Stories we should stop telling

This is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s a selection of tale-types I am personally sick of. Do pile in and suggest others. I think we should stop telling these stories in fiction, and stop celebrating them in real life as well.

A problem is solved by killing a person, probably with guns.

A man is a total asshat, but he’s also a ‘genius’ so we should treat him like a hero and overlook his shit.

A white person turns out to be the chosen one of a non-white community. He (it is usually a he) goes on to be better at the thing important in this community than anyone raised there. He needs little or no time or training to achieve this because he’s naturally gifted.

A woman falls in love with a guy who has treated her appallingly. I might accept this as a dark and psychological piece, but please stop telling me this is romance.

A person (usually a woman or a more effeminate man) is too beautiful and good for this world, so they die pointlessly and everyone who failed them has feels.

A story in which a person is in love with two other people and is obliged to choose between them.

A white person travels to an ‘exotic’ place and discovers or does something important with little or no reference to the indigenous people. Lose extra points if the indigenous people are portrayed in a patronising way, with no reference to the culture that exists in the actual setting, or they are all played by middle aged white men.

Stories about how a woman has to change to make her attractive to a man.

Any story that hinges on one person failing to tell another person(s) something hugely important that they knew all along.

Stories in which women change their loyalty and betray their people because a male character they’ve just met is sexy.


What kinds of stories would you get rid of if you could?


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

34 responses to “Stories we should stop telling

  • Wrycrow

    Any stories where a lone hero saves the day. One of the things I enjoy about most of the Marvel films is that the heroes have to team up, combine strengths and learn from each other, like we all have to do in real life.

  • Elen Sentier

    Stories demonising wolves or other predators.
    Stories that anthropomorphise animals and patronise them.
    Rewritten history like “America won both world wars”.
    Re-enacted history that makes all the characters “modern” in their attitudes and so gets it all completely round the backs of their necks – see latest crap about Elizabeth I, or the ghastly Titanic!
    Modern sexy shaman stories, with completely impossible characters and plots.
    Any film where a human defeats an nasty vicious animal.
    Any story that shows industrial progress on a large scale as a good thing.
    Man defeats volcano crap.
    Man (human, don’t care what gender!) can change the world for the better.
    All the ferocious planet, weather, disasters crap – anything that makes out the planet and nature are out to get us.

    I want Grendel to win, not Beowulf !!!

  • graemektalboys

    Any story in which pagans aren’t pagan.

  • graemektalboys

    Re alternative and hidden history, if these are genuine explorations of the possible bifurcations of the past (and the effects on the now and the future), I enjoy them very much. It’s where people just make stuff up about the past out of ignorance or laziness when the facts we do know are often so much more interesting. One or two comic works that knowingly play on the past and modern attitudes (Shakespeare in Love, for a filmic example) are fun, but they only seem to me to work if you are aware of what is being subverted.

  • thesseli

    “A man is a total asshat, but he’s also a ‘genius’ so we should treat him like a hero and overlook his shit.” — Hell yes. If I met a House or Sherlock type in real life, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near them.

  • Waylon and Carole Alden-Breaux

    Any story where one person or group tells another person or group how they need to change their behavior in order to be acceptable

  • Kristin

    Stories that celebrate the spread of Christianity as a civilizing force (this can apply to multiple period settings around the world).

    Stories (well, films, actually) where people of an ancient Mediterranean or Middle Eastern culture are played by white actors with British accents. (No offense to British accents, of course!)

    White savior stories–in which a white person (usually male) is the only one who can save a bunch of non-white people. Sibling to stories in which the white guy is the only one, in a roomful of non-white and non-male people, with any idea how to stop a bad thing happening/fix a situation.

    Stories with a female main character whose major problem (as in, above any other problem she might solve) is who to be in love with.

    • Nimue Brown

      yes indeed. white guys can be anyone is a thing that I detest. One thing if you’re running a stage show with a small budget, but in big films where absolutely anyone could be cast, it is offensive.

  • Donnalee

    Stories where destroying nature and building crappy things are seen as good and ‘progress’.

    Stories where harmful lifestyles are seen as good and worth striving for and even selling out for–these would involve ignorance, violence, dishonesty, selfishness, consuming a lot of booze and drugs and unhealthy food including meat, unhealthy lifestyles, unwise consumerism/consuming of many sorts.

    Stories where anyone physically able to have kids automatically does so because they either are unable to choose differently or it never occurred to them that they could be childfree and that it might be smart in some situations to be so.

  • brightonandhovehousingcrisis

    I really like your own listing of exotic destinations where the locals are at best picturesque wall-paper. The “tourist” approach, where local connection is at best short discussions about when you want dinner served, the laundry done, the bed made up, and of course the perfect G&T made. So much more interesting to go properly native and do it the Biko way.

  • Elizabeth

    Eccentric out there guy gets the babe. Eccentric out there girl gets the shelf. And/or is comedy relief.

  • The Magpie at Midnight

    Stories where a female character isn’t interested in a man so he effectively stalks and bullies her until she agrees to give it a go, it which point she sees she was wrong in the first place…

  • lornasmithers

    The evil Lord of the Underworld gets killed by the white man with the gun who thinks he’s a genius (but is really a total asshat) and treats women appallingly…

    PS. Is asshat a polite way of saying asshole? I never heard that word before.

  • locksley2010

    The bad guy taking seconds to learn the version of his thing that the good guy spent months learning how to use (as well as develop).

  • Meredith

    Woman dies so that man can have emotional journey.

    • Nimue Brown

      Yes! I don’t know how I forgot that one.

      • Meredith

        It’s so bloody pervasive! Ends up in most genres at some point, and I find that I am so used to it that sometimes I don’t even notice it has happened… Sometimes it even happens offscreen, like we don’t even get to meet this woman who has died except for in occasional flashbacks. It gets done with children as well sometimes, though I think not as often, and I equally don’t like that one…

      • Nimue Brown

        And with it I think the idea that people are only motivated by great drama in their lives, not by compassion, or by their own anger….

      • Meredith

        YES! Exactly. And also I think it really adds to the stereotype that men can’t have complex emotions (or at least, express them) unless something very extreme has happened. So harmful all round, this one.

  • Meredith

    Oooh, I thought of another one! It’s more a trope than a story in itself, but killing the queers. Just, any story where a queer character is introduced and then killed. Very occasionally, this actually makes sense in the story or there are enough queer characters that survive that it’s acceptable, but mostly it’s like “oh we introduced this queer character AND NOW THEY ARE POINTLESSLY DEAD” I would really like that story to stop.

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