Tag Archive for TV Tropes

The Goon who Kicked the Tropers’ Nest

For­give me for the title; I’ve been on a Stieg Lars­son ben­der over the past week or so, which you can blame on the Fincher/Craig/Mara movie. The Eng­lish movie led me to the books and the Swedish movies. As of today, I’ve fin­ished Hornet’s Nest (the novel). It’s rel­e­vant, I promise.  My first post delved into the ideas of “sub­jec­tiv­ity” on the wiki, and my sec­ond about the com­mu­nity. In ret­ro­spect, those two barely scratch the sur­face; this’ll be a bumper post touch­ing on some stuff which, them­selves, may get a blog post unre­lated to TV Tropes. » Read more..

TV Tropes and the descent into madness

A lot has changed since my first TV Tropes blog post, which I notice is con­sis­tently the most pop­u­lar post on my blog (to my dis­may, actu­ally).  I was crit­i­cised by some­one defend­ing Troper Tales as “some­one on or in seri­ous need of seri­ous med­ica­tion”. I’m not kid­ding. Feels good mang.

Troper Tales was a part of the site where edi­tors could post where tropes applied to their life. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But it even­tu­ally devolved into socially awk­ward peo­ple and their power fan­tasies, and in gen­eral creepy shit. An infa­mous page that I tried and failed to get deleted was the page for “rape as com­edy”. Let that sink in for a moment: there was a page in which trop­ers could post where they sex­u­ally assaulted peo­ple for fun. In effect, it was a page where trop­ers could post “I squeezed my friend’s boobs, aren’t I funny?”. It was still wrong.

Enter Crazy­Goggs and Some­thing Awful. » Read more..

The failure and ridicule of TV Tropes

This is some­thing fes­ter­ing in my mind for the past week or two; a blog post that can hardly be con­sid­ered “hack­ery”. It’s really a shame that I’ve side­lined myself into blog­ging solely about British polit­i­cal min­u­tae. I’ve got more things to blog about than just how awe­some and cool Nick Clegg is.

I’m pretty sure we know what a wiki is: a community-edited resource of infor­ma­tion, usu­ally open to pretty much every­one (some­times reg­is­tra­tion is required). TV Tropes is a wiki geared, obvi­ously, to tropes (sto­ry­telling devices) in tele­vi­sion. It’s not an accu­rate descrip­tion, really; its remit has bal­looned from tele­vi­sion to all media, and some real life exam­ples; and it’s not a good exam­ple of a wiki.

You see, cre­at­ing a wiki requires that you open up a large part of how it’s run to a wider com­mu­nity, unlike a blog, which is con­trolled solely by the peo­ple who write the posts. And when peo­ple con­tribute to a wiki they want to see a return on their “invest­ment”. This is the way Wikipedia went over the past ten years; grad­u­ally, Jimbo Wales has relin­quished most of his power to pretty much all kinds of peo­ple: most pol­icy dis­cus­sion and imple­men­ta­tion is done by the pub­lic, actions are taken by the admin­is­tra­tors, com­plex dis­pute res­o­lu­tion by the Arbi­tra­tion Com­mit­tee, and sort­ing the legal and pub­lic side of it to the Foun­da­tion. This has served Wales well; even with lit­tle non-delegated power, he is still seen as the “head” of Wikipedia and his opin­ions carry a lot of weight; essen­tially, he is the Wikipedia equiv­a­lent of Queen Eliz­a­beth II. In theory.

On TV Tropes, how­ever, this is not the case. The main admin­is­tra­tor and site owner, Fast Eddie, doesn’t seem to have got what a wiki is about. Wikis by their very nature have a very egal­i­tar­ian, anar­chic struc­ture “on the ground”. Sure, the Wiki­me­dia Foun­da­tion has a clear power struc­ture, but that’s par­tially for legal rea­sons. TVTropes is mostly at a level that doesn’t need legal struc­tures to keep it afloat. Anar­chy on the web at its most, huh?

Not exactly. You see, Fast Eddie runs a tight ship on TV Tropes. As tight as Andrew Schlafly, infa­mous con­trol freak at large owner of the far-right blog “truswor­thy” wiki Con­ser­va­pe­dia. It can be excused, to a point, by say­ing “well, he owns the site”. But as I’ve said, wikis need to have some sort of democ­racy, or at the very least, con­sul­ta­tion with edi­tors, to sur­vive. FE doesn’t do this, though. He’s widely known by his admin­is­tra­tive fiat deci­sions which seem to go rel­a­tively uncrit­i­cised by the edi­tors. Sure, get­ting rid of things such as the Fetish Fuel index was the best thing for the site, but where Jimbo Wales would use his reserve pow­ers in an emer­gency, Eddie has more active pow­ers, to the point of an absolute monar­chy of the type seen in pre-Revolutionary France.

Fast Eddie also locks pages that he sees as “troll mag­nets”, but the cri­te­ria aren’t really defined prop­erly. The result is per­ma­nently sta­tic pages because he just for­gets about them. Con­trast with Wikipedia, which says that per­ma­nent full pro­tec­tion is a last resort only. The mod­er­a­tors have a warped sense of pri­or­i­ties too. When I came across the Troper Tales page for Rape as Com­edy and tried to get it deleted, I encoun­tered sig­nif­i­cant resis­tance despite the obvi­ous inher­ent prob­lem with the page.

And, of course, the piece de resis­tance: the great sub­jec­tive trope cull. Now, I’m no fan of pages on TV Tropes that are unduly pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, but the cull on these tropes really goes too far. Wikipedia has the right idea when it comes to neu­tral­ity: present facts, and present the facts of opin­ions, but try to find a bal­ance between those opin­ions. But we can’t even say if a work is good or bad, even if most peo­ple believe it’s bad, because it’ll some­how upset the peo­ple who think it’s good. Now, when it’s some­thing like a recent Hol­ly­wood film, the chances are that there are a size­able amount of peo­ple in that sec­ond col­umn. But surely we can make judge­ments like say­ing that the Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man was com­pletely ter­ri­ble, can’t we? I mean, a game that was par­tially respon­si­ble for the Great Video Game Crash of 1983?

Wrong. Appar­ently, say­ing that is “sub­jec­tive”. And herein lies the prob­lem with TV Tropes. Opin­ions about a work don’t exist com­pletely out­side the work itself. Take a look at the film Lady in the Water, where the char­ac­ter of a obnox­ious film critic was M. Night Shyamalan’s response to crit­ics who lam­basted The Vil­lage. Or, indeed, tele­vi­sion series where unpop­u­lar char­ac­ters are writ­ten out because the peo­ple hate them: Nikki and Paulo from Lost, for exam­ple. In all works other than one-and-done works, crit­i­cal recep­tion is essen­tial for fur­ther­ing a work. And indeed, there is a trope for char­ac­ters such as Nikki and Paulo: it’s called “The Poochie”, after the fic­tional dog from the industry-mocking Simp­sons episode “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show”. Luck­ily, it’s not a sub­jec­tive trope, yet.

But it doesn’t stop there. One of the most over­reach­ing and stu­pid poli­cies of the site is the whole “if you can’t say any­thing nice” guide­line that per­vades even writ­ing. This, how­ever, makes for incom­plete cov­er­age. To explain why, say, Seltzer and Fried­berg aren’t mak­ing spoof movies any more, we have to explain that Dis­as­ter Movie and Vam­pires Suck were bad and they bombed at the box office. To explain why Rob Reiner fell from an award-winning pro­ducer of The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, and This is Spinal Tap to the joke seen in the South Park episode “Butt Out”, we have to look at North, and why the film was so bad Roger Ebert famously said “I hated hated hated this movie”. But none of this mat­ters there. The prob­lem is so endemic that real-life exam­ples of a “People’s Repub­lic of Tyranny” was deleted for being “rude”.

Which brings me onto another short point: Fast Eddie has encour­aged the removal of real life sec­tions because it doesn’t fit the remit of the site. But any eval­u­a­tion of real life exposes this argu­ment as bare. Peo­ple use tropes all the time: for exam­ple, the “sus­pi­ciously spe­cific denial” gets used in pol­i­tics: for exam­ple, “I’m not being racist, but”, fol­lowed by a racist remark, or as I pointed out six weeks ago, “a fair impar­tial debate” between two peo­ple of one view­point. Tropes can eas­ily describe Real Life too: take the exam­ple of the Orwellian Edi­tor, which, like most of Nine­teen Eighty-Four, was a not so veiled slight at Josef Stalin, the undis­puted king of that kind of censorship.

And finally, the otaku nature of the com­mu­nity. No greater exam­ple can be found than the Nakama page. Nakama is, as the page describes, a Japan­ese word for a close-knit group of friends or char­ac­ters. So why use “Nakama” rather than the alter­nate titles of “Fel­low­ship”, “Com­rades”, “Coterie”, or even “Ohana” (which, as any per­son grow­ing up at the turn of the mil­le­nium, knows means “fam­ily, and fam­ily means no-one gets left behind or for­got­ten”)? Well, it’s solely because of an out­rage by anime lov­ing trop­ers when an attempt to move it to a more help­ful title hap­pened. This smarts par­tic­u­larly when some tropes named after west­ern media (e.g. “Ency­clo­pe­dia Browned” to “Con­vic­tion by Coun­ter­fac­tual Clue”) got changed for being “obscure” and “con­fus­ing”. And, as peo­ple have come to expect of the otaku, they tend to be socially stunted shut-ins who try to hide behind fake diag­noses of men­tal ill­ness, which, of course, belit­tles gen­uine suf­fers. But I digress.

There is a point to Fast Eddie’s changes: it’s to increase the rep­u­ta­tion of the site. But the dam­age has been done. From a con­trol freak admin­is­tra­tor to miss­ing the entire mis­sion of the wiki (and not as Fast Eddie repeat­edly changes it) mul­ti­ple times, and its user­base, mak­ing small changes like a ghet­tois­ing “sub­jec­tive tropes” is all full of sound and fury that sig­ni­fies noth­ing. Rep­u­ta­tional change will only come when the site treats itself seri­ously, instead of the clus­ter­fuck it cur­rently is.

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