TV Tropes is a wiki that collects and expands 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 advertisements and toys. It is known for approaching topics with a casual and humorous tone.
The site 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, video games, anime, manga, comic strips and books, fan fiction, and other subjects, including Internet works such as Wikipedia, which is referred to in-wiki as ‘The Other Wiki.’ Some believe that use of ‘TV Tropes’ teaches the user to analyze and dissect works of media. An unanticipated side effect causes some readers to become jaded and cynical, ‘[replacing] surprise almost entirely with recognition.’ This is referred to on the site as ‘TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life,’ referring to the inability to read books, watch films, etc. without identifying each trope as it occurs.
Dionysian imitatio is the influential literary method of imitation as formulated by Greek author Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the first century BCE, which conceived it as the rhetoric practice of emulating, adapting, reworking and enriching a source text by an earlier author. It marked the beginning of the doctrine of imitation, which dominated the Western history of art up until 18th century, when the notion of romantic originality was introduced.
The imitation literary approach is closely linked with the widespread observation that ‘everything has been said already,’ which was also stated by Egyptian scribes around 2000 BCE. The ideal aim of this approach to literature was not originality, but to surpass the predecessor by improving their writings and set the bar to a higher level.
Photomontage is the process and result of making a composite photograph by cutting and joining a number of other photographs. The composite picture was sometimes photographed so that the final image is converted back into a seamless photographic print. A similar method, although one that does not use film, is realized today through image-editing software. This latter technique is referred to by professionals as ‘compositing,’ and in casual usage is often called ‘photoshopping.’ Author Oliver Grau in his book ‘Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion’ notes that the creation of artificial immersive virtual reality, arising as a result of technical exploitation of new inventions, is a long-standing human practice throughout the ages. Such environments as dioramas were made of composited images.
John Heartfield (1891 – 1968) born Helmut Herzfeld, was a pioneer in the use of art as a political weapon. His photomontages were anti-Nazi anti-Fascist statements.
Heartfield also created book jackets for authors such as Upton Sinclair, as well as stage sets for such noted playwrights as Bertold Brecht and Erwin Piscator.
Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung (b. 1976) is a Chinese-American new media artist who lives and works in New York. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Arts degree from San Francisco State University. Hung’s works are digital collages of popular culture and current events. His media includes hi-definition video animation, video games, net.art, digital graphics and mixed-media installations. Hung has been called the ‘John Heartfield of Digital Era.’ He loans 5 percent of his art earnings to low-income entrepreneurs listed on Kiva Microfunds.
Ai Weiwei (b. 1957) is a Chinese contemporary artist, active in sculpture, installation, architecture, curating, photography, film, and social, political and cultural criticism. Ai collaborated with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron as the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics. As a political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government’s stance on democracy and human rights. He has investigated government corruption and cover-ups, in particular the Sichuan schools corruption scandal following the collapse of so-called ‘tofu-skin schools’ in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In 2011, following his arrest at Beijing airport, he was held for over two months without any official charges being filed; officials alluded to their allegations of ‘economic crimes’ (tax evasion).
Ai Weiwei’s father was Chinese poet Ai Qing, who was denounced during the Anti-Rightist Movement and in 1958 sent to a labor camp in Xinjiang with his wife, Gao Ying. Ai Weiwei was one year old at the time and lived in Shihezi for 16 years. In 1975 the family returned to Beijing. In 1978, Ai enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy and attended school with Chinese directors Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou. In 1978, he was one of the founders of the early avant garde art group the ‘Stars,’ though the group disbanded in 1983. From 1981 to 1993, he lived in the United States, mostly in New York, creating conceptual art by altering readymade objects. He studied at Parsons School of Design and at the Art Students League of New York. At the same time, Ai became fascinated by blackjack card games and frequented Atlantic City casinos. He is still regarded in gambling circles as a top tier professional blackjack player.
The Baidu 10 Mythical Creatures was initially a humorous hoax from the interactive encyclopedia ‘Baidu Baike’ which became a popular and widespread Internet meme in China in early 2009. These hoaxes, ten in number, originated in response to increasingly pervasive and draconian online censorship in China, and have become an icon of citizens’ resistance to censorship. The meme initially began as a series of vandalized contributions to ‘Baidu Baike,’ through the creation of humorous articles describing a series of fictional creatures, each with names vaguely referring to Chinese profanities (utilizing homophones and characters using different tones). Eventually, images, videos (such as faux-documentaries) and even a song regarding aspects of the meme were released. It was thought that the Baidu hoaxes were written in response to recent strict enforcements of keyword filters in China, introduced in 2009, which attempted to eliminate all forms of profanity. The ‘Baidu Baike’ ‘articles’ initially began with ‘Four Mythical Creatures’ (‘Grass Mud Horse,’ ‘French-Croatian Squid,’ ‘Small Elegant Butterfly,’ and ‘Chrysanthemum Silkworms’), and were later extended to ten.
The memes became widely discussed on Chinese Internet forums, and most netizens concluded that the initial aim of the hoaxes were to satirize and ridicule the pointlessness of the new keyword filters. The meme is interpreted by most Chinese online as a form of direct protest rather than motiveless intentional disruption to ‘Baidu’ services. After the hoaxes were posted, news of the articles spread quickly online on joke websites, popular web portals and forums.
The Grass Mud Horse or Caoníma, is a Chinese Internet meme widely used as a form of symbolic defiance of the widespread Internet censorship in China. It is a play on the Mandarin language words which translate literally to, ‘fuck your mother,’ and is one of the so-called ’10 mythical creatures’ created in a hoax article on ‘Baidu Baike’ (a collaborative encyclopedia) in early 2009 whose names form obscene puns. It has become an Internet chat forum cult phenomenon in China, and has garnered world-wide press attention, with videos, cartoons and merchandise of the animal, which supposedly resembles the alpaca, having appeared. Because the Grass Mud Horse is said to be the dominant species which lives within the Mahler Gobi Desert, the region is also called the ‘Grass Mud Horse Gobi Desert,’ which is close in pronunciation of a Chinese expression meaning ‘fuck your mother’s cunt.’ The animal is characterized as ‘lively, intelligent and tenacious.’ However, their existence is said to be threatened by ‘river crabs’ which are invading their habitat. The river crab symbolizes official censorship. Its pronunciation resembles the word for ‘harmony,’ in reference to the ‘harmonious society’ which the Chinese leadership professes to aspire to, and which Chinese internet censors use to justify internet censorship. The term ‘crab’ itself is rural slang, meaning ‘a bully who uses power through force,’ and the river crab has become a symbol of crude censorship backed with the threat of force. The river crab is often depicted wearing three wristwatches, since ‘wears three watches’sounds similar to an expression of the ideology of the ‘Three Represents,’ an interpretation of communism promoted by former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin.
Official ‘cleanup’ of the internet, which threatens the Caonima, has led Chinese internet users to create other ‘Mud Horse’ variants, such as the ‘Rolling Mud Horse’ and ‘Working Mud Horse,’ which are also puns for ‘fuck your mother.’ The ‘China Digital Times’ sees Caonima as the ‘de facto mascot of netizens in China fighting for free expression, inspiring poetry, photos and videos, artwork, lines of clothing, and more.’ It is an illustration of the ‘resistance discourse’ of Chinese internet users with ‘increasingly dynamic and sometimes surprising presence of an alternative political discourse: images, frames, metaphors and narratives that have been generated from Internet memes [that] undermine the values and ideology that reproduce compliance with the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian regime, and, as such, force an opening for free expression and civil society in China.’
Very erotic very violent is a Chinese internet meme that originated from a news report on China Central Television’s flagship ‘Xinwen Lianbo’ program (a daily news show) allegedly quoting a schoolgirl describing a web page. On the Chinese Internet, this incident was widely parodied and weakened the credibility of the state broadcaster’s newscasts. This Chinese phrase follows the form of ‘very good very mighty,’ a snowclone (cliché template) for Internet slang popularized earlier that year.
In late 2007, ‘Xinwen Lianbo’ aired a report about the wide and easy availability of explicit content on the internet. The report appealed to juristic institutions and those seeking legislation in order to purify the internet environment. In the report, a young student described a pop-up advertisement she saw as being ‘very erotic, [and] very violent.’ After the airing of the report, internet users began to ridicule and parody the quote and question the program’s credibility, believing that it would be unlikely for a person of that age to find a web page to be both erotic and violent at the same time.
A language game (also called secret language or ludling or argot) is a system of manipulating spoken words to render them incomprehensible to the untrained ear. Language games are used primarily by groups attempting to conceal their conversations from others. Some common examples are Pig Latin, which is used all over the globe; the Gibberish family, prevalent in the United States and Sweden; and Verlan, spoken in France. Each of these language games involves a usually simple standard transformation to speech, thus encoding it. The languages can be easily mentally encoded and decoded by a skilled speaker at the rate of normal speech, while those who either don’t know the key or aren’t practiced in rapid speech are left hearing nothing but gibberish.