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.
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:
- “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.
- 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.
- 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?
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”.)