Indecisive Deconstruction

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A deconstruction that can't make up its mind if it is examining a genre, or if it is just in that genre.

A Deconstruction has to have at least some elements of the genre it is deconstructing, but there is a fine line. It has to fundamentally criticize the tropes of the genre, playing them straight and demonstrating the actual consequences of the genre's tropes (good or bad). However, even standard genre pieces often do that to at least some of their genre conventions. What about works that were meant to be deconstructions, but didn't go far enough? Or works that were never meant to be deconstructions, but ended up as being viewed as such? What about works that crank up the tropes to the point of parody yet are ambiguous on whether or not they are criticizing the tropes? What about works that merely play the conventions for realism, with no critical intent on the part of the creator, yet can still clearly be read as criticisms?

Basically, there are many questions that can be raised about what counts as a deconstruction.

There are at least three potential subtypes of Indecisive Deconstruction;

  • Unintentional Deconstruction, where the work can be read as a criticism of the tropes it plays straight, even if there is no critical intent on the part of the author (or the author has not expressed any critical intent whatsoever). Half-Life, as stated below, can be read as a deconstruction of the Trope Codifier Doom, but the authors have never implied any critical intent. Twilight can also be read as a deconstruction of traditional romances, because Edward is sometimes seen as an abusive, manipulative control freak, yet Stephenie Meyer has stated she believes Edward is the perfect boyfriend (thus, no critical intent exists).
  • Partial Deconstruction, where the work deconstructs several tropes, but whether or not it actually criticizes the tropes essential to the genre (or enough of the tropes essential to the genre) is debatable. This category exists for Genre Films that throw in some deconstructed tropes but may not be deconstructions of their genre.
  • Attempted Deconstruction, where the work postures as a Genre Deconstruction but isn't. This is the reverse of Unintentional Deconstruction; deconstructive intent is present, but the deconstruction is hampered by too many tropes being played straight. Scream fits here. Arguably, some of the Darker and Edgier Dark Age Comic Books (which [mostly unsuccessfully] attempted to emulate Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns) also fit under this category.

See also Indecisive Parody and Unbuilt Trope.

Compare Rule-Abiding Rebel, when a story appears to challenge metaconcepts, but doesn't. Compare and contrast Decon Recon Switch, where a work begins as a deconstruction but intentionally switches to a Reconstruction by the end.

Examples of Indecisive Deconstruction include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The Chuunin Exam Story Arc from Naruto deconstructs several tropes of the Shonen action genre: The hidden motives and behind-the-scenes scheming during the Tournament Arc force the tournament to be canceled part way through. The "winner(s)", although there is only one in this arc, are picked by a panel of judges, and they reward the secondary character who forfeited; they found his decision to make a tactical retreat admirable, while Naruto's "never give up no matter what" attitude struck them as likely to get himself or his teammates killed some day. And, when Naruto finally proves himself better than his Rival, Sasuke, instead of Defeat Means Friendship, just the opposite occurs; Sasuke is so disgusted at his weakness compared to Naruto that he joins the Big Bad in exchange for power. However, so many other tropes are played straight during the arc that it's unclear if a deconstruction was intended.
  • Seasons 3 and 4 of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX attempts to deconstruct its Ace invincible idiot protagonist Judai by actually having him break under the insane pressure he gets put under by virtue of being the only duelist who can ever do anything on the show. This does not work due to the fact that Judai had previously dueled with his life, the lives of his friends, and even the fate of the entire world on his shoulders multiple times before without any sort of psychological strain or difficulty, making it disingenuous that he should be unable to handle the pressure this time.


Fan Fiction[edit | hide]


Film[edit | hide]

  • Happily N'Ever After: comes close to deconstructing the typical Disney fairytale storyline, but since it's a kids' movie couldn't go all the way.
  • More famously, Shrek does something similiar.
  • The movie Adaptation is this on purpose. First, it explicitly states all the tropes it's not going to use, and in the second half it gleefully goes all out in using them. Not for the art, but as a commentary about Executive Meddling.
  • Scream was marketed as a Deconstructive Parody of the Slasher genre, but for all it did to point out as many traits as it could, it just ended up being a straight entry of the genre with genre savvy characters that still fall into all the same traps.
  • Hancock can't decide whenever it wants be a Deconstruction or a tragedy.
    • The first half is basically a straight Deconstructive Parody. The second half is a different kind of deconstruction, examining the fact that superpowers don't exist in a vacuum. (You can't have Superman without Krypton, or Wonder Woman without Paradise Island.) Whether it's any good depends on the viewer.
  • Wanted plays its tropes so straight that it's hard to decide what it's doing.
  • Kick-Ass sets itself up to examine the reality of normal people of superheroes like the comic book it adapts, and shows rather jarringly what would realistically happen to anyone who believes they got the skills, assets and resourcefulness satisfactory to be a costumed vigilante. However, unlike that comic book, it then becomes a Reconstruction - effectively subverting the source material's entire plot and having the lead character eventually gain many, many levels in Kick-Ass to demonstrate that either anything's possible with enough determination... or that grim realism is detrimental for a compelling plot.
  • Hamlet 2 is a both a deconstruction of, and a wonderful example of, the Save Our Students trope.
  • Enchanted is either this or a Decon Recon Switch, depending on a): how self-aware you think it is of its tendency to reuse tropes it previously smashed into little pieces, and b): how convincing you think its reuse of those tropes really is.
  • The 2007 film Beowulf plays the myth fairly straight for most regards, but adds elements suggesting Unreliable Narrator, all sorts of raunchiness and deviations from the myth that suggest that it is a "true" version that ended up being portrayed more heroically in the myths. However it still has a naked Beowulf backflipping when fighting Grendel and being all beardy and manly and fighting monsters. A lot of arguments come up about whether or not a particular element was meant to be taken seriously.
  • Last Action Hero.
  • Sucker Punch: Action-movie Fan Service, or a deconstruction of Action-movie Fan Service? Who knows?


Literature[edit | hide]


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Fringe would be this for the Paranormal Investigation Genre.
  • Power Rangers RPM is somewhat in that it essentially Deconstructs, or at least lampshades, many of the series' tropes ("sometimes when I morph, there's a giant fireball behind me," not to mention Venjix's real reason for sending in Monsters of the Week), but also takes itself very seriously, to the point of being a Reconstruction following a Dork Age.
    • Power Rangers Ninja Storm likewise tries after the low-point that was Wild-Force, by having lots of Lampshading and also trying to explain the 1 monster at a time deal (though they did it in a comedic way) and didn't seem to know if they were going to be serious or not, so it ended up failing more than RPM did.
  • Glee contains elements that parody high school underdog story shows riddled with Glurgey Very Special Episodes, such as the Deadpan Snarker dialogue and the cast's Dysfunction Junction, while at the same time the lessons are supposed to be taken seriously and the show is intended to be heartfelt.


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • Title of Show starts out as a postmodern look at how musicals are made, pointing out and critiquing many of the common plot points. By the second act, however, it's more or less a melodrama about a theatre troupe who are totally falling apart, guys.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Most BioWare games do this with their various settings. Knights of the Old Republic for the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Dragon Age for Tolkienesque fantasy, etc. If a Trope isn't deconstructed, it's reconstructed, or parodied, or played straight with a Lampshade Hanging hung on it.
    • Case in point, Mass Effect: The series has plenty of deconstructed tropes (for instance, the Krogan are deconstructions of Proud Warrior Race Guys and Garrus Vakarian is a deconstruction of Cowboy Cops), however it plays plenty of its tropes straight, and the series is an affectionate homage towards the Space Opera genre rather than a criticism of its conventions. Additionally, there isn't an evident, specific deconstruction of Space Opera that Mass Effect is responding to. Arguably, Mass Effect is a partial and unintentional deconstruction. If there is one trope it IS a deconstruction of, it's the Planet of Hats trope: every race is presented with a hat, and then that hat is ground up, eaten, shit out, and then set on fire.
    • In a lot of ways, it's a Reconstruction, kicking decades of darker and deconstructed sci-fi to the cub and going "hey! look! blue space babes and you save the galaxy! And look at the cool spaceship and your alien buddies! That's AWESOME, right?" The whiplash comes in when it turns out that all of the reveled-in tropes are real people after all.
      • Even the Planet of Hats trope is inconsistent. In the first game, it's emphasized that you can't expect a species to act a certain way, and that the other species aren't better or worse than humans, they're "jerks and saints" like everyone. But in the second game, it turns out that humans really ARE special. They're more diverse than the other species both in genetic makeup and in their outlooks. While this is very relevant to the plot, it feels like it borders on Broken Aesop.
  • The plot of Haze attempts to deconstruct the more arcade-style FPS' with military settings like Halo by trying to show what it would be like if war were like a video game. Specifically, all the "players" (soldiers) would be apparently be Psychopathic Manchild Jerk Jock types deluding themselves into believing their side is morally perfect when in reality the moral conflicts of war aren't easily reducible to Black and White Morality. However, only one side of the conflict is actually subjected to severe critical analysis; the initially-villains are shown to be borderline saints. Given the whole theme of the game is meant to be about the moral complexities of armed conflict, this contradicts the point.
  • Half-Life (the first game) can be read as a deconstruction of the Trope Codifier Doom. The basic premise (an experiment into teleportation technology goes horribly wrong) is basically the same as Doom. Like Doom, there is very little plot exposition. But unlike Doom, Half Life showed you exactly how terrifying this kind of scenario would be if it happened in the Real World; you must think and not act like a stereotypical Space Marine in order to remain alive. And of course, this kind of experiment would require immense levels of government funding. Necessitating a large covert laboratory. And thus, when everything goes wrong the military have to be called in to keep things covert. However, the developers have at no point implied any critical intent. Thus, Half-Life is arguably an unintentional deconstruction.
  • The Modern Warfare games try their hardest to show that war is hell. Bleak storylines involving meaningless death, interactive cutscenes that show the collateral damage of war, etc. But the thing is, it's still an FPS. You're still killing as many people as possible, without caring why, and getting rewarded for it.