META: Surface Deconstruction vs. Actual Deconstruction

Martin Phipps martinphipps2 at
Sun Mar 27 06:54:07 PDT 2011

It's been four days and you've had no replies.

On Mar 23, 11:00 pm, Andrew Perron <pwer... at> wrote:
> An aspect of writing I've been considering lately is deconstruction - that
> is, not the Heidegger/Derrida what-were-you-even-thinking philosophical
> thing, but the act of taking apart a story and putting its tropes under the
> harsh lens of reality (or, at least, what the writer things is reality).

Is it really that hard to write what you think is reality?  I mean,
suppose you are a lawyer and you write a story about Hawkeye being
accused of murder.  The Avengers obviously know who he is so having
him arrested to face trial is possible.  A lawyer could write a story
that is very close to reality.  Similarly a research scientist could
write a story about Hank Pym considering the question of how a bio-
chemist was also an expert in robotics.

> My, but that was a rambly paragraph.

You thing it was rambly but it was just about fine.

> Anyway, I've noticed a few things about this.  When a work delves deep into
> the tropes of a story or genre, making truly insightful observations, it
> can be a thing of beauty... but far too often, they only take the most
> surface of observations and "deconstruct" a straw man made of kneejerk
> reactions.  For an excellent example:
> (The "deconstruction")
> (A reaction by the show's creator, showing the difference between the
> marketing-materials perception and the actually-watching-the-show reality)

I don't know if that's the same thing.  Sometimes bloggers will fail
to do adequate research before they make their assertions.  For
example, back when I was still living in Canada, the Disney cartoon
Pocahontas came out and an op-ed piece in the Ottawa Citizen claimed
that Pocahontas didn't look like a Native American, that she had "the
body of a white woman".  Well, it's true that Mattel's Pocahontas
dolls were just Barbie dolls painted brown but the cartoonist actually
had a model posing for them as they drew and she wasn't white but

Now, mind you, when a movie is based on real life events or legends
(Pocahontas, Troy, Robin Hood, King Arthur, etc.) is it really
deconstruction when the movie tries to be historically accurate?  Some
might argue that this is not deconstruction but reconstruction.  As
much as we might get offended when somebody "changes" the story, there
might be some value in stripping away the mythological aspects of a
story and presenting the story as it could actually have happened.

When you do the same thing with stories that are completely fictional,
then it's deconstruction.  So giving Spiderman organic web shooters
would be deconstruction because it might be hard to believe that a
high school student could create a super sticky adhesive in his
bedroom.  Similarly, having the burglar become a carjacker made the
whole coincidence of the burglar being the same mad Spiderman failed
to stop earlier a bit easier to swallow.  This is not usually thought
of as deconstruction: deconstruction is usually equated with grim and
gritty, but it could just be a matter of creating a more believable
set of circumstances for the reader or viewer.

> So, my question to you, RACC: Which deconstructions, in your opinion,
> actually show the consequences of a trope, and which just show their own
> ignorance?  As well, a deconstruction is pretty useless on its own; which
> works have been best at constructing a new story that goes above and beyond
> the problems the deconstruction addressed?

Well, ignorance comes up a lot when somebody with a science background
attempts to write superhero stories involving police officers and
lawyers. :)

No wait, that's not fair: sometimes when you combine two genres you
carry tropes from both genres.  Police procedurals on TV look
realistic but they also (usually) have suspects arrested and convicted
within an hour of when the body was first found.  That's not reality
either.  If you now have a super hero take down a super villain and
bring him to the police and stick around to see the guy convicted is
this now more realistic?  Not necessarily, because neither genre was
truly realistic to begin with: it's just that one genre seems more
real because it doesn't normally involve people with superpowers.


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