June 19, 2012

Rural Tropes, Or Don't Go Into the Country

Pin It

Trope: a common or overused theme or device. Merriam-Webster

Tropes, man. They’re everywhere. I pick up a book and think, “They’re doing that thing again.” Tropes aren’t always bad. Sometimes tropes are dope, yo. It depends on how the writer uses it and also what kind of mood I’m in. If, say, I’ve read three books in a row and they all have the same trope, I get stabby. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it except that it came up so often!

Lately, I’ve noticed tropes involving islands or the country. I might be more attuned to these because I live on an island and it’s not New York City around here.
  • Welcome to Crazy Island! People who live on islands are quirky weirdos. Somehow all the weirdos end up on islands, it’s like they have magnets in their butts. Also, the smaller the island, the more there are. So, I live on an island and not everyone is a weirdo. We have them, sure, but probably the ratio of normal to weirdo is about the same as non-islands. Maybe it’s just more noticeable?
  • Rural school children, San Augustine County, Texas (LOC)
    Cute or Sinister? 
  • People in the Country Are Psychopaths. This is a big one in movies too. A city person goes to the country, maybe he buys a house or, maybe he’s just passing through and, unfortunately for him, his car breaks down. He feels the angry glare of a store clerk who is secretly sizing him up for a skin suit. Next thing he knows, he’s being chased around a corn field by a guy with a chainsaw. A city person cannot go to the country without some country person wanting to have his liver with some lima beans and a nice chianti. It’s a known fact.
  • People in the Country Are Magical! A complete 180 from the last one. A woman (almost always a woman) has some tragedy in the city: her husband sleeps with someone else, she loses her job, something like that. She moves to the country to be alone. But she can’t be alone because the quirky neighbours keep showing up with pies and downhome advice. Soon her heart grows two sizes too big and she ends up hosting the annual county BBQ or something. Also, country people are even more magical in the Southern US. funny pictures history - No One Doesn't Like a Poke
  • Nature is Magical! You don’t need people to have some magical life-altering experience. The author has hard times so spends the summer in the woods eating the bark from trees (or buys a run down farm and sells free range eggs to the locals, much safer). These are usually memoirs. People who are eaten by bears don’t write memoirs, so these people don’t have magical experiences that land them on Oprah. I love nature and it’s great to get away and clear your head but don’t just head out into the wilderness in your flip flops. Search and Rescue costs a lot.
That’s all I can think of at the moment. They’ve come up a lot this past year. There have been a lot of “country people want to kill you” movies lately and Chris Bohjalian did it in The Night Strangers. It bothers me more in movies, probably because of the clich├ęs movies use as well. For more fun rural tropes, see the TV Trope Wiki: Close Knit Community.

Can you think of any? I’m sure there are tons about living in the city too. (Small town girl moves to city and becomes famous/finds love, anyone?)


  1. Hahaha, this is so true. The "people in the country are magical!" one is something I've encountered particularly often.

  2. Well, I live in Suburbia and the women who live in my cul-de-sac are often said to be "drinking the water" ala Stepford Wives. I think a lot of books that center on Suburbia make the women out to be a tad too mechanical and perfect.

    1. Oh yes, the suburbs. So many tropes and stereotypes. Desperate Housewives was built on them.

  3. Grandmothers who live in the country always seem to be crusty, opinionated characters with hearts of gold who eventually turn their citified teenage grandchildren's lives around for the better.

    1. Yes, always, and I always imagine them looking like Betty White.

  4. Don't just head out into the wilderness in your flip flops, ARE YOU LISTENING CHRISTOPHER MCCANDLESS? This is why I hated 'Into the Wild.'

    Also, skin suit = loooooool.

    1. I've heard of that one and thought, "no, no, I don't think so." I don't think I could take it.

  5. I've read so much recently about romance tropes so this was a fun post! I have to admit it took reading your list through to realise how true these are, if you'd asked me beforehand I wouldn't have thought of them. Movies do treat the country as weird, I guess as it's the opposite of what we're supposed to aspire to (busy career in the city) it works for them.

  6. I'm waiting to find that Southern magic in real life. Any day now.


Thanks for visiting! Please leave a comment. I've disabled Anonymous comments since I've had a barrage of Anon spam lately. Sorry about that.
Also, if you leave a legit comment but it contains a spammy link, it will not be published.