Monday, April 18, 2011

History: Cue Cullen

Peter Cullen was the voice actor of Optimus Prime in the original Transformers cartoon. When the franchise was rebooted into a live-action movie series some years ago by Michael Bay, the fanbase was uncertain how faithful the adaptation would be. Their concerns were assuaged by the hiring of Peter Cullen as the voice actor for the CGI that was Optimus Prime. For this reason, a member of the Transformers fanbase faction of TV Tropes proposed a trope called Cue Cullen to describe the phenomenon of a single, incredibly popular move that energizes a previously mistrusting fanbase.

If the proper nouns in the above paragraph mystified you, you are not alone. The Transformers fanbase takes a pride in their franchise that seems to defy all logic given that it was quite explicitly created to sell toys. This title had no meaning to those outside of the Transformers fanbase. Even though this had been sufficient grounds for plenty of renames in the past, this title was fiercely defended by anti-rename elements of Trope Repair Shop. The deciding factor in the end turned out to be something unrelated to Transformer at all. This rename action happened at around the same time that Twilight had come into vogue. As a result, instead of "Cullen" just being a random name, out of context it increasingly seemed to be referencing the Cullens of Twilight fame- a mistake all the easier to make since both Cullens cause some form of joyful ejaculation.

There actually wasn't much about this debate that was unusual- anyone who's read my postings up until now pretty much has the basic idea of why most renames are enacted. It's generally just a combination of the various logic I've detailed so far. The more relevant question I haven't dealt with much is how renames are enacted. In this particular case, while I agreed that Cue Cullen should be renamed (in the rename crowner), I disagreed as to the title it should be renamed to (the highest-ranked in the alt-titles crowner), believing it to be just as flawed as the title it was replacing. This left me in the odd position of opposing the specific rename title while supporting the rename abstractly. At one point in the latter part of the debate a moderator rebuked me (not officially) for stonewalling, and insisted I enact the voted upon page change as it had met the generally accepted threshold for consensus. To this I retorted that the moderator should just do this change personally- that I was under no obligation to rename tropes to a name I deemed unsatisfactory.

And this is what I mean by "how". By this time in Trope Repair Shop I had gained a reputation, for better or worse, of being someone who would actually enact page changes. While many, many proposals are put forth in Trope Repair Shop, comparatively few are acted on. This is mainly because discussing a rename is a lot less work than actually enacting it. My cultural history in TV Tropes was much different than the other users of Trope Repair Shop as, by this point, I was the only troper remaining who had been present since the YKTTW stage of renames. YKTTW proposals, be they renames or just tropes, are supposed to be either "launched" or "discarded". I would not let any proposal alone unless I could be certain whether or not it had support for passage. I would not leave proposals in limbo- and this part of my identity was so ingrained to those who knew me that even moderators just assumed I would resolve contentious issues which I was attached to.

It's necessary to explain this because given the subject matter I write about and the relatively fast time scale, a person could easily get the wrong idea as to how trope repair protocols work. For the most part, Trope Repair Shop discussions don't actually go anywhere unless I or some other troper with a similar mindset (basically, "discussion is meaningless without action") determines to see the proposal through for good or ill. When I write about "repeatedly challenged titles", this usually isn't because of some concerted effort against the title in question but rather that some new, unrelated person to the previous discussion wants an explanation for why this bad title exists.

For me, psychologically, it's also much easier to remember events that actually happened than ones where nothing was accomplished. I kept a mental record of page action successes because I wanted to duplicate that success. Failures, while relevant, seem meaningless in the context of history because, without action, it's difficult to tell what, if anything, was clearly decided. The rename of Non Mammal Mammaries was a project I spearheaded which failed, but there's not much I can write about that discussion except "I think inaccurate titles with incestuous adjectives are stupid but other think they're clever". To be entirely clear, even for high-functioning individuals such as myself the action to proposal ratio wasn't much better than fifty percent- and for the sake of general sanity I only involved myself with a fraction of the proposals made in Trope Repair Shop writ large.

In any event, once I explained this fact to the moderator, the page was changed and given the title of And The Fandom Rejoiced. Strangely, I can't remember why, specifically, I opposed this title- it seems all right to me now. It's possible that at the time I stonewalled a different title was leading the crowner, maybe something with an awkward tense form or a title dealing specifically with casting as opposed to sudden fandom joy in general. But it's just as likely that I was opposing And The Fandom Rejoiced, and that this opposition was misguided. Indeed, while "fifty percent" may not sound like that high a ratio, I consider it optimal for the Trope Repair Shop / Image Pickin' environment. Realistically speaking, it's unlikely that my opinion is always going to be the correct one. If that were the case there wouldn't be any need for Trope Repair Shop at all.

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