Posts Tagged ‘media studies’

On the Tropes

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

The term ‘trope’ has developed from its literary / linguistic origins to refer to a commonly recurring motif, device or cliché in popular media. Jumping the shark is a well-worn TV trope.

According to Bruce Sterling’s TV Tropes wiki:

  • The Ur Example is the oldest known example of a particular trope (‘Ur’ is a German prefix meaning primitive or original)
  • The Trope Maker is the first unambiguous example of a particular trope
  • The Trope Codifier is the example of a particular trope that has come to define all other uses

The Trope Maker may or may not be the Ur Example, and the Trope Codifier may or may not be the Trope Maker.

For example, The Towering Inferno is generally recognised as the Trope Codifier for ‘staggered but equal’ or diagonal billing in films, specifically devised to resolve the top billing demands of Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. However, there is uncertainty as to whether this is the Trope Maker, as this type of billing may have been employed for similar disputes in previous films. In addition, the trope characteristic of an Ur Example may be unintentional. Therefore, any earlier film that used similar billing purely as a design aesthetic could be a candidate for Ur Example.