Questions tagged [trope]

For questions about tropes, a common plot, cliché or meme which appears in literature or media.

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108
votes
7answers
14k views

Were the Smurfs the first to smurf their smurfs?

On Rick and Morty, Squanchy squanches some of his squanches with "squanch". On South Park, we saw the Marklar marklar their marklar with "marklar". Before those two shows, the Smurfs already smurfed ...
100
votes
2answers
7k views

Is there a term for the science fiction trope where a character lists two historical things and a future thing?

In Babylon 5, for example, a character lists famous bombings like "Hiroshima, Dresden, San Diego" with the first items in the list being real and the last being fictional. This dialog technique of ...
81
votes
4answers
12k views

Sol Ⅲ = Earth: What is the origin of this planetary naming scheme?

It appears to be a fairly common planetary naming scheme in science fiction: Take the common name (or its bayer designation) of star and append the planetary ordinal in the form of a Roman or Arabic ...
59
votes
7answers
17k views

Why do consoles explode in "Star Trek"?

In Star Trek (an indeed many/most other sci-fi shows), a reoccurring theme is the exploding console, usually ones placed behind consoles where squishy human-folk sit. Source: Memory Alpha Such ...
54
votes
10answers
16k views

What is the origin of the "being immortal sucks" trope?

In a lot of science fiction and fantasy, there is the trope of someone becoming immortal, but then being really sad about it, deciding that it is worse than being mortal. What is the oldest work to ...
41
votes
5answers
15k views

The cliche science fiction glass tube filled with liquid and a person floating in it, what do you call it?

For nearly every other science fiction trope there is a name. A movie where the heroes travel faster than light, whether they actually name the mechanism or not, will be called subspace/warp/...
41
votes
1answer
11k views

Origin of genies (from lamps) having a three wish limit?

In the original 1001 Nights (a.k.a. Arabian Nights) story "Aladdin" the titular character gets a lamp that contains a magical being called a "genie" that grants wishes. This is fairly common knowledge ...
38
votes
8answers
25k views

Symbolic meanings of everyone losing their hands?

I've just had my memory jogged by a few questions on this site. It occurs to be that the men of the Skywalker family have a propensity for losing their hands in duels. Is this a common thing among ...
32
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16answers
11k views

If the ship's self-destruct is such a great idea why don't real Navies do this? [closed]

Background to my question: I watched a recent episode of The Expanse where the ship's captain It got me thinking, in-universe this appears to make no sense! Ships having a self-destruct is a ...
31
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2answers
2k views

What was the first published SF story to use the surprise twist "and these characters were the original Adam and Eve!" at the end?

A very long time ago, I checked out a book from a library. It was 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. One of those short-shorts is "...
31
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2answers
2k views

Was the recurring theme of Stark creating his own villains intentional?

Looking across the Iron Man and Avengers films, the theme of Tony creating his own villains comes up quite often. He also arguably creates his own figurative villains in the form of hedonism and ...
30
votes
3answers
6k views

Does the Disney canon of Star Wars include any multiple-biome planets?

Star Wars is quite famous for fitting the Single Biome Planet trope to a T (warning: TVTropes link). You have the desert worlds of Tatooine and Jakku, the Forest Moon of Endor, the woodland planet of ...
30
votes
3answers
3k views

Is there special symbolism of evil and undead in the north?

Is there a reason or special symbolism for evil to fester in the northern reaches of a world? Three examples I can remember on the top of my head is Tolkien with Melkors/Morgoths stronghold of ...
18
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9answers
19k views

Why do manga characters love to eat a lot of food?

A common theme in Japanese cartoons (manga and anime) is having a protagonist that has a big appetite and the ability to eat a lot. We see examples of this in Dragonball and One Piece. Historically, ...
18
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2answers
2k views

Who first used "N Men Enter, One Man Leaves" as a plot?

The superficial similarities between the plot of Battle Royale (here's a trailer) and The Hunger Games (here's a trailer) -- and a friend's sarcastic comparison to the titular Thunderdome in Max Max ...
16
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5answers
3k views

Why are trilogies so prevalent in Fantasy?

Why are trilogies so prevalent in Fantasy? (I don't really recall trilogies outside genre-literature and even in genre, trilogies in sci-fi seem to be less prevalent). Can it be simply chalked down ...
16
votes
1answer
509 views

Where did the concept of single-use spell scrolls originate?

It has been a standard rule in Dungeons & Dragons for as long as I can remember that spell scrolls are single-use items. Once a spell is cast from the scroll (or, sometimes, even if an ...
15
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1answer
5k views

What is the origin of the “clerics can create water” trope?

All Dungeons and Dragons edition I'm familiar with have its Cleric character class. Apparently, D&D Cleric is a trope of its own. Many D&D "clerical" spells were still inspired by popular ...
15
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6answers
3k views

What is the first appearance of Elves in fantasy?

Elves are a common appearance in many worlds in Fantasy. From Tokien, to Harry Potter, to Dungeons and Dragons, and Eragon. Many works feature Elves in some way, all with many common characteristics. ...
15
votes
1answer
840 views

Is there anything to the idea of an "Uncle Ben" trope? [closed]

There seems to be a trend of Uncles Ben who inspire a protagonist and then die (or at least appear to), inspiring them some more: Spider-Man's Uncle Ben Luke Skywalker's "uncle" Ben Kenobi (uncle in ...
14
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2answers
3k views

First non humanoid intelligent alien depiction in television?

Broken out from this related question Given that human looking intelligent aliens are so common as to be a trope, what is the earliest depiction in Television of an intelligent alien life form as ...
14
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4answers
806 views

What was the first work to posit the equivalence of magic rituals and computer algorithms?

I have run across a small number of stories that posit a metaphysical equivalence between traditional magical rituals, and modern mathematical rituals (i.e. computer programming or proving certain ...
14
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3answers
3k views

What are the common themes present in both Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and Jordan's "Wheel of Time"?

This is probably going to be a rather detailed set of answers. Hopefully someone can come up with a "short list" of common themes. Both sets of books have a distinctive theme of good vs. evil, but ...
13
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2answers
2k views

Why do time-travel stories often have the characters "returning" to the future? [closed]

In Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, the duo travel all through time. After they accidentally travel to 1,000,000 BC, they repair their booth and attempt to return to their "present" but arrive "the ...
12
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4answers
2k views

First known author to use the concept of "Bigger on the inside"

Who namely known author used the concept of being bigger on the inside first? A holodeck is bigger on the inside, the TARDIS is, on Diskworld the Home of Death and Rincewind's Luggage are, Hermione's ...
11
votes
8answers
824 views

What is the earliest example of a "Blighted Land" created by human or semi-human activity?

Chernobyl is the ur-example of a real Blighted Land. There is an 18 mile exclusion zone around the melted reactor that is deemed not fit for human habitation (this is of course ignored by animals, ...
11
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4answers
4k views

Science Fiction plot resource (website)

At least five years ago, I had an idea for a website that was a database of plot elements used in science fiction books and movies, creating lists of the works that use each element. So one entry ...
11
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2answers
3k views

What is a Dire Wolf? [closed]

In many fantasy stories, there are creatures called Dire Wolves. What's a Dire Wolf, how is it different from existing wolves?
11
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1answer
3k views

How many Dornishman-jokes do we know?

In Westeros, like our world, stereotypical and/or racist jokes are common. Given the rivalry between Highgarden and Dorne, such jokes about Dornishmen seem to be particularly popular in the Reach1. ...
11
votes
1answer
426 views

Origin of "giveaway eyes for shapeshifters" trope

This use of giveaway eye flashes, changes in colour, or changes to the iris shape seems to be a common trope in several series as a way of informing the viewer when a nearby shapeshifter is listening/...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

Are clinical trials done in the Star Trek universe?

It's a very common trope in the Star Trek universe for treatments to the disease du jour to be developed and rolled out very rapidly. Many, if not most, of the main characters or even most of an ...
10
votes
1answer
315 views

Who was the first to make use of the joke "You mean, when are we?"

There is a very common joke in time-travelling stories. One person asks "Where are we?" and the other responds, "When are we?". What is the earliest instance of this joke being made? I am ...
10
votes
1answer
782 views

Was Smaug's treasure-hoarding a bug or a feature in-universe? [duplicate]

Smaug (and all other dragons) were created by Morgoth as species as warfighting machines. As such, the desire to amass bling seems to be a somewhat... tangential feature, to put it mildly. If I was ...
10
votes
0answers
368 views

What's the significance of the boy with the drum?

Near the end of Triangle, at the car accident scene, we briefly see a boy that appears to belong to the parade they were having: This boy is sitting on the floor (crying?) with his drum in front of ...
8
votes
2answers
918 views

Was "American Werewolf" the first story to have a werewolf haunted by ghosts?

In the 1981 film "An American Werewolf in London" and its 1997 sequel "An American Werewolf in Paris", the protagonist is haunted by increasingly decayed apparitions of his victims. These "ghosts" ...
7
votes
3answers
809 views

Where Did the "Pinocchio" trope of Bringing Your Creation To Life Start?

This evening I was watching Coppelia, a ballet where a toymaker tries to bring a doll he made to life. Coppelia premiered in 1870 and the story of Pinocchio was written in 1870. This shows up even ...
7
votes
1answer
1k views

Unending Series of Rooms

My instinct is that there is a fantasy trope of the hero/protagonist exploring a (seemingly) unending series of rooms. I feel like I have encountered this trope in multiple books, but the only one I ...
7
votes
2answers
458 views

When was the fantasy trope of psychological invisibility first used?

In the Enchanters’ End Game, the last book of the Belgariad series, the following exchange between Belgarath the sorcerer and Silk takes place, when they discuss how the Sword has been hidden: “It’...
7
votes
1answer
1k views

Bringing spare horses when you have to "ride hard?" [closed]

How does this trope make any sense? I've been re-reading the Sword of Truth series, and numerous times they mention that they need "6 horses. We're going to ride hard and need the spares." How does ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

Why is the strongest magic frequently ancient? [closed]

It seems a common trope in universes with magic that the most powerful spells are ancient and no longer in practice either because they were forgotten or forbidden. New wizards learn the basics but ...
6
votes
1answer
455 views

The "superhuman speed" special effect in movies and television

What's the earliest example of a character exhibiting "superhuman" speed in either film or television (doesn't have to be Hollywood, if the earliest example is foreign, very interested in hearing of ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Does one's alter ego have to be darker? [closed]

We have all heard, read and seen several tales related to individuals' alter ego. Even many of the modern video games call the player's avatar's as their alter ego (especially in Role Playing Games I ...
5
votes
3answers
543 views

Where did the hypnotic spiral originate from?

A common trope associated with hypnotists in fiction is the use of spinning spirals to hypnotize people. However, when I tried to look up articles about them online (e.g. on Wikipedia, Google Scholar, ...
5
votes
1answer
932 views

What's the history of the prefix "Age of"?

Context I came to realize that there are two recent films (probably more) which contain Age of in their subtitle: Avengers: Age of Ultron and Tranformers: Age of Extinction The thing about these ...
5
votes
1answer
456 views

Why are the Elves always shown as having thoughts about leaving this world for some utopia rather than reveling in their life on Earth? [closed]

Is this trope there to reinforce the belief that Elves are a superior race, come from somewhere else and they don't have the vigour and childish imagination of the more mundane races to find peace in ...
5
votes
4answers
750 views

Is there a precedent for the use of this trope in Star Trek?

I liked most of Star Trek Beyond, but I wasn't thrilled about the climax, when the crew I didn't enjoy it because it's so implausible, but I'd be more comfortable if it was a nod to an event in the ...
5
votes
1answer
218 views

First story to feature the trope "the nice self-sufficient society that welcomed us are actually cannibals"?

It is not an infrequent trope in sci-fi shows for our protagonists to be struggling in their adventure, only to stumble across a seemingly nice self-sufficient society which they are welcomed into, ...
5
votes
0answers
125 views

What's the first appearance of Becoming the Costume on Halloween in literature?

What's the first appearance of Becoming the Costume on Halloween in literature? Something turns people into whatever costume they are wearing.
5
votes
0answers
117 views

How many times has Superman caught the falling Daily Planet statue?

When and how many times has the Daily Planet's statue (of the eponymous Daily Planet) at the top building fallen and been caught by Superman?
4
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3answers
2k views

What brought about the 90s Anti-Hero?

I was idly browsing TV tropes, and stumbled over this page about the nineties anti-hero (Warning, link may contain TV Tropes). What on earth brought this about? Was it just a sign of the times, or ...