Welcome to a new series on my blog, one that I decided to call “Kaleidoscope of Tropes”.
(Basically, I searched for words that rhymed ‘tropes’ and thought kaleidoscope was pretty neat). But it basically exists to discuss all things tropes.
I was really inspired by Marie’s post and decided to talk about some of my favorite tropes in books and TV. So that’s what we’re doing here today.
WHAT IS A TROPE?
In storytelling, a trope is just that — a conceptual figure of speech, a storytelling shorthand for a concept that the audience will recognize and understand instantly. Above all, a trope is a convention. It can be a plot trick, a setup, a narrative structure, a character type, a linguistic idiom… you know it when you see it. (source)
And today, we’re going to be discussing the following trope:
THE BROKEN MUSICIAN
In short, this trope can show up in any work following a musician/super star/celebrity. Said character will either have a dark past, or trauma he’s working on. All of these issues can impact their career either in a positive way – inspiring passionate songwriting, for example – or in a negative way – giving them a bad reputation.
I’d say this trope is quite common, because, at least from my mundane perspective, celebrities lives can be so easily glamourized. Therefore, it becomes an interesting concept exploring the darker and not-so-pretty layers of it.
EXHIBIT A: WHERE SHE WENT, BY GAYLE FORMAN
I feel like I talk incessantly about this book on my blog, but I love it too much. This is the follow up for If I Stay, but focuses on Adam – Mia’s boyfriend in the first book -, as he is now the vocalist for the rising punk band, Shooting Star.
Adam has anxiety and a lot of unresolved business in his past, which totally drips to his music. In the book, we can see tiny excerpts from his lyrics, which are all so tragic and angsty.
Even though his career is technically skyrocketing, it is not without compromising his mental health, reputation and even his personal relationships. He does not have a friendly relationship with his bandmates anymore and most of the tabloids are very unflattering to his image.
Needless to say, I adore Adam as a character and being inside his head is so fascinating and intriguing. I really wish he was a real person sometimes, so I could really listen to his music.
EXHIBIT B: YOU’D BE MINE, BY ERIN HAHN
In this dual perspective novel, we’re following two musicians, both falling perfectly under this trope. Clay is a very successful country star, who’s been recently collecting scandals – from bar fights to underage drinking. He’s totally developing a drug issue, but pretends to be fine most of the time.
Annie is rising in the country scene. Daughter of two huge stars who committed suicide when Annie was still a kid, the girl has a lot of past trauma to unpack. She ends up tagging along for Clay’s tour and they form an interesting relationship.
Both of these characters are so awesome, because like I mentioned earlier, I think they can represent very well how trauma & hardships can affect your career both in positive and negative ways. For Clay, it’s mostly negative, as his label is about to drop him. For Annie, it’s positive because she can channel all of that into amazing songwriting.
However, the book is not trying to glamourize their hardships, like some may think. Despite showing them in a “glamourized” environment, the book goes at length to show how unhealthy these beaviours are and how much they need help.
EXHIBIT C: DAISY JONES AND THE SIX, BY TAYLOR JENKINS-REID
Taylor Jenkins-Reid is very well known for writing her characters like they’re real people, and it’s no different with Billy and Daisy in this book.
Even though we’re following multiple characters, I focused on these two because they’re *the* characters who embody this trope the best.
Daisy is gorgeous and has every man falling at her feet, but like she puts it herself: she doesn’t want to be somebody’s muse, she wants to be the somebody. Billy has always been in love with music, but once on the road, he quickly develops a drinking issue.
Both of these characters have *so much* they need to work on. Starting with being honest with themselves, of course. But, in general, they’re both struggling with their own personal demons – whether that is insecurity, addiction or unrequited love. And they’re again two people that I wish were real, so I could listen to their really great lyrics.
EXHIBIT A: DEACON CLAYBOURNE, FROM NASHVILLE
I feel like musicians with drinking issues are truly a cliché, because this is the third one I talk about. However, what’s really interesting about this dynamic is that when the show starts, Deacon is already out of rehab and clean for years.
The show truly explores the dark sides of addiction – how it took him away from the woman he loved all those years ago, and how it’s a constant battle not to give in to past habits.
Deacon is also known for having a temper and being rather impulsive at times. But that only makes him an even layered character, and a really fascinating figure to follow.
EXHIBIT B: AUGUST RUSH
I think everyone in August Rush fits this trope a little bit, which is exactly what makes this movie one of my favorite ones of all times.
In case you’ve never watched it, the best way I can describe it is with a quote from the movie itself: “I believe in music the way some people believe in fairytales“. Following a little orphan boy, Ethan, the movie talks about the power of music in bringing people together.
Louis is our main character’s father and a vocalist and guitarist for this rock band. After meeting Layla, his life changes a lot. Despite it being such a quick encounter, it affects his relationship with other people and even with his friends and bandmates for years to come. Layla is a violinist, with a perfect career planned ahead. Needless to say, a pregnancy is not part of her plans. Even after so many years, these feelings still pour into her music.
And, then of course, there’s Evan – their child. He’s very passionate about music, and this passion can not be explained. He’s incredibly skilled, despite never having the chance to properly learn it. His search for his parents and the way he just truly believes they’ll find him as soon as they have the chance to listen to him is heart-wrenching.
Just writing about this movie makes my heart ache. It’s so beautiful and emotional and these characters are so incredibly layered. It’s just truly breath-taking.
Wow! This was a long post. I hope y’all have stuck around ‘till the end.
If you have, let me know in the comments: do you have any suggestions for me of books/shows/movies that contain this trope? Have you watched/read any of the ones I recommended?