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TV Tropes is a wiki that collects and expands descriptions and examples on various conventions and devices (tropes) found within creative works. Since its establishment in 2004, the site has gone from covering only television and film tropes to also covering those in a number of other media such as literature, comics, video games, and even things such as advertisements and toys. The nature of the site as commentary about pop culture and fiction has attracted attention and commentary from several web personalities and blogs.
TV Tropes initially focused on the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and has since increased its scope to include thousands of other series, films, novels, plays, professional wrestling, video games, anime, manga, comic strips and books, fan fiction, and many other subjects, including Internet works such as Wikipedia, which is referred to in-wiki as "The Other Wiki". It has also used its informal style to describe topics such as science, philosophy, politics, and history under its Useful Notes section. TV Tropes does not have notability standards for the works it covers.
The site includes entries on various series and tropes. An article on a work includes a brief summary of the work in question along with a list of associated tropes. In addition to the tropes, most articles about a work also have a "Your Mileage May Vary" (YMMV) page with items that are deemed to be subjective. These items are not usually storytelling tropes, but audience reactions which have been defined and titled. For example, the page of the well known trope "Jumping the shark", the moment at which a series experiences a sharp decline in quality as in the notorious story point in Happy Days, only contains a list of works that reference the phrase. TV Tropes does not apply the term to a show, that being a subjective opinion about the show, but cites uses of the phrase by the show ("in-universe").
Trope pages are the inverse of articles on works: after describing the trope itself, it lists the trope's appearances in various works of media. For example, the page for the antihero trope contains a list of works containing varying types of antiheroes. In this way the wiki is fully interconnected through the various connections made between works and their tropes.
Trope description pages are generally created through a standardized launching system, known as "You know that thing where... " (YKTTW), in which site members, who are referred to as "tropers", can draft a trope description and have the option of providing examples or suggesting refinements to other drafts before launch. While going through YKTTW is not necessary to launch a trope, it is very strongly recommended in order to strengthen the trope as much as possible.
The site has even created its own self-referencing meta-trope, known as "TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life". It warns that some readers may become jaded and cynical as an unanticipated side effect of reading TV Tropes, "[replacing] surprise almost entirely with recognition," referring to the inability to read books, watch films, etc. without identifying each trope as it occurs. Also mentioned is that many frequently-contributing community members ("Tropers") self-describe themselves as addicted to the site. The community has dubbed the pattern of many tropers as taking a "Wiki Walk", starting an edit on an intended article, and subsequently following links from one page to the next for hours on end without intending to, pausing occasionally to add examples the troper notices to the listings or rework articles. In the process, this leads to the discovery of entirely new tropes to analyze, edit, and add examples to. This self-perpetuating cycle of behavior has become the subject of much lampooning for the community, with tongue-in-cheek references being made in the articles for tropes such as "Brainwashing", "Hive Mind", and "Tome Of Eldritch Lore" (a book of cursed knowledge which infects the reader with obsessive madness).
Considerable redesign of some aspects of content organization occurred in 2008, such as the introduction of namespaces, while 2009 saw the arrival of other languages, of which German is the most developed. In 2011, TV Tropes branched out into video production, and launched Echo Chamber, a web series about a TV Tropes vlogger explaining and demonstrating tropes.
In an interview to TV Tropes co-founder Fast Eddie, Gawker Media's blog io9 described the tone of contributions to the site as "often light and funny". Cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling once described its style as a "wry fanfic analysis."
Economist Robin Hanson, inspired by a scholarly analysis of Victorian literature, suggests TV Tropes offers a veritable treasure trove of information about fiction - a prime opportunity for research into its nature.
In October 2010, in what the site refers to as The Google Incident, Google retired its AdSense revenue for affiliated advertising from the site because of its coverage of mature and sexual tropes and fan fiction. In response, TV Tropes changed its guidelines to restrict coverage of such topics. Feminist blog The Mary Sue criticized this decision, as it removed a classification of violent tropes that enhanced discourse about sexism in video games or rape tropes in young adult fantasy. ThinkProgress additionally condemned Google Adsense itself for "providing a financial disincentive to discuss" such topics. The articles were subsequently restored.
A wiki called "All The Tropes" forked from TV Tropes for various reasons, nearly all of which are consequences of TV Tropes's advertising: taking commercial rights over what is published on its website and censorship notably.
- "Administrivia: Welcome to TV Tropes". TV Tropes. Retrieved 15 May 2014. "Your Rights (Legal Stuff)"
- Cagle, Kurt (April 1, 2009). "From Mary Sue to Magnificent Bastards: TV Tropes and Spontaneous Linked Data". Semantic Universe. Archived from the original on March 4, 2012. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
- "The Current - TVTropes.org: Harnessing the might of the people to analyze fiction". Thecurrentonline.com. Archived from the original on 2 Aug 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-18.
- Pincus-Roth, Zachary (28 February 2010). "TV Tropes identifies where you've seen it all before". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
- "TV Tropes Home Page". TVTropes.org. Archived from the original on 22 Apr 2008. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
- "Wikipedia - Television Tropes & Idioms". Tvtropes.org. Retrieved 2010-08-08.
- "There Is No Such Thing As Notability - Television Tropes & Idioms". Tvtropes.org. Retrieved 2010-05-18.
- "Your Mileage May Vary - Television Tropes & Idioms". Tvtropes.org. Retrieved 2012-08-21.
- "YKTTW Guidelines". Retrieved 7 September 2012.
- "TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life". Retrieved 2 Mar 2014.
- "Echo Chamber".
- Newitz, Annalee (2010-02-24). "Behind The Wiki: Meet TV Tropes Cofounder Fast Eddie". io9. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- Sterling, Bruce, TV Tropes, the all-devouring pop-culture wiki, Beyond the Beyond, Wired, January 21, 2009.
- Kruger, Daniel et. al. (2006). Hierarchy in the Library: Egalitarian Dynamics in Victorian Novels. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology. Retrieved on 2013-01-11.
- Hanson, Robin (2009-05-09). Overcoming Bias: Tropes Are Treasures. Overcoming Bias. Future of Humanity Institute. Retrieved on 2009-05-22.
- "Administrivia: The Google Incident". TV Tropes. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
- Aja Romano (26 June 2012). "TV Tropes Deletes Every Rape Trope; Geek Feminism Wiki steps in". themarysue.com. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
- Alyssa Rosenberg (26 June 2012). "TV Tropes Bows to Google’s Ad Servers, Deletes Discussions of Sexual Assault in Culture". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
- "TV Tropes Home Page". Archived from the original on June 14, 2012.
- "TV Tropes Home Page". Archived from the original on July 22, 2012.
- "The TV Tropes Foundation?". TV Tropes. Archived from the original on 6 May 2014.
- "Line # Administrivia/WelcomeToTVTropes". TV Tropes. Retrieved 15 May 2014. "By contributing content to this site, whether text or images, you grant TV Tropes irrevocable ownership of said content, with all rights surrendered [...] We are not required to attribute content you contribute to you, nor do you retain ownership of anything you contribute. Anything you contribute may be deleted, modified, or used commercially by us without notification or consent, to the extent permitted by applicable laws. For that reason, we strongly recommend that you do not post material on our site, whether in text or image form, that you wish to receive commercial benefit from in the future."
- "History: Administrivia/WelcomeToTVTropes page history". TV Tropes. Retrieved 15 May 2014. "Your Rights (Legal Stuff)"