Unraveling the Uselessness of the Trope (link with comment)

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The question of whether Vance was dead or not became more than academic when he found himself in a bathtub up to his chin in ice water like some forgotten cocktail garnish, a demonic woman standing over him, and no memory of how he got there.
Read free chapters of Parallel Visions: City of Angels City of Demons here
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Read free chapters of Dispensing Justice here (or get it here).
Read free chapters of The Red Rook here (or get it here). -- Fritz Freiheit

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A malaise threatens the landscape of screenwriting. A dark pretentious cloud of misunderstanding and misdirection, this fiend fogs the minds of would-be Authors and reduces the beauty of subtle complication to clickable buzz words. It’s name? The Trope.

http://narrativefirst.com/articles/unraveling-the-uselessness-of-the-trope

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Within five paragraphs, three of which are definitions of "trope" (I define tropes as the idioms of storytelling), Jim Hull makes this statement:

Yet, in creating this massive glossary of familiar cultural shortcuts TvTropes has done just that–made storytelling dull and uninteresting. They have made the act of writing a story something stock and commonplace. Something banal and imitative.

At which point I see that this isn't an essay, but a rant against the use of tropes. What is irksome about this, at least to me, is that this approach smacks of complaining about the man behind the curtain, the draining away of magic because one can see the mechanism of storytelling, that the process of classification and categorization makes a story mundane and gray with bureaucratitis. While disagreeing with it, I can understand this viewpoint. Having taken up (digital) pen and spun a few yarns myself, I find that I have trouble not seeing (at least some of) the moving parts of a story. I try not to let this ruin my enjoyment of the story, and, in fact, create a new form of pleasure in so far as I can see how the story is being told and appreciate intricacies and power of its development and ultimate unfolding.

The claim that tropes are useless and have no affect on a story is to blind oneself to the power of tropes in establishing a connection with the reader (or viewer, etc.) of the story. Like it or not, the reader will apply their knowledge of a genre, neatly bundled up in a set of tropes, to establish a bond with the story, internalize and make it their own. Better still, I find myself in awe of the author who can slip an old trope into a story in such a way that I find myself realizing some distance in that I am in the middle of said trope.

I encountered one memorable instance of skilled trope use was while reading Charles Stross's Saturn's Children. I realized that the main character, a fembot, had been strapped the railroad tracks without eliciting a "Hey! Not that old trope!" out of me. Rather than feeling cheated by an old and worn-out trope, I felt invigorated by it, sharing a feeling of cleverness with the author in that recognition.

The use of tropes can be, and unfortunately are, frequently overplayed and handled as a blunt instrument of storytelling. The vast majority of readers want a story they can recognize, that falls into a genre, and gives them a chance to play along with the author in telling the story. Without tropes, you have stripped away what is recognizable, what makes it a story. Without tropes you have moved into the abstract realm of the avant guarde, a realm where the reader has to work way to hard to create a sense of story that may not even exist.

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Blog posted:2018/02/27
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Against guilty pleasures – Adorno on the crimes of pop culture (link)

float= The Red Rook (cover).png

Parallel Visions: City of Angels City of Demons ebook and trade paperback available on Amazon (or here).
The question of whether Vance was dead or not became more than academic when he found himself in a bathtub up to his chin in ice water like some forgotten cocktail garnish, a demonic woman standing over him, and no memory of how he got there.
Read free chapters of Parallel Visions: City of Angels City of Demons here
The Red Rook, sequel to Dispensing Justice and the second novel of Nova Genesis World is now available for Kindle or as a paperback at Amazon.
Read free chapters of Dispensing Justice here (or get it here).
Read free chapters of The Red Rook here (or get it here). -- Fritz Freiheit

Dispensing Justice (cover).png 20th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards - Honorable Mention.png
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Tags:Link, Essay, Pop Culture, Critique, Criticism
Comment:

These are, more or less, my responses as I read the essay. I haven't tried to assemble them into a more cohesive critique.

  • Not a lot of real analysis
  • It hinges on the idea that everyone feels that pop culture is a guilty pleasure. I presume that some people feel the pleasure without the guilt.
  • It strikes me that once people start to analyze things by breaking them down, that it is impossible to go back to perceiving something as whole. Like the drawings that contain multiple pictures simultaneously, once you realize that there is more than one picture, it is impossible to unrealize it.
  • The idea that pop culture trains us into certain paths or expectations is quite true. It remains to be seen that an enlightened or high-minded perception of works as a whole allows one to avoid being trained into paths and expectations. I find it hard to believe that it does not. The interesting question is, which set of training and expectations grants more freedom, and thus is better.
  • It seems to me that truly original work can be damaging too, it destabilizes and can threaten our world view.
  • I would very much like some examples of people who live their lives with ‘imagination and spontaneity’
  • It seems like it is naive or a simplification to claim to know what "experiencing the whole of an artwork" means, let alone achieving it. (Perhaps this is why perceiving small parts of work is more definable, more understandable.) I am hard pressed to understand how this "experiencing the whole" doesn't include context (i.e. history) of the "experiencer". And if this the case, (and I will go so far as saying that it must be case, because entirety of an experience must include the mind experiencing it), then you have exponentially increased the difficulty of defining what "experiencing the whole" means.
  • At what point was it ever the case that the vast majority of people lived a life where they had the time and space for imagination and spontaneity?
  • And what are these works of 'high art'?
  • Another point of failure is that implicit statement that pop culture is inextricably entwined with consumerism and corporate manipulation of the followers of pop culture. Not all elements of pop culture are created with the intent to manipulate.
  • In the end, this essay only rants against the inability of pop culture to deliver real satisfaction or freedom, but in turn, proposes nothing concrete that will deliver real satisfaction or freedom.

Having said all that, I think there is a lot of truth within the idea of "consumerism" driving pop culture and the splintering of experience into 15-minutes-or-less bite sized pieces. I am (not surprisingly, given my last name and upbringing) a strong proponent of freedom. But like prohibition, taking away pop culture because it's bad for some of us all of the time, and all of us some of the time, is bulldozing the slum to put up a library and museum. We have to live somewhere.

Don't suckle at the glass teat, get out there and experience real art! Get back to me when you find out what that is.

-- Thanks Chris H., for sending me the link.
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