Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Faction: The Professional Wrestling Fandom

The professional wrestling fandom of TV Tropes was the first individual faction I became aware of, and indeed may well have been the first obvious faction to appear on the wiki at all. The reason for this is fairly simple- look at all the topics I've discussed so far, or even look at the TV Tropes website itself and cycle through the example listings. You'll see discussion of geeky TV shows, classic fiction, terrible animated cartoons we all watched when we were kids- all of these conform to the general interests of the nerdy Internet demographic to which TV Tropes owes most of its members. Professional wrestling is, by contrast, not really a topic one would immediately associate with "innovative wiki networking".

It took me some time to understand why they appeared- I was aware of the faction's existence when the Trope Renames forum was established, but it wasn't until much later that I appreciated why this dedicated group of fans existed when professional wrestling more apparently resembles a sports match than any mainstream fiction. Professional wrestling is actually at the core of helping us understand tropes, which goes back to their main contribution to the wiki- Face Heel Turn and Heel Face Turn.

Face and Heel are the real essential concepts, though. A Face is a good guy. As in, a wrestler who is awesome and cool and the crowd loudly cheers him whenever he comes into the ring. The Heel is kind of a jerk. He insults other wrestlers, most of the fans (who often take to booing him), and is quick to cheat if he is losing a match, usually by pulling a folding chair from under the ring and whacking the Face with it while the referee isn't looking.

These wrestlers' personas are deliberately designed to evoke emotional reactions from the fans. What's remarkable about this in wrestling is that this emotional manipulation is blatantly obvious. A Heel Face Turn in a TV show is usually secondary to the action. When the bad guy becomes a good guy, it's so he can assist the good guys with their story. With wrestling, people are attached not to the individual storylines but the individual wrestlers and what they do as characters. Much like the actual wrestling, the storylines are fraudulent, but that's besides the point. The appeal of wrestling is in how well the wrestlers are able to persuade the audience that the wrestling and storylines are for real.

This phenomenon isn't just restricted to professional wrestling. Daytime soap opera fans often have a similar dynamic, and will also bristle at what they believe to be unconvincing or implausible portrayals by their favorite characters. Wrestling fans, however, are the only ones who latched onto the wiki for the simple reason that as young, low-class white males, they have more in common with the wiki's core demographic of young middle-class white males than, say, the soap fan demographic of middle-aged, middle-class white females, or the Tyler Perry demographic of middle-aged, lower-class black females. This is a bit of an oversimplification, obviously, but it's a good way of showing why certain media are better represented on TV Tropes than others.

In any event, the professional wrestling faction has been present from nearly the beginning- after all, they were the ones who named Face Heel Turn and Heel Face Turn, tropes which predate my presence on the wiki by quite some time. This is also the only obvious exposure the faction has to most wiki members- their other strong contributions lie in example listings and trope pages generally interpreted as being wrestling-exclusive, though many of the definitions of these pages could probably be expanded. In spite of the somewhat exclusionary nature of the terms "face" and "heel", the Turn tropes have survived all rename challenges, though everyone asked about the topic has admitted that such titles would not survive YKTTW scrutiny in the era I describe in this blog.

Oddly, so far as I know no member of this faction has ever been a regular contributor to the trope quality control process. When the Turn tropes were brought up for debate, the title was defended primarily on the matter of fairness. The wrestling faction holds opinions quite different from our own, and it was deemed best not to alienate them, as the wiki needed all the divergent opinions it could get. Ergo, it would have been unfair to rename their single most obvious contribution. It must be noted that much of the time factions are actually a good thing for the wiki- they have specialized knowledge about the pro wrestling world that the typical TV Tropes nerd would be completely ignorant about. At the same time, they're really not that much different than your typical contributer. They want to write about the things they like, and as long as they're writing helpful, trope-centered information, they're really no different from a typical contributer. They still operate in YKTTW, for example- they're just limited to more universally coherent names now, quite like everyone else.

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