I can tell you the exact moment at which TV Tropes started to suck — and it’s not when you’d expect, either. TV Tropes started to suck when some wag started a little page called “Crowning Moment of Awesome”. The premise of the page was to chronicle the awesome moments that endeared characters to the audience forever, and were recognized as the pinnacle of the world they were in.

Unsurprisingly, this had disastrous repercussions.

See, up until then TV Tropes had basically been about observable facts. A trope was something that had certain characteristics, and if you saw something with those characteristics, you could be pretty sure that it fell into the trope in question. If somebody stretched the trope definition to pimp their favorite series (distressingly common but probably inevitable), you could cut it without guilt, confident that you were in the right, and could make your case if called on it. There were certainly a lot of tropes that were vague or arguable, but they weren’t the focus. The point of the wiki was cataloging things that happened, and the implications thereof.

Crowning Moment of Awesome shifted that focus, almost overnight. CMOA had only one characteristic: Awesomeness, which is of course the most nebulous, subjective thing in the world. Anyone could put anything they liked on there, and you couldn’t really argue with them, because it was, like, your opinion man. It quickly became the most popular and well-known page on the wiki. And, of course, because TV Tropes is practically founded on uncreativity and derivativeness, it inspired a host of imitator tropes. Crowning Music of Awesome. Dethroning Moment of Suck. Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. Even Nightmare Fuel, a trope that had a completely unrelated (if frequently misused) definition, was effectively remade into Crowning Moment of Scary.

What had happened? The wiki had shifted from chronicling the usage of tropes in fiction to chronicling people’s reactions to, and opinions about, fiction. People love to talk about themselves. They love the idea that their opinion is important, in the majority, representative of the whole, and the subjective tropes gave them the opportunity to pretend that this was so. After all, they didn’t even have to attach a screen name to it — it’s on the page, so it must be true, right? And most people don’t read the rules — they base their idea of what’s acceptable based on what they see other people doing. If the pages are full of arguments and digressions, they’ll dive right in, despite the policy pages explicitly forbidding it in the strongest possible terms.

This aspect of the site became front and fucking center. The subjective pages were five times longer at least than the normal ones, and tended to be linked more often. Whenever someone put one into a works page, it would acquire all sorts of contradictions and arguments. In short, the subjective tropes turned TV Tropes from a place unlike any other on the internet to a pale imitation of the regular internet. When you searched for a page on the new TV Tropes you might find the information you were looking for, maybe — but you were more likely to find that the page had become a pissing match where random assholes were arguing about shipping, discontinuity, or how the latest trailer of whatever it was proved that their favorite franchise was ruined forever.

Now, back in the waning days of my participation in the TV Tropes community, I spent a lot of time and wasted a lot of breath screaming into the wind about my objections to this sort of crap, but I was mostly ignored. When I was acknowledged, it was with a curt “were not wikipedia lol”, which drove me right up the wall. No, TV Tropes isn’t Wikipedia… but that doesn’t give people license to do whatever the fuck they like, either. It’s a bit lighter in its tone and a bit more casual in its rules — but there are still rules. The wiki still has a mission and a purpose, and it’s not “give random assholes a forum to preach about whatever variety of sand had made its way into their vaginas”. Eventually I grew frustrated, realized I wasn’t having fun anymore (I’d shifted from actively troping to almost full-time policing other people, and at that point doing so was like trying to drain the ocean with a teaspoon), and quit in a huff, absolutely cold turkey.

I stayed away from TV Tropes for almost a year. Even after I allowed myself to return (the problem with TV Tropes is that it’s a fantastically unique and useful resource, even in a neutered form — it’s not like switching toothpaste), I did not participate in the community or edit anymore, and I couldn’t browse more than a few pages at a time without seeing something that made me want to punch clean through my monitor. (I remember when the Chrono Trigger page was a good clean place. Ah, nostalgia.) I wanted very much to write a furious screed against the degeneration, but every time I did, I stopped myself. There’s nothing quite as pathetic as someone airing his internet drama in public, and getting hot under the collar about people being wrong on the internet is usually a signal that you need to go outside and look at the pretty flowers for a while. So I’d vent, look at what I’d written with something resembling embarrassment, delete it shamefacedly, and move on with my life.

The reason I bring it up now is because over the last few months an amazing transformation has been happening. The moderators at TV Tropes are making a concerted, forceful, wide-ranging effort to clean out the subjective shit that’s plagued the wiki for so long and ghettoize it in its own separate areas. I read this thread end-to-end the other day and was grinning from ear-to-ear to see the arguments I was making so long ago being repeated as policy, almost verbatim. (I didn’t have any idea who Fighteer was until two days ago, but he’s now my hero.) I’m not arrogant enough to believe I had anything to do with this, but I’ll still take a moral victory, even if no one knows it except me.

Unsurprisingly, the “we should be able to do whatever we want!” douchebags are crying persecution over this, but fuck ’em. It’s their fault the wiki became infested with stupid internet drama in the first place. I still can’t quite fathom why people feel they can only do on TV Tropes what literally the entire rest of the internet allows them to do freely. Start a blog. Post on a message board. Make YouTube videos. Those places are absolutely the right place for shipping fights, fandom wars, fanfic reviews, complaints about Nintendo’s refusal to localize Mother 3, and debates on whether Indiana Jones 4 is a blight on the franchise or not. TV Tropes is not where those things belong. It never has been. Don’t pretend like it was just because you got away with it for a while. Let TV Tropes be about tropes, the way it was founded to be, the way its mission statement (and, hell, its name) says it should be. Don’t turn it into fucking Twitter.

If this actually works out, maybe I’ll even be able to bring myself to edit again. I didn’t quit TV Tropes willingly — I felt as though I was forced out, my opinions and views irrelevant against a majority who wanted the wiki to be something I didn’t want it to be. I still enjoyed the actual troping process, though, and the original TV Tropes concept is still unique and valuable, unlike any other page on the internet. There were a number of times where I almost threw up my hands in defeat and dived back in again, but I always stopped myself because I knew it would lead to trouble eventually. Maybe if the subjective bullshit can be purged, I’ll be free to join up again.

Here’s hoping.


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