Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Onscreen Tropes That Should Really Be Retired

We all know movies and TV shows aren’t properly reflective of real life. Even on a series like "Breaking Bad", which made a virtue of its slow pace, you never saw a scene where 'Walter White' ordered food, the cashier said “Enjoy your food!”, and Walter then said “You too!” before awkwardly walking away. Because the minutiae of real life isn't narratively interesting. Sometimes movies and TV series use devices to set up a turn in the story, rather than letting it unfold naturally:

At the same time, there are some devices used in TV and movies, most of which can be described as 'tropes', which are incredibly commonplace and don’t actually add anything to the show. 

They end up simply being distracting because anyone watching will immediately stop following the show, look around at whoever they’re watching it with, and say “That would never happen!”. And once you’ve broken the suspension of disbelief, people are on the lookout for more lazy cliches. Some more examples of this include:  

The breakfast table with enough food to feed an army 

In order to show that a character - usually a teenager - is in a hurry, directors like to have them sidle awkwardly past a breakfast table, maybe picking up a single slice of toast, and running out the door with a screamed goodbye to their family. We get it, this denotes urgency, and that’s not the problem here. 

The problem is when a parent says “But I made breakfast!” and the camera pans to a table filled with food. More food than one family could possibly need. If your average family breakfast demands eight Danish pastries, someone has a problem. Even the Queen of England usually
just has some cereal

The plucky underdog puts it all on red (or black) 

You sometimes need to raise money against the odds. In the movies, this happens more often than in real life. With all conventional means exhausted, a lot of characters turn to emptying their life savings and trying to multiply them by betting. If you were in a position where the result counted, you’d read up on techniques and visit a site where you could play games with the best possible chance of winning. In the movies, they take every penny and place it on one spin of the roulette wheel. No strategy, no side bets, no hedging, because apparently they really need this to come off, but not so much that they’d learn some basics first. 

The wedding is stopped by someone “speaking now” 

How many weddings have you been to? If the answer is more than zero, here’s a follow-up. Have you ever heard an official ask “If anyone knows of a reason these two people should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace?”. It’s not a part of the standard wedding ceremony. 

And if you were determined to stop a wedding, would you just attend and then sit there mutely hoping the official would allow you a space to go “Yes! Actually...”. Now, while there is some history behind this, and at one point it was actually a thing, it’s not a required part of a wedding ceremony, and its use in movies is jarring. 

Click the images to enlarge...