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TV Tropes

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TV Tropes is a wiki whose mission is to catalogue and cross-reference recurrent plot devices, archetypes, and tropes in media. They used to have pages about Conservapedia[2] and RationalWiki,[3] but both have since been deleted, the former for only having relentless mocking of their userbase that was all style and no substance and the latter for failing the site's "tropability" standards because we're insufficiently transformative.

So what is TV Tropes, anyway?[edit]

The wiki started 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, they then spread to encompass all TV shows and then all media.[note 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[4] plugging it. The Whedon-verse is a property that thrives on snark and witty dialogue, which the fans love it for, so at first, TV Tropes peppered its articles with a snarky point of view.

Alas, anyone who spends 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 to any perceived negativity towards their favorite works.[note 2]

To stifle the edit wars, the site admins decided to move all "subjective" material to the Reviews and YMMV (short for "your mileage may vary") sections. They ordered everyone to make the main articles as free as possible from judgment under the "Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment".[note 3] They also created the "Darth Wiki" as a corner of the wiki where tropes that were not only inherently subjective but prone to starting flame wars by their mere presence[5] (such as "So Bad, It's Horrible"[note 4] and "Ruined FOREVER"[note 5]) were ghettoed off to, and where standards for civility lowered, and people could say what they really wanted to about a movie, book, show, etc. that they hated. This shift didn't remove all of the complaints, as you can see with how toxic their now-deleted page letting people complain about works they didn't like was.[6] Naturally, some people perceived this as an attack on their opinions, 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. The idealistic "Sugar Wiki" appeared as a counterbalance to the cynicism of the "Darth Wiki" for positive and saccharine tropes and discussions.[7]

A problem facing the site in 2011-12 was the growing accumulation of works of a fetish-intensive nature, many of which were explicitly pornographic/pedophilic. The "Troper Tales" and "Fetish Fuel" sections 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.[note 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. They elected a body called the P5 to make the judgment call on whether a thing was disposable porn or artistically-valuable porn, which has since been replaced with an open forum for all users to discuss such things.

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[8] through March 2015,[9] moved to Fandom and Orain Miraheze to form their own "mirrors" of TV Tropes.[10] The Fandom 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.[11]

TV Tropes restored the deleted pages after this outcry.[12] The site no longer accepts pages for pornography or other works with a heavy sexual focus. Only a small number of works of historical or artistic value or notoriety (like Lolita,[13] A Serbian Film,[14] and Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom[15]) are grandfathered in, and even they have had their pages permanently locked to prevent anybody from tampering with them.


TV Tropes has a Scientology trope by the name of "Church of Happyology" about works which use thinly-veiled references to that cult without actually naming it, to head off lawsuits.[16] On the page, they engage in the same behavior, like 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 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 come across some quality snark. As should be obvious, the more you gravitate towards things that only the desperately psychotic could ever love, the crazier and creepier your situation is.

Regularly visiting the website will make you more aware of the various tropes and clichés 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 jokingly alludes to this tendency, claiming the site will ruin your life[17] and vocabulary.[18] You start seeing tropes in everything you read, watch, or play, and even use 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 veers in the direction of things that will mainly interest other nerds. While you will 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 get a lot more detailed. Many of the trope names come 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 hosts a plethora of fans of anime, manga, and Japanese pop culture in general, which is often a double-edged sword - while it has undoubtedly helped meritorious Japanese media gain recognition across the Pacific, it was also responsible for the porn controversy that burst open in 2012. It also means that tropes that could potentially get more accessible terms are instead consistently referred to by terms that are impenetrable to people who don't obsess over anime ("yandere" and the like).

The site has a "no such thing as notability" policy.[note 7] While this policy lets overlooked media gain more recognition, it allows some aspiring artists with more ego than talent[note 8] to "entry pimp" or use TV Tropes as a vehicle for plugging their fanfiction/webcomics and (often self-published) books. These works 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 Pokémon Dong-ichu saves the world with gangsta rap!

Perhaps the most notorious example of a fanbase using this site to promote a series is Whateley Academy (listed as "Whateley Universe"[19] 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 adding entries without creating a series page for the website itself. The (mildly, but very obviously) fetishistic aspects of the serial have also earned it some 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 obscure.

External links[edit]


  1. They take note of, or "lampshade" in trope-speak, their outdated name on their "Network Decay" page (under the "Websites" section). They also enjoy self-deprecating themselves.
  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. On a related note, they also have articles on the terms "Vocal Minority" and "Silent Majority".
  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". Unlike the fridge, it never took off.
  6. This Troper was a web series that cataloged some of the most cringe-worthy stuff for people to gawk. (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. Seriously. They call it that.
  8. Or as they call it, "Small Name, Big Ego".
  9. For the latter, the doubled quotation marks are intentional.