I need to begin this blog with a warning. Reading it and going to the website that I am going to write about may cause loss of time and productivity. Even the website itself warns that it might ruin your life. The site in question? TV Tropes.

 

I hear you asking, what is this site? Actually I don't, because this is text, but I'm pretending that I hear you asking, what is this site? TV Tropes is a a wiki, which means the content is generated by users, similar to how Wikipedia functions. A big difference between the two is that Wikipedia tries to be a serious reference site. TV Tropes is almost purely about pop culture. As you might have guessed from the title, it started with television and film.

 

The second part of the title, tropes, may require a little explanation. Miriam Webster defines it as a “figure of speech,” while dictionary.com defines it as “any literary or rhetorical device, as metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony, that consists in the use of words in other than their literal sense.” To put it in a simpler way, a trope is a building block of a story. It's an element, a concept, or a theme that the audience can be expected to be reasonably familiar with. This is not the same as a cliché, but there often is overlap between the two.

 

Some examples would be useful about now, I think. Knight in Shining Armor is a good one to begin with. The image of a heroic knight, his armor brightly polished, charging to the rescue on his warhorse is a common one in many media and one that we quickly recognize, and there are certain expectations that come with it. When a writer uses a Knight in Shining Armor, it's a bit of literary shorthand, if you will. They don't have to spend as much time developing the character, showing that he's heroic, that he's fearless, that he lives by chivalry, and instead the writer can get on with the story or with other characters. If you go to TV Tropes and search on Knight in Shining Armor, you'll be presented with a list of productions that the trope appears in, such as the movie Excalibur, the TV show Merlin, as well as real life examples such as William Marshal. Also listed are characters that fulfill similar roles, without literally being knights or wearing armor. Examples here include FBI Agent Booth in Bones and the aptly named Paladin from Have Gun - Will Travel.

 

So where's danger here? The danger is that when you start browsing it, you can easily lose track of time by reading up on different shows, books, etc that have a particular trope in it, and then following another trope listed there and looking for examples in different media. Maybe you like seeing the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine played out, and so you search that trope, and find that it shows up in the Iliad of all places, and then you see something called the El Cid Ploy and wonder what that is, and then you click on that and . . . well, you get the idea.

 

The important thing to remember about TV Tropes is that it does not take itself seriously. It's all about fun, and appreciating fiction in new ways. It's a great way to kill a little time. Or a lot of time. Or a whole day. And then some. You Have Been Warned.