Home / Composition 2 / Trope in class struggle

Level 2

Tropes of Gender Performativity

Level 2

Class Struggle

  • Class Struggle refers to a set of theories and philosophies that focus on the differences and problems in cultural ideologies and gender roles.
  • You must PASS the Tropes in Class Struggle paper BEFORE being able to turn in the next papers.
  • See the rubric for Theory papers
  • See a Writing Consultant for further help.
  • Be careful of Plagiarism; there is NOT ever an excuse for plagiarizing.

Who Created This?

  • Judith Butler

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.

How to write about Tropes in class struggle

In order to apply tropes to class struggle, we will be using the idea of Gender Performativity, which in brief means that each person in real life performs a gender in much the same way that people perform/act on stage or in front of a camera.

Gender: Butler's Gender Performativity

  • Judith Butler is still writing on social issues, though that link is not about gender performativity but about violence.
  • Gender is a massive field of study, and any treatment of gender studies within a comp 2 course must be a very thin slice of the concepts.
  • Butler's Performativity concerns how we all play a role (much like acting) of gender, especially in public.
  • We of course act differently in private than in public, and for our interest here, we focus on how that difference is a gendered act.
  • Judith Butler discusses how gender is a social construct, not built on fact:
    "As a strategy of survival, gender is a performance with clearly punitive consequences. Discrete genders are part of what 'humanizes' individuals within contemporary culture; indeed, those who fail to do their gender right are regularly punished. Because there is neither an 'essence' that gender expresses or externalizes nor an objective ideal to which gender aspires; because gender is not a fact, the various acts of gender creates the idea of gender, and without those acts, there would be no gender at all. Gender is, thus, a construction that regularly conceals its genesis. The tacit collective agreement to perform, produce, and sustain discrete and polar genders as cultural fictions is obscured by the credibility of its own production. The authors of gender become entranced by their own fictions whereby the construction compels one's belief in its necessity and naturalness."

Writing Gender Performativity

  • Think of yourself as a sexless alien (your race has no genders; maybe they reproduce in test tubes) from the other side of the galaxy. You are being sent to Earth, to the USA, to live secretly among its inhabitants. To do so, you have one film to watch to decide if you will be male or female AND how to act as that male or female so as to not be discovered.
  • As a hyper-intelligent being from across the galaxy, you know that what you are watching is not a documentary or security footage, but you also know that cultures mirror their characters after real cultural norms.
  • If a film's main characters act too different than what modern viewing audiences, the audiences will not empathize with those characters experience in life, the film could fail since people cannot empathize with the main characters.
  • Write how men and women act according to gendered tropes in the film.
  • Do not write about how these trope gender roles reflect reality. This paper is about seeing what the film is saying about these tropes.


  • Find a scholarly article either written about Butler's Performativity or written by Butler about Performativity.