Welcome to another instalment of Irina defends things that don’t need defending. I find myself frequently commenting on the benefits of stereotypes. I understand that lack of novelty is a common complaint and that calling a show/character/premise “cliché” is an easy criticism to lob at a show we don’t have much to say about. It’s a kind of lazy way to say we think something’s boring without actually having to explain ourselves. I know, I use it all the time. Seriously, like almost every single review. But as the old saying goes “clichés are clichés for a reason”, that is so hackneyed…sorry.
Stereotypes are a useful and powerful tool in any storyteller’s arsenal (next time we’ll talk about mixed metaphors – it’ll be fun!). By using a character or situation that is instantly recognizable to the majority of the audience, the narrative is then freed up for something else. The time used to really develop or explain said stereotype can now be used to add another interesting layer to a character or throw a few unexpected twists into the story or even flesh out the setting. Since every single narrative is finite and therefore limited, authors must careful choose what to give time and attention to. Clichés allow them to quickly settle some elements in order to concentrate on others.
Familiar elements and settings help orient a viewer or reader in an otherwise alien world. When we have something identifiable to latch onto we can much more quickly get into the proper mindset. We don’t spend as much time trying to figure out what’s going on, how to react or feel about what we’re seeing. We get the impression of being on solid ground. This becomes even more important in stories that are very surreal or unusual. A few mundane and well-established elements become absolutely necessary to give us a chance to wrap our minds around the weird. And I love weird but if one is not careful, it slips into nonsense.
Tell me, how would you feel if you went into surgery and your doctor said, let’s try something new today? Or maybe if the engineer designing your new high-rise wanted to reinvent the concept of urban construction. Even if we pick a more artistic trade such as cooking, chefs test out new recipes before serving them to paying customers. That’s because straying from the established path always has an element of risk. Unfortunately, no studio can afford to put together a season of a show just to see if it works, so chasing after novelty means using audiences as guinea pigs.
And to develop on the previous point, sometimes you are pleasantly surprised but sometimes you want something specific. If you’ve been longing for a romantic comedy or an action shounen, you most likely feel like experiencing at least some of the tropes of the genre. I know you’re open minded and happy to discover a new take on a classic, but it still has to qualify as that classic in some way. If shows are endlessly and constantly changing or “revolutionizing” everything, how is one supposed to figure out what they want to watch. In fact, how can you even figure out what you actually like. I would find it exhausting if my partner was a new person every morning. I would be ok if they looked like a new person every morning as long as they were the same on the inside through. That was romantic, right? Not at all like I want a harem.
Tried & true
But of course, the most obvious reason why clichés are a good thing is that they’ve been honed to perfection. By using established stereotypes, story tellers have a wealth of past examples to base themselves on. They can glean what’s likely to work best in their scenario, benefit from the mistakes of their predecessors, gather all the information they need to create the best possible iteration of a trope. After all, no one gets it right the first time. How’s that for a platitude?
In the end cliché, stereotypical and standard are really just another way of saying classic, traditional and efficient. And if you just think I have a soft spot for repeating patterns because I get to drink to them, you are probably right!
Who is this moderation I am supposed to be drinking with?
Suggested drink: Classic Martini
- Every time a twintail is also tsundere – have a drink
- Every time someone walks with their arms behind their head – have a drink
- Every time a character has animal ears for cute – try and figure out if it actually is cute
- Every time there’s a beach/ hot springs episode – fan yourself
- Every time you see an aloof dark haired girl – have a drink
- Every time a character visibly blushes – smile
- Every time we’re introduced to a nutty professor/ mad scientist – have a drink
- Every time someone gives a thumbs up – have a drink
- Every time a character narrates their thoughts/actions – have a drink
- Every time a character eats unreasonable amounts of food – have a snack
- Every time an attack is shouted out – have a drink
- Every time a main character is unattractive – down your drink