[Let’s talk…]Tropes and Clichés : Two Faces of the Same Coin [Part 1: The meaning of Trope]

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The word “Cliché” has the typically negative connotation of being refered to something (an element, an idea, an expression of an artistic work) that has been overused to the point of becoming boring, predictable, lazy and that has lost its original meaning. However, how unforgivable is it? Can a “cliché” be sometimes used in a good way? And if so, are there ways when a cliché can become even worst than what it’s actually believed to be? Today I want to dwelve in this controversial territory and make light on some aspects that aren’t usually considered. This will be a 3 part post:

  • Part 1 deals with Clichés in general and the meaning of Trope
  • Part 2 will deal with with Clichés and Tropes in reference to Anime
  • Part 3 will deal with Clichés and Tropes in reference to Otome Games

First of all…

Can a “cliché” be sometimes used in a good way?

Definitely and undoubtedly, YES.


When surfing around internet in the anime/gaming community (and of every media, really) or simply just chatting with certain people, I noticed there’s this tendency of saying stuff like “man, I hate clichés.“, “bruh, this show is so clichééé!“, “oh God, clichés are one of the worst things ever!“. However, these people usually make the mistake of confusing “clichés” with “tropes” and part of them are also slightly hypocritical, but I’ll get on that later.

A thing to keep in mind is that a “cliché” is plain subjective: something that in your opinion is overused and predictable, might be completely new and exciting for somebody else. I, personally, don’t use the word “cliché” leisurely exactly because it’s so subjective and based on experience. I prefer using words like “predictable”, “lazy”, “cheap” and/or “half assed” in base of what the case demands. However, what I tend to experience with these people is, bluntly-put, an exageration and expansion of the meaning of “cliché”; it almost seems that they believe a “trope” is by default a “cliché” only because it happens that more shows contain that same trope or formula (ex: The Chessmaster, Friend or Idol Decision, I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure). Let me get this straight: they know nothing.


How many times have we actually seen the cat guy being a shameless flirt? It still works everytime.

A “trope” can be something you have seen before, but definitely not always predictable. A “trope” can sometimes be overused and predictable, but not always cheap and without a justified reason or meaning in the said context (this would be the definition of “cliché” for an uninformed person; its only sin is being overused and predictable, but it’s a matter of execution whether it can be considered a cliché or not). It’s also important to note how clichés and tropes are sometimes used to maintain a certain balance, however what defines a badly and lazy written story from a fairly good one is when the author decides to put in the tropes and where the (“justified”) clichés; if the author makes one of the focal points of the story a “cliché” then it has all chances to either fail or loose “credibility”, however if it’s used for comedy or some minor details (though sometimes even here depends which details) then it’s all good! Once again, execution!  The problem arises when too many clichés pile one after the other, and the same goes for tropes to a certain extent (making the story way less memorable).

But who do I lie to? When somebody says that he/she “hates clichés”, I already stopped taking them seriously for 3 reasons:

  1. “Hate” is such a powerful feeling and as such I don’t think the word should be used leisurely and as often as I noticed people do lately. Their “hate” is usually just plain “dislike” or something that simply and generally annoys them.
  2. If by “clichés” they mean “tropes”, then these people should hate all and all types of fiction because everything is made out of “tropes” whether we want to acknowledge it or not. So..This = hypocrisy.
  3. If by “clichés” they mean “clichés”, I shall call on hypocrisy once again! ٩(•̤̀ᵕ•̤́๑)૭✧ I don’t think there’s any person alive that can claim they have no clichés as guilty pleasure or clichés that they fairly like to hear and/or see for the simple fact that to them they are inspiring in some way or another or just, simply, satifying. ^^ However, it is also true how the same “trope” or the same “cliché” can suffer of “bad execution” and they don’t have the same satisfying effect as in other cases.

Are there ways when a cliché can become even worst than what it actually is?

Unfortunately YES.


Clichés are generally made, as I said before, to either create a sense of balance or for some guilty pleasure or during comedy moments, but a cliché (or a trope or even an archetype) becomes worst when you base a story or character on a cliché and construct the world and characters AROUND that cliché only for the sake of having that said-cliché. It creates an atmosphere of pure artificiality which in the end is going to only appeal to people that are fond of that particular cliché or combination of them and maybe not even these people are going to remember it in the end as more than just guilty pleasure or a predictable story.

(My main reason for starting this set of posts is because I have been recently in a similar discussion regarding these story-telling elements and it become seriously annoying to keep repeating the same lesson like a broken disk. Everybody is free to believe whatever they want and have their own definitions of words, but the use of them doesn’t become automatically valid just because more people believe that definition. Another misconception would be around the words “sequel” and “prequel”.)







5 thoughts on “[Let’s talk…]Tropes and Clichés : Two Faces of the Same Coin [Part 1: The meaning of Trope]

  1. I think there is no such thing as ”tropes” in french. Like you said clichés aren’t always bad. They can actually be really nice from time to time (the girl loses consciousness on the guy/the guy lose consciousness on the girl,

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ^ I pressed send by mistake—- accidental kiss for some reason,) Usually those are used as comic relieve and there is nothing bad with it but there is some of them that will make you sigh and I might be wrong but I can see them the most in either shounen anime or in those bad soap opera (but they are everywhere really) where when you see it you sigh. I means the guy fall on the girl grab her boob, stupid character stops the characters before they kiss, the freaking train stop the character from hearing a love confession. (also with soap opera, the woman has an affair with the gardener or the milk man, the dude has an evil twin and all that). The difference between clichés and tropes in my opinion is really thin but it might be because of the french meaning of cliché. Also i think that a lot of tropes are non avoidable as with the internet era and the opening of the world, your new idea is probably already used my someone else somewhere. The same way I had this Idea of npc becoming sentient in a game when I was young and had no access to the internet (it was way before I discovered half prince and SAO didn’t exist). With this new world, you just have to live with the fact that none of your ideas are original but that you have to make them original by using it your own way and therefore, you need to make this idea ”yours”. It is also normal for people to want to avoid those ”tropes and clichés” as they usually use those word with disgust but think about it : something fresh isn’t necessarily something that has never been used. You can make or do something special with it. (You can create a new human character and it will be new and special but you won’t break it’s anatomy to make it special. The anatomy is a piece of what makes it human, you will keep the anatomy but you will change the colors and the clothes and everything so it’s yours, the same way you can use the milk man and make it unique instead of a cliché or a trope.) Clichés and tropes are complicated and they are everywhere (music, art, fashion, design, gameplays, books, stories and I could go forever wit this.) I can’t find a nice conclusion so I’ll just stop now xD

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. The “guy falls and grabs girl’s boobs” or the “train passes as character is confessing something important” are clichés which are simply used as an excuse for “development” and “dragging” respectively. They aren’t just isolated cases when it happened once or twice for some sort of coincidence which was necessary for the plot, but it’s to FORCE something in. (if it’s not just used simply for comedy as you said. I really like, for example, the use of clichés when the show is aware of it, like recently in Musaigen Phantom World (new KyoAni winter season anime) where the girl tripped and the main guy was aware that this was going towards a “cliché” situation and to avoid that he made it even worst on himself making the girl fall with her ass on his head instead XD it was just simply brilliant how it wanted to turn the cliché into a joke.Those magical boys anime parodies are also quite good at making fun of themselves using clichés.). I was going to dwelve into this more in the second part of my post when I’m going to speak about Tropes and Clichés in anime, so I don’t want to spoil too much, but it’s going to contain a great share of what you just said. Everything bases itself on tropes or clichés nowadays, it’s just a matter of execution and delivery to make it look unique and/or different, but they are still ultimately “tropes”.
      “Trope” is derived from the Greek word for “direction” (tropos) and it was used from back then in classical rhetoric. I really don’t expect people to generally know about tropes though because they’re usually refered to in modern criticism, but I’m just simply a nerd when it comes to story-telling so I basically spent a whole day on tvtropes.org to just read about as many tropes that I could muster. lol

      Liked by 1 person

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