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General Guidelines

What are Tropes

  • Tropes are so extensively used, in a wide variety of types, that we spend weeks in my Film class covering them
  • Tropes are short-cuts to thinking. Tropes allow audiences to immediately understand information, or a feeling, without the film having to over-explain.
  • We are discussing FILM tropes, so find a source that covers those tropes (not literary trope which are mostly for novels)
  • Tropes are created a posteriori; that is, after the fact. A scene or image or object is used in a film, repeated in other films, and becomes a standard.
  • No one sits around thinking and creating tropes; they are named and labeled after they appear often in films.
  • HOWEVER, tropes are not true to our reality, but they are "true-ish" (see versimilitude) [Article] to the world of film.
  • Tropes are not always a "good" thing; there's a view that sees tropes as Cheap and Ineffective Writing

Example 1

  • what do all four of the following images mean?

  • The use of a Banker's Box reveals they all have been fired from their jobs.
  • Banker Boxes in OUR world do not mean that; they mean that in film because someone used that box in a scene and others replicated using the box over and over and the image stuck: banker box = having been fired.

Example 2

  • The Superhero landing pose is an example of a trope:

    which makes the "She gonna do a super hero landing" scene [Video] from Dead Pool funny. (If the trope did not exist, the scene would make no sense.


    And without that trope, this next image is not funny.


Example 3

Not cliches

  • Tropes are not cliches; cliches are not tropes.
  • A cliche is something that means NOTHING.
  • Tropes are bursting with meaning.

Writing About Your Tropes

  • The HARD way: read through this list [Article] and then watch your film to find those tropes.
  • The EASIER way: Re-watch your film and take note of scenes, images, actions, objects that you notice are familiar to other film's scenes, objects, etc.
  • The MINDLESS way: Just go look up your film name and the word tropes in Google. The Google will spoon feed you.

Names and naming tropes

  • Often we know, or can find out, from where exact tropes first stemmed, such as "I got a bad feeling about this" from Star Wars.
  • If you cannot find the name of a trope that you have noticed in your film, make a best guess as to a name.
  • The trope in the image below is called at least two different names by different sites:


  • Do NOT use TVTropes.org as a source.
  • Do not use encyclopedias or dictionaries.
  • Do not use a site that merely lists tropes
  • Find a human named full article that discusses the concept of film tropes.
  • You cannot use any of the sources that are listed anywhere on this page; find your own.
  • "Versimilitude" [Article]
  • "Cool Guy Walking away from Explosion" [Article]