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Top Five is a show where the hosts categorize, rank, compare, and stratify everything… from cars to gadgets to people and movies. From stuff that is hot, and things that are not nearly as interesting – it’s Top Five.

This week, Tropes. You love ’em, you hate ’em, but do you have five that you can put on a list and discuss with two of your friends for 38 minutes and 44 seconds?

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Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment. You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...


  1. Karl G Siewert on

    This is an original episode, though it does have something of a flipside. One of the very early episodes, before the podcast even had its own name, had a topic of Disturbing Things in Pop Culture, and some of the things on that list are tropes that the hosts are tired of seeing.

    I had a good time coming up with my own list:

    5) Combo: Everything You Know is Wrong/Face Turn – This is something that two of my favorite authors (Heinlein and Spider Robinson) do extremely well. A story is progressing along traditional lines, with a clear antagonist who is obviously evil and must be stopped, but then at some point, new information comes to light, and suddenly the heroes realize that the villain is NOT evil, but is in fact doing exactly the right thing. There’s a fine line between planting enough information to make the turn believable and telegraphing it, but when done correctly, it’s masterful.

    4) Wunza – Most often associated with buddy cop movies, this trope gets its name from the quick synopsis of the pair of protagonists. “One’s a veteran cop getting tired, one’s a loose cannon with nothing to lose.” Though Lethal Weapon and its ilk are the prime examples, you can trace this trope back to The Defiant Ones or forward to pretty much any season of the rebooted Doctor Who and it makes sense. I’m a sucker for these kinds of pairings and the character moments they allow to happen.

    3) Inside Jokes and References – I unabashedly love these kinds of easter eggs and such. One of my favorites is near the end of the original live-action TMNT movie, when the cops are told that the bad guys are in “The East Warehouse on Lairdman Island”, a nod to turtle creators Eastman and Laird.

    2) Genre shifts – From Star Trek episodes set on past Earths or holodeck novels, to shows like Community and Atlanta that have raised this kind of thing to an art form, seeing familiar characters yanked out of their comfort zone and into something different always leads to great moments for me.

    1) They are mean because they love each other – One’s a former college professor struggling to make his pop culture website a going concern, one’s a deeply entrenched nerd who can’t stop making obscure pop culture references……
    [This is not to be confused with the old, tired, and misogynistic “He is mean because he loves her” trope. That one needs to die.

  2. weirdly, a lot of my favorite tropes deal with isolation and trust issues. i don’t know what to say about that.

    the dirty dozen, guardians of the galaxy, “ragtag group of misfits cobbled together for an impossible mission” trope is a great one. a bunch of loose cannons who may have beefs with one another and must set everything aside to complete the job.

    as a corollary, the “mortal enemies must set aside their differences to battle a greater evil” trope is great. Professor X and Magneto, Batman and R’as Al-Ghul, Rocky and Apollo Creed, any time two diametrically opposed rivals have to put their differences aside to fight the even worse thing, i cheer a little inside. which is probably why they’ll have to cart me out of Infinity War like a hysterical Beatles fan.

    i’ll co-sign on Rodrigo’s “reformed villain joins the good guys” trope. most notably Arnie’s face turn in Terminator 2. i don’t think there’s a face turn that comes close to that one.

    the “one-in-a-million trick-shot sniper” character. your Hawkeyes, your Legolaseseseseses, your Green Arrows, your Barry Pepper in Saving Private Ryans, i love a good trick shot, usually pulled off by a cocky, overconfident sniper/sharpshooter. especially if it’s coupled with the “good guy sniper shoots the bad guy sniper thru their own scope” sub-trope.

    the “well-prepared group of badasses get in over their heads” trope. you get varying degrees of this trope in films like Aliens, Dog Soldiers, Die Hard, Predator, etc., where a seemingly well-prepared group (or a single character) is horribly outnumbered, outgunned, etc., and must rely more on their wits and sticking together, lest the group gets picked off one by one, or the protagonist gets captured or killed.

    the power walk is great as well. i still maintain that Buckaroo Banzai’s “assembling the team as you’re power walking” end credit scene is one of the best uses of that trope.

    • however, contrary to Matthew’s views, i am a huge Betty Page bangs fan. not exactly a trope, but uhhhh…..i ain’t mad at it if i see it.

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