arrogant idiot" for unnecessarily heaping such guilt onto himself and calls him to stop holding himself up to such impossibly high standards.
  • The first Earthsea trilogy established the craft of wizardry as restricted to men, with the maxims "weak as women's magic, wicked as women's magic" never shown to be unjustified. Ged's first teacher, his aunt, is a petty and self-important hedgewitch, and another budding sorceress tries to manipulate him into casting spells beyond his means. Le Guin later realized that there was no actual reason for her to have written this except that it was common genre convention, so her second trilogy takes a good hard look at this attitude, where it could have come from, and the consequences to subjugating women and shutting them out of proper education.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar series, Valdemar is normally portrayed as The Good Kingdom, with a Monarch who's been accepted by the gods (in the form of their Companion) and a shining example of tolerance because their ideal is that "There Is No One True Way." Sure, there's noble conspiracies, bad Valdemarans and bigoted villains who won't get with the program, but that's not the way the system is supposed to work. Closer to Home, however, shows that The Good Kingdom is still an oppressive system in many ways, where the theoretical freedoms available to women don't prevent them from being trapped in social controls that force them into the roles of wife or victim. The villain of the story, while exceptionally cruel even by Valdemaran noble standards, is a product of the system and benefits from its inherent abuses. Mags and Dallen even spend a bit of time discussing how the King and Prince are personally babysitting a noble feud that threatens to break into violence, while in the poorer parts of Haven, people murder each other every day and nobody thinks much of it - and while it's wrong, it's the way Valdemar is.

    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 main protagonists 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.
  • Blackadder: The Blackadder Goes Forth series is a hilarious satire of the madness of World War I. However, the final episode plays that madness for grimness rather than comedy: the characters who we've come to love and laugh at are being sent to a pointless demise, the people in charge don't give a damn, and as the reality of the situation dawns on them, they quickly go from quirky to despondent. Even the acerbic Blackadder can't make light of the situation. The final scene is an unusually sympathetic Blackadder wishing his comrades good luck, and the characters getting killed in the trenches. What began as satire ends as a horrific tragedy.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the classic series The Doctor was an itinerant wanderer who would frequently 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 traveller 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 Renegade Splinter Faction of the Church of Silence 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 Seventh 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 new series also interrogated why the Doctor needs companions in the first place (because they get jaded and need fresh eyes to see the universe, and because they tend to go bad places without someone else around), and what effect repeated loss of companions has on them (emotional trauma and withdrawal), then followed through by showing what happens when they try to Take a Third Option and emotionally distance themselves from their companions - the Doctor has no-one they can confide in when dealing with trauma, and the companions are left Locked Out of the Loop, ignorant of what's going on.
    • 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 losses, 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" (everyone dies 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 historical massacre 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 civilization 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.
    • "Midnight" deconstructs the Doctor's usual mode of operation by putting the Tenth Doctor in a situation where he's treated as the Monster of the Week and the monster takes his role: his attitude and behaviour get the supporting cast suspicious from the start, he's the prime suspect when it becomes clear the monster is possessing someone on board, he's unable to even identify what the monster is, let alone how to deal with it, while it turns all his tactics against him, and in the end the monster's only defeated by a last-minute Heroic Sacrifice from a Heroic Bystander before the Doctor can be thrown to his death.
  • The Office (US) deconstructs how infuriating having a coworker like Jim would actually be in "Conflict Resolution"; Dwight gets fed up with Jim's pranks and tells Michael that either Jim goes or he goes, while Jim realizes that his pranks aren't actually funny and that rarely gets any actual work done.
  • Scrubs humorously 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 needs to stop being so close with Robin.
    • Furthermore, as noted above in the page quote, Ted and Robin's promise to get married if they reach a certain age and they're both single is gradually shown to be less romantic as it was first depicted and more a depressing indictment of how co-dependent and unlucky in love both of them are. Ted even realizes that him subconsciously holding a torch for Robin through this "back-up marriage" pact has likely caused him to self-sabotage some of his romances that could've potentially gone very well for him.
  • 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 someone committing suicide.
  • Leverage: The team attempts to pull off one of their typical over the top-'no one 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 toxic) 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.
  • The Mandalorian is another Star Wars Internal Deconstruction. The fall of the Empire and revival of the Jedi Order did not instantly bring peace, happiness, and freedom for all. Instead it has left the galaxy in turmoil and confusion as the Outer Rim loses any sense of order, the New Republic increasingly reaches out to assert power (sometimes quite brutally), Luke's new Jedi Order recluse themselves to rebuild (to the point that many don't even know they exist), Imperial Remnants try to make power plays, and a massive economic recession devastates numerous systems. For many communities, the only hope for law and justice comes in the form of the Bounty Hunters Guild, which is a shadow of its former self and spends most of its time chasing bailjumpers, in contrast to its glamorous portrayal in Legends. The protagonist is not a mighty Jedi destined for greatness, but a Mandalorian (the traditional enemies of the Jedi) bounty hunter scraping together a living in the post-war galaxy as he and his people grapple with the aftermath of decades of oppression, mistreatment, and retaliation for ancient sins from the Republic and Empire alike. The Force is portrayed less like a wondrous and benevolent Background Magic Field and more like scary, inscrutable sorcery wielded by mysterious figures that the average person has no understanding of. The Mooks that get killed by the dozen in the films are deadly and terrifying enforcers of brutal regimes to anybody who isn't a super-skilled hero with Plot Armor. A great many of the franchise's other tropes and conventions are heavily toyed with or subverted, such as the supposedly Always Chaotic Evil Sand People appearing as friendly natives of Tatooine who happily give direction to the protagonists in exchange for a small payment.
  • Season four of Stranger Things deconstructs the general premise of the show (kid and teenage heroes in a small town battling a paranormal threat) by showing the actual impact that all these deadly and obviously supernatural events are having on the town. The townsfolk are increasingly confused, terrified, and grief-stricken and begin to wonder what sort of unholy curse has afflicted their homes. They become paranoid, nervous, and easily panicked into a hysteria. And such a hysteria occurs thanks to Jason, an Evil Counterpart to the main characters; a teenager who realizes the town is under an unnatural threat, but unlike the heroes, is an arrogant, sociopathic, and ignorant Jerk Jock whose failure to understand the nature of the enemy, prejudices, and refusal to admit being wrong ends up disrupting the heroes' efforts at a critical juncture, giving the Big Bad his first major victory against them. Said victory ends up devastating the town and causing the biggest amount of deaths yet, leading to a mass-exodus as people finally get fed up and move elsewhere. The show's signature Dungeons & Dragons homages are also deconstructed by reminding viewer of just what exactly DND was going through at the time the story takes place and using it as a plot point, with the Satanic Panic's onset being another cause of the mass hysteria that pervades the town. By the end of the season, DND is demonized and feared as Hollywood Satanism thanks to everything.

    Music 
  • Eminem created his "Slim Shady" alter ego as A Darker Me for his fans to vicariously live through, a violent sadist who frequently engages in Comedic Sociopathy. On two songs from The Marshall Mathers LP, "Stan" and "Kim", he shows what happened if somebody actually tried to do the things that "Slim Shady" did in his songs.
    • On "Stan", the titular Loony Fan of Eminem hears his music and thinks that his persona isn't an act. Wanting to be more like his idol, he commits a Murder-Suicide of himself and his pregnant girlfriend in imitation of Eminem's Murder Ballad "'97 Bonnie & Clyde". When Eminem reads the increasingly unhinged letters that Stan sent him, he is absolutely horrified, especially when he turns on the TV and realizes that the details of the grisly news report he's watching line up with the details that Stan wrote down in his letters. Years later, on The Marshall Mathers LP 2, he wrote a Sequel Song called "Bad Guy" in which Stan's brother Matthew, who Stan described as even more obsessed with Eminem than he was, kidnaps and kills Eminem as revenge for destroying Stan's life and his family.
    • "Kim" shows what Slim Shady's behavior would look like without the "Comedic" part of Comedic Sociopathy. A prequel to the more comedic "'97 Bonnie & Clyde", to which it serves as a Spiritual Antithesis, it's a brutal, unflinching, six-minute song in which Eminem raps as Marshall Mathers about murdering his wife, making it clear that anything funny about such a situation comes purely from the sick manner in which Slim Shady frames it for the listener. It's one of the most horrifying rap songs ever written, and reportedly, the real Kim tried to kill herself when she saw a live performance of it.

    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 moment's 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:
  • 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.
  • In Jade Empire, BioWare tore apart their own Signature Style, the cliches associated with their games, and the genre they helped pioneer. Your Player Character, rather than being The Chosen One thrust into adventure, is an Unwitting Pawn and Tyke Bomb who has been carefully manipulated their entire life into being a weapon against the supposed Big Bad. Your wise Old Master who trained you in the magical arts is actually the treacherous brother of said Big Bad and a manipulative Knight Templar who killed and replaced your real master, arranged the entire conflict to eliminate his enemies, and purposefully trained you wrong so that he could exploit the flaws in your technique to kill you once you outlive your usefulness. That's just the central plot twist; there are many other storylines dedicated to deconstructing the same tropes and conventions that BioWare used before and would use many times again.
  • The Legend of Zelda has deconstructed its focus on a "chosen one" narrative twice:
    • The Wind Waker opens with a narration detailing the story and aftermath of Ocarina of Time, showing that the people of Hyrule wanted another hero to save them when Ganon inevitably broke free of his seal. However, due to Zelda removing the Hero of Time from the timeline, no hero came, and so the people were forced to plea to the gods to save them as a last resort, which would lead to Hyrule being sealed beneath a torrential flood and becoming The Great Sea. During the present day, many people doubt the Hero of Winds's ability to be a new hero as he is explicitly The Unchosen One, and only by Link's efforts is he able to prove them wrong.
    • Breath of the Wild spotlights the emotional consequences of being destined to defeat Big Bad Ganon. Link himself is forced to hide his emotions in order to portray himself as the perfect "strong, silent" hero as other Links were. As for Zelda, she undergoes much turmoil in seemingly being unable to awaken the power of her bloodline, resulting in her growing resentful of Link for his natural talent with fighting and even being chosen by the Master Sword. Zelda would much rather pursue her passions in researching ancient technology due to her inability to use her power, but her father insists that she focus on her training despite the lack of information regarding said power due to the queen's death. The story implies that this turmoil simply worsens the problem with Zelda's dormant power, and by the time she awakens her power as a pure leap of faith, it's too late for an Only Mostly Dead Link and mostly destroyed Hyrule, forcing their allies to enact a century-long plan to revive Link while Zelda keeps Ganon temporarily sealed during that time.
  • Ace Attorney deconstructs its own trademark Courtroom Antics and zany portrayal of law in Dual Destinies by revealing that four games of growing madness in the courts is causing the next generation of lawyers to realize their profession is entering The Tyson Zone and adopt a crazy "win at any cost" attitude in response, resorting to increasingly batshit insane behavior to win and causing courtroom standards to degrade ever further. Older attorneys lament that the nation's legal system has entered into a "Dark Age of the Law".

    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; 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 
  • Transformers: Animated:
    • Sentinel Prime was usually played as a joke, with his rudeness, arrogance, and distrust of human serving only to make the audience hate him and laugh at his misfortune. "Predacons Rising", on the otherhand, played his attitude for drama, by having him declare that his girlfriend deserves to die for a situation outside her control.
    • The series also deconstructs Starscream, who, in every continuity, tries to overthrow Megatron, and is always forgiven for his treachery and allowed to stay in the Decepticons. Here, however, Megatron just kills Starscream for his treachery, since any leader worth his salt wouldn't bother keeping such a blatantly treacherous underling in his ranks. Starscream is only saved by being brought Back from the Dead by an Allspark fragment, and Megatron only lets him back into the Decepticons because he can use Starscream’s treachery can help his plans; the second Starscream is no longer useful, he gets killed once again.
    • The series' version of Waspinator is also one of these. In Beast Wars, Waspinator was an ineffectual, dimwitted Butt-Monkey with bizarre speech patterns and mannerisms who was constant being blown apart and having to repair himself, all of which was Played for Laughs. Here, however, he was an Autobot framed for being a spy and sent to prison, being driven mad by the abuse he suffered. His mannerisms and speech patterns are signs of his insanity, and when this Waspinator gets blown up and pulls himself back together, it’s horrifying and the result of being experimented on and mutated by Blacksrachnia.
  • 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 her home situation has actually affected her, and no one was laughing after that. The show itself also ceases to frame her family in a humorous light, regularly showcasing how dysfunctional they are, though they manage to toss in some moments that affirm they really do love each other.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's first season ends every episode with Twilight Sparkle summarizing the aesop by sending a "friendship report" to her mentor, Princess Celestia; this being an actual task she's meant to do weekly in-universe. The season two episode "Lesson Zero" revolves around Twilight trying to do this, but realizing that she hasn't learned anything worth writing about that week — as the deadline approaches, Twilight becomes increasingly unhinged by her fear of failing Princess Celestia. Ultimately, this alters the status quo, with friendship letters being slowly phased out of the show after Celestia tells Twilight they're no longer mandated. This also served as the turning point of Twilight's character from the "sane" Fish out of Water group member to the neurotic Super OCD personality she'd maintain for the rest of the series.
  • South Park
    • killed Kenny over and over Once an Episode, and his adventures in Hell were a subplot of The Movie. The episode "Kenny Dies" is a Very Special Episode that plays the death of a child from a debilitating illness realistically, and he seemed to be truly dead. He was replaced in the following season by Butters and later Tweek before coming back in the season finale with no explanation, and now he only dies when it adds something to the story.
      • The "Coon and Friends" trilogy deconstructs this further, as Kenny becomes an angsty superhero named Mysterion determined to find out the truth of why he is the only one who can remembers his many deaths.
    • Episode "City People" serves as this for Liane's coddling of Cartman. For the most part, Liane's indulgence of Cartman hasn't had massive consequences, aside from the fleeting moments where Liane puts her foot down. This time, his need for her attention and coddling leads him to sabotage her career prospects. Not only does this end with both of them in the (literal) poor house, it is clear that Liane is losing her love for her son.
  • 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. And likewise, while his bullying is cartoon slapstick, Eddy's trauma is genuine.
  • 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 Mean Boss. 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 stopped aging altogether. 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:
    • 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. 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 dies and has to be brought back by Steven’s healing powers after getting dragged to Homeworld.
    • Steven's All-Loving Hero status is 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; Jasper doesn’t want his help and Eyeball repays 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. Amethyst tries and fails to get him to open up about his own emotions instead, only to eventually snap and explain that it shouldn't be Steven's job to look after everyone, as he's just a kid and she and the other Crystal Gems are millennia-year-old adults who should know it isn't right of them to dump all their issues on a child. Future goes further to show that this became a troubling complex he doesn't know how to break out of as an older teen, admitting to Peridot that he no longer knows how to be friends with someone when he doesn't have to be their Living Emotional Crutch.
    • As the show progresses, it parodies its 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, Pearl sings a Torch Song about Rose then looks over and realizes Steven and Greg heard the whole thing, 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 misunderstanding to make her turn on him again because her Start of Darkness has left her deeply paranoid. And even when they make peace, she refuses his offer to stay on Earth with the Crystal Gems because she feels that her actions have been too alienating for her staying to be a healthy situation for anybody. The movie also deconstructs the Earn Your Happy Ending note the original series 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 epilogue limited series, Steven Universe: Future basically flips the original series' on its head; most of the threats Steven faced before were external, and he was able to help his friends sort through their own personal problems. Now, all of the external threats are dealt with, but they've taken their toll on Steven's mental and physical state. Since everyone else is moving forward with their lives, Steven finds himself having to deal with his own personal issues and with nobody able to help him to sort through them.
  • 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").
  • Phineas and Ferb's last episode "The Last Day Of Summer" effectively deconstructs both Candace and Doofenshmirtz's life goals.
  • The Dreamstone does this twice over due to a Genre Shift. The pilot is a darker action-adventure revolving around the heroic Noops, Rufus and Amberley, stopping Zordrak, but with the latter's Urpney minions getting a lot of Sympathetic P.O.V.. Episodes after do a Perspective Flip to the Urpneys, who turn out to be Punch Clock Villains, making the series into a comedic Mook Horror Show revolved around the abuse they get from both foes and allies for a job they're forced into. As the series goes on, however, the Sympathetic P.O.V. switches back to other characters like Urpgor or the Noops again, showing their own day-to-day workload and how the Urpneys' constant blundering schemes obstruct it. The final parts of the series are near completely comedic, Zordrak has practically lost faith in getting the Dreamstone and become lethargic, while the hero and villain grunts rarely even fight directly and are more focused on doing their mundane job without the other side or other fantasy entities interfering, a complete contrast to the dramatic battle between good and evil in the pilot episode.
  • Infinity Train initially focuses on Tulip's adventures as a passenger on the titular train, gaining unusual magical friends and learning life lessons that help her grow into a better person. While she's sad to leave her new friends behind, Tulip sheds her Jade-Colored Glasses and returns to Earth a full-on Nice Girl. However, the same book shows Amelia's failing to grow has trapped her in a spiral of denial on the Train for decades, and the series afterward show such an Epiphanic Prison doesn't always produce such favorable results:
    • Book 2 focuses on MT/Mirror Tulip, a mirror double created during Tulip's adventure who helped Tulip face her isolation issues. Through MT's perspective, the story examines how the denizens of the train experience the Coming of Age Story of the various humans that pass through the train. Despite living rich, full lives, the denizens of the train only really exist to help humans through their various traumas and flaws. At best, train denizens will eventually lose their new close friends back to Earth. At worst, denizens end up victims of violence or even murder from passengers who don't consider the train inhabitants real people. The cars also get increasingly absurd and cruel, including a car that just requires passengers to kick a sentient, talking Toad in order to escape. The train inhabitants live existentially horrifying lives, but have no other option available to them. This ultimately results in MT experiencing a massive existential crisis, terrified that none of her choices served any purpose except to help other people grow.
      MT: I'm a person! I was making my own choices!
      Mace: Oh, choices! And choices leads to lessons! And what were you learning, exactly? How to become what the boy needed you to be?
      MT: It wasn't like that. We were friends- we are friends!
      Mace: But they all make friends though, don't they? Companions! You might even say you became his counterpart. You might say you became kind of a... reflection. [...] You're just stuck on the train now. You're in another mirror. Face it. Being a reflection is all there is for you.
    • Book 3 adds more wrinkles to the effectiveness of the train. Stuffing emotionally damaged, immatured, and flat out broken individuals onto a dangerous train together doesn't necessarily result in positive Character Development. In fact, passengers like Grace and Simon refuse to grow and face the consequences for their actions, convincing others to follow their own destructive tendencies. Children end up stuck on the train for years, if not longer, because they aren't ready to face their own shortcomings. On top of all that, the finale shows that despite the Train's peril being subject to Could Have Been Messy, they really do kill Passengers. It's even a monster that Tulip narrowly escaped from unharmed in the first episode that subjects someone else to an incredibly graphic death.
    • Book 4 continues critiquing the whole concept of the Train. First, the lethality of the Train's hazards is reaffirmed when a pre-Character Development One-One states — with horrifying bluntness — that passengers can either resolve their problems or die, and while he vastly prefers the formers, it is quite clear that he is not deeply affected by the latter. Second, it is repeatedly shown how obnoxiously difficult it can be actually getting one's number down, to point of being unfair at times; in particular, Ryan manages to generate his exit by swearing to never abandon his best friend, only to have said exit immediately disappear expressly because he briefly considered using it. Third, we continue to see how difficult life is for the denizens, as some are actually bad at helping passengers, and others become deeply attached to their passengers and are left traumatized when they inevitably leave the Train. In many ways, the series is a Cosmic Horror Story where the Eldritch Abomination wants to help humans, but is still just as destructively alien and incomprehensible.
  • Daria, in its first two seasons, is about a cynical teenager who deals with the flaws of society with snark and detachment. But around season 3, the show begins to ask this question: is Daria's way of dealing with her problems healthy? The answer becomes no. Daria gradually learns that while she may have good reasons for being detached, not engaging with society doesn't solve any problems, and several characters call her out for doing nothing about society while complaining. Daria's own flaws gradually come out into the open, and she ends up stealing her best friend's boyfriend. Finally, Daria begins to dread whether her own attitude makes her a burden of her parents.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    • 'The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) cartoon changed Splinter from Hamato Yoshi's pet rat mutated into a humanoid being to Hamato Yoshi himself being mutated into a rat. While the change does has potential benefits to the character and his rivalry with Oroku Saki aka Shredder, it's evident that the cartoon only changed this origin to avoid Hamato Yoshi's more bloody past and fate. Future adaptations of the franchise would take this origin story change and explore its full darker potential.
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) returns Splinter to being Hamato Yoshi but also incorporates his comic book's past into the mix, namely a blood feud between him and Oroku Saki over Tang Shen. The result is a Shredder who kidnapped Splinter's daughter and raised her as his own, is willing to go to any lengths to kill Splinter (including letting the world be destroyed), and at the end of the fourth season, successfully murders Splinter as he did to Hamato Yoshi in the comics.
    • Most incarnations of Splinter don't really dwell on having been transformed from a human into a rat and living in the sewers. In Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Splinter desperately pines for the Glory Days when he was still human, and is heavily implied to be suffering from PTSD over his transformation.
  • Arthur: Throughout the series, it’s been a Running Gag that Buster Baxter Cannot Keep a Secret. The beginning of the penultimate episode “Blabbermouth” reveals that he developed an infamous reputation as a blabbermouth as a result, so nobody trusts him with secrets anymore. Buster has to spend the episode working to prove he can be trustworthy of secrets in order for his friends to trust him again.

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