Rename (alt titles 9/17): The Gump

Total posts: [33]
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First off, the description needs help. Tropes Are Tools, yet the description seems to be complaining about this type of character.

A more minor issue is the use of a trope namer. It's a well known work, so it seems okay, but if anyone can suggest a better one that would be great. BTW, the current one has 31 inbounds.
3 SeptimusHeap17th Aug 2012 08:10:20 AM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
A Wizard boy
It has gained 24 inbounds since the OP. Add redirects and tweak the description and you should be golden.
4 Xtifr17th Aug 2012 01:48:30 PM , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
World's Toughest Milkman
The trope definitely looks healthy, but I think we should check for the most common problem with character-named tropes: misuse, either for other traits the character is known for, or possibly the character himself.

The trope namer is best known for being an ambiguously-autistic profound fool who succeeds despite himself. He barely qualifies as an example of this trope—of the things listed at his entry, only two (exposing Watergate and teaching Elvis) really qualify, and they're not major elements of his story.

Also, I know this is getting at least some underuse, because I've never stumbled across it, and I would have inserted it in several works. But I had no idea this trope even existed. At the very least, we should give this some searchable redirects and make sure it's listed on related tropes like Historical-Domain Character, Historical Fiction, etc. (Heck, pretty much every work by Tim Powers should mention this trope, since Tim's works are almost all about the secret occult history behind historical events—but, of course, not one actually does.)

The trope namer may have been a huge hit in its day, but that day was so long ago that a lot of tropers weren't even born then. I suspect that most people associate the name with the line "life is like a box of chocolates", and many probably known little or nothing more about it.

eta: This is also the sort of name that tends to encourage Zero Context Examples that just list a name and nothing more, though that may be a deeper problem shared with many character/characterization tropes, and we may or may not be able to do anything about it.

edited 17th Aug '12 1:51:01 PM by Xtifr

"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
5 Spark917th Aug 2012 02:59:42 PM from Castle Wulfenbach , Relationship Status: Too sexy for my shirt
Gentleman Troper!
This is not good: the trope namer is not really an example of his own trope. The trope is about making a fictional character responsible for a well-known real event, whereas the film Forrest Gump is mostly about a dumb-as-bricks character who succeeds in life through sheer luck. That doesn't make it a good trope namer for this trope.
Special trousers. Very heroic.
6 SeptimusHeap17th Aug 2012 03:06:15 PM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
A Wizard boy
Does that constitute a problem, though? When running through scientifical databases (and I am not scientist yet) I've always found the "not an example" issue to be minimal - just to mention an example.
7 Xtifr17th Aug 2012 05:00:16 PM , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
World's Toughest Milkman
The trope namer not being an example has certainly caused problems in the past, when people assumed that examples which were like the namer but didn't match the description were examples. It may not happen every time, but it's a common problem.

But that's all irrelevant here, where the problem is not so much that the namer isn't an example (he is, sort of), but that it's not what he's known for, and not something a person is likely to think of when searching for the trope. This is a secret history/alternate history trope, and Forrest Gump is not generally considered an example of either genre. The name is confusing, obscure, and potentially misleading. This should really have a wick check to look for misuse, but I already pointed out an actual underuse problem, where this trope has been completely overlooked for works by a creator who specializes in the trope. (I haven't checked other authors like Dan Brown, Harry Turtledove or Robert Anton Wilson, but I'll bet this doesn't appear on their works either.)

Skimming the on-page examples, there also seems to be a lot of confusion between this and what I might call Historical Domain Event or Historical Domain Item (by analogy with Historical-Domain Character). That is to say, a fictional character is part of a historical event or encounters a famous historical object/building/painting/whatever. That's not the trope.

edited 17th Aug '12 5:01:02 PM by Xtifr

"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
8 SeptimusHeap18th Aug 2012 01:51:06 AM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
A Wizard boy
I see where you are coming from, but I'd like to see some evidence that more than redirect farming is needed.
9 Xtifr18th Aug 2012 11:46:16 PM , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
World's Toughest Milkman
Heh, well me too. At this point, I freely admit I have nothing more that suspicions (and the circumstantial evidence of so many similarly named tropes having huge problems). I freely admit that this might be the exception to the rule. I just don't think we should release back into the wild until we check it out a little more carefully. It may not be sick, but it's got all the classic signs.

And yes, I'll do a wick check if no-one else volunteers. The only reason I haven't already is that I just did one for another trope, and I've got several other things I'm in the middle of. But if nobody else steps up in the next day or two, I can probably manage.
"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
10 Xtifr20th Aug 2012 03:10:21 PM , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
World's Toughest Milkman
51 wicks chosen by jumping down the wick list by fours. (I meant to do 50, but didn't stop in time.)


Almost correct (if small incidents count):


Zero-Context Example:

Misuse for merely appearing in historical events:

Misuse for the authors screwed up their history:

Misuse for fictional historical events:

Misuse for other characteristics of the namer:

Neutral ("see also" and the like):

This is all over the place. There are examples that basically boil down to "grampa fought at the Battle of the Bulge", and many examples of "Joe is Really 700 Years Old and fought at the Battle of Hastings". After this review, I'm inclined to suggest that it not only needs a rename, but that the description needs work as well.

eta: on the bright side, I found very few Zero Context Examples, when I expected to see a lot. Perhaps that's one advantage of a confusing, non-indicative name—it encourages people to explain the example. Unfortunately, it also encourages misuse and confusion. :/

edited 20th Aug '12 11:53:31 PM by Xtifr

"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
11 Xtifr22nd Aug 2012 01:39:05 PM , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
World's Toughest Milkman
Bump. We really need to decide what to do with this. Going by the current definition, there's way more misuse than correct use, and some of the correct use is pretty borderline (the case of the guy who coined a phrase that Eisenhower used, for example).

The trope namer is best known in this context for appearing in doctored historical photos (not doctored in-universe), so it's unsurprising that a lot of the misuse is for people who appeared in historical events, but that's so broad that it covers just about every fictional character in a historical story, as well as almost any character who is old in contemporary fiction. Throw in the misuse for appeared in fictional historical events, and you've got a good percentage of all characters in all fiction anywhere.

I think there may be multiple tropes here, but we need to discuss it. In any case, I think a rename is definitely justified.
"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
12 RJSavoy23rd Aug 2012 05:59:47 AM from Edinburgh , Relationship Status: I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me
What this trope needs:

- A new name. "Historical Insert Character" is the obvious one.

- A rewrite of the description. Though first we must decide what it covers.

- A split of some sort, between genuine history, alternate history and the Continuity Porn sort where it's the backstory of other, longer-established characters. They are very similar but need distinguishing. A soft split might do.

- A tighter definition. I suggest: some set of original characters who are linked in some way to a pre-established event (even if fictional). So the Sandman: Endless Dreams example does not count, because it's an original event, albeit connected to DC's backstory. Does not cover intentional manipulation (so we would remove the Batman Begins and Night Watch examples); I think that has its own trope. They need not be as oblivious as the current trope namer, but they should be no more knowledgeable of how historically important events are than others around them.
13 Xtifr23rd Aug 2012 12:55:53 PM , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
World's Toughest Milkman
[up]Your "tighter" definition is much looser; the definition is someone who has had a significant effect on a historical event. The current description actually says they have to be "responsible for" the event. The event is also supposed to be "major and well-known".

It also says the event has to constitute a "good chunk of [the character's] screen time". I ignored that requirement when doing my wick check, because basically none of the examples mentioned it one way or the other. This trope is supposed to be a defining characteristic of the character. I suspect misuse would be even higher than I reported if we take that requirement into account. At the same time, I don't believe that that requirement distinguishes this trope from the broader one where it's not a major portion of the character's screen time. In fact, that requirement is quite possibly the first thing we should nuke.

Aside from that, I think a split somewhat along the lines you mention is probably the good solution, though we may want to work on the specific details.

As I said before, for someone who is Really 700 Years Old, merely being present at a major historical event is nearly a case of People Sitting On Chairs. That's one of the stock ways you establish that a character is 700 years old. In fact, assuming it's a trope at all, I think the 700-year-old case might be a separate trope for just that reason.

eta: The problem with the concept of Historical Insert Character, as I mentioned before, is that almost every character in Historical Fiction would qualify, as would nearly every Really 700 Years Old character. I think it might make more sense to make the trope about the reveal! A character revealing that he was present at a major historical event is usually significant to the story, and seems very trope-worthy. Plus, making this an event trope instead of a character trope should help avoid future Zero Context Examples.

edited 23rd Aug '12 1:07:26 PM by Xtifr

"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
14 RJSavoy23rd Aug 2012 04:49:50 PM from Edinburgh , Relationship Status: I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me
I see your point. I wasn't sure what to do about the "significant effect" part, because so many examples misuse it. It's probably best to keep it or it will be too wide (major cull of examples coming up).

Focusing on the reveal instead of the character will probably work better. The name that comes to me is "Your History Is My Backstory". Under this definition the character has shaped the history of the character(s) being addressed, even if only by belonging to the same national heritage. Without him, it would have gone differently in some way that history would notice.

It occurs to me now that this can happen without any pre-existing history, just a Constructed World where someone is revealed some way in to be a long-running mastermind or just an old veteran. We'll have to keep that separate. What trope would that fall under?
Hm....I don't think all Historical Fiction would be covered under the new def- as there's a lot of HF which is mostly here's Anne Boylen's sexy sex thoughts instead of say, really, my 5x greatgrandpa really was the one who unified England by giving the king all his plans and killing 500 Danes.(I read a book like this but I don't remember the details)
Or he was really the king in disguise and the king just grabbed all the credit.
17 Xtifr23rd Aug 2012 08:05:12 PM , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
World's Toughest Milkman
Most historical fiction has at least some fictional characters, even if it's only servants and bit characters. And we don't exactly have a "new definition" yet. We're discussing options, but I think we have a perfectly good trope here, and I don't think we should change it too much (aside from the name). Another trope (or two) to cover some of the misuse is an option, but I don't think we have anything definite yet.

We may need to get YKTTW involved at some point in cleaning up this mess.
"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
18 Xtifr28th Aug 2012 02:46:32 AM , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
World's Toughest Milkman
Bump. I think a good place to start here would be a rename. The huge amount of misuse here is almost certainly caused by the name. If someone wants to write up a new trope along the lines of Historical Insert Character to take up some of the misused examples, that would be fine too, but the current trope is a good trope with a bad name.

Any objections to a rename crowner?
"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
19 SeptimusHeap28th Aug 2012 08:15:58 AM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
A Wizard boy
Make one.
20 Xtifr29th Aug 2012 01:44:04 PM , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
World's Toughest Milkman
Sorry, was distracted by real life. Anyway, I thought about making a page action crowner to cover the option(s) of a split, but renaming this really is a separate matter from all the other problems, so it's a good first step.

I may just go ahead and make a YKTTW for the broader, "person appeared in historical events" trope.

eta: whoops, almost forgot. Crowner is here. Whooping for a hook.

edited 29th Aug '12 1:45:59 PM by Xtifr

"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
21 ccoa30th Aug 2012 05:40:56 AM from the Sleeping Giant
Ravenous Sophovore
Crowner hitched up to thread. Mush!
Waiting on a TRS slot? Finishing off one of these cleaning efforts will usually open one up.
22 Xtifr30th Aug 2012 12:19:45 PM , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
World's Toughest Milkman
Wow, someone voted against a rename, even though we're talking about 70% misuse here, and a classically-misleading character-named trope? Be nice to hear whatever thoughts were going through this person's mind, as I can't think of any reasons to not rename.
"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
23 Spark930th Aug 2012 03:02:26 PM from Castle Wulfenbach , Relationship Status: Too sexy for my shirt
Gentleman Troper!
Driveby voting. Happens all the time, no big deal.
Special trousers. Very heroic.
24 Xtifr1st Sep 2012 01:16:10 PM , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
World's Toughest Milkman
So, it looks like we're probably going to rename this. Any suggestions? Remember, this is about characters who have had a significant but unreported (not in the history books) effect on major historical events. (Though "significant" and "major" may be relative terms.)

Maybe something like Private Place In History? Secret Historical Impact? (Not loving those, but maybe they'll help inspire better suggestions.)

In the meantime, I'm going to see about putting together a Historical Insert Character YKTTW (though I'm not in love with that name either).
"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
25 lu12716th Sep 2012 09:45:20 AM from 空蝉 , Relationship Status: Loves me...loves me not
Calling crowner in favour of renaming.

Alternative Titles: The Gump
16th Sep '12 10:00:29 AM
Vote up names you like, vote down names you don't. Whether or not the title will actually be changed is determined with a different kind of crowner (the Single Proposition crowner). This one just collects and ranks alternative titles.
At issue:

Total posts: 33
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