The "Silence is Golden" Cliché in Filmdom

Movies are great. A good one can place you in an entirely new world. I have watched quite a lot of films and have done quite some reading on film making, directing and writing. This makes watching a good flick even more fun, as you start to pick up on small details which make a movie brilliant. At the same time, you will get frustrated much faster when a movie commits common cliché.

There is one cliché which is extremely popular. It can be found in every genre you can think of. I call it the "silence is golden" cliche. Most of you will probably recognize it. For example, the protagonist has a secret he is struggling with, but he is determined to fix it himself. He actively hides it from those close to him, even if they ask him directly what he is hiding and how they can help. Yet, he stays determined, keeps his mouth shut, and consequently pushes those close to him away. This secret can be anything ranging from hiding his feelings for someone, to being blackmailed in some way. In the end, the supporting characters find out about the secret, and rush to his aid. Of course, they get there just in time and celebrate. Meanwhile, I am left to wonder: "Why didn't you just tell them immediately!?".The This cliché is so popular, because it is a very easy way to create drama and tension. In some movies, it is the sole reason the entire story happens at all. However, that does not help the story. If there is little to no reason for hiding the secret, it creates a major plot hole. Sure, the protagonist has his "pride" to worry about, but wouldn't showing some humility strengthen the character?
When I do see a movie (or show/game/etc) which actively avoids this cliché, it feels like a breath of fresh air. It allows me, and many others, to relate much more to the characters in the movie. I get so happy when the main character immediately tells her family what is going wrong. This allows to supporting cast to get much more involved, as opposed to excluding them.

If you are wondering what movie to watch next, give Man on a Ledge (2012) a shot. I just watched it and it quickly became one of my favorite movies. Don't watch a trailer, just jump straight in!

I hope you enjoyed this myTake!


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What Girls Said 1

  • I completely agree with your myTake, it is overused and is very easy. It also kind of reminds me of the plot cliche the Nostalgia Critic calls "liar revealed". Someone keeps up an act to get in good with a group or keep their support, they find out, everyone mopes for a while, then they realize the differences don't matter and wrap up the story.

    I had another thought on when "silence is golden" is a good thing - script. I've noticed with a lot of movies these days, there's a metric ton of exposition to explain things to people, as if the audience is stupid and will not get it unless it is spelled out word for work to them. It goes for emotional scenes too; characters say how they're feeling, instead of expressing it. One scene I think does this right is actually from How to Train Your Dragon, when Hiccup is about to slay the dragon he downed. The video is here:

    It's very tense and emotional, but there's very little dialogue. It's all played through expressions, which makes gives it so much more weight.

    • You know the Nostalgia Critic too! He is one of the reasons why I got this into movies to begin with. The "liar reversal" is indeed quite similar to Silence is golden. Many movies share a very predictable 'flow' of drama. During the beginning of the movie, everything is awesome. Things just keep getting better. But then, about halfway through, the main character goes: "Oh no, it all went wrong! I will never be happy again". 15 minutes later, it all turned out to be nothing and everyone lives happily ever after. I hate the predictability of this story structure.

      The clip is indeed very well done. I love it when movies manage to convey story and emotion without dialog. It reminds me of an old running joke the Nostalgia Critic used to do, where he would start singing over the movie's dialog: "exposition, exposition, ...". He made fun of dialog which sole purpose is to explain something to the audience. Stuff like when an army general would explain what "flanking" is to his soldiers. (...

    • (...) The obviously should know that. It feels like a cheap trick in screen writing.

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