One of my previous questions got an interesting answer. And posed an interesting problem. Namely, It will be difficult to make a parody of something without understanding why people like it. That's a fair point. Though Springtime for Hitler and anything made by Mel Brooks with nazis in it flies in the face of that.

However, you just simply can't make me like Jaws or any other movie featuring killer versions of IRL animals. Those movies are stupid and should burn in hell. Similarly, you can't make me like Lovecraft. He was a low-key racist who wrote about things he barely understood (non-euclidian geometry just means you're drawing on a globe instead of a sheet of paper) and almost all his characters are so weak-willed, they can't go five pages without snapping in the most ludicrous, over-the-top fashion possible.

There's also the question of time. I like Hokuto no Ken, but it's 190-episodes long, so I couldn't get into it. Skimming through stuff I actually dislike is going to feel like a waste of time, especially if it's "pulp".

How am I supposed to understand why people like Jaws, Lovecraft, and pulp so much? They're garbage as far as I'm concerned and I haven't seen any prominent figure try to understand why someone would like something they themselves didn't.


So far, not knowing what I despise first-hand wasn't a problem. You see, when I had the image of a "noble savage" barbarian who seems to be repulsed by the thought of wearing proper clothing, I didn't make the parody of that character, I made a counterpart.

Kaz is a draconian (humanoid dragon, basically) born to a fairly wealthy family. Not wanting to follow in the steps of his parents, he set out to be a soldier instead of a knight. Thanks to his physique and skills that came from previous combat training with his siblings, he had a successful career and saw battle a few times, never a pitched battle though.

Eventually, he joined the militia/garrison of his home city to serve there and help train recruits. Kaz, despite his stern look, is a rational and level-headed person. While his status can make people around him uneasy, he also has trouble initiating small talks.

His family took Kaz's decision with mixed feelings, though they now came to terms with it.

You see, it's not the stereotype barbarian with the tropes sUbVErtEd but still having the same premise, rather, Kaz is the opposite of that, a city-dweller with a loving family who is a capable fighter but not a glory hog.

This works because Kaz can exist without the barbarian stereotype I was opposing. The problem arises when I have to make the actual barbarians, where my biases will be apparent, biases I want to hammer out without wasting an eternity on reading Weird Tales an asking people what they like about the stories within them.

  • 5
    Not being funny, but have you tried asking them? Not in a "how can you stand this garbage?!" kind of way, but in a "what is it about Jaws that you enjoy?" kind of way.
    – F1Krazy
    Apr 25, 2020 at 10:49
  • 4
    Half of the world's population is below-average intelligence…. HALF.
    – wetcircuit
    Apr 25, 2020 at 12:53
  • 2
    Also Springtime for Hitler is just 1970s homophobia – just a loooong anti-gay joke that says nothing about nazis. 'GAY' is the worst thing Brooks could think of to call a nazi… worse than 'nazi'.
    – wetcircuit
    Apr 25, 2020 at 13:35
  • 2
    Are you sure that your Kaz is a counterpoint to the "noble savage"? I would assume there is more to him as this is a very condensed format, but to me he currently just seems to be an example of the "solid, grumpy but reliable militia captain"-trope. I am missing the connection you see there to the "noble savages".
    – lidar
    Apr 27, 2020 at 10:55
  • 3
    The "noble savage" isn't "repulsed by the thought of wearing proper clothing". He's just confused as to why nobody else is wearing proper clothing. Trousers and shirts are too tight and restricting to run and fight in, and too warm to do anything in without sweating excessively. They're all remarkably uncomfortable, and the lack of furs means you can't show off your hunting prowess: a tiger-fur loincloth shows skill and high rank, and really impresses the ladies. Cotton and wool are for the weak and infirm. "One calls 'barbarism' whatever he is not accustomed to." ~Michel de Montaigne Apr 27, 2020 at 13:08

2 Answers 2


If you hate the tropes so much, then why are you including them in your story?

No one is forcing you to write a story filled with stereotypical barbarians, Lovecraftian horrors, abnormally aggressive animals, and what have you. If you don't like the tropes, just don't include them in the story. In fact, the example you gave had no examples of any of the tropes you mentioned as being a pet peeve, and if you hadn't mentioned the character was intended to be a subversion I don't think anyone would have ever noticed at all. If you don't like stereotypical barbarians in your story why are you including them?

If you still have a functioning story, no one cares. The only way it would be a problem is if you broke the flow of the narrative to complain about how bad the trope is and how you are being different. If someone writes a story and all they do is complain about specific tropes in a non-humorous and vitriolic way, that story isn't entertaining, and people won't read it. Honestly, most of your question as written at the time of this answer comes across as more complaining about tropes you hate than your actual question, including pre-emptively refusing to understand and attacking anyone who tries to convince you why someone likes something, as you asked in the OP. That's the kind of thing you don't want in your narrative. It sounds like you are trying to pick fights with your audience, and that never works.

Building on this, who exactly are you writing for? From your question, it sounds like you are trying to write a story that draws heavily on pulp tropes...but has nothing but contempt for them. So, to clarify, you seem want to write an entry in a certain genre...while telling your readers, who likely picked up your story because they like the genre, that they are badwrong for liking it...and refusing to research the genre to understand the common pitfalls and create a more biting and accurate parody. See the problem here?

There's also the question of time. I like Hokuto no Ken, but it's 190-episodes long, so I couldn't get into it. Skimming through stuff I actually dislike is going to feel like a waste of time, especially if it's "pulp".

How am I supposed to understand why people like Jaws, Lovecraft, and pulp so much? They're garbage as far as I'm concerned and I haven't seen any prominent figure try to understand why someone would like something they themselves didn't.

If you aren’t willing to do the research, you’re going to make a worse product. No ifs, ands, or buts. There’s a reason why “do the research” is a cardinal rule of writing. If doing the research makes you miserable, it may be time to question why you're writing what you are writing.

To use your Springtime for Hitler example, Mel Brooks knew the Nazis very well. He was a Jewish World War II veteran who fought against the Nazis in the European theater. Even though his professed life goal was to make Hitler and the Nazis so ridiculed they would never be taken seriously again, he drew the line at making jokes about concentration camps and the victims thereof because he knew it would be in bad taste. Because he knew and understood the subject matter he was trying to make fun of.

In fact, Mel Brooks is a pretty good counterargument. Despite parodying gothic horror (Young Frankenstein), westerns (Blazing Saddles), space opera (Spaceballs), spy movies (Get Smart), and others, Mel Brooks loved these genres, and as a result was able to parody them more effectively. Similarly, Neon Genesis Evangelion was written by mecha fans, Watchmen was written by someone who loves superheroes and writes superhero comics for a living (to the point that he laments that Watchmen appears to have made the genre too dark), etc.

I'm going to echo what the other commenters have said and say you don't have to like something to parody, subvert, or deconstruct it, but you do have to understand how it works. If you don't understand why people like something, it might turn out they like it for the same reasons you hate it, and don't like your work. Or they like it for different reasons than you hate it, and so your work comes off to them as a strawman argument.

As to why people like the specific themes or tropes you mentioned...

Pulp in General

The reason people like pulp is because it’s about a badass hero (of any gender) going on an adrenaline-fueled adventure in an imaginative and engrossing world, often with a colorful cast of memorable characters. It's cathartic escapism, and people love that. Tread very carefully if you wish to take people's escapism away, audiences hate it when someone tells them that they shouldn't be enjoying their chosen method of catharsis.

It is perfectly possible to write pulp adventures without any of the trappings of the early 20th century. A lot of the stereotypical trapping of pulp are more a product of the times they were written in rather than inherent to the genre. Adventure Time, if you think about it, is literally modern pulp. It’s about a badass hero who goes on adventures in a bizarre and unfamiliar world, with the help of wacky comrades and often to gain the favor of a princess.

Barbarians/Aggressive Animals

The reason people like stories with abnormally aggressive animals or monsters or “always chaotic evil” barbarians or minions is because they want a cathartic action scene where the heroes get to punch bad guys in the face. They don’t want a thirty minute monologue on whether or not it is moral to kill the foe every time there is a fight scene, or a smash cut to every minion's grieving widow when they die. Musing on the morality of violence isn't a bad thing, but if it ruins the audience's catharsis that's bad. Making the foes unreasonably, irredeemably evil removes lingering doubts in the audience about the morality of the situation, because then they don’t feel bad when the villains get punched in the face.

Aggresive animals, in particular, have always fascinated us because throughout our history we have always been at the mercy of sharks, crocodiles, big cats, and bears. Humans have always been fascinated by struggles against large predators or "monsters", especially with the conflict of organisms that outclass us physically against human cunning. And the thing is, despite the fact that real apex predators are much more placid than fiction would suggest, a sufficiently hungry or angry shark, croc, big cat, or bear would kill people (not to mention an elephant or hippo), which makes the idea that characters have to deal with them more plausible in the minds of the audience. But from an emotional perspective it's no different from a story with a xenomorph, Predator, or Terminator, albeit with that extra bit of plausibility that something like this could technically happen.


The reason people like Lovecraft’s works (cosmic horror) is because of the existential dread and helplessness they invoke in their audience. In the time period Lovecraft was writing in, that was a very big deal because most people were religious to some degree and the idea that the universe wasn’t under the benediction of some benevolent creator deity was both unthinkable and existentially horrifying. The reason why people like Lovecraft has nothing to do with his racist beliefs. It’s just that due to the guy being terrified of literally everything, he was in a position to write stories which found terror in unexpected places. There are lots of good cosmic horror works that have nothing to do with Lovecraft. House of Leaves, Steven King, and the recent Annihilation movie are good examples. “Lovecraft” is not a genre, even though he’s one of the biggest names in cosmic horror. And Lovecraft himself has been parodied to hell and back because of how silly his stories are.

Indeed, despite these tropes being common to pulp stories in general, they aren’t universal and quite a few stories subvert them. The entire central theme of Conan The Barbarian is that despite being a “barbarian”, Conan is ironically more intellectual, moral, and civilized than the vast majority of his so-called “civilized” opponents, who have ironically degenerated into barbarism due to civilization making them soft and removing consequences to their actions. And in the Barsoom novels the “barbarian” Green Martians are portrayed as some of John Carter’s greatest allies, with one of the narratively richest, most introspective, and internally complex characters being the heroic Green Martian Tars Tarkas (and not in a "noble savage" way). This is exactly why you do research, to see the takes on certain tropes that have been done before and to see if a stereotypical depiction of a trope in a genre is real or if it's just a meme that's gotten out of hand.

  • 1
    Standing ovation. I now have a sensible justification in place the next time I have to defend Crank 2: High Voltage.
    – Patroclus
    Apr 26, 2020 at 9:24

I think it's all down to having an open mind and strengthening your grasp of what it means to be a storyteller.

In a sense, Jaws is essentially Beowulf. Would you go into a lit class and ask them why they like Beowulf? Do you hate Beowulf as intensely as you hate Jaws?

You shouldn't have to ask people what they like about stories in order to understand how stories work. Their answers will only reflect their own rationale. You have to understand the story.

eg. I don't like Twilight, but I understand who it was written for and the appeal of an unappealing female anti-heroine who manages to capture the interest of a centuries-old vampire. I understand why men like vampires and I understand all the different reasons why teenage girls like them.

I tried to watch 50 Shades because I was a fan of Dornan - I couldn't. I physically couldn't. And yet, for the past year, I've been spending my free time "studying" romance novels and why people like them, and I get it.

You have to take the red pill and dive deep.

Another example: I absolutely hate Green Book and I could write a book on why everyone should hate it. The internet is full of parodies of it, rightfully imo, because it seems objectively stupid and racist in the most absolute way, but I'm not confused by people who watch it and like it because I understand that people like journeys where two people reconcile their irreconcilable differences by the end. It's essentially Jim and Huck down the river. In a decade or two, somebody's going to make a movie about a cannibal and a vegan on a road trip to Vegas... that's just how stories go.

So yes, Jaws might be bad to you, but people like stories about heroes fighting monsters to protect innocents. It's as simple as that. They liked it when Theseus did it, they liked it when Ellen Ripley did it and they're going to keep on liking it forever until monsters stop being a part of our imagination.

Sharks are normal animals in real life, but Jaws isn't a documentary, it's a monster movie. The shark isn't a shark, it's a monster that's threatening life as the people on that beach know it.

Simply calling people stupid (as some comments have) because they don't agree with your taste isn't the answer if you want to understand storytelling.

I think instead of standing your ground on what you hate and what you resist, you should take a look at some Jungian theory on the collective unconscious on Youtube or somewhere. Take some time to truly understand tropes and trope subversion and all that before you mock them. Even cliches have their place in the story world. Whenever you have the time to spare, it's an interesting area to get lost in, to see how and why people love stories. The psychology behind it is fascinating.

Also, there's a book, The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker which is about 50 hours long (by audiobook iirc). You'll never be confused by people's love for a story ever again, no matter how stupid the story seems to you.

If you watch/read a popular story and hate it, that's perfectly fine, but if you're legit confused as to why people love it, that's a you problem. You asked why you should try to like it, you shouldn't, but you should understand it.

Don't try to change your taste to fit the popular mood. If you don't like barbarians as they are, that's fine. If you want to change it, fine. If you want to invoke the "My barbarians are different" trope, go ahead. But don't write it thinking that you're fixing it and doing it the correct way because you happen not to like the way other people do it.

There are reasons why people like the things they like. Readers have expectations. Especially in genre fiction. Don't write the next Dinosaur Lords.

We're all different people. One man's Shakespeare, is another man's toilet paper. Unless you're writing for yourself though, you need to understand the audience you're writing for. You really need to think long and hard as to why people like barbarians before you start recommending your mild-mannered version of it.

TLDR: A piece of advice that I got from learning to code that I apply to everything ever - before you break it, you better understand how it works inside out. Mel Brooks might not have been the authority on race relations but he was a master of joke construction which is what Springtime for Hitler is at the end of the day. It's a punchline.

  • 2
    This. No author will be able to kill a trope through parody or deconstruction. All it will do is introduce a competing interpretation. Look at how Warcraft did orcs. It didn't kill the Tolkien version, just introduced a competing interpretation of it. Even if you do publish, that will be just another voice instead of the definitive word on what the trope or genre is. Especially with pulp. That's like beating a dead horse because it's already a dead genre. Apr 26, 2020 at 4:26
  • "Green Book" is a funny case, because it is semi-biographical: it's (loosely) based on real events, and exists - in part - as a reflection of that time. Parts of it you are meant to hate, because it emphasises how much we have progressed / improved as a society, while also attempting to make people consider their own prejudices in the same context. It's a film that's supposed to make you feel slightly uncomfortable. Apr 28, 2020 at 8:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.