TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life

30 Nov



TV Tropes is a wiki that catalogs the various narrative devices used within various media. It’s an interesting way to unite a fandom. As we discussed in class on Thursday, there is an imagined community of viewers who are watching the same things that you do. TV Tropes takes it farther by creating a community of people who care deeply about their respective fandoms (and even sub-fandoms).

TV Tropes began as a thread in a fan site for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. From there, the concept of cataloging the tropes used by other television shows took off and subsequently crept into analyzing other media. The way a page for an entry is set up is that it begins with a short description of the work before going into the narrative devices used therein. For example, the page for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries ( contains entries such as “Annoying Younger Sibling” in reference to Lydia and “Leaning on the Fourth Wall” in reference to all the times they do just that. The pages also automatically block anything that could be considered a spoiler so that even if you haven’t finished the work, you can still skim through the entry. Moreover, the main page strives towards objectivity, so while there are specific subsections for subjective thoughts, the goal is to keep the main page as a description of what appears in the show.

TV Tropes provides a venue for participatory viewing and establishing a community around a television show. When The Legend of Korra premiered, the series sequel to Nickelodeon’s popular Avatar: The Last Airbender, the page for the series was updated with the latest tropes as episodes aired. This included a list of funny, sad, heartwarming, and awesome moments of the show that contributors were able to add based off their subjective opinion. This helps create a space where your own opinions can be validated and shared with a community that is engaging with the same material. Moreover, it provides moments from the show (or whatever it is you’re watching) that are held up as particularly significant, such as when multiple people hold up the same scene or character as being especially important.

Aside from providing a community for a fandom, TV Tropes itself is also its own community of people who pay a lot of attention to things like television, film, etc. Regular contributors call themselves Tropers, and they use certain memetic phrases and speech styles to communicate through the wiki. This is further enforced by the steep learning curve for the site. A reader usually needs time at the start to familiarize themselves with the categories being used. Through understanding the ways Tropers speak, people can begin to enter the community and engage their various fandoms.

2 Responses to “TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life”

  1. Alessio Franko December 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    I find that the kind of participatory viewing TV Tropes encourages involves drawing a lot of lines between unrelated shows. The idea of the trope is that it is something one might find in many different shows, and the joy of keeping a tally of which tropes appear in a given show is the ability it affords you to compare versions. Once we classify Lydia as the Annoying Younger Sibling, other Annoying Younger Siblings begin to come to mind, and a stylistic dialogue between multiple, potentially very diverse, works begins. This serves a capitalist function as well, of course. Tracking tropes across different shows means that we rarely begin watching a show with absolutely no points of reference. Once one has internalized the forms at play in Legend of Korra, for instance, one has been primed not only to be drawn into further Korra episodes, but will probably also find it easy and enjoyable to follow many of Nickelodeon’s other products.This raises some questions regarding the decided desirability of “original” ideas and characters, though.

  2. elisabethsanders December 3, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    I think it’s also interesting to consider tvtropes in light of the fact that it arose in response to a show that was itself referential. It wasn’t just cataloguing tropes — it was cataloguing tropes from a show that itself was employing a lot of tropes knowingly and intentionally.

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