Popular Action/superhero movie and tv tropes

Martial arts:

Why does nearly every character who doesn’t have magical/psychic powers or the powers of technology know martial arts? Throwing in Samurai, Dojos, Masters, Ninjas or any other Eastern reference definitely does not help either. Seriously, learn a new trick for taking down the bad guys.

Spies, secret agents and assassins

James Bond, Marvel’s and S.H.I.E.L.D are notorious for having top secret agents. As a result,  this tv trope has become a staple in many action movies – being Russian is optional. I’m not going to spend too long on nationality here, because an entirely separate point about foreign characters could easily be made here.


If there’s no superpowers or magical abilities, then there’s gadgets. Batman is well known for his gadgets, as is Inspector Gadget and James Bond. I don’t know why hi-tech gadgets are such as staple in action movies. But they add to the whole secret agent image.


(A.K.A Tutors, Teachers, Mentors, Guardians) the protagonist is an imperfect idiot who requires near constant supervision. Young Jackie Chan in the tv show is one such example (once again, we’re thinking a sensei in The Karate Kid). But there are countless others

“Secret organistions”

Look, the ministry of magic, MI5, the FBI and the Council of Elders aren’t even that secret any longer. If they’re combined with the media and/or government, we’re hoping into post apocalyptic territory of The Maze Runner, Divergent and The Hunger Games. Bring  rogue scientists into the picture and we’ve got the X-men, Powerpuff girls or the scientists WICKD again.

Bad gangs

Team Rocket, The Brotherhood, Hydra…..stop it with these mafia parodies. Team Rocket especially, with a name like Giovanni and his stereotypical pet Persian. Sometimes, the evil members don’t have to be a large corporation or organisation, or even a mystical or divine force. Sometimes it can be just a freak accident which is the indirect result of something else.

Crappy/boring day jobs

Not all characters have terrible day jobs – Tony Stark and Poison Ivy being a couple of notable examples. But for most superheroes, they have two identities to prevent being discovered. Surely if at least someone was self employed, the characters wouldn’t have these problems? There’d still be drama, like with the neighbours wondering and fighting bad guys, but it’d be more original to try having a character who doesn’t work in an office cubicle.


Something these characters or the villains use has been made by a scientist  – genetic mutations, drugs, costumes, weapons, gadgets etc. Or, in a few cases, the protagonist is a scientist themselves. Inventors and psychologists basically fall under the whole scientist category as well. Could we not have maybe a different kind of profession, like a mechanic?

Films/TV shows which parody these tropes


the basic movie summary is that an alien supervillain accidentally kills his tally  his arch nemesis, Metro Man, and decides to create his own new hero he can fight. The twist in the film is that Metro Man actually faked his death and Mega Mind’s new town hero turns about to be the bad guy.

The Incredibles:

Like with many superhero films, this story tells the life of a suburban, slightly  family dysfunctional family (because we’re all a bit quirky and have special talents). Violet’s invisibility and force fields are metaphors for her defense to protect her feelings and just disappear, Dash is a young and white Usain Bolt trying to sprint, Helen’s elastic body symbolises her flexibility in life (along with spreading herself too thinly), and Bob’s strength is a symbol for his roid rage  as a result of his bodybuilding.

Austin Powers:

A 90’s parody of the James Bond series, Austin powers is a comedy movie which spans the agent Austin from the 1960’s onwards. Notable for being exceptionally goofy, Austin is well-known for acting up around women.

One of the things i liked about bolt was that it was a movie about an actress and her dog. The relationship between the pair is incredibly strong,  and Bolt would do anything to help his owner. Admittedly, what sets the action going is Bolt’s disappearance after he thinks he’s going to find Penny. Instead of being an actual normal dog who, by some freak accident, is transformed into a superdog, Bolt is led to believe he has always been gifted and has to learn to be normal instead. Mittens, a stray alley cat, teaches bolt that there’s more to life than what Hollywood makes out to be. One of the most extraordinary features in the film is that bolt learns to be a hero in real life, not just on a silver screen, after he saves the crew from a fire.  The story concludes that fame isn’t everything, and they go to live a simpler life.

The Mask:

Yet another comedy parody of the superhero genre, the mask illustrates how superheroes in real life parody cartoons. The mask’s facial reactions mimicking that of the wolf from old droopy cartoons, and his wacky sense of humour. Jim Carrey’s caricature expressions highlight how hammed up cartoons and comic action scenes truly are.

The Crimson Chin and Mermaid Man:

Oh look, cartoons are parodying action heroes from comic books. Why? Just to try to tell you that the cartoon you’re watching is totally real. Whilst this is all fair and well, a frame narrative doesn’t bode particularly well with mirroring reality. However, I will give kudos to the author at least trying to reach out to superheroes and being metafictional.

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