Tuesday, December 16, 2014

FUCK THIS TROPE!: Framing the Hero

Recently, I went over to a neighbor's house to see the eight-week-old puppy the family had just bought, and since the youngest child, who was still in the Nickelodeon age group, was the one controlling the living room TV, my visit wound up having Henry Danger on.
Now I just wanna say for the record that I'm completely unfamiliar with this show. Hey, my specialty is cartoons, not live-action kids' sitcom fluff. Now anyway, I only stayed long enough to see the end of one episode and the start of another, and, as I'd anticipated, I found it rather boring. Hell, I didn't even see or hear any hints of laughter from the kid who was watching it in the first place. But I'm not here to bash a show I've barely even seen. No, what I'm really bashing is what the plot of the second episode that played was playing out to be. Basically, it's some sort of birthday party, the main character and his friends are playing with an automatic pitching machine, and it goes haywire and knocks a girl off the building they're on (she survives, though, because kids' show), and soon everyone's quick to gang up on the main character, accusing him of setting the thing on a higher, more dangerous level despite his claims to the contrary. It's at this point I decided to get the fuck outta there, though not before sharing with the kid my absolute hatred for this type of plot.

And see, this is where I'm going at attacking this kidcom I know next to nothing about. I'm introducing a new feature, which I'd like to call...


Basically, I go over tropes, plots, cliches, and other trends I see in cartoons that piss me off. I know I kind of broke a rule by going into live-action, but hey, shittiness isn't just limited to cartoons. As you can tell from my talk about the Henry Danger plot, my first topic is one of my absolute most hated plots not just in cartoons, but in media in general: that fucking plot where someone, usually the protagonist, is framed by some bad guy, either by impersonation or by proxy, and as a result, only a select few people are willing to help them get out of the mess, while pretty much everyone else goes into full on Dickwit Mode. No matter how smart they are, any character who isn't close enough to the lead often becomes the intellectual equivalent of Ralph Wiggum, or Son Goku, or Miley Cyrus.

Aside from the forced stupidity a number of characters suffer from, another problem is often that the circumstances themselves are often forced. For instance, the video game Super Mario Sunshine's plot starts with a doppelganger Mario covering Isle Delfino in graffiti, right when he goes there for vacation. And the residents don't even bother with a fair trial, even basically telling Peach to shut up when she tries to tell their side of the story. They just keep him on the island to clean up the mess he didn't even make, and continue to act like dicks to them, even after they see the fake Mario. Obviously, the story's not the main point because it's a video game (and not even a bad one at that), but still.

Finally, this damn plot's been used to death! It's like writers somehow think it's a good way to inject a plot with conflict, ignoring the other problems I've listed with it. I've even seen it been used in anime and manga, despite its origins (as far as I know) being in western works. One example was a chapter I read of Rosario+Vampire, where Tsukune is framed of being a pervert by an actual, honest-to-God pervert. On top of that, it's been used as the whole goddamn basis of certain works! This is why I'm never going to watch Stephen J. Cannell's Renegade, so please don't ask.

That said, there are some writers smart enough to make them work, though it usually helps when the bulk of non-important characters are morons to begin with. An excellent example is "Powerpuff Bluff", the episode of The Powerpuff Girls where three grown male criminals impersonate the kindergarten-age heroines, as an obvious parody of the plot. On another note, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? gets a pass from me because A) they avoid the idiocy that comprises the shittier examples (for instance, the only toons explicitly implicating Roger are weasels working for the real culprit, Judge Doom) and B) part of it is implied to be bigotry towards toons, a remnant of the original book's themes of racism.

But still, I fucking hate this plot. It's overused, it's stupid, it needs to die. I don't get why so many hack writers continue to use it despite so many factors showing how dumb it is.

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