Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023


No idea is original. People have been writing concepts down for thousands of years, and coming up with them for even longer, so it’s statistically possible that at some point, an ancient Mesopotamian came up with James Bond. With centuries of literature and film already written—ideas that probably weren’t original then either—it’s even harder to create something entirely new. With that in mind, modern film and TV relies heavily on character tropes: pre-existing stereotypes for fictional characters based on shared attributes, appearances and even entire backstories. Tropes can do much of the storytelling without saying a word. For example, the high school quarterback wearing a letterman jacket might also be good with girls and bad at math. These stereotypes allow viewers to give their brains a break–they’ve already seen this character a dozen times before, so they know what to expect. One of the most well-known tropes is that of the nerd. This concept has existed since the early 1900s; back then, they were known as “squares” and generally referred to someone with no practical skills.

Display as Peer Reviewed