TV Tropes

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TV Tropes is a wiki that documents and analyzes various storytelling conventions and devices. The website's main goal is to explain and document tropes.

Literary,[wp] and specifically fantasy,[wp] tropes are, according to TV Tropes:

a "figure of speech." In storytelling, a trope is just that — a conceptual figure of speech, a storytelling shorthand for a concept that the audience will recognize and understand instantly.

Above all, a trope is a convention. It can be a plot trick, a setup, a narrative structure, a character type, a linguistic idiom... you know it when you see it. Tropes are not inherently disruptive to a story; however, when the trope itself becomes intrusive, distracting the viewer rather than serving as shorthand, it has become a cliché.

On this wiki, "trope" has the even more general meaning of a pattern in storytelling, not only within the media works themselves, but also in related aspects such as the behind-the-scenes aspects of creation, the technical features of a medium, and the fan experience. The idea being that storytelling is not just writing, it is the whole process of creating and telling/showing a story.[1]


The wiki started out as a fan wiki for the Joss Whedon TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The wiki initially only documented examples of tropes from said show. It then expanded to covering tropes from all TV shows, which is where the sites name came from. Despite this, TV Tropes has since expanded into showcasing tropes from all forms of media, even fanfiction and Internet-based media.

The site

A typical trope article on the site will start by giving the trope a name. This name is usually a phrase that tries to convey the trope's nature and the implications that come with it (some tropes have names that forgo a clear explanation in favor of a pun or play on words or a fandom in-joke that does not explain the trope well, though many tropes of this kind have been renamed into something more appropriate.) The article will then describe and explain the trope and list examples of the trope in works of fiction categorized by media. Occasionally there will be a real life section for examples too, although you will usually not see this on more controversial tropes.[2] The ones that do allow real life examples still tend to be problematic in nature, as some try to simplify real life events and tragedies into the simpler storytelling conventions that fiction uses. Real life examples will also naturally fall prey to the golden mean fallacy to prevent edit warring. This sometimes leads to uncomfortable results.

Some of these tropes are problematic in concept and/or the way the site's contributors treat them. One example is the "Anything That Moves" trope,[3] which in concept is already rather panphobic but is also biphobic in execution, as tropers will often apply the trope to any bisexual character regardless of their standards. Also, the tropes "Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales"[4] and "Opinion Override"[5] assume that races and cultures other than the "default" white and American are homogeneous and are often used by white tropers to defend racism in media. Likewise, some of the examples on the trope "Improbably Female Cast"[6] have the sexist implication that a predominantly female group of friends with a few male members is strange. What makes the trope especially concerning is that there is no equivalent trope for a predominantly male group of friends with a few female members. In addition, a few examples for the trope "Tastes Like Diabetes"[7] imply that something is bad or disgusting because it is femme. Even worse is the "Unsettling Gender Reveal"[8] trope. This trope reinforces the transphobic notion that a character being a different gender than previously thought is unappealing or disappointing.

The articles for works themselves are usually categorized into multiple sections. The primary one is the "Main" section which lists tropes that are objectively in the work and usually cannot be debated. Other sections of the page are commonly dubious in nature. The "YMMV" (short for "Your Mileage May Vary") section lists subjective tropes and audience reactions. These tropes are put here to avoid edit wars and complaining, as any criticism of a work on the main page will receive complaints from an angry fan of the work. Therefore, these entries are worded as neutrally as possible to avoid offending any fans. There is also a "Trivia" section that lists occurring themes relevant to the creation and production of the work. Other sections of the page tend to be entirely subjective and do not actually list any tropes. These are usually places filled with fan theories and opinions of the work.

However, the pages of most works are edited primarily by very defensive and obsessive fans. Even on the YMMV page, many fans will try to remove any negative criticism. Though this usually will not be wholly successful do the nature of the YMMV section, on the main page absolutely anything that could paint the work in even a slightly negative light is almost guaranteed to be removed.[9] This even extends to real life figures, which can be incredibly triggering to people who are victims of oppression (The page for the incredibly bigoted and controversial vlogger TheAmazingAtheist is especially guilty of this.[10])


A common criticism of the site is that it is not professional. Most of its editors are young geeks heavily devoted to fandom and Internet culture.[11] This means that works appealing to these people will have more coverage and examples than other works. Works popular among tropers include My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Homestuck, Internet reviewer coalition That Guy With the Glasses, the works of Joss Whedon and numerous anime/manga. Unlike Wikipedia, the site has an explicit lack of a notability policy.[12] This means that anything, including recent and niche mediums such as fanfiction and webcomics, is allowed a trope page. This results in many people plugging their own fanfic or webcomic into the site by giving it a trope page themselves.[13] For those who prefer professional and academic criticism, these aspects of the site can make it seem trivial and silly. The nonprofessional and informal nature of the site combined with its niche-centric contributors often results in oddities such as the My Little Pony/Fallout crossover Fallout: Equestria[14] having a longer list of tropes on its page than the classic and influential play Hamlet.[15] TV Tropes is not generally considered an academic source of literary criticism and thus should not be used as such.

The site's policy when conversing with other users (especially on the forums) amounts to a "no criticism" rule. Free speech is misinterpreted as freedom from any criticism whatsoever. This prevents someone from criticizing any problematic aspect of a work or calling out a user on their behavior. Also, the policy in effect means that ganging up on a bigot is not allowed but being a bigot is okay. For example, an MRA can express any anti-feminist sentiment they want as long as they frame themselves as a victim, but someone calling them out on their sexism will likely be banned. This combined with the primarily young adult male userbase contributes to a highly sexist and toxic environment. In fact, people who once called out someone for quoting white supremacist site Stormfront in a discussion about racism were told by moderators to stop insulting the person in question.[16] In addition, the site at one point was teeming with people defending rape, pedophilia and incest.[17] This manifested itself in many awful tropes and examples (At one point there was an "Innocent Panties" trope page, which listed examples of nonsexualized panty shots, usually those of female children, and in practice was basically softcore porn for pedophiles.[18]) Despite a crackdown on creepy and pedophilic content after Google threatened to pull advertising from the site, a pedophile or rape apologist can still occasionally be found playing the persecution card.

The moderators on the site have been criticized for poor management. The "no criticism" aspect of the site is upheld to ridiculous lengths. Moderators on the site often ban people for the most minor of things, and usually the only way to be unbanned to completely suck up the mods and say that you were 100% wrong and they were 100% right. They have also been accused of poorly handling disputes by editors. The typical response to an edit war to is to lock the page down completely instead of trying to settle the incident. For example, the page on the video game Final Fantasy VII was locked due to an edit war that happened in 2012 and is still locked to this date despite the game being hugely popular.[19] On the flipside, the mods also have been criticized for not doing their job when they should have. Problematic and/or disturbing content (such as the aforementioned pedophilia) almost never gets removed unless it threatens the site's ad revenue. The mods have also been criticized for their lack of basic scripting and programming knowledge in relation to wiki software.[17][9]

Deleted sections

Some parts of the site were so bad that they were removed from the wiki altogether. This usually happens because of Google threatening to pull advertising after seeing a large accumulation of pornographic and/or pedophilic content. One notable example was the "Fetish Fuel" page. This page documented things in media that some considered sexually appealing. While this is already a pointless addition to the site due to someone's kinks not telling anyone anything about the work in question, some people went into way too much detail about their personal fetishes, and others also expressed their love for incredibly problematic kinks such as fetishization of rape, pedophilia, incest and bisexual and transgender and/or intersex individuals.[20][21] The page became one of the largest pages on the wiki, overshadowing more relevant and useful pages. After it became a threat to the site's ad revenue, the page had all examples removed from it[22] (However, the examples themselves were moved to another wiki where they can still be viewed to this day.[23] Also, many Troper Tales pages, including the one for "Perverse Sexual Lust",[24] were used functionally the same until that part of the site got taken down as well.)

Another part of the website that was cut for being too gross was the "Troper Tales" section. This section had pages for each trope and the idea was that tropers could anonymously communicate their real life experiences of the trope. This is already dubious enough, but the section quickly became the biggest scourge of the site due to its content. Similar to the Fetish Fuel page, many tropers would share their niche and often creepy sexual fetishes to the world in far too much detail. Also, some tropers would talk about times when they actually raped or sexually assaulted someone or talk about their pedophilic or incestuous relationships on their respective tropes. The section became arguably the most infamous portion of the site and was frequently mocked by people on the rest of the site as well as outside sources. Because of this in addition to the usual threat of loss of advertising, the section was pulled from the site.[16]

External links