Wednesday, July 15, 2009

tv tropes

Spent a good hour or so this morning thoroughly enjoying TV Tropes. A web-wiki written in a (dare I say) refreshingly casual style, on all manner of narrative conventions that tend to define our modern age entertainment products. While at first glance, you might think that a perusal of TV Tropes will only fill you with a deeper sense of cynicism and repugnance at the industry status quo - further reading may allow you to appreciate the archetypal aspects of tropes, and how they serve as brutally efficient but necessary mirrors of our own absurd nature.

Hot Librarian is a fun place to start, and be aware that the joy is in the examples, especially esoteric ones from the late '80's that few (but you) remember. "Theora in Max Headroom." Ha! I remember.

Hot Scientist (not to be confused with Horny Scientist) is also amusing:

"Incidentally, the character that caused a few things to gel in this troper's head and inspire me to put this trope in the wiki in the first place was "Dr." Cataline Stone in the film Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, a film of such constant, royal stupidity that "the day would quake to look on."

I do not know this "Megalodon"... yet.

Just going through the list of Plot tropes may dizzy you.

  • Anticlimactic Parent
  • Badass in Distress
  • Captured Super Entity
  • Doorstop Baby
  • Faustian Rebellion
  • Inadequate Inheritor
  • Macho Disaster Expedition
And so on. I suspect we all could place at least one TV episode/film into every one of these categories with just a little thought.

"Science is Useless" caught my eye:

"In a competition of science and technology versus simple hard work, science and technology will almost invariably lose. See, science finds an easier, faster way to achieve something and is therefore cheating and far less honorable than honest sweat and effort. Thus, no matter how much a scientist researches, experiments and innovates, he will never achieve what someone else can with good old practice and hard work.

This trope works because 1) hardly anyone in the audience knows much about science, and 2) people are always eager to believe that anything they don't understand couldn't possibly be important....

...Very much related to Dumb Is Good and Rock Beats Laser. Might somehow be related to Reed Richards Is Useless. See also the physical equivalents Technician Versus Performer (where The Gift overcomes intense training) and Good Old Fisticuffs (where simple fists beats flashy kicks).

Further, there are two different flavors of this trope. If the point is to stress the importance of hard work, then the technological/scientific opponent is presented as an intimidating Goliath that the plucky underdog must struggle to overcome... But if the point is, instead, to deride technology or science as unworthy of human effort and manly men, the opponent is presented as a total joke and the hard worker wins easily. A Straw Man propaganda story. Also, what this trope consistently forgets is that science is hard work, requiring considerable intelligence, as well as lengthy and difficult procedures to create anything useful. Yet rarely or never the hard work of the science-user is shown or screen in relation to the plain old guts."

(BTW - The Reed Richards is Useless entry is amazing.)

I also enjoy the amusing connections between tropes that the contributors have attempted to integrate whenever possible.

From Attack of the Killer Whatevers: "A caveat: if it's a killer animal, there's about a 70% chance that it'll also be giant. If it grows too large, it becomes Attack Of The 50 Foot Whatever."

Worth browsing.


  1. TV Tropes is like a mirror maze of information and I get lost in it every time someone mentions it.

  2. totally agree. i find the constant referencing between entries, in ways that are often circular or at least uninformative, disorienting. but this is a wiki i feel i could contribute to.