Note: This blog post was written for my Arts Writing Practicum class, where we had to write a review on something we hated and to devastate it (coming up next) and something we loved and to praise it. This was (obviously) my praise. My devastation is next, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Should be Banned from Christmas Viewing.
TV Tropes is a wiki dedicated to the study and exploration of the various tropes used throughout fiction. This can be TV (where the wiki started, which is why it’s part of its name), film, books, video games, or other alternative media such as web series and online comics. Tropes, as defined by the TV Tropes website, are “devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.” This can be as simple as ‘black dude dies first in horror films’ or as complex as the breaking of the fourth wall. The wiki not only explains the trope, but lists examples in the various media available of that particular trope in action. It also works in reverse: there are pages for various movies, TV shows, etc., giving you a list of tropes that are seen in that work.
It’s a great research tool for writers. It makes you smarter about storytelling, and helps identify certain trends you may have noticed in media you consume. The site is quick to state, however, that tropes are not clichés and are not always bad: after all, the hero’s journey (as described by Joseph Campbell) is at its heart a trope, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad storytelling technique.
The website is also a great way to find out about new works (at least, new to you). There are no less than three shows I watch regularly now that I would’ve never tried except that I kept seeing them listed in examples of various tropes. Out of curiosity, I started watching them and became a fan. In fact, there’s a section of the website devoted to ways the site has become a ‘gateway drug’ to new media consumption.
Finally, it’s a fun website that doesn’t take itself seriously (check out the page on “Real Life” for all the tropes used in this weird thing called “reality”) and is the first to admit that every trope can be used for good or ill. The wiki members are fairly good at making sure examples are specific and clear, and there is even a way to blank out part of the trope listed if there’s a spoiler involved.
So, if you’ve got a few hours to kill, go to tvtropes.org and click ‘random’. Five hours (and several open tabs on your browser) later, you’ll either be cursing or thanking me. Either way, I’ll have done my job.