Wednesday, March 23, 2011

History: The Toblerone

The character this trope is named after is not actually Toblerone. Rather, he's the supporting character Dablone from the movie Escape 2000, which people have only ever heard of because it was once on Mystery Science Theater 3000. For whatever reason (I haven't seen the episode myself), the MST3K characters ended up nicknaming Dablone Toblerone (presumably after the Swiss chocolate), affectionately calling him by this moniker for the whole episode. The narrative role Dablone played in Escape 2000 can be summed up as "exciting guy who beats people up", and this was the narrative role the trope was named after.

If this all sounds bizarrely obscure, well, it kind of was, even by TV Tropes standards. The Toblerone was consistently challenged throughout the YKTTW and Trope Rename eras of major page modification. These attempts always failed. "Toblerone" was such a specific name that many argued there was no real danger that anyone would mistake the trope for something else (this is no longer considered a valid argument). Second, the title has always been popular, and it was seen as detrimental to the wiki's development to rename a trope that was a consistent source of off-site links.

What changed all of this in the final discussion as to what to do with The Toblerone was that someone actually took the trouble to look at these off-site links and see in what context they were being used. The results were not flattering. Most of them mentioned The Toblerone as an example of TV Tropes' bad habit of lionizing obscure characters into memetic godhood. Where an individual wanted to make the statement "TV Tropes sucks", there was a good chance that at some point The Toblerone was going to be brought up.

This embarrassing revelation promptly put a halt to any serious attempts to defend the title in its then-current form. A consensus was hurriedly brought up around the alternative title Boisterous Bruiser, and in the spirit of compromise, The Toblerone was not converted to a redirect as per standard rename policy, but rather turned into a comedic page written from Dablone's point of view, which so far as I know remains on the wiki to this day.

The incident marked the first, and only time a rename was enacted due to extra-wiki influence. It's generally assumed that people outside of the wiki like the wacky names that are invented for tropes- it's a part of the TV Tropes charm. It's been my experience that this is a result of response bias. Plenty of TV Tropes users are active on other parts of the Internet and often erroneously assume that these other spheres represent a broad cross-section of the Internet at large when in reality affinity for TV Tropes can coincide with other activities- there's a reason, after all, why a disproportionate amount of page examples are for Anime and Science Fiction versus more common shows like Crime Procedurals.

Additionally, I've found that extra-wiki individuals who dislike TV Tropes are far less likely to create off-site links because such links essentially amount to free publicity. The Toblerone was just such a ridiculous title that I suspect many would not have believed it was actually being used to describe a relatively common trope unless there was a link to it somewhere.

This general circumstance combined with the odd features of this specific trope are what has made it a unique event. Of the tropes that have reached the popularity or notoriety of The Toblerone, all are either considered safe titles, have been renamed, or have been locked into the limbo of being constantly challenged but never having anything done about them. The title mainly serves as a reminder that the TV Tropes community does have a breaking point- it is possible for outsiders to mock a trope title so much that it eventually gets renamed. The real challenge is getting anyone on the TV Tropes website to actually notice the mockery.

No comments:

Post a Comment