Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tropes II: Wish Fulfillment pt.2

Having wondered aloud on when "wish fulfillment" as a trope is acceptable (re: Isaac's post), one of the people I knew would have some weigh-in (RVCBard) does exactly that:
Rather than talk about male fantasy wish fulfillment blah blah blah, I'm going to lay out a scenario that would have me leave the theatre feeling like I saw something truly worthwhile. James would see where this is going.

For about the first half, the movie will be this trope. But just at the moment when the female lead would fall for the male lead's roguish charm, things will take a different turn and start going wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.
What follows are a series of movie clips that basically back up the point. Trope-reversal is a good way to cut against a trope. To reverse this "wish fulfillment" trope probably still gets a lot of mileage, because the weight is pretty pro-trope.

For instance, one of the things I like about the movie Once is that it cuts pretty strongly against the "running at the airport" "I decided not to get on the plane" romantic climax that somehow is deeply embedded in our culture.

But many tropes are pretty strongly represented in both ways. I think the "man using power judiciously for good (Iron Man)" and "man using power but is corrupted absolutely (basically any villain in Iron Man)" are both out there in the air-waves.

So how do you handle an alluring, wish-fulfilling trope in a critical way?


RVCBard said...

It's sort of unfortunate that the reversal of the trope is the Psycho Girlfriend thing. Then again, the reality of situations like this would make people a lot more uncomfortable, like finding out she's an incest survivor and that the male lead is completely unequipped to deal with that.

CultureFuture said...

There's more than one way to flip a trope, I guess. One is the "wish denial" (which you posted about, where the male "Rescue Me" wish goes horribly awry).

There's the reversal, which is psycho girlfriend (a play I'm working on right now has some element of that and we're trying to figure out how to not have it be reductive and insulting).

Another is the "false hope" approach, where:

1) Boy is a douche/on the wrong path.
2) Girl comes along and makes boy better.
3) Girl moves on with her life.
4)Boy realizes that redemption isn't found in other people.

If it's done badly, it probably ends with a "BUT YOU SAID YOU LOVED ME?!" speech.

RVCBard said...

I know it's been a while, but I finally recall an excellent counter-example to the RomCom cliche. It's the "romance" between Fredrick Zoller and Shoshanna in Inglourious Basterds.