Thursday, January 27, 2011

History: Pink Lipstick Aesop

Pink Lipstick Aesop was your general poor title. The trope concerns the tendency of many works of media to glamorize negative behavior by presenting it abstractly without offering any explanation for why such behavior is undesirable. The title comes from an episode of the television show Daria where a student makes an anti-smoking poster which just shows a person smoking. When the teacher points out that the poster doesn't actually explain why smoking is bad, the student takes out some lipstick to make a circle with a line through it.

Suffice to say, this was a reference so abstract that even fans of Daria would have no hope of understanding it. This in itself is not surprising and was the grounds for many renames. What made Pink Lipstick Aesop unusual was what we renamed it to- Truffaut Was Right.

Francois Truffaut was an influential French filmmaker associated with the New Wave. A quote is often attributed to him- "there is no such thing as an anti-war film". The reasoning behind this belief is that despite the best effort of any filmmaker, effective cinematography will make any movie involving explosions look cool. The film believed to be the inspiration of this quote is Apocalypse Now- a movie where fun-loving American soldiers destroy Vietnamese village so a bunch of American soldiers can have an awesome party. Emphasis far more on the fun and less on the people dying.

Don't feel bad for not knowing this- I'm not sure that either Truffaut or the French New Wave actually have TV Tropes pages. For that matter I'm not even sure Truffaut is the source of the quote in question- he's just the one to whom it is usually attributed. Not much research was conducted on the phrase, which even by TV Tropes standards was not well-known.

This likely seems a strange choice for a new title considering the early rules that had been outlined in my previous post. Both were relatively obscure references The only real difference between the two is that Daria is a pop-culture friendly show, whereas Truffaut is one of the pioneering figures in the development of film as a legitimate art form worthy of serious criticism. And therein lies the reasoning we used for the rename. Truffaut is a classic figure that anyone interested in tropes should be familiar with. Indeed, even just on the referential level, the idea of there not being such a thing as an anti-war film resonates. It's a heady topic which people tend to have trouble forgetting- war, people tend to agree, is a bad thing on a much, much larger magnitude than smoking is, even if both fall under the trope's purview.

Another advantage used to support Truffaut Was Right is that it was an effective snowclone. Lamarck Was Right was a similarly worded trope, concerning the tendency of some television shows to use Lamarck's theory of evolution. Once a person has learned what Lamarck's theory of evolution is, the title is hard to forget- like Truffaut, Lamarck is a historical figure that people should be familiar with, even though most of us aren't. Once a person has learned the theory and knows why it's important, the title sticks.

It was believed at the time of this rename that we could start a whole series of tropes with titles in the same vein, but didn't really catch on. Few individuals have names with the dramatic weight necessary to justify direction connection with the title. Even these names would not have survived if they had been named after characters from Power Rangers- a normal person understands that Lamarck and Truffaut are important people worthy of remembrance. The Power Rangers not so much.

Truffaut Was Right is one of the last survivors of the early period of renames. This title only succeeded thanks to the lower standard for consensus and a greater willingness to accept non-directly-descriptive names. It would not be proposed as a serious alternative title today. I don't know whether this is good or bad, to tell the truth- one worthwhile exception does not disprove the rule. Of course, to a large extent it's easy to feel nostalgia for the days when we didn't have such serious rules.

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