Forgive me for the title; I’ve been on a Stieg Larsson bender over the past week or so, which you can blame on the Fincher/Craig/Mara movie. The English movie led me to the books and the Swedish movies. As of today, I’ve finished Hornet’s Nest (the novel). It’s relevant, I promise. My first post delved into the ideas of “subjectivity” on the wiki, and my second about the community. In retrospect, those two barely scratch the surface; this’ll be a bumper post touching on some stuff which, themselves, may get a blog post unrelated to TV Tropes.
The best place to start would be indeed the page for Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. A quick explanation: the trilogy is a (somewhat) feminist series and Larsson does not skirt around the fact that misogyny is completely wrong. The first book, in Swedish, is literally translated as Men Who Hate Women. It could be joked that he’s the anti-troper. About a third of the way through the first book, the series’ female lead, Lisbeth Salander, is brutally raped by her legal guardian, Nils Bjurman, after she asked him for money for food. That it was a (admittedly botched) plan at entrapment is irrelevant to the fact that the rape still takes place. Luckily, I’ve not found anyone on the website say that the character “deserved” it because she was prepared to give Bjurman a blowjob for that evidence (q.v. the Law and Order: UK episode “Alesha”)
But placement is everything. The following two quotes link to the trope “Moral Event Horizon”: defined as “the first evil deed to prove a particular character to be irredeemably evil”. One is on the main page, the other on the YMMV page, which is designed for subjective tropes:
Bjurman — who is Lisbeth’s legal guardian and caretaker — crosses this line when he forces her to perform oral sex in exchange for the money she needs to replace her computer. And then longjumps even farther over it when he violently sodomizes, rapes and tortures her.
Lisbeth’s treatment of Bjurman is so harsh that it borders on Moral Event Horizon. But it was so precise and ingenious that it could qualify as a Crowning Moment of Awesome: rather than killing the man, Lisbeth opted to make Bjurman suffer the exact same abuse he put her through, up to every little detail, including the rape and the blackmail, just to make him realize how it felt.
The revenge, for what it’s worth, is Lisbeth confronting him with recorded evidence of the rape and threatening to go public if he even so much as sneezes the wrong way, culminating in him tattooing “I am a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist” on his abdomen.
So, have you guessed which one is on which page? Because you’re wrong. The rape is on the YMMV page; her revenge is on the main page.
See, there’s a trope for characters like Bjurman: rapists, child abusers, the genocidal, the utterly evil: it’s called “Complete Monster”. By rights, there should be stuff so heinous that it’s just objectively morally wrong, no matter how many people defend it: Sam Harris makes this point in his book The Moral Landscape (which I’m reading right now). Another user raised this exact point a year ago, and this was Fast Eddie’s response:
Complete Monster is thoroughly subjective.
And Fast Eddie has the gall to call Crazy Goggs a “gaping asshole”? Crazy Goggs never defended rapists. There’s worse stuff too, on the YMMV page for the Millennium trilogy: for example, an equivalence is drawn between Bjurman’s brutal rape of Lisbeth, and Lisbeth having consensual sex with a sixteen-year-old in the Carribean. Luckily, that last one was picked up on.
But the TV Tropes community seems to have this fixation on rape; at the moment, the SA thread’s subtitle is “Why the fuck do they have such a fixation on rape?” For example, a week after Torchwood: Miracle Day finished, the TV Tropes page had, for the previous two months, said that Oswald Danes, a child molester who’s last words to say he was going to join his victim in hell so he could chase her forever, was a “debatable case” of Complete Monster.
I now defer you to these quotes about rape initially found by the wonderful people in the Something Awful thread, who have a much higher tolerance for staring into the abyss than me.
- “Good…I’m sick of looking at eight year old girls and worrying if I’m gonna rape them one day…”
- From the thread “Dressing Like a Slut“
- “Something along the lines of “don’t put his cock in your mouth unless you’re fine with going all the way.” Of course, rape is still rape, and we should still penalize someone taking advantage of somebody, but it’s ludicrous to me that it should be considered a crime equivalent to that against someone who never initiated any sexual contact or shown any willingness in the scenario. Basically, lighter punishment and no sex offender record.”
- “But what annoys me the most is when parents dress their little daughters in Stripperiffic clothing. Much to my horror and disbelief, I (completely non-paedophile, let me tell you) have found out that I can get slightly turned-on by the sight.”
- “Say I meet a girl at a bar, we hit it off and go to her place or mine for some hanky-panky. We get undressed, do the whole foreplay thing, and then get to the main event. My penis is actually INSIDE of the woman at this point, okay? Well, I get to thrusting a bit, and I’m almost at climax, when she suddenly says: “On second thought, I don’t want this. Could you please stop?” In any other scenario, I’d say “Yeah, sure.” and pack up my shit and go(or make her pack up her shit and go), then masturbate to deal with the built up baby batter. We might’ve ended the night disappointed, but at least nobody got raped. However, in this situation, because I’m so deep into it, I don’t stop. I have so many endorphins being released in my brain that the very idea of stopping or anything else doesn’t register. I continue till I climax, and she gets upset and presses charges. Now, I’m not suggesting that such an act wouldn’t be wrong on my part. No means no regardless of how little you were thinking at the time. However, do I really deserve to be compared to and punished with the same severity as some scumbag who jumped a random woman in a dark alley simply because what I did is technically defined as rape?”
- “Sex wangst: I feel bad when hearing about irl rape cases, because even though I definitely feel sorry for them, there is always a small part of me that things “wow, I would not mind seeing porn of that.”
- “…THIS? THIS IS NOTHING! GOOD LORD, THIS IS TAME. And badly written, might I add. It’s barely even rape. She just straight up starts loving it about five minutes into it. I mean… Two hands and two feet? That’s just… That’s just silly, to be quite frank. It would look like she was hog tied.”
- “As for the evil, I am told rape doesn’t have the same effect for everyone. Some victims don’t treat it worse than a tavern brawl or a robbing, others are devastated for life. I am under the impression that the evil of rape is strongly tied to sex as a power game and how being raped affects the status of a woman in a society that considers all unvirgin women “damaged goods”, i.e. re-rapeable sluts. Perhaps it is the residue of that mentality that makes rape so problematic and dramatically life-changing.”
Okay, you know what, I’m fucking done here. I am not going to sit around and look for examples of the complete festering pit of shit the TV Tropes forums are. These are just a handful of quotes of dozens the SA thread as found. And I’ve covered this plenty of times: the community on the forums leaves a lot to be desired to become “normal”, given that racists, misogynists, and homophobes can talk free from criticism.
This is the thing about free speech: it either exists, or it doesn’t. The forums claim to have this non-judgemental attitude similar to Wikipedia’s “don’t be a dick” guideline, but it’s not free speech at all. Free speech includes the right of someone to say to a rape supporter “no, you’re a fucking piece of shit”. But the only recourse against these horrible people is the broken moderator system, and it’s well known that most of the staff are power-hungry bastards. I’m for free speech — why do you think I have Article 19 on the sidebar? — but I absolutely detest this mockery of the concept.
In December, the SA thread became aware of a forums user who was well-spoken but was critical of these elements: Annebeche. As far as I can tell, the first mention in the SA topic was her calling a racist a terrible person. Even one of her signatures was an act of civil disobedience. In effect, she was a Goon lost in the mires of TV Tropes, and she received admiration for it. On December 19th, this drama came to a head when two users, Yeah Bro and Disaster Grind, came to the forums and strongly criticised both the wiki and the forums: Yeah Bro focused on the site’s attempt to over-categorise square-shaped fiction into round-shaped tropes; Disaster Grind focused on the forums community’s obsession with rape and gore.
Fast Eddie, presumably driven paranoid by the SA thread’s focus on his site, didn’t like that, and immediately dismissed and banned the two users for being Goon infiltrators who are just hear to complain. Anne took Eddie to task… and got banned too. This was a massive deal, and tropers that either the banned three or SA criticised or made fun of jumped to their defence. Eventually, an appeal to the moderation was launched in a thread. So far as I can see, the administrative staff just hid behind the “troll/SA interloper” defence and refuse to enact changes. Anne, for her part, stumped up the $10 and is now one of the roster of frequent posters in the SA thread. And all the while, Fast Eddie remains wilfully ignorant to the problems of his site, and thinks so highly of himself he feels he can demand a Stanford researcher remove mention of SA in a project of his.
Over these past three posts, we’ve established that Fast Eddie is an incompetent power-mad freak, who would rather protect rape apologists and set literary criticism back than actually listen to critics; I mean, Jesus, even a broken clock is right twice a day. There’s just one thing that could save him: his coding skills. Or lack thereof. He’s running a heavily customised version of pmwiki, yet can’t use CSS background properties or if/else switches properly: things I knew how to do when I was fourteen. The forums are so buggy that Eddie’s avatar was once hacked. The parser is so horrible that a user tried to play with it to see what tricks he could pull… and was immediately accused of being a goon. I wish I was joking. He tried to fix this, horribly, making more coding mistakes than I would. And they were live, as he clearly didn’t think of using a shadow copy of a site to beat test things. Poetically, I noticed this on the page for the Millennium trilogy.
And, for the record, I’m aware of SA’s problems, especially GBS/FYAD. But, better the devil that bans pedophiles, right?
But, that’s it. I’m fucking done with this trilogy of posts staring into the abyss. I know that I’m a lot more… terse… in this posts, but there’s little point in the dry commentary with people like this. The first part of the trilogy is my most popular blog post, and it’s actually, to my surprise, on the first page of results for TV Tropes. I’m going to heed and agree with the SA thread’s instructions: there’s no fixing TV Tropes, so just let it die or shrivel into irrelevancy.