Seven Cringeworthy Literary Tropes to Leave in 2022

As 2023 approaches, we can only guess what new media we will encounter in the new year. While we wait, here are some tropes that should stay behind in 2022.

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Tropes are popular for a reason. We see them recycled through different pieces of media, especially romantic tropes, whether it’s playful enemies to shy lovers, fake dating, or oh no. . . there’s only one bed? There are hundreds of lighthearted tropes that heighten stories, but as we look back, some tropes are more harmful than necessary. From silly twin tropes to the perpetuating of problematic racist themes, below is a compiled list of tropes we’d love to leave behind in 2022!

1. The Makeover Trope is Often Unnecessary


Transformation scenes can be cute. They have the opportunity to really showcase the bond between friends while they get glammed up for the biggest party of their high school year or right before their big prom night. But when it insinuates a transformation scene is needed because the previous look was ugly or the “popular” boy won’t look your way unless you take those glasses off, the makeover trope is harmful. There are better messages to be spread than ones that equate external presentations and beauty to internal worth.

2. Infidelity Shouldn’t Be Glamorized


There are so many better ways to showcase forbidden romance, so why would you resort to cheating? Affairs show up commonly in several forms of media, but I admit I’d forgotten how normalized it is in literature until I saw this tweet recently. Cheating is bad, point blank! Let’s leave behind the notion that betraying your significant other is alluring.

3. You’re the Chosen One!


I saw the worst of this in Mulan (2020) when Mulan suddenly gained the ability to perform numerous physical feats after suddenly harnessing her magical powers. The “chosen one” trope is good for childhood stories or a decent way to insert an unsuspecting hero into the spotlight, but when it’s used to skip over the trials and tribulations when shaping a protagonist, it’s just lazy writing. It’s not convincing to see the protagonist suddenly fight dragons without breaking a sweat after they’re just told they’re the chosen one. Let us see the struggle!

4. Evil Races Don’t Exist, So Stop Suggesting Otherwise


As seen in the fantasy genre, sometimes the antagonist consists of . . . an entire “evil” race. Not only is this simply lazy and unconvincing writing, but it’s also harmful because it insinuates the idea that “evil races” can exist. You’re telling me that not one single orc from The Lord of the Rings thought differently from their brethren? Simplifying the antagonist in literature to being evil by nature kills any opportunity to create a convincing and compelling villain. Some of the best stories are those in which you can understand both sides. In 2023, let’s leave behind this harmful trope and continue fleshing out complicated antagonists!

5. It Was the Evil Twin All Along?


This is just a silly trope to me. When I was younger, I remember being invested in the popular series Pretty Little Liars only for the mastermind behind the entire seven seasons to be (spoiler alert!) an evil twin that was only suddenly introduced in that final season. While this trope isn’t necessarily extremely problematic, it’s just rash, and I’m hoping to avoid further evil twin tropes in the future.

6. Magic Can Exist Beyond Medieval European Settings


The biggest fantasy franchises that evolved from literature created an association between magical fantasy with medieval Europe. Luckily, literature is straying away from the idea that fantasy should only take place in medieval, Eurocentric environments with examples like Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, but adaptations have not kept up. Next year, let’s welcome more diverse interpretations of magic and not box a universal idea to just one continent.

7. She Doesn’t Need to Fix Him! That’s Not Her Job!


There are a lot of harmful tropes within mystery and thriller, but one of the worst tropes is the idea that the shy girl can “fix” the damaged, broody boy. Everyone loves a bad boy, but when that bad boy is a serial killer or simply just needs psychiatric help, this trope can be harmful and encourage withstanding abuse in the name of love. Especially with the resurgence of romanticizing real murderers, I am praying we leave this metaphor behind. This trope also encourages the antiquated idea that girls need to be nurturing and “boys will be boys”. There are more heartwrenching ways to show “unhealthy” relationships through petty jealousy or miscommunication, but making your protagonist fall for an abuser isn’t the right approach.

There are so many other tropes that are fun and fine to use, but as a writer, make sure they’re appropriate to your genre and genuinely enhance your story. Write them in well, and avoid using them in place of character development or worldbuilding. Good luck, and have fun!

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