SAFETY WARNING: This blog post contains links to “tvtropes.org” – a fascinating black hole of a website. Please alert someone before clicking a link, make sure you are well hydrated and not due anywhere in the next 8 hours.
I’ve got nothing against a good trope. Many joyful hours have been spent on tvtropes.org – often when I only intended to spend minutes. Tropes and cliches give a sense of comfort and stability in this crazy, crazy world.
We’re all inclined to respect a writer or director who challenges the status quo, with a non-precocious child I don’t want to smack, or a female lead character in full-length pants and sensible shoes – they’re trying and it’s commendable. But sometimes, when our reality is overwhelming, unpredictable and out of control, it’s nice to be able to rely on something.
I like to know that the awkward, clumsy girl (played by a devastatingly beautiful, borderline anorexic actress) will get the prince charming type. The underdog sports team will take the final. The misunderstood misanthrope will learn a valuable lesson and become everyone’s best friend.
These are charming, if boring, tropes that make for unchallenging film and television watching. Our brains know that in reality, Prince Charming goes for the girl who doesn’t wear glasses, the more skilled team wins the final and the misanthrope stays… misanthropic. But we can suspend disbelief because there might be a grain of truth in there and it’s nice to watch.
Still, we have to draw the line somewhere.
There are some things – lines of dialogue, in particular – that are contrived purely for the purpose of exposition or, even more unforgivably, for a lazy joke. There are thousands of these, but I wanted to avoid creating a listicle (leave that to Buzzfeed) so I narrowed it down to the three that bother me the most.
Here are three things that absolutely nobody says in real life – because they make no sense without an audience.
“Character A is a little tied up at the moment“. This is only ever said when Character A is actually tied up – sometimes in a sexy way, sometimes because they have been kidnapped, but it always has a double meaning. Otherwise, the villain/paramour would just say that they’re busy. That’s what any normal person would say if they meant “they’re busy”. Nobody in real life would say someone was “a little tied up at the moment” because in real life the camera is not going to pan to the person struggling against bonds.
If anyone ever says “Caoimhe is a little tied up at the moment” please send help because while there’s a small chance I’m having some sexy fun with puns, it’s far more likely that I’ve been captured by my cartoon nemesis.
“The pleasure was all mine“. This is always said in response to “it’s been a pleasure” and always in an ominous voice by Character A, yet Character B is never suspicious. Instead, they think that they are being charming. Oh, the pleasure is all theirs! They must be genuinely very pleased to meet me and not at all planning to murder me or steal my jewellery or whatever these crooked-moustache fellows are wont to do. Character A is only saying the pleasure is all theirs because they have Ulterior Motives of a Sinister Nature. Nobody would say that otherwise, they would just say “nice to meet you” or “you too” in a normal way like a normal person.
If you ever meet someone and say “it’s a pleasure” (which is weird to begin with) – if they respond “the pleasure is all mine” – RUN AWAY. They have nefarious intentions.
“Hmph” – This a sort of laugh-sigh that I wasn’t able to spell. It’s a little bit more complicated than the others but essentially a character will look at something like a piece of clothing, a photograph or a vegetable and “Hmph” laugh-sigh before putting it away. The laugh-sigh could be saying a few things to the audience, such as “I was crazy to think I could wear/love/eat that” or maybe “that’s the end of that chapter in my life” or “my character arc has developed since the last time I looked at this”.
What it is always saying is “this writing/directing/acting is not strong enough to convey the story or the emotions of my character, so I’ll do this weird laugh-sigh “Hmph” to make it SUPER CLEAR THAT I HAVE A FEELING ABOUT THIS OBJECT”.
If you ever find yourself laugh-sighing at an object, first check if there are cameras around and if not please call me and tell me about it because I refuse to believe that people do this organically.