By Elizabeth McFarland
The Bumbling Idiot Husband
You can see it in The Simpsons most prevalently, and you can even see it in Friends. This trope of the Bumbling Idiot Husband is characterized by a husband or boyfriend who is always messing things up. Either, for his wife or his kids. Now, here’s the important part, the idiot must have a wife or girlfriend who is nagging, and fixes all his problems for him. This trope is particularly annoying because it is both so frequent, and so easily spottable. Within the first few scenes of a movie, or first couple episodes of a television show, anyone with any knowledge of character archetypes can spot it easily. This is the studio’s trick to appeal more to women, but it’s not very impactful. Most women love their boyfriends or husbands, and furthermore, most women don’t want to want to date or marry complete idiots.
2. The Nagging, Nitpicking Wife
Alongside the Bumbling Husband is the Nagging, Nitpicking Wife. They always seem to go hand in hand. Clara Murphy from Robocop is a very good example of the Nitpicker without the Bumbling Idiot. Cracked.com said it best, and described this trope as “an estrogen-soaked wet blanket.” The Nitpicker is unbearable, angry, strung out, borderline abusive, and mean. Although it doesn’t appear she has any reason to be. All these Nitpickers live very cushy lives in western American suburbia. These two are usually paired together, the Nitpicker and Idiot, in order to appeal to both sexes. Normal marital problems are exaggerated, and the real, serious, detrimental problems are entirely ignored. Normally, these personality types would be perfectly fine, if they were not so common, and entirely because of the character’s gender. Then, they become annoying and useless archetypes.
3. The “Badass” Woman Who Is Never Actually Badass
It’s wonderful to see strong women in film and TV, but it helps if these female characters are actually brave to any extent. This usually occurs when a male is the main character, and this fake badass is his “sidekick”. The Main Character (MC) and his other hero friends constantly say how impressed they are by her supposed “Badassery”, even though she never does anything impressive, or at least as impressive as her male cohorts. However, this is not to say that having a female character who is not strong or brave is a bad thing, it’s just poorly executed when the woman never does anything deserving of her praises. Black Widow in the Avengers movies is far from badass. She mostly stays in an airplane or government building and pines after Bruce Banner but she is described as Badass by fans of those movies, only based on those movies. This has become so detrimental, that some watchers or readers won’t even bother to read books or watch movies with reviews or descriptions that read along the lines of, “I love the female lead, she’s so strong and badass!” because those reviews are unreliable.
4. The Automatic Feminist Icon
This isn’t really a trope, per say, but the Automatic Feminist Icon is really more of a title that fans (sometimes not even fans) give to directors and writers who create a female character who can throw a punch. This is rampant in comic book franchises. This theme surrounds Storm, Black Cat, Catwoman, and most famously; Wonder Woman. Now people might disagree on the ethics of modern day feminism, however, almost everyone can agree that hitting people is not a hallmark of feminism. Unlike the Fake Badass, this character is actually a strong female character, but somehow this comes to her detriment. You don’t have to sift for long through films that display violent women as the furthest thing from a feminist. Hard Candy is a good example of that.
5. The Blockhead Jock
I understand most film writers are far passed their high school years, and most likely were tormented by jocks, but it is simply poor writing and a use of cliche to replicate your own triggers. It demonstrates a lack of understanding and reveals whether or not a writer is outdated. This trope is so common, and in almost every coming of age movie out there, I’m surprised that they haven’t renamed these movies, “Dumb Evil Jock vs. Smart Nice Innocent Nerd”. At this point, it’s more than a trope, it’s an embarrassing cliche that isn’t even accurate. I don’t know if movie studios have caught on, but usually, in order to be on a sports team in high school, athletes need to maintain a C in all of their classes, or at least a C average. I don’t know how it was in the 80s, perhaps it was like this, but why this trope prevails in modern America is beyond me.
6. The Explosive
This is a trope which is most common in romance genres, most notably the Twilight franchise and many, many John Green films. These male characters are common and seen as the norm in society. These men are angry, abusive, or manipulative. Sometimes all three. And they are always the love interest or one of the love interests. Abusive men are no issue in film if they’re portrayed neutrally, or negatively, as the Villain or Bad Guy. But these men’s deplorable actions are meant to be seen as romantic. That is exactly the problem. Edward stalks and manipulates Bella, and starts fights with nearly every character in the book, and the outright creepiness of John Green’s characters goes without saying. Abuse is not romantic, and it can even be said that displaying it as romantic is harmful to society.
7. The Damsel In Distress
You knew this one would make an appearance. The most common trope to apply to women is the Damsel in Distress. This can be seen in every single classic-era Disney movie that featured a female MC. You’ll see with this trope that a common theme is not the fact this character exists, but it’s either the frequency of the theme of the culture surrounding it. In this case, it’s the former. It’s entirely okay to have a woman that needs a man to be happy. Plenty of women in real life do. Rather it’s the fact that this archetype is so frequent, it becomes boring and overdone.
8. The Manly Man Who Hates Affection
We all know the type, stoic, strong, battle-hardened, and even has just a touch of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He’s seen in Lord Of The Rings, Pain And Gain, Merlin, That 70s Show, and even Groundhog Day. This man will not tolerate hugs or kisses from their significant other, and certainly not any brand of affection from another man. That is if they manage to actually land a significant other, and not just lead on, and manipulate some poor sap into giving “sexual favors”. Once again, this would be one hundred percent okay if this were simply the character’s personality. However, not only is this annoyingly common, but his emotional unavailability or straight up lack of emotions is portrayed as the thing that makes him manly and desirable. The fact he is haunted and easily, literally, triggered is meant to set him apart from all of his hopelessly boring other male competition.
9. The Girl Who Was Pretty All Along
It’s seen in The Princess Diaries, Mean Girls, The Brady Bunch, Miss Congeniality, and plenty more. This realization by the class, or male lead may happen gradually, or all at once when the nerd takes off her thick-rimmed glasses. Suddenly her perceived ugliness vanishes and a genetically flawless celebrity is revealed to be hiding underneath. This one is above all just plain irritating. Is everyone in this movie blind, unable to recognise facial symmetry? What is it? In the real world no would think that, say, Emma Watson, with glasses is ugly. That’s just plain unrealistic.