The Most Overused Teen Show and Movie Tropes

What makes a teen show or movie work, and what tends to get overused? Teen movies thrive on a select set of tropes and plot devices, though some stand out and go against the usual clichés. Unfortunately, many teen shows and movies are stuck in the same storylines or trapped in their effort to tell a different take on the same high school classic. While some take big swings or deliberately poke fun at well-known tropes using satire or parody, others lean into it without having anything substantial to say.


Many teen movies have a makeover montage, showing one of the main characters completely revamped from head to toe in minutes, a transformation that makes them unrecognizable. Sometimes the transition is as simple as taking someone’s glasses off. Other times, using the head cheerleader or the captain of a sports team as the main bully, which encourages others to make fun of people, or at least not interrupt them because they are publicly bullied at school, is another ongoing plot for the good of introducing a villain or conflict. Other times, some of the more overused storylines are problematic, like the romance of dangerous behaviors or toxic relationships.

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Related: Disney Channel Movies That Share The Same Plot Device


The makeover montage

The Diary of a Princess
Buena Vista Pictures

How long does it take to bring someone deemed a “loser” to school and ultimately transform their wardrobe, hair, and identity? In teen movies and shows, only a few minutes. The makeover montage, famously described in She is all that, shows how removing Laney’s glasses and changing her clothes results in a massive transformation, quickly taking her from low on the totem pole to looking great. the remake, He is all that, follows a similar formula, with Cameron undergoing a similar but not as drastic transformation to show how his new clothes and hairstyle affect how others see him. The makeover montage is primarily used to take an unpopular character and suddenly make them attractive to the rest of the student body. This usually happens within moments.

In The Diary of a Princess, Mia undergoes a massive transformation meant to mark the transition from an average girl to a budding princess of Genovia. However, in this case, the makeover montage is not necessarily fast, apart from her change of hairstyle. It also encompasses her physical structure as she prepares to figure out the right way to be a princess.

Chief Bullying Cheerleader

school year movie
netflix

Why can’t cheerleaders be presented as really nice people? Sometimes they are, but that mostly tends to happen in cheerleading-oriented shows or movies where they’re the main characters and grow beyond one-note villainy. In other cases, it’s all too often that the protagonist’s main villain is a cheerleader whose motives go little beyond initiating conflict, and usually a crush they both share on the same boy.

In secondary year, after waking up from her twenty-year coma, Stephanie finds that cheerleading isn’t what it was when she was a teenager. Now filled with more supportive and kind individuals, Stephanie finds new friendships among the teenagers she shares classes with. However, the start of the film highlights the issues with intimidating cheerleaders, like her rival, Tiffany, who encompasses the trope perfectly, even as an adult.

The athletic villain

Teen Wolf Scott and Jackson
MGM Home Television Distribution

Similar to the intimidating cheerleader trope, the obnoxious jock, usually the captain of the sports team that headlines the movie, tends to be overly mean or aggressive for almost no reason other than a conflict for good. of a villain. But, again, the high school villain can be anyone other than a popular sports star whose job is to topple the main character’s confidence. While some go through character development, especially if it’s a TV show, others are trapped as villains or only redeemed in the final minutes of the movie if the movie doesn’t end. by a moment of karma or revenge against him.

In Teen Wolf, Jackson Whittmore is the scapegoat for the popular sports bully. He is obnoxious towards Scott and Stiles while behaving rudely towards his girlfriend, Lydia. Additionally, he is conceited, constantly referring to his family’s wealth and acting like he is better than everyone else. Jackson’s desperation to continually be better than everyone else leads to his desire to become a werewolf, but since the form a person takes can reflect their personality, Jackson first takes the form of something else, acknowledging his cold-blooded behavior towards others.

Related: The Most Common Storylines In Disney Movies

Student/teacher romance

Riverdale Grundy and Archie
Warner Brothers Television Distribution

This one is filed in a category that should never appear, let alone be overused. Riverdale brings it during the early episodes of the first season when Archie is in an inappropriate relationship with his music teacher, Ms. Grundy. Pretty little Liars uses the trope on Aria and Ezra, but the show also uses a variety of inappropriate relationships featuring grown men and underage girls. On Dawson’s Creek, Pacey enters into a romantic relationship with his teacher, Tamara Jacobs. Teachers never suffer the repercussions they should have because of these relationships. Even if there are references to consequences or if the relationship is bad, neither series goes further in punishing the behavior.

The Unconscious Parent

Ella and Ashley from Pretty Little Liars
Warner Brothers Television Distribution

One of the most common teen drama tropes features the show’s main teens doing whatever they want at any time of the day and their parents knowing nothing about it. This manifests itself mainly in Pretty little Liars, as Spencer, Aria, Hanna, and Emily travel around town investigating their neighbors, taking out-of-state road trips, and participating in several illegal activities in their search for “A.” At the same time, their parents ignore everything. On The Fostersbecause as supportive of their children as Stef and Lena are, they are unaware of several things that are happening under their roof.

On Switched at birth, John, Kathryn, and Regina aren’t fully aware of how far Daphne and Bay go, like Daphne blackmailing a senator. In Ferris Bueller’s day offFerris successfully drops out of school with his best friend and girlfriend, and neither of his parents are aware of this, even when his sister and the school principal try to stop him.

Toxic relationships

The Vampire Diaries Elena and Damon
Warner Brothers Television Distribution

When Elena Gilbert and Damon Salvatore directly commented that their romance was toxic, it could have been a sign to end it. But instead, they ignore several red flags, including Damon’s story of abusing Elena’s best friend Caroline and breaking her brother Jeremy’s neck. But perhaps one of the worst aspects is how the duo still end up together, even though their relationship never improves. Pretty little Liars also fosters a toxic relationship in the illegal romance between Aria and Ezra. First, the show portrays their relationship as a star-crossed lovers affair between a legal adult and his underage student. Later, when it is revealed that he actively stalked her, Pretty little Liars always encourages their romance.

Romanticism of problematic behavior

Twilight Bella, Renesmee, Edward and Jacob
Entertainment at the top

The Dusk It turns out the franchise is a playground for some very problematic relationships. The central romance between Edward and Bella includes several red flag moments, including, if the huge age gap isn’t enough, Edward sneaks into Bella’s bedroom while she’s sleeping. Later, Bella actively places herself in near-death situations to see Edward. However, Edward and Bella aren’t the only deeply problematic couple on the show. Somehow, things get worse when Jacob imprints on Bella and Edward’s newborn daughter, Renesmee.

Presentation of the Cliques

mean girls
Paramount Pictures

mean girls shines with this one, introducing Candy to the various groups of people who make up the distinguished campus cliques. This trope isn’t necessarily that difficult because it’s relatively quick, doesn’t take the whole show or movie to present, and isn’t a major plot point. However, it is overused as several shows and movies have used it to introduce new characters to how this high school works. It shows who is supposed to be popular or not on campus and what interests different people. Wednesday, it is used to introduce Wednesday to the other supernatural beings of Nevermore. Revenge also uses it when Eleanor is new to school.

Always accepted in awesome universities

the last summer
netflix

In the last summerOne of Griffin’s biggest problems has him dealing with his acceptance to Columbia University as he wants to attend Berklee College of Music. Meanwhile, Phoebe plans to go to NYU. In The kissing boothShe wonders if she should go to Harvard. In Riverdale, Veronica claims that she can easily attend Harvard. Teen movies and shows tend to suggest it’s easy to get accepted into Ivy League schools, with many central characters debating which Ivy League they should attend rather than debating between colleges. ‘State. There’s nothing wrong with not participating in an Ivy League, and it may be a smarter decision.

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