Cliche is a powerful tool. Wicked step-mothers, bad guys wearing black, magical negroes, and princeses in other castles. Cliche can instantly give a protagonist motivation (bad guy killed character’s parents), let the audience instantly relate to a text (country music about being dumped, losing your dog, and have a broken truck), and help the audience identify key concepts and characters (shadowy figures, pretty well dressed ladies are nice, sexy ladies in tight leather are evil or bad ass).
Cliche can also make the difference between wide appeal and niche appeal. Take this anime music video for example.
To fans of 90s industrial metal this is generally regarded as a great song. To fans of anime Evangellion is generally regarded as a gold standard to judge other series by. Combiined it’s interesting. But is it great? Is it greatly entertaining? There was a great amount of skill that went into creating the above video. It’s technically an achievement. But creatively I consider this to be weak, it’s taking random footage and making it fit a beat and lyrics without telling a new story.
Now compare the above music video to this faux movie trailers.
I consider this trailer to be greatly more creative and engaging than the music video remix, if nothing else for their use of cliche. In this alternate trailer for the film “Big” the movie is made out to be a horror movie. This is accomplished by using horror movie tropes, creepy music, slow fades in and out of black, single lines of dialogue (that when taken out of context lead to the horror plot line of Tom Hanks being a pedophile.) A simple re-cut of a movie trailer would not be very entertaining, but creatively applying cliche from another genre makes a truly original piece of creative work. It allows you to make a creatively strong work that can instantly be understood by society at large.
Pretend for a moment, that the movie “Big” was just as popular as Rammstein songs and anime series. Which of the two videos do you honestly find more engaging? The random video clips put to music or the random video clips assembled with the help of cliche story elements and trailer tropes?
And for fun, here is another one of my favorite trailer remixes.