Monday, May 03, 2010

Classic vs. Cliché

When it comes to the ending of a movie or a book or short story, how can you tell when the ending is classic (an homage) or cliché?

Example: Kid gets cool toy. Toy has artificial intelligence capabilities. AI is nice and helpful to kid. Kid helps AI to learn and AI helps kid get through problem, or whatever. In the end, AI ties up kid and kid's family. The end.

AI betrays its creator/master/friend is a "twist" that's happened a lot in science fiction. It's happened so much that when I read something that introduces an AI that's important to someones survival that I expect it to betray and when it doesn't (*SPOILER* watch the movie Moon *END SPOILER*) I'm surprised.

So, when is that sort of an ending a classic and when is it a cliché? Is it only a classic ending when I enjoy the story and a cliché when everything building up to it is boring and painful? Is it still a cliché even when I, or you, enjoy the story/movie/novel? Are all classic elements -- plots, character archetypes, endings -- of stories that keep getting repeated cliché, or are they something else entirely?

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