Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tropes – A Discovery!

"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [of pornography]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that."
- United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in his decision in Jacobellis v. Ohio.

My big brother in real life told me about this awesome site called TV Tropes that seeks to catalog tropes, as a sort of instruction list to write any work of fiction, drama, television, etc. “We dip into the cauldron of story, whistle up a hearty spoonful and splosh it in front of you to devour to your heart's content.” This is made to order for the wanna-be creative writer without a creative bone in their bodies. Like me. They even have a one-push button for a random trope if I'm too lazy to surf the index.

Here's how they 'splain: “Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means "stereotyped and trite". In other words, dull and uninteresting. We are not looking for dull and uninteresting entries.”

Clearly, they’re more interested in quirky and interesting at the expense of trying for Wikipedia or other higher academic standards. This is another plus in my mind because I've always been a sloppy researcher and typing topics into Google isn't terribly productive these days. (Note to self: if Wikipedia is considered a high academic threshold for legitimate research, I'm not alone in my sloppy research style.) Their Main topic index lists categories by genre, by narrative style, media or topics.

Some examples of particular tropes:

Applied Phlebotinum is summarized: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a completely ad-hoc plot device" — David Langford, as a corollary to Arthur C. Clarke's third law


As Long As There Is One Man says:
When you fall, my friend,
Another friend will emerge
From the shadows
To take your place.
— French Resistance Song (partial)
Parodied in The Simpsons, during a standoff between Homer, head of "Springshield", and Fat Tony. Homer: You can kill me, but someone will take my place. And if you kill him, then someone will take his place. And if you kill him... well, that's pretty much the end of it, the town will be yours.

A couple of other topics:

small town boredom
For which examples include: Luke Skywalker in Star Wars; This is a good portion of JJ's backstory on Criminal Minds, and Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters.

Finaly, Olive Garden about which: Maybe we could have dinner! Perhaps the Olive Garden! It's like dining in the private kitchen of a delightful Italian stereotype! Cinnamon J. Scudworth: Clone High

My one complaint? Two actually. Too many of the people on forums have id pics like Japanese animae characters. Also, their main site says, “We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them.” Ok, I get it about overdosing on irony, but you sound a little teeny bit like Sister Alice Maureen.

1 comment:

Martha in Michigan said...

Speaking of S.A.M., I'd give real money for the highly annotated Latin textbook in which a Roman centurion exactly shared her face. The moment when the entire class turned the page and simultaneously discovered it, then burst into the hallway at the ringing of the bell with a crazed eagerness to share it, is a memory I treasure. I wonder if all those cartoon-bubble comments and other illustration alterations, lovingly crafted by a generation of bored students, would seem as hilarious to me now as they did back then.