TV Tropes Monday: Death is Cheap



Tweet of the Day: Understanding Character Wounds: A List of Common Themes


A beloved character dies.

There is much angst, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

Then the character comes back from the dead.

Just like, new as as rain, smelling the roses, and back into the action.

Welcome to a world where Death is Cheap. A clear sign of bad, lazy, cowardly writing. The realm of bad movies, soap operas and forgettable comic book series. Nothing makes me throw a book across the room or switch the channel like this trope. A popular character is killed off for the, “drama,” only to be brought back later, often without any explanation what so ever. It means that in the story’s universe death has no weight or meaning. Often it is used as a cheap ploy to get ratings or promote sales. It breaks suspension of disbelief by bringing attention to the meta reasons why characters exist. You believe that character live and die due to the nature of the narrative, but they exist at the whim of the author. And once it is used, it tends to be abused. Death becomes a meaningless revolving door. It also signifies a blatant manipulation of the audience emotions without any narrative payoff.

This is one of those tropes that is bad because of poor execution. Some stories, like the movie Edge of Tomorrow, use it well, but is the exception to the rule. It is not the fact that the character came back to life, but the manner, no residual shock, horror, or even a sense of betrayal. Nope, the character simply waltzes back into story with nary a word. Ultimately it cheapens life itself. The reason why we fear death is because it is the permanent end of life. Remove it from the equation and life loses its meaning. Remove it from the narrative and you lose the drama.



2 comments on “TV Tropes Monday: Death is Cheap

  1. This is actually something that’s started to bother me about “A Song of Ice and Fire”, which I loved for the first three books simply because once a major character died, they were gone. And they could die so easily!

    Now it seems like characters can be brought back from the dead fairly easily. Which not only swells out the cast even further, but means the mutilation/gore factor needs to be upped to compensate for the lack of grittiness caused by characters coming back through the “revolving door” (nice turn of phrase). It’s made me less invested in the series, that’s for sure. A stab-in-the-back cliffhanger isn’t really a cliffhanger if I’m confident the character survives.


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