Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Clichés I Fall For Every Time

Sometimes when watching a movie, or reading a book, it dawns on us that we've seen this before. There are a lot of well-worn tropes that can make our entertainment run together in a hodge-podge of images and impressions that don't really stand up to hard scrutiny; which often leads us to demand more originality from our favorite authors or movie makers.

But sometimes, nothing satisfies like predictability.

I am susceptible to my own particular list of clichés. Maybe it's because I grew up watching cheesy 80's television-- I don't know. But the are some things I just always fall for. Here's my list of dirty little secrets-- maybe if I bare my soul, you'd be inspired to do the same.

Bickering Would-Be Lovers:

I could totally blame Moonlighting for this. I doesn't matter that I know my favorite TV couples have no hope of getting together until the final season, I still watch. "Castle" (with the incredibly likable Nathan Fillion) is my current weakness, though "Bones" gets points for making me tune in for six seasons. All the shows have the same formula-- verbal sparring that disguises sexual chemistry-- and I fall for it!

Woefully Outclassed and/or Young Heroes:

Harry Potter is the first one that comes to mind when I think of this category, but I think I first connected to this particular stereotype while reading The Belgariad by David Eddings. You gotta love the David vs. Goliath story though. It transcends genre and even though it now seems most heavily represented in corporate espionage films, I still think of Luke Skywalker and the vicarious thrill of seeing the little guy win one.

Spontaneous Acquisition of Super Powers:

I so wanted to be Samantha Stephens from Bewitched as a kid. I had dreams of waking up with witch powers and the ability to wiggle my nose and make anything I wanted magically appear. So it's no wonder that I would love the idea of a character like Spiderman. There are so many ways people in the superhero (and supervillain) pantheon can gain superpowers-- from mutants to falling into a vat of nuclear waste (hat tip to "Sky High")-- and I've imagined them all. And if the new show "No Ordinary Family" is any indication, I'm not the only one who wonders what their super power would be.

Stranger in a Strange Land:

I was never able to get into the book by Robert Heinlein, but I loved me some Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. This is one of those stories we can all relate to, but having gone to 11 different schools as a kid, I can really relate to this one. I never had the ability to seamlessly fit into a few environment, so I appreciate the stories in movies like "Dances With Wolves" and "Avatar" that illustrate the awkwardness of just trying not to stand out.

The Misanthropic Mentor:

Whether it's Yoda or the carelessly offensive Gregory House, there's no shortage of characters who have knowledge that is eagerly sought after-- and they're not going to give it up easily. Sometimes there will be variations, like the character of Walter Bishop in "Fringe"-- whose mental instability is the main barrier to a productive mentor/protégé relationship-- but there's something timeless about the idea of one generation passing on their knowledge to the next. I can't explain why I happen to like it better when the going is rough-- I guess I'm just complicated.

Unfortunately, I could probably do this all day. I guess there aren't really any new ideas-- just different interpretations. But this list represents the ones that pull me back again and again.

What sucks you in?


Budd said...

stranger in a strange land is a big one. I am also a sucker for disadvantaged kids pulls himself up by his boot straps.

SQT said...

Budd-- Oh yeah! "The Blind Side" had to be one of my favorite movies last year. Maybe that wasn't a case of pulling himself up, he did have a lot of help, but it's pretty close.

M McGriff said...

I'm a sucker for most of these too! Another one that gets me everytime is when a big family secret is revealed, i.e A is B's father and no one knew! Happens in soap opera's all the time though one of my favorites was in Star Wars when you find out Darth Vader is Luke's father. Stuff like that sucks me in everytime!

SQT said...

M McGriff-- That's another good one. I think that's similar to the "mystery box" think J.J. Abrams always talks about with shows like "Alias" and "Lost." I think I have a love/hate relationship with this one. I love the big reveals, but oh it can be painful waiting.

Ghost said...

For me it's exploring ideas - what does it actually mean to be immortal or have a healing factor? Is it possible to follow medieval codes in today's society? How? What happens if you aim to misbehave?

SQT said...

Ghost-- You must have loved "Inception."

TDF Pamela said...

You've definitely hit on my favorite clichés, particularly the bickering couple. They hold each other at arm's length with witty barbs because... the tension would disappear if the writers had them finally give in to desire! That kind of chemistry is what got me hooked on The X-Files years ago. :D

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I love most of those also. I also like the reluctant hero pulled into the conflict against his will to save a friend or just to do the right thing like Nicolas Cage in 'Con Air.'

SQT said...

TDF Pamela-- "The X-Files" was so good. I look at "Fringe" as my replacement and while Olivia and Peter don't really bicker, they seem to be setting it up for...something.

Susan-- That's another great one. I was actually working on the studio lot when they filmed "Con Air." I was always on the lookout for Nicholas Cage, but only saw his car (black Lamborghini). I can also tell you that Jeffrey Bruckheimer drove a red Ferrari convertible. They had reserved parking spots... That's my celebrity trivia for the day. :)