Thursday, May 9, 2013

Literature Tropes #1: City Noir

Literature Tropes #1:  City Noir

City Noir :  According to TV Tropes, a City Noir is a big, scary, dirty city full of crime and other tropes, such as Apathetic Citizens and Sinister Subways.  Think Gotham City: angular sky scrapers, seen mostly in the dark, where Batman rescues people in narrow alleys.  Much dark fantasy and nearly every dystopian science fiction novel includes a city noir.  Even in The Hunger Games, the capitol is a brilliant perversion of this trope.  The city itself is colorful and high tech and prosperous, but it masks a sickening cold darkness at heart, an unpardonable callousness, a population that cheers wildly and weeps openly for the contestants of this grotesque game to the death, without ever seeming to realize that people are dying for their entertainment.     

I think we like reading about dark, depressing, apathetic, crime-ridden cities because it gives our heroes a dark background against which to shine even more brightly.  Small acts of kindness feel epic.  Turn-arounds can be drastic.  

And those lovable flawed characters?  Everywhere.  

Writing this from within a big, depressing, violent city, I can also say that my depressing city is nowhere near as depressing as those dystopian horrors, which makes me feel better about my own situation.  And isn't that half the appeal of escapist literature?  To make us thankful for the boringness of our own lives?  So bring on those scary dark cities where you can't walk outside without some gory tragedy befalling you.  It's fiction!   


  1. So for escapism you like to escape to a story with a horrible dystopian city you would hate to live in? I don't get it.

    I guess it is like watching a sad movie that makes you cry so that when the movie is over you can come back to a happier world.

    -Obnoxious Troll

  2. Doesn't that make sense? Like the old story of the wise rabbi. When a man complained that his house was too small, the rabbi told him to bring in the chickens. When the man obeyed, but complained again, the rabbi told him to bring in the pig. This went on and on until the man couldn't stand it anymore. He went to the rabbi and the rabbi said, "Okay, take everything back outside." Suddenly the house seemed big and the man was happy.