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A Trope which has gone way beyond being a Discredited Trope to where the very act of parodying and/or subverting that trope has itself become a trope.

The progression is generally:

Clever idea → TropeDiscredited TropeDead Horse Trope.

→ Then, if the downward slide continues, it may end up as a Forgotten Trope.

Named for "Beating[1] a Dead Horse" - an old idiom that describes continuing to do something pointless long after it would be obvious to anybody not mentally handicapped/under the influence of the Sunk Cost Fallacy that said course of action will yield no results and is simply a waste of time. For instance, continuing to whip a dead horse in an attempt to get it to wake up and start running - the horse is dead; it's not going to move anymore.

Naturally, Dead Horse Tropes tend to be The Oldest Ones in the Book, too.

If a Dead Horse Trope is still used straight in recent works despite seemingly being subverted or parodied to death, it's an Undead Horse Trope. If it was never really played straight enough to be a trope in the first place, it's a Dead Unicorn Trope. If it's so natural to the medium of storytelling that it can still be played straight no matter how often it's used and abused, it's an Omnipresent Trope. If the trope not only makes viewers/readers groan but also makes them angry, you've probably got a Pet Peeve Trope.

A common cause of Seinfeld Is Unfunny, because it's hard to imagine yourself back into the innocent frame of mind when this was new. Another similar trope is Deader Than Disco, where something that was hugely popular in its day becomes better known for the Hype Backlash against it or being mocked than for its own merits.

Examples of Dead Horse Trope include:

 Power Rangers SPD Monster of the Week: "Enough posing! Let's FIGHT!"

  • Tall, Dark and Handsome
    • More like an Undead, Cyclic Trope that alternates with Knight in Shining Armor. Because of both of these tropes in combination with The Hero and Anti-Hero, a story can keep the audience in suspense about where exactly it will land on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.
    • On the most literal level, however, this trope is still alive and well. After all, Americans and northern Europeans are on the average taller than other peoples; black and brown are still the most common hair colors; and Hollywood Homely has yet to become a widespread, non-ironic look for protagonists.
  • Take Me to Your Leader: Despite the fact that there is some Truth in Television in the sense that an explorer in a distant land, upon meeting some of the locals, might wish to speak with whoever's in charge around here, the form of this where visiting extraterrestrials request this is almost never played straight these days.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Not used seriously in most works set in modern times, but seen plenty of times in parodies.
  • Trope 2000: In part due to the fact that we are already in the 21st century. This got replaced with IProduct.
  • Utopia is mostly deconstructed in these days.
  • Because many drama series deal with touchy real life subjects these days as a matter of course, the Very Special Episode is more often parodied than played straight these days.
  • Vampire Vords
  • Working on the Chain Gang: The punishment was once very commonplace in Southern US states up until the mid-1950s. Today only a single county in Arizona remains as the one place that still makes use of chain gangs, although inmates serving on these ones aren't shackled together anymore. Nowadays, chain gangs mostly just exist in period pieces in media that involve prisoners in the early half of the 20th Century. Replaced with "community service" nowadays; usually a crew of guys filling potholes on the highway or picking up litter in the park, but these activities aren't gritty or sexy enough for Hollywood so they rarely show up in media.


  1. Or 'Flogging'
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