Dead Horse Trope
A Trope which has gone way beyond being a Discredited Trope to where the very act of parodying and/or subverting that trope has itself become a trope.
As noted on the Trope Life Cycle page, the progression is generally:
Clever idea → Trope → Discredited Trope → Dead Horse Trope. → Then, if the downward slide continues, it may end up as a Forgotten Trope.
Named for "Beating a Dead Horse" - an old idiom that describes continuing to do something pointless long after it would be obvious to anybody not mentally handicapped/under the influence of the Sunk Cost Fallacy that said course of action will yield no results and is simply a waste of time. For instance, continuing to whip a dead horse in an attempt to get it to wake up and start running - the horse is dead; it's not going to move anymore.
Naturally, Dead Horse Tropes tend to be The Oldest Ones in the Book, too.
If a Dead Horse Trope is still used straight in recent works despite seemingly being subverted or parodied to death, it's an Undead Horse Trope. If it was never really played straight enough to be a trope in the first place, it's a Dead Unicorn Trope. If it's so natural to the medium of storytelling that it can still be played straight no matter how often it's used and abused, it's an Omnipresent Trope. If the trope not only makes viewers/readers groan but also makes them angry, you've probably got a Pet Peeve Trope.
A common cause of Seinfeld Is Unfunny, because it's hard to imagine yourself back into the innocent frame of mind when this was new. A similar trope is Deader Than Disco, where something once extremely popular falls out of popularity and becomes better known for being mocked as a past fad than for its own merits.
- All That Glitters (don't expect anyone to take this Aesop seriously, though the revelation the treasure is worthless can still be part of a Pound of Flesh Twist or Shaggy Dog Story for one in Perpetual Poverty instead of a genuine lesson)
- America Saves the Day has been one since the seventies at the latest; the Vietnam War and an overdose of this trope in the Hollywood of the forties, fifties, and sixties conspired to kill it. This trope is at the point now that when it's not subverted it feels like a subversion.
- Asian Speekee Engrish has been one for decades due to Values Dissonance over racism.
- Black Dude Dies First: After comedians started mocking its use, and general racism decreased. It still occasionally happens but it's not expected to anymore, to the point that most examples are coincidences in modern works (or intentional parodies)...most.
- Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word: "But in this case, it's appropriate."
- Anything with British Royal Guards in London.
- Due to their usage as far back as silent movies and early theatrical cartoons, some of the more common Death Trap conventions are dead horse tropes. Chained to a Railway and the Conveyor Belt O' Doom are prime examples.
- The Dastardly Whiplash mustache-twirling villain also present in such things is almost never used seriously these days.
- The Dark Age of Comic Books; while many series have continued to get Darker and Edgier, the specific stylings of 90's comics, such as pouches, random metal ornamentation, and bizarre headpieces have all been parodied well after they went out of style.
- Characters exploding in a shower of blood and Ludicrous Gibs is still quite popular, however.
- Similar styling still heavily appears in video games though.
- The excuse "A dog ate my homework!" is so prevalent in media that even students know better than to pull this when they don't finish their homework. Nowadays, this is replaced by the more plausible "My printer stopped working!" The logical extension of this trope, "The dog ate my printer!", has yet to catch on.
- Dunce Cap
- Pretty much everyone has done an Exploding Calendar or Spinning Paper gag at some point or other, making the "Exploding Calendar joke" and the "Spinning Paper joke" tropes of their own.
- The "Extra Extra" Paper boy.
- Face on a Milk Carton
- Floating Advice Reminder
- Glove Slap
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: Straight examples are rare in these days. Parodies and subversions are more common (for an example, having 2 devils appear).
- Great White Hunter - this trope has become associated by some with racism and hunters are evil nowadays.
- The Greedy Jew stereotype in the western world, after it was used as a justification for the Holocaust.
- G-Rated Sex in Japanese Anime and Manga (Which was already not popular for some reason), ended completely thanks to Ishihara's laws making sex in manga/anime/games a taboo topic.
- Hippies are seldom played straight outside of sixties period pieces, having been mostly replaced by New Age Retro Hippies and Granola Girls.
- Hypno Ray (As well as non-magical, non-super science hypnotizing as a plot device altogether, save for loads of justifications or Excuse Plot for porn.)
- Instant Cultured
- I Remember It Like It Was Yesterday as a segue into a Flash Back. Or, for that matter, I Remember It Like It Was Yesterday being followed by "It was yesterday" or even "It happened today!".
- It's a Wonderful Plot: Even the specific variation that everyone's life is better without them is cliche at this point.
- It's Quiet... Too Quiet
- Lie Back and Think of England
- Lights Off, Somebody Dies
- Look Behind You!: including the subversion of the villain refusing to look behind, lest The Hero gets away, only to find that The Hero was actually right. This is mainly for the fact that a lot of problems could be avoided by simply stepping aside, so that the villain could eye both The Hero and whatever was behind him simultaneously.
- Mattress Tag Gag: For nearly three decades as of this edit, the phrase 'except by the consumer' has been added to mattress tags, meaning that it's not illegal to remove the tags after you've bought and paid for the mattress and taken it home.
- Non-Ironic Clown - For some reason, every clown in these days tends to be scary or sad. Portraying a clown as a genuinely friendly cheerful jester seems to be the subversion these days.
- Likewise, most fictional priests nowdays tend to be either evil or a child molester, to the point where seeing a genuine Good Shepherd is seen as a subversion. Frontline Deconstructed the Unfortunate Implications of this HARD.
- Nuns beating students at Catholic school. At least in the United States, nuns stopped doing this a long time ago (and also a good many Catholic schoolteachers are lay people), and yet Hollywood and TV shows constantly act like it's still standard procedure, as sitcom parents often threaten their rebellious teen with a transfer to a school run by nuns, implying that they will be beaten.
- The hillbilly Party Line Telephone with every country farmhouse physically wired to the same line used to be a comedy staple, with widespread gossip and eavesdropping on calls running rampant. Eventually, Technology Marches On.
- Prince Charming. Time was, every fairytale had a character whose main function was to be a) physically attractive and b) a socially advantageous marriage prospect for The Hero/heroine, by virtue of being wealthy and/or a member of the aristocracy. Information about this character's actual personality tended to be sketchy at best. Remained popular through the early Disney Animated Canon. Nowadays often subverted as being clueless and vain, if not downright evil. See...
- Prince Charmless, which is the current form nowadays. See what we meant by the spoof becoming a trope?
- Red Wire Blue Wire - 9/11 and 30 years of terrorists hiding grenades inside dead cows and cars instead of metal boxes marked "BOMB" have stomped this one flat.
- Retirony: It's far more common to see this outright discussed, subverted or averted than played straight anymore.
- Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue: Parodied more often than played straight.
- Save the Princess—had its days as an acceptable Excuse Plot in Video Games, but those days are pretty much over. Unless you're Mario, and even he needs something beyond this.
- Scoring Points—No one cares anymore. Even in competition speed of completion matters more than points.
- Slow No—This trope is mocked now.
- Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace—not commonly used in Real Life, either.
- Standard Fifties Father: The Bumbling Dad has become so prevalent in modern media that showing a sensible, competent father is
almosta subversion in itself.
- Subverted Suspicion Aesop - This type of Suspicion Aesop is NEVER played straight- there's a reason that Subverted is in the page title. Sometimes a Double Subversion is put on it, but it's never played straight.
- Super Sentai Stance: Almost universally made fun of in these days. Except of course within such series, and even then it'll be Lampshaded.
Power Rangers SPD Monster of the Week: "Enough posing! Let's FIGHT!"
- Tall, Dark and Handsome
- More like an Undead, Cyclic Trope that alternates with Knight in Shining Armor. Because of both of these tropes in combination with The Hero and Anti-Hero, a story can keep the audience in suspense about where exactly it will land on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.
- On the most literal level, however, this trope is still alive and well. After all, Americans and northern Europeans are on the average taller than other peoples; black and brown are still the most common hair colors; and Hollywood Homely has yet to become a widespread, non-ironic look for protagonists.
- Take Me to Your Leader: Despite the fact that there is some Truth in Television in the sense that an explorer in a distant land, upon meeting some of the locals, might wish to speak with whoever's in charge around here, the form of this where visiting extraterrestrials request this is almost never played straight these days.
- Torches and Pitchforks is now more used as a Stock Parody than used seriously.
- Trope 2000: In part due to the fact that we are already in the 21st century. This got replaced with IProduct.
- Utopia is mostly deconstructed in these days.
- Because many drama series deal with touchy real life subjects these days as a matter of course, the Very Special Episode is more often parodied than played straight these days.
- Vampire Vords
- Working on the Chain Gang: The punishment was once very commonplace in Southern US states up until the mid-1950s. Today only a single county in Arizona remains as the one place that still makes use of chain gangs, although inmates serving on these ones aren't shackled together anymore. Nowadays, chain gangs mostly just exist in period pieces in media that involve prisoners in the early half of the 20th Century. Replaced with "community service" nowadays; usually a crew of guys filling potholes on the highway or picking up litter in the park, but these activities aren't gritty or sexy enough for Hollywood so they rarely show up in media.
- Early settings for Dungeons & Dragons and derivatives used to feature gods of death as undead loving always evil assholes. Newer settings and updates to older settings went to subvert it by making gods of death neutral agents of a natural part of the cycle of life that hate undead. Now the second is far more common and undead making gods are more minor gods of undeath specifically rather than having a portfolio over death in general.
- Which is Greyhawk. Because Mystara aside of Hel has Nyx (who is more philosophical about it all, can be nice when got no good reason to be ruthless, and has worshipper alignment All/All, despite being in the Sphere of Entropy and among many other things patron of the undead) and Terra (who has worshipper alignment Lawful Good or Neutral, is in the Sphere of Matter and as such more about the whole death-and-rebirth cycle), even if they don't get along. And Forgotten Realms (aside of not being originally a D&D setting) has Jergal before Myrkul and Cyric, and Kelemvor after.
- Doctors who make house calls. Even in the 60s, it seemed this was only mentioned as a joke about how doctors no longer do this, and eventually, even that started to go stale In more modern works, the joke has become one where only very rich people have doctors who do this. In reality, this practice started to decline in the 1930s for a variety of reasons; concerns about providing low-overhead care in the home, time inefficiency, and inconvenience made it impractical.
- Video Game Lives. This was the go-to mechanic back when coin-ops were popular, but is almost never used in modern home consoles. Most now have a one-and-done lifebar with infinite continues, plus Save Points, and/or spawning points, depending on the genre. Many games even have auto-save mechanics that do it for you. This of course means that Tropes associated with it like 1-Up are not used either.
- ↑ Or 'Flogging'