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Thread: Chinese TV Serials (TVB, ATV, Taiwanese, Mainland) Tropes and Cliches

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    Moderator Suet Seung's Avatar
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    Default Chinese TV Serials (TVB, ATV, Taiwanese, Mainland) Tropes and Cliches

    Does Chinese TV serials have tropes and cliches? I know I was practically raised on TVB and Taiwanese series and some Mainland series, but I've spent some time away, so I might not recognize any common cliches of Chinese series right away anymore. Please help me out and list some.
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    Moderator Suet Seung's Avatar
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    In most Wuxia type series, there is usually a table full food dishes but no one actually eats anything, more time is spent on talking.
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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    There is always, always, always a revenge subplot somewhere in the mix...

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    Junior Member Nannaia's Avatar
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    I've been away from TVB for a long while too but started watching some vintage 90's series while my computer was at the repair shop. Not sure if these tropes are just 90's era...

    Ancient Series

    Firefly Scene:
    Hero will catch fireflies for his ladylove as a romantic gesture and to win her affection.

    Piggy-back rides:
    The hero's love interest will have injured herself and be unable to walk so he needs to give her a piggyback ride. This usually happens when they're out somewhere far away from civilization.

    White Clothes of Doom:
    If a character who normally wears colorful clothes suddenly pops up in a scene wearing only white (Lofty Waters Verdant Bow, Bi Xue Jian 06, etc) they are forecasting to the audience of their impending death scene.

    Wardrobe Upgrade (mostly just Wuxia):
    Hero starts out with frumpy hair and unflattering clothes as an attempt to make him look younger/immature. Usually mid-series, he gets an upgrade from the costume department.

    Hair Tells All:
    Laziest way to figure out if that girly guy is really a girl is to have her hair fall down and have everyone gasp, "He's a girl!" Does not seem to work with male cross dressers.

    Commoners Dress better than Nobles:
    Especially if you are the protagonist. This seems rather prevalent in the early 80's I believe? Some 90's series had this problem as well.

    The Secular Path Ending:
    The ending is a tragedy, and nearly everyone has died including the Love Interest. The hero is left alone with nothing left for him so he decides to become a Buddhist monk or Taoist Priest. (Rage and Passion, Rise of the Taiji Master, slight subversion in Heroes of Shaolin)
    Last edited by Nannaia; 10-08-11 at 06:49 PM.

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    Senior Member smurf120's Avatar
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    The Twirl - this one has been mocked to death - when the love birds twirl in midair gazining at each other for insane amount of time even if the drop is about 3 feet.

    Token Minority - this happens to USA productions all the time, but every generation has its own TVB token white or hapa or Indian guy that is always the cop, schoolteacher, priest, or villain.

    No eye contact - monologues are always conducted facing anywhere but towards the person they speak to

    Long death scenes - even if 15 people got poisoned simultaneously only the speaking parts person will survive at least 3 minutes even though everyone else died

    Shy Girl - no matter how tomboy, outspoken, or effective leadership, the female protagonist becomes quiet and shy at least once to act "girly like" in front of the man she likes; gasp its 2011

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    Senior Member smurf120's Avatar
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    The secret (or unknown) out of wedlock child - this has been evident in almost every modern series the last couple of years.

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    Junior Member Nannaia's Avatar
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    Ancient

    No Balding Men:
    Even in old age, practically every man still has a head full of hair! Balding men seem to be a rarity in ancient series. This trait unfortunately did not pass down to modern people.

    Wine:
    Wine looks like uncolored water. Heroes also tend to drink very messy, splashing wine practically everywhere.

    Love at First Peep:
    If a guy sees a girl for the first time and she's bathing in the lake, he will inexplicably fall in love with her.

    No changing of seasons/costumes:
    The only cue we get of the passage of time is when characters stating X number of days have passed. Or there's a time skip but the characters are wearing the same costumes. (i.e. Colorful Life)

    Falling from cliffs
    A wuxia series is not a wuxia series if someone does not fall from a cliff. Survival rates are always immensely high.

    Si-Mei as Hero's First Love:
    If the Hero grew up with his Si-Mei and is in love with her, it's a guarantee that he will not end up with her in the end. Most likely she will break his heart or die tragically.

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smurf120 View Post
    The Twirl - this one has been mocked to death - when the love birds twirl in midair gazining at each other for insane amount of time even if the drop is about 3 feet.
    This is a trope that I believe was born in anime. I first noted it in ROBOTECH/SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS, which was animated in 1982.

    It's kind of acceptable in animation, but in live-action, it's all kinds of ridiculous.

    Token Minority - this happens to USA productions all the time, but every generation has its own TVB token white or hapa or Indian guy that is always the cop, schoolteacher, priest, or villain.
    Yeah, because Heaven forbid that the primary characters are any ethnicity other than one's own...

    No eye contact - monologues are always conducted facing anywhere but towards the person they speak to
    An old pet peeve of mine. Ironically, during the 1970s and very early 1980s, some of the most poignant scenes ever filmed by TVB had characters looking right into each other's eyes while speaking to each other (and it wasn't only in love scenes). These scenes almost always involved Chow Yun Fat. Maybe he was the only actor who could pull it off convincingly.

    Long death scenes - even if 15 people got poisoned simultaneously only the speaking parts person will survive at least 3 minutes even though everyone else died
    This is why dying in huge explosions is awesome: no chance of an extended death scene if the character blows up in an instant.

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    Senior Member jadebunny9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smurf120 View Post
    The Twirl - this one has been mocked to death - when the love birds twirl in midair gazining at each other for insane amount of time even if the drop is about 3 feet.
    I think the only time I adored this was in ROCH 95. It was cute there, but terribly corny in almost every other series.


    Everything fits in sleeves - Shown in most ancient dramas. Sleeves will fit anything and everything, be it large chunks of money, letters, daggers, handkerchiefs, bombs, projectiles, flying sashes, etc. etc.

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    Senior Member smurf120's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadebunny9 View Post
    Everything fits in sleeves - Shown in most ancient dramas. Sleeves will fit anything and everything, be it large chunks of money, letters, daggers, handkerchiefs, bombs, projectiles, flying sashes, etc. etc.
    I remember trying this as a kid but things kept falling out and it got really heavy!

    Suicide Methods - Tongue biting, banging head on pillar, hanging from horizontal beam in bedroom wearing red, broken wine glass, sleeping pill overdose, drinking dextrol (i think its cleaning liquid), burning coal, jumping from high buildings

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    Senior Member smurf120's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nannaia View Post
    Ancient
    Falling from cliffs
    A wuxia series is not a wuxia series if someone does not fall from a cliff. Survival rates are always immensely high.
    I think the modern equivalent is when people fall/jump off a tower and 1) grab a cable 2) land on awning or 3) land on pile of garbage boxes that happen to be in the middle of the freaking street.

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    Junior Member Nannaia's Avatar
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    It's a Small Acting Pool:
    Watch one TVB series and you're guaranteed to see some familiar faces over and over again in the next serials. This is especially true for minor actors and actresses.

    Once the Villain, Always the Villain:
    Some actors are always typecast as villains. The audience immediately knows that character is a baddie or will be one because the actor casted is always the villain. This loses the surprise and suspense.

    Token Girl:
    In many martial arts schools, many of the students are male. However there is often a token girl who happens to be Master's Daughter. The Hero will most likely be in love with her. (Weapons of Power, Golden Snake Sword, State of Divinity).

    Goaded to Guilt:
    A character will be accused of a crime that they did not commit by someone they love and trust. They are so angered that they end up taking the blame out of spite. After a ton of angst and conspiracies, the truth eventually comes out.

    The Identifier:
    Long lost children can always be identified by family through pieces of jade, birthmarks, etc, etc.

  13. #13
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nannaia View Post
    It's a Small Acting Pool:
    Watch one TVB series and you're guaranteed to see some familiar faces over and over again in the next serials. This is especially true for minor actors and actresses.
    It was pretty dire at TVB during the 1980s. Bit actors would appear in the same series in multiple roles, often after their previous character is killed off.

    One of the funniest scenes in recycled actors occurred in the last episode of LOCH '82. In that episode, one of TVB's nondescript bit actors played the role of a Sung soldier guarding the residence of Seung Yeung City governor Lui Mun Dak. In the next scene (literally a minute later), that same actor played the role of a *Mongolian* soldier reporting to Genghis Khan. No, the actor wasn't playing a spy or double-agent; TVB just didn't have enough bit actors to go around!

    Once the Villain, Always the Villain:
    Some actors are always typecast as villains. The audience immediately knows that character is a baddie or will be one because the actor casted is always the villain. This loses the surprise and suspense.
    Hong Kong screen legend Sek Geen was notorious for this (his nickname was "Villain Geen"), but towards the end of his acting career, he began to transcend the role of villain and play benign characters. TVB veteran Lok Ying Kwun could also be counted on to play scurrilous characters during the 1970s and 1980s as well, but from the 1990s onward, he's played good guys more.

    Kwan Chung (son of the late Kwan Hoi San) was also a perpetual wuxia villain, but he played these roles so well that audiences didn't want him to play any other kinds of roles.

    Token Girl:
    In many martial arts schools, many of the students are male. However there is often a token girl who happens to be Master's Daughter. The Hero will most likely be in love with her. (Weapons of Power, Golden Snake Sword, State of Divinity).
    This happened often in old sci-fi/adventure anime too. SPACE NINJA TEAM GATCHAMAN (BATTLE OF THE PLANETS/G-FORCE in the West) featured four guys and a girl, as did GOLION/VOLTRON.

    There was one memorable exception during the 1970s of a super robot anime in which we had the standard team of four guys and a girl, but the girl was the *leader* (and best fighter). That was a rarity.

    The Identifier:
    Long lost children can always be identified by family through pieces of jade, birthmarks, etc, etc.
    This is a very old dramatic trope that predates wuxia (and TVB): the ancient Greek playwrights and poets (e.g. Sophocles, Homer, etc.) used it, as did Shakespeare during the Elizabethan era of England. TVB might be guilty of *over*-using it, however.

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    The Inferior Villain
    This is the guy who becomes a villain simply because he becomes inferior to the protagonist, especially if the protagonist is not particularly bright. Objectively, the villain is usually superior to the protagonist in every aspect except for steadfast morals and Lucky Encounters. The Inferior Villain will usually lust after a woman that loves the protagonist, while the protagonist ultimately has another love interest.

    Lucky Encounters
    Though the protagonist is usually a swell guy, he usually does not deserve all the abilities and powers he will accumulate. Whether it be a secret manual lost for centuries, a dying old man transferring him powers, or rare herbs and animals, the protagonist will shoot forth in abilities and win the admiration of all but the villains.

    The Retirement Curse
    Once a character voices their desire to retire from jianghu to live a peaceful life, he will have either One Final Quest pushed upon him which will lead to death and disaster, or their significant other has unfinished business that ultimately leads to the same thing.
    Last edited by tape; 10-20-11 at 07:20 PM.

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    Senior Member Dragon Heiress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nannaia View Post
    Wine:
    Wine looks like uncolored water. Heroes also tend to drink very messy, splashing wine practically everywhere.
    Rice wine is uncoloured though.
    我是个疯子疯子疯子只爱你的疯子 你是个傻子傻子傻子傻的却好懂事
    要爱你一辈子 写爱你的故事 在我心里承诺了几千次

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    Moderator kidd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    Hong Kong screen legend Sek Geen was notorious for this (his nickname was "Villain Geen"), but towards the end of his acting career, he began to transcend the role of villain and play benign characters. TVB veteran Lok Ying Kwun could also be counted on to play scurrilous characters during the 1970s and 1980s as well, but from the 1990s onward, he's played good guys more.

    Kwan Chung (son of the late Kwan Hoi San) was also a perpetual wuxia villain, but he played these roles so well that audiences didn't want him to play any other kinds of roles.
    For the newer generation, the villain typecast is Eric Li and Cheung Chung Chi. 90% of their roles are villain roles. I don't know who get the worst roles. Eric Li play rapist quite a number of time, while CCC always played jerk roles. I guess Eric Li fairs a bit better. At least, some of his villain roles are sympathetic or super intelligent (intelligent villains sometime can awed viewers).
    什麼是朋友?朋友永遠是在你犯下不可原諒錯誤的時候,仍舊站在你那邊的笨蛋。~ 王亞瑟

    和諧唔係一百個人講同一番話,係一百個人有一百句唔同嘅說話,而又互相尊重 ~ - 葉梓恩

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    Senior Member goggle's Avatar
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    -Two people in an accident(automobile/kidnapping/natural disaster) always find themselves falling in love with each other deeply after that accident

    -Accidental kissing always happen when one character is falling or two characters both trying to get the same thing

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    Member sesshomaru86's Avatar
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    If two characters are in the water together (if one is female and the other male), you can safely expect that one of them doesn't know how to swim and therefore expect a life saving water kiss.
    I don't make my decisions fearing fate, Fate makes his.

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    Member Krimzon's Avatar
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    Dangerous Alleys - The person being chase usually goes in the alleys for shortcuts or a place to hide knowing that there is a high chance that they will get kidnap, beaten, or killed in these areas. Small chance that the character successfully hides in these areas.

    No Beheading for Hero- When the main character is about to get beheaded someone saves him or the weather changes from sunny/cloudy to high winds and/or lighting strikes at the executioner.

    Destructive Fights - Characters are always creating unnecessary mess when fighting in a store and especially on the streets. I feel bad for the vendors on the streets. Whose going to pay for their damage goods?

    Invincible Hero - Hero will live through nearly any severe injuries. It takes multiple stabs and arrows/bullets to kill the hero. Even so, he has a good chance to make it out alive.

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krimzon View Post
    Dangerous Alleys - The person being chase usually goes in the alleys for shortcuts or a place to hide knowing that there is a high chance that they will get kidnap, beaten, or killed in these areas. Small chance that the character successfully hides in these areas.
    This, I have no problem with because it probably happens fairly often in certain parts of the real world as well.

    I only have a problem with blatantly unrealistic things; this scenario, however, is all too real.

    No Beheading for Hero- When the main character is about to get beheaded someone saves him or the weather changes from sunny/cloudy to high winds and/or lighting strikes at the executioner.
    Unless, of course, the whole point of the story is to get the character beheaded.

    Both Ray Lui and Liza Wang starred in series during the 1980s in which their characters were destined to be beheaded as the climax of the series, and sure enough, no improbable intervention saved them because their ultimate fate in the story was to be beheaded.

    Destructive Fights - Characters are always creating unnecessary mess when fighting in a store and especially on the streets. I feel bad for the vendors on the streets. Whose going to pay for their damage goods?
    This one is pretty believable too. If people fight in a crowded public area, stuff is going to get destroyed...although in TV series, they probably destroy more furniture than strictly necessary just for dramatic purposes.

    Invincible Hero - Hero will live through nearly any severe injuries. It takes multiple stabs and arrows/bullets to kill the hero. Even so, he has a good chance to make it out alive.
    Yeah...this is a necessary staple of all adventure fiction because it's hard to tell a story with a dead protagonist (unless it's some kind of ghost story).

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