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?