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TV Tropes

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TV Tropes is a highly addictive drug a wiki whose mission is to catalogue and cross-reference recurrent plot devices, archetypes, and tropes in the media.

So what is TV Tropes anyway?[edit]

The wiki started out in 2004 on, 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 Hence the outdated name.[notes 1]

The website grew extremely quickly around 2009-10, when references to it started to circulate the Internet and its userbase grew past the original collection of Buffy and Joss Whedon fans, with websites like xkcd[1] and[2] 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 spent longer than a single Planck time day on the Internet knows that many (or at least the most vocal) Internet nerds tend to get extremely sensitive and hysterical in response to any perceived negativity towards their favorite works.[notes 2]

To stifle the edit wars, the site admins decided 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 (what they call the "Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment"[notes 3]). 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[3] (such as "So Bad, It's Horrible"[notes 4] and "Ruined FOREVER"[notes 5]) 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. As a counterbalance to the cynicism of the "Darth Wiki", the "Sugar Wiki" was created for tropes and discussions of a positive, idealistic, and saccharine bent.[4]

A major problem facing the site in 2011-12 was the growing accumulation of works of a fetish-intensive nature, many of which were explicitly pornographic and/or pedophilic. The "Troper Tales" and "Fetish Fuel" sections of the site also grew notorious for the downright perverted and otherwise maladjusted comments left by users, which soon became Exhibit A for people looking to criticize and make fun of the site.[notes 6] 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. The porn problem blew over in a few months.

Many who disagreed with the policies of TV Tropes, such as the porn exclusion, the increasingly strict moderation, and the requirement of copyright assignment for submissions from November 2013[5] through March 2015,[6] moved to Wikia and Orain Miraheze to form their own "mirrors" of TV Tropes.[7] The Wikia mirror has but a small fraction of the pages TV Tropes has, while the Miraheze 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[edit]

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.[8]

Following this outcry, the deleted pages were restored.[9] 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,[10] A Serbian Film,[11] and Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom[12]) have been grandfathered in, and even they have had their pages permanently locked to prevent anybody from tampering with them.

Political articles[edit]

Weirdly enough, the site has tons of articles on political systems, ideologies, and ideologues, but they should be approached with caution. The aforementioned rule about fans getting defensive of their favorite works and creators applies doubly here; because only a few users bother to spend a great deal of time on these pages (since most other editors drawn to the site are focused on other subjects), they tend to be dominated by ideologues who go in to either support the subject in question or grind their axes. For instance, the page on Michael Moore is overtly negative, but the page on Rush Limbaugh is, as one user pointed out, "softer than the image that he's intentionally trying to cultivate," to the point of the page bordering on sympathizing with his anti-global warming stance.[notes 7] However, many of the other pages are generally liberal or center-left-leaning in American terms.

Their page on American politics[13] might be slightly useless if you're not American, since they use American standards to describe the Democratic Party as mostly "centrist or tepidly social-democratic", and the Republican Party as "center-right", which may give some the impression they are as mild as most mainstream moderate-right parties in the Western World. While this is done to avoid edit wars this would be pretty misleading to most non-North Americans; a more accurate description would suggest that, by European standards, the Democratic Party could be classified as centrist and vaguely social-democratic to center-right, while the GOP ranges from center-right at its most moderate to hard-right (specifically, to the right of UKIP) at its most extreme. (Or as the satirist —and thus not precisely unslanted— Brit Ian Hislop put it, "Well, you have the Democrats, who are right wing, the Republican party who are very right wing, and the Tea Party, who are mad".)

However, their pages on socialism[14], anarchism[15], British politics[16], and conspiracy theories[17] are good for a quick read (or not-so-quick, in some cases). Also of note is their page on British newspapers, which is actually pretty in-depth.[notes 8]

Also worth noting is that their article on the horseshoe theory refers to it as the Horseshoe Effect, which is actually a clever way of addressing criticism of said idea.


TV Tropes has a Scientology trope by the name of "Church of Happyology", about works which use thinly veiled references to the aforementioned cult without actually naming it, in order to head off lawsuits.[18] On the page, they engage in the same behavior, e.g. censoring this quote to read "THIS IS WHAT [HAPPY]OLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE."

Visiting the site[edit]

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.[1] 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[19] and, by extension, your vocabulary[20] 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. It also means that tropes that could potentially be described in more accessible terms are instead consistently referred to by terms that are impenetrable to people who don't obsess over anime (e.g. "yandere").

The site has a "no such thing as notability" policy.[notes 9] While, again, this policy can allow some overlooked media to gain more recognition, it allows some aspiring artists with more ego than talent to "entry pimp", or 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!

Perhaps the most notorious example of a fanbase using TVTropes as a means of promoting a series is that of 'Whateley Academy' (listed as 'Whateley Universe'[21] in the wiki), a prose serial X-Men/Sky High pastiche with a heavy slant towards transgender issues and sex transformation; it gained considerable ire from the more mainstream editors when one editor who was a fan of the site began to add a large number of trope entries for it without first creating a series page for the website itself first. The (mildly, but very obviously) fetishistic aspects of the serial has also earned it criticism, with some arguing for its removal on the grounds of it being near-pornographic simply by its premise. Despite this, the site remains 'trope overdosed', with thousands of trope entries listed for it, even though it is otherwise rather obscure.

External links[edit]


  1. Something that they themselves take note of, or "lampshade" in trope-speak, on their "Network Decay" page (under the "Websites" section).
  2. 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.
  3. TV Tropes: "Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment". ("Ninety-nine percent of the wiki are not looking for a fight.")
  4. "So Bad, It's Horrible". Used to denote works that are generally agreed to out-and-out suck.
  5. "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. Regarding the latter, some tropers proposed "nuking the fridge" as an alternate name for "jumping the shark", but (unlike the fridge) it never really took off.
  6. This Troper was a web series that catalogued some of the most cringeworthy stuff for people to gawk at. (It's been all but dead since late 2012, perhaps because the efforts of TV Tropes' administrators have left them with no material worth making fun of anymore. The last episode had to make fun of the NaNoWriMo forum instead.)
  7. You can judge for yourself here.
  8. And here it is!
  9. Seriously. They actually call it by that name.