bizarroTV – TV TROPES will ruin your life

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

TV TROPES – WARNING: This Website May be Harmful to Your (Mental) Health

It has been called more addictive than cocaine and Tetris put together, with the ability to ruin an entire evening with just one click of a mouse.

It is a wormhole through a looking glass, filled with interlinking mystery wrapped up in pop culture enigmas, all covered with secret sauce.

The TV Tropes website is a simply constructed wiki that unleashes one’s insatiable thirst for knowledge that will enhance, but also, in all likelihood, ruin your enjoyment of every book, film, TV show and other pop culture reference you have ever consumed.

It is like spending an evening drinking cheap wine with Abed from TV’s Community, while Quentin Tarentino continually screams “why you hitting yourself?” in your face. It can also a lot of fun, thanks to intelligent writing and a wry sense of humour.

Tropes are generally defined as literary conventions and clichés, character types and scenarios, design patterns and configurations that recur in all works of fiction and popular culture.

More specifically, TVtropes.org is a collection of essays and explorations of these conventions and devices, and consolidates all these into thousands of interlinked pages that delve into the origin, description and purpose of a trope, using specific examples, all entertainingly written and edited by online users. The style here, though, is humourous and self –referential, and while there is a specific ethos of accountability and accuracy for submissions, as a whole the site doesn’t take itself too seriously. The danger however lies in the first click away from the homepage.

Take one of the more modern and well known tropes, Jumping The Shark, for instance.  Simply read, you can understand JTS as the point of any long running series where the creators have run out of ideas and throw in an unexpected, sometimes unbelievable device that changes the show from that point on, largely to the detriment of the show’s popularity and legitimacy. TV Tropes will explore the origins of the trope; give you specific examples of practically every TV show made where it has been used. Simple. But then, due to the collaborative spirit of the site, where millions can add their own specific two-cents to the debate, the trope is then expanded into various, more specific genres of the trope.

Things like a change of actor in the show, changes in studio policy regarding the feel and look of a show, the effect of a world event on the series, each aspect is painstakingly explored on yet another page, with even more examples and more detailed critical analysis. By the end of a session, which rarely occurs, you may find yourself exploring something completely unrelated, like the character profiles of each member of the A-Team, and how they relate to and fulfil one or more formula tropes of Greek Tragedy. Shows and films that barter and generate on the power of pop culture like The Simpsons, the James Bond films and the Batman universe have literally thousands of pages dedicated to every character, every episode and every corner of its existence. The site is a fruitful minefield of information and minutiae for amateur ontologists and students of media, and just about any one with a passing interest in pop culture, how it affects the world, and, in turn, the world influences it.

Although the best place to start the TV Tropes journey would be its home page, there are a number of FAQ pages, guidelines and self-referential articles within the site that make the experience easier and more bearable, and where newbies can learn the secrets of how not to get completely sucked into its trap, but be warned, it may be a lot less fun that way.

The site is extremely text-heavy, with little or no graphical elements to catch the eye, so be prepared to read a lot, and tweak your browser specs accordingly. On the whole, seriously speaking, TV Tropes is a great resource for fun and educational reading

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