TV Tropes

TV Tropes

I was warned that if I went down this rabbit hole, I wouldn't come back up for a while. I got to reading about a cheap literary tactic called a "Mary Sue" character, a kind of thinly disguised avatar for the author, often in the fantasy genre, easily identified by a series of questions beginning with:

  • Does the character have a name you really, really like?
  • Is it Raven?
  • Does the character have eyes and hair of a color not found in nature?

But once you look up "Mary Sue" on TV Tropes, it proves almost impossible not to start clicking on the links that will lead you to every motif in popular escapist fiction. "Mary Sue" leads to "Wish Fulfillment," which in turn suggests "Be Careful What You Wish For," a genre that includes "Deal with the Devil." You can't read far in Deal with the Devil before you're distracted by "Evil Is Not a Toy" and its corollary, "Sealed Evil in a Can," a/k/a the "Genie in the Bottle" or "Pandora's Box."

Several of these themes are linked to "Older Than Dirt," a category for largely pre-Iron Age sources. Reading down the list of modern tropes traceable to Older Than Dirt sources, we find "Almost Dead Guy," a plot device of ancient Greek origins who clings to life just long enough to be questioned on some important plot point by the surviving protagonist. Almost Dead Guy is related to "I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin," or, in another form, "Retirony," where any character who mentions either an impending retirement or one last mission is as doomed as a Star Trek "Red Shirt" character:

Kirk: All right, men, this is a dangerous mission. And it's likely one of us will be killed. The landing party will consist of myself, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Ensign Ricky.

Ensign Ricky: Aw, crap.

This leads to the "Sorting Algorithm of Mortality," where, for instance, robots (non-living), snakes, and spiders can count their life expectancy in nanoseconds, while dogs are home free, "except in literature (or Disney)." And this takes me to "Her Heart Will Go On," and "Cycle of Revenge," but I've got to climb out of this rabbit hole . . . .

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