In Defence of the Cliche
I have been recently watching a family drama on Netflix, “The Good Witch.” My husband saw one episode and won’t go near it again. It’s a sweet show; wholesome, charming, sometimes boring and dare I say it…. cliché. At first, I thought the show had lazy writers who couldn’t think of new ideas. Then I realized the writers of this show know exactly what they are doing, the clichéd writing is overtly intentional.
Why you may ask would a show intentionally write a script that isn’t fresh, unique or even relevant to the times? Aren’t we taught in primary school to run from the clichés? Even basic writing courses preach cliché abstinence, having students strike as many clichés from their work as possible. But should they always, or is there a time for a cliché or two? Are all clichés as abhorrent as they are made out to be? The answer, at least in my opinion is no. Before all my literary friends start shrieking in horror let me explain with a story...
I, like most people, enjoy listening to music on the radio. And I, like most people, have songs that I dislike so much, I change the station every time they are played. Yet here in Israel, the music selection is limited, especially when it comes to English songs. So now, whenever I hear an English song playing, I turn up the volume. It doesn’t’ matter if it’s a song I can’t stand; if it’s in English I’m happy. Why am I happy despite the sometimes-horrid lyrics? Because it’s in a familiar language. That’s what I think the intrinsic value of a Cliché is. It provides some comfort to the reader, viewer or listener just by being familiar.
Think about the stories you enjoy reading and the movies you like watching. I’ll bet there is some overlap in the plots. I’ll even wager that you enjoy certain books and movies because you recognize something familiar in them. There is a reason some tales are as old as time; we find the enjoyable plot timeless.
That’s not to say that clichés should take the place of good writing. They shouldn’t! Thrills and chills are what gives a story momentum. Yet one or two good old clichéd plotlines give the reader an avenue they can be sure of and yes, some readers find that very comforting.
Now that I understand the reasoning behind some of the writing of “The Good Witch,” I can enjoy the show. I may be able to say the actor’s lines before they say them and easily predict how the episode ends by the second scene, but I’ll give the show credit it deserves because it’s downright soothing. I curl up with a cup of tea and enjoy the small-town scenery, the charming little love stories and gaze longingly at the American conveniences I no longer have.
It makes me feel cheerful, nostalgic, and safe; a feeling that is much appreciated when life is uncertain.