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Playing with a Trope

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Even with tropes about tropes (metatropes) that describe how tropes tend to be used, it can be hard to pin down the exact relationship between a Trope and a particular work. This is a quick-reference guide, illustrated for clarity with two simple examples:

See also Playing with Wiki, an entire subwiki dedicated to doing this to every trope in The Catalogue, and in particular Trope Name/Playing With, which is a reasonably concise version of this list.

  • Played Straight: The trope is simply used. Note that this is the 'default' manifestation of a trope unless stated otherwise; when citing an example, it's usually needless (and/or redundant) to explicitly mention that it was "played straight". (Inversely, if a work plays the same trope several times in several different ways or it's a trope which is more commonly played with than played straight, like a Dead Horse Trope, then it's worth noting it was "played straight".)
  • Justified: The trope has a reason In-Universe to be present where we see it.
  • Inverted: The trope (or its elements) are reversed and then used. (Not just taking the usual gender for the trope and making it the opposite one, unless gender is specifically what the trope was about in the first place.)
    • The butler is the victim. Or the butler solved the crime.
    • Only weak weapons glow. Or powerful weapons absorb light, creating darkness around them.
  • Subverted: A trope is set up to occur, but then the audience's expectations are thwarted in some way. Compare Red Herring.
    • The butler is the prime suspect at the beginning, and is later found innocent.
    • A huge glowing bomb is assumed to be a superweapon, and is then revealed to not have any effective blast due to its inefficiency.
  • Doubly Subverted: Like a Subverted Trope, but then later it turns out that the apparent subversion was misleading, too. Again, compare Red Herring.
    • The butler is the prime suspect at the beginning, but then eliminated as a suspect -- except he did do it, and the exonerating evidence is false.
    • A huge glowing bomb is assumed to be a superweapon, and is then revealed to not have any effective blast due to its inefficiency. But the glow itself is super-effective.
  • Untwisted: The audience expects a trope to be subverted, but it is played straight instead. (Highly subjective; any plot development can become The Untwist to a sufficiently paranoid reader.)
    • The butler is shown early on as the suspect with the flimsiest alibi, like a typical Red Herring with a Big Secret, but after a series of twists and turns the detective reveals to everyone's surprise that it was old Alfred, after all.
    • The glowing weapons appear to not glow at all -- at least, not in the visible spectrum.
  • Parodied: The form of the trope is twisted and often used in a silly way for comic effect.
    • Butlers learn their trade at butler college where they are taught cleaning, cooking, and murdering.
    • The heroes fight with giant glowsticks, the kind that you have to snap and shake.
  • Deconstructed: The intentional use and exploration of the trope, played far straighter than usual in order to show the trope as poorly thought out, impractical, and/or much less nice than commonly assumed.
    • The butler is a revolutionary serial killer, who purposely takes jobs as butlers to murder his rich masters. All the unfortunate implications of class warfare that this suggests are brought up and discussed.
    • The most powerful characters are all blind. What was the audience expecting, them to be able to see after that ultimate attack that's rated at 47 million Candela?
  • Reconstructed: Reconstructed tropes are the new and improved Played Straight of an often deconstructed trope, taking the best parts of the Deconstruction or reassembling the original trope to strengthen its flaws or improving its feel. In other words, this is the inversion of a Deconstruction.
  • Zig Zagged: None of the above, or more than one of the above; a trope that gets triple subverted, or inverted and played straight at the same time, or, well, just done confusingly.
    • The butler did it, but he was under Mind Control at the time. And it later turns out that the one mind controlling the butler looked exactly like the butler. And then we find out that it was actually his Evil Twin, who was also a butler. But it turns out it was a conspiracy hatched by the Butler and his Evil Twin, one born of necessity because the victim was going to do something monstrous.
    • There's a fifteen-page-long chart explaining how effective weapons with different glow intensities are against one another. And the authors still manage to do a complete Ass Pull every once in a while.
  • Averted: The trope is simply not used where it could have been. (Generally not worth noting except in cases where this is especially surprising, such as for a nearly universally-used trope or aversions known to have been deliberate; see also Enforced Trope below.)
    • The butler didn't do it. Or there was no butler at all.
    • The weapons do not glow. Or there are no weapons at all.
  • Enforced: The trope occurs solely because of outside expectations or obligations placed on the writer to use it.
    • The company producer hates butlers, so he ordered the writers to cast the butler as the killer.
    • The toy company handling the merchandising wants to make all the best weapons glow in the dark, so the producers have that incorporated into the strongest weapons on the show.
  • Necessary Weasel: Similar to an Enforced Trope, the trope is included because the genre's audience already expects it to be there.
    • The butler had to be the killer, because the target audience are people who never read mysteries before.
    • Children are known to be drawn to the shinier things in a show, so the most powerful things are indicated that way.
  • Implied: The trope isn't shown, but the audience is indirectly led to believe that it happened off-screen.
    • The detective rules out all the guests one-by-one, but in the end he fails to find the real killer. The astute reader notices he never bothered to investigate the butler.
    • A character on his way to judge martial arts try-outs carries a light meter.


Tropes can also be played differently in terms of tone and style:

  • Played for Laughs: The humorous elements of a trope are played up. Differs from Parody, when different, by being a straight use.
    • The Butler did it, but it took him three hundred and seventeen tries (of which we're shown twelve), all of which his master escaped without realizing anything was happening (including the time when he walked up and shot his master, which the master passed off as "you could've hurt someone, mistaking that gun for a lighter.").
    • The hero's glowing sword occasionally starts to flicker and go out, and he has to smack it a few times to get it working again.
  • Played for Drama: The serious or melodramatic elements of a trope are played up. Normally only applicable for comedic tropes, but can show up for any trope.
  • Exaggerated: The trope is used to an extreme. Please note that this does not necessarily have to be used humourously -- a trope can be exaggerated yet still played completely seriously.
    • All the butlers in the city go on a killing spree, and nobody suspects a thing.
    • The strongest weapons completely obscure the screen by their glow.
  • Downplayed: The trope is used to a far lesser degree than typical.

Specific characters (or the narrator) can also play with tropes:

  • Lampshaded: A trope is played straight but explicitly pointed out, without any further explanation.
  • Invoked: A character is Genre Savvy, and/or uses their knowledge of a trope as a reason for their own actions, hoping that the effect will come through as it does "in fiction".
    • Ex-butlers are employed as assassin trainers because of their experience as potential murderers.
    • The heroine does everything possible to enhance the brightness of her weapon, seeing how brightness is power.
  • Defied: A character recognizes a trope is about to happen, and takes steps to avoid it.
    • "We have to lock all the butlers up before they can kill!"
    • "Try not to make the sword glow. We don't want the enemy to know which one to take if they capture us."
  • Discussed: The trope is explicitly discussed by Genre Savvy characters in a situation that is directly relevant to the trope. Can overlap with This Is Reality.
    • "Unlike what you may read in detective stories, the butler is an unlikely suspect in any murder investigation of this sort."
    • "I don't care what anime has taught you: in the real world, a glowier sword is not more powerful."
  • Conversed: A conversation about tropes the characters have seen in a Show Within a Show, or another work. Differs from a Discussed Trope mainly in either its sheer irrelevance, or being used purely to lean on the fourth wall.
    • "In these shows, the butler always does it."
    • "In a bad movie like this, the more powerful swords always glow."
  • Exploited: A Genre Savvy character, knowing a trope will occur, uses it to their advantage.

And finally, a special case:

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