It's been awhile since I talked about tropes, and if I recall my last post was more about the website TVTropes.org than anything. For simplicity's sake, I'll redefine the concept here.
A trope is a character type, setting, plot device, dialogue convention, etc that you can reasonably expect readers of a certain genre to already know about by the time they get to your story. I.e. the Anti-Hero, the Hard-Boiled Private Eye, Applied Phlebotinum, Angrish, etc.
The point of today's post, however, is not to discuss the actual tropes themselves. What I want to talk about today is a concept called lampshading.
You lampshade a trope when you call attention to the trope in the context of the story. Let me give you an example from Terry Pratchett's Guards! Guards!:
In one scene, Captain Sam Vimes is confronting the villain of the story with the fact that Vimes knows about his nefarious deed. Now, Vimes himself is played as the hard-boiled copper, but the lampshade happens because the scene continues with the palace guards walking in very slowly because they know that a single man who's smiling at them is generally a secretly powerful ninja/warrior/hero who can wipe the floor with ten men without breaking a sweat. Pratchett continues with the lampshade by having the guards actually ask Vimes if he has any secret weapons, knows any moves that will allow him to beat them all up with simply a glare. Vimes says he wouldn't know where to start.
I hope that was a good enough example. If you need ones from television -- try Joss Whedon's body of work. He tends to love lampshading tropes left right and center.
Why am I talking about lampshading tropes? Well, I love tropes (as Stephanie and L.T. will tell you), and a good lampshade tends to make playing with a trope more entertaining, I feel, than playing the trope straight. That said, an unskilled lampshade can smack of an author winking at the audience -- but a skilled one makes the reader trust you the writer even more because you acknowledge the homage of the concept in your story.
TVTropes.org has a lot of examples of lampshading floating around. I want to hear some from you though ... what are your favorite examples of a writer/television show/movie that lampshades its tropes?