More of the Un-Book Reporter’s Pet Peeves

This post will be shorter than the previous Pet Peeves Post, I promise. (I’d promise not to use so much alliteration again too, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.) And so again, here are some of my most-hated entertainment peeves.

1—You Only Use 10% of Your Brain

Once this trope merely annoyed me—now it it makes me foam at the mouth. We don’t need much of an excuse to suspend disbelief in a fantasy—it’s what we’re there for after all—so there’s no excuse to keep quoting this ridiculous “fact”. Even if you know little about the brain, it’s still ridiculous. Would you believe it if you were told you only use ten percent of your digestive system? Or your bones?

It’s easy—even tempting—to go along with the idea that a) we as a species and as individuals aren’t living up to our full potential and b) that most other people are stupid (admit it, you believe both these things). So it really shouldn’t be that difficult to come up with an excuse for how your Joe Schmoe becomes a psychic/genius/super hero/all of the above. And I suppose that’s why this trope now makes me rabid—the unrepentant laziness of it. That, and I don’t enjoy being called stupid by my entertainment. Or, alternatively, told that I’m not worth the effort to think up a half-decent premise.

3—Radioactive Foliage

This is when the greens are saturated until all the plants turn shades of neon emerald and I’m seeing this more and more in tv shows. In some places, I’ve thought it appropriate—Arrow since green is the protagonist’s signature color, and the Chronicles of Shannara since the landscape is a post-apocalyptic fantasy world. But it seems like everyone is doing this and it just looks wrong.

I know the RGB—the light-based color gamut digital display uses—has limited ability to display greens, but over-saturating them just limits the color range further. A deliberate, thought-out effect is one thing, but blindly following some trend without consideration for if its appropriateness—or if it actively devalues it by being so inappropriate—is just stupid.

Upon reflection, it’s not just the monotone foliage I dislike, it’s any special effect just thrown in without thought. Rule of Cool only works when you actually come up with something cool. Using the newest trend or effects tool (I’m looking at you, CGI-for-everything) just because it’s the newest thing isn’t cool, it’s thoughtless. Hmmm…I think I’m noticing a trend.

3—Mis-Marketing

Ok, this isn’t exactly a trope, but it’s still something I see often enough. And it often seems deliberate, an effort to attract a bigger—more “mainstream”—audience. But in doing so, not only are those who go see the movie/show/buy the book more likely to be disappointed, but it can alienate the people who would enjoy the story. Mis-marketing actively erodes the chances of a story/product’s success.

I remember seeing a commercial for Bones (the tv show) that was identical in tone to another commercial for Crossing Jordan (another tv show, I think the same network). The breezy, overtly—one might say overly—sexual tone confused me. The eponymous character Bones is direct and no-nonsense, even in her sex life. Also, Bones can get downright squicky with its gore. If I hadn’t already been watching the show (this was way back in the first season), I’d never have bothered with it.

In the same vein, the blurb on the jacket for Blue Moon by Simon R. Green promised a humorous take on some fairytale tropes. And while there’s some humor and Blue Moon definitely subverts fairytale tropes, it’s a grimdark story. So when I went to read the book, in a mood for some humor, I did not come away happy. In fact, it was nearly a decade later, when I’d forgotten the name of the author of Blue Moon, that I picked up more of Mr Green’s work. None of this is a bad reflection on Simon R. Green’s writing—I love his Nightside series—it was purely a result of NOT having been in the mood for a dark story and unexpectedly finding myself neck-deep in slaughter.

Not to say that all mis-marketing is deliberate. Sometimes whoever is doing the writing of the blurb, or whatever, just doesn’t get the story. Or they may not care, I suppose that happens too.

4—The Everyman

When you hear that phrase, what do you picture? Most likely a straight white cis male. In line with current trends, he might be a little geeky and socially awkward but in a charming or cute way. I could go on—he’s anywhere from sixteen to early forties. He’s probably in love with a woman “out of his league” who’s either his oblivious-to-his-feelings-friend or a distant, unattainable goddess—either way, he’s got her on a pedestal—who he’ll eventually win over. Is that what you picture? Tell me if I’m wrong.

Now put yourself over that image, and your friends, every member of your family, all your co-workers or classmates. How many of them actually fit into that “everyman”? Even if I pare it back to just the first part of that description—straight white cis male—that’s not the majority of people I know. So why is that the Everyman?

There is no such thing as an Everyman—it’s not even a myth, it’s an outright lie. It’s ridiculous. But it’s used to deny letting people who don’t fit that picture be the hero—after all, you’ve got to appeal to the biggest demographic possible, the lowest common denominator. Which is also a lie, an excuse to exclude other voices and values, to disallow conversation.

Stories are important—if they weren’t we wouldn’t put so much effort and money and so many resources into producing them. Stories hold up a mirror to society. But by not allowing most of that society into the image is deny their existence. I read an article on The Mary Sue where a woman talks about how validating it was to see a reflection of herself in The Force Awakens. She says that everyone deserves to feel that, and she’s right.

The Everyman trope isn’t just a peeve—it goddam pisses me off.

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