Let me answer your question with a questions; How could you not? Besides, 7 hours in one sitting is but a drop in a bucket compared to the time I spent reading Wikipedia and other Wikia sites, so don’t you complain about a mere 420 minutes on TvTropes. It could be worse… I am sure there are several recreational drugs that are more addictive and fun than TvTropes. Versions of this conversation have played out several times, through several relationships, and it always baffles me how others can perceive the deep dive into knowledge as something faulty or wasteful. I find it not only giving, but mentally revitalizing to dig into a new area with gusto. I suppose it’s the mythology nerd in me that drives it.
While Wikipedia attempts to be even-handed, balanced and covers EVERYTHING, smaller sites can generally afford to dig deep into smaller niche topics, like TvTropes does. But what do projects like TvTropes (and Wikipedia/Wikia sites in general) aim to do, beside eat away at my spare time like a particularly hungry fat man at an all-you-can-eat barbecue?
I think they represent an attempt to structure human experience into manageable bits that can be referenced and quantified, just like stereotypes. But while stereotypes are often crude and used to quantify entire groups, a trope can be minuscule, a tiny little bauble that repeats itself through various narratives. It aims to shine a light on tiny variances within identifiable events/people/story elements and tease out a description.
Now, you might ask; how many variances. Well, for example: there are 650+ different articles on the Villain trope, 61 articles on the Alternate History trope and under the Action Adventure trope there are 24 articles that start with the letter A. Imagine the interconnectedness of all those tropes and you’ll start getting the idea of just how immense the project is. You could probably play the wiki game on it. 🙂
Each has its own sub-wiki, with added references to other related (and often fairly obscurely named) tropes/topics and a comprehensive list of examples from books, anime and manga, live-action tv/film, comic books, music, puppet shows, radio, role-play, theatre, video games, web comics, real life, and more.
Personally it’s the list of examples that draws me in rather than the attempt to fully understand any given trope by reading the 23 related subtropes and any references the wiki throws at me. Going through the examples and finding things I’ve experienced (movies scenes and characters, events in video games, etc.) and then wiggling out an extra nugget of understanding. By far, the most fascinating are the “real life” examples, often taken from great events in history.
The site is not without a sense of self-awareness, as exemplified by this real life example in the article on Lamp-shading: Additionally, TV Tropes lampshades Lampshade Hanging itself, and lampshades the fact that it does so by this article, resulting in recursive Lampshade Hanging through itself, QED being the fact that this entry exists. In fact, the site is both damn informative and damn funny.
If TvTropes does have one flaw, it is not with its content. Unless it gets vandalized, then it would be. It is the “This web page is not available”. The site consistent fails to load at times regardless of which device I use, so the site must be a bit broken. It’s not all bad, it means I can take a break and read something else.
But what do you think? Does TvTropes represent a highlight in the way we think of storytelling or media, or a giant waste of time? And if you’re going to comment on me writing TvTropes, rather than tvtropes or tv tropes, just don’t. 🙂 Personally I can’t wait to waste another 7 hours on Hero types. Let me know.
Next post will be up on Saturday the 21st of March (around 16:00 GMT). This will probably be the norm from now on due to time constraints and lack of trust in the WP auto-post feature.