Wednesday, April 6, 2011

History: Too Spicy For Yog Sothoth

In many works of fiction, there are evil characters. Due to their evil nature, evil characters have this habit of kidnapping, holding hostage, or trying to kill apparently innocent individuals. Sometimes there's a reason for this, but much of the time they're just being generically evil. Too Spicy For Yog Sothoth described a situation where the apparent victim of these malevolent individuals is so unpleasant that the evil character in question does not want to perform acts of evil on them for fear of hurting himself.

The title is a character-referenced metaphor. Yog Sothoth is a god in the Cthulu mythos. The idea is that Yog Sothoth will try to devour a character, but finds the taste so unpleasant that the entity simply spits the character out and leaves. The title actually does not come from anything written by Lovecraft, but is a paraphrased combination of quotes from at least one other work of media, possibly more. I don't recall how the title was originally devised save for its general convolution.

That this title would be challenged for a rename was rather inevitable, given the work I had to do just now explaining it. The arguments concerning this trope ran a wide gamut- some argued that the metaphor made sense even if a person didn't know who Yog Sothoth was. Others said that Cthulu's name appears in several tropes, so it makes sense to have a trope named after Yog Sothoth. And as always, there was the concern that this was a very flavorful, fun name, and that by getting rid of it, joy and happiness would be sucked out of the site in much the same way Cthulu would do if he happened to be in the neighborhood. These arguments cycled over and over again through multiple iterations of the debate. The only relevant event that happened during any of these arguments was that at one point the title was replaced with Pity The Kidnapper. Due to massive outcry from supporters of Too Spicy For Yog Sothoth, this was eventually reversed and Pity The Kidnapper was made a redirect instead.

A proposal to rename was Too Spicy For Yog Sothoth was brought once again some time after the Trope Rename forum had become Trope Repair Shop. Because of my role in Trope Repair Shop's creation, I was now psychologically thinking in terms of broad solutions. Knowing that I could now propose merges or splits in Trope Repair Shop threads, that is exactly what I did. I suggested that all the examples about extra-dimensional beings refusing to devour tasteless characters could be part of Too Spicy For Yog Sothoth. As for the examples about standard-variety kidnappers being thrust into a pitiable situation by an obnoxious hostage, those could go in a new trope, Pity The Kidnapper.

This idea was a very popular one, and quickly gathered enough support for me to enact a split. In retrospect, the solution was stupidly obvious. I had to struggle a bit earlier in this posting, trying to remember how exactly Too Spicy For Yog Sothoth was defined before this page action. I split the page myself, and roughly half fit cleanly into one category, and the other half into the other. These were very different tropes, used for very different effect in very different works of fiction. In one the malevolent character is usually supernatural and merely picky about what is worth terrorizing, while in the other he is continually harassed by his "victim" until the reader just feels sorry for him. I suspect the problem was that the famous story Ransom of Red Chief was originally claimed as being the pre-eminent, classical example of the trope, and it just never occurred to anyone to question how a story about a bratty kid terrorizing his kidnappers was comparable to Yog Sothoth finding his latest sentient meal to be unappetizing. We all just accepted that they were the same thing, and so examples were lumped.

At the time, this page action seemed to vindicate the creation of Trope Repair Shop. We had finally ended the debate over the title Too Spicy For Yog Sothoth and no one was even mad about it- anger had been commonplace in the resolution of all such contentious titles in the past. At the very least, I saw this page action as being a sign that we were moving in the right direction as regards repair protocols. Splitting tropes was far less controversial than renaming them- at heart, I was still that troper who wanted to avoid offending people if I could, and this was a great compromise.

Too Spicy For Yog Sothoth is a good example of how one intelligent, inventive idea can change the tenor of a bitter debate. I made sure to keep an eye out for original thinking from then on out, finding that creative solutions to trope issues are often the ones that work best as they tend to take in mind all of a page's content and appeal. Names, I saw, were only one part of that. Unfortunately, creative solutions are difficult to come up with, and while the solution for Too Spicy For Yog Sothoth was effective, it was helpful mainly in this specific situation and couldn't be applied to other pages.

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