Greetings again. Welcome to another personal countdown of mine. Now, this is a countdown that I had an intention to do for quite a long period of time - however, for various reasons (Mainly the fact that I couldn't find more examples or arguments) I couldn't get myself to write. In fact, I mentioned this problem already in one of my previous countdowns:
Well, I have finally decided to give it a try, nonetheless. Today I will be talking about the nightmares of every creator and a things that every critic despite for one reason or another - Cliches. You know what I am talking about - those schemes or formulas that are supposed to make a stand story out of the crowd, but most of the time make the scripts that use them feel more like a trash, to which no effort was put in any way.
That doesn't mean that every cliche is bad - There are some cliches that are actually good as long as they are used in moderation (Like the Pipe Organ Theme). But for the most time cliches are considered a value degrading stigma - Especially since most of the creators nowadays don't really seem to attend to take those cliches and use them in a completely different light. And that is the problem in my opinion.
Before we start, I should inform You that both James Rolfe (AKA Angry Video Game Nerd) and Doug Walker (AKA the Nostalgia Critic) made their own respective lists of top 10 worst cliches, and if are more interested in the manner, I encourage You to see their's lists too:
So without any delay, let's begin - Here are my "TOP 10 WORST CLICHES USED BY MODERN MEDIA".
THE FLYING CAMERA
When it comes to montage and editing the movie/ tv-series, then this is quite possibly the one that annoys me the most. You might be wondering, what do I mean by "Flying camera"? Well... I think Iginio Straffi has some kind of fetish for this technique, because he uses it over and over. Whenever there is a new scene after fading to black, the camera must fly towards the place where the action takes.
And I mean it, it's like "A new scene starts, camera is far away from the action, so it must move toward it in either fast or slow fashion". For no actual reason at all, other than what Tarantinoing eventually became - little more than a gimmick used by directors in order to "show off their style".
To be fair, there are a few examples where the flying camera is done right. One that comes to mind is in Tim Burton's "Batman Returns", when we see Gotham City Zoo for the first time. Where:
1. The technique is used only once
2. It gives the audience enough time to see what is going on
3. It builds up the climate for the upcoming scene
Another exampleof this cliche done right is the beginning of the Polish movie "The Old Fable: When the Sun was a God". Take a look (the very first 2 minutes 24 seconds):
Makes You feel like You are really inside that temple, doesn't it?
So, like I said, this cliche is OK when done right. But when it is overused, then I believe the Nostalgia Critis put it best:
"Meanwhiiiile... WILL YOU STOP MOVING THE CAMERA, GODDAMNIT!?! WHO THE FUCK'S SHOOTING THIS? A DRUNK GEORGE JETSON?
Number 9 - The credit for naming this one goes to BartekGMail, the creator of Polish "THE WORST GAMES OF ALL TIME" series on Youtube.
GALACTICALLY BAD ACTING
(In original: youtu.be/VQAwZOcFpDE?t=15m6s)
Oh man, I supposed this one is self-explanatory - Especially if You had a misfortune of actually witnessing one with Your very own ears. Almost all of the teenage-oriented sitcoms of Disney Channel, Nickleodeon and Cartoon Network have it. And I know something about it - As an Aspie, I feel these things more than normal people, and I have to endure it everytime my nephew is by the TV-set. Oh God, what a torture it is.
I could forgive those sitcoms for lacking any actual funds for their production. I could forgive them for overusing running gags that were not funny in the first place. But it's the dubbing ( acting) that is the nail to their coffin. Listen for Yourselves:
My God, this is worst Acting (Polish Dubbing, yes, but still) I have ever heard since The German "Saving Private Ryan". Were the actors hired at the last minute and given 10 gallons of Russian Royal before the recording sessions? How can You do something like that and approve it to air? Are these 'professional' actors even trying?
Come on, I have never been in an acting school, and I can do better with much cheaper and of worse quality equipment. Watch:
At least that sounds more like an actual human being than what those guys are doing.
Seriously, where is the quality control when You need it?
THE ANNOYING SIDEKICK
Almost every single Walt Disney movie has that one, and not just those. This is basically a character, who accompanies our main hero/heroes, and is supposed to be a comic relief, but for some reason, either due to bad choice or jokes or lousy screenwriting, is not funny at all and turns out to be more annoying than likeable.
I know who You might be thinking of right now - Jar Jar Binks, right?
Jar Jar Binks: But meesa haven't done anything wrong?
Well, no - As annoying as some people might think he is, at least Binks had some kind of reason behind him erratic behaviour, and most of his breakdowns actually had a relation to the situation he was in.
If You think he is bad, then what You say about Roy Schneider's character in Silvester Stallone's version of "Judge Dreed"? I can You tell You thing for sure - after the very first minute of him onscreen I wanted him to die violently. He just doesn't fit the movie - Seriously, who would ever look at him and say "Oh yeah, an ex-convict who spent five years in a high-security prison. I knew it right there from the start."
And don't even get me started with Richard Pryor from "Superman III"... Was that really necessary? Would the movie suffer if he wasn't there?"
Honestly, that last question fits all kinds of comedic sidekick - annoying or not. I just do not see them as a necessity in any movie.
Well, this one is pretty obvious when it comes to examples... James Cameron's "Titanic" for example. In fact, most of cliches concerning love could be on this list - because they are almost always recycled and never too elaborated in any way.
However this one cakes a piece for one good reason. Usually when it comes to love, the characters are very rarely elaborate on why they fall in love with each other or just why would they relationship work. Love triangles take this to a whole new level with developing relationship between the actual lovers, while completely forgetting about the other part.
Like in "Titanic", what do we know about Carl, anyway? Other than he is a spoiled richman? Nothing, absolutely nothing. The same situation happens in Walt Disney's "Pocahontas" - Apart from "He is so Serious" line (And to be honest, he has some very good reasons to be serious), we know nothing about Kocoum. We never even see him interacting with Pocahontas. At all.
Sometimes there are situations where this pattern is swapped, where the Canon Pair is flat and one dimensional, and the third party is actually most human. "Les Miserables" is a good example of such a swap.
Some of You might say this is the result of distillation during editing and so on (when many things are cut out and deleted), but I kinda disagree... Someone had to write them down first. And if You see that You can't make these relationship feel realistic in any way, then why did You even bother to create them in the first place?
For this one, I am not talking the classic short animations, I am talking about modern productions. There is a reason, why.
Stereotypes are not good - They encourage jumping into conclusion and make dialogue between different people harder. Especially since many of them are as untrue as they are insulting.
I suppose I don't need to give You a list of just a few stereotypes that made an appearance in modern media, right? Not only that, but audience's feedback can also ruin the pleasure of watching a medium. When I first saw "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace", I didn't see the stereotypical Jew, I saw an alien with unique design. People's constant mumbling over the topic ruined the whole thing for me. And all they needed was to shut up - Since who really gives a shit if an alien looks like a Jew or not?
Now I said I do not count classic short animations of the past - I meant mostly old Walt Disney cartoons. Why? Well, even if they did use stereotypes, they kept it to minimum and with so feeling, thus making their jokes more memorable and character more standing out of the crowd.
After all, who didn't crack up after seeing this:
or even this:
Modern use of stereotypes has nothing of that. Today it feels like the scriptwriter couldn't come up with some decent ideas, so instead he went for stereotypes - But forgot to make them actually funny or to moderate them in any way. A good example of this, is Sheldon Cooper from "Big Bang Theory" who supposedly has Asperger Syndrome. Not only are jokes related to him not funny, he might as well unintentionally insult people with actual Asperger Syndrome (Like me) - and this is where comedy ends.
Not to mention, stereotypes are just copy/pasted over and over and over again, without little to no variations.
I wish somebody had made a movie with stereoptypes - but instead focused on where they had come from in the first place.
RED SHIRTS, AKA CANNON FODDER
Oh man, Way too many examples to list here, both from the past and modern times... OK, I can understand that our main protagonist is The CHOSEN ONE (There's a cliche for You). I can understand that he must prove that he is the hero of the story in action. But does it justify everybody else around him acting like a bunch of amateurs with death wish in their minds? Not at all.
This is especially notorious in action movies, where the hero for some reason has no trouble wiping out the entire platoons of enemy soldiers, who a couple of scenes ago had shown that they are formidable opponents. Some might say that is because earlier those red shirts fought less experienced allies of the hero, but that still doesn't justify their sudden drop in skills and combat effectiveness.
This cliche gets even worse if somewhere near the very beginning of the story it is clearly stated out loud that the Red Shirts are supposed to be the elite, second to none. And I really didn't want to use this particular example (for reasons explained at the beginning of this journal), but I suppose there is no other way. The prime example of such a situation... are they:
I am not exaggerating, these guys are some kind of a joke. They are supposed to be elite soldiers, yet they never act like professional soldiers. All they do is activate their lightsaber rip-off and charge headstrong, only to get their asses handed to them. Every Single Time.
You know who they kinda remind me of? Them:
But minus everything that made them cool. And I am dead serious here - because despite the futility of their attacks, at least the historical ones had certain appeal to them, and they did manage to kill some people. Whereas the fictional counterparts in all of their appearances never killed a single enemy.... YOU ARE SOLDIERS! IT'S KINDA IN THE JOB DESCRIPTION.
Really, is it really so hard to make the common enemy soldiers act like an actual threat to the heroes? Or is it because we can't make the scriptwriters work too hard nowadays?
GOOD VERSUS EVIL
Well, here is the one that we see all the time. If You ever try to overhaul all the movies and TV-shows that were ever created, there is a high possibility that about 99,99 % of them use this. Without ever even trying to make it more gray and grey rather than black and white.
So yes, this one is really bad. Especially when mixed with other horrible cliches, like;
"Tell me, when You are making a villain and You want to give some kind of motivation or a goal, then of all the things You can put there, why is Your imagination going straight to take over the world!?!"
However, there is one aspect of this cliche that always makes me baffled, to say the least. Have You ever heard of a Trope "Evil is Cool"? I am guessing this is where it originates - Because Evil is pretty much always depicted as better one, always having an upper hand for most of the time, while the Good seems to be always represented by a bunch of handicapped braindeads, who probably can't even use a bathroom without assistance.
Like I said, there are way too many example of this, but I will provide some of them. The very thing that killed "Wolfenstein:The New Order" for me was when the game revealed how the Nazis got their Sci-Fi technology... With Allied Intelligence never discovering or attempting to eliminate it. HELLO!?!
Another good example comes for Batman Universe. Take a good listen here:
Philosophy and Ethnics aside, Jason makes a good point here. I mean just try to think how many innocent lives would have been saved if Batman stopped playing Honorable and Killed the Joker for good?
The last example is something I had to see once in a kindergarden. Some kids were supposed to replay Disney version of "Peter Pan". And Everybody wanted to play as Captain Hook and nobody - I repeat Nobody - not even the girls wanted to play Peter Pan. All because in one scene while mocking Peter, Captain Hook makes a good point - Peter Pan doesn't fight fair. And when he tries, he looses. Not really a trait anyone wants to admire in a hero if You ask me.
And the list just goes on... In such circumstances, You might be wondering - If they always have the upper hand, then why do they always end up loosing the battle? Well, I will tell You...
DEUS EX MACHINA / DIABOLUS EX MACHINA
Remember this one:
If You get the joke, then You understand how this 'cliche' works. This is basically when a situation resolves in a specific manner because... Because the show must go on. Don't ovethink it, Watch/Play!
Pretty much that is the only reason these two are implemented. It's like they couldn't decide on how to continue from the moment they introduced something that made the whole plt more complicated than it had to be, so they resolve to Deus Ex Machina in order to bring things back into status quo or how the story is supposed to end as intended.
Because if that, it's no wonder these became downright iconic to lousy screenwriting. But, as it turns out, these is actually more. Sometimes the way these kind of cliches are introduced is completely ridiculous or, for lack of a better word, mindfucking. A Good example of such is a movie I used to watch as a child, "David & Sandy", better known in the West as "David and the Magic Pearl". Aside from clearly looking like something made on drugs, many of it's plot-related scenes are... Well, take a look at the scene where the main villain is offed. And, please, Somebody tell me what the hell is going on here???:
It's like they couldn't figure out how to do away with the villain, so instead they went for a random magic mirror that comes out of nowhere and which turns out to be a prison for evil souls... I think...
A more known example can be found in 1974's "Jack and the Magic Beanstalk", where the magic harp reveals the way to break the magic spell to the protagonist... but without any indication as to how it knows that.
Diabolus ex machina is even worse, because it makes the already handicapped good guys even more pathetic. Like... They know those evil witches did evil stuff, and they could escape their prison, yet severing their ability to use magic somehow didn't catch their mind? Talk about selective thinking.
Is it really so hard to come with the story that doesn't use ex machinas at all?
...Since we are getting closer to the end, and the one cliche that I find most infuriating, I think it's time to touch upon the big one...
You know what I am talking - All these characters we see where it is clear nobody even tried to come up with something actually original, and instead their went to the easiest 'role- models possible.
This is the main why I consider "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" overrated. Everybody went crazy over how supposedly awesome these characters are supposed to be. Yet when You look deeper into it, You will find every single cliche for a Girls' show You can have in it. We have a princess, a bookworm, the shy one, the attention whore one, the badass one, the evil queen and the list goes on... Sheez.
And You know what? Even that sometimes is not the worst thing. Sometime the worst thing about unoriginal character is when the creators can't keep their characters consistent, sometimes right there from the start. The best example of this... Oh God, not again!...is Icy of the Trix witches. Aside from having zero backstory, and being just a one-dimensional villain who wants just to take over the world because... she's evil, her character is inconsistent right from the start. She is supposed to be completely devoid of emotions, yet whenever situation demands it, she is clearly showing emotions - fear, surprise, disappointment, hubris, anger, to name just few. So if she was supposed to be an Ice Person, they failed.
Although a strange example, Not Important from game "HATRED" is a perfect example of an Ice Person done right:
Not Important clearly doesn't care if he dies or not, as long as he kills a lot of people, and he always speaks in the same monotone voice, which suits his character.
On the subject of the villains, have You noticed that the villains never have a build-up to speak off? They just pop up and are like "I am the Bad Guy, Be scared of me, Hahahahahah!!!". The creators really should take lessons from characters like Ganondorf, Emperor Palpatine or even the Sleeper who were intimidating for one simple reason - people talked about them, but that was all. We never saw them in action until the end.
But, like I said before, I guess we can't make the scriptwriters work too hard, right?
Before I will tell You my Number 1 pick, I will present You a few Dis/Honorable mentions that didn't make it in the end, with one comment per each:
IT'S FORBIDDEN - A plot device for later. Enough said.
MAGIC - Well, this one's pretty obvious.
THE RUNNING GAG - Boring after a while, obnoxious if the joke wasn't funny the first time
VERY MEANINGFUL NAMES - McNasty? Really? What, was Diego de la Vega not good enough for the bad guy?
ROYALTY - probably the most overrated and overblown profession in the entire freaking world
CGI Animations - Sorry, guys. CGI won't make everything better, and when compared with the works of the past, it kinda feels like cheating
OVERSEXUALISATION and FANSERVICE - I talked about these a lot in my previous journals already , so I was not going to repeat myself here. Still... Some people really want to pay 30 US dollars per month for THIS!?!: cartoonvalley.com/db/?id=&… (Warning! For Mature Audience Only! Don't say I didn't Warn You!)
Alright, some of You may say this is not a cliche. However, given how many franchises fell for it and don't seem to leave it any time in the future, technically it could be counted as a new type of cliche. Anyway...
DRAGS THIS OUT
Oh Boy! Where should I begin with this one? DC UNIVERSE, MARVEL UNIVERSE, STAR WARS: THE EXPANDED UNIVERSE, CALL OF DUTY, ASSASSIN'S CREED, THE SIMPSONS, SOUTH PARK, just to name the few...
These are prime examples of franchises that drag on for way too long. You see, a franchise is good as long as it can stay in it's own lore, which has a beginning and the end - read, the boundaries. Unfortunately some people just never seem to know when to end their creators. This often results in situation where the scriptwriter, desperate on new ideas or ways to keep the public interested, is often force to use things that only make things worse (And jumping the shark moment is not actually the worst manifestatin of it).
Take the Star Wars:Expanded Universe, for example. The movies are pretty consistent when it comes to their storylines. But when they began to develop this Universe via books and comic books (mostly), things got either overcomplicated or just freaking absurd. The obvious one, this Galaxy is freaking HELL - there is not a single year where it can just breath or take a break from wars, conflicts, skirmishes and so on. I know it's called Star Wars, but come on...! Or how about the Mandalorians, who for whatever can outmatch the Jedi in a lightsaber duel, which by itself is absurd - MAKE UP YOUR MIND! Are they extinct or Not!?! Or, perhaps, the biggest Jumping the Shark in the whole Universe - Five Jedi Purges throughout history? And not a single lesson learned? really? REALLY!?!
Given all that (and a few more) I was actually Glad Disney took the Expanded Universe and threw it down the toilet - YES, I SAID IT! I AM DEAD FREAKING SERIOUS! And whatever You say, I will not change my mind on this matter.
And don't even get me started with either DC or MARVEL Universes. Anyone who can remember Nightcrawler's family tree by heart and say it without a pause should earn the Medal of Honor, and... Well, if these character can't even make babies by natural means, not making out the whole cloning/conceive by herself bullshit - To the trash can!
To put it simple, some series should end early, before they fall for this one. If they don't, then all the stuff mentioned above, all the cliches and ridiculous are almost guaranteed to take place. All because they must somehow come up with something that will keep the audience interested.
And don't even get me started with FILLER that is supposed to stretch it up even more. One again, Monty Python put it best:
There is an old saying "The lesser is better" and it is quite valid here. If You know You can't keep the quality as it used to be, don't drag out the story to infinity. Better to end it than risk going downhill.
And that sums up this Top 10 list of Worst Cliches in Modern Media.
Now to be fair, it is really hard to make a story completely devoid of cliches, as even the works praised for not falling on them also end up using at least some of them - like the classic "The Fly" from 1958.
And even the most cliched pieces of modern media can redeem themselves in one way or the other. A good example here is "Fury" from 2014 - the story is all cliches, but the movie pays up for it with one scene. This one:
That scene alone was worth the price of the ticket - Just to see the real Tiger onscreen, even if just for four minutes.
However, whenever used, cliches are nearly always a guarantee of a poor script - and that's mostly because when we hear about a cliche, we know exactly what to expect. Because there is no real variety. Like I said above, they are cop/pasted over and over again, with little to no innovation put into them.
And I think that's the problem - That people don't even attempt to at least make those cliches feel new. It might be hard to explain by itself, so let me use my own work as an explanantion - Yes, I did created villains who decided to take over the world. However, they are only villains because I chose that role and didn't want to have anything to do with the natives. And they decided to take over the world not for evil reasons, but to make it feel more like home and ensure there will be not threats for them in the future. And their leader is not really defeated in a fight, but persuaded to find strenght in himself to give up on his quest. This is a new and unique look on an overused cliche, wouldn't You agree?
My suggestion is, if You are to use cliches, at least try to refresh them, show them in a new light, give them a ,shall we say, an overhaul or a remake in a way. All these high-budget/popular authors and studios won't do this - because they are too afraid to experiment any more, I guess - so it' up to us. If we don't do that, who will?
Comments are all Yours, my dear readers.