There’s a reason we see so many recurring plot points, scenes and formulas in movies.
They work and often are legitimate. Not all of them fit that description, though. Some shouldn’t be used as frequently.
Here are five movie tropes that need to die (or at least be used a lot less).
No. 1: Figures of the Past Embrace Modern Values:
The values of 18th century Americans were a lot different than the values of 21st century Americans are. So were the values of the ancient Britons, the Greeks and the Romans and so forth.
Therefore, if you set a movie in the 1700s, a female character shouldn’t say, “Anything a man can do, a woman can do better.” If hordes of barbarians are invading during the Middle Ages, a character shouldn’t ask, “Can’t we just talk with them instead of resorting to violence?”
If movie makers can’t stomach the idea of adhering to the ideas and values of a period piece (here’s looking at you, 2018 version of “Robin Hood”), then they should avoid making such movies at all.
No. 2: Have the Parents Always Be Wrong:
“I don’t care what you say, Mom and Dad! I love Carrie and you’re just going to have to get used to it!” Sound familiar? It’s basically a line you hear in a lot of romantic films (regardless of whether the character is a child or an adult). And it happens with male and female leads.
Stiff old Mom and Dad don’t know what’s best for their kids. They need to change and get with the times. And, in Hollywood fashion, they always do. (Think about that scene in “Waterboy” where he tells Mama he likes his girlfriend no matter what she thinks.)
Throw this trope out the window!
I’d love to see a movie where the lead gives that speech early in the movie only to find out by the end that his or her significant other really is a creep. “You know, Mom and Dad, you really were right. And
you don’t need to change. I need to grow up.”
That would be refreshing and oh, so true to real life.
No. 3: The Logical Person Isn’t the Killer
If all signs point to the butler being the murderer, then he should be the murderer. Don’t give me this stuff where the protagonist comes in and says, “I know it looks bad for him, but something just doesn’t feel right about it.”
Yeah, I know, it makes for more drama this way. So what? Find another way to be dramatic. There’s a reason it’s called “evidence.” Evidence is how we determine things. Not “feelings” or “intuition.”
It’s fine to have a movie where the evidence is unclear and thus it’s uncertain who the guilty party is. But don’t get lazy and rely on the it’s-not-who-you-think trope. “Twelve Angry Men” is an old example of
this, but it’s a perfect one.
No. 4: Have Joe Everyman Save the World:
“I’m just a guy who gets up and goes to work so he can come home to his wife and kids every day.” Aw, how sweet. Joe Everyman, you’re the greatest. Well, not the greatest at everything. There’s no way you could save the world.
The average person is not in great shape. He probably doesn’t have a whole lotta skills outside of those he needs for his job, either. And those skills usually don’t overlap with the ones needed to save the day.
Sure, a lot of movies give the protagonist a back story of “being in the toughest, most secret military unit you never heard of.” And that’s fine. But what about when the movie features a kid “who is most at ease in the world of video games?”
Or when it’s a “white-collar guy just trying to make ends meet?’ Think of Shia LaBeouf’s character in
“Transformers.” Or LaBeouf’s character in “Eagle Eye.” Or even Will Smith’s character (a lawyer) in “Enemy of the State.”
In real life, those guys ain’t gonna save the world.
So if your movie features Joe Everyman being confronted with a major threat, have him run away from it for a change, or fail within the first few minutes. Yeah, it would make for a short film. But it sure would be original—and it would make sense!
No. 5: The 1960s Were the Greatest Decade Ever:
“We’re gonna overthrow the system, man, right after we finish smoking this weed!” Yes, we get it. Baby Boomers think that drugs are wonderful and tearing down all that is good is great. But they’re wrong.
Suffice it to say the 1960s were not the greatest decade ever. And Hollywood should stop treating them like they were the Best of Times.
Maybe it was the “Austin Powers” series that started this cliché. Or maybe it was earlier than that. Either way, it’s still easy to find Hollywood being fascinated with the 1960s. “Chappaquiddick” came out
this year. And “Green Book” is now in theaters.
This isn’t to say any other decade was the greatest. But that’s what makes ending this trope so easy. Just stop focusing on the sixties.
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Have any other tropes that you would like to see go the way of the dinosaurs? Feel free to list them in the comments section.
Paul Hair is an author who has written several fiction and nonfiction books under his own name and as a ghostwriter. Connect with him at www.liberateliberty.com and paul (at) liberateliberty.com.