13.35: Cliché vs. Archetype

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

Tropes, archetypes, and even cliches are tools in our toolboxes. There’s no avoiding them, but there are definitely ways to use them incorrectly. In this episode we’ll talk about how we shake off our fear of using tropes through understanding how they work.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.


Set a timer for 30 minutes.


With your life-jacket securely fastened, you may now go to tvtropes.com  and follow a trope like “boy meets girl” down the rabbit hole. Follow links. Dive deeply. When the timer goes off, close the page immediately. If you need a palate-cleanser, try watching “You Just Don’t Get It, Do You?

About eight months after we recorded this episode, Brandon pulled The Apocalypse Guard back from the publisher. We’ll update this link with more recent information soon.

6 thoughts on “13.35: Cliché vs. Archetype”

  1. “Can I get this now?”
    “…*you* can get it now…”
    “Wow, we’re just rubbing it in their faces, aren’t we?”
    :'( Yes. It’s okay, I’ll wait. But I would like to see it eventually.

  2. The “don’t get it” video was 8 minutes of pain. Not sure I’ll ever read or hear the line without wincing.

    Sorry about your book Brandon. Skyward is a great replacement for it.

  3. The original quartet, Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, tackled cliches, archetypes, and tropes this week. With a little butter and green beans, they cooked up several ways to keep the canned flavor out and make those tropes and archetypes taste as fresh as ever! So, go read the transcript, available now in the archives or over here…


    And don’t forget to set your timer if you go spelunking in TVtropes! You were warned!

  4. I am so glad you guys gave a 30 minute timer for TV Tropes. Wish I did that when I first starting using the website years ago (my poor grades).

    That said, they also have a “Random” button for a given trope or media to generate, and a Featured trope for the day on the front page, for anyone curious but not sure what to look up.

  5. Great episode! The one thing I was kind of squirming when I heard was when Dan said that for people who want to see superhero fight stories, they’ll enjoy one and it will taste good and not canned. This statement is nowhere near as categorically true as he presents it, and since we’re talking about familiar examples today, let’s talk about Marvel and DC movies.

    A couple years ago, each studio put out a major superhero-fight film fairly close to each other, and while I’m fully aware that not everyone agrees with this perspective, the general consensus was that Captain America: Civil War was excellent and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice was absolutely terrible. I wrote about both of them on my blog when they came out; the one for Civil War was the later of the two, and I called it “How to do a superhero conflict right.” A big part of my premise was that DC absolutely mangled beloved characters and made them completely unrecognizable except by their costumes, (and not even that, in Wonder Woman’s case; what in the world was she doing dressing up as Xena in that film anyway?!?), resulting in conflict that felt forced, like some writer was pulling on everyone’s strings to make them fight simply for the sake of having a superhero-fight film. You could totally taste the can in that movie, and it was a can of poo.

    Meanwhile, in Civil War, while the broad strokes of Tony’s and Steve’s positions on the Sokovia Accords both seem a bit inconsistent with their original characters, they don’t feel forced because they flow directly from the consequences of things that have happened to them over time. You can actually see how these people’s motivations have changed, and their character arcs have changed their behavior, as the years go by.

    (Looking back at it now, I didn’t make this connection when I wrote those articles a couple years ago, but I think that’s a big part of why Dawn of Justice failed so hard. It didn’t have that 8 years of establishing behind it. They tried to take a few shortcuts to make us believe that that stuff did exist–the Robin suit comes to mind, for example–but that’s just not the same as the world that Marvel Studios built before our eyes.)

    Also, they took all the dark tone that everyone hated from Man of Steel and doubled down on it, which was just wrong. I actually mentioned Brandon’s work in the Dawn of Justice article, as an example of how to do “dark” well:

    “Dark” can be done well, when it gives the light something to really shine in. It’s one of the reasons I like The Flash. Without giving any spoilers, when Barry and the team finally find out what’s really been going on that was driving the plot of the first season, it could easily have crushed any of them, particularly Barry and Cisco, but they chose to be better than that and overcome it, and it helped make the show awesome.

    It’s one of the reasons I like the work of Brandon Sanderson. The goal of the villain of Elantris is to literally commit genocide. The villain from Warbreaker is trying to incite a world war. Ruin, from Mistborn, is an evil god who’s trying to destroy the world because he is literally a divine personification of the concept of ruin, and Odium is even worse, if you can believe it. But you never come out of his books feeling like you’ve been reading a dark and depressing story, because all the adversity they face gives them a chance to grow stronger, to become better. Watching the protagonists triumph at the end makes it all worth it, particularly Kaladin, who had to wade through a tremendous amount of brutally soul-crushing crap in The Way of Kings, which just makes his scene at the Tower that much sweeter.

    So… yeah. Superhero fights are just another trope, a building block of a story, and people who like them still want a good story for it to be built into. If you neglect that all-important detail, you end up with something that tastes like a can of poo, like Dawn of Justice did.

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