WAM Tropes

Things have been a little quiet here recently, so I thought I would get the ball rolling on a little discussion.  I was thinking to myself of the many wam stories I’ve read, and how often the wam-ee seems to be set up to, in one way or another, deserve it.  This isn’t always the case, but when it is, often it follows a fairly standard pattern; a trope, if you will.  And what strikes me as a particularly popular trope is the idea that a person can be deserving of a wamming if they are guilty of vanity.

Sometimes it’s the head cheerleader who cannot hide her sense of superiority.  Sometimes it’s the boss at work who orders around her underlings without a hint of respect.  The main thing is they will be good looking and well aware of it, and this itself will be the magnet for the mess.  The stooge will be written up with lovingly detailed descriptions of their outfit and accessories, with notes of how proud they are of their appearance and how much time and expense they went to in order to achieve it.  And that’s the ironic twist – that effort and expense are undone in an instant as something awful goes splash all over them.

Interestingly it’s something I (think I) have tended to avoid in my own fiction.  I don’t know that much about fashion and the idea of vanity in and of itself deserving a put-down just strikes me as (forgive the pun) old-fashioned.  I enjoy exploring other motivations for pouring a bowl of pudding over somebody, and some of my stories have even involved self-wam, which is pretty much the opposite of vanity.  Yet it is a classic idea and the foundation of many a wam scene and story, and as such provides a shorthand way of understanding the psychology of the incident without spelling it out.  We all know intuitively that someone who takes pride in their appearance will be aghast at having it so unexpectedly transformed.  If stories work on the principle of problem-reaction-resolution, it is a satisfying resolution to have the problem pulled down a peg and know exactly why it bothers them so much.

Now, your turn.  What kind of tropes have you noticed in wam, and what do you think of them?  Do you have a favourite?  Least favourite?

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6 Responses to WAM Tropes

  1. Well, that depends on if we’re talking about tropes identified by TV Tropes or not. If we are, there are loads I’ve noticed in my own work alone, let alone in the various other works on here – so many that it’s probably worthy of its own post.

    One that TV Tropes doesn’t have is the “Vote Show Story”. This used to be a fairly common format, where the readers would have a choice of two or more people (usually two, and usually celebrities) and whoever got the most votes would get gunged in the final part of the story. These were evocative of shows such as Noel’s House Party, which would often have a similar sort of vote. Examples of the Vote Show Story include Suzi’s Slop Drop by yours truly, Gunge Nation by MCPridz, Davina’s House Party by TellyGunge and the early series of NGYOB by MessySoMessy.


  2. yuck53 says:

    Err, err. I can never think under pressure. I response to the main topic though I think the vanity trope is common because it is always assumed even when it’s not explicit. The assumption is that the victim has taken some degree of effort in arranging how they appear and getting gunged subverts it, hence humiliation even when it’s a self-gunging. Making the trope explicit just moves it from being awkward to horrifying.


  3. henrylee1 says:

    I’d say that revenge is among the most prevalent WAM tropes, and is one of my favorites.


  4. Ron Reis says:

    I have always preferred the vanity trope. As outline above, I like when the girl is the proud, snobby type who takes great concern over her appearance only to end up in the mud. I have written a few stories along these lines usually with the girl doing herself in and others with a bit of revenge. Below is one that I wrote in the first person:
    Last summer I went to my boss’s place in the country for our company picnic. Despite this being advertised as a very casual event, I wanted to look nicer than the other girls so I bought a new outfit: Long, pale yellow sundress, a white sweater (both Ralph Lauren) for over the shoulders, new white canvas Keds with little white ankle socks. I even wore a simple strand of pearls to dress up the outfit. I spent extra time getting ready that morning working on my hair and primping my outfit wanting to get the sweater to lay just right over my shoulders.

    Along with receiving several compliments, my choice of attire got me out of those silly picnic games and races and kept me away from all of those “messy” picnic events like the egg toss, water balloons and tug-of-war. In exchange for getting out of those activities, I agreed to be the designated photographer for the day looking for material for the company newsletter. I was able to observe everyone else getting hot/dirty/sweaty…but from a safe distance. One girl had an egg break on her shirt and another had a water balloon hit her shorts. I got pictures of both all the while being thankful that I did not participate in those games. When asked to join the water balloon toss, I said, “Sorry…no thanks…not in this pretty dress. It’s Ralph Lauren.”

    I made sure to only sample the “clean” foods such as the fresh vegetables, puff pastries and natural spring water. I kept my distance from the barbeque that many others were eating and in some cases wearing. I never liked eating that stuff with all of that messy sauce. I did get a few pictures of the people from my department “chowing down” on the barbeque chicken and ribs.

    After we were there for awhile, my boss had all of us go around to the side of his property where he had a pen set up for the kids to pet and feed some small animals. Despite my friend’s urging I graciously declined to go in as there were mud puddles throughout the enclosure and the far end was a complete muddy quagmire. I was getting pictures of my friend with one of the sheep when I saw that she was standing right next to one of those mud puddles. I told her that I couldn’t get her in the picture and that she needed to take a step back. She did so without looking and went right into the ankle deep mud, new Nikes and all. I laughed and teased her for always being the “messy” one and reminder her that she was going to have to spend the rest of the day in soggy shoes.

    To get a better view of my poor friend’s predicament and to snap a few pictures, I walked around the pen to the far side where there was a board that straddled the corner. When I went to step onto the board, a farmhand told me to be careful and I responded by telling him to mind his own business. The board was only a foot off the ground; not exactly a high wire act. He said that the board wasn’t bolted down and may not be stable. I explained that I had taken years of dance and had more than enough coordination to stand on a board that was 5-6 inches wide and maybe 10 feet long. He continued to shake his head and I simply extended my hand in his direction as a cue for him to steady me as I stepped up onto the board.

    After getting onto the board, I took some pictures laughing at my friend the entire time. The “ewww…yuck” look on her face was hilarious as examined her once-clean running shoes watching the muddy water drain out the mesh sides. I also was kind enough to point out how the mud was also kind of stinky. I remember looking down at that expanse of disgusting, slimy mud thinking how gross it would be to get one single speck of that mess on my outfit.

    In a pouty voice she asked what was so funny and I told her that, as usual, I was the smart one for not going in there and she should have done the same. To make my point, I gestured towards my pristine white Keds and held my one foot out like a ballerina in the process. When I did that, the board I was standing on began to wobble. I quickly regained my balance and looked up to see everyone watching me. I smiled as if to say, “I bet you thought I was going to fall. No way that’s happening.” I walked back and forth bouncing a little as the board had some give to it. I was still grinning at my friend who had been left with squishy feet for the day. I did a cute little spin on the board to get my dress to lift up just a bit and was given a polite round of applause by a few nearby. I adjusted my sweater to get it back in place, smoothed out my pretty dress and thanked everyone for attending my “show.” A few more golf claps from the folks nearby.

    I daintily held out the side of my dress and did a little curtsy to signify the end of my ‘show.’ I had been looking to the one side and when I looked back to the inside of the pen I noticed my friend wading into the deep part of the mud in front of me. When I asked her what she was doing, she pulled her right foot back as if to start a kicking motion. At the same time she said, “I think since my shoes are already muddy, it may be fun to get a little more muddy.”

    I could see that she was about to kick a wad of mud in my direction. I sternly warned her to not even think about it and saying, “Just because you were clumsy enough to wade into a mud puddle, don’t think for a second about doing that! At first I was kidding but now I’m serious, you really are the messy one. Standing in ankle deep mud in your new shoes. How gross!” She was not moved by remarks and a second later took two more steps forward as if kicking a football and launched a huge blob of mud in my direction. I quickly jumped to my left avoiding the salvo as it splashed across the board and beyond. I maintained my balance without much difficulty. Only then did I pick up laughter and look back at my friend who was now sitting prone in the mud with her mouth hanging open. Her left foot went out from underneath as she kicked and now found herself muddy from the chest down. Her denim shorts completely covered in mud. I immediately let out a bellowing laugh at her muddy fate saying, “Good move! I love it! You really should be more careful. That mud can be slippery. Gee, about 10 minutes ago you were clean and dry sporting new Nikes and now you are wallowing in a pig pen. I bet you didn’t see that coming. See if they have a hose you can use to get cleaned up.”

    I walked back across the length of the board daintily stepping over the muddy spots. My boss came over to the end of the board and offered his hand as I stepped down. I thanked him for being a gentleman and he complimented me on my grace. Back on the ground I watched some guy help my friend to her feet as she slogged out of the pen. My boss suggested we get some group pictures before wrapping up for the day giving the camera to one of his helpers. He decided we would stay in the same area and do the pictures in front of the fence to the pen but we needed to wait for my friend to get cleaned up. I told him to get a few of me first since I was the only girl wearing a pretty dress. I stood in front of the wooden fence that had been freshly painted white which complimented my yellow, knee length sundress. I moved a little down the fence closer to where the board was as there was a white blanket over the top rail. I had the helper follow me with the camera while the others milled about. Stepping on the bottom rung of the fence, I propped myself on the top rail with my legs crossed smiling for the camera. I had my right hand behind me on the fence and the other playfully twirling my pearl necklace. I asked a few people if my sweater was still in place and made a minor adjustment for the photos.

    By this time my friend made her was back over to where we were. I sized her up as she squished her way in our direction. She had in fact found a hose to get the heavy muck off but still was a soggy mess. She looked rather dejected and I gestured in her direction saying, “This is why I didn’t go in the pen in the first place. You never know what can happen.”

    She gave me a strange look and said, “You’re right. I guess you never know what can happen.”

    I flipped my hair to the other side and asked for one more photo as I pulled my right foot onto the top rail. As I primped my dress and touched up my hair, I heard my friend say, “Say Cheese!” which seemed odd as she didn’t have a camera. At the same time I heard a metal clicking noise. I looked to see what made that sound and saw that my friend unlocked the gate on the fence. The section I was sitting on began to move! I watched the grassy ground beneath me quickly turn into the same disgusting mud that I had been standing over and my friend had fallen in. A huge muddy morass. The gate stopped mid-way over the swampy quagmire.

    “You better pull this gate back I demanded! This isn’t funny!” I exclaimed. “This outfit is brand new! I don’t do dirt and mud!” I yelled furthering my point. My friend didn’t respond. She just smiled. I stared at her for what seemed like a solid minute and she continued to smile not saying a word. I looked away and down at the front of my dress. My pearl necklace and bracelet complimented the little pearl buttons on my designer dress- all glimmering in the sun. My pretty little white ankle socks in my brand new white sneakers were also picking up the sun. I looked back to see my friend reach for the gate. She had come to her senses and was going to pull me back over. I said, “Hurry up. I need to get going. I don’t have time for this.” I gave her a look of disdain and started thinking about my next stop for the day back in civilization.

    With that, she gave the gate a strong tug causing me to lose my balance. In an instant I fell off my queen-like perch. I saw the brown, slimy mud rush towards me as I screamed. I heard a gasp from the people watching and let out a defeated “Ugh….” as I felt the mud soaking into my pretty outfit. My pale yellow dress was now chocolate brown….the same with the cute sweater I had over my shoulders. After a few seconds of denial, I started to get to my knees. In my haste to leave the slop, I tried to stand but the mud was very slippery. One step forward and I fell on my butt soaking the last dry part of my body. Then as I stood again I felt my foot stuck in the mud which caused me to step out of my shoe. (At that moment I had a brief flashback to earlier that morning when I was taking my new white canvas Keds from the box and lacing them for the first time. I spent a few extra moments making sure the laces were even.) Back to reality – I dug the shoe out of the mud which only came out with a sickening slurp.

    My entire outfit was ruined! With arms out stretched and one of my Keds being held by a shoelace, I slogged back to dry ground. I then realized I even had mud in my hair and worse yet, in my pearls! What a mess! I just could not get over the fact that people had the nerve to be laughing at me. I was so mad!

    I immediately ran to my car and left making the 45 minute drive home covered in mud.


  5. TG says:

    As someone who wrote a very long story entitled Vanity, I’d say this is a trope I’m keen on. There are few more direct punishments for excessive preening and admiration of one’s own appearance than messy despoliation. However, vanity – or more generally, pride – doesn’t have to be focused on appearance. The story could be about the self-idolising sportswoman who’s assured she can beat any opponent, the factory owner’s daughter who views herself a cut above the workers, or the TV presenter who enjoys gunging others but believes she’s immune from a similar fate. As Grimnim puts it, “there’s something appealing about someone falling from a position of power into something slimy”.

    As for other tropes in WAM, proper discussion of them probably requires a whole series of posts. Out of the mainstream tropes, the Humiliation Conga is one that gets heavy use in WAM fiction, whether describing the protracted downfall of a villainess, or a stoogette for whom messy humiliation has become a fixture of everyday life.

    One of my favourite WAM-specific tropes is the walk of shame home, whereby a lack of spare clothes and washing facilities poses a logistical problem for the gungee. Usually, this embarrassing journey is left to the reader as an implied future (for example in “Trader Gunge Story 2” by maudit2, The Betrayal by Edonblade, and of course MCPridz’s Gunge Nation where it is a running theme), but in some stories it is explicitly described (e.g. in Snake’s A Most Humiliating Gunging).


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