tropes without context

Day 3 ~ Choose a favorite book. What tropes exist in the story? When taken out of context of your favorite book, do you enjoy these tropes or are you frustrated by them? BONUS: Examine a least-favorite book in the same way.

One of my favorite books is Ender’s Game. I first read it in 8th grade and instantly fell in love. As an adult, I’m less than thrilled that one of my favorite books was written by someone with extreme, hateful social and political views. But learning horrible things about the author doesn’t change how important the book has been to me. Hell, I named my cat Ender. I used to reread Ender’s Game every few years. I haven’t read it since I learned about Orson Scott Card’s extreme homophobia. I still have these beautiful memories and feelings for the book, but I just can’t bring myself to pick it up again. I’m a bit conflicted on the topic, obviously. I think that makes Ender’s Game a great subject for today’s challenge. Strip away all of the details of this story I love. Reveal its bones.

I used TVTropes for my analysis since they already have a page dedicated to Ender’s Game. Makes this so much easier. There are a shit ton of tropes listed, so I’m going to pick out a few that I feel play a larger role in the book or are particularly important to me. I’m not going to focus on ones that were subverted as that could be an entirely separate post. I’m also not going to discuss how these tropes were explored in Ender’s Game since it would be super spoilery. Check out the TVTropes page to see the examination.

(I’d originally picked out 15 tropes, but I had to reduce it to 3 because my power is out. I have no working WiFi even if my laptop battery worked, and I need to conserve phone battery.)

 

Alas, Poor Villain

As odd as it may seem, if you want the audience to feel sorry for a villain, a good death scene is probably the way to go. (TVTropes.org)

I do enjoy a villain that you can sympathize with. I think this trope refers more to the villain you can’t sympathize with for most of the story, but then their death is so painful or horrific, possibly with a Twist Ending, that it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for them. Maybe even make you reconsider how you feel about past encounters with them. While in theory I like this trope since it will allow me to feel for the villain, the execution could lead it into uncomfortable territory. Either the death is so horrifying that I don’t think even the villain deserved it, or the villain was so evil that I just think the drawn out death is deserved. I think this can be a difficult one to pull off effectively, but it can be a good trope when it does.

 

Child Soldiers

They depend on us to defend them, but either we’re forcing them to defend us or they’re all alone and forced to defend themselves in the face of imminent danger. Sometimes they have a talent to help them get through the war, which unfortunately may be the reason they were drafted to begin with, but often it’s just tough luck. (TVTropes.org)

This is one of those tropes that I know I shouldn’t enjoy as much as I do. That a child should become a soldier, for whatever reason, is tragic. But damn it can make for a good story. Also a good backstory. Need a young adult to be a powerhouse of combat and/or strategic ability? Child soldier, possibly coupled with Space Cadet Academy. Doesn’t even have to be military soldiering. Could be that growing up alone in the harsh world taught you skills that no normal child would need. This trope can also play into Innocence Lost, another trope I enjoy. I guess, in the end, I like this trope when the child survives, albeit a little damaged, to be an interesting and functional adult. Not so much when it’s just death tragedy horror vomit.

 

The Smurfette Principle aka Token Girl

The Smurfette Principle is in action when the cast is made up of a group of males and exactly one female. (TVTropes.org)

It’s probably no surprise that this trope annoys the piss out of me. It annoyed me in Ender’s Game. It annoyed me when an anime or book would have less female mech pilots than male and the justification was “oh, women aren’t as bloodthirsty as men.” I’ll grant you that society squished most overt aggression out of me at such a young age that now I have the opposite problem, but that level of repression can result in amazing amounts of rage. Rage that is then suppressed. And so the pressure cooker builds. This justification is particularly insulting with tech that’s supposed to use your mind, not your body, as the driving force. If you compared my mind as a teenager to the mind of my teenage brother, one of us was focused on boobies and one of us wanted to burn the world, to make it hurt the way we had been hurt. I wonder who would have been the more vicious soldier. (If my brother would like to admit to immeasurable levels of teenage rage, I will revise my comparison.)

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