11 Things Pop Culture Must Stop Doing

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I mean, if you’re not even going to try, why should we keep watching?

Look. You can change, content makers. It’s possible. Nobody does the “slow clap” in movies any more. Cars that topple over cliffs no longer burst into mega explosions upon impact. We can abandon the cliches. Let’s start with these:

1. “I need you to solve a murder.”
“Who’s murder?”
“Mine.”

2. Person gets sucked out into space.
Unless you’re not doing a Sci-Fi movie. In that case, go for it. Sucking someone out into space in the middle of a Rom-Com would be awesome.

3. “You are our only hope / the only one that can save us.”
Really? Only one person can do this? Dude pulled a sword out of the stone and now saving us all can happen? Nobody else is capable? Not one. Not gonna test or interview any other candidates? And you KNOW this? The rest of humanity (or whatever species exists in this world) are just waiting around to be saved? And this one dude is the only one. Right.

4. Bad guys die quickly and quietly when shot by a bullet or sliced with an arrow.
No. That’s now how people die when mortally wounded. Stop sanitizing deadly violence. See also: Conking someone on the head with a rock, fist or gun butt to temporarily put someone on ice — with no lasting effects or resulting brain damage.

5. The bad guys can’t hit anything.
The trained assassins — who have no other role in your vehicle but to be heavy muscle — can’t hit the broad side of a barn? C’mon. What are they for if they can’t shoot people? Meanwhile, the hero blindly aims in the general vicinity of said bad guys and takes ’em out? No. You can’t do that anymore.

6. Show yourself!”
Has anyone ever said this in real life? This is not the way people avoiding each other until the right moment for surprise/conquest/attack actually get things done. Person A hiding from person B is damn well not going to emerge from the shadows just because person B got tired of waiting and commanded an appearance. And person B knows this about person A, so person B is not going to demand, “Show yourself!” at any point — either to hasten one’s own demise or to get to kickin’ ass. Not. Gonna. Happen.

7. This is a homicide investigation!”
Dadgummit, my case is important! I get everything I want and you will cave under the pressure of knowing this is a HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION! Forget your rules and the need to preserve your job, or your pesky ethics that prevent you from doing my immediate bidding. Sure, the guy will still be dead. But I just figured something out and this needs to happen now!

8. He will come for me/us.” 
“I am counting on it.” The bad guy is always setting a trap. The good guy always falls for it in Act I. We get it.

9. “At the end of the day …”
This one isn’t from fiction. It’s all too real. The worst part about this unmeaning utterance is that it’s a virus. If you hear some televised talking head proclaim “… at the end of the day …” you know you haven’t heard it for the last time. He/she won’t be able to stop if allowed to keep talking. It’s coming again — and the person(s) they’re talking at will say it too.

10. The raging, hard-ass boss vs. the damn-good-rogue underling-that-gets-it-done-his-way-dammit.
This is almost always a cop scenario — where else would this work? In the military? Nope. Dude would be court-martialed. In a spy thriller? They’re all hiding something so there would be no confrontation. In the business world? Nope. That’s just a device before we cut to someone being walked out of a building holding a cardboard box with a plant and a desk lamp sticking out. Let’s just skip this overtired dynamic we’ve seen hundreds of times.

11. The wise fool / successful idiot.
I don’t know about this one. It’s been done enough times that you’d think we would tire of it: Forrest GumpBeing TherePatchface or other court jesters. But if it still works … I guess if you hold an election, someone’s gotta win. This guy did. And people still listen to him.

Anti-intellectualism: When pop culture cliches go wrong. Really wrong.

Honorable mentions

  • The training montage — overdone, but there is no way we’re losing this one. Movie-makers get tired of their own shit and just need to move things along sometimes.
  • Corporation = evil — lazy, easy, too believable to ever go away.
  • Just one last job — we cringe a little at this plot device, but it makes for some legit narrative tension. Carry on.
  • Bizarro fashions of the future — they dress weird and uniformly in the future? I guess. We don’t know, of course (it’s the future, after all), so you get a pass and you need some kind of visual to indicate to us that this is a different time. But still, everything gets recycled. Why not just put them all in some derivative retro look, like high-waisted mom jeans to indicate “the future”? Too hard to believe?
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Julian Rogers is a freelance writer, communications consultant and owner of Juju Eye Communications. He is a graduate of the University of Portland.

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