There are many problematic tropes out there. The entire genre of horror is notoriously full of ableism, romance choke-full of sexism, and fantasy dripping in racial stereotypes. What are the boundaries for their usage? Is it OK to use problematic tropes if you repurpose them to be otherwise? Can they be “reclaimed” in the way some people reclaim offensive terms?
This is a very interesting topic, though not one I’ve given much thought to admittedly. There are definitely many problematic tropes out there, but I don’t seem to run into them often as neither romance nor horror (nor a combination of the two) tend to appear on my TBR.
Broadly speaking, I think it’s ok to use problematic tropes if it’s done with care, without glorifying it. Such tropes can certainly be repurposed to show the common misconceptions about topics and to get a good message across. I have come across books where the author starts out with what seems to be a common trope, but as the story progresses, it goes in a very different direction and I think this strategy can be applied to problematic tropes to maybe change them to something healthier.
Additionally, I think certain tropes, regardless of how well they may have been repurposed or reclaimed, should be kept to an age group that can understand them, else the effort of repurposing them is lost. Younger audiences are more easily influenced, and such tropes should be used with caution, if at all in books meant for this age group. Ultimately, it’s not really the trope itself that’s problematic, but how it’s portrayed.
Do you think it’s ok to use problematic tropes? Share your thoughts in the comments below!