Save Our Tropes!

TV Tropes is a wonderful site. You may have noticed that I pot-hole there a lot. It is also annoying the hell out of me at the moment. Huge changes are afoot, and not for the better.

For a definition of what a trope is, here’s what the site itself describes them as:

Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.

For examples, try these: Happily Ever After. Catchphrase. The Butler Did It.

That will have to do for a definition, as I can’t be bothered to go into any more depth. If you don’t understand from that what it is, then I suggest you google “TV Tropes” and whatever your favourite TV show is. That’ll give you a better idea than anything else I could say.

And if you don’t understand, and don’t want to, then you won’t want to know what’s being ruined and shouldn’t look beneath the fold.

TV Tropes is a wiki. In many ways, it’s very like wikipedia. Only it’s not. Editing on TV Tropes is much less formal, for one. And for another, there is a tendency on TV Tropes to pothole rather than provide links. As I mentioned before, I pothole to TV Tropes a lot. This allows me to convey meaning over the internet better than smileys or fake hash tags and commands ever could, as a trope, almost by definition, is universally recognised. If I were to be sarcastic, for example, I totally wouldn’t pothole to sarcasm mode.

The thing is; when you pot-hole to a trope, all people see is the name of the trope, and the name can be edited by anyone, it being a wiki. This is fine, as everything changes, and tropes as a language for understanding art forms are constantly evolving.

However, despite tropes themselves being simple, some trope names, while descriptive, can be a bit too colourful. This can spring from naming them in reference to shows that use the trope a lot, or using phrases that capture the spirit of the trope, if not the letter of the law, so to speak.

One common problem trope is “Beyond The Impossible“, which refers to when a show frequently tops itself in unbelievability. If you’ve ever watched Supernatural, you’ll know what I mean; first the Winchesters have to defeat ghosts; then demons; then beings which even in-universe no-one thought existed. And so on. Essentially, if you were originally told something couldn’t happen, then it happened, then it happened while the main character rode a bike juggling knives, then the show legitimately goes “Beyond The Impossible”. You see?

Here’s the problem: people the started pot-holing with “Beyond The Impossible” just when a thing sounded outlandish, as a way of saying “I know it sounds crazy, but it happened”. Pretty soon, people had to start excising such pot-holes, as they were just too numerous. (For a full list of similar tropes that actually got killed off because of this, see the Permanent Red Link Club.)

Still not him.

Obviously, people got tired of this pretty quickly. Some responses have been implemented, such as more rigorous trope page definitions, and whole pages devoted to lists of the tropes people always get wrong.

But apparently, these solutions didn’t work well enough for some people. And for some reason they have decided to start changing the names of tropes en masse. And making them boring.

I don’t know why they’re doing this, but I can only imagine that their reasoning goes something like this:

  1. People misuse this trope.
  2. Ergo, people don’t understand this trope, but think they do.
  3. People must be being misled by the trope title.
  4. Thus, the trope titles should be changed.

If this is their reasoning, which is as favourable an explanation as I can come up with, then this is ludicrous. Trope titles shouldn’t be made simpler. That just encourages people to think that they can understand a trope without reading the trope page, which will, in the long run, encourage more errors. Unless every single trope title is going to be reworded to have only one meaning. This is the english language, darling; that’s not possible.

The reason why this incenses me so is that in the process of clarifying these names, we are also losing their original flavour. The most obvious casualty is the trope “Crowning Moment of Awesome”, which describes when something so epic happens you want to punch the air or some other act of elation. Even the name, “Crowning Moment” captures some of that. And there were a couple of others like that, called things like “Crowning Moment of Funny” and “Crowning Moment of Scary” for similar situations.

Except now they have all taken on the much blander title of “Awesome Moment”, “Funny Moment”, “Scary Moment”. Somehow, something is lost. These phrases have none of the grandeur and bombast of “Crowning Moments”, and as such are far less accurate a description.

Other tropes are having show references removed. “Xanatos Gambit“, for example, named after Gargoyles’ David Xanatos, who made plans so that there was always an upside, even when he was beaten, is one of those threatened. I have no idea what they’ll replace it with, but I know that it won’t convince anyone to see if Gargoyles was a good show. The number of good shows and comics and webcomics I have found out about through such tropes is staggering; it seems a shame to lose that.

The tropers who are renaming these tropes are taking the idiosyncracies that I love about TV Tropes and standardising them, with the noble aim of making them make sense: in the process, they are losing some of the very flavour that makes TV Tropes awesome.

There. A cat which displays how I feel about this shit AND makes you laugh at the end of a long and serious post.

P.S. I’ve been deliberately stingy with trope potholes. This is because it’s too late at night, and there are too many tropes out there.


Posted on August 26, 2011, in Tropes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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