How many times have you been watching a movie and you hit the point where you think, “yeah I know what’s about to happen” and it plays out exactly like you thought it would? Shane, one time, told me he hates watching rom-coms because there’s always the same formula: boy meets girl, relationship develops, something bad happens, they break up, they get back together, the end. He always hates the part where something bad happens and they break up and, to him, the ending almost never makes up for it.
As frustrating as it is for movies to be predictable, there are so many movie/story tropes out there that, in my opinion, just need to be retired already.
The Jealous, Conniving Ex
When you break up with someone, it’s always hard to see your ex move on. That’s a pretty universal feeling no matter your background. The trope that needs to die, though, is the jealous, conniving ex who goes out of their way to attempt to either break up the new relationship, win back their ex, or both. It’s pretty widely accepted that when a guy does it it’s seen as creepy and stalkerish but having a female do it is pretty common fodder for thrillers and even some romantic comedies.
It plays up the idea that women are inherently jealous and catty toward each other. Instead of having the woman accept that the relationship didn’t work out and moving on, she’s all-consumed. Because that’s obviously the only thing that matters in her life, right? *eyeroll* And about the double-standard mentioned before, it’s just as creepy and stalkerish when a woman does it.
If you want to make different movies or stories about exes, have them be friends after. Play up the awkwardness in new relationships when it’s revealed that these two friends used to date. Or, and I know this one is crazy, have her allow herself to grieve briefly and then throw herself into bettering herself.
The Constant Pursuit of the Girl
I think the worst part about this trope is that it’s ingrained in us from childhood that if you turn a guy down, you’ll eventually realize you were wrong because he’s constantly asking you to reconsider and then you’ll fall in love and everything is right in the world. Hell, even Disney movies play this one up.
That leads to guys in real life pursuing girls to the point that it’s outright harassment and not taking no as an acceptable answer. And as if that’s not scary enough online, it’s even scarier when it’s in person.
Case in point is the movie Playing It Cool with Chris Evans and Michelle Monaghan. He spends the whole movie trying to be with her, even attempting to break up her engagement.
I won’t spoil the ending for you, but there are so many movies with that same plot, and it’s just gross.
Unrequited love isn’t romantic or admirable or sweet. It’s sad and it becomes creepy when writers let it consume characters to the point that, instead of moving on, they’re living their life trying to win the girl over. Especailyl at the expense of an already-established relationship.
It’s even more eyeroll-inducing when the significant other of the girl being pursued happens to be a jerk. Suddenly the “good guy” trying to get the girl is the hero, when, in reality, if he really cared about her, he wouldn’t be so hell-bent on ruining her relationship.
Remove Glasses – Instant Babe
This is kind of a weird one considering how trendy glasses are, even for those not at all visually impaired. And before someone gets at me, if you want to wear glasses as an accessory, do it. No one is stopping you.
This one is less about the glasses, and more about the whole idea that we’re supposed to believe that this conventionally attractive person is actually plain or boring looking or whatever because they look minorly frumpy. And then there’s the inevitable makeover scene and they’re as gorgeous as they usually are and suddenly everyone is either supposed to not recognize them or realize that they’ve never really “seen” them before.
It’s bad enough that they get someone who’s already attractive by society’s standards (Rachel Leigh Cook in She’s All That) to perform the caterpillar to butterfly trick, but what’s worse than that is this idea that they have to stop doing and caring about all the things that they enjoy and that make them unique in order to have this transformation. Or that they can’t have any self-confidence when they’re “ugly” and only start being successful in love, career, etc. when they have their transformation (I love you, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but I’m looking at you).
Someone can be unconventional looking, have unique interests, and still be confident, in love, and successful. Believe it or not, those aren’t things reserved just for the beautiful.
The Loveable/Funny/Dieting Fat Girl
I put those with forward slashes because they are the more common “fat girls in movies” trope.
More often than not, if the fat girl isn’t bubbly or cute, she’s vulgar and funny, or she’s trying to diet. Rarely does the fat girl get to be as deep or complicated as the rest of the cast, and she’s almost never the main character.
Melissa McCarthy has been Hollywood’s go-to plus size gal for a few years now, and there’s good reason: she’s funny, sweet, loveable, and gorgeous! But she plays all the fat girl stereotypes (except the dieting one; that one is most prominent in the movie Made of Honor) and is usually the only fat girl in the ensemble.
It’s like fat girls are only acceptable as someone to feel sorry for or to laugh at or be the trusty sidekick. The only time I’ve seen a fat girl be real is in Gilmore Girls (Melissa McCarthy again), but even then, she was just the best friend of a main character.
Fat girls also lead fulfilling lives and we aren’t always bubbly, or funny, or tough, or any of the other one-dimensional character tropes that fat girls are allowed to be. We also aren’t always more self-conscious than our straight-size/thin counterparts.
I get that there’s a formula for stories and movies that “works” and is guaranteed to make money, and I also get that ultimately, the entertainment industry is a business and they have to make money to keep putting out movies. I also get that not everything has to be about anything more than its entertainment value; not everything has to be “deep” or “meaningful” or “artistic”, but it would be nice if writers could maybe be a bit more creative.
What are some movie/story tropes that get to you? Also, do some of your favorite movies follow these tropes? A lot of mine do. But I still love them. Let me know in the comments!