Post by Amara Trabosh
Tropes can be really fun. However, tropes can often be raised to the level of cliché in our eyes. There are many tropes, especially in college student writing, that are inherently awful or sexist. Here are six you should definitely avoid.
The Friend Zone
If I never read a story about a boy stuck in the friend zone again, my skin will clear and my grades will be perfect. This kind of story is just so tired. A boy likes his friend and whines about it. Sometimes we get to see her date someone else instead of the nice boy who’s been there all along #tragic. Sometimes she eventually realizes the error of her ways and they ride off into the sunset affirming said boy’s creepy obsession and his patriarchal expectations. While the friend zone can suck, it’s not a story anyone needs to hear if one or both of them are not zombies.
Too Good for the Club/Frat Party
Oh my god, the music is soooo loud, and the people are just waving their hands and hips around not even properly dancing. This must be the end of culture. If a zombie or alien attacks at this party, sign me up, but if the super cool and super smart person just stands in the corner and judges everyone else, please just take a minute and add some zombies.
The Isolated Intellectual
The plight of the man who is just too smart for everyone else around him and unfortunately cannot make any friends is not a real problem. We all know a boy who’s read one book and turned into a TED Talk. Just don’t write from that boy’s point of view. I don’t need him to explain how women work to me. Unless he’s a zombie in disguise, let’s just agree to not.
The Deep Revelation (to a privileged boy)
Not all representation is good. Having a fairly privileged boy realize that a construction worker can be smart too or that prostitutes are also people inside of their commodified bodies can come off as offensive to those groups. If you want to have more representation, try telling their story through their point of view not the perspective of an outsider. We don’t need any more stories in the world about white boys learning their privilege and thinking they’re going to change, but if you can show some real change in a non-condescending way, like being eaten by zombies in punishment for his privilege, then go for it.
The Not-Like-Other-Girls Girl
It might sound like a compliment, but it’s not. This kind of phrase or description of a girl (i.e. “unlike other girls she eats anything!”) is extremely misogynistic putting all girls into a lump group and placing this single female character on a pedestal as the only superior girl who can ultimately rise above the unfortunate fact of her gender. Maybe just try to not describe her at all if you know you end up going in that direction often or she’s not like other girls because she’s secretly a zombie.
The Ugly Duckling
She takes off her glasses, and she’s beautiful! OMG. While we all love a good Freddie Prinze Jr. film, She’s All That is the worst plot hinging on beauty as women’s only value, so please don’t emulate it. Just try to write women that are real, you know like actual people and not sex objects. But if she takes off her glasses and becomes a zombie who all the boys and girls are into…
Tropes are trends for a reason. Not all of them are good reasons, but if you truly think you can bring something new to the table without reverting to sexism or racism, you should write away. Just be careful with tropes like the ones above which by nature lean towards sexism and have been used by white men for centuries. To be safe, ask yourself will your trope use really stand out of the trash heap?