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You Keep Using That Word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

A TV Tropes Wiki Trope involving the loose usage of the term "subversion".

Subverted Trope vs. Averted Trope

People tend to label any series that merely completely avoids a certain trope as a "subversion," when in fact that's called an aversion. It's only a subversion if the work sets up the trope, creating an expectation that the trope will be used, and then does something else. It's an aversion when the genre itself sets it up.

For instance, if the trope in question is "pre-recorded laughter that punctuates every joke in a sitcom":

  • Aversion: The show has no laugh track.
  • Subversion: The pilot episode begins with an especially obnoxious laugh track that punctuates every line, but it turns out to be part of a Show Within a Show.

Aversions hardly ever need to be noted. To quote Averted Trope, unless the trope is so universal within a genre that exceptions truly stand out, there's not much point in listing an aversion on an examples list that serves to illustrate a trope's patterns and their prevalence. However, if works in a series make notable use of a trope, then aversion in later installments also become notable.

Subverted Trope vs. Inverted Trope

A slightly more subtle distinction; inverted tropes are sometimes incorrectly described as "subverted". An inverted trope is where the usual setup of the trope is in some way swapped: sex-flipped versions are quite common, though by no means the only example.

A trope can of course be both inverted and subverted, if the viewer or reader is led to expect the straight version only to be given an inversion of some kind, but an inverted trope is not automatically also a subverted one: there needs to be a genuine attempt to suggest that the trope is going to be used straight to qualify as a "subversion".

Subverted Trope vs. Justified Trope

Worse, occasionally a slight spin on the standard trope formula, such as the addition of a justification, is seized upon as a subversion by the occasional fan, perhaps because they don't want to acknowledge that a trope was played deadly straight to good effect in their favourite work.

Subverted Trope vs. Deconstructed Trope

Occasionally, Deconstructions are also listed as subversions. A Deconstructed Trope is played completely straight, and so is not a subversion even though they subvert people's expectations of the consequences of a trope. There's also a related problem of people mislabelling things as deconstructions or Deconstructed Tropes when they aren't, but that's another matter.

Subverted Trope vs. Downplayed Trope

Sometimes, when people talk of "Partial Subversion", they mean Downplayed Trope, where the trope is still present, but to a much lesser degree.

Subverted Trope vs. Playing with a Trope

Beware ye these abominable Weasel Words that refer to various methods of Playing with a Trope:

  • "Slightly subverted in that..."
  • "Semi-subverted when..."
  • "Partially subverted..."
  • "Actually somewhat subverted because..."
  • "A possible subversion is..."

A real subversion plays off the expectation of a familiar trope being set up in the viewers mind. Subtle, even laudably creative, variants are not that. When a trope is subverted it's very, very obvious: there is no "somewhat."

Subverted Trope vs. Square Peg, Round Trope

Worst case scenario, the so-called "subversion" is actually Not an Example at all.


  • Partially subverted in TV Tropes Wiki, where the word subversion is often used to mean aversion, parody, straight use in a comical context, etc.
    • Also subverted outside of TV Tropes Wiki, where a totally different definition of subversion exists, unrelated to subverted expectations.
  • A more concrete, media-inspired example: in science fiction settings with transporter devices, time travel or faster-than-light travel, the viewer may be reminded that a slight miscalculation could cause a traveler, spacecraft or time machine to materialize inside solid rock. This almost never happens on screen. At the end of the 2nd season of the 2000's Battlestar Galactica, a spacecraft actually does "jump" inside solid rock, killing the crew immediately. Actually showing this instead of hinting at its danger (which the audience has come to expect from the genre) is an example of a subversion
  • While some may use Subversion as their revision control system due to the fixed bugs and better-tweaked features, most get by with the more common CVS.
    • A lot of people have been switching to Subversion, though. Then there are those who use Git, and the fewer still who use Bazaar.
    • SVN (Subversion) is actually pretty common, especially on newer or larger open-source projects (the newer ones have no reason to use the defunct CVS, the larger ones have constant pressure to upgrade). In a subversion of the gradual change from CVS to SVN, changing projects over to various distributed version control systems has been slower because of the automatic holy wars already emerging among the three major DVCS contenders: Git, Bazaar, and Mercurial (hg).
    • If you play Garry's Mod a lot, you'll notice that a lot of the more popular mods for the game use SVN. This is because they tend to update very frequently (Wiremod updates almost every day), and it's nice to be able to update to the newest version with a simple right click -> SVN Update, as opposed to going back to the website and downloading more content every day. Furthermore, you can update several mods from several sites at once this way if you select multiple folders.