TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life

Something a little different today: A plug for one of my favourite wiki websites. Get ready for a wall of text!

Stop me if any of this is unfamiliar…

You’re sitting in your lounge room one evening having just finished watching a certain movie or TV episode for the first time. As the credits roll, something about it doesn’t seem to click for you. Maybe the plot has the smallest of annoying holes, or perhaps an aspect of someone’s characterisation doesn’t quite make sense. You mull over it for a while, then later on you open the fridge door to get a snack and BAM! A really good explanation hits you. You have just experienced an instance of Fridge Brilliance.

You’re reading a series of books and you like how one of the main characters is written. Self assured and intelligent, the character has already been responsible for some pretty impressive villain-busting theories in the series, or at the very least he/she has proved to be a lucid presence. Yet in the book you are reading, the same character seems curiously blind to a potentially crucial plot development and remains so until its almost too late. For the sake of plot, the character’s intelligence has taken a temporary drop. The author has handed him or her the Idiot Ball.

An ambiguously villainous character has been doing his best not to seem so, or at least the writers of the character want to keep audiences guessing as to his true nature. Then the right moment in the plot comes and he does something so vile and wretched, so despicable, that his evil status is all but confirmed in one motion. The character has just crossed the Moral Event Horizon.

These are just three out of thousands of examples of “tropes” found in creative media, according to the wonderful website www.tvtropes.org. A “trope” in this sense is a pattern of sorts that has appeared over time in literature, TV shows, movies, video games, anime and even radio serials. All types of media are covered on the site. If a pattern gets picked up on by creators of fiction and is then employed deliberately to assist audiences in understanding a story, to add depth to the narrative or even to play with the audience’s expectations, a trope is being used. TV Tropes believes that tropes are tools to enhance fiction, not just cliches that attract a collective groan when they pop up in a form of media.

Ignoring the misspelling, this is somewhat accurate.

Tropes come in many forms and are used to refer to just about any “building block” necessary to create a piece of media, from marketing to character appearances to plot techniques and beyond. Some tropes are named straightforwardly, like the Rule of Three which seems to appear in many different facets of fiction design, dictating that some things should come in threes. Others are named after specific instances of usage that made the trope famous or otherwise widely known, such as Seinfeldian Conversation, which comes into play whenever two or more characters devote a disproportionate amount of effort to discussing ultimately meaningless things (inspired by TV Sitcom Seinfeld), or One Winged Angel, which refers to the moment when a videogame boss takes on a monstrous, previously unseen form to fight the player (inspired by a moment in Final Fantasy VII). Most of the tropes on the site are found in fiction, but a handful of meta-tropes also exist, such as the Fridge Brilliance trope explained above. There are sub-tropes, sub-tropes of sub-tropes and subjective tropes (put under the broad category of Your Mileage May Vary), the list goes on.

The site has a somewhat legendary ability to waste away the time of those who view it, thanks in no small part to the way each article is laid out. Each trope has its own page, complete with an explanation of what the trope is and how it usually appears, followed by a list of examples of usage in a range of media types. Each media example links to its own article, which features a (sometimes very extensive) list of tropes that appear in the show/film/game/etc in question! If you get a kick out of the feeling that comes along with the realisations “Oh, that’s so true!” or “I never thought of it that way…” then before long you will be trapped in TV Tropes cruel, cruel cycle. Opening dozens of tabs, promising yourself that you’ll get through all of them only to open two more tabs for every one you close, is not an uncommon phenomenon while browsing the site. It’s all the addictiveness of a long Wikipedia session turned Up to Eleven.

TV Tropes Cap

Yes, even this page exists.

So the next time I mention how a piece of fiction packs a Stock Subtitle, relies too much on Applied Phlebotinum to explain why [Its] Vampires Are Different, or features a pareticularly clever Brick Joke, you’ll know where my apparent insanity comes from. If you’re curious about TV Tropes’ addictive power, the Universal Tropes page is a good place to start a session. But be warned. TV Tropes covers all kinds of creative media thoroughly, so a wayward click could very well lead you to an unwanted spoiler or some mature content. Browse with care. That was me warning you. Enjoy.

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