What are TV tropes?

Commentary by Joshua Fitzgerald
Times-News correspondent

    TvTropes.org simultaneously manages to be a useful repository of its target information and a humorous commentary on human thought and conventions.
A trope is a commonly used aspect of a story such as a “Card-Carrying Villain.” Prominent examples include Heinz Doofenshmirtz from the animated series “Phineas and Ferb” and the Sith Order from “Star Wars.” Another example is a “Narm,” a larger-than-life character such as James T. Kirk from “Star Trek” and “Doctor Who” from the franchise of the same name.
TVTropes.org attempts to catalog every trope known to man. While this sounds like a preposterous goal, the website comes remarkably close to attaining it. Nearly every TV show, book, film, comic strip and web comic created in the last millennium has its own comprehensive page describing the show and listing dozens of tropes that occur within the work with commentary about how the trope is used. Inversely, tropes also have their own pages describing the trope and listing the works in which the trope appears. The information actually has great potential; Robin Hanson, one observer, states in her article “Tropes are Treasures” on the blog Overcoming Bias that after looking at the site she realized that “these tropes might be a great data source for studying fiction’s functions.”
   Though the website exhaustively catalogues these tropes, quality is not sacrificed for quantity. The website, in other words, is more than just a repository of dull, badly written lists. Most trope and many media pages are hundreds or thousands of words long, and are generally all well-written and informative. The website io9, for instance, states in its article “Behind the Wiki: Meet TV Tropes Cofounder Fast Eddie’ that “one of the richest, wittiest pop-culture resources on the web is the TV Tropes wiki.”
It would not be a stretch to say that anyone who is writing, doing research into psychology, or wanting to have a good laugh should look up tvtropes.org. Signing up for an account, which is required to only to contribute to the site, is free.

 Joshua Fitzgerald is a freshman at Greensboro College and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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