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 So what is TV Tropes anyway?
The wiki started out in 2004 on Buffistas.org, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan forum, as a fan-project to catalog said tropes from the Buffy television show by forum nerds. Because nerds have a diverse set of interests, it then spread to encompass all TV shows and then all media. Hence the outdated name.
The website grew extremely quickly around 2009-10, when it started to circulate the Internet and its userbase grew past the original collection of Buffy and Joss Whedon fans, with websites like xkcd and Cracked plugging it. The Whedon-verse is a property that thrives on snark and witty dialog, which the fans love it for, so at first TV Tropes peppered its articles with a snarky point of view.
Alas, anyone who has been longer on the Internet for more than one Planck time knows that many (or at least the most vocal) Internet nerds tend to get extremely sensitive and hysterical at any (perceived) negativity towards their favorite works. To stifle the edit wars, the site asked that all "subjective" material be moved to the Reviews and YMMV (short for "your mileage may vary") sections, and that the main articles be as free as possible from judgment calls. They also created the "Darth Wiki", a corner of the wiki where tropes that were not only inherently subjective, but prone to starting flame wars by their mere presence (such as "So Bad, It's Horrible", "Ruined FOREVER", and "Wall Banger"), were ghettoed off to, and where standards for civility were lowered and people could say what they really wanted to about a movie, book, show, etc. that they hated. Naturally, some people received this as an attack on their opinions, being unable to cope with the subtle complexities of moving the opinions to a different page. Eventually, though, the editors caught on that they were still entitled to say whatever they might like about a work, as long as it was in the right place.
A major problem facing the site in 2011-12 was the growing accumulation of works of a fetish-intensive, if not downright pornographic, nature. This eventually caught the attention of the site's primary revenue source, Google AdSense, who pulled advertising from the site and stopped the money on more than one occasion due to their policy against hosting their ads on sites containing explicit material. Driven to act by the loss of advertising revenue, the site's moderators quickly launched a campaign to eliminate and lock such works from the wiki. An elected body was chosen to make the judgement call on whether a thing was disposable porn or not. Once again, there was a great hue and cry about how the dictatorial moderation staff and Google were stifling the voices of freedom... and so on. This blew over in a few months, with those unable to bear working on a wiki that wouldn't have porn on it moving over to Wikia and Orain to form their own "mirrors" of TV Tropes. The Wikia mirror has but a small fraction of the pages TV Tropes had, while the Orain mirror has a much more complete page dump of TV Tropes from June 2012, and both wikis have a small but regular amount of editing.
 2012 Google rape crackdown
In late June 2012, in response to repeated concerns from Google AdSense, TV Tropes initiated a purge of pages listed on the "Rape Tropes" index, attempting to remove or rename all tropes containing the word "rape" in the title. The removal of 12 pages containing valuable information on sexism and sexual harassment, while leaving more innocuously titled articles intact regardless of content, understandably resulted in an outcry from Aja Romano of The Mary Sue.
Following this outcry, the deleted pages were restored. Pages for pornography or other works with a heavy sexual focus are no longer accepted on the site; only a small number of works of historical or artistic value or notoriety (like Lolita, A Serbian Film, and Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom) have been grandfathered in, and even they have had their pages permanently locked to prevent anybody from tampering with them.
 Visiting the site
While even the site itself likes to poke fun at it being a time-waster, it actually has a well-deserved reputation for being a highly addictive browser narcotic that can suck you in for hours at a time. If you stick to titles with at least some degree of recognition outside the more insane fandoms, most of the site's contents won't seem too out of the ordinary and you may actually come across some quality snark. As should be obvious, the more you gravitate towards things that only the desperately depraved or psychotic could ever love, the more craziness and creepiness you're in for.
Regularly visiting the website will make you a lot more keen and aware of the various tools, cliches and story structures that are used in fictional works. It is a matter of debate whether this generates a greater appreciation of media, or if it just makes one more cynical about it. TV Tropes itself jokingly alludes to this tendency, claiming that the site will ruin your life and, by extension, your vocabulary as you start seeing tropes in everything you read, watch or play, and even start using trope terms like "lampshading," "your mileage may vary" and "anvilicious" in your everyday speech.
Because the regulars of the editing staff tend to be unapologetic nerds, the content of the wiki veers in the direction of things that will mainly interest other nerds. While you will certainly find pages on more classical and conventional works like Victor Hugo's Les Miserables (both the book and the musical) and Machiavelli's The Prince, the pages for geek interests like The Twilight Zone or the aforementioned Buffy are a lot more detailed, while many of the trope names are derived from such nerd favorites as Doctor Who, Batman and Discworld. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on how much of a literary snob you are. In particular, the site is crowded with fans of anime, manga and Japanese pop culture in general, which is very often a double-edged sword. While this has undoubtedly helped meritorious Japanese media gain recognition across the Pacific, it was also, in a large way, responsible for the porn controversy that burst open in 2012.
The site has a "no such thing as notability" policy. The policy allows some aspiring artists with more ego than talent to use TV Tropes as a vehicle for plugging their own fanfiction, webcomics and (often self-published) books, which tend to vary wildly in quality but usually fall on the wrong end of Sturgeon's Law. After all, those sheeple need to see the beauty in my masterpiece Hot Nite In 2 Boobz where my
author avatar original Pokemon Dong-ichu saves the world with gangsta rap!
- ↑ Something that they themselves take note of, or "lampshade" in trope-speak, on their "Network Decay" page (under the "Websites" section).
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 xkcd #609: Tab Explosion
- ↑ Cracked.com: TV Tropes
- ↑ The site's own "Fan Myopia" page contains a lot of good examples of how this can, and has in the past, hurt both the site itself and the fandoms of various shows, books, films, etc.
- ↑ The Darth Wiki.
- ↑ "So Bad, It's Horrible". Used to denote works that are generally agreed to out-and-out suck.
- ↑ "Ruined FOREVER". Used to denote moments that elicit that cry from a work's more hysterical fans, such as Greedo shooting first in the Star Wars recut, or the "nuking the fridge" scene in the fourth Indiana Jones film.
- ↑ "Wall Banger". Used to denote moments in works that make people slap their head and wonder exactly what the writers were thinking when they put that in. Or throw the work in question against the wall.
- ↑ The Tropes Mirror Wiki (Wikia), All The Tropes (Orain).
- ↑ Romano, Aja. "TV Tropes Deletes Every Rape Trope; Geek Feminism Wiki Steps In." The Mary Sue, 26 June 2012.
- ↑ Romano, Aja. "TV Tropes Restores Rape Tropes." The Mary Sue, 27 June 2012.
- ↑ Literature: Lolita
- ↑ Film: A Serbian Film
- ↑ Film: Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom
- ↑ TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life
- ↑ TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Vocabulary
- ↑ Seriously. They actually call it by that name.
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