I’ve said it before, here, and I’ll say it again now: I’m a known troper. On TVTropes, I have a handle that I go by that you can recognize my edits by. I’m pretty sure this qualifies me to make some sort of speech about TVTropes, but in order for this story to have any meaning, you’ll need a few background facts. First off is the fact that although I pretty much live my life online, I’ve never been an active member in an online forum. The idea that I’d have to go back and forth to one place, hoping someone had responded to me and waiting for the time when they would just never appealed to me. I like Facebook primarily because the notifications come to me, instead of the other way around. This just means that I’ve never taken something to the forums, asked forumites for help with something or what-have-you. It’s just not my style. Another thing you’ll have to know: on TVTropes, they have this thing (that’s likely reached the rest of the internet by now–show how badly I’m behind the times) called YMMV. It stands for Your Mileage May Vary and means that what one person gets out of a particular work, you might not and vice versa.
YMMV as a concept is one I’ve invoked several times in conversation with people like Dan’s friends or Mel’s friends. When I find myself swimming upstream on something–hating Slumdog Millionaire or hating Plastic Beach or not being too passionate about Inception–I often reduce my side of the argument (which starts out as glaring faults) to “Enh, your mileage may vary.” This is because what’s so cool it’s awesome to one person may just be so okay it’s average to the next. For instance, my favourite giant monster movie Cloverfield inspires some wicked indifference in others and that’s cool. I have always been fine with a wide array of opinions. The only thing that bugs me is when people are ashamed of having opinions. We all have them, it’s fine. We’re human, we think and feel and have ideas about things, it’s natural. It’s when the expression of these thoughts, feelings and ideas is barred that I can’t get behind it.
YMMV recently drifted out of conversation and the descriptions for a few tropes and into the wiki at large, in the form of a YMMV page for every work. Every. Single. Work. Every piece of fiction now has a small tab at the top that houses tropes like Awesome Moments (formerly Crowning Moment of Awesome), Funny Moments (formerly Crowning Moments of Funny), Tearjerker, Alas Poor Scrappy and Alas Poor Villain and many more. And despite never voicing an opinion on this on the forums–cos honestly, screw forums–I feel I have the right to complain here, on my blog. Especially if I’m gonna start getting traffic for “tvtropes sucks” or “tvtropes hate”. I love TVTropes, and I love it dearly. But occasionally, they take their more-polite-than-Canada approach to cataloging fiction far too seriously. The YMMV tab is one of these times.
I get that we’re all supposed to be polite and we’re all supposed to respect each other’s opinions, but what part of being polite and respecting each other’s opinions means sticking a “YMMV” indicator on the highlights of the work in question? Half of my fun in reading tropes pages was reading various people trying to top each other at how awesome their favourite series was. And how about non-YMMV applications of YMMV tropes? It’s possible, and I’ve seen examples on pages (no, I don’t know which pages now, do I, I mean–I can’t think of an example now) more often than I should where the trope is all “I’M SUBJECTIVE” and the examples all “this was real.” Other things that bug me about TVTropes and YMMV: so often it’s used to end an argument. I’m wondering why that’s possible. How is it that I can write something and the very next editor will just put “Though, YMMV” as the next sentence and assume he’s done a good job? It’s wordcruft, is what it is!
When I was in grade six, I went to a woodsy getaway ropes camp thing with all the other grade six kids at my school. I was very fat at the time, but I did my best to keep as active as everyone else. In one activity, I forget what it was, but we had to swing on a rope from one circle to another over about 5 feet of distance. Not a big deal. The first kid let go of the rope halfway across and hurt themselves a bit. It wasn’t a big deal, but being barely out of elementary school, the kid started crying anyway. The teachers then told us that we couldn’t play that game, despite the fact that no one else had got a turn at it. So I asked them why it is that if one kid gets hurt doing something, the rest of us get punished and have to sit out? I wanna pull a Bartlet and say “I don’t know what made me think of that”, but I do. I know exactly what made me think about that.
Yes, people’s feelings got hurt. Yes, people got in edit wars. Yes, you read someone call one of your favourite characters a scrappy and cited some totally blah moment as the CMOA for the entire series. Sure, you got riled up and sure, it might be wiser to make sure everyone’s polite and everything’s neutral. But last I checked, we weren’t Wikipedia, and we were a buttload more informal. How are we supposed to be a buttload more informal without anyone’s feelings getting involved? How are we supposed to be more informal at all if we segregate tropes that make you feel things from tropes that simply exist? It just takes all the joy out of anything involved in troping for me, and has the unintended side-effect of riddling the YMMV section with spoilers. Thus making it impossible to read if you’re new to a series. Though, YMMV.