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A Trope Breaker is a change in cultural context, such as a change in customs or mores, or an advance in technology, which renders some well-loved trope moot in contemporary storylines. Hollywood usually responds to Trope Breakers sluggishly, and clings to broken tropes via lame justifications. Sometimes a Trope Breaker is just flat-out ignored, leading to lots of Fridge Logic. If it goes on for long enough you'll get an Undead Horse Trope.

One reason for the Period Piece and Historical Fiction is that you can go back to a time of plausibility. Sometimes the audience doesn't realize that the Trope Breaker is Newer Than They Think.

Contrast Deconstruction, where a trope stops being used because a particular work takes the trope to its logical conclusion. Deconstructions are aimed at tropes (most of the time), while Trope Breakers have Tropes as collateral damage.

Tropes like Science Marches On, Tech Marches On, Outdated Outfit, Two Decades Behind and Magic Floppy Disk are largely subtropes.

Examples of Trope Breaker include:
  • DNA testing is a major Trope Breaker for
    • Soap Operas: In addition to its potential effects on Luke, You Are My Father and Mysterious Parent plots, it could be able to identify many Unknown Assailants. Instead, it has spawned a wealth of new justifying tropes such as the Laboratory Subversion, the Sample Subversion and the Concealed Test Result.
    • The Scottish film "Young Adam". It was made in the early 21st century, but had to be set several decades earlier so that DNA testing would not be a plot option. When a drowned woman is discovered to have been pregnant when she died, the last man known to have dated her is charged with her murder (and unjustly convicted) on the grounds that he had impregnated her and didn't want to marry her. DNA testing would have established that he was not the child's father.
    • Any uses of Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe can be broken by DNA testing, as long as the possible fathers aren't identical twins.
  • Less-lethal weapons are a Trope Breaker for police and crime dramas but not police documentaries. Lampshaded by Police Camera Action in the episode Less Lethal Weapons in 2007. This is typically just plain ignored: When was the last time you saw anyone hit with a Taser or pepper spray on a cop show? It's still mostly guns and a few clubs in this world.
    • CSI manages to make the pepper spray and taser combo have lethal consequences in one episode due to a series of extenuating circumstances.
    • It's also a point that in real life, police will never Taser a perp holding a gun(the twitching would cause them to pull the trigger), so more often than not, this is justified.
  • Thirty years of changes in women's hairstyles are a pretty serious Trope Breaker for the Beehive Hairdo, Elderly Blue Haired Lady and other outdated hairstyles. When was the last time you saw any woman with a beehive hairdo in real life? Other than Amy Winehouse, that is. Indeed, the lampshading of beehive poster girl Marge Simpson is constant--but the hairdo is still used as a trope implying a lot about Marge's character.
  • Cell phones are a Trope Breaker for tropes involving Pay Phones and Phone Booths, as well as many other tropes. "I'm afraid Mr. Important is out of his office and can't be reached right now." There are also far more dead zones in fiction - especially in slasher films - than one would expect in the real world, as though the cellular phone is powered by the same thing running the Millennium Falcon... (See Can You Hear Me Now.)
    • Can possibly be justified when Mr. Important doesn't want to be reached.
  • The digital camera breaks many photography tropes, some of which are still seen once in a while. What's a "Polaroid" again? Now that our memory cards are around the 2-16 GB range, who "runs out of film" or "out of memory" when shooting stills? Heck, when was the last time you saw a still picture in black and white outside a daily or weekly newspaper for other than artistic reasons?
    • So much for the sort of spy caper where the MacGuffin is "the negatives" of something incriminating (although this one got replaced by "Zoom zoom enhance enhance.")
    • "Out of film" and "out of memory" are being replaced by "out of battery" which has the same effect and is more believable. However, with scientists having prototype batteries that can be charged in 10 seconds, this too may soon be broken.
    • Several tabletop games involving vampires in the Urban Fantasy setting have had to make note that digital cameras don't work by way of reflections, and therefore will capture a vampire on film. This presents many problems for game masters who place an emphasis on stories involving a Masquerade, World of Darkness in particular. This bleeds into Trope Breaker territory quite often, but just as often subverts it, since tradition cameras do work by way of reflection, and any Period Piece vampire campaign since digital media became the norm has had to pay more attention to the lack of digital photography. This may be one of the few cases of a Trope Breaker that operates solely on Fridge Logic. A few films have made note of this phenomenon, but the simple application of Our Vampires Are Different usually sweeps it under the rug.
  • The increasing social awareness and acceptance of single mothers and out-of-wedlock births have made tropes like Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism acceptable and believable only when stories are set in the distant past, or under very restricting types of characters. This is more obvious in Soap Operas produced in South America, since single motherhood and absent fathers are so widespread there that few people can understand the drama in that.
  • The Civil Rights Movement can be credited with helping eliminate Egregious forms of the Ethnic Scrappy, along with many other sad and offensive ethnic tropes. On the other hand, it's hard to argue that other less-offensive but still Unfortunately Implying tropes such as the Token Minority and Black Best Friend didn't come into play as the result of attempts to be politically correct.
  • Certain Stock Shticks are rendered broken by technology, such as GPS doing away with the "man never asking for directions" schtick.
    • Commercials for Tom-Tom have put a new spin on it, though, having guys ask "Mom-Mom" or "Doug-Doug" for directions instead of getting a Tom-Tom.
  • Caller ID can break the stock plot of a person pretending to be calling from a place where he is not (though cell phones can sometimes help it work anyway). There are other ways to mask the number from which you're calling, but these never come up in the shows themselves.
    • This was Lampshaded by, of all people, Blink 182 (yes, the frat-punk band) in the song "What's My Age Again?" where the narrator's prank call is defeated by Call ID.
    • Also in Chopping Block, where Butch's attempt to replicate When A Stranger Calls fails thanks to Caller ID.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up arguably broke the plausibility of the entire Spy Fiction genre, though it still hobbles along with The War on Terror.
  • Coeducational colleges and dorms killed off the College Widow.
  • Modern medical science in the developed world has, for the most part, done in the Incurable Cough of Death, and Death by Childbirth, or so one would think.
    • Ignoring period pieces or anything set outside of the industrialized world, as many pathogens develop resistances, incidences of bacterial septic shock and resistant TB are on the rise. If Real Life Writes the Plot, these may become cyclic tropes. Sleep tight.
  • Eight-track tapes probably should've put a stop to the Record Needle Scratch. Even today, in the age of CDs and MP3s, that record needle still hears occasional use.
  • The current economic slump, credit crunch, and dismal job market just might be a Trope Breaker for Basement Dweller as more and more college grads have no other choice, even as they actively search for work. However, since the economy rotate between periods of good and bad, this is more of a Cyclic Trope than a Discredited Trope or Dead Horse Trope, and still Truth in Television.
  • More militaries have become professional volunteer forces doing away with Draft Dodging.
  • The feminist movement was a Trope Breaker for many tropes, including Distressed Damsel, Screaming Woman, Stay in the Kitchen, Hysterical Woman, and Monster Misogyny. Unfortunately, it also made the tropes Straw Feminist and Real Women Never Wear Dresses.
  • Artificial insemination smashes a lot of Sex Tropes to little bits by making sex no longer necessary to produce kids. For instance, All Lesbians Want Kids and Only You Can Repopulate My Race no longer require inserting tab A into slot B with all the potential angst this might involve. Of course, the suggestion almost never comes up except as Fridge Logic.
    • On the other hand, the man might have objections to making deposits at the sperm bank.
  • World War II is, at least in the West, simultaneously the Trope Breaker for anti-semitism and eugenics.
    • And made white supremacy a bit embarrassing in the United States. In fact, you could argue that World War II severely wounded the racism-related tropes that the Civil Rights Movement finished off twenty years later.
  • Most action stories that depend on "Alice has to stop Bob from getting the information back to his superiors/client" or "Alice has to get the information back to her superiors/client despite Bob trying to stop her" are difficult to pull off thanks to modern technology, unless we're talking a lot of data. Given current Internet connection speeds, we're talking file sizes in at least the tens of gigabytes, and this will only go up as connections improve.
    • However, the fear of hackers intercepting sensitive information and writing programs to make data interception and theft easier has given some credence to the idea that physical couriers will always remain relevant. It's a delicate balance between going paperless and not trusting paperless technology, having backups or making sensitive data scarce, etc., but several Speculative Fiction stories utilize and/or outright run on this concept. The best example would be Johnny Mnemonic, but it's not the only instance. Stories set in modern times still have a Broken Trope on their hands, though.
  • The Slurpasaur was common in the days when low budget B-movies forced directors to come up with some way of portraying dinosaurs, however silly it might look. Thanks to advances in special effects technology, particularly with CGI, this became less of a problem. Granted, there may still be Special Effects Failure thanks to Conspicuous CGI, but even then, the audience will still be able to recognize the on-screen creature as a Tyrannosaurus Rex and not a dressed-up iguana.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: The Internet broke the demand for Poor Man's Porn.
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