Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday Talkback - Kill your least favorite character cliches

I sounded off yesterday about how I hate Garden State-esque Quirky Girls in screenplays. Today, it's your turn. If you could permanently erase ONE character trope from cinema what would it be?

The plucky sidekick?
The fat friend who's there to make crude jokes?
The sex-crazed best friend who is basically Kim Cattrall's Sex & The City character with the serial numbers filed off?
The ugly girl with a chip on her shoulder?
The cocky douchebag who - against all common sense - is somehow the hero of the script?
The wise minority sage?
The stripper with the heart of gold?
The flamboyant homosexual who's basically the gay equivalent of Stepin Fetchit?


  1. If I thought hard about it, I could probably name at least one good example of each of these tropes (usually a subversive take on them, like Evil Dead's Ash as a 'cocky douchebag', or Chunk in 'The Goonies' as a classic Fat Joke Kid), so arguably they all cling onto the screen in the hopes that occasionally a writer with a fresh angle on the stereotype can come along and reinvent it.

    If I had to pick, I'd say Sex-Crazed Best Friend or Flamboyant Homosexual, because they're usually just levered into a script to provide cheap laughs at the cost of outrageous stereotyping. Just think, this could have saved us all from 'Will & Grace'...

  2. To be clear, don't anyone feel limited to my list when it comes to making a choice. Those were just examples.

  3. How about the "nice guy" character that everyone and their uncle describes as "nice" (including himself) - but is in reality not nice, because nice is not actually a synonym for self-righteous, judgemental or self-involved. This character often also whines that he doesn't get the girl because "nice guys finish last". Yeah, that's the reason, buddy. Not that you just called her a harlot for liking someone else on the block.

  4. The "tough as nails and sleeps with any guy who pays attention to her" and is basically just a man without the penis and with boobs heroine of many a female-centered action flick. (Or as author Gail Carriger calls them, "skinned.") TRUE strong women don't fight on their own. They have a support group. And in this day and age of HIV and various STDs no one in their right mind sleeps around. You get to know someone first, make sure that they don't engage in risky behavior, then you sleep with them.

    And admittedly, as a fat girl, I'm sick and tired of how they're all so thin that they're practically flat chested. I know more about vampires and how to kill them then Buffy and Blade combined. Just because I don't look good in a skin tight suit doesn't mean I can't kick Dracula's ass.

    (Hey, think about it, Ash Williams from Evil Dead is actually a wimp in the first two movies. If that formula can work, why can't a fat girl as an action hero?)

    But yeah, it's mostly how they're all so tough and don't need anyone attitude I can't stand. That's not how real women are.

    Actually, any tough as nails female character, even ones that are lawyers or corporate sharks - I can't stand them. Women have support groups, they go to friends for advice, talk their problems out. This business of us being just like men is some pseudo-feminist's dream. (I believe, just like there's two types of Christians - the real kind and the kind who are like Fred Phelps who are bucking true Christian teachings and according to their own Bible are going to Hell - there's two types of feminists. Real feminists and the "Call me Ms and every woman must believe what I believe" type.)

    Death to them all. Women are different from men and being portrayed as just like men without penises is disgusting.

  5. You mentioned her yesterday, but The Tough Bitch with the Perfect Life Except None of It Means Anything Because She Can't Find Lurve, and has to be Taught to Lurve by Obnoxious Guy With Hygiene Issues whose emotional abuse is just fine because he REALLY LOVES HER... she could go. Sorry Katherine Heigl, hope you have some savings.

  6. My mind went right to Dawson Leery too on that one.

    Can we just get rid of all tropes and try this weird concept of writing well-rounded characters? But if I had to pick one, I'm sick of teen/tween shows having the token celibacy club president who is open to everything but sex and within 2 episodes is pregnant or whoring around. I grew up in a conservative/religious town and none of the girls I knew were so stupid as to think that sex wasn't okay but blowjobs were. That's probably the most annoying character cliche to me.

  7. Ha. For me it has to be Guy Who Breaks All the Rules because, y'know, Real Men Don't Do Rules (especially laws of physics, gravity, and commonsense). Usually appearing in story set in hierarchical world and/or world following rules for a reason: hospital, police force, military, laboratory, space...

  8. What about the whiny, depressed character that is so self-involved with their own inner turmoil that they never see that there are actually people out there who care about them until the last five pages of the story? I’m talking about characters from John Hughes’s films to just about every Michael Cera role.

  9. 500 DAYS OF SUMMER also trafficked in the dread Moppet-Who-Knows-More-About-Life-And-Relationships-Than-The-Dipshit-Hero, played by Chloe Moretz, who I've never been able to abide since even though the writers and director were more responsible for the thoroughly awful and unconvincing scenes she was in. I actually can't think of any other movies with this character offhand, although it seems like I've seen her before - the only other example I can think of is Holden Caulfield's little sister (Phoebe?) but that character was singular and real.

  10. The wacky best friend who's supposedly ever so amusing, but in reality does really stupid things and should not be tolerated for even one second, and should be erased from the world. Example, the reason I can't stand to watch Chuck, frigging Morgan frigging Grimes.

  11. The AWFUL douche that the girl of the dreams of the protagonist is dating. This one pisses me off the most because no matter how awful of a douche bag the man she chooses to date over the protagonist it never reflects poorly on her and her personality.

  12. Oo, I've got another one - World Weary Teenage Kid. The one who talks like the cynical middle-aged writer putting words into their vapid little mouth. See basically any teen drama (movies and/or TV) of the last twenty years for examples.

  13. I call him the OBG. The obligatory bad guy. Seen most often in kids movies, he always wears a suit and only cares about business and money, not about the environment or animals or orphans or whatever cutesy thing the kids are trying to save. Apparently lives and sleeps at the office because we know nothing else about him.