Another "movie/TV/book/other plots that have been done to freaking death" thread

We’ve had these in the past but rather than see if there’s one within the age of bumpability I’ll just start another one. What plots have you read or seen so many times that you just think “THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN POSSIBLY DO WITH THIS SO DO SOMETHING ELSE!” at the writers? It can be a sitcom episode (e.g. guy has two dates in one night [a bit dated, but you get the idea]) or a TV show theme (e.g. another frigging sitcom about angsty 20something professionals or "not another L&O franchise and or ripoff) or- pretty much anything that’s over done.

I started the thread because of a major bestseller that came so highly recommended to me: Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. I’ll admit I had misgivings- “ooh, unhappy white kid from well to do family is helped along by downtrodden but wise black domestic and learns a lesson about life, THAT’S original”) but was assured "No no no, it’s not like that. I got a copy of it through Amazon on Kindle and… well, to me, your mileage may vary, that’s EXACTLY what it was like.
I thought “maybe it’s just reading it on kindle is bothering me” so I checked out a copy- nope, same story.

In fairness I should mention I only made it about halfway into the book. I completely lost interest. It may have an absolutely STELLAR ending to it, but it’s all the cliches and angst and melodrama. Worst of all considering the writer is within a few years of my age and grew up in Mississippi (though admittedly in a larger place and wealthier family) but I thought the dialogue/dialect of both white and black characters was awful and urealistic and came more from watching old movies and Good Times reruns than an ear for dialect. In real life both white and black southerners have some unique and shared expressions and eccentric phraseology and grammatical violations that range from funny to fingers-on-the-chalkboard and this was even more true ‘back in the day’ before cable TV softened the dialects a bit. Most weren’t in this book and most of the ones that were I think everybody’s heard.
Add of course the usual stock company characters: abusive black husband, check. Nice but completely oblivious and racist white character, check. Openly racist and evil white character, check, long suffering but spiritual and saintly black woman, check check check check, white kid who’s misunderstood by all but the maid… check check… well you get the idea.

This plot is so damned overdone that I can think of three films that used some variant of it just thatstarred Whoopi Goldberg*! Og knows how many movies Hattie McDaniel appeared in as the kind loving funny wise maid who helps the white kid, then she starred in a radio show and then in a TV series about this plot. Nell Carter starred in Gimme a Break! as- you guessed it- black domestic who just loves some white kids.

Perhaps my prejudice against this genre comes in part from the fact that the only black domestic my family ever had was a lady named Rosa Mae who had 12 toes, heard voices, drank my parents liquor as soon as they left the house, and the only reason my mother kept her on was because she did good ironing, worked cheap, and called my grandmother [my mother’s mother-in-law] a “goddamned old bitch who I hope dogs eat up and the and shit you out on the road!” to her face. In retrospect I thank Og for Rosa Mae" since she at least proves not every single black woman born in Alabama before Condoleezza Rice had a heart of gold or loved taking care of white people.
But I digress. The point is that it’s 2010. We all know that lots and lots and lots of black women used to work as maids, probably many still do. I have known many of them- dozens at least through my time in hotels and motels and various agencies I’ve worked at and trust me, they vary as widely as any other segment of the population in intelligence, morality, back story, sassiness, kindness, and most every other way: some were wonderful, some were evil, some were drunk, some were tee totallers, some were retarded, some were brilliant, some were devout Christians, some were absolutely horrible people. Let’s see some of these.

Since I spent way longer on that one I’ll just do a short second one: the marriage of convenience that becomes a…. wait for it… marriage of love. The Proposal, Green Card, several TV shows from Occasional Wife to Ned and Stacey to one I remember with Billy Connelly- ENOUGH ALREADY! We know every arc and how it’s going to end up.

What are some others you’d like to see retired?

*In fairness to Whoopi, she did at least try to make these a bit different- Clara was Jamaican, Long Walk Home was a Bus Boycott era piece, and when it was time for Corinna she only agreed to do it if they made two changes:
1- Originally the maid character and Ray Liotta’s character feel an attraction for each other but both realize it can never happen and don’t act on it; Whoopi said “if I do it they’re going to act on it”.
2- She insisted they make Corinna a college graduate with ambition. She said when she was working in Montgomery and talking to maids from the Rosa Parks/Boycott era she was amazed how many were well read and some even went to college, but they either couldn’t find other jobs or the professional jobs they did find paid less than housekeeping, so she wanted to tell their story.
Even then she admits she only played a maid again because they paid her a lot of money and she thought Ray Liotta was fine.

Calpurnia, the maid in To Kill a Mockingbird, was also a cut above a stock character. She was highly intelligent, well read, and not particularly friendly to the children. She respected Atticus but was more of a dignified “stand offish” than surrogate mother. One of my favorite scenes in the book was when Scout and Jem went with her to church and were surprised seeing her in her own element rather than their house.

Plots or tropes?

I’ve been reading up on the Nebula nominees this year, and was annoyed that one had the overused trope of a parent getting Alzheimer’s (though, at least is was from the parent’s point of view). I’m also tired of seeing child abuse as sort of an all-purpose background to make us sympathize (In a way, that’s pretty sick – using abused children as entertainment).

There was a Maeve Binchy novel laying around my office and, as I had to take a kid to a dental appointment and I’d left the book I was currently reading at home, I grabbed it to stave off boredom.

I got about 10 pages in and put it down with a weary sigh. I can’t even remember the title, but in the few pages of set-up I read, the main character was the daughter of the maid in a wealthy family who had married the family son. I could see the whole plot without knowing a thing about what actually happened. Two or three lines about how stuck-up the mother-in-law was … ugh. I was over that in the ninth grade.

Perhaps with Avatar we’re finally getting the last gasp of “protagonist goes to live in a different/simpler society, learns to appreciate them, and finally fights for them.” That was already pretty thin back when it was Dances With Wolves, but people evidently still eat it up. Witness, The Last Samurai, Ferngully, A Stranger Among Us, Dune, arguably even Pocahontas. It’s gettin’ pretty old.

Don’t forget Harry Potter. This one is never going away.

(What I’d like is for the word “trope” to go away…)

Or maybe it’s such an important story that it needs to be retold every so often so we don’t forget it?

Don’t forget Farewell to the King (1989), A Man Called Horse (1970), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

See the tvtropes page Going Native.

I don’t think Harry Potter counts – he’s not defending the wizarding world from the muggles, but taking sides in a civil war between wizards.

Sampiro, I just finished The Help as well, and although I liked it a lot, I don’t think I’d have enjoyed reading it. Most of the fun was in hearing the audiobook performed.

I recently read a story by Stephen King called Night of the Tiger, in which there was this creepy old guy and a mysterious tiger, and then the tiger got a cut on his neck, and then you know what happened next?

Of course you do! The next day the old man had a cut on his neck! cue Twilight Zone music dee dee dee dee, dee dee dee dee…

Yeah, but he’s an outsider entering a brand new world of wonderment and excitement, and defending his new community from outsiders, which many of the examples given in the post I responded to were of.

I’m not going to name specific movies/books so as to avoid spoilers, but I’m tired of the plot where the protagonist is really the killer/crazy person/other unseen antagonist and just doesn’t know it. Cause they’re crazy.

Probably not. There are really good things that really take a look at the phenomenon of going native - CJ Cherryh has made a career out of writing those books - but most of them are trite and stupid and formulaic.

Harry Potter was also born a wizard to wizard parents, and experienced several episodes of spontaneous magic use as a child which contributed to not fitting in with the Muggles he was living with. Once he joins the wizard community he learns that he’s something of a celebrity, and there’s never any doubt that he is in fact a wizard. This is quite difference from Dances With Wolves, etc., where the protagonist is truly an outsider. If DWW were about a Native American man returning to his tribe after being raised by whites and then helping his tribe in a war against another Native American tribe then that would bear some resemblance to the HP series, but that’s not how the movie went.

Sorry, I have to hijack:

What the hell is there about a “trope” that makes it different from a plot summary? What I get from this OP is that he is asking about specific basic plots where the details are different but the basic story arc is the same and therefore predictable. You can keep your “tropes” and “memes” thank you very much.

Apologies again for the hijack.

So, how about the one where the narrator is the killer, but no-one, including the reader/audience, finds out until the end?

Oh, wait. I can only remember one book that used that plot. If there were others, I ain’t read 'em. Oh well…

A trope doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the plot of the story. It can be any sort of common/cliched storytelling device, including things like the villain wearing a black hat.

*I agree that the OP is specifically looking for basic plots and not other types of tropes, so anyone with a non-plot trope would do better to save it for another thread.

This one has been done beyond death, nevertheless I feel it is my duty to mention it here: Harried young career woman meets cute some unsuitable (she thinks) guy. They hate each other, wacky hijinks ensue, until they fall in love, the end. Corollary: fat/dumb/geeky/psychopathic mouthbreather guy lusts after/gets “hot chick”.

This one seemed to be prevalent in the 80s more, but it’s “Cute but insecure guy lusts after the unattainable girl who already has a jerk boyfriend, spending all his time and energy trying to win her over, meanwhile being completely oblivious to the hot girl who he’s friends with and who has a major crush on him. In the end he finally realizes the good thing that is right in front of him, and they live happily ever after.” The most blatant example I can think of is One Crazy Summer (which I enjoyed) but it seems like there were a lot of those kinds of movies floating around for a while.

The twist ending. I’m so sick of the twist ending on every frickin movie and book. I was happy with the movie *Taken *because it was about a man who’s daughter was kidnapped and he went to go get her. He did, bad guys dead, that’s it. No monologuing, no kidnappers didn’t taunt him the entire time, and the bad guys were just guys, and not his long lost brother. The boat at the end was NOT rigged with explosives which he didn’t see at the last minute, making him and the girl jump off the boat all slow mo while it exploded in flames behind them which of course is really really cool because you’ve never seen that happen for a climax before.

I think you mean The Sure Thing.

Pretty much every sports movie has the same plot, and it’s one that I don’t need to see again.

I also don’t need to see any more “imcompetent (super) hero defeats the bad guys in spite of himself” plots. That’s been around at least since I was a kid watching Hong Kong Phooey.