Within the world of cinema comes a wide variety of movies and television shows with a huge array of characters. Some of these characters, however, fall into character tropes. Character tropes are often defined as fictional characters who have common traits and behaviors that are used throughout different pieces of film by hundreds of directors. Character tropes are often used for comedic effect, and at times can bring laughter or even tears to an audience. If someone is watching a sitcom, a soap opera or an action film, there are most likely character tropes scattered throughout the film or series. The main negative thing about character tropes is that they often are offensive despite their intention for comedic relief. Whether a character is classified as the antihero, the sidekick or the damsel in distress, character tropes perpetuate unnecessary and offensive stereotypes. 

Millions of people have come to know and love the show “Friends,” which showcases the lives of six characters and friends that spend their days focusing on romantic relationships, work and indulging in coffee. One of the main characters, Monica Geller, was overweight during her childhood and throughout high school. After high school, however, she magically became thin and “healthy.” Although characters such as Geller are loved and cherished by audiences, throughout several episodes Geller feels bad about her body due to other people’s visions of the “perfect body.” One episode includes her future husband, Chandler Bing, calling her fat to her brother Ross, and after hearing that remark, she began to lose weight. 

The demonstration of an overweight character snapping their fingers and rapidly becoming thin is not only unrealistic, but also creates the idea that people have to be thin in order to be accepted within society. By having these characters and themes shown to young audiences, it perpetuates the idea that you shouldn’t be yourself because of what society has to say. Not only through society but even through the world of cinema, there are characters that make “regular” people feel bad about themselves and feel like they have to fall under the scheme of having to be thin. Television has a huge influence on adults and young children, and by poorly showcasing overweight characters, it may allow someone to feel the need to be thin. This in turn may start unhealthy habits of exercising, dieting or having low self-esteem. These character tropes allow people to be judged based solely on their physical appearances. If a television series or film is going to include an actor who may happen to be overweight, they need to showcase the actor or actress in a manner that does not make it seem as though being overweight brings shame. 

Another common stereotype spread throughout the world of film is the classic and effortless damsel in distress. The common theme of the damsel in distress began with the French phrase “demoiselle en détresse,” which meant that women needed protection. Within today’s society, damsels in distress are most commonly found within Disney princess movies. Whether it be Sleeping Beauty or Snow White, Disney features many damsels in distress that need the assistance of men. Disney used to thrive on the notion that princesses need a prince to save them or be by their side. Luckily, within more recent Disney princess films, there have been changes that have allowed princesses such as Merida (“Brave”) to not even have a romantic partner throughout the movie. Nevertheless, damsels in distress are shown throughout any genre or film. Other damsels in distress include Mary Jane (“Spiderman”), Penny (“Bolt”), Lucy Wilde (“Despicable Me 2) and more.

The main problem with damsels in distress is that they create fictional female characters to look as though they are passive and have no ability to take care of themselves. Damsels in distress allow young girls to idolize characters whose survival is based solely on their romantic partners who protect them and save them during times of crisis. Although many young girls want to live in a castle and find their prince one day, it does not seem fair to assume that women need a man by their side for either protection or in general. Some girls may want their knight in shining armor but others may not; it is all based on personal choice. Even so, these directors should not be enabling the idea that women need men to rescue them. It’s characters such as Wonder Woman and Black Widow that need to be celebrated because they empower women to not only protect themselves but also help others, and it’s this feminine empowerment that damsels in distress simply lack. 

An additional character trope is the young, agile and dumb jock. Whether the athlete is unable to spell his own name, is throwing a kid into a locker or is asking a fellow classmate to do his or her homework, the dumb jock is a common stereotype throughout high school movies. It appears as though these athletes solely focus on their sports rather than their studies. Many young teenagers, however, not only study and do their homework, but also manage to include adrenaline-pumping sports into the mix. The dumb jock’s attitude mainly focuses on aggression, strength and intensity, making him or her seem like a bully. Just because someone has muscles and seems threatening does not make them a bully or dumb. In high school movies or TV shows, jocks are most commonly known as the popular kids within a school, but with popularity comes many different stereotypes. These stereotypes can include being disrespectful, brainless and audacious. Similar to the two previous examples of character tropes, characterizing someone as moronic simply because of their extracurricular activities is upsetting and utterly disheartening. It’s stereotypes such as these that destroy someone’s self-esteem and make someone change themselves either through their behavior, personality or looks. 

At times, character tropes can be played or executed well for certain audiences. Many character tropes, if done well, can provide comedic relief after a stressful day of either school or work. These kinds of characters are also incredibly common, so they can provide a level of comfort for audiences to see a character that is of the norm. In many cases, these character tropes are designed to be humorous and grab the audience’s attention, but many times, the depiction of these characters are not done successfully. 

Overall, character tropes need to be stopped for any kind of TV show or film. These characters only bring trouble to not only the directors, but also to the rest of the cast and crew. Character tropes do not allow for evolution in media nor developments of imaginative thinking. These exaggerated illustrations of characters provide audiences with feelings of inferiority and exclusivity. In order to establish inclusivity of people within society, these common and overused character tropes must be destroyed.