I’ve heard it said that going to film school is a surefire way to kill your love of films. To some degree it’s true: when you sit down and analyze the oft-repeated patterns that constitute movies, its hard to see Shakes the Clown as the masterpiece you once knew it to be. But there is a different joy that comes from deep analysis: the joy of understanding those patterns, and the crazy references and connections that stitch every piece of fiction together.
For all you that wish to go beyond armchair analysis, and stare deep into the self-referential abyss… good news! There’s a wiki for that!
TV Tropes is a comprehensive cross-referenced, self-referential index of patterns in fiction.
From television to literature to comics to film, TV Tropes is a mapcap attempt to codify all the tools, maxims, archetypes and morals that emerge from our media. After catching wind of the site from XKCD, I spent an afternoon digging through the labyrinth. Be prepared… this is the realm of the media geeks. This site is unapologetic about speaking its own language, and there are no shortages of manga and Buffy references in their lexicon. But once you embrace the footnotes to old episodes of “Angel”, you’ll find some hilarious an/or illuminating patterns that apply to Moby Dick and Herman’s Head alike.
Listed below are a few of the most interesting examples I found:
1. Lampshade Hanging
A well-worn but awesome trope… and a comedy standard.
2. Rule Of Cool
Required reading for anyone working in SciFi (or SyFy).
3. Genre Blindness
See: Every girl, ever, in a horror movie.
4. Science Is Bad
A heroic rant about the second most pervasive theme in modern media.
5. Fridge Logic
A nice writer’s shorthand for a common issue.
6. Hanlon’s Razor
I love this one. Originally a programmer’s maxim, it’s the cause of countless movie misunderstandings.
7. Mr. Exposition
As good a place as any to start when going through their insane (but awesome) index of character archetypes. See also: Meta Guy.
8. Air Vent Escape
9. Heroic BSOD
Man, this happens ALL THE TIME in cartoons! I wish it happened more in real life.
10. Broken Aesop
If you find other gems, post ’em in the comments!