Since I mentioned the As You Know trope before (the one where characters tell each other things they both know (usually beginning with the words “as you know…”), just for the benefit of the reader), I couldn’t resist sharing an even more exaggerated variation of it: Expospeak, where characters unrealistically explain things and do “exposition” for the setting they’re in, even in what should supposedly be normal dialogue.

The TV Tropes page linked above has what I believe to be a perfect example, though it’s an intentional one, written for a bad short stories competition:

“Send a message back to Command Central on Earth and ask for their advice, which we will be able to receive immediately even at this great distance, thanks to the ingenious manipulation of coherent radiation through a Bose-Einstein condensate and the bizarre influence of the Aspect effect, which enables us to impart identical properties to remotely separated photons,” Captain Buzz told the feathered Vjorkog at the comms desk, “and tell them our life-pod is going to explode in eight seconds.”

It’s exaggerated, of course… but a lot of science fiction (and, to a lesser extent, fantasy) is guilty of this trope. Writers, if you really need to explain how something works, do it in the narration. People don’t talk about how cars work every time they drive one, you know. 🙂

Comics: recap captions and lampshade hangings

If you’re a TV Tropes regular, you’ve probably seen this panel before:

Uncle Scrooge - recap caption lampshade hangingYou can find if, of course, in the page for the As You Know trope: the one where character A explains to character B, in detail, something that character B already knows — sometimes even beginning with the words “as you know” — as exposition for the reader / viewer. The above panel, however, is also a perfect example of another trope: Lampshade Hanging, where the characters acknowledge the presence of a trope; by doing so (“this is like a bad horror movie!”, the character says…), the reader / viewer usually tends to “forgive” the author for the use of an unrealistic trope, even if just unconsciously.

Anyway, while reading Steve Englehart’s run on West Coast Avengers, yesterday I found another perfect (and humorous) example of both “As You Know” and “Lampshade Hanging”, and I can’t resist sharing it here:

West Coast Avengers - 'as you know'

Get it? The “joke” here is that their conversation is totally unrealistic; people don’t talk about things they both know perfectly well with all those expository details, almost as if expecting the other not to know what they’re talking about. Instead, the conversation is solely for the benefit of the reader… and the author even acknowledges (or “lampshades”) that in the caption box!

Of course, any real Marvel fan would need no introduction to those two: he or she’d instantly recognize Daimon Hellstrom, the son of Satan a-demon-who-used-to-be-Satan-but-was-changed-to-a-pretender-so-as-not-to-offend-the-religious-crazies, and Patsy Walker, formerly from Marvel’s 1940s romance comics, and later a superheroine in her own right. But I digress…

LotR, Sauron, and “evil cannot comprehend good”

So, yesterday I was reading through TV Tropes (probably the biggest time sink on the Internet — I love it. 🙂 ), when, in the Lord of the Rings (hmm, haven’t read that in a while… note to self…) entry, there was this:

Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The whole plan hinges on the fact that Sauron can’t even conceive of someone trying to destroy the Ring and get rid of that kind of power.

  • In all fairness, he was right. At the moment of truth, instead of throwing the One Ring into Mount Doom, Frodo claimed it for his own. The Ring was only destroyed when Gollum tried to steal it back, succeeded, and fell into the lava still clutching his “preciousssss”.

Mount DoomI may edit the page on TV Tropes later, but as that’s not the place for a discussion (you’re supposed to edit mistakes out, not reply to them, unless both points deserve being made), I wanted to comment on that here. What do you (right, as if I have readers a couple of hours after creating the blog…) think about the reply (the part that begins with “In all fairness”)?

Me, I disagree. I think that Sauron was “wrong” about the question referred to by the trope; the trick here is to understand what the actual question really is. Think about it. Sauron’s belief wasn’t that nobody could, at the end, do the final step to destroy the Ring. Nope. Instead, Sauron couldn’t even imagine that someone could even want to destroy the Ring. That someone would ever try — renouncing, thus, the greatest source of power in the world.

That’s why Sauron didn’t assign a single orc to guard Mount Doom — the thought that someone would even try to destroy the Ring instead of using it never even entered his mind until Frodo succumbed to the Ring and wore it inside Mount Doom. Sauron’s thought then wasn’t “they got that far?”, but instead “they’re trying to do what?”.

Sauron wasn’t afraid that they’d destroy the Ring, since that possibility never even entered his mind. His fear — and that’s why he rushed the entire War of the Ring — was that, at any time, a Galadriel, or an Elrond, or a Gandalf or a Saruman would show up at his doorstep, wearing the Ring, and with an army behind them. Yes, it would still suck for the entire world (there would simply be a new Dark Lord, as bad as Sauron), but do you think Sauron cared about that?

So, the trope is correctly applied; it’s the reply that misses its point. Something to edit later…