Let’s be honest here. Cliches make the world go round. Sometimes we can’t stand them, and sometimes we can’t get enough of them, but the surest truth is that we can’t get rid of them.
The thing about cliche ideas is that they are cliche for a reason.
They are really good ideas. Ultimately we like most of them, but we want them to be done well. If they are not done well, that is when we accuse them of being too cliche. Humans are fickle that way.
“My dad doesn’t understand me. He is stressed because there is a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, and he doesn’t take the time to listen to me. He wants me to grow up to be something that I am not. I want to do this other thing, but he doesn’t get it. He thinks I am weak, or crazy, or both, I guess. I can’t be what he wants me to be. I want to please him, but I don’t know how.”
Does anyone know what movie character I refer to with this fictitious monologue?
Probably not. This is a chorus of characters. They are all saying the same thing.
Here is my list:
Flint Lockwood, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Father and Son don’t get each other: Flint is an inventor, but his dad does not even understand how to work a computer mouse. He wants Flint to work in his tackle bait store, but Flint does not comprehend fishing AT ALL. Especially fishing metaphors. Those stump him every time.
There is a terrible disagreement: Flint’s dad wants Flint to stop making food fall from the sky because it isn’t natural, but Flint angrily refuses, feeling hurt that his dad isn’t proud of his accomplishments.
And at last: Flint saves the day by stopping one of his inventions with another of his inventions and his father finally comes to appreciate his talents.
Father and Son don’t get each other: Johnny’s dad is the ringleader of a gang, and he expects Johnny to take his place when he is gone. Johnny, though, doesn’t have any desire to be a part of the gang, and he only goes along with it because he knows his dad won’t understand if tells him about his true passion, which is singing.
There is a terrible disagreement: Johnny’s dad gets put in jail because Johnny wasn’t doing his job. His dad finds out about Johnny’s singing, and disowns him for his lack of loyalty.
And at last: Johnny sings on TV and his dad is finally able to appreciate his talents.
Hiccup, How to Train Your Dragon
Father and Son don’t get each other: Hiccup is the son of Stoick, the viking chief. His dad is a warrior, while Hiccup is shrimpy and brainy. Hiccup realizes that he can’t kill dragons and tries to tell his dad, but Stoick will not hear of it. (Did I mention that listening issues was a theme here?)
There is a terrible disagreement: Stoick finds out that Hiccup has been associating with dragons behind his back and feels betrayed. He promptly disowns him.
And at last: Hiccup nearly dies saving everyone and Stoick finally recognizes that dragons are friendly and learns to appreciate his son’s talents.
Father and son don’t get each other:
Remy: Dad, I want good food!
Dad: Shut up and eat your garbage.
There is a terrible disagreement: Remy’s dad finds out that Remy has been associating with dragons…erm…I mean, humans- which are the enemy. He is disgusted and angry, telling Remy that he has betrayed his fellow rats.
And at last: Remy’s dad realizes that not all humans are bad and that his son is really serious about becoming a chef. He helps him out of a tough scrape, and learns to appreciate his son’s talents.
Lenny, Shark Tale
Father and son don’t get each other: Lenny’s dad is the leader of what is essentially the shark version of the Mafia. Lenny’s brother Frankie is a killer. Lenny is… well, Lenny is a vegetarian.
There is a terrible disagreement: Lenny takes responsibility for his brother’s death and runs away, feeling that his dad would much rather he had died instead. His dad finds out and is shocked to discover that Lenny has joined the
humans dragons fish and dressed as dolphin.
And at last: Oscar the not-really-a-shark-slayer talks some sense into Lenny’s dad, and the mafia shark admits that he misses Lenny and he finally learns to appreciate his younger son’s rather unique talents.
By now I hope that you are sensing a pattern. There is a formula. All of these movies are the same. Insert my monologue into any of their mouths and it works.
Here is my final example:
Faramir, The Lord of the Rings
Father and son don’t get each other: Denethor,
the viking chief of Berk the steward of Gondor, values the honor and skills of a warrior. Faramir doesn’t like fighting and would much rather spend his time singing cooking inventing reading or taking quiet walks. Thus, Denethor deems Faramir essentially worthless. (Sheesh, man, why so harsh?) He infinitely prefers Faramir’s older brother Frankie- uh, Boromir.
There is a terrible disagreement: When Boromir dies Denethor admits that he wishes Faramir had died instead. He sends Faramir on a suicide mission. (Really, Denethor? REALLY?)
And at last: After Faramir nearly dies, Denethor
recognizes his son’s bravery and learns to appreciate his talents– tries to burn him alive. Thankfully, Faramir has some decent friends who prevent this from happening.
Faramir is probably wondering what happened to the last bit of the formula. No hugs for him.
Though it is overused and often terribly butchered, the “My father doesn’t understand me” cliche is one of my favorites. Of the six movies I mentioned, I really only love three, (Ratatouille, Shark Tale and LOTR) but there are definitely some other good ones out there, as well as many others that are as cringe-worthy as a lowercase letter at the beginning of a sentence. that drives me crazy.
What are your favorite story cliches? Do you notice certain formulas being repeated over and over again? Are there any that you can’t stand? Do you have any to add to my list? I would love to hear from you!